How to use a Smart Freeway

How will my journey be easier?

Main Roads’ state-of-the-art Road Network Operations Centre is responsible for improving road network efficiency – keeping motorists safe while making journey times shorter and more reliable on our Smart Freeway and throughout the entire metropolitan region.

The Road Network Operations Centre monitors traffic across Perth’s main roads and freeways, including the new Smart Freeway. Our operators also work closely with emergency services to manage real-time incidents and events on the road network.

Some of the features of the new Smart Freeway include:

  • Overhead electronic signs to open and close lanes as needed and to change speed limits to improve traffic conditions
  • Electronic message boards to provide additional driver information about the conditions ahead
  • Co-ordinated ramp signals on five northbound on-ramps to improve traffic flow and make merging onto the freeway easier and safer
  • Incident detection systems to detect vehicles stopped on the Smart Freeway and in each of the six emergency stopping bays
  • Incident Response Service operating 24/7, with trained personnel in specialised vehicles to attend breakdowns and incidents.

 

 

FAQ

How much time will I save driving on the Smart Freeway?

Drivers can expect to save up to 10 minutes when travelling on Kwinana Freeway northbound from Roe Highway to the Narrows Bridge.

Combined with the other upgrade projects on Kwinana Freeway northbound, between Russell Road and the Narrows Bridge, savings of up to 20 minutes are expected for the northbound lanes.

How will the Smart Freeway improve my journey from the southern suburbs?

You should experience a number of improvements, including:

  • Travel time savings of up to 10 minutes from Roe Highway to the Narrows
  • Smoother driving conditions as stop/start congestion eases, with traffic better managed through the Smart Freeway
  • If there’s an incident, the speed limits on the overhead electronic signs may be reduced at times, to keep congestion from forming
  • Vehicles entering from on-ramps will achieve higher merging speeds before joining freeway traffic, keeping the Smart Freeway moving smoothly
  • Traffic entering the freeway from Canning Highway will go straight into the new fourth lane, which goes all the way to the Narrows Bridge
  • More information about road conditions ahead or expected journey times will be displayed on the large electronic message boards along the Smart Freeway, from Farrington Road through to the Narrows

How does the Operations Centre know how well traffic is moving on the Smart Freeway?

The Road Network Operations Centre receives data on traffic performance from in-road sensors, detection radars and CCTV cameras.

These are the eyes and ears of our operators, who use the data to manage traffic flow and freeway performance on the Smart Freeway.

Understanding the electronic overhead signs

To keep traffic moving more smoothly and safely on our Smart Freeway, overhead electronic signs have been installed above the Perth-bound lanes. These signs display lane closure information, the legal speed limit and information relevant to your journey.

  1. The speed limit signs displayed above each lane let you know the maximum speed you can travel through that section of freeway.
  2. If the speed limit changes, you need to adjust your speed by slowing down or speeding up to match the displayed speed.
  3. If a ‘White Arrow’ appears on the sign above your lane, you need to move to the lane or lanes indicated as soon as it is safe to do so.
  4. If a ‘Red X’ appears on the sign above your lane that means the lane is now closed and you must move out of it as quickly as you safely can.
  5. Electronic message boards on the left-hand side of some overhead electronic signs provide information about issues and road conditions ahead. They are only used to display important messages that may impact your journey, so take note of these.

 

 

FAQ

Why would lanes on the freeway be closed?

Lane closures are used to protect both drivers involved in a breakdown or incident and passing freeway traffic by forming a safety barrier between them. This also assists incident response teams to attend the scene.

The lane closures (indicated by the Red ‘X’ on the overhead electronic signs) also assist emergency service vehicles to pass through the area when attending incidents on the freeways.

What do the electronic signs above the Kwinana Freeway do?

These overhead electronic speed signs are controlled by the Road Network Operations Centre, which monitors traffic numbers and speeds on our Smart Freeway using a range of technologies such as sensors, radars and CCTV.

When there’s an incident causing congestion to build up, our operators can reduce speeds on the freeway. Slowing vehicles down allows the traffic ahead to clear, preventing stop-start conditions, and reducing rear-end crashes.

The overhead electronic signs are also used to close lanes and direct traffic into adjoining lanes when there’s an incident or debris ahead on the Smart Freeway.

These systems are used to improve travel times and enhance safety.

Will drivers see advertising on the electronic message boards?

No, these boards will provide important information that may affect journeys on Kwinana Freeway and we want drivers to know that when they are on, the messages should be read.

Will lanes have different speed limits?

No, the overhead speed limits will always be consistent across all open lanes. However a lane or lanes may be closed using a red ‘X’, indicating you cannot drive in it, or may display a ‘White Arrow’, indicating that the lane up ahead is closed, meaning drivers should move out of the lane or lanes as soon as it is safe to do so.

