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Advancing innovative solutions to the USA's transportation challenges

In today’s economic and budget environment, governments at all levels are being called upon to do more with less. Shrinking transportation revenues are being met with increasing needs as America’s World War II-era infrastructure calls for higher levels of maintenance, repair and replacement.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) just issued its 2013 report card giving the USA’s infrastructure a grade of D+. While this is up slightly from the D grade of four years ago, it’s hardly a score anyone would want to take home to their folks. But it does highlight the significant challenges we must deal with if we are to avoid passing today’s infrastructure problems on to future generations.

Even with all the money in the world, we still wouldn’t have enough room in many cities and suburbs to build the new roads and bridges needed to keep up with a growing, increasingly urbanized population.

To deal with this problem many states, cities and even rural communities are using technology to manage traffic and make their roads, bridges and transit systems more efficient and user-friendly.

From adaptive and synchronized traffic signals to advanced traffic management centers, technology is not only helping to reduce traffic congestion and improve daily commutes, but it is also saving agencies money by helping get more out of the existing infrastructure rather than having to build costly new capacity.

In addition, ITS is providing real-time traffic, transit, navigation, and even parking information so commuters and commercial operators can make informed, efficient travel, routing and scheduling decisions.

Electronic tolling systems are enabling innovative strategies such as high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes that can help finance improved transportation services while managing travel demand through dynamic pricing.

Other technology applications such as Connected Vehicles are expected to save thousands of lives each year on the nation’s roads while improving mobility, driver convenience and the environment.

As we’re closing in on this year’s ITS America Annual Meeting & Exposition – being held April 21-24 in Nashville, Tennessee, Traffic Technology International has invited me to write a column leading up to the event so that we can talk in depth about the growing ITS industry and how the latest technologies and best practices can be (and are being) used to improve the nation’s transportation system.

Before we get into that, let me tell you about ITS America, who we are and what we stand for.

Formed in 1991 as a Utilized Federal Advisory Committee to the USDOT, ITS America now operates as a non-profit association representing more than 450 member organizations – private businesses, government agencies and research institutions involved in advancing technology solutions to the nation’s transportation challenges.

One of our functions is to educate policy-makers as they work to improve highway and vehicle safety, reduce traffic congestion, lessen our environmental impact, strengthen the nation’s freight network, and pursue new ways to finance our infrastructure, and transition to a more efficient, performance-based transportation system. Bottom line: we’re for better transportation.

In this space over the next few weeks, I will discuss many of the exciting sessions and pressing issues we’ll be addressing at the Annual Meeting.

To kick things off, we’ll start with a State DOT Roundtable on Sunday (April 21) with at least 18 state DOT CEOs who will share best practices and discuss strategies for making better use of intelligent transportation systems to finance, manage and modernize their transportation systems.

On Monday (April 22), the Opening Plenary will feature top UDDOT officials and a panel of CEOs from three of the world’s largest telematics companies – Agero, Airbiquity, and Hughes Telematics (A Verizon Company) – who will discuss the future of vehicle telematics and auto safety.

Tuesday (April 23) will bring an insightful update on federal ITS priorities directly from top USDOT officials in the Secretary’s Office, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).

On Wednesday (April 24), top research and business leaders from FedEx, Oak Ridge National Lab, Intelligent Imaging Systems and the University of Memphis will share their views on how ITS can keep freight moving on our already congested roadways. I can never stress this enough, but the lifestyle we all enjoy is in large part due to our ability to move goods safely and efficiently.

We will also be taking a detailed look at how to pay for our nation’s transportation system, with a financing town hall meeting on Monday (April 22) and a Mileage-Based User Fee Symposium on Wednesday (April 24).

Throughout the course of the meeting, there will be numerous discussions on every angle of safety and mobility including performance measures, integrated corridor management, driverless vehicles, environmental sustainability, and safer workzones among dozens of other topics.

As innovation leaders come together this month in Nashville, we hope you will join the conversation and help lead the way in finding solutions to our collective transportation challenges.
The Intelligent Transportation Society of America’s (ITS America) 23rd Annual Meeting & Exposition is being held in Nashville, Tennessee, from April 22-24, 2013 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. FHWA-sponsored training will also take place. To register, go to

About the author
Scott F. Belcher was appointed as president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America in September 2007 after a successful legal and non-profit management career including more than 20 years of private and public sector experience in Washington, D.C. His vision for moving ITS to the next level includes raising awareness of the value of ITS among consumers, legislators, and the media and seeking increased federal funding of ITS initiatives. He holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia, a Master of Public Policy from Georgetown University, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Redlands.



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