UT Studies Knoxville Interstate Backups

KNOXVILLE — Researchers at the University of Tennessee are keeping an electronic eye on traffic piling up on Interstate 40/75 in a study designed to understand the dynamics of traffic flow through construction sites.

State-of-the-art radar equipment is being installed that will monitor the volume and speed of traffic in all six interstate lanes at the Lovell Road exit, said Matthew Cate, senior research associate with UT’s Center for Transportation Research.

“We’re part of a national study looking at how traffic backs up in a highway work zone,” Cate said. “We’ll be measuring the volume and speed of traffic to see how people adjust, whether they queue up or find alternative routes.”

Congestion associated with rolling roadblocks and lane closures will be monitored for six months, he said. The equipment may also be used for long-term data collection.

The Federal Highway Administration has awarded the center $137,000 to install and monitor 12 radar sensors that will gather traffic data on the eastbound and westbound lanes approaching the exit, which is being enlarged.

“We’ve worked closely with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the local Metropolitan Planning Commission in planning and implementing the study,” Cate said.

The solar-powered system will wirelessly transmit data every 30 seconds to a computer installation at a nearby truck weigh station, Cate said. Researchers will then download the data to campus computers.

EIS Electronic Integrated Systems, which specializes in applying radar technology to advanced traffic applications, is supplying the equipment. Massey Electric is installing it.

“The system will collect congestion data in aggregate,” said Scott Stevens, another UT researcher on the project. “It will not monitor the speed or identity of individual vehicles.”