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3.  Integration For Weather

3.1 Overview

Weather integration in TMC will enhance the ability of operators to manage traffic in a more responsive, effective way.

Weather often impacts efforts of transportation system operators working to maintain safety and mobility.  Making sense of weather information along with recognizing the benefits of its application beyond the simplest case is not a trivial task.  As a generalization, TMC operators tend to be more responsive and take action based on their observations of traffic flow rather than responding directly to weather information.  TMC personnel frequently lack critical weather information and the needed procedures to incorporate weather information into effective decision-making to improve the efficiency of traffic operations.

The study of select TMCs has shown that the integration of data and information across multiple agencies and organizations is beneficial to a TMC to the extent that it allows the TMC to conduct its operations more effectively.  The exchange of weather information provides an opportunity to draw agencies or elements within a given agency together more effectively.  Fortunately, as weather data and decision support systems evolve and become integrated into the operations of more TMCs, weather-responsive traffic management will become more widely adopted as a standard practice.

It is important to understand how weather integration at a TMC can enhance its operation.  Prior research has proposed that “weather-responsive” traffic management strategies can be planned and implemented to more effectively address and mitigate weather effects on traffic flow[9].  This implies that the TMC as the primary traffic manager is able to control or alter the traffic in a manner to prevent, reduce or eliminate the effect that weather would otherwise have on the traveler to the same degree that it can be done in congestion situations.  However, weather impacts traffic to differing levels across the nation, and the level of weather integration may vary from one TMC to another.  The decision of how much weather integration to implement is a process that involves careful consideration, assessment, and planning.

It is clear that weather has major and minor impacts on transportation management operations.  More typically these are minor impacts that result in reduced traffic flow or increased minor traffic incidents during seasonal weather conditions.  At other times weather can have a major impact on transportation management operations.  Natural weather disasters (e.g., hurricanes, winter storms, and severe summer storms including flash flooding, that severely affect large areas) typically cause the greatest disruption to transportation systems.  During these events major routing changes, dramatic traffic bottlenecks or a complete urban, statewide, or regional transportation system shut-down are likely to occur.

An example of a typical weather impact involves the precipitation accumulating on an urban highway network. Figure 7 shows a photograph of traffic congestion during a snow event where heavy snow has accumulated on an Interstate highway.  Whether this is a snowfall in Minneapolis or, light rain in San Diego it results in travel delays and enhanced congestion as travelers respond to changing road surface conditions and levels of mobility.  Often these conditions are exacerbated by motorists failing to respond to the changing conditions, resulting in crash incidents that further impede traffic flow.

Figure 7.  Precipitation Causing Traffic Congestion and Delay.

Photograph of traffic congestion during a snow event where heavy snow has accumulated on an Interstate highway

The occurrence of a hurricane landfall is an example of a weather event that has a major impact on TMC operations.  A classic example of this impact occurred during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.  The resulting pre-storm evacuation and the associated transportation system impacts were significant and included massive traffic delays, congestion and incidents.  Figure 8 is a photograph of highly congested contraflow operations on a four-lane freeway.  Further, the extraordinary inland flooding resulting from excessive tropical storm rainfall across a vast portion of the Atlantic seaboard extended the transportation operations difficulties well beyond the hurricane’s landfall.

Figure 8.  South Carolina Contraflow Operations and Congestion Associated with Evacuation Ahead of Hurricane Floyd.

Photograph of highly congested contraflow operations on a four-lane freeway during the evacuation prior to Hurricane Floyd in 1999

Weather information that could assist TMC operations comes in many different forms.  Generic weather information, such as what you would find on various local and national public television and cable weather news sources, provides a broad view of weather conditions for a very general audience.  Other forms of weather information including those available from commercial weather service providers are available that target the surface transportation decision maker with tailored weather information specifically designed to assist the traffic manager.  Although the generic weather information can be of some help to TMCs, it is very limited.  Moving from generic products to more tailored weather information providers will increase the effectiveness of integration activities discussed in this report where this information is appropriately incorporated within the decision making process.

Another aspect of weather information that needs careful understanding is the accuracy of the weather data and forecasts.  It is not enough to say that “weather information”, when integrated into a TMC, will assist with decision making.  Weather data and forecasts used by traffic managers need to be accurate to be useful.  However, weather forecasting in its current state-of-the-technology is an inexact practice and often the weather observations used to generate forecasts and for use within TMC operations are inaccurate to varying levels.  Therefore, it is important during the integration of weather information into a TMC to develop methods of routinely reviewing the quality of the all weather information.  Procedures should exist to ensure that observed data are representative of the current weather conditions.  Just as important, methods of monitoring the accuracy of weather forecasts are needed to keep the best possible information available for decision making. Over the past decade, new weather data monitoring and weather forecasting methods have been developed that are now used to support operational aspects of surface transportation.  However, surface transportation weather analysis is still a young science and research continues on this topic.

The potential to reduce or avoid the impacts of weather on transportation system operations provides the rationale for improved weather integration within TMCs.  The process by which this occurs is greatly facilitated through both the identification of concepts, or ideas, by which effective and optimal integration may occur and the methods that show how the concepts can be realized and effectively implemented.  The concepts that provide the most effective pathway for integration for a particular TMC will depend upon the needs and issues central to a specific transportation network.  However, the success of any weather integration effort must begin with solid concepts that describe what integration looks like in a particular TMC application.  Several broad concepts of weather integration and associated methods to achieve these concepts are discussed in Section 3.2.  These broad concepts present a wide-range of possible weather integration from improved awareness of weather to making the TMC the focal point for weather information.

Often the most effective weather integration will result in the incorporation of weather data and information in a non-intrusive manner into existing TMC operations.  These data and information can exist in a background state during periods when fair weather dictates that minor weather impacts on traffic will exist.  As integrated weather information systems identify a growing risk of impact on transportation systems, the weather information moves to the forefront of the TMC decision-making process.

Methods of integration reflect an action that builds upon a concept and describes how a particular concept of integration can be achieved.  Applying a method to achieve a concept of integration requires the full spectrum of assessment, planning, and implementation strategies.  For some methods the effort involves the procurement of services that support more effective utilization of available weather data within the TMC.  This method of effective utilization will vary with TMCs and is determined by local requirements.  For some the methods could involve the use of custom surface transportation weather services that provide notification of specific road weather hazards at discrete short time intervals that address defined support requirements for the TMC.  Others methods could actively integrate weather and traffic management through the development of sophisticated new products that use computer modeling of traffic volumes by incorporating short-range, site-specific weather predictions of the roadway environment.  Other methods may result in a growth in personnel commitments within the TMC to routinely facilitate the incorporation, analysis and exchange of weather information with other operational aspects of the TMC.

The effort to identify concepts and apply methods of integration is facilitated by reviewing the current state-of-the-practice and establishing a relationship between what exists in the practice with the local needs of a TMC.  The process of using ‘lessons learned’ improves the communication of experiences and diffuses these lessons learned to others in the transportation management community.  Ultimately, the incorporation of emerging technologies and procedures for weather integration will result in a ‘next generation’ TMC that incorporates the best the state-of-the-art will permit.

A significant part of the success of effective and efficient weather integration will depend upon the availability and acquisition of more accurate weather data and forecasts by the TMC.  This will require growth within the surface transportation weather community to provide improved weather support services including the innovation of more tailored weather data and products supporting TMCs.  However, to achieve effective and efficient weather integration within TMCs, it will be necessary to change existing operational paradigms, modify present TMC cultures, and promote greater levels of weather integration through the various dimensions of integration.  Recommendations for improving current practices and the identification of future research (described in Section 3.3) are important aspects in the overall process of improved weather integration within TMCs.

3.2 State-of-the-practice

The state-of-the-practice in weather integration, as observed in the site visits under this study, is illustrated by a set of core integration concepts and associated implementation methods.  The implementation methods range in sophistication (in terms of levels of effort) from fairly simple to very detailed.  In addition to what the study team observed, potential future concepts and methods are identified.  This section describes integration strategies being used today, best practices observed at selected TMCs, and the weather information integration concepts and methods characterized in terms of integration levels and their advantages (pros) and disadvantages (cons).  Additionally, this section discusses the challenges of weather information integration from extensive interactions with TMC managers during site visits and other discussions.

