By Rob Harrill. Photography by Kathy Sauber.
"I've learned to do a lot of deep breathing, and if I'm really stressed I try to put on classical music," says Walter Neary, who commutes about 40 miles each way from his home south of Tacoma to the UW.
"Things tend to snarl between Federal Way and Southcenter, slow at Boeing Field, and at the first Seattle exit it crawls," he says. "A lot of people make that drive white-knuckledyou see them, fighting for every inch. It can get bad."
How bad? Last November, Seattle was ranked third among U.S. cities for the amount of time drivers spend stuck in traffic. The intersection of Interstates 5 and 90 was designated as one of the nation's most congested.
But little does Neary or the other hundreds of thousands of drivers know that a UW engineering project is making their life a little easier.
A UW computer program using "fuzzy logic" can deliver exacting answers about the ever-changing status of area freeways to help move traffic more efficiently, according to Deirdre Meldrum, UW associate professor of electrical engineering and principal investigator on the project. The system uses a computer algorithm that can balance conflicting objectives and anticipate problems before they become critical, resulting in smooth, continuous control to prevent or delay congestion.