The National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of Research Facilities (ORF) and Office of Research Services (ORS) and have been working on numerous transportation related improvements designed to assist NIH employees, contractors, visitors and guests traveling to, and circulating through the campus. One such innovative improvement that was implemented jointly by ORF/ORS was the acquisition and implementation of the Highway Advisory Radio System (HARS). Located on the AM radio dial at 1660, this improvement effort has become an integral part of the NIH Transportation Management Plan (TMP) that NIH practices. Prior to September 11, 2001, the NIH campus was an open Government facility that allowed vehicles to enter through any portal. Immediately following the terrorist’s attacks, the vehicle access to the NIH campus was restricted to a limited number of portals for employees and visitors.
To assist with the daily traffic congestion on the NIH enclave due to a myriad of traffic, construction, special events, etc., the HARS was activated in late spring 2003 on the NIH campus. The HARS consists of a low power AM radio transmitter system that will broadcast traffic related information, parking information, road closures due to construction activity, as well as emergency information. It has been designed with the capability to be connected to variable message signs boards (VMS) located on the campus and flashing beacon signals that can be easily located throughout the campus. HARS messages can be broadcast by a pre-recorded message or in the event of an emergency, through “live” broadcasts. The system allows messages to be changed remotely from a central worksite or via telephone.
The maximum broadcast range, operating under ideal conditions (no buildings, flat terrain, etc), is usually six to ten miles. Through testing, the NIH system will transmit approximately four miles from the campus. This range allows NIH to maximize the target audience on major traffic arteries serving the campus such as the Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike traffic corridors. Motorist should be able to listen to two messages while passing through the broadcast zone. If an entrance or exit to the campus is closed due to an unforeseen incident, employees could tune their vehicle AM vehicle radio to 1660 and could obtain useful traffic information directing them to another portal. Other types of messages include special events, parking lot information, and more importantly, emergency information. Because the transmitter broadcasts on the AM radio band, virtually every car radio is able to receive the signal.
Our system can be directly linked to several VMS and placed where needed on the NIH campus to assist motorist through the campus. Traffic advisories can be sent without delay. In the event of a special event, motorist can receive directions to the correct building or designated parking areas. VMS signs placed at exit locations could direct motorists to alternative exit portals. The system can be used on a daily basis as an information source for employees.
In the event of an emergency requiring an evacuation, campus closure, or restriction of access to a subsection of campus, the Division of Emergency Management has been working with the Division of Police to implement a plan to safely help guide individuals in an orderly fashion. In the event of a regional evacuation, the HARS will be part of an emergency notification system.