Work Zone Process Reviews
- What is a Work Zone Process Review?
- Work Zone Rule Requirements
- What are the Steps for a Review?
- Topics to Cover
- Data Sources
i. What it is:
A process review is an opportunity for an agency to take a step back and look at how the agency's work zone management is performing on a systemwide basis. Periodic evaluation of an agency's work zone policies and procedures, and the work zone impacts of road projects, helps an agency identify, address, and manage the safety and mobility impacts of work zones. Process reviews help assess the effectiveness of a work zone program and/or a set of policies and procedures. The reviews enable the agency and respective FHWA Division Office to confirm that a problem does not exist, to identify systemic problems, to make recommendations to improve situations where shortcomings do exist, and to identify best practices.
The following are examples of questions that a work zone process review may help answer:
- How are work zones performing with respect to mobility and safety?
- Are the best possible decisions in planning, designing, and implementing our work zones being made?
- Are customer expectations being met with respect to maintaining safety and mobility and minimizing business and community impacts both through, and in and around the work zone?
- Can areas for improvement be identified?
- How have areas for improvement that were identified in the past been addressed?
- What has both worked and not worked – which strategies have proven to be either more or less effective in improving the safety and mobility of work zones?
- What other strategies can be considered for implementation?
- Are there certain combinations of strategies that seem to work well?
- Can any work zone safety and mobility trends be identified, at the national level or local level? What can be done to advocate characteristics associated with good trends? What can be done to remedy the problems associated with bad trends?
- How do work zone performance, the effectiveness of strategies, or areas of improvement vary between day work and night work?
- Should agency policies or procedures be adjusted based on what has been observed or measured?
- Can consistency be brought about in the identification of such trends, issues, and problems and in the standardization of tools and guidelines for application at the agency, State, and/or national level?
- Have the recommendations/action plan items from the last review been implemented?
ii. What it isn't:
- It's not a compliance review for traffic control plans – although it may consider/include the results of these field/traffic control reviews. Work zone traffic control reviews can be a rich source of information to make use of in conducting a work zone process review. Work zone traffic control reviews are important and useful for making work zone improvements, however they do not cover all the areas that a process review should cover.
- It's not a training program – although it may include a review of the agency's WZ training program.
- It's not the Work Zone Self Assessment – although it should make use of the WZ SA results from recent years to avoid "plowing over the same ground" again. In fact the agency may find it beneficial to conduct its WZSA as part of its process review every two years. (http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/decision_support/self-assess.htm)
- It's not a review of crash data – although the agency should use available operational and safety data as part of its process review.
Section 630.1008 of the Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule requires agencies to conduct a process review at least every two years to assess the effectiveness of work zone safety and mobility procedures. The results of the review are intended to lead to improvements in work zone processes and procedures, data and information resources, and training programs so as to enhance efforts to address safety and mobility on current and future projects. According to the Rule, the review may include the evaluation of work zone data at the State level, and/or review of randomly selected projects throughout their jurisdictions. The Rule recommends that the reviews are done using a multi-disciplinary team and in partnership with the FHWA. More information about process reviews can be found in Implementing the Rule on Work Zone Safety and Mobility.
The following presents a suggested approach and some specific considerations for conducting a work zone process review. More information on the basics of conducting a process review on any program area is presented in "ABCs" of Process Reviews.
1. ASSEMBLE MULTI-DISCIPLINARY TEAM.
Effective work zone management starts at the policy level, and pertains to all stages of project delivery – from systems planning through to post-construction. Appropriate representatives from these various DOT departments should have input to the process review. Personnel who represent all the project development stages and the different offices within the agency, as well as FHWA and law enforcement, should participate in work zone process reviews. For example, the workers responsible for implementing and monitoring a TMP in the field are generally following the plan that was developed earlier by agency design or traffic engineering staff, or consultants. Including designers and consultants in some process reviews may help them improve future TMPs. The multidisciplinary team for a process review may be the same team that developed and implements the overall work zone policy and the agency work zone policies and procedures.
It may be helpful and appropriate to include some key non-agency stakeholders – such as TMC operators, emergency services providers, contractors, the public, a trucking company – as participants in the reviews, as appropriate. They can provide a useful perspective and may have insights that agency personnel are not in a position to see. These stakeholders may support the review by providing data and input, such as through interviews, rather than be part of the core review team.
2. DEVELOP A REVIEW PLAN.
A review plan should give the review team a "roadmap" for the review – a clear idea of what is to be accomplished, how, by who, and by when. The Rule allows the following methods, alone or in combination, for conducting the process review:
- Evaluation of work zone data at the agency-level.
- Review of randomly selected projects across a variety of jurisdictions.