3.2.1.     Operational Strategies In Use at TMCs

Current and future weather information integration in a TMC is dependent on the institutional landscape, weather exposure, transportation infrastructure, and weather information needs in the state or region.

It is important to consider what traffic management decision options are available within a specific TMC when evaluating its level of weather information integration.  A current concept of weather-responsive traffic operations incorporates three mitigation strategies: advisory, treatment, and control.  While mitigation addresses one way TMCs use weather information in their operational strategy, this study suggests that in addition to mitigation there are two other operational strategies used by TMCs in support of weather information integration: sourcing and analysis.  In operational terms sourcing relates to how the TMC acquires the information needed, and analysis relates to how the information is applied to current and forecast traffic and road conditions.  This section discusses these three operational elements of weather information integration.

Mitigation:  Of the three mitigation strategies, advisory is the most widely practiced and integrated.  Here advisory not only addresses the users of the transportation system but the operators as well.  The following are some examples of this:

Treatment, as a mitigation strategy, is directly related to applying resources to the physical infrastructure in order to alter the effects of weather on traffic and is supported by the integration of roadway maintenance activities within the TMC.  In all cases observed in the sites visits, maintenance departments have the responsibility for determining when and where to pre-treat or plow roads during winter weather.  In integrated cases, the TMC either provides weather forecasts to maintenance personnel or updates maintenance personnel with reported road conditions and CCTV image interpretations.  Collocation of maintenance within a TMC or having maintenance staff in the TMC during times of intense weather events improves the maintenance supervisors’ “big picture” view of impacts throughout the region.  Also, maintenance’s perspective and information offer commensurate benefits to TMC operations.

The third strategy, control, reflects how TMCs manage or regulate traffic flow through, for example, variable speed signs, traffic signal timing, or contraflow systems.  Control actions are usually taken in response to observed changes in traffic conditions, due to weather or other causes, but could also be taken in anticipation of weather impacts.

Sourcing:  Observed success at these TMC sites for weather information integration into traffic operations appears to depend significantly on the continuous and up-to-date source of weather information (tailored to the surface transportation decision makers) operating in the background of traffic operations.  Specifically, this relates to the accuracy, content, appropriateness, and availability of the information.  As the forecasted weather event materializes and conditions become more critical, there is a seamless and efficient escalation from background information to a primary information source consistent with the types of decisions or activities that need to be taken by the TMC as part of their “standard” operations.

Analysis:  At each of the sites visited, analysis strategies were illustrated by the way in which the TMCs integrated, in various ways and at various levels of sophistication, weather information (generic and tailored) into their operational procedures to better prepare for forecasted weather conditions and the likelihood of incidents relating to weather.  Analysis strategies are where weather information integration has the most visible impact and potential for improving operational efficiencies.  Many of the concepts and strategies described below in this report are directly related to analysis strategies aimed at effective use of weather information.

One example of this can be seen in how each of the sites relies on various approaches to help them become aware of weather issues, thereby relieving the TMC staff of the necessity for continuously analyzing the weather.  “Weather triggers” are used to notify TMCs when threshold weather events have developed that require TMC staff action.  The specifics of the weather triggers are established through an analysis of local weather features critical to the TMC operations, often from an historical perspective of past situations when the TMC has had to respond to weather events.  These “weather triggers” may include:

An important study finding was that the level of desired or attained integration appeared to be directly related to weather type, complexity, or potential incident severity.  That is, the greater the number of regular occurrences of varied types of adverse weather, the more involved the integration effort.  TMCs that faced infrequent occurrences of a single type of adverse weather needed less analysis and tended to exhibit lower levels of integration.  This further illustrated the role that event exposure (one of the determinants shown earlier in Figure 1) plays in determining the level and nature of integration adopted at TMCs.

Integrated Operational Strategies:  Some examples of operational strategies observed at the TMC sites visited and the uses of weather integration are illustrated below:

3.2.2.  Observed Best Practices

The current weather information integration concepts and methods in practice at TMCs across the country reflect the regional and local determinants of integration for a particular TMC, as illustrated earlier in Figure 1.  Therefore, a concept and method combination that is appropriate at one TMC may not work effectively in another.  During the site visits, the study team observed several successful applications of weather information integration concepts and methods.  A set of best practices was identified from observations and discussions with TMCs employing the most advanced weather information integration approaches in the country.  These best practices were documented in Chapter 5 of the Baseline Report (Appendix A) and are conveyed within the concepts and methods discussed below.

Table 8 summarizes these best practices and the locations where they were observed.  It should be noted that these practices may also be implemented in other TMCs nation wide.  The TMCs listed here are from the study sites visited.

3.2.3. Concepts and Methods

Concepts and methods of weather integration in transportation operations reflect a forward-looking use of current technologies, coupled with enlightened management support among participating agencies, for each of the five integration dimensions (operational, physical, technical, procedural, and institutional).  These concepts and methods represent examples of the various levels of integration supporting transportation operations across the country today.  They serve as examples of effective operations for others to emulate and adapt to their particular needs and conditions.

Table 8.  Weather Information Integration Best Practices and Observed Implementations

Best Practice


Observed Implementation

Continuously updated and available weather information with threshold-determined automatic notifications of weather-related issues

Salt Lake City

Partnership between a surface transportation weather service provider and dedicated statewide weather operations group that provides a natural flow and alertness to weather conditions

Pennsylvania Turnpike

Scheduled reports around the clock from the field and constant display of the weather radar images for each segment of the turnpike across the state

Houston TranStar

Flood gauge map and alarm system

Seamless combination of observations from multiple information sources and subsystems

Maryland CHART

One GUI of ESS information from the RWIS server, vendor-provided surface transportation weather forecasts, and weather remotely-sensed imagery from another vendor

Salt Lake City

Integration of ESS data from three ESS servers, and incoming road condition and restrictions in the ATMS operators system management GUI

Geographic visualization of weather information

Cherry Hill , NJ

Magnetic whiteboard map for maintenance to track and organize their snow-fighting efforts

Salt Lake City

An Internet GIS-based webpage showing the driving impacts of weather and or restrictions on specific route segments throughout the state

Houston TranStar

Automated wall map with warning lights for each of the flood gauges presents current thresholds and is replicated on the network with GIS software

Specific integration procedures directly related to the primary type of weather issues that affect traffic in a region

Houston TranStar

The power to the light rail is shut off automatically when water depth reaches a certain threshold near a transit underpass

Weather information used by emergency management personnel to monitor potentially dangerous situations or safely dispatch emergency responders


Determining how to route a helicopter air ambulance around localized thunder cells

Houston TranStar

Relocating heavy towing vehicles to be ready for flooding conditions and alteration of transit routes due to anticipated underpass flooding

Traffic operations data used by maintenance staff and weather forecasters to confirm conditions and improve responses

Salt Lake City

The weather operations group (collocated in the TMC) use CCTV images and road condition reports from traffic operations to confirm weather conditions and refine forecasts provided to statewide maintenance dispatchers (also located in the TMC)

Los Angeles

Major traffic incidents identified and tracked by traffic operations personnel were provided to collocated maintenance dispatchers who deployed incident response teams


Maintenance monitors the traffic system during traffic management off-hours using the CCTV and other ATMS tools as weather information sources

Maryland CHART

Maintenance is nearby the control room and, when they are not present in the room, they are regularly apprised of the effects seen on the roadways due to weather

Cherry Hill, NJ

The entire TMC system shifts and the ATMS tools present in the control room (CCTV) become some of the key sources of weather information

Use of quick-reference flip Cards on operation’s workstations

Salt Lake City;


Both locations employed quick-reference cards containing specific information related to field conditions that require response, criteria for contacting service providers, summary operational actions or checklists, and contact numbers

The following seven weather information integration concepts are the result of observations and research conducted by the study team:

Table 9 lists each of the concepts, along with their associated methods and some of the pros and cons associated with each concept/method combination.  The information identified in Table 9 represents the primary findings of this study that are referenced in subsequent sections of this report.  Table 9 generally orders the implementation methods in terms of increasing levels of integration, with the highest levels representing the best practice associated with that concept.  However, because integration is understood as a multi-dimensional concept, it is often not possible to clearly rank each method unambiguously in a linear fashion.  Nevertheless, the methods shown in Table 9 on the bottom of each list tend to reflect a better form of integration than those on the top of the list.

