Under the National Scenic Byways Program, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation recognizes certain roads as National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads based on their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. There are currently 95 nationally designated scenic byways in 39 states across the U.S. Collectively, these roads are known as America’s Byways.
The America’s Byways Program provides Federal leadership, coordination and facilitation for the individual Scenic Byways programs across the country. The America’s Byways Program has completed an ITS Strategic Plan that described a clear vision for how ITS could enhance and improve traveler information along the Scenic Byways. The next step desired by the America’s Byways Program was to pursue a demonstration project in one of the Scenic Byways to demonstrate the effectiveness of ITS.
A challenge that has faced many State DOTs is the operations of rural ITS systems. Whether the systems are kiosks, radio station broadcasts, dynamic message signs or camera surveillance systems, they all need some form of regular maintenance and operations to maintain operational status. When you examine and consider the arrangement of Scenic Byways, these are most often local groups of businesses or communities that have joined together to champion a Scenic Byway. Therefore, there is potential for the local operational maintenance and support that is critical to ITS systems.
This project built on the foundational efforts of the America’s Byways Resource Center to develop the Byways ITS Strategic Plan in order to introduce the concepts and applications of ITS to the scenic byways communities. This report introduced several key ITS applications that could be applied to scenic byways, including:
- Low Power FM (LPFM) Radio
- Highway Advisory Radio (HAR)
- Kiosks and Internet Web Sites
- 511 Traveler Information
- Condition Reporting
- Variable Message Signs (VMS)
- Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS)\
The project selected to two high-quality byway sites that would benefit from enhanced interpretive and traveler information provided using ITS technologies. Specific ITS technologies were selected based on the requirements and characteristics of each selected byways demonstration site. The field demonstration of the ITS technologies were operated for one visitation season on the byway.
The following illustrates the sequence of steps recommended for introducing Intelligent Transportation Systems to the byways community:
- ENTERPRISE Interaction with America’s Byways
- Definition of Guidelines for DOT/Scenic Byway Cooperation
- Development of Business Plan for Demonstration Project
- Demonstration Deployment(s)
The work completed as a part of this project was as follows:
Task 1: Facilitate Interaction of ENTERPRISE Members and America’s Byways and Identify and Select Candidate Byways
Efforts in Task 1 consisted of travel for the director or assistant director of the America’s Byways Program to attend the December 2003 ENTERPRISE meeting, provided voluntarily by the America’s Byways Resource Center. The intent of this meeting was for ENTERPRISE states to educate the America’s Byways representative on the technologies available in each state, and to allow the America’s Byways representative to present and educate ENTERPRISE members on details of how the Scenic Byways programs work (i.e. Funding, operations, marketing). The intent of this meeting was to select a key Scenic Byways corridor(s) to serve as the test environment and to discuss the potential technologies to deploy at the test site.
A key to the discussions with the America’s Byways program was the detailed discussions on ownership of the technologies deployed, and agreements needed with the local agencies to facilitate ongoing operations and maintenance. Beyond this, discussions focused on the content available and the desired result of traveler information within the candidate byways.
The deliverable of this plan was a brainstormed approach that roughly identified two key Scenic Byways corridors and the deployments planned along these corridors (including ownership of systems, maintenance and operations roles, information content available, and travelers needs for tourism and traveler information).
Criteria for selecting the byways sites included the existence of a Comprehensive Management Plan, a project champion for the byway demonstration, and perhaps the ability to leverage seed funds for deployment of the field equipment. Some byways that could be considered include:
- State Candidate Byway
- Arizona Kaibab Plateau–North Rim Parkway
- Colorado Top of the Rockies Byway
- Iowa Loess Hill Scenic Parkway
- Kansas Frontier Military Byway
- Minnesota Minnesota River Valley Byway
- Minnesota Great River Road Byway
- New Mexico Santa Fe Trail Byway
- Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway
- Washington Mountains to the Sound Greenway
Task 2: Develop Scenic Byways – DOT Joint Development Guidelines
Efforts in Task 2 documented lessons learned from the joint ENTERPRISE / America’s Byways meeting as well as expanded upon the section developed as part of the America’s Byways ITS Strategic Plan which offered guidance for Byways to cooperate with State DOTs on the development and operation of ITS systems. The intent of this document was twofold:
- To provide each ENTERPRISE state with a series of guidelines for forming partnerships with their local Scenic Byways programs and opportunities for cost sharing, operations and maintenance support sharing, and a sample agreement that State DOTs may use to work together with the Scenic Byways group in each state.
