Commuters in New Orleans and surrounding areas are getting around a little easier these days thanks to a new state-of-the-art transportation management center. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) recently completed the 29,120 square-foot New Orleans Regional Transportation Management Center (RTMC).

The center uses Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technology and regional coordination to facilitate better communication among drivers, traffic operations staff, emergency response personnel and other agencies in order to maximize the efficient use of existing roadways in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes.

The RTMC employs DOTD traffic management staff to actively monitor real-time traffic information on roadway conditions and distribute this information to drivers and emergency response personnel by using a variety of ITS tools including roadside surveillance equipment such as traffic cameras and vehicle detectors, Dynamic Message Signs, Twitter and the 511 Traveler Information System.

As a result, drivers can avoid traffic congestion by planning alternative routes, and emergency response personnel–such as Motorist Assistance Patrol, police and firefighters–can decrease the response time to an incident and clear lanes of travel more quickly.

Operators staff the traffic management center 24/7 to monitor the interstates and dispatch Motor Assistance Patrols to incidents ranging from fender benders to stranded motorists. Operators actively monitor 150 real-time traffic cameras along the interstates circling Lake Pontchartrain.

DODT worked with Louisiana A/V firm Creative Presentations to help design and integrate the A/V systems that make this level of monitoring possible. Two significant elements in the design of the control room include a video wall and several command center consoles. The video wall at the front of the control room consists of twelve 67-inch Mitsubishi rear projection cubes. Winsted Sight-Line consoles were chosen for the operator workstations.

“We chose the Winsted consoles because of their reputation,” said Stephen Bohrer, integration manager for Creative Presentations. “They are very well known throughout the AV industry, especially when it comes to control room application-specific furniture.”

The RTMC control room is arranged with two rows of consoles. The front row consists of four workstations. The back row consists of two consoles with two workstations each. In 24/7 monitoring environments such as this, reducing operator fatigue and increasing efficiency is crucial to control room design.

Creative Presentations did some very specific sight line drawings to make sure that there was the least amount of fatigue on operators looking from their computer screen up to the video wall and back. So that had a lot to do with the placement of the consoles, the height of the video wall, the height of the monitors and the height of the consoles themselves.

“Winsted also provided the Ergonomic Chairs, which are extremely comfortable,” said Borher. Each individual monitoring station is equipped with a headphone system, which enables operators to listen to their own audio or whichever news station they want at any given time. Operators can watch up to eight news stations on the video wall at one time, but obviously you only want to listen to one.

Paul Hsu was the system engineer in charge of the project for DODT and was involved in the design, installation and integration of the new control room from the start. For him, one of the most challenging aspects of a project like this is making sure every piece of the puzzle falls into place in time to meet the deadline.

“I was very involved with all of the installations because I was there every day during construction,” said Hsu. “ All the A/V components, furniture and wiring were part of my responsibility.”

He goes on to say that at times there were at least 7-8 different contractors in the control room at one time, all doing their thing, trying to get to the deadline. It can be frustrating when a contractor arrives and can’t do their work because someone else is there working on another aspect of the installation.

“The guys from Winsted were very professional. They showed up and worked with us, coordinated with us and the other contractors in terms of what times they could get in and do their work,” said Hsu. “They would stay late to finish up what they needed to do and even worked during the weekend to make sure that the consoles were in place before the other installers needed to move in.”

“As far as the quality of the consoles, we’ve been using them for about a year now. They’re very tough and durable,” said Hsu. “Really, I don’t think we could have made a better choice.” Winsted Sight-Line consoles are designed to maximize operator comfort and productivity in 24/7 control room environment.