The specific application that is appropriate for a particular TMC will depend on their self-assessment of several factors including the institutional landscape, weather conditions, transportation infrastructure, and weather information needs.  So as not to be too prescriptive, the methods identified in Table 9 are provided at a fairly high level of detail.  It is purposefully left to each TMC to evaluate which concepts and specific methods will work best for them in meeting their needs.

Each of the concepts identified in Table 9 was observed in at least one TMC during the site visits.  In most cases several methods were implemented in association with each other to maximize the benefits of weather information use in decision-making.

Table 9.  Weather Integration Concepts and Methods



Primary Integration Dimension and Level

Pros & Cons of Concept / Method

Weather information coordination

Intra-TMC committee tasked with weather information coordination

Institutional – Level 2

Pros: Good beginning.  Can initiate the needs analysis process, utilizes minimum additional effort, intra-TMC coordination essential for institutional integration.

Cons: Will not address improvement beyond a limited need if the weather events or traffic situation have any level of complexity, high frequency, or severity.

Identified TMC or maintenance staff member tasked with coordinating weather information at TMC

Institutional – Level 2

Operational –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Technical –
   Level 1 thru Level 2

Pros: No additional staffing, provides a focus, champion, and, go-to person.

Cons: Becomes another task and additional responsibility among tasks for an individual that may result in limited effectiveness when competing responsibilities exist, relies on enthusiasm of a champion.

Dedicated weather operations supervisor

Operational –
   Level 3 thru Level 5

Institutional – Level 3

Procedural –
   Level 3 thru Level 5

Pros: An ideal strategy to ensure appropriate integration methods are implemented to meet complex organizational and weather influence needs with continuing quality improvement.

Cons: There needs to be sufficient weather-related demand for the services of a dedicated individual to justify the position.

Continuously available weather information

Internet provided, public access general forecasts, weather radar or satellite image

Operational – Level 1

Physical – Level 1

Pros: Utilizes availability of information accessible from numerous public web sites; low cost, low maintenance, low effort.

Cons: Public forecasts are broad brush and general, and they have marginal value for planning and directing operations. Use of satellite and radar information requires extensive staff training to be interpreted relative to TMC operations.

General weather information, forecasts, and interpretation provided through Cable Channel or non-surface transportation specific subscription weather information vendor

Operational – Level 1

Physical – Level 1

Pros: Minimum cost, low maintenance, low effort, the interpretation of radar and satellite imagery is provided by on-air broadcast meteorologist.

Cons: Not specific to operational needs and inadequate during events. The provider’s focus may not be on the desired operational area or updated frequently enough.  Subscription general weather information requires interpretation relative to the context of TMC operations; imagery is not interpreted.

Contractor provided surface transportation weather forecasts targeted at the operational needs of the TMC agencies

Technical –
   Level 1 to Level 3

Operational –
   Level 1 to Level 2

Pros: Contractual and therefore can be customized to needs and designed to be available at a frequency and time appropriate to operations.

Cons: Requires knowledgeable RFP development and contract management, e.g. dedicated weather operations supervisor.

Field observers or probes providing scheduled weather / driving condition information from entire route system

Operational – Level 3

Procedural – Level 2

Pros: Low technical deployment possible.  It meets multiple sourcing, analysis, and mitigation needs.  It provides information for advisory, treatment, and control responses.  It provides information, not just where ESS or CCTV are deployed, and continuous coverage, not just “bad” weather.

Cons: Must be frequent enough to be valuable and systematic enough to provide information integrity.  Requires significant institutional and procedural commitment and planning.

Meteorology staff located within the TMC forecasting and interpreting weather information

Technical –
   Level 1 to Level 2

Physical –
   Level 3 to Level 5

Institutional –
   Level 3 Level 5

Pros: A relatively non-technical sourcing and analysis integration solution in TMC maintaining daily awareness of weather and forecasts generating awareness as required by TMC agencies.  Also provides high operational benefits from physical integration, no requirements of traffic staff during periods of non-disruptive weather.

Cons: Requires recognition of the value of this method relative to the higher costs to implement it.

Automated thresholds or escalation notification

Extra services  (Email, or page being offered to public by commercial general weather forecast organizations

Operational – Level 1

Pros: Low cost, low maintenance, low effort.

Cons: Uncertain reliability and not specific to transportation needs.  Limited choice in types of information available for distribution.

TMC road weather system (RWIS / ALERT / FEWS) generated specific notifications (Email or page)

Technical – Level 1

Operational –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Procedural –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Pros: Is customizable, specific to TMC needs and is based on transportation system specific needs (e.g. fog, icing, flooding)

Cons: Requires dedicated attention to on-going maintenance.  May not cover all locations of concern in road network.

Personally initiated and delivered notification through e-mail, page, and/or phone call from surface transportation weather information vendor

Technical –
   Level 0 thru Level 2

Institutional – Level 3

Operational –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Procedural –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Pros: A low tech and effective solution, very specific to needs.  It is based on continuous weather observations by technical staff and allows the weather staff to focus on weather, transportation staff on the system, maintenance staff on mobility.

Cons: Someone must always be available for the phone call.  If the vendor is going to call one distribution point for dissemination it has to be procedurally clear as is the case when union rules govern off-time availability.

Protocol driven, sequential activation of additional TMC functions, operational nodes, or satellite facilities

Procedural –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Technical –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Pros: Maximizes mobilization and effective, efficient use of resources during events.

Cons: Requires high procedural and institutional effort and organization.

Daily personal briefings and integrated interruptions by meteorology staff within the TMC

Operational -
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Procedural –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Physical – Level 3

Technical –
   Level 1 thru Level 5

Pros: A relative non-technical integration solution in TMC meeting analysis and advisory needs of operational staff.

Cons: Requires recognition of the value of this method relative to the higher costs to implement it, and sufficient demand to justify the costs.

Seamless integration of multiple sources and subsystems

Geographic visualization of road conditions, snow plow positions and recent coverage, precipitation / wind / visibility

Technical –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Institutional – Level 3

Pros: This provides easy mental integration and understanding, i.e. analysis for increased situational awareness by TMC staff.  A high standard of staff meteorology training or expertise is not required, allowing them to focus on appropriate response to weather conditions.

Cons: Requires expert design and thoughtful layering of information to provide a valuable and useful analysis tool.

Vendor provided single source or system integration

Technical –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Pros: Turn-key solution for hardware and software that connects and organizes all weather information resources desired by TMC associated agencies.

Cons: Modification and improvement requires vendor participation.  Unless site configurable in functionality, it could result in a “one size fits all” solution that is less than effective.

TMC integrated weather information system developed and maintained by in-house staff

Technical –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Pros: Connects and organizes all weather information resources desired by TMC associated agencies.  It provides for flexibility, growth, streamlined improvement, and agency control, customized design optimizes effectiveness for a specific TMC.

Cons: Requires specialized staff and may have high initial deployment costs.

Optimized integration of weather information and transportation system information through software and visualization combining weather observations, road conditions, traffic flow

Technical –
   Level 4 thru Level 5

Pros: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts combining valuable traffic information as well as weather information that provides for better transportation system response than individual agencies operation independently to whether the weather is influencing the traffic.

Cons: The methods and supporting research are not yet available.

TMC provides the operations center, administration and clearinghouse for weather information

Weather information is synthesized and delivered through seamless integration of information combined with seamless distribution

Technical -
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Operational – Level 3

Pros: Identifies and services both internal and external customers providing mechanism for institutional integration.

