Cisco® optical network helps the New Jersey Turnpike Authority coordinate with other agencies and share data with drivers.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority manages more than 440 miles of roadway running through one of the most densely populated regions in the United States. The agency maintains New Jersey's E-ZPass automated toll systems plus day-to-day operations for the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, which extend the length of the state.
The Authority's greatest challenge is acquiring and rapidly distributing traffic data. "People are desperate for up-to-date traffic information," says Joe Orlando, media relations, New Jersey Turnpike Authority. "A delay of just 20 minutes in disseminating information about an issue can lead to a three- or four-mile backup. We want to be able to provide information ahead of the curve, instead of just reacting to problems."
To provide the traffic information most useful to motorists, however, the authority needed up-to-the-minute-traffic metrics, as well as real-time video images from throughout the road network. But there was no reliable statewide infrastructure to support such a system.
The agency was using a fiber-optic network to support New Jersey's E-ZPass toll system, but it was inefficient and aging. Even deploying a basic enterprise resource planning (ERP) application to support human resources, payroll, and purchasing functions was a major challenge.
By 2003, it was clear that the infrastructure should be overhauled. "We were getting 3 Mbps of bandwidth and not a lot of throughput," says Brian Gorman, director of technology for the agency. "If we were going to maintain a stable network that could support the statewide information services we envisioned, we needed to upgrade the hardware that was driving it."
Executive director Michael Lapolla charged Gorman with finding a new solution. Lapolla's vision was ambitious: a supremely scalable information superhighway for all transportation activities across the state, providing unprecedented collaboration and information sharing among the authority, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the State Police, and the motorists using the roadways.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority deployed Cisco ONS 15454 Multiservice Transport Platforms to provide a complete optical ring throughout the state. The network connects all New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway facilities, including operations centers, maintenance yards, and more than 80 toll road exits and other points of presence.
"Deploying a Cisco optical solution provided us with the most scalability and flexibility," says Gorman. "The platforms gave us the broad bandwidth we needed, while also providing a truly scalable network that would allow us to partner with other agencies throughout the state. Because of that scalability, we knew we would be able to continue generating value from this investment."
The network was easily expanded to include two Department of Transportation operations centers at the northern and southern tips of the state, as well as the headquarters of the New Jersey State Police. The ability to incorporate all of these diverse locations and agencies provided the foundation for making Lapolla's vision of a statewide information superhighway a reality.
Today, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority's optical network delivers a broad range of applications that enhance the safety and quality of the roadway experience for millions of New Jersey motorists. Hundreds of New Jersey Turnpike employees communicate every day using radio-over-IP solutions linked to the optical backbone. The network supports the state's Intelligent Transportation System initiative, which provides real-time measurements of traffic speed, volume, and roadway occupancy to help officials more rapidly detect and respond to traffic incidents. The network also delivers the capacity and flexibility to support more than 150 IP digital video cameras that provide real-time video to road maintenance employees, police troopers, and command posts statewide. All of these applications allow the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to operate more efficiently and provide critical information more rapidly to partner agencies and to motorists.
"This network allows us to take any application or information that's available at our headquarters, and make it available throughout the entire roadway infrastructure," says Gorman. "That means that an employee down at the southern tip of the state can connect with the authority's core financial systems to make a requisition in real time. Or a maintenance yard supervisor can view real-time video feeds of the flow of traffic in the surrounding region, not to mention a macro view of their roadway section during inclement weather. We can even use the high-speed, high-bandwidth optical network to take digital video images from police cars, and send them to State Police headquarters and command posts, or share them with other police vehicles on the road. It's that kind of real-time knowledge and productivity that this network provides."
In addition to these advanced roadway management applications, the network supports the statewide E-ZPass toll operations, the ERP system, and a storage area network (SAN) housing a disaster recovery application.
"The solution is not just giving our employees more tools, it's expanding the quality of the information they receive and, ultimately, that translates to value for our motorists."
- Brian Gorman, director of technology, New Jersey Turnpike Authority
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority's upgraded statewide optical network has been in place for more than two years. "This network is already delivering a return on investment from all the traditional communications savings you would expect," says Gorman. "We operate an enormous number of small, short-haul communication assets that used to require a variety of connectivity services, from Frame Relay to T1 connections. We're probably deferring as much as $300,000 annually in communication expenses simply by replacing those assets. But the real power of this solution isn't just cost avoidance. It's been the enabling value of the network."
By distributing critical applications to stakeholders across multiple agencies and hundreds of miles of state roadway, the Cisco optical network has transformed New Jersey's transportation and roadway safety operations. Employees of the Turnpike Authority, the Department of Transportation, and the State Police can access real-time information and services and support the state's motorists more effectively.
"Weather conditions this past winter, especially the Nor'easter that hit us with record amounts of snow this past February 13, proved to be a formidable opponent for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority," says Michael Lapolla, executive director for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. "We were able to more easily overcome those challenges and greatly increase the level of safety services to motorists traveling on our Turnpike, due in part to the upgrading of our traditional network infrastructure to an all-optical network."
Gorman says, "When we talk about employee productivity, I can't even begin to put numbers around what we're seeing. The solution is not just giving our employees more tools, it's expanding the quality of the information they receive and, ultimately, that translates to value for our motorists. Our supervisors responsible for managing snow removal, for example, are no longer relying on radio reports from an operations center. They're actually looking at the quality of the work that's taking place on video feeds, as it happens, to make decisions about dispatching snow plows and salt trucks. How can you put a number around that kind of value?"
For Lapolla and Gorman, the Cisco optical network has been a valuable investment. And they believe it will continue to serve as a versatile foundation for innovative applications, cross-agency partnerships, and roadway optimizations far into the future.
"The scalability of this network provides us with an opportunity to more closely partner with all of the other agencies we work with, and consistently improve the quality of the information we have available, which in turn improves the value of that information," says Gorman. "For us, scalability is not just a buzzword. It's the end product of this network. It's anything we need it to be, and the beginning of things we haven't even thought of yet."
New Jersey is now developing a statewide traffic operations center for the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, the Department of Transportation, and the New Jersey State Police. Linked to the statewide Cisco optical network, the operations center will serve as the nerve center for coordinating all statewide transportation and roadway safety operations. Information needed for making decisions will pass among the agencies, and onward to drivers, in near-real time.
"In the past, if we needed to have a lane closure, that decision had to be made from three separate locations, spread out over 170 miles," says Orlando. "This operations center and the network technology underlying it will allow for information to pass in almost real time among the agencies, and immediately on to people in their vehicles."
"The types of relationships and information shared may well be a new concept for government agencies, and perhaps the realization of true interoperability will be the first of its kind in the nation," says Gorman. "For the first time, all of the agencies responsible for the New Jersey roadways will be housed under one roof, and share a common operations center floor and a common software environment. We'll be bringing in video feeds from 500 cameras across the state, all of the roadway metrics, all of the sign control, and the ability to monitor traffic, literally statewide, through a single building. It will be our command central. And it wouldn't be possible without this Cisco optical network."