State DOTs Sign Letter Supporting Preservation of 5.9 GHz Spectrum

The leaders of all 50 state departments of transportation, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico signed a letter sent to the Federal Communications Commission on August 20 to “continue our nation’s commitment to improving transportation safety” by reserving the 5.9 GHz wireless spectrum for transportation-only usage.

[Above graphic from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.]

Signed by the chief executive of every member of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the letter – addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and filed in the FCC docket – said that the “top priority” for the state DOTs and AASHTO “has been and will always remain” the safety of all transportation system users.

To this end, “Connected Vehicles (CV) utilizing Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communication in the 5.9 GHz spectrum will save lives by creating a seamless, cooperative environment that significantly improves the safety of our transportation system,” they said in the letter.

While acknowledging that automakers and device manufacturers “will dictate availability” of vehicular equipment, “transportation agencies will control the deployment and operation of roadside infrastructure” and the “incorporation” of CV technologies into infrastructure applications.

Nicole Nason. Photo by FHWA.

The debate over preserving the 5.9 GHz spectrum for transportation-only use has heated over the last few months, with some FCC officials calling for broader use of that spectrum in hearings on Capitol Hill, while federal transportation officials – such as Nicole Nason, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration – urged that the current “reserved” status for this wireless spectrum be maintained.

“[We’re] working to ensure there is enough bandwidth for widespread adoption of new AV technologies [and] the 5.9 GHz band is of critical importance to us in reducing crashes, injuries, fatalities, and overall traffic congestion,” Nason said in remarks on July 17 at the 2019 Automated Vehicles Symposium held in Orlando, Florida.

“That’s why it’s called ‘The Safety Band’ [because] this small slice of the spectrum is widely used by state and local departments of transportation for vehicle-to-vehicle and pedestrian-collision avoidance,” she explained. “It is also used for transit priority, traffic monitoring and congestion detection, traveler alerts, and snow plow and emergency vehicle traffic signal preemption.”

“This collaboration between the public and private sectors has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and deploy lifesaving CV technologies in the 5.9 GHz spectrum,” the state DOT letter stressed. “State DOTs understand that a CV environment holds the potential to support a fundamental advancement in ensuring the safety of our nation’s surface transportation system. And in order for this promising future to become a reality, the 5.9 GHz spectrum must be preserved for transportation safety purposes.”

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