Cons: Requires moderate level or greater of technical integration effort.

House and maintain the systems that collect and distribute weather information (RWIS, ALERT, FEWS, 511) within the TMC.

Technical –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Physical –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Pros: The best available information is readily available at all times, and this can be achieved in a variety of ways in the TMC to aid with data management and interpretation.  An economy of support and technical skills is realized.

Cons: Requires weather information integration to be institutionally part of TMC.

Source (meteorology or weather operations staff) of surface transportation weather forecasts utilized by TMC associated agencies is located within the TMC.

Operational –
   Level 3 thru Level 5

Physical – Level 3

Pros: TMC gains spill-over benefit functionally integrating weather information within its core responsibility.

Cons: Requires recognition of the value of this method relative to the higher costs to implement it and sufficient demand for at least one of the TMC participating agencies.

Co-location of the EOC

Operational – Level 3

Physical –
   Level 2 thru Level 5

Procedural – Level 3

Institutional – Level 3

Pros: Where disaster-like weather events are recurrent, the TMC gains operational integration efficiency by including the presence of EOC operations during those events.  This succinctly integrates high impact / low frequency events with transportation system operation.

Cons: Requires supportive institutional philosophy and leadership, and physical integration.

Community awareness between the TMC and weather communities

Focus group or informal gatherings of local professionals from the transportation management and weather communities

Physical – Level 1

Pros: Provides low impact mechanism for institutional integration at the local level.

Cons: Requires the presence of local groups willing to take the extra time to form the local activities.

Joint national association meetings with exchange of operational methods and requirements

Physical – Level 2

Institutional –
   Level 3 thru Level 5

Pros: Provides professional development opportunities and a national emphasis for participation.

Cons: Each community has different national associations with little reason for forming a joint meeting resulting in significant institutional indifference.

Computer-based training materials or short (1-2 day) training courses highlighting each community’s operations

Institutional – Level 3

Pros: Provides an effective focus effort to convey expectations and capabilities of each community.

Cons: Requires supportive institutional leadership at the federal agency level to foster funding and developmental assistance for training materials.

Decision Support

Use quick-reference flip cards on operator’s workstation.

Procedural – Level 2

Pros: A low cost, low technology, less experience requirement method ensuring consistent information analysis.

Cons: Limited to recurring, highly similar events and actions not requiring complex operational integration.

Source (meteorology or weather operations staff) of surface transportation weather forecasts used by associated agencies is located within the TMC.

Operational –
   Level 3 thru Level 5

Physical – Level 3

Pros: Expert / timely advice regardless of conditions that are changing or suspect weather forecast models.

Cons: Requires recognition of the value of this method relative to the higher costs to implement it, and sufficient demand for at least one of the TMC participating agencies

Automated condition recognition and advisory or control strategy presented to operator for acceptance into ATMS

Operational -
   Level 3 thru Level 5

Technical -
   Level 3 thru Level 5

Procedural - Level 4

Pros: Improved operational efficiencies through faster analysis requiring less individual operator situational awareness, provides for supported human oversight in system.

Cons: Research required to identify appropriate control strategies and optimal/most effective advisory messages, based on human factors research to determine which messages will lead to the most appropriate driver response/action.

Response scenarios through software supply potential solutions with outcomes based on weather / traffic modeling

Technical –
   Level 3 thru Level 5

Procedural – Level 4

Institutional – Level 4

Pros: Provides experience and knowledge base beyond individual operators, allows what- if’s and learning situations; tracks solution verification.

Cons: Requires near real-time traffic / weather modeling not currently available.

In addition to the concepts and methods, Table 9 provides two other important characteristics for each method: primary integration dimension and level, and other comments that provide insight into whether or not this method would be appropriate for a particular TMC.  Each of these characteristics is discussed in more detail below.

The primary integration dimension and level column refers to the five integration dimensions discussed in the Chapter 1 – operational, physical, technical, procedural, and institutional – and an integration level (0 to 5) as assessed by the study team.  The results of a TMC conducting a self-assessment (refer to Recommendation #3 in Section 3.3.1) should identify what weather information integration is needed and which integration dimension enhancements will result in the greatest benefits.  This column in the table identifies, for each method within a concept, the primary integration dimensions affected.  Additionally, an assessment of the level of integration associated with each dimension is provided.  This level (0 to 5) is a relative value that indicates the degree of integration achieved and the extent of effort required achieving that level of integration.  A 0 to 3 scale was used during the baseline conditions analysis of each site visited, and it reflected the judgment of members of the study team regarding the levels of integration that could be used to understand the state of integration at each site on each dimension of integration, from no integration (“0”) to the highest level observed (“3”).

Table 10 provides the measurement scale 0 to 3 for each integration dimension used in the baseline report, but slightly revised from the measure definitions used during the baseline analysis to fully reflect the most current thinking of the study team and to be consistent with the concepts and methods in Table 9.  The 0 to 5 scale builds on this original scale by adding two additional levels to provide for more advanced forms of integration and the evolution of potential future integration concepts and methods.  It is proposed in Recommendation #4 (Section 3.3.1) that the integration levels 4 and 5 be researched further and defined in detail.

The last column in Table 9 provides the pros and cons of implementing each concept/method combination.  Understanding some of the advantages and disadvantages of implementing each method is provided to assist TMC managers in determining the best configuration of concepts and methods that meets the unique needs of the region or state for which the TMC has responsibility.

An example of how Table 9 might be used by TMCs is provided in Section 3.2.4.

Table 10.  Weather Information Integration Measurement Scale: Dimensions and Levels


Definition of Integration Level for Each Integration Dimension



No weather information used.


Weather information is part of background within the TMC, sourcing is not coordinated; there are no analysis strategies.


Coordinated sourcing of weather information for limited or single analysis or mitigation.


TMC coordinates with co-located agencies in sourcing, analysis, and mitigation.



All agencies or systems sourcing or analyzing weather information are outside of TMC.


TMC shares physical presence with other agencies using weather information for analysis or mitigation.


TMC houses and maintains primary weather information system.


TMC shares physical presence with primary weather information source and other information-using agencies.



TMC uses public systems to source weather information.


Weather information source is multiple, individual display(s) of public and/or vendor systems.


Multi source weather information is combined in unified user interface for analysis.


Multi source weather information is combined in unified user interface for analysis and integrated for limited mitigation uses (advisory, control, or treatment)



No weather information sourcing, analysis, or mitigation strategies in place or used.


Informal, unwritten TMC weather information strategies.


Individual or select TMC agencies have weather information strategies.


TMC agencies physically and technically integrated coordinate weather information strategies



TMC staff is unfamiliar with roles and responsibilities of weather information use.  No active management support for weather information strategies.  No agreements are in place that encourage institutional integration.


TMC staff has general idea of weather-related roles and responsibilities of other agencies, or weather information use is limited to within individual agency or group.


TMC staff informally coordinates weather information use with other agencies, awareness through use of single strategy, concept, or method.


TMC weather information use includes data sharing and national format use, and formal agreements with other agencies.  Management places a high value on integrated, collaborative working relations and decision-making.  Agreements are in place that encourage integrated working relationships.

3.2.4.  How to Use the Concepts and Methods

The following is a hypothetical example of how a TMC manager might use the concepts and methods in Table 9 to enhance the level of weather information integration.

A northern state TMC experiences winter weather that affects road conditions and is currently employing the following weather information integration concepts and methods to provide weather information to its transportation operations personnel:

Using the measurement scale provided in Table 10, the TMC manager rates the center in terms of weather information integration as follows:











During a self-assessment, the TMC manager understands the needs of his operations personnel and the center’s customers to more quickly and accurately address weather conditions affecting the roadways.  A summary of their needs include:

Using information from Table 9 that provides integration approaches and methods potentially usable in TMCs, the TMC manager decides that implementation of the following concepts and methods are required to increase the level of integration in the example above:

These efforts are divided into manageable projects and funding is secured for the coming fiscal year.  Partnerships are explored with related agencies that may benefit.  Following a year of operation with these new integration techniques, the TMC Manager directs the Weather Information Coordinator to evaluate the new systems and procedures and make suggestions for changes and/or enhancements for the next fiscal year.

