August 25th, 2011
CRUCIAL CONNECTIONOptimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.
Transportation officials and stakeholders from four western states will collaborate to improve mobility on I-15.
I-15 Mobility Alliance: a combined effort to keep people, goods, services and information moving along the crucial interstate corridor.
The I-15 Mobility Alliance is one of several groups that have formed across the nation to collaborate on regional transportation goals. A similar group, the I-95 Corridor Coalition, formed in the 1990s to cooperate to clear freeway incidents that slow traffic flow then later broadened its mission to include mobility goals.
Corridor coalitions enjoy “success not otherwise available,” according to an article on the FHWA website. Joining forces “builds a strong, authoritative institutional framework” that can successfully secure funding for ambitious projects. I-15 Mobility Alliance members are seeking a similar path. “We’re looking at something fairly significant,” John Thomas, UDOT Director of Planning. He cites the I-95 Corridor Coalition as an example of how to build consensus, credibility and political clout.
One region, one corridor, one vision
The Nevada Department of Transportation started the effort in July to form a regional vision and then take action. Thomas believes it’s a very forward-thinking approach. NDOT officials “have a good understanding of how things outside their border can influence their system.”
“Critical connectivity is the foundation of the discussion,” says Dan Andersen, a Transportation Planner with CH2M HILL. The alliance includes mega-regions with separate identities but “we’re joined at the hip.” Since each state has issues that impact other states, “we really depend on each other.”
Even Arizona, with just a small portion of the freeway, plays a key role. I-15 crosses the Virgin River Gorge in the north-west corner of the state, and soon, aging bridges will need to be replaced. Without those bridges, the detour is huge with a delay cost to match.
UDOT is contributing an important tool to the effort: uPlan – a user-friendly, online, GIS based application that displays data spatially and allows users to build customized maps. More than just a repository of information, uPlan is a great medium for collaboration.
Seeing the big picture
Alliance members are taking an expansive view that includes the whole transportation environment, not just the roadway. Ports, rail, aviation, trucking, multimodal transportation and even information flow will be considered in the mix of options for improving mobility. The holistic approach will require participation from a wide range of stakeholders, so group membership is open-ended.
The group is working on an assessment of needs and setting preliminary priorities. Leaders of the alliance met this week to work on a master plan that articulates the need for solutions and defines the group’s mission. The document will be presented for endorsement at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in October.