The National Academies

NCHRP 03-129 [Active]

Essential Communications: A Guide to Land Mobile Radio (LMR)

  Project Data
Funds: $536,433
Staff Responsibility: Leslie C. Harwood
Research Agency: Commdex Consulting LLC
Principal Investigator: Ryan Poltermann
Effective Date: 8/1/2018
Completion Date: 12/31/2021

Transportation agencies and other public safety organizations face an array of funding and technology choices with respect to methods and levels of communications. State, local, tribal, and territorial DOTs have invested heavily in Land Mobile Radio (LMR) communication systems to support their field staff during daily activities and incident response or emergencies, and LMR communication continues to be the backbone of infrastructure protection, coordination, and emergency management.  With the proper planning and design, those same communications systems may be able to acquire and provide information from field elements.
Field elements such as Dynamic Message Signs, Traffic Signal Systems, Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS), and other sensor networks are frequently dependent on leased services (e.g., cell phone technology, private telephone lines). Relative to wireless networks operating on exclusive government frequencies, cell phone technology and private telephone lines are often unreliable during communications surges in emergencies and may be unavailable in rural, less traveled areas. The ability to communicate and gather travel information is critical to field crews that, for example, increasingly base winter highway treatment decisions and traveler information on reliable information.  The recurring costs associated with cell phone technology and private telephone lines can hinder investments in field elements required to adequately monitor a corridor or specific areas of a roadway. Use of LMR technology is a means to assure availability and reliability. Additionally, the incoming Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (First Responder Network Authority or FirstNet) system may be available to provide some data communications services to public safety providers throughout the nation.
Research is needed to provide comprehensive guidance to DOTs to inform decision-making for the design, funding, and selection of wireless communications systems.
The objective of this research is to create a guidebook to be used in design, funding, procuring, and governing statewide, regional, or local Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems. The guidebook and associated resources will assist state, local, tribal, and territorial departments of transportation; transit; and other public safety entities in understanding and making key decisions with respect to the selection of wireless voice and data communication systems.
Three aspects are of particular interest:
  • Operability
  • Intra-operability
  • Inter-operability
Examples of systems of interest are found in Wyoming, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas, and South Carolina.
The audiences for this guide will include state, local, tribal, and territorial DOTs; road and bridge authorities; traditional public safety agencies such as police, fire, and emergency medical services; state emergency management; state emergency medical; school districts; transit systems; state military departments; and water authorities--essentially, all publicly funded agencies that utilize wireless communications.
The topics of interest to be addressed include but are not limited to:
  • Land Mobile Radio
  • V2X in a connected vehicle environment
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • Traffic video
  • Security video
  • Dynamic message signs
  • Wi-Fi
  • FirstNet
  • Integrated Video and Data
  • Weather monitoring stations
  • Roadway sensors
  • Structure health monitoring
  • Stream gages for monitoring depth and speed of stream flows
  • Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
  • Access Control (e.g., HOV gates, facility gates, and door controls)
It is anticipated that the project will encompass five major deliverables:
Deliverable I – Case Studies
Case studies will be performed with various field elements such as those in the bulleted listed above.
Deliverable II – LMR Census
The project shall conduct a census of the AASHTO member state DOTs to identify their LMR resources. Topics in the census include but are not limited to:
  • Governance
  • Spectrum allocation
  • Technologies
  • Operational structures
  • Staffing
  • Geographic coverage (including metrics)
Deliverable III – Draft Guidebook
Deliverable IV – Stakeholder Workshops and Revised Guidebook
Deliverable V – Post-publication Presentations and Implementation Support
The NCHRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how to best achieve the project objective. Proposals are expected to describe a research plan that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposer’s current thinking described in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach in meeting the research objective.
The work proposed must be divided into tasks and proposers must describe the work proposed in each task in detail.
At a minimum, deliverables shall include:
  • Amplified work plan,
  • Interim report,
  • Draft final report,
  • Final report and stand-alone executive summary, and
  • A stand-alone technical memorandum titled “The Implementation of Findings and Products.”
Wireless communication definitions for this project include:

Ability to communicate within an entity’s group of workers.
Example: Workers in a defined work zone communicating among themselves to facilitate job duties, possibly in a small or defined area.

Ability to communicate between groups of workers of the same entity.
Example: Groups of workers communicating between other groups of workers of the same entity, possibly not in the same vicinity.

Ability to communicate between entities or agencies.
Example: Communication between different agencies or entities using recognized or standardized means such as in the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide (NIFOG) frequency plans.
Useful resources for this project include:
STATUS (February 2021): Research in progress. An interim report was received in July 2019. An interim meeting with the panel and a Land Mobile Radio (LMR) Stakeholder Workshop was held Thursday, August 29, 2019, as part of the AASHTO Committee on Transportation System Operations and Committee on Transportation System Security and Resilience joint annual meeting August 26-29 with the CTSO, CTSSR, and the Subcommittee on Risk Management in Jackson, Wyoming. Revised final deliverables are under review for publication.

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