3.2.5. Potential Benefits

Benefits will vary depending on the conditions and level of integration at a TMC.  This section lists some of the kinds of benefits that have been experienced by TMCs that have effectively implemented weather integration strategies.  Although a comprehensive analysis of the benefit to cost of weather integration has yet to be done in any objective, systematic manner, many observed and anticipated benefits of weather integration are reflected in existing best practices at TMCs.  Enhanced integration of weather information can result in the following kinds of benefits:

3.2.6. Potential Challenges

During the site visit data collection and subsequent discussions with TMC managers, several challenges to weather integration within the TMC were identified.  As mentioned before, the approaches taken to implement this type of integration were specific to the needs of the region or state.  Not surprisingly, the challenges were also specific to the needs of a particular TMC attempting to enhance their level of weather integration.  The study team believes that many of these challenges may be faced by other TMCs when they begin to enhance their weather integration capabilities.  The following potential challenges (and approaches to dealing with them) that were expressed by the TMCs are offered in support of future integration.  It is hoped that by understanding some of the challenges that might be faced by a TMC interested in weather integration and how these challenges could be addressed, it would facilitate eventual implementation.

Lack of national-level TMC coordination.  TMCs across the country view themselves as fitting into a blend of three core functions: information clearinghouse, operations center, and/or emergency manager.  This reflects the mixture of agencies and intra-agency departments that is unique to each TMC.  The unique approaches to operations and integration contained in each TMC are not easily shared with other TMCs that may be facing similar issues.  There is no TMC clearinghouse association that regularly brings together this varied group to discuss common interests.  Therefore, cross-pollination and opportunities for TMCs to learn from others’ experiences and practices are very limited.  If such a venue existed for TMCs to share ideas, it may facilitate addressing many of the challenges discussed in this report.

Recognizing opportunities for weather integration and building support to address them.  In most TMCs weather integration is not a focus of the center, and many opportunities to enhance capabilities are not acted upon.  Many of the other challenges discussed here also contribute to lost opportunities; however, a champion within the TMC, someone who is committed to improvement in operations through expanded weather (information and systems) integration, can provide the needed leadership to take advantage of the opportunities and overcome the challenges.  This commitment can be the basis for building the institutional and technical support needed to identify and implement integration solutions.  The surface transportation weather community may also be able to assist in identifying opportunities and suggesting possible beneficial solutions.

Lack of awareness of the use of weather information in traffic operations and integration opportunities.  The use of weather information in DOT maintenance operations (primarily winter maintenance in northern states) is now widely accepted as critical to an efficient maintenance program.  It has taken over fifteen years to achieve this level of awareness.  The awareness of weather information use in traffic operations is just beginning.  There is a need for aggressive and coordinated awareness building and training programs to facilitate acceptance in this area of transportation management.

The TMCs that successfully overcame this challenge did it by understanding how different weather conditions affected their transportation system and management approaches.  They brought together the traffic operations staff and weather information community to investigate the system needs and potential solutions.  The weather information community may have included National Weather Service (NWS) representatives, sensing equipment vendors, system developers/integrators, and surface transportation weather service providers.  Together, they developed integration solutions that met their needs, many of which are represented in the concepts and methods documented in Table 9.

Access to traffic control strategies and devices.  State DOT TMCs have limited access to electronically controllable traffic control devices such as traffic signals and lane use signals that can be used to respond to weather events, especially when the weather event suggests adjustments to such control devices to facilitate traffic demand.  A stronger link between DOT TMCs that may have useful weather information and those agencies managing local traffic control devices could help to enhance their ability to respond to weather events.

Variations in the determinants of integration.  Figure 1 identified various determinants of integration for a particular region or state including transportation context, exposure to events, institutional structure and climate, and access to resources.  These determinants may vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another, which could drive the different solutions.  Because of these different conditions, the challenge will be for FHWA to help guide the continued development of weather integration in TMCs.  For instance, attempting to categorize the type and severity of weather events by geographical region has proven to be a significant challenge.  Additionally, variation in the political orientation in each jurisdiction may impact the integration solutions, access to funding and the commitment to implementation.

Limited national experience with TMC weather information integration.  Closely associated with the two challenges described above is the fact that there is very limited and disparate experience nationally to use as examples to illustrate the benefits of weather integration.  The ten sites visited during this study represent the most advanced TMCs integrating weather and emergency information into their operations and should be used as examples for others interested in enhancing their capabilities.  Because there is such limited experience and the TMCs that have pioneered the current state-of-the-practice have done so without the use of other examples, it is no wonder that the homegrown solutions are hard to apply elsewhere.  It is believed that as more TMCs realize the benefits of weather integration that a more complete representation of best practices will emerge, expanding the experience base that can be shared with TMCs interested in enhancing their weather integration capabilities.

Understanding the benefits of weather integration versus the costs of implementation.  The cost of weather integration was expressed as a challenge by almost all the TMCs contacted.  TMCs have found it difficult to show justification for the allocation of scarce funds for weather integration.  These costs may include the procurement of sensing equipment and computer hardware and software, maintenance of installed equipment, staff to coordinate the weather information integration activities, or contract services to provide weather forecasting.  The primary challenge is to understand the benefits that would be realized by the implementation of the integration proposal.  This challenge is compounded by the fact that a comprehensive analysis of the feasibility and benefit-to-cost of weather integration has yet to be performed in any objective, systematic manner.  Section 3.2.5 above identifies some of the potential benefits that have been experienced by TMCs that have effectively implemented weather integration strategies.  The successful TMCs investigated their respective potential benefits and built strong cases (not necessarily based on measurable cost savings benefits) to their management for enhanced integration.  They followed this with evaluation activities to strengthen their cases as they implemented various integration approaches.  Several TMCs also utilized the results of customer satisfaction surveys to support their weather information integration activities.

Need for the National ITS Architecture to better reflect the emerging use of surface transportation weather in transportation applications.  Traffic Management Centers (TMCs) exist to integrate technologies, agencies, and information to improve the safety and efficiency of traffic and transit systems.  The National ITS Architecture is an important tool to facilitate and organize ITS integration activities in a TMC.  The National ITS Architecture is based on ITS user needs that are linked to a set of ITS user services.  At present there is no “weather” user service within the National ITS Architecture, but it does describe how weather information can affect the various ITS user services.  However, integration of weather information at a TMC goes beyond the present representation within the current version of the National ITS architecture.  Several TMCs commented that the existing architecture incorrectly illustrates how weather information flows and is used in transportation management.  TMCs have significantly tailored their operations, and hence their architectures, to reflect real-world, inter-agency applications of weather information integration.  Much of this has resulted from the growth of more sophisticated capabilities that continue to be developed by surface transportation weather service providers.  A recent study completed for the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, known as the ITS America Weather Services Study[10] , identified the need to improve the representation of weather and surface transportation weather information within the framework of the National ITS Architecture.  The results of the present TMC weather integration study also find a need to more appropriately reflect the current and emerging role of weather within TMCs within the National ITS Architecture.

3.3  Recommendations

Nine recommendations are offered to assist the Federal Highway Administration and TMC administrators to enhance the level of weather information integration into TMC operations.  These are divided into enhancements to the current practice (5 recommendations) and future supporting research (4 recommendations).  Each recommendation identifies the proposed responsible group that is intended to be the implementer.  Details of these recommendations follow.

3.3.1.  Enhancements to Current Practices


Enhancements to Current Practices

  1. Create an institutional culture within the TMC that is aware of weather information and how it can be used to improve operations.
  2. Provide awareness-building and training to TMC Management regarding benefits of targeted/tailored weather information in TMC operations.
  3. Conduct a TMC weather information use self-assessment and develop an integration plan.
  4. Develop a set of guidelines to enhance TMC integration of weather information.
  5. Improve communications between weather and transportation communities related to traffic operations.

