Digital signage ready to come to life in Las Vegas

Giant digital screens will display potential traffic warnings beginning Tuesday, advising motorists to slow down along US Highway 95 as they approach the Spaghetti Bowl in downtown Las Vegas.

Known as active traffic management signs, the full-color electronic displays are the latest tool deployed by the Nevada Department of Transportation to reduce accidents and congestion for the 300,000 vehicles that travel daily on the busiest freeway interchange. frequented by the state.

Vibrant green arrows made their first appearance on black screens last week as final wiring adjustments were made by crews from Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., the contractor hired by NDOT to install the panels.

At 12½ feet high and 77 feet wide, the tallest gantry-supported steel panels that soar above US 95 look more like stadium-sized video billboards than to a traffic calming measure.

“It’s unlike anything we’ve seen in southern Nevada,” Kiewit spokesman Jay Proskovec said.

“The high visibility, use of multiple colors, and adjusting the arrows just above your lane of traffic will announce what to expect just ahead,” Proskovec said. “It will really help drivers decide where they need to be.”

The first six signs go live as NDOT prepares for the “Main Event,” marking the third round of major lane closures and freeway ramps associated with Project Neon, the $1 billion plan to widen Interstate 15 between Sahara Avenue and the Spaghetti Bowl.

A total of 42 electronic signs will be erected along I-15 and US 95 by the end of construction in July 2019, Illia said. Spaced approximately half a mile apart, the screens will transmit real-time information about detours in progress, accidents, lane closures and other traffic hazards.

Reduce “secondary crashes”

The messages will also display travel times to freeway exits and the status of each freeway lane, monitored by the Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission’s Traffic Management Center.

Existing traffic cameras and an upgraded software system will help determine the types of messages to display, said Brian Hoeft, director of the RTC’s Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation traffic center, known as FAST.

As well as alerting drivers to existing conditions, Hoeft said the sophisticated system also aims to reduce the frequency of so-called “secondary accidents” that occur during traffic jams caused by another accident further down the road.

“We can’t necessarily say we’ll get rid of it completely,” Hoeft said. “But we can deal with frequency and severity.”

A handful of cities across the country have installed similar technology, resulting in fewer commuter deaths, injuries and delays.

Seattle was among the first to deploy the large digital signs in 2010 along sections of Interstate 5, State Route 520 and Interstate 90.

The move resulted in a 7% reduction in collisions on weekdays and up to 20% fewer accidents on weekends, said Morgan Balogh, traffic engineer with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Additionally, Balogh said the signs helped eliminate a previous problem with vehicles crashing into highway maintenance crews working at night.

“We are pleased with the accomplishments we have made,” Balogh said. “These systems can help save money when trying to improve the efficiency of the road network, while improving safety and capacity.”

The Oakland Experience

Not far from the Raiders’ current NFL stadium in Oakland, 159 new active traffic management signs were activated in 2016 along Interstate 80 between the Carquinez Bridge and the Bay Bridge in Alameda County, California.

Since then, the signs have helped manage traffic in more than 400 “blockage incidents” while providing information to travelers, said Marcus Wagner, spokesman for the California Department of Transportation, known as Caltrans.

“In general, drivers seem to find the information displayed on the signs helpful,” Wagner said. “We haven’t received much, if any, negative feedback with the newly installed traffic management signs.”

Studies are underway to determine the system’s effect on the Bay Area, but Wagner said early data shows reduced congestion and improved travel times along I-80.

NDOT officials said they hoped to see similar success in Las Vegas, where the Spaghetti Bowl interchange averages three crashes a day.

“The biggest benefit is the reduction in accidents, especially at weekends,” said NDOT spokesman Tony Illia. “This is attributable to ‘non-commuter’ drivers who may not be familiar with the area, which is particularly relevant in Las Vegas where large numbers of tourists use the I-15 corridor daily.”

Contact Art Marroquin at [email protected] or 702-383-0336. To follow @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.

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