How will merging be easier on the Smart Freeway?

Merge points on our freeways are often busy so it can be hard to join the traffic flow, increasing congestion. But ramp signals and the introduction of new technologies on our Smart Freeway will help make merging easier and safer.

During peak periods, it can be difficult to get up enough speed to merge seamlessly into the traffic because so many motorists are trying to do the same thing. This can cause stop-start conditions on our freeway.

To overcome this, Perth’s new Smart Freeway has:

  • ramp signals at Farrington Road, South Street, Leach Highway and Cranford Avenue to control the release of traffic onto the freeway
  • sensors embedded in the road surface to constantly measure traffic flow on the freeway and the ramps
  • smart technology then uses this information to determine how much to vary the red signal timings on the ramps, giving vehicles joining the freeway time to merge safely

This technology and the staff in our Road Network Operations Centre work together to keep the freeway flowing.

By managing the entry of vehicles onto the freeway, everyone gets a chance to find a gap and merge smoothly into the traffic.

All you need to do is follow the signals, just like you do at other traffic lights. Go when the light is green, prepare to stop on yellow and stop on red.

 

 

FAQ

Will stopping at the ramp signals add to my journey time?

No, the overall journey time should improve, with reduced congestion and improved reliability on the freeway.

When too many vehicles try to join existing traffic on the freeway, they’re unable to reach merging speed, slowing down freeway traffic.

Once this occurs, the impact is felt for kilometres, causing congestion to build.

Traffic signals at the on-ramps allow one car per lane to enter at a time. This gives each vehicle the opportunity to get up to freeway merging speed, reducing congestion.

If ramp signals improve merging, shouldn’t they be used all the time rather than during peak periods?

The ramp signals are only used when traffic is heavy, which mostly occurs during the morning peak northbound or when there’s an incident causing congestion.

When traffic is light, merging onto the freeway is easy and does not slow down traffic flow, so the on-ramp signals aren’t needed at those times.

Will Smart Freeway technology be rolled out across the entire freeway network?

Overcoming congestion is complex and different sections of the freeway network may require different solutions to keep traffic running smoothly.

Main Roads will consider what solutions work best in each location, introducing more Smart Freeway technologies across the network where they make sense and are cost-effective to implement.

Using co-ordinated ramp signals

Operating when traffic is high or when there’s an incident, the co-ordinated ramp signals make merging onto the freeway easier and safer. They work like normal traffic lights, rotating between green-yellow-red, but change more quickly.

  1. Before arriving at the on-ramp, you’ll see a posted sign that lets you know whether the signals are operating.
  2. There are also signs posted several hundred metres before the on-ramp entrance, displaying estimated journey times so you can decide whether to continue with your planned route or seek an alternative.
  3. When the signals are operating, cars briefly stop at the lights to allow one vehicle per lane to enter the freeway on each green cycle.
  4. Letting one vehicle through at a time means each driver can accelerate to merging speed before joining the freeway traffic, which keeps the freeway moving smoothly.

 

 

FAQ

What does it mean when the ramp signals are flashing yellow?

The ramp signals are used to prevent congestion on the Smart Freeway -– mainly during peak periods or when there is an incident. They will flash yellow when they switch on and again when they switch off, to let drivers know of the change.

When switching on, the yellow lights flash for 10 seconds followed by four seconds of constant yellow then six seconds of red before switching to the normal green, yellow, red cycle.

When flashing yellow, you may proceed through the lights with caution, just like other traffic signals. If they change to constant yellow before you get to the stop line, stop and wait for the green light signals.

When the ramp signals are switching off, they flash yellow for ten seconds, during which you may proceed with caution.

Can drivers be fined for running through the ‘red’ ramp signals?

Yes – the ramp signals work the same as traffic lights, only faster. That means anyone running the red light is subject to the same penalties.

Will I be notified about potential delays on the freeway before I enter the on-ramp?

Yes, you will.

There are signs around 200 metres before the ramps and other signs where the ramp starts. As soon as our operators are alerted to any issues on the freeway, they will display appropriate messaging on these signs, letting drivers know what to expect.

Will stopping at ramp signals increase congestion on local roads?

No. When traffic is busy, such as during peak times or when there’s an incident on the freeway, local roads experience increased congestion due to traffic volumes, and so does the freeway.

The on-ramps have sensors embedded in the road surface that constantly measure traffic on the freeway and queuing on the ramps. This information is used to vary the red signal timings on the ramps to move vehicles through more quickly when needed, which reduces congestion on both the freeway and local roads.

