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City tests new traffic technology on Whitemud Drive; Pilot program aims to improve traffic flow and safety

News Release

City tests new traffic technology on Whitemud Drive

Pilot program aims to improve traffic flow and safety

The City of Edmonton is piloting new traffic technology to help drivers get where they need to faster, easier and more safely.

The City will begin testing an Advisory Driving Speed system on Whitemud Drive West between 111 and 159 Streets on August 11. Roadway signage will inform drivers of the recommended speed they should travel to avoid traffic jams, sudden stops, optimizing travel time. The pilot will last for four weeks.

“The recommended speed will change according to issues such as heavy volume, construction, collisions and weather conditions,” said Wai Cheung, Technical Specialist, Advanced Traffic Analysis, Transportation Operations. “If drivers match the recommended speed, even if it’s only 10 km/h slower, they will help reduce congestion and possibly collisions.”

The recommended driving speed is calculated using volume and speed data, which is gathered by sensors buried under the roadway and ramps. The data is processed through a complex algorithm developed by the University of Alberta’s Centre for Smart Transportation, which is partnering with the City. The calculation for recommended speed is then programmed and posted on digital signs controlled from the City’s Traffic Management Centre.

Whitemud Drive was chosen for the pilot because of congestion issues that occur during peak periods. Typically, congestion results from a single vehicle slowing or stopping to allow another vehicle to merge, forcing following vehicles to slow or stop. The cascade of vehicles slowing or stopping causes heavy congestion and sometimes collisions.

Between 2010 and 2014, there were 334 collisions on this section of Whitemud Drive involving 677 vehicles and 44 injuries. The legal speed limit is 80 km/h.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our research group to work with the City and tackle the problem of traffic congestion and improving public safety,” said Dr. Tony Qiu, Director of the Centre for Smart Transportation at the U of A. “Other cities have successfully installed advisory speed signs to manage congestion and reduce stop-and-go traffic, and we hope to achieve these benefits in Edmonton as well.”

Similar technology has reduced collisions and congestion in France, Sweden and the United States. Once the pilot is complete the City will review the results and evaluate the potential of using the technology as a permanent solution to traffic issues.

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