Future Supporting Research

  1. Investigate potential future concepts and methods (e.g., decision support).
  2. Develop a toolkit to assist in the integration of weather and traffic information sources.
  3. Foster a focused road weather research program supporting TMCs.
  4. Establish management strategies and rules of practice to support improved operations and enhanced weather integration.

The first five recommendations are focused specifically on enhancements to the current practice of TMC weather information integration.  Each of the recommendations provides specific leadership actions either FHWA or TMC administrators can take to enhance the level of weather information integration with the goal of improving the overall operational effectiveness of the TMC.

Recommendation 1:  Create an institutional culture within the TMC that is aware of weather information and how it can be used to improve operations

Scope:  TMC’s should establish a weather operations advisory committee or designate an individual as the weather information coordinator.

Leadership:  Transportation Management Center Administrators/Managers

Expected Outcomes:  The expected outcomes of enhanced weather information awareness and a TMC structure in support of increased integration include:

Description/Approach:  Integration of weather information requires an awareness of how it can benefit from the multitude of activities present within a TMC.  For a TMC to successfully integrate weather information there must be a focal point (advisory committee or designated individual) to ensure weather information is taken into consideration for all relevant activities and ensure that available information is appropriate and meets the needs of the TMC and the organizations its integration represents.  The complexity, severity, and frequency of weather / traffic events guide the extent of sophistication required to accomplish this goal.

The implementation of this recommendation can begin with the establishment of a weather information coordination committee representing all agencies connected with the TMC whose activities might be influenced by weather events affecting the transportation system.  A higher level of sophistication would be illustrated by having an individual within the TMC operation or supervisory staff being designated as the weather information coordinator.  At the highest level of sophistication a statewide or regional weather operations supervisor is a member of the TMC staff who oversees the integration of weather will all aspects of the transportation system, including traffic, maintenance and construction.  This person manages the deployment, maintenance, and operation of any roadside or transportation system environmental sensor stations; ensuring seamless integration and delivery of weather information to all transportation system customers both internal and external.

Recommendation 2:  Provide awareness-building and training for TMC management regarding the benefits of targeted/tailored weather information in TMC operations

Scope:  TMC administrators often do not fully understand the difference between generic weather products and those targeted/tailored to the surface transportation decision maker.  Additionally, they do not understand how integrated weather information (tailored) can support TMC operational effectiveness.  It is recommended that outreach, education materials and training be provided to increase the awareness of targeted/tailored weather information sources, tools, and integration of best practices/techniques.  Through increased awareness of how integrated weather information can benefit TMC operations, there is the potential to have an effect on all the dimensions of integration (operational, physical, technical, procedural, and institutional).

Leadership:  Federal Highway Administration, Road Weather Management Program

Expected Outcomes:  The expected outcome of implementing this recommendation is an increased awareness of TMC management to the benefits of integrated weather information to support more effective TMC operations.  This awareness would hopefully encourage specific ideas of how to implement integrated weather information concepts and methods tailored to the needs of the TMC.

Description/Approach:  The education being recommended here needs to include all aspects and potential benefits of implementing the weather information integration concepts and methods described in Table 9.  This would include integrating various sources of road weather information for efficient management decisions as well as the integration of road weather information with traffic operation information.

It is recommended that the Road Weather Management Program develop a comprehensive plan to train both TMC operators and the road weather information community regarding the benefits of integration.  This education program should include an effort to increase awareness, provide computer-based training materials, and develop and present a National Highway Institute (NHI) course.  The first step will be to increase awareness with a focused package advocating for road weather and TMC information integration.  This could include a road show and/or DVD to be presented by Road Weather Management Program staff at TMCs that would illustrate the benefits and best practices throughout the country.  For those TMCs interested in continuing their learning, the computer-based training would go into more detail on specific integration methods and potential implementation approaches.  The computer-based training would be a prerequisite for enrollment in the NHI course that would be tailored to a region’s or state’s needs addressing how to integrate road weather information and traffic operation information in that specific situation.  At the conclusion of the NHI course (and the education program) the TMC operators/management and the road weather community would better understand the needs of each discipline and the available information, approaches and tools to integrate road weather information in TMC decisions.

Recommendation 3:  Conduct a TMC weather information use self-assessment program or process and develop an integration plan

Scope:  TMCs should conduct a self-assessment to help identify the most effective integration solutions and guide their deployment.  This will result in a plan to better integrate weather information into TMC operations.  Since the self-assessment will evaluate all aspects of TMC operation and its use of weather information and develop an integration plan, this recommendation would affect all five integration dimensions (operational, physical, technical, procedural, and institutional).

Leadership:  Transportation Management Center Administrators/Managers and key staff

Expected Outcomes:  The expected outcomes of conducting a self-assessment include:

Description/Approach:  Regardless of what weather information integration level a TMC is at currently, if they are interested in enhancements to that integration it is recommended they conduct (or update if one already exists) a weather information use self-assessment and develop an integration plan.  The inputs (bubbles) and steps (boxes) to achieve such a self-assessment are shown below in Figure 9.

Figure 9.  Recommended TMC Self-Assessment Process

This figure depicts a self-assessment process for integration of weather information.  Four factors are identified that influence all steps in the process including presence of a TMC weather coordinator, knowledge of regional weather related issues, weather information available, and weather integration tools available.  The diagram depicts a process starting with the identificaiotn of weather situations and impacts on traffic.  Table 11, below, provides a framework for collecting and structuring weather impacts.  The next step is the assessment of center needs for weather information.  Once needs have been assessed, the most appropriate solutions to meet the needs are matched to center needs.  From the preceding steps, a weather information integration plan is developed.

The self-assessment process begins with having a TMC weather coordinator (see Recommendation #1 above), and knowing the regional weather-related issues, weather information available, and potential weather integration best practices.  The TMC weather coordination may want to elicit the assistance of the local, and perhaps national, weather community to work closely with the traffic operations personnel during this process.  The first step is to identify the type of weather situations (and frequency) and their impacts on the transportation system managed by the TMC.

Table 11 provides a sample matrix that could be used to categorize the weather situations and the resulting impacts.  The next step is to assess the needs for weather information.

Table 11.  Sample Matrix to Categorize Weather Situations and Resulting Impacts

Table 11 is seven columns wide by eight rows high and presents a framework for identifying and characterizing weather situations and resulting transportation impacts for a designated region.  The row headings list expected types of weather events.  In the sample rows of this table, the weather events identified include rain, flooding, strong winds, snow, blizzard, ice, hurricane, and tornado.  The table is designed so that weather event types can be added as necessary be extending the table with additional rows.  The first column contains an estimate of the number of annual occurrences for this type of event. The remaining columns are cumulatively titled potential impacts and provide a structure for describing transportation impacts in several categories.  The categories of impact identified in column headings include congestion, transit delays, crashes, dangerous conditions, road closures, and staffing adjustments.  In this sample table, no data are entered into the cells of the table.

Table 11 offers a structured approach to answering the question, “What weather information does the TMC need to make better transportation management decisions to lessen the impacts in the future?”  Next, it is necessary to match the weather information needs with appropriate integration solutions.  The final step is to develop a weather information integration plan that meets the needs of the TMC.  This plan should include the integration solutions identified in the self-assessment process and a deployment schedule for each solution.  Costs should be estimated and used for budgetary purposes.  Implementation of the plan should begin as soon as funds are available.

It is not the intent of this report to identify the weather information integration solutions specific to each TMC.  One of the key findings of the Baseline Report was that each TMC is unique and the solutions need to be tailored to the needs of the area.  However, there are many core integration concepts, and corresponding methods, that have been developed and are identified in Section 3.2.3 (Table 9) that can be utilized to assist TMCs in matching potential solutions with their needs.  For instance, perhaps a TMC has general weather information available via a cable channel on a monitor on the operations floor, but that information is not getting to the TMC operators in a timely fashion, and the information is too general to be useful to make critical management decisions.  Through the self-assessment process, this TMC may have discovered that they need more detailed weather information available to the operators continuously.  In this case, a vendor-developed detailed weather “nowcasts” (short-range forecasts) and longer-range forecasts can be provided to the operators on their computer screens as often as they deem necessary or when a particular weather threshold is meant.  There are too many of these possible scenarios and potential integration solutions to be able to discuss them all here.  Using Table 9, and the outcomes from this process, the TMCs can develop the most appropriate weather information integration solutions that meet their needs.

