I-5 gets smarter on Aug. 10

by guest blogger Patricia Michaud

On your mark, get set, get smart. Not Maxwell Smart. We’re talking Smarter Highways.
If you’ve driven northbound I-5 between Boeing Access Road and I-90 recently, you’ve probably noticed a whole bunch of new electronic signs over the freeway. These are our Smarter Highways signs. Since we began testing them in May, the new signs have displayed bunches of random dots, asterisks and other cryptic test messages.

Starting Aug. 10, the test messages will go away and the new signs will officially get smart. That means it’s time for you to get smart, too.

When the signs go live, they’ll be giving drivers real-time traffic information about what’s happening on the road ahead through a series of Xs, arrows and electronic messages. If you’re wondering what that’ll look like, you can check out a video of how the signs will work on the Smarter Highways website.

So what makes these signs smarter than the electronic signs we already have on I-5? For one thing, they’re stationed every half-mile along I-5. That means we can get more specific traffic information to drivers well before they get stuck in congestion. And because we have a sign positioned above each lane on the freeway, we can let drivers know exactly which lanes are blocked and which lanes are open. We can even let drivers know to adjust their speed before they reach slower-moving traffic.
This information means that drivers can change lanes ahead of time or even get off the freeway to avoid congestion. It’ll also help reduce the number of rear-end crashes that can happen when drivers suddenly find themselves in slowing traffic. 

As regular commuters probably know, crashes cause congestion, congestion in turn causes more crashes, and those crashes in turn cause more congestion. It’s a vicious cycle, especially during rush hour. Since building nine miles of new lanes on I-5 isn’t a feasible or affordable option, we had to find a way to make our highways work more efficiently. There’s an old saying: Don’t work harder, work smarter. And that’s exactly what these signs will do for our highways.

We’re getting smart. How about you?