Ohio's first 'SmartLane' opens with goal of easing traffic headed east

(ODOT)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Traffic may soon lighten up on the east side for drivers heading home after work, thanks to the new SmartLane on I-670 East.

Officials opened the SmartLane to drivers Wednesday afternoon.

Watch — ODOT unveils the SmartLane opening on I-670:

The idea behind the project is to utilize a travel lane, dubbed the SmartLane, during times when traffic is at its heaviest to alleviate traffic flow.

“This is an example of how to deploy technology to improve the quality of life for Ohioans,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “The new SmartLane will save commuters time and also save tax dollars by better using existing infrastructure.”

After conducting research, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) determined the 8-mile stretch of I-670 East between I-71 and I-270 would be a good location to test the technology.

“This project represents a shift in the way we think about dealing with traffic congestion. Not only will the SmartLane get Central Ohioans home faster, this new technology will allow us to truly manage traffic, not just monitor it," said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks.

Using cameras to monitor traffic conditions 24/7 at the Traffic Management Center, ODOT will have the ability to determine when to open the SmartLane and change the variable speed to 45 mph to keep traffic flowing.

“That eliminates that stop-and-go that we keep talking about," said Brooke Ebersole, ODOT District 6 Public Information Officer. "Right now, even though the speed limit is set at 65, if you drive this area through evening rush, you don’t get anywhere up close to 65 or even 45 for that matter.”

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When the SmartLane isn’t in use, a large red “X” will appear on the illuminated signs overhead.

Ebersole told 10TV that ODOT has worked closely with Columbus Police to make sure that drivers follow the rules and only utilize the extra lane when it’s open.

There is also a dedicated Freeway Service Patrol vehicle to the SmartLane, which will patrol the area to watch for debris, crashes or icy conditions in the winter that would require the SmartLane to close.

Along with the SmartLane, the $61 million project also included interchange improvements at the I-270/I-670 interchange. There, ODOT built two new ramp bridges carrying traffic from I-670 East to I-270 and traffic from I-270 through the Easton area.

Finally, with the completion of noise walls along area highways, the project is expected to fully wrap up in the summer of 2020.

“This is a pilot program for the state and it’s a great milestone for us in the State of Ohio to be able to use technology as infrastructure of its own and be able to improve traffic, to improve people’s commutes at a fraction of the cost of what it would have cost the State of Ohio to widen 670 altogether,” Ebersole said.

Read more about the SmartLane by clicking here.

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