2.3.1 Maryland Traffic Problems

The CSC/PBFI Team has an intimate understanding of Marylandís traffic problems, constraints and realities because we live and work here. Since we are corporate and individual members of the community, we are committed to working with MDSHA to provide innovative solutions to traffic problems here "in our own back yard." Our local presence and knowledge means we are ideally positioned to work in partnership with MDSHA to address these issues.

In Maryland, highway travel (measured in vehicle miles traveled) increased 60% between 1980 and 1995, and is expected to increase an additional 40% by the year 2010. Approximately 70% of all traffic in Maryland travels on the State Highway system even though this system comprises less than 20% of the total road system in the state. Heavy volumes of traffic, stop-and-go commuter peaks, and lack of comprehensive information regarding current, real-time conditions on available alternatives contribute to and compound the effects of unexpected incidents, such as traffic accidents. Furthermore, accidents contribute to about 60% of all delays due to congestion.

With the growth in traffic outpacing any realistic hope of expanding capacity through building new highways or expanding existing ones, it is imperative to use additional tools to improve efficiency in the present transportation system. One of the key tools to improve operational efficiency is to focus on the implementation of ITS through the CHART program.

 

Figure 2-1. An Example of a Congested Maryland Highway

To serve a variety of traffic management needs, CHART II will be a tool to be used by MDSHA staff as well as other MDOT modal administrations. These agencies are associated with general geographic areas and are briefly described in this section.

The most prevalent traffic congestion problems are associated with the Baltimore- Washington corridor and the two major metropolitan areas located on either end of this corridor. In addition, congestion is continuing to grow near and in the growing urban centers of Annapolis and Frederick. As a whole, this area is known as the "Golden Trapezoid" and is the focus of Marylandís growth and corresponding traffic congestion problems.

Congestion occurs on the major freeway facilities on a daily basis during lengthening AM and PM peak periods, and increasingly, during weekday off-peak periods and on weekends. As the Golden Trapezoid region continues to grow economically, and the location of jobs spreads to suburban and ex-urban areas, so has the location of congestion. Along I-95, local traffic mixes with traffic travelling along the East coastís main thoroughfare, resulting in heavy traffic loads almost 24-hours per day, and especially heavy loads on summer and holiday weekends. In these areas, CHART II must allow operators to constantly monitor conditions, quickly detect and respond to incidents, use tools such as variable message signs (VMS) and traveler advisory radio (TAR) to manage traffic, and share information with distributors such as radio and televisions stations and other information service providers.

Congestion also occurs on a periodic basis in certain parts of the State, especially during the summer. Frequent backups occur along I-95 between Delaware and Baltimore on summer and holiday weekends, however this problem will be alleviated to a degree with the installation of the electronic toll collection system. Congestion occurs along Route 50 and the Bay Bridge every summer weekend as residents from the Baltimore and Washington DC areas and points further converge on Ocean City and other beach towns. Special events also cause spot congestion, such as baseball games at Camden Yards, football games at Ravens, Jack Kent Cooke, and Byrd Stadiums and other events, especially when these are held on weekday evenings, a time when traffic destined for the event mixes with regular commuting traffic. In these areas, operators must be able to use CHART II to monitor traffic at critical locations and take many of the same actions they do in the Baltimore and Washington regions on a daily basis.

Finally, although the western portion of the State is very different in nature, traffic problems also occur here, mostly weather related. Severe winter weather poses challenges in terms of detecting hazardous roadway conditions and keeping I-68 clear of snow and ice, and detecting and assisting motorists in stranded or disabled vehicles. The hilly terrain also gives rise to safety problems, such as the sections of I-68 approaching Cumberland from both the east and west. In these areas, operators must be able to monitor weather and roadway conditions to effectively manage treatment and snow removal resources, detect and respond to incidents, and share information with the media and other distributors.

Incident detection and management is the thread that cuts across all of these areas and needs. It is not an overstatement to say that the major job of ITS or transportation management systems, such as CHART II, is to allow operators to quickly detect, respond to and remove incidents so normal conditions can be restored as quickly as possible. his is the case whether the incident occurs on the Baltimore or Washington Beltways, on I-95 near the Delaware State line, on Route 50 through Annapolis, or on I-68 near Deep Creek Lake. It is imperative that the CHART II system be designed in partnership with the operators of the system, so the software that results supports and facilitates their detection and management of incidents and special events, including the following:

Initial detection of accidents, hazardous roadway conditions, and back-ups associated with special events, communication with the Maryland State Police and other emergency service providers, communication with towing and other stranded motorist services, communication with the media and other traveler information service providers, implementation of traffic management strategies such as diversion messages on VMS and TAR.