Frequently Asked Questions

About this project

ODOT RealTime signs give you up-to-the-minute traffic information and advisories so you can get where you're going safely and efficiently. This project will expand the ODOT RealTime network to include U.S. 26 (Sunset Highway), I-84 and local roads in Washington County.

What ODOT RealTime Signs will be installed on this project?

The signs include:
Travel time sign

Travel time signs

will display estimated travel times to key destinations so that drivers can plan their arrival time or consider taking an alternate route.

Traveler information sign

Traveler information signs

will alert drivers about crashes, congestion, road conditions, closures and other traffic-related information, giving drivers the ability to make travel decisions in real time.

Advisory speed signs

Advisory speed signs

will display advisory speed based on the traffic ahead. The advisory speeds will change as real-time conditions change.

How will the performance of the system be monitored?

In order to measure the impact of the project, travel time monitoring devices will be placed at key locations throughout the project limits prior to construction. Using data from these devices along with other data (e.g. crash data, freeway volumes, and speed data), a thorough before and after analysis will be performed. Key measures that will be evaluated include:

  • Travel time
  • Travel time reliability
  • Transit on-time performance
  • Crash rate
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Average daily traffic (ADT)

The project is expected to have a positive effect on each of these performance measures.

These statistics were collected over the past year after ODOT RealTime launched on OR 217 and I-5/I-405:

  • Peak travel time down 9-18%
  • Total crashes down 12%
  • Travel time reliability improved 19%

What are the local road improvements that are happening?

Local road improvements will take place on TV Highway, Cornelius Pass, 185th, Murray and Scholls Ferry and will include:

  • Transit Signal Priority - Our objective is to make transit travel times more reliable. We provide extra green time when a bus is detected to get the transit vehicle through the traffic signal without stopping. We also shorten other conflicting phases to bring the transit movement green up earlier when the bus arrives on red.
  • Large Vehicle Green Light Extension – Traffic signals at specific locations will include extra sensors and electronics that allow the green light to be extended for large vehicles, for safety and operations (lane balance).
  • Bicycle Improvements - Our objectives are to improve safety for bicycling in Washington County and make bicycle detection more reliable. We will be adding detection for bicyclists, increasing minimum green times to give plenty of time for bicyclists to cross an intersection, and adding some green paint to highlight conflict zones and make it clear bicyclists should be expected in this area.
  • Detection improvements include cameras and radar sensors that will help keep the system flowing.
  • TV Highway will also receive the ODOT RealTime signs.

When will you know if these efforts have been successful?

Not right away. ODOT will, of course, track incidents as they happen but a longer period of data will be needed to reach any kind of conclusions on the success or failure of these efforts.

How much will this project cost?

The project cost is $13.6 million and is primarily funded through a federal grant, with some State and County contributions.

About ODOT RealTime

How does ODOT RealTime work?

Hundreds of sensors embedded in the roadway and overhead detect traffic volume and speeds. This information is relayed to ODOT's Traffic Operations Center on a real-time basis. Sophisticated computer technology translates data from the sensors into the information drivers see on the signs.

What is the purpose of this system?

The new signs give motorists the ability to make informed travel decisions by providing them with real-time information about traffic flow and roadway conditions — to help everyone get where they're going safely and efficiently.

Will the signs always be on? What does it mean when they're not on?

The electronic displays on RealTime signs will only be on when there is important information to be shared or when traffic conditions merit slower speeds. If there are no incidents and if traffic is flowing smoothly, the displays will typically default to display travel times.

Is the information truly provided in real time?

Yes, the information is updated every 20 seconds.

Do other states use this technology? What have the results been?

Similar real-time traffic management systems are being used in a number of states, including Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota, Virginia, Florida and Washington. Initial studies have reported a reduction in crashes on highways where variable speeds are used.

How will this help me as a driver?

ODOT RealTime system empowers drivers to make real-time decisions. The advisory speed signs will inform drivers to slow down before they encounter stopped traffic or congestion. The travel time and traveler information signs will help drivers consider alternative routes or plan arrival times, all without taking their eyes off the road.

Is ODOT planning to implement this technology on other Portland highways or statewide?

ODOT is currently developing a strategy for expanding system management strategies to other corridors. There is no money to build yet, but the plan will set the framework for what needs to be deployed.

Travel Time/Traveler Information Signs

Where are the travel time signs?

ODOT's travel time signs are located on various highways in the Portland metro area. These signs are currently located on I-5, I-84, I-205, I-405, US26, and OR 217. View a map of existing sign locations.

Are these new signs?

In many cases, travel time information was added to existing electronic highway signs. In this project, ODOT will install four new electronic highway signs, one on US26 between OR 217 to the Vista Ridge tunnels, and three on I-84 from I-5 to I-205. Once complete, these will also display travel times and traveler information.

Advisory Speed Signs

Where are the advisory speed signs?

In addition to the 17 advisory speeds signs located along I-5 and I-405 and the 28 advisory speed signs located on OR 217, 17 new advisory speed signs will be installed on US 26 from OR 217 to the Vista Ridge tunnels and 30 new advisory speed signs will be installed on I-84 from I-5 to I-205.

Why are the signs only in certain places? How were those places chosen?

Both US 26 from OR 217 to the Vista Ridge tunnels and I-84 from I-5 to I-205 are particularly prone to rear-end crashes. Both corridors experience higher than average traffic volumes and a higher than normal crash rate that increases delay. Based on the success of the previously installed advisory speed signs to address the conditions listed above, US26 and I-84 were selected for the new sign installations.

Will the signs help with congestion?

ODOT RealTime is not intended to manage congestion. However, a collision on a busy highway can bring traffic to a halt. By reducing the number of crashes, ODOT RealTime can help lessen the delays they cause.

What is an "advisory speed"?

The advisory speed is a recommended speed based on real-time conditions. The advisory speed is determined by safety considerations.

Will I get a ticket for driving faster than the advisory speed?

No. The purpose of the advisory speed is to provide motorists with important and helpful information. In keeping with this purpose, drivers cannot and will not be ticketed for exceeding the advisory speed. However, Oregon's Basic Speed Rule still applies. The Basic Speed Rule provides that any driver who is driving recklessly or too fast for conditions can be ticketed, regardless of the speed limit.

How will advisory speed signs help reduce crashes?

When traffic is heavy on a roadway, drivers can suddenly encounter a line of stopped cars. That's how many rear-end collisions occur. Advisory speed signs will give drivers a heads-up to slow down, enabling them to approach stopped vehicles at a reasonable speed, avoiding crashes.

What are drivers supposed to do when they see speeds change?

Drivers should slow to the advisory speed displayed on the sign. If the sign changes to a lower speed, drivers should be prepared for stopped or slower-moving traffic ahead.

Other Questions

I already have an app that gives me real-time traffic conditions. Why do I need these new signs?

Using mobile communications devices while driving is against the law in Oregon. It's also dangerous and leads to thousands of crashes every year nationally. ODOT RealTime allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road — instead of a mobile device — when driving.

Why not just widen existing highways or build new ones?

The purpose of the ODOT RealTime system is to provide drivers information and improve safety. It is not aimed at eliminating congestion. That said, the RealTime project will cost far less than widening a road or building a new freeway.

Why not spend the money promoting public transportation instead?

Public transportation remains a crucial part of the overall transportation infrastructure. The ODOT RealTime system is not an alternative to public transportation, but rather a system to improve safety on existing roadways and to help motorists be more efficient in their travel.

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