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Visually unobtrusive traffic monitoring for National Park Service Parkways


The mission of the National Park Service (NPS) is to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system. However, the NPS road network, especially in urban areas is facing congestion issues like those seen around the country.  State Departments of Transportation are applying operational strategies to help manage this increasing concern which can be applied NPS roads. Thus, unobtrusive traffic monitoring devices of low profile, with minimal impact to the natural surroundings are needed to assess vehicular flow on two- to four lane Parkways.  Information on vehicle speeds, travel times (multiple directions), vehicle type, and volume per lane. Surveillance for incident management response is also important.  It is desirable that a strategy for this data to be transmitted to the regional ITS architecture and stored, analyzed and possibly operated and maintained by a state agency.


The device should be developed in a way that allows the FHWA and NPS personnel, involved in this study, to closely monitor it.  Use of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP) maintenance facility and the TFHRC site for preliminary testing of the prototype devices in Phase I and II is required.  Cooperation with nearby jurisdictions such as VDOT and MDSHA and their groups that monitor transportation data is recommended so that transfer of data to their systems can be analyzed.  The GWMP extends 26 miles between Mount Vernon Estates on the south end to I-495 intersection at the north end. Both in pavement and above pavement sensing technologies may be applicable. However, the final packaging must be visually unobtrusive and blend in with the scenic views of the parkway.


This proposal is also in alignment with USDOT goals of ensuring safety and spurring innovation.  Park roads and Parkways in the National Capital Region have 39% of all the crashes that occur in the NPS.  The data obtained with this innovative device will allow the NPS to more comprehensively analyze and address traffic safety and deploy a 4 E’s approach to reduction of crashes.



Device should have:

  • Minimal impact to viewsheds or disturbance of the historical, cultural landscape. The NPS Cultural Landscape Inventory can provide guidance on viewsheds within the study area.
  • Small profile. If an In-Roadway sensor, the portion of the sensor, not embedded in the roadway, shall be capable of being deployed and operate on existing road signs -and light poles. If an Off-Roadway sensor, the same deployment restrictions apply.
  • If an Over-Roadway sensor, the sensor shall be capable of being deployed and operated on median piers of existing bridges and shall be visually unobtrusive.
  • Self- powered capability (long-life batteries preferred over solar panels). There is currently no power or communications sources along the right of way of the Parkway.
  • Data fusion between 2 or more technologies is permitted but is not required.


Expected Phase I Outcomes:


The expected outcome of Phase I is the development of a prototype that can be deployed for testing on the GWMP facility.  Testing may include a groundtruth comparison to an existing sensor station or approved radar system.  Develop a report on key findings and recommendations for modifications.  In the report include, background information on approach to problem statement, project goals and development of device, review of testing and data collection, description of evaluation methods, and conclusions.



Expected Phase II Outcomes:

The expected outcome of Phase II is a device or product that has been deployed and tested at multiple locations on the GW Parkway and proven to generate consistent, accurate results.  The accuracy of counts between locations and the accuracy of the travel time estimates between the locations will be evaluated.  Strategies for transferring data from the sensor to a traffic monitoring center will be developed and demonstrated during Phase II. Develop a report describing the device and associated systems, an implementation plan and cost estimates.


The terms In-Roadway and Over-Roadway are defined in the Traffic Detector Handbook 3rdEdition.

The Traffic Control Systems Handbook describes communications structuring and monitoring

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