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Partnerships Support Rural Technology Deployment Along Wyoming’s I-80 Corridor

Date:
September 24, 2020
Topics:
ITS, Resources

The Wyoming DOT is one of three agencies that was selected in 2015 by the U.S. DOT to pilot vehicle connectivity technologies. The two other agencies selected for pilots are the New York City DOT and the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority. Wyoming DOT is using ITS to improve safety along the I-80 corridor, which runs east-west through the southern portion of the state between Evanston and Pine Bluffs. Drivers who travel along that 402-mile segment of I-80 experience high winds throughout the year, and white-out conditions are possible during snowstorms. The state’s Connected Vehicle Pilot (CVP) addresses weather and traffic through communication of messages and warnings signaled from roadside sensor units and onboard vehicle units. Both Wyoming DOT service vehicles and commercial carrier fleets are hosting onboard units as part of the pilot. Wyoming’s CVP is considered critical to improve travel safety and reduce road closures due to vehicle collisions or blow overs. According to a U.S. DOT fact sheet on the CVP Deployment program, there were 1,237 reported blow overs from 2006 to 2016, and from October 2015 to September 2016, there were more than 1,600 crashes on I-80 resulting in 18 fatalities and 271 injuries. It is calculated that for the 2015 – 2016 period, the affected segments of I-80 were closed for over 1,500 hours.[i]

Project Purposes

Wyoming 511 public service outreach. Image courtesy Wyoming DOT

Due to limited alternate routes, I-80 truck volumes can reach 50 to 70 percent of overall traffic during seasonal travel peaks.[ii]  As noted, the primary purpose of the CVP is to improve travel safety and reliability and reduce crashes and delays by improving road weather information, alerting drivers to emergency situations, and providing up-to-date information about travel speeds, detours, and truck parking availability. Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure interconnectivity is reliant on DSRC between the 75 roadside units and 400 vehicles with on-board units. The use of short-range communication and vehicle units will enable faster information sharing in conditions when there is not enough time for road and condition messages to be relayed from Wyoming DOT’s Transportation Management Center.

Interconnectivity extends beyond the technology itself. Partnerships within Wyoming DOT divisions and with external partners from the public and private sectors are driving the CVP project forward.    

The CVP’s systems engineering phase was completed in 2016. Design, build, and deployment testing took place between 2016 and 2019 with maintenance and operation of the pilot occurring after fall 2019. The second phase of design and deployment involved working with the Wyoming Trucking Association, third-party intermediaries, and commercial fleet partners who sign a memorandum of understanding with Wyoming DOT to participate and test the connected vehicle technology. Participating trucking fleets vary in size from small to medium regional operations (e.g., Dooley Oil, Inc.) to national fleet operators (e.g., Crete). Participants agree to have their truck cabs equipped with on-board units so that drivers and/or the units receive and relay data through one of the five onboard applications.[iii] The five applications are: distress notification, forward collision warning, situational awareness (e.g., speed restriction, parking availability), spot weather impact warning, and work zone warning. 

Truck fleets that participate in the pilot are expected to drive the Wyoming stretch of I-80 about three or more times per week and to continue with the pilot for a 12-month evaluation period. On-board units are purchased by Wyoming DOT and funded through the U.S. DOT. Fleet partners must agree to install on-board equipment using their own contractors with guidance from the Wyoming pilot team. Pilot fleets do not need to return the equipment. Drivers are expected to participate in periodic project surveys.[iv]

As part of the partnership with commercial fleets, the University of Wyoming is providing truck simulator and online training for fleet operators. Training is required to ensure that drivers are informed about the system and its capabilities. The driver training consists of several modules that can be completed in a single training at the university’s facilities in Laramie or on a computer at any location.[v]

Outcomes

Real-time status of roadside units and road conditions along I-80 in Wyoming is visible on the Connected Vehicle Monitor. As depicted in a screenshot of the monitor taken on December 13, 2019, 76 roadside units are in place and 156 Traveler Information Messages (TIMs) were being shared at that moment. Segment colors indicate the quality of driving conditions and whether the road section is closed. Details identify exact conditions. An example message is “Closed to light and high-profile vehicles due to gusting winds. Dry with strong winds, blowing snow. Extreme Blow Over Risk.” Winter 2019 through 2020 will be an opportunity for Wyoming DOT, I-80 travelers, pilot participants, and partners such as the Wyoming Trucking Association to determine how traveler information is being accessed and the extent to which drivers are making travel decisions sooner than in prior years.

Resources

The U.S. DOT awarded more than $45 million in funding for the three CVPs in Wyoming, New York, and Florida.[vi] The U.S. DOT has funded small, mid-size, and large CVP projects. By the Department’s definition, small projects are in the $2 million to $5 million range, medium-sized projects are in the $5 million to $12 million range, and large projects, such as the I-80 CVP, range from $12 million to $20 million.[vii] For large-scale projects such as the Wyoming CVP, the U.S. DOT provides detailed technical assistance guidance.

Wyoming DOT has a documented plan for each phase of the project from conception to implementation, including plans for stakeholder outreach, partnerships (i.e., fleet partners, training agreements with the University of Wyoming), and project evaluation. The content and format of these plans can be used as models for other rural ITS projects, no matter their size. Plans can be scaled to match small, localized technology partnerships and local memoranda of understanding or can be expanded for regional deployments. A downloadable list of technical assistance documents and project plans is available at https://www.its.dot.gov/pilots/technical_assistance_events.htm#t2.

A screenshot of Wyoming DOT's Connected Vehicle Monitor. Image courtesy http://wydotcvp.wyoroad.info/CVM/

[i] U.S. DOT, ITS Joint Program Office. (nd) Wyoming Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program, https://www.its.dot.gov/factsheets/pdf/WyomingCVPilot_Factsheet.pdf

[ii] State of Wyoming, Wyoming DOT (2017). WYDOT Connected Vehicle Pilot project website, https://wydotcvp.wyoroad.info/index.html

[iii]Phoenix Contact USA. Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Overview – Deepak Gopalakrishna. (2018).  https://youtu.be/9ScWtawAbJc

[iv] Personal communication with Vince Garcia, November 2019

[v] Personal communication with Vince Garcia, November 2019

[vi] U.S. DOT (nd). Connected Vehicle Deployment Program: Wyoming,  https://wydotcvp.wyoroad.info/assets/promotion/WyomingCVPilot_Factsheet_v2_020817.pdf

[vii] U.S. DOT (2016, 2018). Connected Vehicles Pilot Deployment Program,    https://www.its.dot.gov/pilots/technical_assistance_events.htm#t2

This report was delivered to the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2020. It was primarily authored by NADO Program Manager Rachel Beyerle and NADO Associate Director Carrie Kissel. Many transportation agency staff and others assisted with this project in a variety of ways. We offer deep and heartfelt thanks to all the individuals who have provided information and images, consented to be interviewed, and offered editorial guidance in support of this research. This work is supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation under requisition number HOIT190194PR. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. DOT or the NADO Research Foundation.