Texas City Replaces Locks on Intelligent Traffic Cabinets With More Secure Option

The Transportation Services and Mobility department for the city of Grand Prairie, Texas recently completed a substantial project to replace the locks on their Intelligent Traffic Cabinets with a better and more secure choice. Turns out what they needed was only a few miles away with ALCEA’s Traffic Cabinet Locking Solution powered by ABLOY technology.

ALCEA is the brand formerly known as ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions - Critical Infrastructure. The ALCEA Traffic Cabinet Locking Solution has gained traction with transportation infrastructure departments in major cities across the United States. It was developed by Jerry Burhans, managing director for North America, and Michael Woody, manager of the ALCEA Competence Center in Irving, which shares a border with Grand Prairie. Now this access management solution is beginning to impact medium sized communities like them.

Raul Perez, a 13-year transportation industry veteran who has served as Grand Prairie’s ITS Specialist for 2-1/2 years, said this installation project will protect all city signal cabinets from tampering and unauthorized access. Involving 240 smart locks, 210 high security mechanical locks and padlocks on all city traffic cabinets plus 10 message boards, 191 mechanical locks for all school flashing sign cabinets, and 20 Bluetooth keys is in step with the city’s policy of adopting proactive cybersecurity measures.

“Having control over who has access and when to our traffic cabinets was a major driver for this project,” he acknowledged. “We have not had people trying to force their entry into our cabinets, but we did have several occasions where contractors were gaining access to them without permission or notice. ALCEA was the clear choice for our smart lock needs, offering a solution that aligns with our requirements.”

Substantial growth and the need to safeguard assets

Grand Prairie has a long history associated with technology. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, it is the sixteenth largest city in Texas with a population of more than 207,000 people. During World War I and since, it began an association with the defense and aviation industries and served as an aircraft production site.

The city sits 12 miles west of downtown Dallas and is only 10 minutes south of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. With rail lines and major interstates 20 and 30 running through it, Grand Prairie has become a well-established distribution center. The majority of the Great Southwest Industrial District’s approximately 80 million square-feet of space is in the city.

Combine major attractions like the Lone Star Park horse racetrack and Epic Waters, one of the largest indoor waterparks in Texas, and the city’s 81 square miles of road experience heavy traffic activity all day long.

Grand Prairie’s growth resembles the rest of Texas, the largest of the 48 continuous states. After an unprecedented boom, the U.S. Census Bureau declared it is now home to more than 30 million residents following a 43% increase from 2020 to 2022. That development in part led to the Texas Department of Transportation announcing a $142 billion investment in the state’s transportation infrastructure last August as part of a 10-year state roadways plan.

About the same time the announcement was made is when the city of Grand Prairie began researching options for a separately funded project to increase cybersecurity preparedness.

Flexibility of a Hybrid Locking Solution

“I started looking for smart locks and found ALCEA’s mechanical lock with a high security key during an online search. I was intrigued so I contacted them, inquired about their product and arranged a visit to their office for a presentation,” said Perez, who also evaluated the offerings of three other vendors.

“It was then I learned about the capability of unlocking both the electronic and mechanical locks – including padlocks – and the versatility of their keys. I was very impressed by the user-friendly design of their Bluetooth smart key,” he said in reference to the ABLOY PROTEC2 CLIQ™ system. The remote access management system combines the best characteristics of mechanical and electromechanical locks.

After the initial meeting with ALCEA, Perez said he was convinced of the value of this hybrid solution but had to secure buy-in from his supervisor and department director.

“Working with the ALCEA team, we tailored a price quote aimed at convincing our department director to allocate funds for this investment. The initiative was successfully integrated into our budget by the end of 2023, and the purchase order was placed in mid-January.”

The city of Grand Prairie chose ALCEA for several key reasons.

“Their product offered the advantage of securing all our enclosures with a single key, with efficiency and convenience,” said Perez. “The versatility of giving us the capability to integrate both mechanical and electronic locks, as well as padlocks, contributed to a more cost effective final solution. The user-friendly key system, coupled with the security features, ensures ease of use without compromising safety.

“The expertise, customer service, and professionalism demonstrated by the ALCEA team added confidence in our decision-making process,” added Perez. “Being a local company, they are able to provide localized support.”

Common problems with #2 keys protecting roadside equipment

The mechanical lock series that was installed contains ABLOY’s unique high security cylinder. The electromechanical locks support electronic access control, key tracking, and audit trails with CLIQ Web Manager software. Perez says it instantly solves a problem that existed with their old system.

“The challenges we encountered before are widespread in the transportation industry. Many traffic enclosures are accessible with a #2 key, which is impossible to track and makes unauthorized access a potential risk,” he explained. “Anyone can buy that type of key for a couple of dollars. This lack of accountability is a significant security concern, particularly with the increasing prevalence of cyber threats targeting government agencies.”

Perez says the ALCEA solution gives Grand Prairie continuity for its program.

“Given the critical nature of our infrastructure and the investment in our high-tech signal control devices, protecting our assets is a top priority,” he acknowledged. “We now have versatility where the same key will open cabinet locks and padlocks, and it can be updated by using the CLIQ app, which is convenient for everyone on our team. Technicians and supervisors wiil be using most of the keys, and the others are for the contractors who need access to the traffic cabinets on an occasional basis.”

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