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4.  Conclusions

Transportation Management Centers are established across the country to integrate data, information and systems in support of day-to-day highway and transit operations.  This study of weather and emergency information and systems integration in TMCs is part of a larger Federal Highway Administration program to better understand and support the safety and performance of our nation’s transportation systems.  In this study the focus is on operational performance when the systems are affected by weather or emergency conditions.  The report explores how TMCs have implemented various concepts and methods of integration, describes the best practices observed during a series of TMC site visits, discusses the challenges and benefits of integration, and offers recommendations for how FHWA and the TMCs can enhance integration in the future.

Integration is understood to occur in several ways, including blended sources of information and data to support decision-making, joint consideration of weather and emergency information with traffic information and data, and the use of weather and emergency information and data with transportation-relevant information from a variety of linked agencies, including transportation (operations and maintenance), police, fire, and other emergency services.  While this study examined some of the most advanced and integrated TMCs, the majority of TMCs operating today have either not begun to integrate weather and emergency information and systems into their operations or they have made relatively little progress towards integration.  The many combinations of current integration concepts and methods presented in this study offer pathways for TMCs to advance their integration to meet the particular needs of their situation.  However, more substantial improvements in integration can be achieved through the evolution of new concepts and methods that will require significant research and development investments.  This report recommends that TMCs undertake a careful self-assessment process and prepare an integration plan to guide the selection and implementation of any of these integration strategies.  Future research will need to be conducted to develop comprehensive guidelines, grounded in this initial study, for TMCs to follow.

Each part of the country presents a unique set of challenges to effective TMC integration based on climate, geography, politics, and transportation systems and resources.  Depending on the concepts and methods of integration pursued by a TMC, the time and effort required will vary.  The ability of TMCs to successfully compete for the limited available funds to support a more integrated approach to operations requires leadership, a supportive institutional environment, and the political will to invest in procedures to accomplish what are perceived to be unclear benefits and, in the case of emergencies, to address infrequent risks.  Objective benefit-cost analyses of integration strategies are an important need.

Many observed and anticipated benefits of weather and emergency integration are reflected in existing best practices at TMCs.  Although a comprehensive analysis of the benefit to cost of weather integration has yet to be done in any objective, systematic manner, it is apparent that integration is providing substantial value to current TMC operations.  Observed benefits include the following:

TMCs face a variety of challenges to achieving a successful and beneficial level of integration of weather and emergency information and systems.  While many of these are related to the unique set of conditions faced at each TMC location, there are several broader challenges that are generally applicable to TMCs.  The ability to promote the value of integration and to realize successful implementation of the kinds of integration concepts and methods described in this report will in part depend on making real progress towards resolving these issues and challenges.

This study has examined the best examples of TMC integration and described the underlying concepts and methods of integration that are being employed to enhance transportation operations.  The practice of weather and emergency integration in TMCs is in its infancy, but the best practices illustrated in selected TMCs across the country offer examples of the long-term value of an integrated approach to transportation operations that other TMCs can emulate.  It is hoped that the lessons learned in this study can help inspire and guide widespread efforts to achieve the benefits of integration in more TMCs in the future.

Integration for Weather   |  Table of Contents  |  Appendix A

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