Merge ahead: ITS and security

Steve LeSueur

Hurricane Isabel knocked out more than just electricity when it roared through the Mid-Atlantic states last month. Flattened trees and overflowing rivers also shut down numerous roads and highways, creating traffic headaches throughout the region.

In Maryland, state highway officials stayed on top of problems with a statewide traffic management system, recently upgraded by Computer Sciences Corp. Using the system to monitor road conditions and coordinate clean-up efforts, state officials reduced the number of road closures from more than 200 at Isabel's height to less than 10 three days later.

Maryland's experience points to a growing trend in how state and local governments are using intelligent transportation systems. Increasingly, they are tapping ITS for crisis management, and allowing police and other first responders to draw information from transportation systems.

A case in point is a $24 million emergency command center that Northrop Grumman Corp. designed and built for Austin and Travis County, Texas. The center not only serves as the operations center for the Texas Department of Transportation in the region, but also houses the city's 911 emergency dispatch operations.

Staff Writer William Welsh talked to government and industry executives about the merging of transportation and public safety operations. Read his front-page story to see why some experts want to use ITS systems to

bolster homeland security.

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