Toll Insight spoke with Brian Kelley, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission.
1. Tell us about the history, current operating assets, and the Ohio Turnpike organization.
Fully open since October 1, 1955, the Ohio Turnpike is a limited access highway facility extending 241 miles across northern Ohio. The Turnpike runs east to west across the full width of the state and connects principal cities, including Toledo, Cleveland, and Youngstown. The Turnpike connects to the Pennsylvania Turnpike on the eastern end and to the Indiana Toll Road on the western end, serving the long-distance, east-west traffic corridor that connects New York City, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. The Turnpike provides three eastbound and three westbound highway travel lanes between Interchanges 59 and 218 and two eastbound and two westbound highway travel lanes in all other sections. There are 31 interchanges on the Turnpike, 26 of which provide access to and from various U.S., Ohio, and Interstate routes. Along the Turnpike mainline, there are seven pairs of service plazas that provide a variety of services to travelers, and there are eight maintenance building facilities at 30-mile intervals. The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Administration Building Campus is in Berea, Ohio, with direct access to the Ohio Turnpike. The Ohio Turnpike is outfitted end-to-end with 241 miles of fiber-optic cable.
2. What are some of the biggest challenges you are facing in your role as CTO?
Transportation and tolling paradigms are evolving and shifting fast. The road of the future is just over the horizon with Connected, Automated Vehicles (CAVs), electrification, and new toll collection system technology and innovation that is vastly different from what we have been accustomed to in the past and present. Today’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) / CTO in the tolling industry must be forward thinking, focused on planning for the future and a visionary leader. Technology is evolving rapidly in the 21st century, and if you are not focused on the future, you just might miss it!
3. What technology transformations is the Turnpike currently undergoing?
The Ohio Turnpike is in the process of implementing a new hybrid Toll Collection System (TCS) that includes highway speed Open Road Tolling (ORT), open toll barrier and closed ticketed toll system characteristics, as well as a new Customer Service Center (CSC) with significant advancements in customer experience, communication methods, data availability, and security. We are also exploring solar energy development along the Turnpike, further leveraging Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), expanding Electric Vehicle (EV) charging, and continuing Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) / Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) pilot projects, as we strive to prepare for the toll road of the future and to further enhance safe travel for our customers.
4. Ohio and some of the surrounding states have been at the forefront of piloting innovative transportation solutions. Tell us about which developments stand out in your mind.
The Ohio Turnpike is a founding member of the Smart Belt Coalition (SBC), which was formed in 2016. The SBC is a strategic partnership comprised of five transportation agencies and seven academic institutions throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania whose mission is to share insights and best practices, while supporting research and testing for CAV initiatives.
On October 22, 2020, the SBC conducted a demonstration of truck platooning and Automated Driving System (ADS) technology. The demonstration assessed the administrative and procedural requirements necessary for a truck platooning system to operate continuously through a multi-jurisdictional environment. The demonstration traversed over 300 miles on a route starting in Pittsburgh, PA and traveling across the Ohio Turnpike to Michigan. Trucks transported food between the Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Bank in Pennsylvania, the Toledo NW Ohio Food bank in Ohio, and the Forgotten Harvest Food Rescue Organization in Michigan. During the demonstration, two platoon-capable tractor trailers were operated manually on surface streets. Then, while on Interstates and Turnpikes, the lead truck was driven manually, while the driver of the following tractor-trailer engaged the vehicle’s platooning technology. Although refueling was not required for the duration of the demo, the platooning vehicles stopped at the Middle Ridge Service Plaza on the Ohio Turnpike to represent a refueling stop and demonstrated how service plazas would be navigated for fuel. This stop ended up serving as an educational opportunity with Ohio State Highway Patrol Troopers, who met the truck convoy at the plaza and have expertise in commercial vehicle enforcement and vehicle technology.
5. How has your career experience informed your ultimate move and success within the tolling industry?
I am in my third decade as a CIO / CTO, which includes 27 years in local government and over three years at the Ohio Turnpike. I began my career in government as the CIO of an Ohio county government, working with 18 elected officials, 30 department managers, and over 1,000 employees. It was there where I learned to not recognize traditional political silos as barriers to implementing Information Technology (IT) but to construct bridges of collaboration and consensus to integrate technology across the enterprise. I also learned the value of knowledge sharing, collaborating, shared services, and networking between state and local government entities to improve service delivery, enhance operations, and drive cost-savings.
As a founding member and past president of the Ohio County / City Information Technology Association (OCITA), I worked with like-minded colleagues across local government to build an association of government IT professions. I contributed similarly to GMIS International, serving on their executive board for six years. GMIS International is a professional IT association of worldwide government IT leaders.
Finally, I have been an adjunct professor at Kent State University for the past sixteen years, teaching graduate courses in the Public Administration Program in the Political Science Department on public sector IT management, electronic governance, and strategic planning.
The breadth and diversity of my career experiences and my educational background have positioned me well for the technology challenges of the 21st century that we face in the tolling industry. I am extremely thankful to have the opportunity to collaborate with my transportation colleagues in IBTTA, ITS America, DriveOhio, the Transportation Research Board, and the Smart Belt Coalition as we work on the future of tolling and mobility.