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Intelligent Transportation Systems
in Work Zones

A Case Study

Work Zone Traffic and Incident Management System

The cover photo shows the Big I interchange under construction. Traffic is flowing on a number of ramps. A construction crane is shown in the background constructing a bridge. A partially constructed bridge is shown in the foreground.

Keeping Traffic Moving During Reconstruction of the Big I,
a Major Interstate-Interstate Interchange in Albuquerque

January 2004

The Federal Highway Administration provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. FHWA periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and processes to ensure continuous quality improvement.


Dear Reader,

We have scanned the country and brought together the collective wisdom and expertise of transportation experts implementing Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) projects across the United States. This information will prove helpful as you set out to plan, design, and deploy ITS in your communities.

This document is one in a series of products designed to help you provide ITS solutions that meet your local and regional transportation needs. The series contains a variety of formats to communicate with people at various levels within your organization and among your community stakeholders:

ITS has matured to the point that you are not alone as you move toward deployment. We have gained experience and are committed to providing our state and local partners with the knowledge they need to lead their communities into the next century.

The inside back cover contains details on the documents in this series, as well as sources to obtain additional information. We hope you find these documents useful tools for making important transportation infrastructure decisions.

Signature of Jeffrey F. Paniati
Jeffrey F. Paniati
Associate Administrator for Operations
Acting Program Manager, ITS Joint Program Office
Federal Highway Administration


This case study is one in a series of documents that examines the use of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) in work zones. More information on this system and other applications of ITS in work zones is available in the companion document, Intelligent Transportation Systems in Work Zones — A Cross-Cutting Study (Report No. FHWA-OP-02-025, EDL# 13600).

This case study reflects information gathered in interviews with key personnel on the Big I construction project in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as well as information and photos obtained during a site visit. The authors greatly appreciate the cooperation of the New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department and its partners, who made the production of this document possible.


Project and System Background

The New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department (NMSHTD) rebuilt the Big I interchange in Albuquerque to make it safer and more efficient and to provide better access. The Big I is where the Coronado Interstate (I-40) and the Pan American Freeway (I-25) intersect in Albuquerque. The original Big I was designed to support an average daily traffic (ADT) of only 40,000 vehicles and was severely over capacity, experiencing an average of 1.7 crashes per day that were estimated to cost about $12 million annually (data from 1999). ADT in the interchange was approximately 300,000 vehicles prior to its redesign; the redesigned Big I has a design capacity of 400,000 ADT. The two-year project began on June 30, 2000 and involved 111 lane-miles of construction and 45 new and 10 rehabilitated bridges.

For the Big I project, NMSHTD employed ITS in the form of a mobile traffic monitoring and management system to help move the large number of vehicles through the extensive construction area. Mobile traffic monitoring and management systems use electronics and communications equipment to monitor traffic flow and provide delay and routing information to drivers and agency personnel. The ITS application deployed at the Big I in 2000 was used for the duration of the work zone (two years). The ITS components were deployed just prior to construction, with plans to incorporate portions of the system as part of a permanent ITS application for freeway management once construction was completed. Figure 1 shows some of the ITS equipment deployed at the Big I.

Figure 1 - This figure shows sensor equipment, powered by a solar panel and communicating via wireless means. The sensor is placed on an overpass above a mainline route that is under construction. A lane closure sign is directing drivers to merge left on the mainline.
Figure 1 — Example of ITS equipment deployed at the Big I.

NMSHTD used ITS for this major construction project for several reasons, including:

The main goals of the ITS were:

The Big I ITS included a series of cameras and sensors to monitor traffic conditions and detect incidents, and electronic signs, highway advisory radio (HAR), a website, and other media to transmit traveler information. The incident detection capability was a major component of the system. To effectively use the system information to expedite incident clearance, NMSHTD made use of its motorist assistance program.

"ITS has been a very essential and integral part of the Big I Construction Project."
— Rhonda Faught, Secretary, New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department

Figure 2 - This figure shows a highway emergency lender patrol vehicle with a mounted arrowboard and crash cushion sitting under an overpass. The vehicle is a truck with flashing lights and is used to assist motorists.
Figure 2 — Highway Emergency Lender Patrol Vehicle

Instituted prior to the Big I project, the Highway Emergency Lender Patrol (HELP) program consisted of two vehicles patrolling the Albuquerque Metropolitan area. NMSHTD recognized that the Big I project would require more HELP trucks. The Federal Highway Administration provided $250,000 toward the purchase of two additional HELP trucks. The additional vehicles were purchased through the construction contract to help patrol the Big I project area during construction. The original two HELP trucks were then able to patrol the rest of the Metro area.

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System Design, Selection, and Implementation

This section provides information on NMSHTD's experience in bringing the system from the concept stage to fully operational.

In-House or Contractor Design

System Selection and Procurement

Lease Versus Purchase

System Implementation



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System Description and Operations

System Description

Figure 3 - This figure shows a sensor trailer, antenna for wireless communications, and a solar panel for battery charging. This trailer was one of the system trailers used to detect traffic conditions around the Big I.
Figure 3 — Solar-Powered Sensors and Communication Equipment

System Operations

The information provided was based on the incident type and severity.

Figure 4 - In this figure, a control room operator is monitoring six computers, each of which shows a live image from the work zone. This is the central control room used for monitoring the Big I.
Figure 4 — The Big I TMC System Description and Operations
Flow chart describing the ITS concept of operations. Please follow this link for a detailed description of Figure 5D
Figure 5 — Albuquerque Work Zone ITS Concept of Operations Diagram

"We have received scores of thank you letters and emails from the public."
— Rhonda Faught, Secretary, New Mexico State Highway and Transportation
Department regarding the Big I website, which provided the public with real-time camera images.

Contractor or Agency Staff

Coordination with Key Personnel, the Public, and Other Agencies


Figure 6 - This figure shows a number of police cruisers parked outside the temporary police substation in the general contractor's staging yard.
Figure 6 — The Big I Police Substation in the General Contractor's Staging Yard

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System Performance

System Evaluation


NMSHTD staff identified three major benefit areas resulting from the Big I reconstruction project, which are listed below.



Cost Savings

Public Reception/ Reaction to the System

Obstacles Encountered and Lessons Learned


Planning and System Development


System Deployment

System Operations

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The use of ITS for the Big I proved to be very successful in mitigating the effects of construction on traffic mobility and safety. The NMSHTD plan called for the use of ITS during construction, and also allowed some of the system components to be made a permanent part of the freeway management system for the Big I. This case study is one example of how ITS is being implemented across the nation to help agencies better manage traffic while performing necessary infrastructure improvements.

"I don't think that we could have maintained the traffic flow we had through the Big I without the ITS."
— Rhonda Faught, Secretary, New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department

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1 Note: CDPD is being phased out as most cell networks are migrating to GPRS/GSM (General Packet Radio Service/Global System for Mobile communications) digital.

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This Document Is One in a Series of Products That Address ITS Issues Pertinent to a Variety of Audiences


Products Available in This Series:

 Benefits Brochures quote how ITS technologies have benefited specific areas.  Technical Reports include results from various Field Operation Tests.
 Cross-Cutting Studies present current data from related ITS applications.  Implementation Guides assist project staff in the technical details of implementing ITS.
 Case Studies provide in-depth coverage of ITS applications in specific projects  

ITS Topics Addressed in This Series:

For a current listing of available documents, please visit our website at:

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Intelligent Transportation Systems

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EDL# 13941