About North Carolina ITS

North Carolina’s Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) is designed to offer a seamless and sophisticated transportation infrastructure. ITS incorporates current and evolving computer and communication technologies with the goal of improving traffic conditions, minimizing delays and increasing safety for all commuters in the state. This transportation infrastructure can be roughly grouped into eight categories:

ITS Categories

Signal Systems

Signal systems are the most common and easily understood type of intelligent transportation system – you can find them on every major intersection. Some version of signal system is seen in virtually every community in North Carolina - from the most basic to the most advanced. The newest systems utilize the latest technologies and are truly “intelligent” – actually adapting to changing traffic conditions in real time.

How “smart” can a signal get? The most basic traffic signals are timed, going through a pre-set sequence of green, yellow and red lights based on the time of day. A “smart” (actuated) traffic signal can sense the presence of approaching vehicles and adapt to change the length of each light cycle. This reduces delays that cause traffic jams, lowers emissions caused by vehicles sitting at the light and helps relieve driver frustration.

A series of “smart” intersections can coordinate to allow traffic to progressively flow along an arterial street. This “open network” of signals greatly reduces total trip time by pushing groups (platoons) of vehicles along a corridor at a steady pace. North Carolina’s U.S. 70 from the capitol in Raleigh to the beaches is the most impressive example of this type of signal system.

In centralized business districts (CBDs) such as in city centers, an isolated group of coordinated intersections, called a “closed loop,” is utilized to improve traffic flow in and around these areas.

Centralized computer systems blend these two components to provide coordinated traffic flow in metropolitan areas. Other components that are often used in concert with the above systems:

  • Lane control signs
    Change designated lane use based on traffic conditions
  • Ramp meters
    Regulate the number of vehicles entering a high-volume freeway to prevent congestion
  • Surveillance (traffic cameras)
    Allow operators to verify reported incidents and change patterns to alleviate congestion

Traffic Management and Information Devices

These devices work 24 hours a day to help travelers get the latest information on traffic conditions, construction and weather.

Dynamic Message Signs
Providing current traffic information and assisting law enforcement as part of the Amber Alert System, these signs are situated above many of North Carolina’s major arterial roadways. The signs alert motorists of incidents, providing information on what happened, where it happened and what to expect. This increases safety and allows the option for motorists to take alternative routes, if available.
Closed Circuit Television Camera (CCTV) Surveillance
CCTV surveillance allows real-time monitoring and evaluation of traffic conditions and is used to confirm data from other modes of monitoring, such as sensors, to verify incidents and monitor congestion.
Roadway Weather Information Systems (RWIS)
RWIS is a collection of pavement and atmospheric sensors that monitor and identify weather-related events that could impact roadway traffic conditions. This sophisticated system can respond automatically by applying anti-icing chemicals to the roadway and activate other information devices (dynamic message signs, etc.).
Reversible Lane Systems
Reversible lanes maximize the use of roadways by changing the direction of individual traffic lanes in response to traffic demands. Lane control signs are displayed well in advance of merging lanes and control the opening and closing of lanes to adapt to increasing and decreasing traffic volume.

Transportation Management Centers

The agencies responsible for managing large-scale transportation resources (buses, ferries, trains, etc.) face a number of challenges. Typically, these agencies are required to provide an ever-increasing number and volume of services without increasing the budget that enables them to provide those services. One solution is the implementation of a system that helps coordinate and manage technological and other transportation resources from a centralized hub.

The Transportation Management Center (TMC) has become that solution. It is the hub of all transportation management systems. All information concerning transportation (freeways, traffic signals, transit vehicles, etc.) is collected and then analyzed. This analysis us used to make modifications to each system as is necessary, including coordinating responses to events in real time. This information is also distributed to media outlets and the public.

The three major TMCs in North Carolina are:


The Metrolina TMC is a $14 million integrated system based in Charlotte, NC it boasts a 12,000 square foot facility that houses the control equipment, NCDOT, IMAP and NC Highway Patrol personnel. It also hosts staging areas for response and mobilization in the event of major emergencies, with room for expansion.

The system also controls a reversible lane system on U.S. 29 around Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and the Charlotte Motor Speedway (the second largest annual generator of traffic for a single event in the nation) using lane control, dynamic message signs and surveillance to optimize traffic during events.

Piedmont Triad

The Piedmont Triad TMC is a new regional center located in Greensboro, NC, consisting of the operations of the former Eastern and Western Triad centers. The Piedmont Triad TMC uses surveillance, dynamic message signs, highway advisory radios and IMAP to collect, analyze and distribute information to maximize smooth traffic flow in the area.

Integration with local law enforcement, traffic operations centers and 911 communications centers in the region share the surveillance and facilities to enhance communication and cooperation, to provide more complete and timely response to incidents in the area.


The Triangle TMC linked to the North Carolina Highway Patrol and all area media providers to provide real-time information to motorists via radio and television, dynamic message signs and the Internet. Integration with the Raleigh and Durham Transportation Operations Centers offers expanded surveillance and improved incident response and management.

The reversible lane system on Edwards Mill Road provides efficient movement into and out of the PNC Arena.

Commercial Vehicle Operations

Supporting the safety of the trucking industry and effectiveness of the commercial vehicle safety regulatory system, the ITS supplies a number of applications for use in commercial vehicles. On-board safety monitoring, electronic clearance, automated roadside safety inspections and hazardous material (hazmat) response are just a few of the many applications that help make commercial vehicle operations safer and more efficient within the borders of North Carolina and beyond.