Momentum: Issue #5

October 29, 2018


Preserving the 5.9 GHz spectrum for transportation safety-critical use continues to be a top priority for the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America). The association petitioned Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use of the 5.9 GHz spectrum for safety-critical transportation communications in the late 1990s.

In recent years, there have been calls for unlicensed use of the spectrum. Because connected vehicle applications have the potential to deliver broad safety and mobility benefits for passenger and commercial vehicles, ITS America continues to be a leading voice for maintaining 5.9 GHz band.

On October 16, the Internet and Television Association (NCTA) sent a provocative letter – containing several false claims – to the FCC calling for the designation of “all or a substantial portion of the 5.9 GHz band for unlicensed use.”

In response to the letter, Commissioner Michael O’Reilly said, “the Commission should quickly reexamine the 5.9 GHz band for repurposing.” Commissioner Jessica Rosenwercel also responded, saying “It is time to take a fresh look at this band to allow a broader range of uses.”

The following week, the Commission voted 4-0 to approve an NPRM on opening 1,200 MHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed use. At a news conference for that announcement, Chairman Ajit Pai didn’t commit to a new NPRM on the 5.9 GHz band beyond ongoing sharing tests. The FCC is “still studying the issue” and will soon release the first tests’ results and a request for comment, Pai said.

The NCTA letter and responses from the two commissioners represent the latest threats to preserving the 5.9 spectrum for life-saving transportation use. ITS America President and CEO Shailen Bhatt issued a statement, which was included in media coverage of NCTA’s appeal, noting, “Without the 5.9 GHz band, we lose many of the life-saving benefits of connected vehicles.”

As it happened, ITS America was planning a briefing on Capitol Hill for the following week: “Saving the Spectrum.” The timing, while coincidental, was excellent – the event was standing room only. The panel discussion featured Mary Brown, Senior Director, Government Affairs, Cisco;Hillary M. Cain, Director, Technology and Innovation Policy, Government Affairs, Toyota;Cathy McGhee, Director for the Virginia Transportation Research Council, Virginia Department of Transportation; andAlice Tornquist, Vice President, Spectrum and Technology Policy, Qualcomm (and ITS America Board member). Robert B. Kelly, Partner, Practice Group Leader, Global Communications Practice, Squire Patton Boggs, moderated. Under Secretary of Transportation Finch Fulton provided brief opening remarks, as did Shailen Bhatt. 

Shortly before the briefing, ITS America filed a letter with the FCC requesting it conclude testing before taking action related to the 5.9 GHz spectrum: “Testing is the best way to ensure that Wi-Fi unlicensed devices do not interfere with the ability of V2X technology to save lives.” In addition, ITS America joined with six other major global and national organizations in issuing a joint statement reiterating the need to preserve the spectrum for safety-critical communications. It noted, in part, “With 37,133 deaths on U.S. roadways last year alone, we must take every opportunity to save the lives of road users. Connected vehicle technologies offer the U.S. a powerful set of tools to save lives, but only if these technologies are given the ability to progress.”

Stay tuned for updates on ITS America’s work on this critical issue, as the association and its members continue to work with all appropriate stakeholders to preserve the 5.9GHz spectrum band for life-saving transportation communications.


Name:  Joseph (Joey) Sagal
Title:  Director
Company:  Maryland Department of Transportation – State Highway Administration

Short Job description/Role Responsibility: Joey is the Director for Maryland Department of Transportation – State Highway Administration’s (MDOT SHA) Office of CHART & ITS Development.  The CHART (Coordinated Highway Action Response Team) office is MDOT SHA’s Mobility Operations Office, and real-world application of Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSM&O). CHART is responsible for Maryland’s traffic incident management, ITS, Communications and Radio, Connected and Automated Vehicle Program, Statewide Traffic Operations Centers, as well as the 24/7 freeway service patrol program, which patrols 2.4 million miles each year.    The CHART program handles over 139,000 events and provides a user cost savings of $1.5B annually. 

Before rejoining MDOT SHA, Joey served as a Traffic Incident and Event Management Specialist for the FHWA. He has over 20 years in Transportation Operations and is recognized as a subject matter expert in Traffic Incident Management.

Current or previous  #ITS Project:  
MDOT SHA is delivering some very exciting projects in Maryland:

·     I-270 Innovative Congestion Management Project – This project will implement ramp meters, variable speed limits and queue warning systems to better manage traffic and improve safety. 

·     Currently in the design and engineering stage: US 1 Innovative Technology Corridor Pilot, which will allow us to take current SPaT efforts and expand incident management capabilities from freeways to arterials, and provide a platform for testing CAV technologies.

·     Continue advancing TSMO Strategic Plan agency-wide, from its inception in 2016 to version 2.0 in fall of 2018.  Extensive efforts are focused on TSMO communication and culture within MDOT SHA projects and teams.

·     Current Co-Chair AASHTO Committee on Transportation Systems Operation – Traffic Incident Management Working Group

·     Current Member Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on Freeway Operations (AHB20) and Co-Chair of a new sub-committee focused on Smart Highway Operations Infrastructure.

·     Sponsoring leadership for our TSMO and CAV Working Groups at MDOT SHA, advancing the state of the practice for us in ITS and deploying new technologies in operations and mobility.

What’s the future of #ITS look like to you?
Along with many of my State DOT colleagues and professionals in Transportation and ITS, we are very focused on the future of connected and automated vehicles, specifically “A Vision for Highway Automation.” Automated mobility will be the greatest change to personal mobility since the inception of the interstate highway system, and one of the best strategies to reverse the trend of increasing fatalities and delay. It is not a matter of if, but rather the question of when, and how. 

The benefits of highway automation are so important to focus on, and we will be delivering revolutionary mobility improvements for our citizens.  A balanced approach through the next several years is still needed however, as there are still many opportunities for us to deliver innovative technologies and projects on our roadways to improve safety, reliability, and mobility operations on our freeways and arterial roadways. I personally appreciate the proactive forward leaning approach ITS America is leading for our membership today, and into the future.

Favorite place to travel: Walt Disney World, and Orlando Florida usually multiple times each year with my family.  I am a big kid at heart at a theme park!

First car you drove?: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer.  I sure don’t miss the miles per gallon I got with it, but I sure miss that Jeep!

If you weren’t working in Transportation industry you would: I would be a career firefighter/paramedic.  I have contributed actively in my community giving back as part of the volunteer Fire/Rescue/EMS service in Baltimore County, Maryland for the past 24 years. I’m very involved in the specialty area of technical rescue, which includes collapse, confined space, and swift water rescue teams.