With the aim of reducing congestion on the Twin Cities’ highly traveled I-35W corridor between the Minnesota River and I-94, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) began a major set of I-35W improvements in 2009 as part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA). Among the improvements was the addition of a priced dynamic shoulder lane (PDSL) on parts of the 17-mile stretch of highway; however, following the opening of these improvements, the frequency of rear-end crashes increased in certain sections—especially in the PDSL regions.
To untangle the underlying causes of this increase, MnDOT enlisted the help of researchers in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering. “Our primary objective was to determine if these increases were direct effects of the improvements or if they were due to changes in the traffic conditions,” says Professor Gary Davis, the principal investigator. “MnDOT was interested in extending some or all of these improvements to other corridors but needed to know what the safety impacts were to aid its decision making.”
To reduce congestion and improve safety, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has deployed active traffic management (ATM) technology on two freeways in the Twin Cities. The ATM system incorporates intelligent lane control signals placed over selected lanes at half-mile increments to warn motorists of incidents or hazards ahead.
Using this existing ATM infrastructure, U of M researchers have developed and field-tested two prototypes for queue warning systems in a new MnDOT-funded project. The warning systems specifically focus on preventing rear-end collisions—the most frequent type of crash on freeways.
Pedestrian safety and access to healthful foods were some of the issues tackled by U of M students during the 2016–2017 academic year as part of the U’s Resilient Communities Project (RCP).
In its fifth year, RCP—a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs—partnered with the City of Brooklyn Park to advance an array of the city’s strategic priorities. RCP connects communities in Minnesota with U of M faculty and students through collaborative, course-based projects. Communities are chosen in a competitive process.
The U of M’s HumanFIRST Laboratory has received a 2017 Research Infrastructure Investment Program award of just over $186,000 from the U’s Office of the Vice President for Research.
The lab is a facility of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. It conducts research to collect, analyze, and understand driver behavior generated during driving simulation studies and field tests of enhanced human-machine interfaces designed to reduce risky driving behaviors.
The lab houses two advanced driving simulators, which together host most of its research experiments. Funds from the award will be used to overhaul components of both simulators. The upgrade is expected to re-engage Minnesota as a national leader in driving behavior research.
Last week, the Roadway Safety Institute (RSI) introduced White Earth Nation students to transportation-related topics as part of the White Earth Indian Reservation Summer Academy of Math and Science.
The two-week day camp uses hands-on learning and Indian culture to teach students in grades 4 to 8 about math, science, and engineering. It is offered in partnership by the White Earth Nation and the University of Minnesota Extension. This is the third year that RSI has participated in the program.
Rear-end crashes are a major cause of highway traffic slowdowns, and preventing these congestion-causing incidents requires a clear understanding of why they occur in the first place. On the surface, it might seem like the driver who rear-ends another vehicle is the primary cause of the collision; however, the reality is much more complex.
In a new study, U of M researchers found that because shockwaves—areas of suddenly stopping or slowing traffic—are usually the cause of rear-end collisions on highways, drivers at the front of a group of cars may have as much or more to do with the rear-end collisions happening at the back of the group than those involved in the crashes themselves.
When drivers approach a roadway work zone at high speeds, they put the lives of work-zone flaggers at risk. To keep flaggers safe on the job, U of M researchers are looking for better ways to capture drivers’ attention—and compel them to slow down—as they approach flagger-controlled work zones.
Kathleen Harder, director of the Center for Design in Health, and John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, identified and tested new work-zone warning elements to more effectively capture and sustain driver attention. The project was funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board.