KTC Opens New Traffic Operations Lab

, Ky. (March 22, 2011) The Kentucky Transportation Center (KTC) at the University of Kentucky recently opened its new Center for Advanced Traffic Solutions, or CATS, laboratory. Developed by KTC's Adam Kirk and Pat Johnson, the new signal training and research lab will provide traffic operations research, education and training.

The primary use of the CATS lab will be to support the development and delivery of a training course for Kentucky Transportation Cabinet signal technicians. Kirk, who is serving as director of the lab, says it will provide hands-on experience for the technicians.

"Experienced technicians can use the facility to develop, test and refine innovative signal operation strategies, without impacting traffic operations," he said. "This is only possible through the interface with simulation programs – the new CATS Lab is the only place in Kentucky where these innovations can be tested and developed."

Future uses for the lab will include undergraduate and graduate education and research, as well as allow the pursuit of state and national research opportunities.

Kirk said College of Engineering Dean Tom Lester's office has provided the lab a prime location near undergraduate classrooms. "It is our hope that this facility will serve to increase student interest in traffic operations while building the next generation of traffic engineers. If successful, graduates will leave UK having practical hands-on experience with equipment currently used, and advanced equipment that will be deployed in the future.

The CATS Lab houses three complete signal controller racks, which include all of the hardware that is used to operate traffic signals at intersections. In addition, an eight signal closed-loop system, which is used to control multiple signals in coordination along a roadway, is maintained in the lab, as well as a copy of the central system software used by Lexington and Louisville.

Johnson, laboratory manager and former signal systems manager for the city of Louisville said, "The facilities in this laboratory allow us to duplicate virtually any type of signal operation from a single isolated intersection to a citywide system as operated by our larger cities."

The CATS Lab houses over $100,000 of software and hardware, the majority of which was donated by Corporate Sponsors Econolite Group, Inc. and Arrow Electric Co. and supported by the lab’s cooperating agencies, including the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Lexington Fayette County Government and the City of Louisville.

"Without the equipment and technical support we have received from our sponsors and other agencies, it simply would have been impossible to put this facility together," Kirk said.

The CATS lab also aims to improve the experience for commuters to UK. CATS Lab staff have secured $200,000 in Highway Safety Improvement Program funds to work with Lexington to implement an advanced adaptive signal control system on South Limestone Street between Euclid Avenue and Waller Avenue. 

"Adaptive signal controls are the state-of-the-art in signal operations," Johnson said . "They are used to adjust signal timing parameters in real time based on traffic demand and arrival patterns. What's that mean? Less time waiting at red lights."

"As money for roadway improvements becomes even more scarce, it is imperative that we squeeze more efficiency out of our existing system. That is exactly what the CATS Lab is designed to do," said Kirk.

The CATS Lab is located in Room 260 of Anderson Tower. "If the lights are on, stop by and check us out," said Johnson.

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