With Melbourne’s population expected to increase by one million people over the next decade, VicRoads is relying on Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) to minimise growing pains and shift drivers into a safe and efficient future on the state’s roads. While the systems’ full benefits are still being realised, VicRoads has reported significant improvements to lane capacity, congestion and safety following the rollout of ITS on some of Victoria’s major roads.

ITS technology has developed rapidly over the past five years. With new and upgraded ITS being installed as part of Victoria’s ongoing infrastructure investment program, the state’s roads are set to be more closely monitored than ever.

Monitoring millions

The ITS being implemented by VicRoads, and soon to be managed by Lendlease, includes assets such as electronic message signs, vehicle detection loops, tidal flow systems, traffic lights, CCTV cameras and variable speed limit signs.

Lendlease was awarded the management contract in May 2018, to monitor and maintain the growing number of Victorian Intelligent Transport Systems. It will also be responsible for the upgrade of the VicRoads ITS and communications network, as well as provision of the Network Operations Centre.

These systems are monitored around the clock by the Network Operations Centre. Chris Coghlan, Manager of ITS Delivery, VicRoads, said that information gained through monitoring is already helping road authorities improve processes and make a difference to major roads.

“This technology helps us manage traffic, particularly in the event of an incident such as a crash, and is part of a state-of-the art managed motorway system which controls and regulates the flow of traffic to minimise congestion. It also reduces response times to incidents and improves communication with drivers,” Mr Coghlan said.

Meeting growing demands

Over the next ten years, Melbourne’s rapidly rising population is expected to generate an additional 3.2 million daily trips for Victoria’s road network. With driving still forecast to account for over 70 per cent of all trips by 2030, it is vital that VicRoads is prepared for heightened demand.

“Through the use of ITS technology, VicRoads will be able to continue meeting travel demands by improving the efficiency of the existing road network, adding capacity, reducing road crashes and significantly improving road user experience,” Mr Coghlan said.

“We are installing smart, on-road technology right across our freeway and arterial road network, including lane use management and variable message signs which inform drivers about the speed limit and which lanes are open.”

With ITS being installed as part of works completed and nearing completion along the Tullamarine Freeway, Monash Freeway and the M80 Ring Road, system benefits are already being identified.

Following the installation of ITS technology on the M1 Upgrade in 2010, VicRoads noted major improvements to lane capacity. In turn, this has reduced congestion and crashes by a huge 30 per cent.

These improvements come as a result of ITS technology’s ability to assist road users in making informed decisions, including decisions about route choice and time of travel. While informed decision-making on the road is important at all times, it is particularly vital during periods of changed driving conditions, such as when an accident occurs.

Technology such as real-time information signs, variable message signs and freeway condition signs, combined with website information and radio updates will become increasingly important as more drivers utilise Victorian roads, leading to more congestion.

By using ITS to communicate information at all stages of a driver’s journey, congestion as a result of incidents should decrease.

Melbourne’s most intelligent motorways

ITS technology rolled out across Melbourne’s newest road projects may be subtle, but it has vastly improved VicRoads’ approach to freeway network management and will continue to make an impact as more traffic is introduced over the coming years.

The new technology adopted across Victoria’s freeway networks includes:

  • Infrared light-based non-invasive technology for freeway data stations to improve the accuracy of data and eliminate on-road assets, resulting in reduced maintenance costs
  • Digital CCTV cameras
  • Freeway to freeway ramp signals, including associated variable message signs
  • Remote access and monitoring of electronic road signs
  • Multi-colour pictograms on variable message signs to enable the display of travel time information
  • Similar improvements should result from ITS assets on arterial and rural road networks. The new technology being introduced to arterial networks includes:
  • Intersection traffic signals
  • Variable message signs
  • Closed circuit television cameras
  • Bluetooth readers
  • School and shopping centre dynamic electronic speed limit signs
  • Overheight vehicle detection and warning systems
  • Emergency and public transport vehicle detection systems
  • Bridge deck heating
  • Ice warning signs

More in the works

There’s no doubt that Victoria’s road networks are, and will continue to become, more intelligent than ever.

Managed motorway systems utilising ITS will continue to be rolled out over the coming months and years. With the Monash Freeway set to see further development in 2018 and work on other roads expected as part of the ongoing infrastructure investment program, Victorians can safely anticipate a future of smarter, more efficient driving.

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