You know those days when you just feel like you hit every green light? Whether you're driving, walking, biking or taking a bus, it's just one of those things that can make your day flow a little more smoothly.
Next time, you might want to thank a regional program with a somewhat long name: Transportation System Management and Operations, or TSMO.
Using a relatively small award from Metro's regional flexible funds, this program essentially improves the capacity of our transportation system without increasing capacity at all. This month, the program announced another $4.6 million for three years of projects around the region.
It's almost like a magic trick. It doesn't add new lanes, build transit lines or bikeways. But the modest funding the program provides to project partners around the region makes our system flow more smoothly and safely – without the huge costs of road construction. It's also an important part of the region's efforts to reduce climate emissions through the Climate Smart Strategy.
"Especially in a constrained fiscal environment, the benefits that this kind of work is showing are tremendous," said ODOT Region 1 manager Rian Windsheimer at a March 19 meeting of JPACT, Metro's top transportation policy advisory committee.
How? By better syncing traffic lights, assessing traffic incidents and tracking traffic to inform people traveling today and planning for tomorrow. It's not a showy program, but its impacts can be felt every time you check TripCheck.com or Google Maps for current traffic, use a travel information sign or have one of those days where the lights just seem to line up for you.
For instance, a recent project to better coordinate traffic signals in downtown Beaverton improved travel time through the heavily congested area by as much as 12 percent on major arterials like SW Canyon Road and SW Farmington Road – and made walking easier by adding more opportunities with which a pedestrian gets a walk light to cross these busy roads.
In mid-March, the program's advisory committee, called TransPort, selected $4.6 million to invest over three years to support these kinds of projects regionwide and in several key congested areas, including east Multnomah County, NE Airport Way, Clackamas County and the Washington Square area. The awards came as the Federal Highway Administration announced a major grant for a coordinated study of the Interstate 84 corridor.
"As our citizens go across county lines to go to work every day, I think this is just a great asset and a great investment," Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas said at the March 19 JPACT meeting.
Projects awarded funds in the 2016-18 period include the following:
Regional Signal Systems
Lead agency: City of Portland
Partners: Cities of Beaverton, Gresham and Lake Oswego; Clackamas and Washington counties; ODOT; TriMet
Amount: $150,000 + $850,000 (two phases)
Many of the region's traffic signals are linked in a central system allowing traffic managers to assess and respond to current traffic conditions by adjusting signals and information signs. This system has not been updated in over a decade. Upgrades will apply the latest technology to help manage congestion and use the region's signal system to improve safety and efficiency for people driving, bicycling, walking and taking transit.
Portal Regional Archived Data User Service
Lead agency: Portland State University
Amount: $600,000 over 3 years
Portal is a database that gathers data around the clock from roads, highways, transit systems and even bicycle and pedestrian counts. Created in 2004 and housed at Portland State University, Portal supports research and evaluation of our existing transportation system and helps planners and leaders make informed decisions about future investments. This project advances work on Portal for another three years to collect more kinds of data from more locations, and enhances visualization and “Big Data” processing.
TSMO Plan Update
Metro's transportation system management activities are guided by a 10-year plan adopted in 2010. These funds support a public process to develop a plan by 2018 for the next decade, keeping the region's efforts in line with new federal and state transportation rules and recent regional policies like the Climate Smart Strategy. The plan will be incorporated into the 2018 update of the Regional Transportation Plan.
As with prior funds, regional partners reserved some funds for addressing gaps and needs in the communications network such as new fiber optic connections so that traffic signals are no longer on an island by themselves, visited only for maintenance. These improvements are based on a regional assessment that is underway. Another $191,000 continues regional policy and program coordination for the TSMO program over the next three years.
Prioritized Corridor Projects
Washington Square Area
Lead Agency: City of Beaverton
Partners: City of Tigard, Washington County, ODOT
Thousands of people live, work and shop in the Washington Square area of Washington County. Thousands more travel through the area each day on busy roadways like Highway 217, SW Scholls Ferry Road and SW Hall Boulevard. But because the area's transportation network is split between multiple jurisdictions, including Beaverton, Tigard, Washington County and ODOT, managing highly variable and often frustrating traffic – particularly at over-capacity intersections – has been challenging. This project will create an adaptive traffic signal system that responds to changing traffic volumes in real time. By better coordinating the area's signal systems and data collection, the project creates safer and more reliable travel conditions for people driving, bicycling, walking and taking transit.
East Metro Advance Travel Time
Lead agency: City of Gresham
Partners: Multnomah County, ODOT
Driving into the region from Central Oregon or Mount Hood on US Highway 26 can be a bit of a gamble. With several surface street options to connect to Interstate 84, drivers often have to roll the dice and hope the arterial they choose will not be congested. Since many drivers often choose SE Hogan Road/242nd Drive, traffic on that road in particular often becomes especially heavy. This project will use next-generation Bluetooth technology to provide realtime travel information along four parallel routes between Highway 26 and Interstate 84 and display that information for drivers to help them make informed route choices as they enter the region.
Lead agency: ODOT
Partners: Clackamas County, Cities of Milwaukie, Oregon City, Wilsonville and Portland
Major highways in Clackamas County are often pushed to their limit during times of peak congestion, with traffic often spilling over to neighborhood streets. This project will improve real-time freeway and arterial travel information, better coordinate signals and help the existing transportation system manage major incidents more effectively on sections of Interstates 5 and along Interstate 205, SW Stafford Road, 82nd Avenue, SE McLoughlin Boulevard and Highway 224 in Clackamas County. The project will be especially beneficial for freight drivers as they make route decisions to reach destinations in the region and well beyond. It will also make use of the region’s transit investments.
Airport Way Connection to Sandy Blvd. and Gresham
Lead agencies: City of Portland/Port of Portland
The Columbia Corridor is one of the region's most important employment centers – with 65,000 jobs, or roughly eight percent of the region's total. Just more than half the region's jobs in manufacturing, transportation and warehousing are in this area. But congestion on the area's roadways can be notorious. While frustrating for drivers, it is stifling for the region's economy, as trucks making deliveries or taking products out of the region are stuck in the same traffic as everyone else. This pair of projects will help by providing signal prioritization for trucks on NE Airport Way and Sandy Boulevard to help goods get to destinations in the region and beyond more quickly and reliably.
Learn more about Metro's Transportation System Management and Operations program