April 27, 2014 marked the 15 year anniversary of the UDOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) opening its doors. The UDOT TOC was built to manage congestion and traffic during the 2002 Olympics. While managing traffic for this important special event was a catalyst for building the TOC, UDOT fully understood that there would be significant benefits to operating the TOC long term.
As Utah continues to grow, so does the challenge of mobility. To address Utah’s transportation challenges, the Utah Senate passed a Senate Bill in 1995 and established a Traffic Management Committee which consisted of representatives from Salt Lake City, Wasatch Front Regional Council, Mountainland Association of Governments, Salt Lake County, the Department of Public Safety and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. This committee recognized the benefits of a Traffic Operations Center to manage traffic and improve roadway efficiency. The Utah Transit Authority and Federal Highway Administration also partnered with the committee. The committee determined that a TOC was necessary and shortly after, planning started on where the TOC would be built, what components it would have and how the information would be distributed to the public. A common ITS architecture was established, which now allows all Utah jurisdictions with ITS devices to share resources.
When the doors opened in 1999, the TOC was staffed Monday – Friday 5:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. and covered a limited number of routes on the Wasatch Front. Utah’s ITS system was given the name “CommuterLink” because it was largely commuter-centric traveler information and congestion management for Salt Lake City. Today, the TOC is staffed 24/7/365 and manages traffic statewide. To reflect the statewide approach, the system is now known as “UDOT Traffic”.
Over the years, the TOC has grown its traffic management capabilities and has added extra equipment to keep up with Utah’s transportation demands. In 1999, UDOT had deployed 150 traffic cameras and 57 Variable Message Signs (VMS). Today, UDOT has a sophisticated statewide network that includes over 900 traffic cameras and over 150 VMS! These valuable tools can be viewed on the UDOT Traffic smartphone app and website. Traffic camera images are also shared with the media and can help commuters make travel decisions while watching the morning news. UDOT’s fiber optic network is also robust – with over 1800 miles of fiber optic cable deployed, UDOT has one of the most complete and useful fiber optic networks in the nation. This network helps to establish lightning-fast communications with traffic signals, VMS, traffic detectors and other equipment throughout the state. From the TOC, UDOT can manually operate over 85% of the traffic signals throughout the state… as far away as St. George, Moab, Vernal and Logan!
From its first years of operation, the TOC has proven its effectiveness. The system has helped to increase peak-hour freeway speeds, reduce freeway delays and improve traffic signal efficiency. Traffic management is an important component of a healthy transportation network. UDOT’s TOC supports other UDOT divisions to successfully build, maintain and operate Utah’s highways. UDOT’s TOC also helps to support UDOT’s Strategic Goals: Preserve Infrastructure, Zero Fatalities, Strengthen the Economy and Optimize Mobility.
For a tour of the TOC or for more information, visit www.udottraffic.utah.gov.