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North Texas Leaders Envision Smart Tech Corridor

Council officials have backed a proposal to create a regional technology corridor stretching from Dallas to Fort Worth.

Imagine an ambulance traveling through Dallas city streets on its way to respond to an emergency and every light it encounters turns green, speeding its response along a map routed out precisely by artificial intelligence.

That’s just one possibility the officials behind a proposal to create a regional technology corridor stretching from Dallas to Fort Worth envision.

Members of the North Central Texas Council of Governments' (NCTCOG) Regional Transportation Council want to seek a $10 million federal grant to fund the ambitious initiative. The money would be used to create a centralized hub for managing transit data, operations and digital infrastructure on Interstate 30 in Dallas-Fort Worth.

An additional $6 million in regional toll revenue would also go toward the project, since the federal Advanced Transportation Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) program requires a 20 percent match in local funds. The corridor would include the mainline freeway, frontage roads, managed lanes and 56 intersections traversing Dallas, Grand Prairie, Arlington and Fort Worth.

Cities have been integrating technology that would move them closer to regional transportation management for years. MaxView systems in Dallas and Fort Worth allow for advanced traffic signal control, while software in Grand Prairie and Arlington functions as a management hub for multiple city intersections.

A digital corridor, or “system of systems,” would gather real-time input from city-based centers such as these, along with data from field devices like highway corridor cameras, the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) traffic management system and work zone information. Fed into the central hub, that data could then be used to inform response plans and help motorists with trip planning by sharing traffic information with third parties such as Google Maps.

“What we’re trying to do is operate this particular corridor like an integrated corridor so when crashes occur on it, the signals are adjusted, we can direct traffic off to the frontage roads — maybe a transit component as part of that — and we can help balance that demand as the scenarios change out there on the facility,” Senior Program Manager Natalie Bettger told the council during a recent presentation.

Regional transportation director Michael Morris said he hopes the corridor would become the data “home for everybody” — including TxDOT, the North Texas Tollway Authority and cities in the region. It would also allow third-party companies such as autonomous vehicle operators to create a single agreement for tech synchronization, rather than navigating a patchwork of traffic management centers.

If approved, the project’s first phase could serve as a model for future corridors and for cities in the region to integrate advanced technology into traffic control, such as by clearing the way for response vehicles during an emergency using next-generation signaling.

“I know you’re an ambulance, I know where you get off on the freeway, I know you’re headed to this particular emergency room — we’re going to send all those signals green so you don’t have anything to worry about,” Morris said.

Similar traffic signal technology could be used by bus drivers to essentially create a dedicated transit lane without taking up more physical road space, according to Morris.

Projects aimed at using technology to improve road safety, reduce traffic delays and omissions, optimize multimodal system performance and integrate transportation information are eligible for the federal ATTAIN program, which will select five to 10 projects to fund at up to $12 million each.

The proposal goes before the NCTCOG’s executive board for approval Jan. 25 and before the group’s surface transportation technical committee Jan. 26. Grant applications are due Feb. 2.

©2024 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.