A rural ITS system would not only benefit highway users within South Dakota, but state agencies as well. The DOT might benefit by equipping snowplows with technology to help the operator on the road during visibility conditions. Local governments could benefit by routing detoured traffic to the most desirable routes. Tourists traveling through the state could benefit by having the latest weather and construction information conveyed to them in a number of ways, including kiosks, radio, and dynamic message signs. Rural travelers on urban expressways could benefit by knowing the status of the interstates and arterial highways before leaving the city.
Other problems that might be addressed with ITS technologies include the coordination of rural transit, incident detection and coordinated responses, and identifying ways to reduce the number of fatal accidents in rural areas.
To be eligible for federal funding, rural ITS projects must conform to the national ITS architecture and demonstrate effective partnerships between affected state, local, and other public agencies. At present, the South Dakota Department of Transportation and other state agencies have not developed a comprehensive rural ITS plan that identifies what projects would be most beneficial or that encourages necessary partnerships. However, the Department in cooperation with other CVO regulatory agencies has developed an ITS/CVO Business Plan, which defines projects for commercial vehicle operations.
In addition to addressing commercial vehicle operations, a number of other ITS projects are in the preliminary stages. Automated road closure gates are proposed on the interstate system, and could be coordinated with adjacent states. Dynamic message signs will be placed in a number of locations throughout the state and may eventually be a part of South Dakota's ITS system. The city of Sioux Falls is developing an ITS plan that should be coordinated with the state's rural ITS plan.
The Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks (CVISN) initiative will begin soon and will use the national ITS architecture as a template to create a more usable regional ITS architecture for South Dakota. All these projects need to be coordinated through a comprehensive ITS deployment plan.
Research is needed to describe the current ITS environment, identify and prioritize rural ITS needs, and to define a program of specific projects to satisfy those needs. The project definitions would include estimates of cost, and would recommend partnerships and timing necessary to accomplish the projects. The plan would also identify potential funding mechanisms.
Findings: The approach undertaken led to the development of the South Dakota Rural ITS Deployment Plan, most significantly the identification of projects for further consideration. In search of applicable projects, emphasis was put on:
Projects that benefit a number of stakeholder agencies. ITS is certainly an area where a great number of agencies from various disciplines can benefit from shared resources and leveraged opportunities. Many of the projects identified consider the advantages of multi-jurisdictional endeavors.
Projects that have been proven in other areas. The opportunity to take advantage of the research and experiences of other projects was fully seized. Nonetheless, projects that were operational test in nature were also identified to provide South Dakota the opportunity for innovation.
Projects that are typically cost-effective. While ITS can be perceived as cutting-edge, the most logical choices were methods of attaining the same results, but requiring less allocation of resources. An emphasis was placed on solutions that would prove the best use of resources.
Projects that emphasize safety and rural transit initiatives. Safety and rural transit are prominent concerns of the SDDOT. South Dakota is a geographically large, sparsely populated state. These factors alone pose challenges to the lack of options for multiple modes of travel between towns, which typically could consist of hundreds of miles, and the safety of rural travelers that spend greater lengths of time on the roadway than urban counterparts. Projects were identified that would help to address these areas of concern.
The end result was 29 recommended ITS projects for deployment. Of these, eight were identified as priority projects to be deployed in the near term. The remainder of the projects selected were recommended for deployment in the medium- and long-term. The medium-term is defined as projects expected to be deployed between the four to seven-year time frame. The long-term is defined as those projects deployed beyond the seven-year time frame. These projects satisfy the needs and issues identified by the end users, the strategic direction of the rural ITS program, and the work that is being undertaken at the national level.