InTrans / Apr 10, 2019

REACTOR Lab research focuses on work zone safety

Intelligent Work Zone
Intelligent Work Zone

Road Work Ahead.

We’re all familiar with the orange warning signs that appear on Iowa roads each spring and the frustration road construction can bring to commuters.

Part of that frustration can come from motorists not knowing what is being done or why the project is needed. But imagine the stress reduction if drivers could know the extent of the work zone, where workers are currently focusing their efforts, how far the lane reduction lasts, and more, to have smoother and safer travels.

That’s exactly what REACTOR Lab researchers are aiming to do now with a project to support the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Office of Traffic Operations efforts to keep the wheels moving efficiently today and to support more connected transportation in the future.

By using connected devices in arrow boards, traffic cones, and vehicles, researchers are developing a process to integrate work zone information to provide vehicles and users with precise details about the location and start and end times of the road work.

“We currently don’t know all of the details, which makes it difficult to monitor safety and mobility performance as well as just provide accurate information to the public,” said Skylar Knickerbocker, a co-director of the REACTOR Lab. “The idea is that we can use technology to improve our work zone data while minimizing the work by field staff.”

Researchers will map work zones to paint a real-time picture of what’s happening on the road, including where there’s congestion or a crash has occurred. This will allow drivers to have more information to make better decisions. They can decide to avoid the work zone or go through it with the knowledge of the extent of the actual work, reducing frustration for everyone.

Armed with this information, the idea is that both drivers and workers will be safer through the duration of the work zone activities.

National Work Zone Awareness Week has been held annually for the past 20 years. The 2019 awareness week will be held April 8 through 12, and has the theme of “Drive Like You Work Here.” More details about the events are here.

More information about the work zone work at the REACTOR Lab and InTrans is here.