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Denver is going full speed on smart technology to unclog city streets, improve safety

Council set to approve $12 million program Tuesday
Posted at 5:50 PM, Jan 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-17 00:16:38-05

UPDATE: The Denver City Council approved the package Tuesday evening.


DENVER — Think of it as Google Maps on steroids. The Denver City Council is set to approve a $12 million program using smart technology to transform how cars and people move around the city.

The goal of the project is to reduce congestion, improve safety for pedestrians, and allow freight truck traffic to move more efficiently.

"We have limited roadway space. It's very expensive to build new roads," Denver Public Works spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn said. "We really want to make the best use of the roadway we have, and how do you move more people along the roadway you have."

Kuhn said the project is focused on three phases and is being funding by $6 million in federal grants. The city is matching the rest for a total of $12 million.

The whole idea is to connect cars with city infrastructure to gather data and then share that information with the public to make commutes easier, safer, more efficient.

"The goal is to be able to share that back with the public, so they have a better idea of what they're encountering on the road. Maybe they can choose a different route," Kuhn said. "We want to be prepared for what we expect to be probably an influx of more and more connected vehicles."

Here are the three areas the program will use technology to improve: 

Connected freight:  the idea is to encourage efficient travel by delivery and freight trucks in our city in a way that is efficient for them, but also encourages them to avoid side streets and peak travel hours.The idea is to equip trucks that regularly operate in Denver with onboard technology that talks to the traffic signals and helps the trucks move more efficiently through arterial corridors, while reducing the impact the trucks have in our communities and on our streets during peak travel hours.  

North Denver neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria-Swansea are one location the city is considering launching this pilot program to keep truckers out of residential neighborhoods.

Connected fleet: the city is looking at deploying the technology to up to 1,500 city fleet vehicles in a small geographic area with the hopes of establishing consistent vehicle-to-infrastructure communications that prepare the City for many more connected vehicles that we expect on the roads in the future. The vehicles would also be able to send back real time reporting of traffic and road conditions to improve people’s commuting experiences and provide better data to residents.

Connected citizens: the goal here is to establish a pedestrian detection system that communicates to the traffic signal, with the end result being a more dynamic, real time transportation system that could extend a walk signal if someone needs a little more time crossing the street.  Or, perhaps the pedestrian detection system would tell a connected vehicle driver of the pedestrian’s presence in the roadway to a prevent crash and increase safety. 

Denver city council is expected to approve the program on Tuesday night and Kuhn said the first pilot programs could start in the next few months.

"We're just at the beginning stages of the links, but there's so many applications," Kuhn said. "I think four years from now: we hope to have had some consistent testing of equipment that allows us to make our streets safer, allows us to reduce congestion, allows people to travel more efficiently because they have more data in front of them and they know what's happening in the street before them and can make good decisions about their commutes."