The U.S. Department of Transportation recently selected Wyoming’s Interstate 80 Corridor for its Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program.  The goal is to reduce the number of accidents that result from adverse weather conditions while improving safety and freight mobility.

The program will connect snowplows, trucks, roadside equipment, and fleet management centers in order to provide better advisories to commercial and personal vehicles on I-80.  Applications that use vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity will be developed to enable a wide range of services such as roadside alerts, advisories, parking notifications, and dynamic travel guidance.

Under a federal contract, the Wyoming Department of Transportation will implement the pilot in three phases.  The first phase will see WYDOT supported by a broad team including the University of Wyoming, ICF International, McFarland Management, TriHydro, the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies, and National Center for Atmospheric Research.

WYDOT plans on working closely with federal agencies to further articulate program requirements and to develop a flexible, innovative model that will allow other western states to take advantage of connectivity between vehicles and infrastructure.

All three phases of the project are expected to cost about $5.2 million in total, with the U.S. Department of Transportation providing roughly $730,000 for the first phase.

“We’re very excited to have this opportunity to explore using this innovative technology to improve safety and traffic flow on I-80 in Wyoming,” said WYDOT Director John Cox. “Much of the freight moving from West Coast ports to the Midwest uses that highway, which can experience rapidly changing and extreme weather conditions. Anything we can do to help get road and traffic condition information to the drivers on the highway will improve safety for travelers in commercial and private vehicles.”

More than 200 blowover incidents were reported as a result of high wind events since 2011.  On a single day, Jan. 5 of this year, there were 18 accidents caused by extreme wind conditions.  86 road closures along Wyoming’s portion of the I-80 corridor occurred from Oct. 2007 to April 2012, with the average closure lasting more than eight hours.

“We’ve made several process changes to WYDOT’s operations over the course of several years, such as closing roads to light, high profile vehicles during strong wind events and implementing variable speed limits to harmonize traffic flows,” said WYDOT’s GIS/ITS Program Manager, Vince Garcia.  “But it’s clear that the increased traffic on Interstate 80 will demand an even greater focus on safety, and we think the connected vehicle technologies will help us reach our goal of improving safety while increasing mobility.“