California Oregon Advanced Transportation Systems (COATS)

For over 15 years, the California Oregon Advanced Transportation Systems (COATS) program has shown that a bi-state partnership to address rural ITS concerns is both feasible and advantageous. It allows for maximization of resources and provides a source for fresh ideas and perspectives. It provides a platform to address the issues and concerns of rural areas that might otherwise remain ignored. Numerous systems and approaches have been developed and evaluated over the years, providing useful information on which to base future deployment decisions. Several of these initial systems are still in place, addressing the concerns they were designed to. Finally, COATS has provided a platform on which to conduct expanding efforts geared toward outreach and tech transfer.

The roots of the COATS program stretch back to 1991. Caltrans recognized that there were rural concerns in dealing with advanced technologies that would evolve into Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). In 1995, efforts were begun to specifically examine ITS technologies in a rural context through a scoping study. This scoping study, the Program for Advancing Rural Transportation Technologies (PARTT), reviewed advanced transportation technologies, identified key issues concerning them, and developed conceptual ideas for future activities. As part of this work, a geographic area in Northern California designated a study area to refine the need and application of ITS in a rural environment. Caltrans and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) expanded the Northern California study area into Southern Oregon to maximize resources, foster cooperation, and investigate feasibility of ITS in a bi-state study area. All of these activities laid the foundation for what COATS would become.

In 1998, the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University, Bozeman, was selected to carry out further studies. Led by Chris Strong and Steve Albert, this effort, subsequently titled COATS, focused on ITS planning and architecture in the previously identified study area. Notably, the COATS project resulted in the development of the first two Rural Transportation Management Centers in California, one in Redding and one in Eureka. Additionally, the work resulted in deployment of an early-winner project. The specific activities of this phase of COATS, as well as subsequent phases, are outlined in the COATS project History.

COATS Project

Recent Updates:

COATS Project Update, 4/19/2017: Phase 7 Gets Underway COATS Project Update, 11/17/2016: 6th Phase of COATS Project Completed COATS Project Update, 8/22/2016: Research Report - Data Quality for Aggregation and Dissemination of DOT Traveler Information COATS Project Update, 5/13/2016: January - March 2016 Quarterly Update COATS Project Update, 2/24/2016: Evaluation of the Fredonyer Pass ICWS – Final Report COATS Project Update, 2/11/2016: October – December 2015 Quarterly Update
Phase 7 Gets Underway
April 19th, 2017
6th Phase of COATS Project Completed
November 17th, 2016
Research Report - Data Quality for Aggregation and Dissemination of DOT Traveler Information
August 22nd, 2016
January - March 2016 Quarterly Update
May 13th, 2016
Evaluation of the Fredonyer Pass ICWS – Final Report
February 24th, 2016
October – December 2015 Quarterly Update
February 11th, 2016

Check back soon for more California Oregon Advanced Transportation Systems (COATS) updates.

UPDATE: Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Work on COATS Phase 7 got underway recently with a Kick-Off Meeting on February 23, 2017. Project team members agreed to hold a teleconference in lieu of an in person meeting.

The participants in the meeting were:

  • Sean Campbell, Caltrans Division of Research, Innovation, and System Information (DRISI); Project Manager
  • Ian Turnbull, Caltrans District 2; Caltrans Project Champion
  • Jeremiah Pearce, Caltrans District 2
  • Doug Galarus, Western Transportation Institute
  • Leann Koon, Western Transportation Institute

During the Kick-Off Meeting, the team discussed the project’s major tasks. COATS Phase 7 will build on the success of earlier COATS phases to preserve and expand the COATS region as an innovator in rural ITS demonstration. Initiatives to be undertaken in this phase include the Western States Forum, three incubator projects, and maintaining the existing COATS web presence for the technology transfer of results of this effort.

Western States Rural Transportation Technology Implementers Forum

Sean Campbell from Caltrans DRISI raises his hand and asks a speaker a question during the annual Western States Forum.

The annual Western States Forum will continue during this phase of COATS. The Forum is a meeting focused on providing technology transfer and networking opportunities for professionals working in design, implementation, and maintenance of ITS technologies in rural environments.

Planning for the 12th annual Forum is in full swing and registration is open! This year’s Forum will be held in Yreka, California, June 20th – 22nd, 2017. Check the Forum website ( for more information about this year’s event, including registration materials and the list of topics to be presented.

