In this age of increasingly limited financial resources, planners must devise ways to use existing roadway capacity to the fullest extent possible. Simply building new or expanded roads is no longer an option. With that in mind, planners look at the Operation of the transportation system. Using various technologies known collectively as Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), planners try to maximize traffic flow in real time by gathering and assessing information on crashes, back-ups, weather, and traffic volume. That information is then passed to emergency responders, system operators and travelers so appropriate responses can occur.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is responsible for operations planning at the statewide level. The statewide plan is spelled out in the Transportation Systems Operations Plan (TSOP). To complement the statewide operations planning effort, each of the four Traffic Management Centers (TMC) across the Commonwealth undertook the preparation of a Regional Operations Plan (ROP)
. The Eastern Region TMC is located in Harrisburg and covers PennDOT Engineering Districts 4-0 (northeastern PA), Distict 5-0 (including Berks County) and District 8-0 (southcentral PA). The Eastern Region ROP was completed in September, 2020.
Plans were prepared through joint consultations between PennDOT District offices, transportation planning partners, and other key regional stakeholders. The Eastern Region ROP identifies, defines, and prioritizes operationally-focused projects for the region, consistent with regional and statewide objectives. The examination of existing conditions and ITS inventory, as well as projects currently programmed as part of the FY 2021-2024 TIPs, illuminated potential ITS equipment gaps and shortcomings. The specific ITS needs of the region were further identified by planning partners and regional stakeholders during regional forums.
Candidate projects in the Eastern Region ROP were developed based on PennDOT’s statewide vision and the assessment of operational needs.
The regional solutions addressed in the ROP tend to be cost effective in supporting (not eliminating) regional congestion issues. As the Region considers its transportation options, ITS and operations solutions will be examined, weighed and considered for regional funding. This effort will ensure that innovative and cost effective solutions get a fair hearing alongside more costly capacity expansion projects.