High-tech Highway

1/18/2016 | Words: Chuck Mahnken | Pictures: iStock Photos, MTU Onsite Energy

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In the state of Illinois, the 77-mile Jane Addams Memorial Highway serves nearly 1 million travelers per day in and around Chicago. The highway is part of Interstate 90 (I-90), the longest interstate in the United States. At more than  3,000 miles long, the transcontinental freeway stretches from Boston, Massachusetts to Seattle, Washington.

As it does on other heavily trafficked expressways, severe congestion frequently cripples I-90 drivers. Built in the 1950s, I-90 became strained beyond its capacity to residential and commercial growth, increasing delays. A 2015 study cites a 12-mile stretch of Chicago’s I-90 with the worst traffic congestion in the nation. American commuters spend upwards of 40 hours a year stuck in traffic. The United States’ federal government is focused on a number of high-priority efforts to help reduce congestion on the nation's highways.

Easing traffic flow

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Progress at snail’s pace: the average commuter
on the 190 highway spends 90 hours a year in traffic
jams. But things are now set to change with a new
active traffic management system.

To modernize and rebuild the aging highway, the Illinois Tollway approved a comprehensive plan in 2004 that included improvements such as lane widening, modernized tolling facilities, resurfacing and the addition of an intelligent transportation system to better manage incidents and increase safety. The state’s ongoing efforts to improve mobility and reduce congestion launched Move Illinois, a 15-year, $12
billion capital program that will rebuild the existing Illinois tollway system, including state-of-the-art 21st century “Smart Corridor” features for the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway. This technology expansion will provide drivers with up-todate information during their travel as well as increase overall efficiency of the corridor.

To ensure a smooth traffic flow on the Illinois tollway, the cutting-edge program needs reliable backup power. MTU Onsite Energy has been chosen to install 23 natural gas generator sets with 100kW output. The units will provide backup power to updated traffic lane monitoring systems on Chicago’s Interstate 90. The gas generators will be housed in weatherproof aluminum enclosures to protect against common outdoor elements, like salt. The enclosures’ grey color blends in well with the background of the highway, helping to minimize distractions for drivers. Seventeen generator sets have been delivered and will be operational by summer 2016.

Smart improvements
The MTU Onsite Energy generator sets will provide backup power for a number of “Smart Corridor” features on the tollway. Active Traffic Management will provide real-time information to drivers, including nature and status of traffic incidents ahead, advisory speeds, posted alternate routes and real-time lane closures and traffic pattern changes. Roadway cameras along I-90 will be upgraded from analog
to digital high-definition, and additional cameras will provide coverage along the full length of the I-90 corridor from O’Hare International Airport to Rockford. State-of-the-art wireless traffic sensors will provide more comprehensive travel time information. In addition to replacing current full-width, monochrome digital message signs with higher-resolution, fullcolor graphic-cable models, the new I-90 will feature smaller, four-color digital message signs to enhance communications with drivers.

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The 23 MTU Onsite Energy gas-engine generators on standby
next to the highway can each generate 100 kW in the event of
a power outage.

Weather stations along the I-90 corridor will be upgraded with state-of-the-art technology capable of providing pavement monitoring and weather conditions at critical locations, including bridges. Highway infrastructure will be able to communicate with cars over a wireless network, exchanging data about each vehicle’s speed, location and direction of travel and providing developing road situations to drivers.

I-90 will also feature the first Pace Bus “Park & Ride” facilities on the tollway. The project is expected to save drivers nearly 30 minutes of drive time on the average trip from Elgin, Illinois, to the Kennedy Expressway. In addition, the improved roadway
will accommodate more than 80,000 additional vehicles per day, saving drivers millions annually by reducing congestion and delays. The Illinois tollway is committed to sustainability, with a key goal of minimizing the environmental impact from construction to completion. At a time when the global demand for energy is rising and reliable electricity supplies are increasingly vital, power generation products are being used more and more to meet environmental demands. MTU Onsite Energy’s natural gas generators complement the tollway’s “Building Green” initiative, which will incorporate renewable energy sources.



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