In the upcoming quarter, second drafts of presentations will be reviewed and feedback provided to speakers. Final versions will be due at the end of May and the agenda will be subsequently set. Event logistics will be finalized and participant notebooks compiled. The Forum and WSRTC websites will be updated accordingly.

Incubator Projects

There are three incubator projects included within the scope of COATS Phase 7. These projects are considered low-cost research efforts that serve as a “proof of concept” to potentially develop into a larger effort in the future or answer research questions in a limited scope.

Incubator 1: Rural Winter Travel Times

Winter storms, accidents, wildfires and other major events can have a dramatic negative effect on goods and people movement on our interstate corridors. Year-round use of these facilities can be enhanced by accurate rural travel times between cities. Predicting the amount of time it takes to get from point A to point B can be extremely challenging during winter storms or other non-recurring events. However, being able to accurately do this yields very valuable information for the rural traveler. The intent of the first incubator project will be to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine the viability of estimating travel times in rural areas, particularly during the winter or during non-recurring events.

OSS screenshot, 1/3/2017: Winter conditions along major routes in western United States.

Incubator 2: Chain-Up Delay Tracking with Bluetooth (Part 2)

Incubator Project 2 is a continuation of the Bluetooth evaluation for the chain control chain-up area near Fawndale, north of Redding, California. On northbound I-5 before this area, when chain controls are in place, trucks may be required to chain up or are screened to ensure that they have a full set of chains. When these chain restrictions are in place, there can be a backup of trucks for 5 miles or more, all the way to Pine Grove and beyond. Determining accurate delay times that could be displayed on changeable message signs (CMS) before the backup starts may reduce the wait times and backup length, which could improve safety within this corridor. The research team will utilize yet to be deployed Bluetooth readers placed along the route to develop a preliminary prototype algorithm to predict delays through the chain-up area.

OSS screenshot, 12/23/2017, Caltrans CMS message: All Trucks Chain Check North of Redding.

OSS screenshot, 1/3/2017, Caltrans CCTV: Backup at Fawndale.

Incubator 3: Data Quality for Aggregation and Dissemination of DOT Traveler Information: An Analysis of Existing System Best Practices (Part 2)

Data quality for traveler information data has generally been handled on an ad-hoc basis, with little or no provision for error notification other than perhaps through user-reporting of observed errors. Part 1 of this project revealed that best practices for traveler information data quality were generally lacking; that no unified, multi-dimensional approaches to data quality for aggregation and dissemination of DOT traveler information were apparent. The goal of part 2 of this incubator project is to develop best practices for quality control of traveler information data.

Check back next quarter for more COATS project updates.

Project Contacts:

  • Caltrans Project Manager:
  • Sean Campbell, P.E.
  • Chief, ITS Special Projects Branch
  • Caltrans, Division of Research, Innovation,
  • and System Information
  • 1227 O Street, PO Box 942873
  • Sacramento, CA 94273-0001
  • (916) 654-8868
  • (916) 657-4580 (fax)
  • sean_campbell "at"
  • Caltrans Project Champion:
  • Ian Turnbull, P.E.
  • Chief, Office of ITS Engineering and Support
  • Caltrans District 2
  • 1657 Riverside Drive
  • Redding, CA 96001
  • (530) 225-3320
  • (530) 225-3299 (fax)
  • ian_turnbull "at"
  • Oregon DOT Lead:
  • Doug Spencer, P.E.
  • Standards Engineer
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • Oregon Department of Transportation
  • 2080 Laura Street
  • Springfield, OR 97477
  • (541) 747-1276
  • Doug.L.SPENCER "at"
  • WTI Contact:
  • Douglas Galarus
  • Senior Research Associate and Program Manager:
  • Systems Engineering, Development & Integration
  • Western Transportation Institute (WTI)
  • Montana State University: College of Engineering
  • PO Box 174250
  • Bozeman, MT 59717-4250
  • (406) 994-5268
  • (406) 994-1697 (fax)
  • dgalarus "at"
  • WTI Contact:
  • Leann Koon
  • Research Associate
  • Systems Engineering, Development & Integration
  • Western Transportation Institute (WTI)
  • Montana State University - Bozeman
  • PO Box 174250
  • Bozeman, MT 59717-4250
  • (406) 994-7643
  • (406) 994-1697 (fax)
  • leann.koon "at"
  • Past WTI Contact:
  • David Veneziano
  • Program Manager I
  • Institute for Transportation
  • Iowa State University
  • Suite 4700
  • 2711 S Loop Dr
  • Ames, IA 50010-8664
  • (515) 294-5480
  • dvenez "at"