California Oregon Advanced Transportation Systems (COATS)
Phase 7


Sean Campbell from Caltrans DRISI raises his hand and asks a speaker a question during the annual Western States Forum.

Annual Steering Committee meeting in Yreka, California.

Since its inception in 1998, the COATS project has sought to improve safety and mobility in the region through the use of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technologies. Earlier phases of this project have been successful in promoting ITS awareness, conducting ITS planning and architecture development, demonstrating ITS technologies and testing new applications, performing evaluations of existing deployments, and publicizing the results through various technology transfer activities such as the Western States Forum. COATS Phase 7 will build on the success of earlier COATS phases to preserve and expand the COATS region as an innovator in rural ITS demonstration.

This phase of COATS, like previous phases of COATS, does not include a sequence of tasks in which one logically builds on the other. Instead, there are a variety of research tasks, which complement each other toward advancing the vision of appropriate use of ITS technology to address rural transportation challenges within and beyond the COATS region boundaries. Initiatives to be undertaken in COATS Phase 7 include the Western States Forum, three incubator projects, and maintaining the existing COATS web presence for the technology transfer of results of this effort.

Western States Rural Transportation Technology Implementers Forum (WSRTTIF)

The annual Western States Forum will continue during this phase of COATS. The Forum is a meeting focused on providing technology transfer and networking opportunities for professionals working in design, implementation, and maintenance of ITS technologies in rural environments. The Forum was conceived to enable ITS practitioners to reap the same benefits of information sharing that ITS planners in the COATS region had been realizing through the COATS project. It is unique nationally with respect to its participants, format, and technical content, and its origin and development reflect the idea of using COATS as an incubator for innovations in the use of technology to address rural transportation challenges.

The 12th annual Forum will be held in Yreka, California, June 20th-22nd, 2017. Go to the Forum website at for more information.

Meeting room during technical presentations at the Western States Forum.

Incubator Projects

Incubator projects are low-cost research efforts that serve as a potential “proof of concept.” Such projects provide limited time, scope, and monetary resources to investigate current rural ITS challenges and technology needs. Incubator projects are not intended to completely resolve the issue being researched, but rather to better understand the complexities of the issue, provide recommendations for next steps and potentially provide a “proof of concept” solution. Demonstrated in the rural context outside of both urban and metropolitan areas, the incubator projects are designed to provide answers to challenges pressing rural ITS practitioners. Three incubator projects are planned for COATS Phase 7.

Incubator 1: Rural Winter Travel Times

Winter storms, accidents, wildfires and other major events can have a dramatic negative effect on goods and people movement on our interstate corridors. Year-round use of these facilities can be enhanced by accurate rural travel times between cities. Predicting the amount of time it takes to get from point A to point B can be extremely challenging during winter storms or other non-recurring events. However, being able to accurately do this yields very valuable information for the rural traveler. While there are many large private companies that are likely capable of providing this kind of information to the rural traveler, to date none has. And, for whatever reason, there is no indication of private sector interest in filling this information gap. Can this be done effectively? This is unknown, and the intent of a potentially large project is to find out. The intent of this incubator project is to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine the viability of estimating rural winter travel times.

OSS screenshot, 1/3/2017: Winter conditions along major routes in western United States.

Incubator 2: Chain-Up Delay Tracking with Bluetooth (Part 2).

Near Fawndale, California, on northbound I-5 north of Redding, trucks may be required to chain up or are screened to ensure that they have a full set of chains when chain controls are in place. When these chain restrictions are active, there can be a backup of trucks for 5 miles or more, all the way to Pine Grove and beyond. In the four-lane section near Fawndale, the backup consists of one lane of trucks. Closer to Redding, there is a six-lane section that develops a truck queue in the number two and three lanes. Determining accurate delay times that could be displayed on changeable message signs (CMS) before the backup starts may reduce the wait times and backup length, which could improve safety within this corridor. This incubator will utilize yet to be deployed District 2 Bluetooth readers upstream, downstream and within the chain-up area. Using the information from the Bluetooth readers will allow the research team to develop a preliminary prototype algorithm to predict delays through the chain-up area.

OSS screenshot, 12/23/2017, Caltrans CMS message: All Trucks Chain Check North of Redding.

OSS screenshot, 1/3/2017, Caltrans CCTV: Backup at Fawndale.

Incubator 3: Data Quality for Aggregation and Dissemination of DOT Traveler Information: An Analysis of Existing System Best Practices (Part 2)

Data quality for traveler information data has generally been handled on an ad-hoc basis, with little or no provision for error notification other than perhaps through user-reporting of observed errors. Weather-related systems such as MADIS, Mesowest and Clarus have applied quality checks to weather sensor data, but these checks don’t necessarily transfer to other sensor and data types. Further, these checks may not be applicable to department of transportation RWIS sites in the absence of data from additional sites. Some, including Caltrans District 2, have implemented measures of reliability based on network and file transfer performance. The District 2 Information Relay and the DRISI CWWP2 efforts have also included some checks for bad data in CCTV and other feeds. However, part 1 of this incubator project did not find evidence of any unified, multi-dimensional approaches to data quality for aggregation and dissemination of DOT traveler information. Consequently, the goal of part 2 is to develop best practices for traveler information data quality.

For quarterly progress updates on COATS Phase 7 projects, go to the COATS project main page.