Executive Summary

From 2019 until 2022 the Ontario Ministry of Transportation has planned road construction and improvement projects on the Queen Elizabeth Way between the Thorold Stone Road and McLeod Road interchanges.

This stretch of the QEW connects traffic from rest of Ontario to the famous Niagara Falls and US Border crossing. As this project is in a critical area and vulnerable to significant queueing it was important to implement a temporary queue warning system during construction to detect slow or stopped vehicles and alert drivers and traffic operators about delays on the highway. In this project the MTO left the design of this Queue Warning System up to the constructor, Rankin Construction.

Due to the long duration of this project Stinson ITS proposed the design and deployment of a low maintenance solar powered Queue Warning System. This system would provide Rankin a robust, reliable solution which never goes down and is very easy to monitor remotely. Rankin Construction accepted our proposal and, in collaboration with them and Weinman Electric, the system was deployed in late 2019. The result was a fully off-grid, non-intrusive system based around the Houston Radar Speedlane Pro sensor and managed by Ver-Mac’s cutting edge smart work zone software JamLogic.

The system has significantly improved safety for both construction workers and the public. In fact, similar Queue warning systems have been proven to reduce collisions by up to 45% in work zones. We are proud to provide a solution that can potentially save lives on this critical project.

Challenges and Solutions

Automated Queue Warning Systems are traditionally used for highway work zones. These systems work by monitoring the speeds of vehicles along a stretch of roadway and then provides a warning to approaching motorists when a slowdown is detected. Drivers can anticipate an upcoming situation of emergency braking and slow down, avoid erratic behavior, and reduce queuing-related collis ions.

Design Challenges Technology Solutions
There are many challenges involved in designing a queue warning system which is perfectly suitable for temporary use in work zones. To design the state-of-the-art, cost-efficient portable automated queue warning system Stinson ITS brings multiple technologies together.
• Non-intrusive
There should be no need to install sensors using construction on the road resulting in traffic obstruction and poorer quality road surface
• Non-intrusive sensors
There should be no need to install sensors using construction on the road resulting in traffic obstruction and poorer quality road surface
• Portable
Changeable messaging signs must be portable to ensure that the construction workers can suitably move the sign when needed
• Trailer mounted
Changeable messaging signs must be portable to ensure that the construction workers can suitably move the sign when needed
• No AC power
Due to temporary or semi-permanent nature need of a queue warning system around work zones, it is not always possible to provide a source of AC power
• Solar powered
Solar powered sensor and message boards backed with batteries to provide a reliable power source. Battery theft deterrent systems
• Reliable
System must be fully automated and reliable, removing possibilities of human error
• Fully automated software
Fully automated, 99.9% available AWS based cloud software for sensing traffic and displaying messages

Design Introduction

Several key factors were determined before the design of queue warning system for QEW Niagara. These factors included estimated queue length, desired message verbiage, unique approach obstacles, and shoulder size and barrier presence.

The size of the system is heavily influenced by the estimated queue length and purpose of the queue warning system. There are various basic configurations used in the industry, the 4+1 setup shown below is often called a “level 1” temporary queue warning system; however, the system is very customizable where additional PVMS and sensors can be added to accommodate project conditions.

Sensor and VMS Configuration

For QEW Niagara, we used a modified level 1 queue warning system. Two systems are deployed on the project, one for each direction of travel. One of the systems utilizes a fifth sensor, while another has additional PVMS to provide additional warning to other approaching traffic.
The conceptual layout of sensors and VMS for this project is as shown in diagram below.

As you can see from the design layout, the PVMS is always at least 1 km upstream of the Queue Detection Area. This is to allow drivers time to prepare to slow down or stop. Based on evaluation of location and measurement of 3.5 km from the start of the lane closure the first PVMS was placed. Sensor placement can be difficult at times and great care was taken in choosing appropriate locations.

The following guidelines were followed for placing the sensors:
  • Place sensors where traffic flow is typically uniform across all lanes
  • Do not place immediately before or after interchanges as momentary slowdowns due to merging or exiting traffic can trigger a false queue warning message
  • For safety, if possible, choose locations where the sensor can be placed behind guardrail or barrier accessible by a vehicle


Drivers can anticipate an upcoming situation of emergency braking and slow down, avoid erratic behavior, and reduce queuing-related collisions.

