COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The new I-670 SmartLane opened for the first time Wednesday, and ODOT officials are hoping it will provide some relief for commuters. 

The I-670 SmartLane opened just in time for the afternoon commute. 

ODOT spokesperson Breanna Badanes said new state-of-the-art traffic signs on I-670 will inform motorists whether the left shoulder SmartLane is open or not. 

“When the lane is open, the speed limit will drop to 45 (mph) and that seems kind of counter-intuitive to slow you down to get you there quicker, but it actually is to reduce the stop and go,” Badanes said. “We anticipate that once it opens, it will stay open through the commute and then once traffic starts moving up to regular speeds again, then we would close it.” 

Badanes said the new signs combine with more than 30 new cameras that will allow traffic managers at ODOT to not only monitor traffic flow but also detect speed and spot wrong-way drivers. 

Drivers should pay attention to the signs to ensure they’re in the proper lane. 

hio’s first SmartLane opened to afternoon rush hour traffic Wednesday.

The SmartLane is the left inside shoulder on eastbound I-670 and opens as an additional lane during peak times of traffic to relieve congestion. It uses technology to manage access and speed limit, as well as communicate with drivers on the route. 

The SmartLane is a pilot project for Ohio, and stretches along eight lane miles of eastbound I-670, from I-71 to I-270. 

ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said using new technology to not only monitor but also manage traffic will make the highway safer. “Everybody wants to arrive home safely and with better management of congestion you do make the roads safer,” Marchbanks said.

The route contains nine electronic overhead signs that help communicate to drivers when the SmartLane is open by displaying a green arrow over the shoulder. It also consists of 37 high-definition cameras that ODOT’s Traffic Management Center will consistently monitor.

For Uber drivers like Matthew Young, shuttling people to and from the airport, the SmartLane holds the promise of more money. “With Uber our main pay is based on wheels moving,” Young said. “So when we’re stuck in traffic we only make 13 cents an hour. So hopefully with this new lane we’ll be able to make our trips faster and get back faster to make another ride.”

Another key part of the SmartLane’s success was the widening of the I-670/I-270 interchange, where the SmartLane turns into a permanent new lane. 

Construction took approximately 18 months and cost about $60 million, the majority of which was used for the interchange improvements

Marchbanks said the 670 SmartLane is a “proof of concept” project that could expand to other parts of the state. “Our timeline is we’re looking at this project over the next 18 months and looking at 2021 and 2022 rolling out more projects perhaps another one here in central ohio on Interstate 71,” Marchbanks said.