A project that began with the goal of using
technology to ease traffic woes in Oxford continues to expand
its potential applications into citizens’ everyday lives.
“By next fall, our goal is that you’d
be able to get on your computer and see what the traffic on
Jackson Avenue looks like before you go out there,” said
Greg Easson, associate professor and director of the Geoinformatics
Center at the University of Mississippi.
Easson, along with associate business management
professor Hugh Sloan, lead a team of seven staff and graduate
students who’ve been working for about three years on what’s
known as the Oxford/UM Intelligent Transportation System Project.
So far, their work has mainly been gathering
data — aerial photos, satellite images, traffic counts,
terrain models — to build digital interactive maps of the
city and surrounding areas.
Now, the project has been posted online
at an “under construction” site, http://oumits.olemiss.edu.
Citizens can access the maps there even as they continue to
be updated with new features.
Currently, community members can zoom in
to locate their houses on a digital map taken from an arial
photo of town. Clicking another option will show all buildings
In the future, images of land parcels will
be linked to a database of public information which would show
who owned the property, how big it is and the amount for which
it’s been appraised.
“We think this is really going to
be something the public will be interested in,” Easson
Addressing traffic issues
While the potential applications for the
digital mapping continue to multiply, the main challenges the
project has aimed to address have been:
— Traffic congestion, especially at
certain times and in certain places around town, including the
way new apartment developments are impacting the existing road
— Effective use of parking resources,
like managing gameday traffic and communicating with visiting
— Lack of network technology that
would allow the city to coordinate the timing of stoplights
and respond more quickly to traffic problems.
At a meeting with city officials this morning,
the university team is making plans to install fiberoptic cable
down West Jackson Avenue while work to expand the street is
That fiber will link to another line of
fiber which the Mississippi Department of Transportation plans
to lay, forming a line all the way across town from West Jackson
Avenue at Highway 6 to University Avenue at Highway 334.
Through this network, the city will be
able to time all the stoplights along Jackson and University
avenues to keep traffic flowing smoothly.
“If the lights are set correctly for
8 a.m., that platoon of cars should be able to move straight
through Jackson Avenue without stopping,” Easson said.
Also along the fiber network will be traffic
cameras with full pan, tilt and zoom capabilities that will
allow city police and MDOT to respond more quickly to traffic
problems and accidents, including controlling the traffic lights
remotely. The views from those cameras would also be available
to the public online.
This project has been funded by about $1.6
million in federal funds secured by Rep. Roger Wicker, with
50-50 matching funds coming from the city and state in a variety
of creative ways.
Contributing to that match amount have
been things like the time city staff have spent working on the
project as well as the city’s recent work to lay fiberoptic
cable linking City Hall to the Oxford Police Department and
Electric Department — something it was going to do anyway.
That fiber, Easson explained, will allow
those city departments to tap into the data and monitoring capabilities
of the ITS project. His state-funded salary and those of others
on the project team also count toward the match — leaving
the city paying “nothing extra,” as he explained to
the Board of Aldermen Tuesday.
Aldermen enthusiastically voted to support
the project’s moving forward. The project is planned for
completion in the summer of 2005.