California Oregon Advanced Transportation Systems (COATS) History


The initial COATS effort began in 1998 and identified several challenges facing the region. These included:

  • Safety issues
  • Nonrecurring congestion
  • Freight movement issues
  • Incident response issues
  • Mobility issues
  • Tourism issues
  • Environmental impacts

The products of the initial COATS effort were extensive. For the purposes of summarization, they included the following:

  • Architecture Report – defined framework for how systems and stakeholders would interact
  • Business Plan – established plan to make decisions and organizational structure to support them
  • Candidate Early Winner Projects – proposed initial, small-scale projects/systems
  • Conditions and Performance Report – identified challenges, their magnitude and geographic scope
  • Legacy Systems Report – summarized existing transportation systems and planned improvements
  • Operations and Maintenance Guidance – documented operations and maintenance needs associated with ITS infrastructure
  • Project Infrastructure Report – proposed potential ITS infrastructure for the region
  • Stakeholder Outreach – solicited views on transportation challenges and perceived solutions for the region
  • Strategic Deployment Plan – summarized work to date and described approach to implementation
  • Traveler Needs Survey – determined what information rural travelers needed and wanted, the medium they wanted this through, and where they wanted it presented
  • Rural TMCs - developed the first two Rural Transportation Management Centers in California

Overall, the initial COATS effort identified what the problems in the region were and how ITS could be applied to address them. This included identifying several small-scale projects that could demonstrate rural ITS and foster the bi-state collaboration between California and Oregon. The fundamental technical architecture for connecting the Rural TMCs to the rural field elements was also developed during this early phase, producing the first all-Internet Protocol rural field element network in Caltrans. Links to documents produced by this initial COATS effort can be found here.

COATS Showcase:

The second phase of COATS, entitled Showcase, ran between 2001 and 2006. It built upon the strategic deployment plan developed during the initial COATS effort and saw the evolution of the effort toward deployment, testing and evaluation. Primarily, the early winner projects identified during COATS were implemented through increased deployment and evaluation funding provided both via federal sources, as well as Oregon and California funds. One of the results of this phase was the data and feedback necessary to support future deployments. Specific Showcase projects included:

  • Siskiyou Pass Traveler Information and Incident Management - Evaluated traveler information ITS and developed incident management and winter response plans.
  • Operational Impacts of Weather and Lane Closures on Rural Highways -Established the correlation between rural highway volume, capacity or travel speeds, and weather events.
  • ITS Maintenance Evaluation – Documented the maintenance history associated with various ITS elements and provided lessons learned to guide future deployments.
  • Evaluating Accuracy of RWIS Sensors - In-field comparison of existing RWIS puck sensors and infrared technology.
  • ITS Maintenance Workshop - Trained DOT staff on ITS maintenance, answered questions about ITS equipment and shared experiences.
  • Public Safety and Communications State of the Practice -Outlined issues in the area and presented solutions from an EMS and incident management perspective.
  • Communications and Power Improvements for Rural Field Devices - Documented innovative solutions for addressing communications and power needs of rural ITS field devices.
  • Evaluation of ITS Technologies in Rural Work Zones - Designed and tested a means to provide real-time delay information to motorists in a rural two-lane undivided highway work zone with a lane closure.
  • Narrows Oversize Vehicle Identification System (NOVIS) - Developed a system to detect vehicles exceeding specific width and length thresholds and provide information to motorists, truckers and enforcement.
  • Evaluation of the Fredonyer Summit Icy Curve Warning System – Examined application of an icy curve warning system to improve motorist safety.
  • Comparative Evaluation of Automated Wind Warning Systems - Determined if technologies deployed to automatically warn motorists of windy conditions actually improved safety
  • Development of a Roadway Weather Severity Index - Quantified the relationship between winter weather severity and highway safety.
  • Video Surveillance Trailer Equipment - Developed video surveillance trailer platforms for data collection and addressed challenges associated with their use and repair.

As these summaries indicate, COATS Showcase led to a number of productive results. It provided the seeds for other, expanded efforts and offshoot projects. It also identified deployments that were ready for wider deployment, as well as those that would require further refinement or new technologies to emerge before reaching deployment. Several innovative solutions to unique problems were developed and tested. Finally, Showcase projects determined weather’s impacts on travelers and safety in the region.

Products/documentation resulting from COATS Showcase include:

COATS Phase 3:

COATS Phase 3, running between 2005 and 2009, continued the mission of developing innovative solutions to pressing concerns. Bi-state cooperation between California and Oregon continued, and program activities expanded into the area of technology transfer. This was accomplished through the Western States Forum, beginning in 2006. Additionally, bi-state cooperation was fostered through the development of new data-sharing mechanisms for the region. Specific Phase 3 efforts included:

  • Western States Rural Transportation Technology Implementers Forum – Established an engineering practitioner’s conference (held annually since 2006) where discussions and demonstrations of practical applications and technical issues associated with Rural ITS could be held in an environment with a focus on transparency. Additionally, the Forum provides an opportunity to promote transferability of solutions and knowledge across the ITS community.
  • Rural Integrated Corridor Management – Explored the application of Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) to rural areas. ICM seeks to transfer traffic to alternative routes (or modes) when faced with an impacting event such as a pass closure. This work subsequently involved the development of a web-based platform to display the information of ITS deployments in the region in a user-friendly manner. This ultimately helped establish efforts such as the One Stop Shop, a web platform for rural travelers to view comprehensive, real-time data specific to their trip all in one location.

