Arterial Management Program
time-lapse photo of traffic traveling in both directions on an urban arterial road
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Traffic Signal System Management

Traffic signal management involves the planning, design, integration, maintenance, and proactive operation of a traffic signal system in order to achieve policy based objectives to improve the efficiency, safety and reliability of signalized intersections. Scores on the Management section of the National Traffic Signal Report Card have ranged from F to D from 2005 to 2012.

Agencies that develop and document their operations philosophy, operations objectives and performance measures in a Traffic Signal Management Program Plan (TSMPP) have consistently demonstrated the capacity to implement and operate systems, sustain resources and a maintain a proficient workforce. The FHWA document titled Improving Traffic Signal Management and Operations: A Basic Service Model describes and provides an outline for a TSMPP. Agency TSMPPs should minimally identify objectives and performance measures linked to those objectives that can be clearly communicated to agency professionals, policy makers and the public.

The key publications identified below provide guidance on the development of TSMPPs aimed at delivering high quality basic service. The resources identified on the left including the FHWA Resource Center Operations TST, Planning for Operations and NTOC Traffic Signal Library and User Forum and Training and Workshops offer opportunities to gain additional information and technical assistance on this topic.

Key Publications

  • Traffic Signal Management Plans (HTML, PDF 4.8MB) (FHWA-HOP-15-038) - An Objectives and Performance based approach for Improving the Design Operations and Maintenance of Traffic Signal Systems provides step-by-step instructions for documenting current activities, relating them to the agency’s goals and transportation objectives, and offers a structure that shows how the activities of all staff involved in traffic signal management support those objectives.
  • Traffic Signal LED Module Specification Workshop and Informational Report for Snow Conditions (HTML, PDF 5MB) (FHWA-HOP-13-010) - A stakeholder workshop was held on December 14–15, 2010 that created a set of proceedings documenting the issues, findings, and potential next steps in addressing the snow and ice-covered LED traffic signal lens issue. One of the outcomes of the workshop was the initiation of a small research task to further explore the environmental conditions (i.e., weather) upon which the snow and ice problem occurs. This report summarizes the research effort completed to fulfill that outcome.
  • Improving Traffic Signal Management and Operations: A Basic Service Model (HTML, PDF 284KB) (FHWA-HOP-09-055) - This report provides a guide for developing a Traffic Signal Management Plan based on achieving good basic service in the context of current agency capability and resources.
  • National Traffic Signal Report Card Technical Report & Traffic Signal Operations Self Assessment Survey - This report provides a summary of the state of the practice in traffic signal management and operations. Agencies can gain insight on the fundamental principles and core objectives involved in effectively managing and operating traffic signal systems.
  • Traffic Signal Operations and Maintenance Staffing Guidelines (HTML, PDF 821KB) (Publication Number: FHWA-HOP-09-006) - This report provides a guideline to estimate the staffing and resource needs required to effectively operate and maintain traffic signal systems.
  • The FHWA Model Systems Engineering Documents for Adaptive Signal Control Technology (ASCT) Systems (HTML, PDF 1.2MB) (Publication Number: FHWA-HOP-11-027) - This report facilitates the development of documentation that informs the design, implementation and testing of adaptive control systems that support and work within the context of the agencies objectives and needs.
  • NCHRP 560 Guide to Contracting ITS Projects (PDF 883KB) - Guide to Contracting ITS Projects provides guidance on the procurement of intelligent transportation systems (ITS), including variable message signs, traffic detectors, signal controllers, and a variety of other hardware and software that entails applications of advanced electronics and information management to regulate and facilitate traffic flow. The report highlights best practices and recommends contracting strategies and contract types, terms, and conditions for ITS development, integration, system acceptance, warranty, maintenance, and upgrade.
  • Additional Publications

Technical Assistance

The FHWA Resource Center Operations Team is pleased to offer its services to assist agencies with the development of traffic signal management plans. This is typically accomplished through a review of current practices and collaborative development of strategies to achieve excellence in traffic signal management.

You may need the Adobe® Reader® to view the PDFs on this page.

Office of Operations