Technology and Traffic Law Deficits

In spite of this area’s perseverance for economic revival, Pennsylvania is faced with massive government deficit and paramount fuel costs. People must urge legislators to begin mediating solutions for mundane problems such as traffic law, which fails to serve the Commonwealth’s best interest and needs extensive reformation. Anyone will be quick to make the case that it’s not time to pave roads and build bridges with a “transportation funding shortfall of $3.5 billion,”(TRIP 4) but that is exactly what needs done and more: traffic systems should conform with advancing technology. Moreover, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that every dollar spent on roadway improvement saves five times that amount; every thousand spent creates one job (TRIP 1). Capitalism is rooted in competition; it is disquieting to see how this area weighs-in: Pennsylvania has the highest percentage of rural narrow lanes and structurally deficient bridges in the country, at forty-four and twenty-seven percent (TRIP 3-4). Traffic law predicates the entire transportation infrastructure and today’s economic challenges demand imperative reforms.

Dismissing traffic law reform as a triviality amongst other pressing domestic issues holds surmounting opportunity cost. These expenses are undoubtedly measureable; e.g. vehicles this year in Pittsburgh will squander nearly 125 million dollars in fuel while being stuck in traffic (TTI 2). Also keep mindful that the previous figure was drawn with an average fuel cost of three dollars and sixty cents a gallon, whereas rumor suggests it will soon rise to well-over five dollars. Even so, wasted fuel might be least of concern in terms of congestion; consider the interim as per work-hour; beware the myriad of tech-companies booming in Wexford, Cranberry, and Sewickley too; those businesses looking to expand will avoid staying in areas that have congested and eroded streets, and might relocate to regions with smoother transportation systems (TRIP 6). Therein lies only a fraction of opportunity cost, notwithstanding a projected twenty-five percent increase in statewide vehicle travel by 2025 (TRIP 3).

Plainly, the billion-dollar endowment for road and bridge improvements by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act can’t provide for all the essential traffic reforms that might disperse rush-hour-jams and avert car-crashes (TRIP 3). Federal funds are short; state funds are short; local funds are short; how can reforms proceed with such little butter and too much bread? Former governor Ed Rendell proposed increases in gasoline and vehicle taxes to match inflation (Schmitz 2). That won’t work because the majority cannot afford it. In effect, as IBM’s Sales and Distribution Department pitches in The Case for Smarter Transportation, “we’re going to need far more than just new infrastructure to solve these problems [. . . .] we need to do more with less”(4). Accordingly, reforms in traffic law should cut unnecessary practices and reallocate those funds.

Tracing the Internet’s development holds a great model for change in the transportation infrastructure. Twenty years ago, Internet traffic was minute and now rears toward two billion users. Such a feat is not accomplished easily, and any computer scientist will happily explain the backbone of it all: servers and routing. Most importantly, this model highlights the economical success when technology matches demand. Like the Internet, transportation infrastructure should predict demand, balance loads, and manage capacity; just feed computers real-time data and software analysis does the rest.

History shows that technology produces tangible rewards and holds true in application to traffic law. For instance, eighteen percent of Pittsburgh roadways operate with arterial signal coordination: the strategy reduces eighty-five thousand hours of delay each year (TTI 4). Nearby, suburban Cranberry holds reputation for adding technical qualities to their traffic systems. They are known as pioneers for being the “first community in Pennsylvania to allow emergency vehicles to pre-empt traffic signals” (Schmitz 1). In the coming weeks, township officials expect to have “42 of the 54 signalized intersections in [. . .] Cranberry, Adams, Seven Fields, and Marshall” controlled at their new traffic facility (Schmitz 1). Computer sophistication allows an intersection like Route 19 and 228 to “handle more traffic than Interstate 79, according to PennDOT average daily traffic counts”(Schmitz 1). These subtle advancements offer proof that integrating smart technology into transportation infrastructure supports the economy.

In order to maintain a strong economy, traffic legislation needs to meet growing economic demand. The competitors have caught-on; Frank Moretti, director of policy and research for TRIP, alarms “China currently spends 9 percent of its [GDP] on infrastructure, compared with less than 2 percent for the U.S.”(Schmitz 2). Lawmakers, wake up!


Works Cited

IBM. “The Case for Smarter Transportation.” Sales and Distribution 2010. PDF file.


WILL MONITOR SIGNALS, INTERSECTIONS USING CAMERAS AND SENSORS.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA) 7 Dec. 2010, SOONER, LOCAL: A-1. NewsBank. Web. 13 Mar. 2011.


COST DRIVERS MORE THAN MAINTAINING GOOD ONES.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA) 24 Nov. 2010, SOONER, STATE: B-1. NewsBank. Web. 13 Mar. 2011.


Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). “Performance Measure Summary – Pittsburgh

PA.” 2009. PDF file