Macomb County: Equipped and ready for next generation mobility

Macomb County is made up of 27 cities, townships and villages. Connecting those communities are 1,700 miles of road and 740 traffic signals. The county’s residents, more than 864,000 individuals, rely on this transportation network to get to work, school, stores and ultimately, to their homes. That’s a lot of usage, and it often results in back-ups, accidents and fatalities. How do you solve these issues? Our county might have the answer.

Smart and connected roads
We have smart phones, smart homes and smart cars – why not smart roads? Here in Macomb County, that’s no longer a question; it’s a reality. The Macomb County Department of Roads is leading the country in creating a smart infrastructure network that can communicate with vehicles, bikes, buses and pedestrians; improving the overall mobility experience. The county was recently able to showcase this technology at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA) annual meeting hosted in Detroit. Along with our partners at MDOT and SMART, county leaders demonstrated how transit signal priority that uses dedicated short range communication can expedite a bus route by extending green lights. This is one of the many pilot programs being explored in Macomb County, and while it sounds simple, it has taken years of planning and development to get to this stage.

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Vicky Rad tests real time collision prevention systems in Macomb County with DERQ, a Dubai-based company with a mission to eliminate road accidents and save lives by using AI and technology

How did we get here?
It all started with COMTEC, the Macomb County Communications and Technology Center. Completed in 2013, this 25,000-square-foot facility houses traffic communications, 911 emergency dispatch and information technology services for the entire county. Through a system of 230 cameras, the center provides 24/7 situational awareness to residents, businesses and first responders. In addition to providing this essential service, the network also allows the county to build a Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communication system. And with car connectivity on the rise (by 2020, more than 75 percent of vehicles shipped will be connected), this system is increasingly relevant.

In a recent interview, John Abraham, director of traffic and operations at the Macomb County Department of Roads, described why this is important:

“In one scenario, if a connected car gets into a crash, an alert comes to the center immediately and sends information that the airbag was deployed, and the extent of the damage. The emergency dispatch center gets the information also, and we can deploy the right resources to the crash using the GPS location of the accident,” he said.

Ultimately, Macomb County would like to increase safety on area roads and decrease the number of car accidents. With the V2I system and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications now available through some auto manufacturers, this goal is within reach.

How it works
driving
An integral part of this connectivity and vehicle communications are roadside units (RSU), boxes that gather and broadcast information at an intersection. In addition to signaling back to COMTEC so traffic signals can be prioritized for emergency vehicles or during periods of heavy road usage, the RSU can link with connected vehicles and alert them to changing lights or other hazards.  Eventually, RSUs will be able to give speed guidance or alert a driver that a lane is closing due to construction. And in the future, RSUs and connected vehicles could provide COMTEC with information about vacant parking spots and even communicate with other modes of transportation, like buses, pedestrians and bicycles, all using the same technology.

Macomb County currently has five RSUs completely operational, and will install 20 to 25 additional units this summer. Federal grants will provide the funding to have 301 RSUs installed by early 2019, and the goal is to have all 740 traffic signals in the county connected within three years. This makes Macomb a leader in smart and connected roadways. Only a few dozen locations across the U.S. have installed connected technology and Macomb is among the handful that also have an operational RSU. That’s certainly impressive; but of course it makes sense that the Motor City region would be a trailblazer in this effort. We make the cars, therefore we lead the way in next generation mobility.

 

Vicky Rad is the deputy director of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.

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Macomb County meets Montreal at ITS

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It was only four years ago when I traveled to my first Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress, hosted in Tokyo, Japan. Back then, futurists talked about a world where cars would be driverless and the movement of people and freight would be transformed.

Fast forward to this past November, at the ITS World Congress in Montreal, and the concepts of yesterday are disrupting the way we as cities, counties, states and countries use connected technology and big data to change the transportation industry. We are in a unique place in time, at the crosshair where the physical systems (roads, infrastructure, signals and automobiles) are meeting the digital world – and it’s evolving at a rapid pace.