Managing the entry of vehicles onto the freeway means everyone gets a chance to find a gap and merge smoothly into the traffic. Without these signals, vehicles merging from the ramps tend to slow down freeway traffic, impacting local areas and also increasing congestion on the freeway.

How will the new technologies benefit me?

The technologies used on our Smart Freeway will cut travel times as well as making your journey safer and more reliable. By closing lanes and slowing traffic when needed, the Smart Freeway can help keep everyone safe if there’s an incident.

The technologies used on the Smart Freeway reduce congestion, keep traffic flowing smoothly and keep everyone safe when there’s an incident or debris on the road. These benefits are delivered as the below technologies work in unison with our trained staff:

Road Network Operations Centre – coordinates data collected from our roads and feeds that information to our skilled operators to manage traffic flows.

Overhead Electronic Signs – close lanes and reduce speeds when and as needed to protect breakdowns, manage traffic movements and assist emergency vehicles to get through the traffic.

Electronic Message Boards – notify drivers of changed conditions ahead on the Smart Freeway and any potential delays that may result.

Radar – identifies any vehicle stopped on the Smart Freeway or in any of the six Emergency Stopping Bays between Canning Highway and the Narrows Bridge, alerting our operators to close lanes, reduce speeds and dispatch incident response vehicles.

Co-ordinated Ramp Signals – operate during heavy traffic conditions, such as peak times or when there’s an incident on the freeway. These signals work like normal traffic lights, only faster, allowing one vehicle per lane at a time to enter the freeway, significantly reducing congestion.

Traffic Sensors – hundreds of these have been placed within the road surfaces to provide data to our operators, so they can make changes to keep traffic flowing smoothly.

CCTV Cameras – provide extensive visual coverage of the Smart Freeway, allowing our operators to confirm the input from other technologies and take immediate action to improve traffic conditions and keep everyone safe.

Emergency Stopping Bays – there are six located on the Smart Freeway, an average of 630 metres apart, providing off-freeway refuge in the event of a breakdown. These are monitored 24/7 by the Road Network Operations Centre. There’s also a dedicated Incident Response Service in operation around the clock, so assistance will arrive quickly.

 

 

FAQ

Where else have Smart Freeways been used?

Smart Freeways are also known as Managed Motorways, Smart Motorways or Managed Freeways. They can be found in North America, Asia, Europe and the UK, along with most eastern states of Australia.

Our Smart Freeway has been built using a ‘safety first’ best practice approach. We’ve taken the best elements from other jurisdictions and tailored a mix of technology and people skills to suit the local environment.

How much time will I save driving on the Smart Freeway?

Drivers can expect to save up to 10 minutes when travelling on Kwinana Freeway northbound from Roe Highway to the Narrows Bridge.

Combined with the other upgrade projects on Kwinana Freeway northbound, between Russell Road and the Narrows Bridge, savings of up to 20 minutes are expected for the northbound lanes.

Can we trust the technology to work?

The technology has been thoroughly tested before and during activation to ensure it is working well.

It’s designed to provide information to our highly-trained operators, who then make the decisions on what actions are needed.

What happens if the power goes out?

All of the critical technologies have an uninterrupted power supply to protect them, so they will remain operational until the grid is back up and running.

Will the Smart Freeway enable the use of automatic or autonomous vehicles?

The vehicle industry and regulators are still working through how these vehicles should operate with one another and with driven vehicles.

We aim to create road environments that can support the use of such technologies as they evolve.

Main Roads is keeping abreast of the most modern available technologies to keep our freeways safer and reduce congestion.

Will the CCTV cameras and other technologies on our Smart Freeway be used by police?

No, the cameras and technology on our Smart Freeway are only used to manage the traffic conditions.

Main Roads does not enforce the road rules and penalties — that’s done by the Western Australian Police.

Will Smart Freeway technology be rolled out across the entire freeway network?

Overcoming congestion is complex and different sections of the freeway network may require different solutions to keep traffic running smoothly.

Main Roads will consider what solutions work best in each location, introducing more Smart Freeway technologies across the network where they make sense and are cost-effective to implement.

Making way for emergency vehicles

Perth’s Smart Freeway is monitored 24/7 by our Road Network Operations Centre. In the event of an incident or emergency, our operators will use the latest technologies to clear a path through the traffic for emergency vehicles under lights and sirens.

To ensure access for emergency vehicles on the Smart Freeway, our operators can:

  1. Divert traffic to adjoining lanes, using ‘White Arrows’ on the overhead electronic signs.
  2. Close lanes using the ‘Red X’ on the electronic signs.
  3. Reduce speed on adjoining lanes.
  4. Use the large electronic message boards to let drivers know what is happening ahead.

