For informational/historical purposes only.
Department of Transportation Internet News Release
ODOT Launches New Freeway Patrol to Combat Congestion
Delaware Stuck in traffic? Stalled on the side of the road? The Ohio Department of Transportation is launching a new freeway service patrol that could be instrumental in getting you and thousands of Columbus-area motorists moving.
On Tuesday, ODOT will launch FIRST, the Freeway Incident Response Service Team - the first of its kind in central Ohio. ODOT officials hope crews will be first on the scene, helping police and emergency crews remove stalled vehicles, accidents and spills from the interstate more quickly.
More than 50 percent of congestion in urban areas is caused by such incidents, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. A recent study by the Texas Transportation Institute says the average Columbus motorist loses about $515 annually in congestion-related delays.
"Every minute is critical when we have incidents on the freeway," said Jack Marchbanks, ODOT District 6 deputy director. "Even something as simple as a fallen chair in the middle of a lane has the potential to snarl traffic."
ODOT estimates that each minute an incident blocks or slows traffic it causes eight minutes of motorist delay. In addition, these delays often lead to upstream accidents caused by rubbernecking and stop-and-go traffic.
The FIRST team consists of four trucks that will patrol Interstate 270 and interstates 670, 71 and 70 within the outerbelt, as well as State Route 315. ODOT will run two shifts each weekday, providing service from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Crews may also work weekends during special events.
The program is estimated to cost about $575,000 annually.
FIRSTs primary focus will be detecting and responding to minor incidents, such as property damage accidents, flat tires, stalled cars and debris in the roadway.
"A key component of our program will be helping motorists safely to the side of the road and out of the stream of traffic," Marchbanks said. "Many motorists involved in minor property damage accidents mistakenly believe their cars cant be moved until police arrive at the scene."
Each truck is equipped with a push bumper. Crews also carry Polaroid cameras to help motorists and police document the scene for insurance purposes.
FIRST will also assist police and emergency crews with major incidents, providing a range of services from traffic control to debris removal.
While each driver is highly trained and equipped to provide advanced first aid, basic auto repair, minor traffic control, and identification of hazardous material, Marchbanks cautions the most important training will be done on the job.
"While weve learned a great deal about these programs by reviewing other cities and states, we still have a lot to learn," he said. "Over the next few months, well be closely tracking our progress and relying on customer comment cards and the input of police and emergency crews to improve our services."