Dublin’s M50 is to become a ‘dynamic motorway’ with variable speed limits and the ability to close individual lanes and junctions using “Red X” signals on almost 100 overhead gantries.
A major publicity campaign to inform drivers of how to interpret and respond to the new regime is to be launched in late June or July.
The Enhanced Motorway Operation Service (Emos) system will control 380 “dynamic lane signs” on 98 gantries over 38km of the M50. It will be able to close lanes and reduce traffic speeds in the event of a crash or severe weather events, reports the Irish Times.
The aim of the upgrade is to get more vehicles along the motorway per hour, particularly at congested times, by reducing the overall speed of traffic on the route, as well as ensure the safety of 350,000 vehicle trips per day as well as the safety of first responders in the event of a crash.
Fibre optic cabling, connecting to road-side weather stations and traffic sensors, along with visual feeds will transmit information to the computers at the TII’s Motorway Control Centre in Dublin’s Docklands.
The computer algorithms will then be used to determine the need for lane closures or optimum speeds of traffic allowing controllers to intervene swiftly when congestion builds up or weather makes the top speed unsafe.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland which manages the motorway has told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport that global experience has shown that managing traffic congestion by lowering speeds removes sudden braking and a resultant concertina-effect which can see traffic come to a halt.
The authority’s chief executive Peter Walsh told the Committee on Tuesday that such schemes were commonly used on motorways in the UK, in Continental Europe and in North America on the approaches to major cities. “The M25 around London and the M6/M40/M42 Birmingham Box and the motorways of the Netherlands are good examples,” reports the Irish Times.
He said Emos system was needed here to address the increasing numbers of collisions and levels of congestion on the M50. In 2019, M50 operations crews attended 1,161 incidents, an average of 22 incidents each week of the year, and because “the M50 is congested”. In 2019, he said, an average of 350,000 trips were undertaken each day on the motorway, an increase of 40 percent on 2011 figures.
However he said the M50 would not be utilising the hard shoulder for traffic flow, as this had been shown to be a mistake abroad, leading to problems for emergency services in other countries.