| The Missouri Department of Transportation, in cooperation with its regional partners the Illinois Department of Transportation, Metro and the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, embarked on the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) needs for the St. Louis region in 1994. One of the most poignant results of this early study identified that 70 percent of the daily travelers on the St. Louis regional transportation system used the 260+ miles of interstate highways and freeways. At that time in 1994, IDOT’s Freeway Service Patrol was already operating in Illinois for over two decades and MoDOT’s Motorist Assist program had just begun operation in 1993. The regional partners decided from the study, that the initial build out of the ITS program should focus on freeway and incident management to support the freeway service patrol programs on both sides of the Mississippi River. The study also recommended the Gateway Guide planners to build partnerships with local emergency agencies to help clear the roadway of incidents and to provide traveler information on the region’s freeway system.
Transportation Management Center (TMC)
In early 2002, after almost eight years of planning, design and construction, MoDOT’s Transportation Management Center (TMC) and the Gateway Guide program became operational. The TMC is located at Interstate 64 and Route 141 in Town and Country, Missouri (centrally located on the Missouri side of the St. Louis metropolitan area). With small, sure steps and a solid foundation, the TMC began to establish itself as the transportation information hub of the St. Louis region.
MoDOT embarked on a private/public partnership with Metro Networks to operate the ITS components of the center, to help coordinate incident management on Missouri’s interstate highways and to provide traveler information on the dynamic message signs, on www.gatewayguide.com, on its own traffic information hotline 511 and to the traffic media.
Using Dynamic Message Signs
When Gateway Guide went on line in early 2002, two dynamic message signs were activated on the area interstate highways in Missouri. Through the course of the first two years, a total of eight dynamic message signs were brought on line in Missouri and three were activated in Illinois. During that period, Missouri also started to utilize ten portable message signs for incident management purposes where they could be transported to any area that does not have a dynamic message sign that requires incident information. In first year 2002, the portable and dynamic message signs were used over 680 times. In 2003, Gateway Guide operators placed over 5700 messages. In addition to traveler information in 2002, MoDOT and IDOT became full partners in St. Louis’s local AMBER program called the St. Louis Area Regional Abduction Alert (SARAA) where the message boards, www.gatewayguide.com, 1-888-511 4STL and text alert emails were utilized to disseminate child abduction information.
Dynamic message sign..
By 2010, MoDOT had 125 dynamic message signs in the St. Louis area and posted tens of thousands of messages.
Customer Service Focus
What also makes the MoDOT Transportation Management Center unique in its operation is that MoDOT’s customer service operators are stationed within the center. MoDOT’s customer service representatives receive calls from the public to report problems on the states roadways. They, in turn, dispatch maintenance and traffic personnel to correct these issues. If customer service receives a call in need of immediate incident response, they give it over to the Gateway Guide staff to dispatch Motorist Assist operators, the overnight Emergency Response crews or call emergency agencies.
In early 2003, the Transportation Management Center and the Gateway Guide program officially became a 24 hours a day, seven days a week operation in Missouri. At any time in the St. Louis region, a transportation representative at the center is available to coordinate and react to any and all emergencies on the roadway. In late 2003, the Gateway Guide operations staff took on lead dispatcher responsibilities for Motorist Assist. This freed the Motorist Assist operators on the roadway (individuals originally responsible for this endeavor) to respond to more incidents and to migrate the overall operation toward a dispatched/patrolling operation. The positive effects on regional traffic because of the Incident Management program through the efforts of Motorist Assist and the Gateway Guide program have been enormous.
In 2006, MoDOT’s Transportation Management Center took over after hour calls for the entire southern half of the state. MoDOT offices from Joplin to Cape Girardeau forward their phones to the St. Louis TMC for the coordination and handling of all emergencies.
The Foundation for the Future of St. Louis ITS
After nearly 20 years of planning and a decade of operation, Gateway Guide and MoDOT’s Transportation Management Center has become a major part of the fabric of St. Louis’ transportation infrastructure. The center provides the vast majority of all traveler information to the public. All major freeways and three major arterials have speed sensors, cameras and dynamic message signs to convey road conditions to the public.