The self-assessment process is likely to identify potential enhancements to information integration within the TMC, and it is inevitable that the TMC concept of operations and regional ITS architecture will require revision.  The Region’s ITS architecture provides a useful framework for applying the needs assessment to all dimensions of weather information integration within the TMC and between associated agencies and mapping an implementation strategy.  Though regional ITS architectures represent information flow primarily as it relates to technical integration, they contain the majority of systems, subsystems and physical entities present at a TMC.

It is recommended that the regional ITS architecture be reviewed during the self-assessment process following the identification of needs and before integration concepts and methods are selected for implementation.  This review should identify existing data flows of both weather information and traffic data.  The review should support the most appropriate new information integration implementation approaches that are consistent with current operations.  Additionally, the concept of weather-responsive traffic operations has expanded and matured since many of the regional ITS architectures were prepared.  New philosophies and new, restructured market packages incorporating surface transportation weather information are now available and relevant.  This exercise can also update the regional ITS architecture to be consistent with the current National Architecture.  Revisions should be identified and implemented in the regional ITS architecture to reflect the proposed road weather and traffic information integration concepts and methods.  These revisions should include technical, physical, and institutional interconnections of equipment, data, and staff.

Recommendation 4:  Develop a set of guidelines to enhance TMC integration of weather information

Scope:  A set of guidelines should be developed to provide a roadmap of potential integration concepts and methods that could be implemented by TMCs interested in weather information integration enhancements.  These guidelines should address all five dimensions of integration (operational, physical, technical, procedural, and institutional).  The results of this effort can be used to support Recommendation #3, conducting a self-assessment and developing a plan to enhance integration.

Leadership:  Federal Highway Administration

Expected Outcomes:  The expected outcome of implementing this recommendation is a roadmap of possible integration concepts and related methods, for each integration dimension that could be applied at a TMC to enhance weather information use in transportation management decision-making.

Description/Approach:  Guidelines are needed to assist TMCs that desire to enhance their level of integration with more advanced concepts and methods.  Additional data will need to be gathered and research conducted in order to develop these guidelines.

It is recommended that FHWA begin immediately to develop these guidelines.  The guidelines will need to address all types of TMCs regardless of their current (and future desired) level of integration.  For instance, a TMC may be just beginning the process of weather information integration and wish to increase their capabilities to enhance their operation.  In another situation, a TMC may already be demonstrating current state-of-the-practice weather information integration and desire to implement new state-of-the-art integration solutions.  These and many other possible scenarios would need to be addressed by these guidelines.

The information presented in the Baseline Report (Appendix A) could be used as a starting point.  Specifically the weather integration measurement scale defines integration levels from 0 to 3 for each integration dimension (Table 10, Section 3.2.3).  This scale of weather information usage levels and their definitions could be used by TMCs to determine their current integration level.  The TMC self-assessment (Recommendation #3) would identify the needs to be met through more advanced levels of weather information integration.  Hypothetical integration levels 4 and 5 would need to be defined during this activity; however, the potential concepts and methods identified in Section 3.2.3 could be used to assist in that exercise.

Each dimension of integration will need to be addressed as well.  The resulting guidelines can be displayed as a roadmap, in matrix form, allowing a TMC to quickly and easily identify concepts and methods that would meet their needs and desires for an enhanced level of weather information integration.  An example of such a roadmap matrix is shown in Figure 10 below.

Using the weather integration measurement scale and the state-of-the-practice concepts and methods (refer to Section 3.2.3), a TMC could determine their current level of integration and the higher level of integration they wish to attain.  As mentioned above, levels 4 and 5 would be defined as part of the effort under this recommendation.  As in Recommendation #3 (self-assessment), there are several possible scenarios and solutions for any given TMC situation and integration dimension.

Figure 10.  Weather Information Integration Guidelines Sample Matrix

Figure 10 is a sample table depicting a roadmap of how a TMC could progress toward higher levels of weather integration.  The vertical axis represents the current level of weather integration.  The horizontal axis represents the desired future levels of integration.  The content of the cells, once complete, would desribe the integration improvements to be implemented to make the desired transitions of level of integration.  This sample matrix has no data in the cells.

Recommendation 5:  Improve communications between weather and transportation communities involved in traffic operations

Scope:  The operation of TMCs involves vast amounts of information coordinated through physical and technical integration between entities within and peripheral to the TMC.  Maintaining clear communications during these interactions results in efficient operations.  Central to this effectiveness is an understanding of the expectations and requirements for information by personnel involved in the routine operations.  Similarly, for effective weather integration within TMC operations it is important to establish a clear understanding of expectations and requirements involving weather information.  However, knowledge of the capabilities and opportunities available from the weather community to the transportation community, including TMC operations, is limited.  Conversely, the weather community is largely unaware of TMC operations and has a lack of understanding of the operational decision-making processes involved and how weather can best be provided to support the decision-making process.  This lack of knowledge of the respective professional communities results in a lack of communications and possible miscommunications between these communities, as well as reduced effectiveness of traffic operations management prior to and during weather events.

Leadership:  Individual TMCs, Federal Highway Administration, ITS America, American Meteorological Society, Transportation Research Board, Commercial Weather Service Providers, Academia

Expected Outcomes:  It is expected that improved communications between weather and transportation, specifically traffic operations, communities will result to facilitate increased awareness of roles, responsibilities, expectations and limitations of capabilities within each community.  This will also result in more effective institutional integration between the weather and transportation communities that will promote improvements in physical and technical weather integration.

Description/Approach:  Improved communications can be accomplished by establishing forums and meetings where issues involving each community as it relates to the other can be addressed.  The outcomes of these exchanges should provide heightened awareness of the interactions needed between weather and traffic operations, improved understanding of capabilities and limitations found within each community at present, and development of improved integration of weather within TMC operations for all dimensions of integration.  By supporting the value of this kind of communications improvements, management leadership in institutional integration creates more effective traffic operations and benefits to the traveling public.

One such area crucial to address is improving the understanding of the needs of the TMC community and the capabilities of the weather service provider community.  A particular area needing special attention is the improvement in understanding by the transportation community of the various products available from the weather service provider community.  Communicating the differences between the structure, content, and accuracy of generic weather information from that of tailored surface transportation weather service products is crucial in advancing the level of sophistication in weather information usage by TMCs.  Further, promoting an understanding of forecast accuracy, methods of monitoring forecast and weather data accuracy will improve the communications between the weather and transportation communities.

The meetings to improve communications should extend from the grassroots to the national level.  Grassroots meetings can be as simple as local professional gatherings where discussions can be informally held.  These informal gatherings could be fostered by exchanging guest speakers at meetings or hosting joint local meetings such that professionals become acquainted.  The outcome of these meetings will provide local stimulation of ideas and promote collegial relationships and mutual trust on which to build a network of local associations between members of the weather and traffic operations communities.  Examples of such meetings are presentations by TMC personnel at local American Meteorological Society Chapter meetings, meetings hosted at local TMCs with participation by the weather community, or presentations by weather personnel at state DOT or university sponsored meetings to discuss ITS issues involving traffic operations.

