VDOT hits the skies for traffic

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 19, 2005

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Virginia State Police teamed up Thursday during rush hour, heading to the skies via a police helicopter to monitor traffic around Hampton Roads from a bird’s-eye view.

Instead of monitoring common traffic &uot;chokepoints&uot; and problem areas from the ground, said VDOT District Traffic Engineer Mike Corwin, &uot;This will give us another dimension. It’s a completely different view to look at the roadways.&uot;

This was the first time VDOT and State Police were teaming up in this manner, and Corwin said that this option would become another useful part of VDOT’s &uot;tool chest&uot; when it comes to observe traffic congestion. VDOT officials were hopeful that an aerial viewpoint would help them see how congestion at one point on the roads affects alternate routes, to better equip the agency to identify problem pockets, and to evaluate causes and effects of various &uot;chokepoints&uot; that are becoming more common as traffic increases around Hampton Roads interstates and highways.

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Say for an example, said Corwin, there’s an on ramp leading onto I-64 that’s usually clogged during the evening rush hour.

Looking at everything around the ramp from the air, such as traffic lights and patterns on alternate routes leading onto the entrance ramps, is a potentially valuable part of Thursday’s initial trip.

VDOT Operations Manager Dwayne Cook said, &uot;Teaming up with experts from different areas of VDOT Hampton Roads gives us a more rounded view of our transportation system as a whole and what steps can be taken to realistically improve certain trouble spots.&uot;

Taking off from Hampton Roads Executive Airport in Chesapeake, the chopper trip was expected to last about an hour and a half Thursday evening, specifically targeting busy points such as the 64/664 interchange and the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel, which both are important routes leading in and out of Suffolk.

&uot;We have a great partnership with the Virginia State Police and this is coming of that partnership,&uot; said Dennis Heuer, VDOT District Administrator.

As a key component of its reorganization initiatives, VDOT is attempting to expand their focus beyond road building and maintenance to incorporate operations.

The helicopter ride is just one example of this shift.

&uot;We need to look for new and innovative ways to make the best of the road system that we have,&uot; Cook said, &uot;and that involves getting a better grasp on how our transportation system operates. This is a new operational perspective.&uot;

&uot;We’ll see how it works,&uot; said Heuer, &uot;if it generates even one minor improvement in the things we do, then we’ll keep doing it.&uot;