COATS Phase 3 began a new movement into the area of tech transfer that has been well received. A long term objective of COATS in fostering greater data sharing between OR and CA began to be addressed. Finally, a new approach to managing rural incidents was investigated, with indications being that ICM can be applied beneficially in rural areas.

COATS Phase 4:

COATS Phase 4 began in 2008 and project work was completed in 2011. It continued the work of the Western States Forum, examined how to best deploy technologies developed under COATS and spinoff projects, and evaluated and examined new issues and deployments. Finally, expansion of the COATS region to include areas of other states, under the umbrella of the Western States Rural Transportation Consortium (WSRTC), was investigated. The WSRTC was formally established in 2010. Specific projects undertaken in COATS 4 included:

Click here to read more about the work completed under COATS Phase 4.

COATS Phase 5:

The fifth phase of the COATS project was active from 2011 to 2014. COATS Phase 5 used the ITS experience and institutional knowledge of stakeholders in the region, combined with technology transfer activities from the Western States Rural Transportation Technology Implementers Forum (WSRTTIF) and incubator projects. These incubator projects were identified by the Western States Rural Transportation Consortium (WSRTC) region of California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada, to continue successful demonstration of ITS technologies in a rural context. This provided benefit for stakeholders both within and outside the COATS region. Among the tasks completed during COATS Phase 5 were the following:

  • Survey of Western States Safety Warning Devices. To review the final project report click here, or go to the COATS project Documents page. Read more about this project’s findings in the project update from June 30, 2014.
  • Regional Integrated Corridor Management Planning. This project moved toward establishing criteria and processes for applying ICM to a rural context. You can find more information about this project in the update from December 19, 2014. The final report is posted on the COATS Phase 5 Documents page and the COATS project Documents page as well.
  • Chain-up Delay Tracking with Bluetooth. This phase of the project identified the number and location of sites needed to provide sufficient data to accurately determine delay. This project will be continued in COATS Phase 6.
  • Outreach. PTAP committee members attended and presented at the 2012 and 2013 National Rural ITS Conferences and the 2012 Northwest Transportation Conference (Corvallis, Oregon). The presentation at the 2012 Northwest Transportation Conference discussed the WSRTC and its activities, the 2012 NRITS presentation discussed the WSRTC and the efforts being made to address rural ITS challenges, while the 2013 NRITS presentation covered the results of the safety warning device synthesis incubator project. Go to the Consortium Documents page to review the presentations.

COATS Phase 6:

The sixth phase of the COATS project started in mid-2014 and ran for two years. COATS 6 built on the success of earlier COATS phases to preserve and expand the COATS region as an innovator in rural ITS demonstration. It focused on technology transfer, evaluating the Fredonyer Pass ICWS, and traveler information data quality.

The Western States Forum served as a technology transfer platform where informative, in-depth technical presentations could be given by rural ITS practitioners. The incubator projects completed during the course of COATS Phase 6 provided information that is expected to contribute to the future development and deployment of systems and approaches that will benefit ITS in rural areas.

  • Evaluation of the Fredonyer Pass icy Curve Warning System. For this safety/operations incubator project, the research team evaluated the effectiveness of the Fredonyer ICWS with a focus on speed reduction under various conditions and safety performance through crash reduction. To read the final report and review the detailed research results, click here. You can also read more about this task in the COATS project update from February 24th, 2016. The final task report is posted on the COATS Phase 6 documents page and can be found in the WSRTC’s document archive.
  • Data Quality for Aggregation and Dissemination of DOT Traveler Information: An Analysis of Existing System Best Practices. The technology incubator project team researched and analyzed existing system best practices for data quality for the aggregation and dissemination of state department of transportation traveler information. Detailed results of the practitioner survey and the literature review conducted for this project can be found in the final task report. The report can be downloaded from the COATS Phase 6 documents page and the WSRTC’s document archive. You can also read more about this research task in the COATS project update from August 22nd, 2016.
  • Chain-Up Delay Tracking with Bluetooth. In COATS Phase 5, recommendations were made regarding prospective locations for deploying Bluetooth readers relative to the Fawndale chain-up area. The task was continued in COATS Phase 6 and work included identification of Bluetooth readers that could potentially be deployed for this application. For more details about the potential deployment locations and Bluetooth reader sources/vendors, refer to the recommendations and sources report – Chain-up Delay Tracking with Bluetooth: Prospective Deployment Recommendations and Sources for Bluetooth Readers.
  • Outreach. In addition to the technology transfer completed by the Forum, COATS/WSRTC Project Technical Advisory Panel (PTAP) meetings also provided an opportunity for discussion of current and future ITS activities in the region. COATS/WSRTC PTAP members attended and presented at the National Rural ITS Conference and the 2016 Northwest Transportation Conference. Read more in the updates from October 16, 2015, and April 15, 2016, respectively.

