By Steve Scauzillo, May 26, 2014
The 210 Freeway will have an integrated corridor management system in
two years, Caltrans officials said. It will better manage congestion.
When two trucks collided on the 210 Freeway in Pasadena last month, not only was traffic backed up to Glendale, but the Metro Gold Line couldn’t travel beyond Lake Avenue because the power supply pole had melted from the truck fire.
gridlock clogged the 210, 134, 2 and 10 freeways, jammed surface
streets in Pasadena and dumped hundreds of unhappy train riders onto
“It left traffic at a virtual standstill and had
motorists asking themselves, ‘When am I going to get out of this
mess?’ ” recalled Sam Esquenazi, traffic manager for Caltrans District 7, which includes all of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
In two years, incidents that trap motorists for hours could become a thing of the past.
and the U.S. Department of Transportation are readying the first
integrated corridor management plan in the Los Angeles region, set to
launch in 2016. The project will transform a 22-mile portion of the 210
Freeway into a “smart corridor” using roadway sensors and location
information from motorist cell phones to funnel real-time data to
traffic websites, media outlets, 5-1-1 operators, freeway ramp meters
and electronic message signs.
The integrated approach will link traffic engineers from Caltrans with their counterparts in local cities as well as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority,
which operates buses and the Gold Line light-rail line in the corridor,
during a major incident, said John Augustine, managing director of the
intelligent transportation systems office of the DOT in Washington, D.C.
all local, state, federal agencies work together, the extreme traffic
effects of a tractor-trailer crash or a mudslide that blocks vehicle
lanes can be mitigated, Augustine said.
“We can start to talk to one another which is not something we do
now, not very well,” Esquenzai told the Pasadena City Council on May 5.
example, traffic engineers from Caltrans can post delays on freeway
signs or adjust freeway meters at on- and off-ramps, said Patrick
Chandler, Caltrans spokesman.
Real-time traffic flow on websites
such as Google Maps and Caltrans’ quickmap would be up-to-date, Chandler
said. Getting location data from cell phones — a form of big data —
would be another bit of information used to make immediate adjustments
and calculate traffic signal times on city surface streets, Chandler
Often, traffic lights in and around stadiums near the 210
Freeway, such as the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and Santa Anita Park in
Arcadia, don’t mesh with Caltrans signals or ramp meters. Often, city
traffic signals revert to a default setting during off-peak hours when
an event lets out, causing longer waits for motorists both nearby and a
mile or two from a venue, Augustine said.
“Traffic signal timing is not as dynamic as it could be because there is not enough real-time data,” he said.
more data, traffic engineers can change the timing on the red, yellow
and green lights, he said, and transit officials can add capacity to
light-rail trains. “We can reduce bottlenecks based on different
techniques,” he said.
The concept involves gathering technical data. But just as
important is breaking down the silos of government and getting
jurisdictions to work together, Augustine said.
Chandler said the city of Los Angeles was not called until the second
day to help with traffic control. When officers were sent to direct
traffic, the bottleneck was mitigated. “Sometimes in the past, they
didn’t talk to others that well,” he said.
The first phase of the
project would run from Pasadena to Duarte and include the cities of
Arcadia and Monrovia, Esquenazi said. A second phase would run from the
605 Freeway to the 57 Freeway and include the cities of Irwindale,
Azusa, Glendora and San Dimas.
The 210 Freeway was chosen as the pilot project because it has
general-purpose lanes, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and light rail
line running down the middle of the freeway, as well as nearby bus
routes and bike lanes, said Carrie Bowen, director of Caltrans District
The freeway experiences gridlock each day and transverses
multiple cities and transit agencies, a testing ground for the
coordinated approach to traffic management, Augustine said.
2013, the freeway experienced 6,000 incidents, or about 500 a month,
Esquenazi said. Incidents are responsible for 60 percent of traffic
tie-ups, he added.
There are no shortage of freeway incidents involving fires,
overturned big-rigs or multi-car pileups in Southern California.
Incident management will be the initial focus of the corridor management
projects, Augustine said.
“If we are successful with this demo project, we will expand to 50 other ICM projects (in Southern California),” Bowen said.
“Can we coordinate a little better and share information across boundaries and across agencies,” Augustine said.
example, when a tanker truck caught fire on the 2 Freeway near the 5
Freeway in July, spilling 8,500 gallons of fuel into the Los Angeles
River, segments of the two freeways were shut down but the massive
backups occurred around Elysian Park, Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Echo
Park and the incident affected traffic going to Dodger Stadium — miles
from the incident.