Michigan DOT Flex Route 23 News

Flex Route 23 News

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March 2017 

New Flex Route technology will alert motorists to what’s ahead

We are all familiar with the many advantages of smart phones and smart cars. In the near future, the time saving and safety benefits of "smart roads," too, will become routine aspects of travel through select corridors in Michigan.

MDOT is joining other communities across the U.S. to build smart roads that will help manage traffic congestion and enhance safety. Construction is currently underway to build an active traffic management system called Flex Route, which will increase freeway capacity by utilizing the existing median shoulder lanes – rather than adding a much more costly permanent third lane – and using technology to manage the traffic flow.

Michigan’s first Flex Route is coming soon to US-23, between M-14 and M-36 (9 Mile Road). 

MDOT will monitor the flow of traffic and open and close lanes as needed, such as during peak travel periods when traffic gets congested and during emergencies. Because the median shoulders will be used as temporary (flex) lanes, it is critical for motorists to both understand and follow the rules involved in driving a Flex Route. MDOT encourages all drivers to familiarize themselves regarding how a Flex Route works by viewing this short video.

“A Flex Route works best when it’s used according to its design,” said Paul Ajegba, region engineer of MDOT's University Region. “We know there will be a learning curve, but if everyone abides by the rules, and follows the signs, they’ll spend much less time in traffic and arrive at their destinations safely.”

The Flex Route technology will use an intelligent lane control system consisting of a network of computerized overhead signs, cameras, and electronic message boards to constantly monitor traffic conditions. Easy-to-read signs, attached to overhead gantries, will let motorists know what is ahead and direct traffic to available lanes. Each lane will have a lane control sign posted above it that can display the following, based on what the current traffic conditions necessitate:

  • A green arrow: If a lane is open, a green arrow will be displayed. During morning and afternoon peak travel periods, shoulder lanes will be open to relieve traffic congestion.
  • A red X: If a lane is closed due to a traffic incident or construction, for example, a red X will be posted above that lane so motorists can avoid the blockage. Or, if traffic is not congested, a red X will appear above the Flex Route (shoulder lane) to show motorists that the lane is not to be used for travel.
  • The recommended speed limit: Speeds will be continuously monitored to detect traffic slowdowns. The recommended speed limit will be posted on the gantry above any open lanes to advise motorists regarding a change in conditions ahead, which will decrease the potential for crashes.
  • A merge sign: A yellow merge sign will advise motorists to move over to avoid a crash or a blocked lane ahead, which also will decrease the potential for crashes.
    Flex Route Illustration 2017 - SB
    Overhead signs advise southbound motorists which lanes are open to traffic. 

In addition to providing the educational video, MDOT is planning to conduct a public education event later this year to demonstrate how the Flex Route works.

The existing MDOT Freeway Courtesy Patrol and six new crash investigation sites will further promote the safe operation of the US-23 Flex Route by providing any necessary roadside assistance, as well as providing some secure areas for motorists and public vehicles to pull over during an incident. 

As construction of the Flex Route system continues, MDOT encourages motorists to slow down in work zones to help keep workers safe.

If you would like an MDOT presentation about driving the Flex Route, contact the Brighton Transportation Service Center at 810-227-4681. For more information about related traffic detours, lane closures and lane shifts, go to www.flexroute23.com or connect with MDOT through social media at www.facebook.com/michigandot and www.twitter.com/mdot_a2, search using #flexroute. 

Current and upcoming construction activities (See map

  • Barker Road partial bridge demolition: Tentatively scheduled to take place March 16. There will be a nighttime full closure of Barker Road with a posted detour in order to accommodate bridge deck and beam removal.
  • 5 Mile Road: Tentatively scheduled to close April 1. This is expected to be closed for approximately one month and is anticipated to reopen in early May. This closure is needed to complete the 5 Mile Road relocation.
  • Barker Road southbound on-ramp: Tentatively scheduled to close April 15. This will be closed for approximately one month and is anticipated to reopen in mid-May. This closure is needed to complete ramp resurfacing and acceleration lane improvement work. 
  • 8 Mile Road southbound off-ramp: Tentatively scheduled to close after bridge beams are set in late March. This closure will last through late June and is needed to accommodate ramp and roundabout reconstruction within the interchange. 
  • Warren Road repair work: Tentatively scheduled to begin in early April. Work on this structure will be performed part-width, using a portable temporary traffic signal to accommodate local traffic access during train stoppages. Work is scheduled to take place through June.
8 mile bridge const.
A bridge pier under construction last month at 8 Mile Road in Whitmore Lake. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When will the Flex Route temporary lanes be opened?              

The Flex Route temporary lanes will be opened for travel as needed during peak travel periods – typically during the morning commute on southbound lanes and the evening commute on northbound lanes – and when traffic is backed up because of heavy seasonal traffic and other temporary conditions, such as bad weather, traffic incidents or construction. 

How does the Flex Route work?              

The Flex Route will be monitored by MDOT’s Statewide Transportation Operations Center (STOC). The STOC is a seven-day-a-week operation that houses dispatchers from MDOT and Michigan State Police. The agencies share resources and information by monitoring traffic sensors, distress calls and video feeds from closed-circuit TV cameras. They also coordinate their efforts with law enforcement agencies and other transportation officials. 

Flex Route will be connected to the STOC through the use of expanded intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technology. This will include an intelligent lane control system consisting of overhead signs, cameras, and electronic message boards, which STOC employees will monitor and adjust as needed.

If a traffic condition develops, the STOC will adjust the Flex Route through electronic lane control signs mounted above each lane. These signs will show motorists which lanes are available and provide the recommended speed for the current travel conditions.

Any traffic incidents will be managed with assistance from MDOT’s Freeway Courtesy Patrol (FCP) and several new crash investigation sites that will be strategically located along the corridor.

How will a driver know when the shoulder is to be used as a Flex Route?           

A large green arrow posted above a widened shoulder (flex lane) will show when that Flex Route is available as a third lane.

A large red X above the widened shoulder (flex lane) will show when that Flex Route is not to be used.

Yellow chevrons will direct motorists to move over or merge to avoid incidents ahead.

For more details, view the Flex Route 23 brochure