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System drives efficiencies for contractors, curbs gridlock agony

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Traffic congestion is one of the most ubiquitous and vexing problems of urban life, causing untold frustration and lost productivity. Construction necessary to maintain and improve the road network exacerbates the problem, especially when several projects happen simultaneously. Indeed, given Canada’s cold climate, such work is condensed into just a few months, often referred to as “construction season.”

Managing and co-ordinating roadway lane restrictions and closures – as well as communicating about them to drivers – helps limit the inconvenience they cause. A new Roadwork Scheduling System (RSS) developed by Parsons Corporation for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) demonstrates the power of technology to improve efficiency, starting with the morning commute.

The MTO handles tens of thousands of road closure requests from hundreds of contractors each year, says Mark Conrad, the RSS project manager at Parsons, a global engineering, construction, technical and management services firm with Canadian operations based in Markham, Ont. Processing such requests is demanding and time-consuming, he notes. “The previous paper-based, manual database entry process often had errors and omissions in contractor-submitted road closure requests, requiring follow-up by the ministry and resulting in resubmission by contractors.”

He says that Parsons, working closely with the ministry, set up the new streamlined system based on MTO’s detailed workflows and system requirements. The result was a secure web-based platform to process, manage and disseminate information related to roadwork scheduling. The application allows hundreds of users across many organizations to use it, including contractors applying for road closure permits and MTO officials processing them.

Since the RSS launch, some 1,000 contractor staff have registered and more than 40,000 closure permits have been issued, Mr. Conrad says. Contractors report time savings of 40 per cent in submitting closure requests, while the number returned due to conflicts and incomplete information has decreased 80 per cent.

Nancy Adriano, head of safety, traffic information and roadwork co-ordination in MTO’s central region traffic office, says the online application saves the ministry 1,540 hours of staff time annually. “It also saves more than 15,000 sheets of paper,” she notes.

Mr. Conrad says that road closure details are also more quickly provided to the public, so motorists can make informed travel choices and plan their routes around closures.

“This information means fewer delays for freight carriers who drive the overall economy of the province,” he adds. “It increases safety for road workers and the travelling public, reduces traffic gridlock and saves motorists fuel costs.”