INDIANAPOLIS – New traffic lights will soon be activated on Interstate 465 on-ramps on the southeast side of Indianapolis.
The process, which is being called “ramp metering,” will be the first time the technology is used in Indiana.
Ramp metering, according to the Indiana Dept. of Transportation, controls the frequency at which cars merge onto I-465 during peak congestion hours. This means cars will come to a full stop on certain on-ramps at certain times instead of accelerating like drivers are used to.
”The ramp metering will only be in use during peak times to keep traffic moving, improve safety during those high congestion, high use times,” said Natalie Garrett, INDOT’s strategic communications director.
Garrett said sensors in the pavement of the on-ramps and pavement on I-465 will communicate when the best time for cars to merge is.
”The sensor will be gauging both mainline traffic and the ramp traffic,” Garrett said.
Likewise, the sensors have a safeguard to ensure traffic on the ramp is never backed up enough to spill out onto the road the cars came from.
”When the ramp gets full the sensors will talk to each other and it will release traffic accordingly,” Garrett said.
The traffic lights are already in place at each intersection but there is still time before they are rolled out.
Drivers should notice the technology at the on-ramps to I-465 from Emerson Ave, Southeastern Ave, Shadeland Ave, Brookville Rd/US 52 and Washington St/US 40.
This same stretch of I-465 between I-65 and I-70 will also utilize Variable Speed Limits. It’s a digital speed limit sign allowing the speed limit along the highway to be changed based on what is going on.
”Depending on what’s going on out there, if there’s a work zone, if there’s a crash, if it’s snowing, if it’s raining,” Garrett said. “Anything that can impact traffic speeds, traffic safety.”
Garrett said this is part of the I-465 Transportation Operations Management Operations, or TSMO. It’s a set of strategies to make this section of I-465 safer without making major infrastructure changes.
”Not adding lanes, not adding lanes to the ramp but using the existing facilities, using technology and innovation to improve safety, mobility. Make it a smoother commute, safer commute for travelers,” Garrett said.
Garrett said this stretch was chosen because of how busy it can get.
”As many Indianapolis commuters know, especially during peak hour, heavy congestion typically occurs in this section,” Garrett said. “Also a pattern of increased crashes.”
Garrett said studies and this technology in other cities have shown a safer and smoother commute for drivers.
”There are some applications up in the Chicago area and also some applications in Michigan, so you don’t have to travel far to see these,” she said.
The Indiana State Police are hoping these technologies slow drivers down and keep highways safer, but troopers know this will be a big change for drivers.
”It’s going to be new and that’s one of the biggest challenges,” said ISP Sgt. John Perrine. “It’s going to change people’s routines.”
For the ramp metering, Perrine knows drivers will have to get used to slowing down on the on-ramp vs. accelerating like they usually do.
”There will still be time to accelerate after the light,” Perrine said.
The variable speed limit signs will also change by 5 MPH but never more than the posted 55 MPH speed limit already on I-465.
”Don’t trust the speed limit on your GPS, you’ve got to physically see the speed limit sign with your own eyes so you know the speed limit for the area you’re driving in,” Perrine said.
Perrine said ignoring the changing speed limit or ramp metering can result in a ticket but there will be a bit of a grace period at first.
”We certainly recognize the challenges with that and are going to use the first few months as an educational period to teach people what it’s about and why those are there,” Perrine said.
INDOT is still waiting on more technology and materials but both the ramp metering and variable speed limit signs are expected to be in use before the end of 2023.