Each year, the ITS World Congress rotates between the European, Asian and North American markets and is a massive gathering for the exchange of ideas and innovation that moves the world. The dominance of mobility technology was prevalent on the showroom floor and on the stage. The message was clear: Michigan is a global leader. Our governor, Rick Snyder, joined the delegation representing Michigan and the leadership at the Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan Economic Development Corporation under a partnership that is branded “Planet M, where big ideas in mobility are born.

As an economic developer, I see how these concepts in connected technologies are changing the face of Macomb County. Our workforce is evolving, trying to keep pace with the rapid demand of a talent pipeline not yet matured. A traffic engineer will now need skills in software, hardware and cyber physical systems to grow in this industry.

During the conference, I had the opportunity to meet more than 30 students from the U.S. and Canada and talk about next-generation mobility careers in cybersecurity. Organized by Mobile Comply, an ITS training company based in Sterling Heights, the conference allowed these students to travel to Montreal to immerse themselves in cybersecurity scenarios that deploy connected technology. They learned about our initiative, the Michigan Automotive and Defense Cyber Assurance Team (MADCAT) and how to engage our industry partners in these new careers. The pathway for these students has been set into motion.

This year, John Abraham from our ITS team within the Macomb County Department of Roads joined me in Montreal. His vision to make Macomb County a “connected county” is happening. Today, we have more than 150 miles of connected roadways ready for the early adopters and innovators to bring their technologies to our major thoroughfares and into our vehicles. Centered by our traffic operations center, COMTEC, we have a unique infrastructure in place with more than 220 roadside units ready to test in a live environment. As we met with industry game changers like Hitachi, Siemens and Microsoft, it was clear there are greater opportunities to partner with these technology giants.

In June 2018, ITS America will host its annual conference in Detroit, showcasing our best. Macomb County is ready.

Radd- Vicky IMG_0001 LOW_RESVicky Rad is the deputy director of the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.

 

Community and business leaders join together for $150 million vision to Innovate Mound Road

Innovate Mound is an initiative to rebuild one of the most important corridors in Southeast Michigan: Mound Road. The vision of the partnership behind this effort is a roadway that incorporates the future of mobility and technology through transforming nine miles of Mound Road into a state-of-the-art corridor. Designed to be an inclusive process and transformation, Innovate Mound is a collaborative effort between Macomb County, the city of Sterling Heights and the city of Warren.

DSC_0662.JPGGaining strong stakeholder support for the project is crucial for securing funding. The group kicked off its public visioning by hosting a stakeholders’ session yesterday, which brought together more than 100 business and community leaders to discuss the possibilities and provide feedback.

Rebuilding Mound Road is critical for many reasons. Most obviously, the road is currently in poor condition. However, instead of simply repaving the road, it benefits the long-term needs of local businesses to have a corridor that matches the level of innovation and technology in the area.

The design considerations that are tentatively in place for this project include complete roadway surface reconstruction, widening north of 17 Mile Road, landscaping, lighting, signs, driveway controls, additions of non-motorized facilities, 10-foot-wide safety path along the bike trail or corridor, connections to trail network and improvements to transit stops.

Mound Road could also be equipped with smart street technology to include computerized traffic signal systems, real-time traffic speed monitoring, cameras, communications to signals and more. This technology would be able to increase emergency management and enhance safety and mobility.

Whatever ideas emerge from visioning, the need to act is urgent. The average life expectancy of a roadway in Michigan is about 25 years. The selected portion of Mound Road is nearly 30 years old and in poor condition. Each year, Macomb County spends between $3 to $4 million solely on maintenance and patching this section in Band-Aid-style fixes.

The estimated investment needed to truly innovate one of Macomb County’s key corridors is expected to be approximately $150 million. To raise these funds, Innovate Mound has identified several federal sources which could help to fund project costs.  These sources include Macomb County, new state infrastructure funds, TIFA (Corridor Improvement Authority), private funding, grants and new federal funds. Specific grants being considered are the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) and Defense Access Road (DAR).

Collaboration will be key to the project’s success.  To become a part of the transformation or for more information on the Innovate Mound project, visit InnovateMound.org. You can also follow on Twitter @InnovateMound and join the conversation with #InnovateMound.

rea-john-paulJohn Paul Rea, AICP, is the director of the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.