COATS Phase 7:

COATS Phase 7 was a three-year project that started in early 2017. Its primary goal was to build on the success of earlier COATS phases to preserve and expand the COATS region as an innovator in rural ITS implementation. To help the partnership achieve the COATS vision and mission, initiatives that were undertaken include technology transfer through the Western States Forum, a Handbook for the Forum, and maintaining and expanding the COATS web presence for the technology transfer of results of this effort. The deliverables produced to meet the research objectives of COATS 7 included:

Review the final report and read more about COATS Phase 7 activities on the COATS Phase 7 project page.

COATS Phase 8:

The COATS Phase VIII project was active from February 2020 through January of 2023. Its primary goal was to build on the success of earlier COATS phases to preserve and expand the COATS region as an innovator in rural ITS demonstration. To help the partnership achieve the COATS vision and mission, initiatives that were undertaken include technology transfer through the Western States Forum, a Handbook for the Forum, and maintaining and expanding the COATS web presence for the technology transfer of results of this effort. The deliverables produced to meet the research objectives of COATS VIII included:

Review the Final Report and read about COATS Phase VIII activities on the COATS Phase VIII project page.

The work of the COATS Program continues through the Western States Rural Transportation Consortium (WSRTC). Stay up to date on project work and check in on the Consortium’s website.

COATS Spinoff Projects:

Based on the work completed through COATS over the years, a number of spinoff projects have emerged, including:

  • Redding Responder – a communication tool for first responders anywhere, anytime. The Responder System incorporates off the shelf and custom components to create a structured and easy to use system that facilitates communication and documentation of incidents in rural areas. The Responder System consists of a ruggedized tablet PC with built-in GPS, a custom Responder Incident Organizer software application, and an optional communications briefcase. At the 2010 National Rural ITS conference, the Responder System won the 2010 Best of Rural ITS Award for Best New Innovative Product, Service or Application.
  • WeatherShare – The WeatherShare system aggregates and streamlines surface weather data from multiple sources into a single source where relevant information is easily accessible by incident responders and the traveling public. The weather data is collected from over 3200 surface weather stations from state and national weather sources such as Caltrans RWIS, California Data Exchange Center, MesoWest, NOAA’s MADIS, and the NOAA National Digital Forecast Database.
  • Automated Safety Warning Controller – California has several automated warning systems on the state’s highways that disseminate warnings via changeable message signs, Highway Advisory Radio, and flashing beacons. However, all the systems to date are unique implementations using one-of-a-kind software for system control with the controller being a custom device only used with that particular project’s physical and electrical layout. To address the challenges associated with numerous unique warning systems, many in remote and hard to reach locations, the Controller system interfaces with field elements and warning systems in a standardized way. The controller collects automated data and applies best practice algorithms to analyze sensor data and actuate appropriate warning messages and signals.
  • One Stop Shop for Rural Traveler Information - The One-Stop-Shop (OSS) web application provides travelers in the Western States region (AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY) with comprehensive, real-time data that can be employed in planning their trip. This information consists of both traditional information (routing, imagery, weather, etc.), as well as points of interest and other route-specific information (elevations, rest areas, etc.). At the 2014 ITS World Congress in Detroit, Michigan, the One-Stop Shop was announced as the winner of ITS America’s Best of ITS Award for Best New Innovative Practice – Research Design and Innovation.
  • Integration of Aviation AWOS with RWIS - The integrated aviation AWOS/ASOS and RWIS application is an easy-to-use web-based weather information tool for users from California’s rural airports and heliports, especially those used for EMS. It provides localized and timely weather condition forecast information. As a prototype, the application provides stakeholders with an initial design of a web platform that can be reviewed and critiqued.
  • TMC - TMS Communication Systems - Rural areas pose a unique challenge to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), because some regions are so remote that standard communications services are not available and conventional alternatives are cost prohibitive. In these areas, Transportation Management Centers (TMCs) and Traffic Monitoring Systems (TMS) field devices suffer from low data transfer rates, little reliability, and higher operational and maintenance costs. As a result, there is a need to find and establish reliable, scalable, and economical solutions to TMS field device and TMC communication in rural environments. This project targeted these challenges and identified, evaluated, demonstrated, and documented technologies that addressed these needs. Improving the communications technologies will improve traveler safety, enhance department and emergency operations, and expand performance and reliability.
  • Professional Capacity Building for Communication Systems –The goal of this project is to develop a comprehensive curriculum and conduct training for Rural ITS communications. Most rural ITS engineers lack the critical skills for designing and maintaining reliable and robust communication networks for rural ITS field equipment. This project has an educational focus and its primary objective is to have leading subject matter experts provide a hands-on, “nuts and bolts” learning experience for rural ITS engineers and technicians. Learning outcomes are centered on describing the various communication technologies available and how to best select and implement these technologies.