The most important thing you need to do is drive to the conditions and follow the directions on the overhead electronic signs and message boards:

  1. If the electronic sign above your lane changes to a ‘White Arrow’, begin moving safely out of your current lane to the lane indicated.
  2. If the speed limit changes, safely adjust your speed up or down to match it.
  3. Never enter a lane that is showing a ‘Red X’ and, if you’re already in that lane, move to an adjoining open lane as soon as you can safely do so.
  4. Pay attention to the large message boards on the left for further information about the road conditions ahead.

 

 

FAQ

What do I do if an ambulance or emergency vehicle needs to pass?

You must make way for ambulances and other emergency service vehicles to pass when their lights and sirens are activated.

If you’re on the Smart Freeway, the overhead electronic signs will change to help emergency vehicles get through as quickly and safely as possible.

A ‘Red X’ will be displayed over any closed lanes and traffic further back will be directed into adjoining lanes using ‘White Arrows’, providing advanced warning of closures up ahead.

The speed limits on the overhead signs can also be reduced when needed to keep everyone safe.

Should I move to the left to let ambulances and other emergency vehicles through?

No, the overhead electronic signs will indicate which lane to move to using the ‘Red Xs’ and ‘White Arrows’.

By obeying these signs, a path will be formed to allow emergency service vehicles access through where you are on the Smart Freeway.

How quickly do the electronic signs change if there is an incident?

The signs change quickly, generally in less than a minute. This happens as soon as the operators monitoring the freeway confirm the exact location, ensuring the right information is uploaded onto the correct screens.

How quickly do I have to change lanes when I see a white arrow above my lane?

You should change lanes as soon as it is safe to do so whenever you see a ‘White Arrow’ above that lane.

Will lanes have different speed limits?

No, the overhead speed limits will always be consistent across all open lanes. However a lane or lanes may be closed using a red ‘X’, indicating you cannot drive in it, or may display a ‘White Arrow’, indicating that the lane up ahead is closed, meaning drivers should move out of the lane or lanes as soon as it is safe to do so.

FAQ

Why has the emergency stopping lane been removed?

Canning Highway’s northbound on-ramp has been a major contributor to traffic congestion on the Kwinana Freeway. Traditional widening wasn’t possible along this section of freeway due to its location between the railway and the Swan River.

Converting the emergency lane into a full-time traffic lane means vehicles joining the freeway from Canning Highway on-ramp no longer need to merge. This will reduce congestion and keep Perth-bound traffic flowing more smoothly on Kwinana Freeway.

Six emergency stopping bays are available on the Smart Freeway, between Canning Highway and the Narrows, located an average of 630 metres apart. These provide off-freeway refuge in the event of a breakdown.

The stopping bays are monitored 24/7 by the Road Network Operations Centre, with CCTV coverage and Incident Detection Systems alerting operators as soon as someone pulls into a bay.

The overhead electronic signs are used to open and close lanes and to create improved safety zones around stranded motorists unable to reach a bay, with dedicated incident response vehicles available 24/7 to attend and assist.

What happens if I break down?

Our Smart Freeway has six emergency stopping bays located an average of 630 metres apart, providing off-freeway refuge in the event of a breakdown.

The emergency stopping bays are constantly monitored by the Road Network Operations Centre staff, who can respond quickly.

If you can’t make it to an emergency bay, stay in your vehicle, keep your seatbelt fastened and put your hazard lights on.

This section of freeway is monitored 24/7 by CCTV and Incident Detection Systems that alert our operators as soon as someone pulls into a bay or stops in a traffic lane. Our operators then close lanes and reduce speeds to assist in keeping you safe until help arrives.

A dedicated Incident Response Service operates 24/7 on the Smart Freeway, which means we will see you and send help quickly.

What do the electronic signs above the Kwinana Freeway do?

These overhead electronic speed signs are controlled by the Road Network Operations Centre, which monitors traffic numbers and speeds on our Smart Freeway using a range of technologies such as sensors, radars and CCTV.

When there’s an incident causing congestion to build up, our operators can reduce speeds on the freeway. Slowing vehicles down allows the traffic ahead to clear, preventing stop-start conditions, and reducing rear-end crashes.

The overhead electronic signs are also used to close lanes and direct traffic into adjoining lanes when there’s an incident or debris ahead on the Smart Freeway.

These systems are used to improve travel times and enhance safety.

How will ramp signals help reduce congestion?

When too many vehicles try to join existing traffic on the freeway, they’re unable to reach the right merging speed.

Once freeway traffic is slowed, the impact can be felt for kilometres, causing congestion to build.

Traffic lights at the on-ramps allow only one vehicle per lane to enter at a time, giving each one the opportunity to get up to freeway merging speed, which helps overcome congestion.

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