Bringing ITS to Wichita began back in the 1990s. After many discussions, meetings and extensive research, a deployment study for ITS in the Wichita metropolitan area was released in late 1998.
Partnerships were soon established to create and implement an ITS architecture for the area. The architecture describes the components of the system, how they will interact to form a network of data gathering devices and how that information will be used to create a more efficient transportation system in the metro area.
Partners on the highway side of Wichita’s ITS include the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), City of Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP), Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA), Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WAMPO), and a number of private consulting firms.
In July 2007, a consultant was selected to design and supervise the installation plus start-up operation of ITS on Wichita’s highways.
In January 2009, a test project was launched that used six temporary cameras (on 45’ wooden poles) and six mobile DMS (trailer units). The test project included set-up of a Traffic Management Center (TMC) with operators’ console stations and the infrastructure backbone to bring information into the center. The TMC is co-located with Sedgwick County’s 911 operators facilitating coordination of traffic related events with KDOT, KHP, Sedgwick County law enforcement agencies and other emergency responders. KDOT contracts with the County to provide TMC console operators Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. – 7 p.m.
The test project served a number of functions. Cameras, messages signs, traffic detectors, remote antennae, and data transmission techniques were installed that began the process of gathering information in the field and aggregating it in a central location. This information was used by TMC console operators and, although on a fairly limited basis, this information was shared with drivers on some of Wichita’s highways.
Staffing the new Intelligent Transportation System was accomplished with the KDOT/Sedgwick County agreement but the project also needed local leadership, operation and maintenance. Expanding his role as public affairs manager for Wichita KDOT, Tom Hein was appointed manager of the Wichita ITS operation. Dale Holsey was selected as the TMC technician to perform the day-to-day operations of equipment monitoring, troubleshooting and maintenance as well as interaction with console operators.
In 2011, installation of permanent ITS equipment on 22 miles of Wichita’s highway system was completed. The $4 million installation contract included 28 cameras, 21 dynamic message signs (at 14 locations) and 36 traffic sensors. Phase 1 also included the creation of the WICHway website to share traffic speeds, camera views, dynamic message sign content, emergency notices, construction projects and maintenance details.
Phase 2 of ITS equipment installation (in 2013) includes 13 more cameras and traffic sensors plus two message signs.
Phase 3 will occur in 2014.