RALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Transportation has received a federal $1.5 million grant to help make driving safer, especially through work zones.
The money, which comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation as the first round of grants totaling $94 million under the law’s new Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation grant program, dubbed SMART.
The NCDOT’s Mobility and Safety Division will use the grant to develop a system that sends alerts to travelers about the need to slow down, stop or change lanes. Currently, the NCDOT is sending alerts to commercial truck drivers about slow traffic ahead on a small scale.
The new project will let the NCDOT expand this real-time traveler alert system to more drivers in more situations, including work zones, by using their own smartphones, navigation apps and other technologies.
Kelly Wells, the department’s traveler information engineer who helped write the grant application, said equipping drivers with more timely alerts about sudden changes in traffic conditions will help reduce crashes.
The new system that will reach more drivers initially will be deployed in these two work zones by next year:
• I-95 widening around Lumberton and Fayetteville
• I-40 construction in Haywood County, west of Asheville
These two corridors were chosen, in part, because of the long-term work zones in these areas. A crash in a work zone can cause long backups and divert traffic onto nearby local streets. The NCDOT hopes to be able to expand this new service to other areas of the state in the future.
The project also includes developing a way to send traveler alerts directly to connected and autonomous vehicles in a future phase.
The department will be working with many partners to get the information into a format that can be used by popular traveler apps, such as Waze, Google Maps and Apple Maps.
The total project cost, including in-kind labor primarily from NCDOT, is nearly $2 million.
The project will not affect the NCDOT’s mobile-friendly website for travelers, DriveNC.gov, which will function the same for the public.