An Augmented Reality Toll Road

18 of August of 2011

Today things advance at a dizzying pace. That’s what my grandmother used to say. It’s probably from a zarzuela. And that’s the first thing I thought a few months ago when I was asked, along with my colleague Ignacio Vivancos, to prepare a presentation using virtual reality for Ferrovial’s Annual Conference of Executives.

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, I guess that shifting from to 2D to 3D should generate words to the tune of the square root of 1000 cubed, i.e. more than 31,622. And that’s exactly what happened! Just check out this video from the presentation!

We had it easy, but not because of how advanced our technology is (as some naively thought) or because of the quality of the speakers (undeniable), but because of the topics about which we had to speak. Grabbing the audience’s attention by talking about the Managed Lanes projects that Ferrovial is developing in Texas is a cinch.

As detailed on the Cintra website, Managed Lanes provide a solution to traffic congestion in cities have no space to develop new roads. This new concept includes the refurbishment of existing roads and the construction of new tolled lanes that are fully electronic and barrier free. This will allow for smoother flow of a larger volume of traffic. The tolled lanes are designed to guarantee a specific travel time, maximizing the flow of traffic (and the quality of service) and the project’s financial capacity.

You’d be hard put to find a better combination of large, interesting, innovative projects that successfully capitalize on the synergies between Ferrovial Agroman’s design and construction capabilities and Cintra’s skill for toll road development and operation.

But the Managed Lanes concept is appealing for many other reasons. It minimizes the controversy that often (and almost always unjustifiably) surrounds private sector participation in infrastructure development: it resolves congestion (not just in the tolled lanes), helps organize cities, provides users with options, guarantees quality of services (travel time), and improves maintenance—all at a minimal cost to the taxpayer.

Building and commissioning the projects in Dallas – Forth Worth, LBJ and NTE, isn’t going to be easy (it will be considerably more difficult than presenting them in 3D at the Conference of Executives), and doing so while minimizing the impact on the 450,000 vehicles that use the road every day will be a serious challenge. But, knowing the Ferrovial Agroman and Cintra teams involved in these projects, I’m certain that it’s going to be a success, because this job couldn’t be assigned to a more capable group.

I started this post quoting a zarzuela, and I’ll end it by recognizing the innovation (not just technological, but also process, business, management, etc.) involved in these projects. Just as Saint Augustine said: “If you say ‘that’s enough’, you are lost. Always add something more, keep moving forward; don’t stop, don’t go back, don’t digress. He who does not advance has stopped; he who thinks about the beginning moves backwards, he who apostatizes digresses. Better is the weak person who stays on the path than the strong person who strays from it. Look at yourself and do not be satisfied with who you are if you want to become who you are not, for as soon as you accept who you are, your journey will be over.”

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