Fighting congestion with creativity

News AASHTO Journal October 11, 2004
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State departments of transportation across the U

State departments of transportation across the U.S. are fighting congestion by getting the most out of roadways through innovative techniques, according to a new report by the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Optimizing the System: Saving Lives, Saving Time, highlights successful techniques from across the country. It is available at the AASHTO website (

"The need to optimize our transportation system springs from the recognition that growth in demand has far outstripped our ability to provide adequate new capacity," said John Njord, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation. "Between 1980 and 1999, the number of vehicle miles traveled on America's roads and highways increased by 76%, while capacity grew by only 1.5%. Expert analysis estimates that less than half of the new roadway that was needed to handle even current levels of traffic was added in that time."

Optimizing the System provides examples from DOTs on how they have used traffic-controlling devices, intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and other techniques to make drivers aware of impending hazards, speed traffic flow and prevent accidents. In Indiana, for example, the DOT took the unprecedented step of fully closing down a 3 1/2-mile portion of I-65 and I-70 to refurbish the highways in less time, at reduced costs and without exposing construction crews to traffic hazards in work zones in a project called "Hyperfix."

Other innovations include ramp metering, 5-1-1 travel information centers, electronic toll transponders, traffic management centers and roadside assistance teams.

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