The system provides the following features and benefits:

  • Reduce accidents by up to 45%
  • Delay the onset of congestion, improving smooth and efficient traffic flow and trip reliability
  • Increased safety for construction workers
  • Real-time monitoring of speed of vehicles along stretches of roadway
  • Seamless integration of sensors and portable changeable message signs
  • Reliable and accurate data
  • Automated message signs
  • Maintenance free system
  • Easy access to the data cloud
  • Easy installation & commissioning
“We are proud to be involved in the design and deployment of the semi-permanent queue warning system at QEW Niagara. The system helps make our construction zone safer by warning road users through messages on PVMS signs. The system is maintenance free and very cost effective as it is 100% solar powered. We are delighted with the reliability and accuracy of the system.”
- Project Manager Rankin Construction Inc.


"According to a 2015 Federal Highway Association study, Queue Warning Systems can reduce rear-end crashes and other severe accidents by up to 45%

Custom Designed

The system was custom designed as per the needs of this MTO project

  • Additional VMS installed for increased driver awareness
  •  Non-intrusive detection
  • Solar powered
  • 4G LTE for connectivity
  • Economic due to maintenance free operation

Safe, Reliable

Installed and commissioned as per MTO requirements, the automated queue warning system is safe for drivers, construction zone workers and maintenance personnel. With 99.9% system availability the system is reliable for 24 x 7 x 365 operations.

System Components

Automated Queue Warning is a work zone focused safety system which detects slow and stopped traffic and warns drivers before they encounter them. The system is comprised of a set of roadside speed sensors along with portable changeable message signs (PCMS). These devices are turned into an automated system by using Ver-Mac’s JamLogic Smart Work Zone software. The software reads the speed sensors and displays messages on the PCMS when Slow or Stopped traffic is detected.

In this section we will discuss the 3 important components used in Niagara’s automated queue warning system:

  • Sensor
  • Portable Variable Message Signs (PVMS)
  • Automation Software

Sensor - Houston Radar SpeedLane Pro®

The Houston Radar SpeedlaneProTM® is the world’s lowest power usage highly integrated multi-lane traffic measurement radar. True dual-beam speed trap technology provides precise measurements without the need for in-situ calibration. This device mounts on the side of the road for non-intrusive traffic data collection and works in all weather and lighting conditions.

This dual-beam side-fire frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) traffic measurement radar is designed to identify lane, speed, class of vehicles, and calculate per lane volume, average speed, occupancy, gap, 85th percentile and headway factors.


Type True dual beam side-fire FMCW traffic measurement radar
Detection range 255 feet (78m) detection range
Power consumption 0.85 Watts (10X less power than competing products)
Frequency FCC and CE approved for full 250 MHz operation (24.020 GHz to 24.230 GHz band)
RF power 5mW maximum each radar
Beam angle 7⁰ X 74⁰
Speed Accuracy Average per lane +/- 1%, Average per direction +/- 1%, Per Vehicle +/- 6%
Volume accuracy Per lane typical: 98 to 99%, Per direction typical: 98 – 99%
Sample rate 500 Hz X 2 Radars
Certifications FCC, CE, IC

PVMS – Ver-MAC PCMS-1210 Pro

Ver-Mac’s PCMS-1210 Pro Series is a 3-line and 8 characters (18 in.) per line trailer-mounted portable changeable message sign. It features Stealth Technology, NTCIP-compliant V-Touch controller, V-Sync WiFi communication and JamLogic® Fleet Management Software.

This unit combines cutting-edge technology, energy-efficient design and high-quality construction to provide the most reliable, cost-effective and safe to operate message sign on the market. The PCMS-1210 is the perfect 3-line model to be used for highway construction projects.


Display panel 75 X 132 in (1917 X 3343 mm), 4 LEDs per pixel, 3 lines of 8 characters
Weight 790 kgs (1740 lb) approx.
Power option Solar panel, battery charger and battery or AC power
Communications NTCIP compliant, Fully integrated 4G LTE modem
Stealth technology Maintenance free batteries, anti-theft hidden battery compartment
V-Sync Wi-Fi Change messages via Wi-Fi using smartphone

Ver-Mac JAMLOGIC Cloud Software

JamLogic software provides transparent client server access to all devices and data. The software analyzes traffic data and provides real-time information to the motoring public, project managers, agencies, traffic management centers (TMC), and public websites.

Input data options Cameras, Speed Sensors (Doppler), Weather Stations, Microwave Sensors, Bluetooth, 3rd Party Data
Information output options DMS, PCMS, VSL, Travel Info on Web, Email and text Alerts


  • Speed data from multiple sources
  • Interactive GPS device mapping and listings
  • Transparent logging and history data
  • Streaming video with PTZ control
  • Unlimited users / various levels of access
  • Optional automated email or text alerts

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