Get Engaged in Work Zone Data Exchange
The Work Zone Data Exchange (WZDx) project is an open-source data framework that facilitates the gathering and distribution of work zone data in a common format. The goal is to offer drivers, mapping companies, navigation systems, and ultimately connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) universal access to work zone data to improve safety within work zones.
It should come as no surprise that road construction companies are a core partner in the WZDx initiative, alongside state and local departments of transportation, mapping companies, and vehicle and vehicle technology manufacturers. That’s why the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) launched its Put Work Zones on the Map campaign, which is designed to facilitate adoption of the WZDx framework through education of potential partners, raising awareness for pilot projects, increasing involvement in the Work Zone Data Working Group, and generating excitement for WZDx.
January 2021, FHWA awarded $2.4 million in WZDx demonstration grants to fund projects in 13 states. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) received a grant of $200,000 to extend the capacity of its Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS) to produce a statewide data feed available for use by third parties, such as mapping companies. At a FHWA webinar held during National Work Zone Awareness Week in April, WisDOT staff shared details about their WZDx plans.
“Our current lane closure system (LCS) was getting pretty outdated,” WisDOT’s Erin Schwark said. The system was launched in 2008 and currently manages requests for more than 10,000 lane closures annually and is used by more than 1,000 users, including WisDOT engineering staff, contractors, county maintenance crews and utilities.
“The current LCS was a huge step forward for the state in 2008,” WisDOT’s Steven Parker said. “But as we look forward to the need for real time data for CAVs, we’re looking to improve our LCS’s capabilities.”
For the past couple of years, WisDOT has been working on LCS 2.0 to streamline existing workflows and improve interoperability, and expects to launch LCS 2.0 March 2022. “The LCS 2.0 redesign was a perfect fit for Wisconsin to incorporate WZDx objectives,” Parker said.
“Our goal with the Work Zone Data Exchange is to build upon existing investments to build a new WZDx-compliant feed,” Schwark said. “We plan to create a program template that other agencies can follow in establishing their own WZDx data feeds.”
WisDOT’s WZDx Workflow
Currently, contractors enter into WisDOT’s LCS their planned construction schedule, which is monitored and approved by WisDOT’s regional traffic engineers. “Right now, everything is based on the plan,” Schwark said. “Nothing is in real time. If the contractor says they’re starting construction at 9 p.m., we don’t currently have the details to know if they’re actually out there at that time.”
WisDOT plans to test out intelligent transportation system (ITS) devices, such as smart arrow boards, to gather that real time information. “Our goal is to use smart arrow boards in the field to transform estimated or planned lane closures to verified, real time lane closures,” Schwark said. Currently, WisDOT is testing several ITS devices from different vendors and manufacturers in its counties. “As we test out ITS devices and translate estimated information into verified information, I think we’ll start seeing a lot more of these smart devices within Wisconsin.”
In addition to this time and spatial verification of work zones, other improvements include the addition of lane details and work zone mapping. “To meet some of the requirements for improved data accuracy within WZDx, we moved to a richer focus on lane level information that matches very well with the WZDx lane level specification,” Parker said. Ultimately, he said, “the glue that holds all of this together is data harmonization.”
Contractors will still input their planned lane closures into WisDOT’s LCS 2.0, and WisDOT staff will continue to approve these requests. However, the ATMS will receive not only the planned information from LCS but also work zone data from ITS devices in the field. This real time, verified work zone data will then be published to a WZDx-compliant feed for third parties to use, whether by a driver’s favorite navigation app or automated vehicles.
“The more real time data we can get about our work zones, the safer they will be for workers and drivers,” Schwark said, “and, soon, CAVs.”
To learn more about Work Zone Data Exchange and how to get involved, visit ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/wzdx