At a broader regional or national level, meetings or forums should be held where a larger audience participates to present more formal papers and exchange ideas during panel discussions.  National transportation conferences, such as ITS America, should convene sessions devoted to fostering information exchange between the weather community and the traffic operations community.  Such meetings have existed in the past primarily between the weather and transportation maintenance communities and have provided for improved awareness between these groups.  In addition, the ITS America Weather Information Applications Special Interest Group should encourage a broader participation by traffic operations at future meetings.  Similarly, the American Meteorological Society’s Committee on ITS and Surface Transportation should be called upon to expand its membership to include representatives from the traffic operations sector.  Finally, federal agencies such as the Federal Highway Administration or the Office of the Federal Coordination for Meteorology should be called upon to continue fostering greater interaction between the weather and traffic operations communities through national meetings under their direction.  National workshops that bring together the broader weather and transportation communities, such as conducted at the University of North Dakota in August 2004 (, should be encouraged and supported through these federal agencies.

3.3.2.     Future Supporting Research

The current state-of-the-practice provides a point of reference useful for TMCs pursuing weather integration.  However, to move beyond the current state-of-the-practice will require an expanded vision, enhanced awareness of integration opportunities, and further investment in the development of new methods and approaches in weather integration.  Potential future methods may refine those found with existing concepts while others will likely be associated with new concepts.

Recommendation 6: Investigate potential future concepts and methods

Scope:  Current concepts and methods may be insufficient to support more progressive levels of weather integration.  Investigation of more appropriate concepts and efficient and effective methods to implement these concepts should be pursued as part of an on-going process to better utilize weather information within TMC operations.

Leadership:  Federal Highway Administration, university research programs

Expected Outcomes: Continued growth of weather integration within TMCs that promotes improved benefit to cost.

Description/Approach:  Examples of existing concepts that will benefit from research to enhance and expand their methods are “Seamless integration of multiple sources and subsystems” and “Decision support.”  The higher-level method of integration optimization between weather information and traffic information involves the use of sophisticated computer-based processes to effectively merge data and information systems to produce high impact solutions for traffic managers.  Present software packages generally lack the capability to effectively merge weather information into a framework that specifically supports the needs and requirements of TMC operators.  On top of this deficiency is the further lack of software systems that can combine traffic and weather information in a complimentary and synergistic manner that reduces the need for TMC operators to perform mental integration processes.  Research on this optimal integration must involve studies that consider the routine and exceptional challenges involving weather encountered within a TMC.  One additional significant element of this research must be a better understanding of the role human factors plays in the incorporation of weather information in TMC operation.  It is important to perform analyses of human factors within the TMC operator work environment.  The results of these analyses must then be included within the design of more ergonomic graphical display systems that minimize extraneous data and information and maximize weather integration and utilization with traffic information.  The recommended human factors research would include the following elements:

As this optimal structuring and display of weather and traffic information becomes available, this information serves as a valuable resource for the expansion of decision support systems.  The human factor research described above will be crucial to better define the operational processes involved in TMC operator activities.  Expanding this research to include knowledge engineering of TMC operations will identify the decision chains associated with traffic management and the relationship of these decision chains to the data and information involved in making traditional operations decisions and the implications of adding weather information into the decision chain.  From this the capability of building within a decision support system the recommendations of appropriate management strategies can be achieved.  This process of combining knowledge engineering with heterogeneous data sources to provide management recommendations presently comprises the major effort associated with the Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) research and development being conducted by the FHWA and state DOTs.  Utilization of lessons learned and technology developed within MDSS should prove valuable to the proposed TMC decision support system research.

The next step beyond decision support systems is the automation of certain aspects of TMC operations.  While the automation of such operations represents a far-looking vision for TMC operations, it is important to begin the research to better understand and identify those processes and actions that are amenable to automation.  The identification of low-level tasks and tedious actions currently performed by TMC operators represent the first opportunities to be explored.  As autonomous actions become better developed, the TMC operator’s role will become more efficient and effective, and additional development can and should be explored.

Recommendation 7:  Develop a toolkit to assist in the integration of weather and traffic information sources.

Scope:  Existing software and hardware tools available to support the integration of weather and traffic information should be identified and promoted for use in fostering improved integration activities.  This should include a review of current tools being used and the development of an appropriate framework for support access to these tools and their integration within TMCs.

Leadership:  Federal Highway Administration

Expected Outcomes:  This toolkit would provide a community collection of hardware and software solutions that can expedite weather and traffic information integration and serve as a foundation set of tools for application developers.  Having such a toolkit as an open source will promote the adoption and further development of integration from within the development community.

Description/Approach:  The resulting desired data structures of weather and traffic information integration will most likely be common across most TMCs.  However, the originating data may vary considerably in format and general content between TMCs.  The hardware and software actions required to complete this integration will depend upon having tools to support the acquisition and management of these data and information sources.  As TMCs become more sophisticated in their weather integration activities, the software and hardware resources they use should be identified and cataloged for possible incorporation by other TMCs.

Recommendation 8:  Foster a focused road weather research program supporting TMCs

Scope:  The future growth of weather integration and utilization within TMC operations will depend not only on the willingness of the TMC personnel to adopt the integration paradigm but also the presence of solutions to existing challenges involving weather conditions.  The development of a focused surface transportation weather research program will foster opportunities and a willingness of the research community to address these problems and to transfer the resulting technology to TMCs.  This effort should place an emphasis on supporting the recommendations of the National Academies of Science Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate[11] calling for a national road weather research program.

Leadership:  Federal Highway Administration

Expected Outcomes: It is expected that the pace of new solutions to existing TMC weather and traffic issues will be addressed through expanded research activities.  This will result in improved operational efficiencies during adverse weather conditions and promote a safer transportation infrastructure.

Description/Approach:  Problems associated with weather-induced congestion and the impacts on travel times are among the numerous problems that continue to challenge metropolitan areas.  While changing the weather is not a viable option, understanding in advance the genesis and evolution of the impending weather impacts can be addressed better.  This includes developing improved surface transportation weather prediction methods that leverage not only advances in the broader science of numerical weather prediction, but addresses fine-scale weather prediction challenges specific to surface transportation.  Further, the challenges at present cut across the boundaries of weather and transportation.  Present traffic flow models provide very limited inclusion of the vast amount of weather information that currently exists.  Only through a vigorous interdisciplinary research and development program will problems such as this be addressed and resolved.  To gain maximum benefit these expanded research opportunities must include the entire research infrastructure spanning from federal to university research laboratories within both the weather and transportation communities.  The funding for this research effort must also be sustained over many years so as to permit the growth of the surface transportation weather research infrastructure as recommended recently by the National Academy of Sciences.[11]

Recommendation 9:  Establish management strategies and rules of practice to support improved operations and enhanced weather integration

Scope:  A goal of any research outcome should be the establishment of management strategies and rules of practice to support improved TMC operations.  These become transferable standard operations actions that permit a measure of uniformity in operations across TMCs.

Leadership: TMCs, Federal Highway Administration

Expected Outcomes:  It is expected that this effort will provide a pathway for all TMCs to achieve improved weather integration.

Description/Approach:  The present use of management strategies rely heavily upon past technologies that fail to incorporate the benefits of improved road weather information.  Through research that incorporates emerging surface transportation weather research findings along with advances in other areas of information technology, remote sensing, and decision science, the opportunity exists to create a new generation of management strategies that provide for improved safety, mobility and productivity.  Technological advances are presently being made in such areas as winter road maintenance and traveler information through better incorporation of weather information for treatment and advisory strategies.  However, more can be done in these areas along with improved weather utilization for control strategies.  Regarding the latter, much can be done to improve the use of weather for controls strategies such as speed management, and evacuation and access controls.  Through research these areas will be further advanced and brought to a new level of management strategies.  As this research progresses and is validated through adoption and diffusion of the practices, the resulting changes in rules of practice will lead to improved TMC operations.

Research funds should be identified and allocated to permit the research and operations communities to codify those practices that provide a clear, effective and demonstrable management strategy that improves TMC operations through enhanced integration.  These research studies should be used to identify common methods that are crosscutting across geographical and demographic scales and provide a constant measurement of the present best practices and their evolution.  As weather and traffic integration evolves, such regular baseline investigations of the next level of best practices, conducted at intervals of no greater than every five years, will continually provide a pathway for all TMCs to the achievement of improved weather integration.

Integration for Emergencies   |  Table of Contents  |  Conclusions

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