Electronic sensor alerts motorists to highway wildlife hazards
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is testing a system that may one day replace highway warning signs that inform drivers of potential wildlife.
The system, called OmniTrax from Senstar, informs motorists of the real and immediate presence of animals on the road. The system relies on a volumetric electromagnetic sensor that is buried underground about 9 inches and about 30 feet from either side of the roadway. The sensor detects large animals (deer, elk, etc.) crossing over it, locates the position of the intrusion to within 3 feet, and then activates nearby signs to alert drivers approaching the high-risk segment of the roadway.
The current installation covers one mile of U.S. Highway 160 between Durango and Bayfield in southwest Colorado (around milepost 96), with six signs on each side. Once an animal is detected, the relevant two signs on each side light up.
“CDOT, in coordination with the Division of Wildlife, studied many solutions, evaluating their practicality and economic and environmental feasibility,” said Kevin Curry, a professional engineer with CDOT. “Fencing, permanent signs and lighting were not quite right for this stretch. We needed ways to minimize the impact to the wildlife’s migration while alerting motorists of their presence. We needed a solution with minimal environmental impact.”
Curry said that other detection systems, including those that use laser beams, microwaves or infrared technology, were considered. Due to the potential for false alarms caused by snow, clouds and even tree branches, the alternatives were rejected.
Paul Trouten, national sales manager for Herndon, Va.-based Senstar Inc. said that OmniTrax is used for securing perimeters of strategic facilities worldwide, such as airports, military bases, border areas, energy and utilities installations and prisons. “CDOT’s pilot project is a new and innovative application for the product,” he added.
Seven speed radar detectors also have been installed to register motorists’ speed both outside and inside the test zone so that drivers’ base speed and reaction speed can be monitored. The radar system also will monitor traffic counts, useful for follow-up analysis of the data by the CDOT’s Traffic & Safety staff.
The project was awarded a CDOT Research Grant for $150,000 that is going to the Western Transportation Institute of Bozeman, Mont., to independently evaluate the success of the project.
A copy of a case study on the CDOT application can be downloaded.
Senstar supplies outdoor perimeter security technology and products to a range of markets. It is celebrating its 30
th anniversary in 2011.