Project Highlight – Chelsea, MA Route 1 Viaduct Project – February 2021

This is a little story about how to get the job done from Southie to Harvard Yard, and anywhere in between.

Massachusetts DOT (MASSDOT) had a project that would include up to 13 portable camera trailers to be deployed for 18 months during a bridge reconstruction project along Route 1. The job also required that the project contractor would hire a traffic engineer to monitor and make signal timing adjustments as needed during the construction process.

Embodying the “Bravery” core value, at the time we bid this job we didn’t own any camera trailers. We did, however know of a potential source. To make things just that much more challenging, the camera trailer locations were almost impossible to place when looking at the Google street view. In reviewing the plans it appeared as though the camera placement was such that the MASSDOT could monitor congestion at various intersections, though the specification didn’t explicitly connect the temporary camera systems to the traffic monitoring and signal timing specification item.

Along the East Coast, the industry is very tight for smart work zone applications and full of “wise guys,” if ya know what I mean. The only way we had a chance at the work was to be anonymous, and secondly be competitive.

Our approach to wining the job was simple: find a traffic engineer that needed to monitor traffic and convince them that they could monitor traffic using cam-eras. An added potential opportunity was to find a local Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) that could help the prime contractor meet the project participation goals of 10 percent of the contract value.

To create the opportunity, Eric Johnson researched the DBE-approved database for current licensed and DOT-approved traffic engineers. After reaching out to a few of them and pitching the idea, one particular company – TrafInfo – was very interest-ed. They had not been aware of the opportunity otherwise. “Fish on” as they say!

Working through the details and placement locations we decided that trailers at each location was not the best solution. Locations all along the route had overhead power lines, telephone lines, narrow boulevards, guardrail, and other obstacles. Funny that the specifications required solar/battery/30-foot-mast/cellular communications, yet telephone and power was available along the whole route. It’s worth mentioning that on a few of the locations where we installed our cameras, we were not the only permanently installed camera on the pole.

Our best solution was to use some trailers to appease the DOT, but at several locations we hired an electrician to install a pre-wired camera box for AC power and a cell modem. An idea at the intersection of “Ranch Mentality” and “Ingenuity,” also know as value engineering…

This project was unique in a variety of ways. First, the company that became our customer wasn’t aware that the opportunity existed. We offered a solution that was different and more cost effective than other providers. And lastly, although the project had an Intelligent Work Zone on it, it wasn’t our focus.

R&D Update – February 2021

Superior Traffic Services focuses on Research and Development to ensure that it keeps up with the myriad new technologies that are bursting on the scene every day. At STS, we are constantly striving to update our designs to stay at the forefront of the portable-traffic-signal industry.

In the last quarter we have been hard at work testing an upgrade to the computer in our Light Con-troller boxes (often called LTCs). The new computer is a good deal faster than our current model, has more local storage, and will allow us to enhance our wireless capabilities at 2.4GHz. As if that’s not enough, the new computer will improve our timekeeping with a more accurate clock, one synchronized to the Atomic Clock at the U.S. Naval Observatory – even if we are operating in offline mode, disconnected from the internet.

We are also rolling out new firm-ware in our 900 MHz radios that will allow us to utilize low-powered repeater radios to extend the length of the work zones significantly. Another benefit of the new firmware is it will encrypt communications at the chip level, and as such the CPU will no longer need to use processing power to perform this critical task.

Future improvements include replacing the existing built-in cam-era model with its successor. Tests are under way right now to ensure that the new model provides the same features as the current model, and more!

The STS continuous-improvement process has our Light Controllers cycling through our depot facilities on a periodic basis, allowing us to upgrade the Light Controller box hardware in the process. This provides a high level of common functionality across our fleet, as well as extending the lifespan of the individual boxes. And of course, software upgrades can be rolled-out to controllers anywhere in the field as new features become available.

2020 Year End Review

This newsletter will be both an update on our Q4 results as well as a celebration of our successes over the past year. The year 2020 brought an array of challenges to STS. Perhaps the most prominent was and is the business, political, and social changes that COVID-19 brought to our country. We were challenged to change the method in which we do business, including remote meetings, restricted travel, and added safety measures. Through it all you adapted and overcame very trying circumstances and exceeded almost every ROCK that we set. Congratulations!

We also expanded the size of our team, our product offering and our geographic reach in 2020, all while adhering to our Core Values and Mission statement. Our EOS process served us well as a framework to ensure that our focus, implementation, communication, and level of accountability remained constant throughout.

Capital investment also continued to advance and included additional signals, pedestals, LTC’s/PED Boxes, vehicles, and AFADs to the STS fleet. Most importantly, we added 15 new employees with expanded roles and responsibilities (not counting four already hired in 2021).

Our safety continues to be a shining star among our accomplishments. Office, sales, and field teams worked a total of 13,188 manhours with 0 injuries and 0 at-fault incidents during Q4. We finished the year with the same results while working a total of 36,608 manhours during 2020. As we grow in numbers and industry presence, continue to make safety our number 1 priority, always looking for better processes, training, and accountability in our daily duties and drive commitment over compliance

As we reflect on the accomplishments of 2020, we must also remain vigilant in our resolve to accomplish even greater things in 2021. COVID-19 is still ever present and our safety and health measures must continue. We must support our sales teams and grow our signal business as well as our AFAD and Smart Work Zone sectors. Most importantly, we must continue to build our team in depth, breadth, and numbers, all while using our Core Values as a guide. Thanks again for all the hard work and dedication.