An Education on Traffic Management

Gerald F. Voigt, P.E. / December 28, 2000

It is estimated that road-user costs on a typical urban highway rehabilitation project can exceed $50,000 or more per day. Since 1973, the number of vehicle miles driven has increased 86% while the number of lane miles built has increased only 33 according to The Road Information Program (TRIP). This increased congestion and the need to upgrade and replace aging pavement has created an overwhelming demand for information on traffic management.

For years, the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) and its contractor members have been committed to “getting in, doing the job right, getting out and staying out.” At the same time, the ACPA has led and supported efforts to minimize road-user delays without trading off performance, quality, safety or any of the other features commonly associated with portland cement concrete (PCC) pavements.

Through a cooperative agreement with the Federal Highway Administration, the ACPA is developing an education program on how to consider road-user impact during the rehabilitation of PCC pavements. The program will provide traffic management options for resurfacing, restoration and reconstruction. The plan involves a traffic management handbook, a series of workshops and a national open house, all scheduled to begin this year.

Traffic management basics

The course is oriented toward DOT officials for both central and district/regional offices, as well as project designers, traffic control plan specialists, contractors, public safety officers and public affairs practitioners.

Traffic management involves the balancing of three competing interests: the traffic and how it is handled through the work zone, the work itself and how it is done, and the public and local businesses and how they are involved in the project.

Each element represents a value for time and cost. If only the construction were important, then the optimal method might be to place detours and remove traffic from the project area. On the other hand, if only the traffic were considered important then the optimal solution may be to defer the work and not to disrupt any traffic. Neither of these extremes are probable for most projects. As such, traffic management seeks to apply principles that allow a balance among the three competing interests.

Each project may involve one or more of a number of traffic handling or control scenarios. Eight standard scenarios are available: lane constriction, lane closure, shared right-of-way, temporary by-pass, intermittent closure, cross-over, shoulder/median use and detour.

Traffic management initiative

The goal of ACPA’s traffic management initiative is to maintain construction quality while optimizing concerns of owners and users. The course’s handbook outlines a five-step process for a balanced strategy. They include: choosing feasible traffic-control scenarios; considering planning issues such as incident management, utility interruptions, emergencies and business access; comparing alternatives; choosing a recommended traffic management strategy; and determining phasing or other constraints and provisions such as public information, public relations and intra-agency coordination.

ACPA’s traffic management initiative ensures that a number of variables are considered to compare and contrast alternatives. These variables include: traffic-control measures, construction requirements, operational performance, constructability, emergency planning and public information and coordination.

The key is managing expectations of the agency, businesses affected by the project, road-users and the public-at-large.

About the Author

For more information about the ACPA Traffic Management Course, call the author or Jim Mack at ACPA, 5420 Old Orchard Road, Suite A100, Skokie, IL 60077, phone 847/966-2272, fax 847/966-9970.

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