Freeway to freeway ramp signals

When traffic from one freeway merges with another, it can get really congested. Find out how Melbourne’s new freeway to freeway ramp signals help keep traffic flowing.

What are freeway to freeway ramp signals?

You might already be familiar with existing ramp signals on entry ramps to Melbourne’s freeways. 

Our new freeway to freeway ramp signals operate in a similar way, controlling traffic flow when large volumes of traffic from two different freeways meet. Electronic signage and traffic signals help space out vehicles, making merging safer and faster, resulting in less congestion and fewer collisions. 

How do the new ramp signals work?

Freeway to freeway ramp metering regulates the flow of traffic onto a freeway by holding and then releasing traffic onto the freeway at consistent intervals.

"Electronic message signs on the ramp let you know when freeway ramp signals are operational. 

When the system is initially activated:

  1. the yellow signal will flash for around 1 minute
  2. the traffic signals will then turn red and drivers on the entry ramp must stop
  3. the traffic signals will then turn green long enough to allow one vehicle in each lane to join the freeway traffic
  4. the traffic signals will then turn yellow and then red
  5. the traffic signals will continue to switch between green, yellow and red until the freeway flow improves.

Only one vehicle in each lane can enter the freeway on a green signal which creates mores space between vehicles joining the freeway and results in safer and easier merging with the freeway traffic.

The signals don’t operate all the time. Sensors in the road collect data like traffic volume and congestion so the system switches on automatically during heavy traffic periods such as peak hour."

Why are freeway to freeway ramp signals being introduced?

Traffic congestion is common during peak times and often occurs around freeway merge points where a surge of traffic enters. This can cause the traffic on the freeway to slow down and often results in stop-start conditions, which means the freeway operates well below its maximum capacity. 

Congestion causes frustration, increases the risk of crashes and extends journey times, which are often three to four times higher during the peak period compared to the off-peak period.

The new ramp signals optimise traffic flow by regulating entry, spreading out entering vehicles and making it easier and faster to merge. This reduces congestion and increases the resilience of both freeways, meaning they will recover more quickly if there’s an accident or higher traffic volumes. The result is smoother and more reliable journeys for Melbourne’s drivers.

How will I know when the signals are operating? 

Electronic message signs will let you know if ramp metering is switched on. When ramp metering is operating, variable speed limit signs will slow traffic down to 60 km/h.

As you approach the freeway you’re about to merge on to, you’ll notice flashing electronic signs displaying the messages: “Ramp signals on” and “Prepare to stop”. 

You’ll then notice overhead traffic signals and a stop line which is painted on the road. A second electronic sign will display the message: “Stop here on red signal”. 

What should I do when the signals are on?

The traffic signals at freeway merge points operate like regular traffic lights, but the cycle is much shorter. Be sure to stop as usual at the red light and go when the light turns green. 
The typical waiting time at a red light will vary between 5 seconds and 15 seconds, depending on freeway conditions. When traffic flow along the freeway is high, you may need to wait longer before entering that freeway.

Once you’ve passed the ramp signals, you can speed up as you merge onto the freeway.

If I have to stop at signals, won’t my journey take longer?

It may seem counterintuitive, but by regulating entry onto the freeway, traffic will flow more freely. Although you have to pause momentarily, the freeway you’re about to enter will be less congested, resulting in a smoother journey overall.

Where will the new signals be located?

The first signals will be switched on in early December, where CityLink meets the West Gate Freeway. The remaining locations will open progressively during 2018 including:

  • West Gate Freeway city-bound to CityLink airport-bound
  • M80 Ring Road Greensborough-bound to Calder Freeway city-bound
  • M80 Ring Road Greensborough-bound to Tullamarine Freeway airport-bound
  • M80 Ring Road Altona-bound to Tullamarine Freeway airport-bound
  • M80 Ring Road Altona-bound to Tullamarine Freeway city-bound
  • Calder Freeway city-bound to M80 Ring Road Greensborough-bound
  • Calder Freeway outbound to M80 Ring Road Altona-bound
  • EastLink in each direction to Monash Freeway city-bound



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