Illinois Tollway traffic and incident managers are highly-trained professionals that primarily monitor conditions from the Traffic Operations Center (TOC) at the agency’s headquarters. The TOC operates 24/7/365 and is the central location for monitoring the Tollway’s 2,300 ITS assets deployed across the 294-mile system. These include 1,400 CCTV cameras, vehicle detection systems, dynamic message boards, roadway weather information systems, and more. The TOC also relies on the Traffic and Information Management System (TIMS) software, which gathers, processes, and disseminates information to the public, media, and emergency responders via computer-aided dispatch, roadway message signs, and popular apps.
Traffic and incident managers, TOC technicians, and dispatchers each have their own unique roles and responsibilities that are vital to a rapid, effective response. All roles require critical thinking and split-second decision-making. There are an average of over 650 incidents per day on the network. In March 2020, the challenges became greater due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
TIMS2GO was already in the works when COVID hit, but integrating all the ITS resources of the Illinois Tollway into a mobile app was no small task. The team brought in experts on transportation industry technology solutions from TranSmart Technologies and Parsons to help develop the app. As the launch date approached, the pandemic hit, often resulting in only one person working in the TOC per shift. The team accelerated its efforts to meet this urgent need. TIMS2GO was live and fully operational by the end of 2020.
TIMS2GO is helping Illinois Tollway traffic and incident managers make better-informed decisions by providing instant access to livestreaming video, incident details, and response status updates. Traffic managers also can instantly see which maintenance vehicles or Highway Emergency Lane Patrol (H.E.L.P.) trucks are on site or on the way using automatic vehicle location tracking technologies. It also allows traffic managers to efficiently share information with Illinois State Police, as well as other emergency responders and roadway maintenance personnel.
Since it launched in November 2020, TIMS2GO has been used on average 115 times per month to manage incidents on the Illinois Tollway system. That has helped reduce the Tollway’s average confirmation time for incidents by nearly 12 percent, which can make a major difference when there’s a crash, fire, wrong-way driver, police activity or medical emergency. This also can reduce secondary crashes.
By making traffic and incident management possible anytime from anywhere, TIMS2GO furthers the Illinois Tollway’s mission to provide and promote a safe and efficient system of highways while ensuring the highest possible level of service to its customers.
Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt urges attendees to be innovative and to speed the implementation of lifesaving technologies.