CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Business Solutions Group at Oregon State University has signed an agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation to help create the first step toward an “intelligent” statewide emergency traffic management system that coordinates and manages resources and communication.

During the next 18 months to two years, OSU software engineers develop components to a program that will unify the state’s five traffic regions, align communication between ODOT and the Oregon State Police, and better coordinate messages to the public through electronic highway warning signs, low-power radio, the news media, and the Internet.

Galen McGill, ODOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems manager, said Oregon will be unique among states when the project is completed. “This project is vitally important in that it will speed up response time in critical situations, improve communication among different agencies, and ultimately better serve the public,” McGill said.

A handful of other states have advanced traffic management systems for their urban areas – such as Atlanta, Ga. – but no other state has attempted this level of integration among its rural and urban areas, he added.

“This is a large project with significant impact,” said Mark Van Patten, director of the Business Solutions Group within the OSU College of Business. “We’re proud of our group’s ability to meet the state’s needs – and comply with the governor’s vision of tying education to industry. Best of all, our students will learn a great deal and be better employees when they graduate.”

During the first year of the project, the focus will be on creating a unified incident management program for Oregon’s interstates and highways. The state has five different regions that use a variety of different equipment and software – not all of it compatible.

The engineers also must address all aspects of emergency traffic management that arise from a variety of different scenarios – automobile accidents, weather closures, spills, construction, and even high-speed pursuits and Amber Alerts.

An integrated communication and response system obviously must include police and medical personnel, and also consider cleanup crews, snow plows, sanding trucks, traffic control devices, towing services, repair jobs and other needs depending on the situation.

ODOT makes the call on closing highways but the Oregon State Police can shut down those roads during emergencies. Then the challenge is to communicate closures to other law enforcement agencies, such as county sheriffs, as well as fire departments and the public.

A second phase of the project will begin to look at different ways to improve non-emergency traffic management. Some of these measures already have been addressed, such as ramp lights onto major arterials in Portland during heavy traffic periods.

OSU will work with ODOT on other strategies that monitor traffic on a real-time basis, and alter traffic patterns according to need.

The Business Solutions Group is a program in the Oregon State University College of Business that focuses on important training and development opportunities for students while providing professional custom product-testing and software development solutions for its clients.

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Mark Van Patten,