AUSTIN, Texas—Dr. C. Michael Walton, a professor of civil engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, today urged members of Congress to maintain their plan to increase highway and transit funding based on the spiraling needs of the nation’s surface transportation system as they consider the reauthorization of the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st century.
Walton, a respected authority on surface transportation who is chairman of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, testified before the House Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines. He said that more must be spent on highway and transit improvements and intelligent transportation systems—advanced information technologies and networks—in order to prevent highway fatalities, reduce congestion and improve quality of life.
“Advanced transportation technologies ensure that the surface transportation system, as a whole, is operating at optimal efficiency,” Walton told the committee. “Intelligent transportation systems can stretch the capacity of our highways, ensure efficient goods movement, facilitate intermodalism, encourage transit usage, and, not insignificantly, reduce traffic delays due to incidents. The continued and expanded integration of intelligent transportation systems into our nation’s surface transportation system is a necessary and prudent investment in the future of that system.”
Walton described the proven benefits of intelligent transportation systems in areas where specific programs already have been deployed, citing programs in Texas, Georgia, California, Pennsylvania and New York. A variety of traveler information, traffic management, electronic toll collection and incident management systems have yielded significant improvements in safety, travel time, vehicle emissions and fuel consumption.
Safety and security are particularly critical functions of intelligent transportation systems, Walton said, encouraging Congress to “consider taking measures to enact the rapid deployment of security-related intelligent transportation systems technologies.” He emphasized the role played by traffic operations centers in Washington D. C. and New York following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, where, using cameras and sensors, controllers were able to reverse high-occupancy vehicle lane directions, adjust signal systems and provide information to travelers via variable message signs in order to maximize the flow of traffic.
Walton urged investment in intelligent transportation systems technologies that help drivers avoid crashes and aid emergency responders to the scene of an accident more quickly. These include warning systems for motorists, such as lane departure warnings, collision avoidance and adaptive cruise control, as well as automated collision notification systems, many of which are already in use.
Walton also detailed the proposal to create a “seamless” national Integrated Network of Transportation Information (INTI) that would effectively collect, analyze and disseminate system performance information in order to maximize the efficiency and safety of all surface transportation systems. Walton stressed four needs in order to bring the INTI concept closer to reality:
- increase the amount of money available for intelligent transportation systems deployments;
- authorize deployment initiatives to demonstrate the effectiveness of integrating data from cars, trucks, transit systems, rail and intelligent transportation systems traffic operations centers;
- enhance the flexibility and accessibility of the existing Surface Transportation Program, National Highway System, and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement funds;
- accelerate intelligent transportation systems research, education and program support.
“The creation of this network should be the cornerstone of future investment in traffic management, system operations and traveler information,” said Walton. “With sufficient resources and an investment in future technology solutions, our surface transportation system will become smarter, safer and more efficient, leaving a proper legacy for future generations of Americans.”
For more information contact: Becky Rische, College of Engineering, 512-471-7272, or Jim Lewis, 202-484-4589.