- To be amended to the America’s Byways ITS Strategic Plan that was and continued to be promoted to the Scenic Byways programs in each state as a guideline for how Scenic Byways’ champions can approach and work together with State DOT agencies in the development of ITS systems.
The intent of Task 2 was not to spend large portions of the project budget, but rather to build upon efforts already conducted during the America’s Byways ITS Strategic Plan development.
This task included the development of the interpretive and traveler information for each of the selected byways demonstration sites. The project consultant worked with the local byway community and the project sponsors to develop and document interpretive and traveler information. A local byway community member, or other organization, could be utilized develop interpretive information on byway attractions for dissemination through the ITS technologies demonstration.
Task 3: Deployment of ITS Systems Along Up To Two Scenic Byways
Efforts in Task 3 made use of the ITS deployment guidelines and working relationship established with the Scenic Byways agencies to move forward with some form of ITS demonstration project. From the perspective of ENTERPRISE member states, the deployment tested the deployment guidelines and examine the potential for true partnering between the DOT and the Scenic Byways champion in each area. It was recommended that the exact equipment, content, operational procedures, and even the contractor to implement the systems not be finalized until this task was underway and discussions are conducted with the selected Scenic Byway representatives. In this regard, dependent upon the byway(s) selected and their interest, it was possible that the Scenic Byway may have the capacity to implement all or portions of the system. However, regardless of how the implementation is contracted, the intent of this task was to encourage the local Scenic Byway representatives to share in the ownership with the DOT to the extent possible.
Therefore, Task 3 had two modules:
Task 3A: Identify Location, ATIS Technologies, Content and Business Models for Demonstration
Task 3A was a series of discussions between the DOT representatives and the Scenic Byways representative in the selected corridor(s) to select and finalize the ITS systems for deployment. As part of these discussions, a deployment plan was developed to identify and address the key issues of each project:
- Development and provision of traveler information content;
- Final selection of equipment and deployment locations;
- Formation of partnerships for ITS (e.g. byways organizations, state DOT, byways resource center, tourism departments, chambers of commerce, etc.);
- Deployment financing (any cost sharing in the initial deployment – perhaps the ENTERPRISE funds are leveraged against local DOT or Byways funds, ongoing operational costs and recovery methods.);
- Roles and responsibilities for ongoing operations and maintenance.
Task 3B: ITS Demonstrations
Task 3B was the implementation of ITS systems. The most likely systems to be deployed included kiosks or HAR/Low Power FM radio broadcasts able to promote local tourism as well as travel conditions and travel information.
In order to prevent a long term operations tail for the ENTERPRISE Program, efforts in this task strived to deploy the systems in a manner that either the local Scenic Byway or the local DOT assume ownership and responsibility for ongoing maintenance, and the ENTERPRISE funding is seen primarily as seed money.
Task 4: Evaluation and Final Report
Efforts in Task 4 documented and summarize the results of Tasks 1 through 3 of the project. The deliverable of Task 4 was a Final Report that was distributed to the ENTERPRISE member states and America’s Byways.
Demonstrations were evaluated to gather feedback on the performance and benefits of ITS/ATIS technology for the byways sites as part of the final report. If project funds permit, a questionnaire or interviews were used to determine how well the ITS/ATIS technologies meet the byways goals. Efforts were made to conduct the evaluation during peak travel periods.