Often times, there may be a necessity to use a combination of the two approaches to conduct the process reviews. Evaluation of work zone data at the agency-level involves synthesis and analysis of data from multiple projects. This lends itself to creative clustering and categorization of data and the development of aggregate results to identify trends and develop categorical statistics. Reviewing individual projects helps gain an in-depth understanding of individual project circumstances, the different decision-trees that were involved, the actual impacts, and the performance of the project's work zone transportation management strategies. In either case, reviews should include projects that represent a range of characteristics, such as day and night work; type of work being done; duration of the project; local traffic characteristics; and/or transportation management strategies used.
Purpose and Scope: Function/Processes Reviewed
Work zone performance assessment aspects addressed in the process reviews may involve two tracks: 1) the overall work zone management process and 2) work zone field performance and management strategies. Four performance measure areas of interest for the work zone process review are safety, mobility, construction efficiency and effectiveness, and public perception and satisfaction.
- Determine if Districts/Regions are complying with xxDOT's work zone safety and mobility policy
- Determine if project traffic control plans and specifications are complied with on certain construction projects
- Identify best practices that may warrant use in other Districts/Regions or Statewide
- Determine if traffic control and other transportation management practices are sufficiently addressing safety and congestion.
- Ascertain the present degree of compliance with the intent of the Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule (Subpart J), and the MUTCD as it applies to xxDOT's construction projects (work zone safety and mobility, signage and device installation)
- Determine and document areas of non-compliance and recommend appropriate remedial actions
- Ascertain which existing XXDOT policies and procedures are effectively working to provide safe, mobile, and compliant work zones, or determine if revised or new policies and procedures are needed
- Improve the day-to-day quality and safety and mobility of XXDOT work zones
- Determine the effectiveness of existing work zone training.
The agency and the FHWA Division Office generally work together to identify the scope of review, based on the Stewardship Agreement and a risk assessment.
- Conduct a Statewide Work Zone Process Review to evaluate the existing Department, District/Region, and project work zone implementation, policies and procedures
- Conduct site visits of on-going construction/maintenance work zones in each xxDOT District/Region to determine compliance with work zone specifications
- Conduct a survey in an attempt to obtain information of recurring work zone problems, concerns, issues and best practices
- Document and compare review findings with established xxDOT policies, specifications, and the MUTCD
- Provide a report of the review team findings and recommended corrective action or mitigation to improve public and work force safety within construction work zones
- Establish subsequent procedures and protocol for conducting periodic work zone reviews.
The process review should have clear and concise goals that define what the review is trying to accomplish and identify the expected results. Base the selection of topics on opportunities for improvement and consider a fairly uniform distribution of review topics among the various program areas (safety, worker safety, congestion relief, etc.). Example goals may include:
- Schedule and coordinate work zone operations at the corridor, District/Region, and State level in order to reduce the negative impact of continuous multiple work zones.
- Provide customers real-time work zone information and alternative routes.
- Employ incident management strategies in design and construction.
- Minimize impact of work zones on roadway user, limit traffic delays to 15 minutes or less.
- Reduce the likelihood of crashes by conducting investigations on major work zone crashes and implement improvements where appropriate.
- Use work zone intelligent transportation systems and enforcement strategies to enhance safety.
- Minimize motorist delays and reduce congestion by adhering to the requirements set forth in the Work Zone Lane Closure Analysis Guidelines.
Once the purpose, scope, and expected results are identified, the team must determine what information is needed to support the review.
What do we know now? After determining the information the review team needs, it should next assess what information is already available and identify what needs to be generated.
- Existing Records – Based on the goals of the review, develop a list of existing records and their sources that support the review function. Then determine which existing records are pertinent to the objective of the review. The gaps in data/information identified in the existing records helps the team determine what needs to be collected by other data collection methods.
Gaps in information and possible sources – There are a variety of sources, methods and tools to collect data. These include interviews, written surveys, and onsite inspections.
- Interviews – Interviews are an excellent way to collect information and to judge a manager, organization or situation. Employees may give information more freely during an interview. Interviews are a good technique to fill in gaps.
- Written Surveys can be a questionnaire or focused review questions.
- Questionnaires – Formal written surveys are sent to respondents for their consideration. A benefit is that a larger population can be sampled and any trends identified. One drawback of surveys is that there is little interaction with the review team.
- Focused Review Guide Questions – These are usually prepared in advance of interviews or inspections. They are sent ahead to assist the team in providing focus and consistency in each similar type of interview or inspection. They can also be sent to others that will not be personally interviewed to supplement information.
- Inspections – An actual onsite visit, such as work zone traffic control inspections/compliance reviews, to observe the actual activity, process, or product. Careful consideration should be given to existing review or inspection programs.
A review may include:
- Collection of data including project related information as well as public and stakeholder perception.
- Synthesis and analysis of data at multiple levels (project, local, regional, State, and national) and comparison of findings to performance metrics.
- Application of the analysis results toward continually improving work zone policies and procedures.
- Identification of best practices.
Team Members and Roles
- Team Sponsor – The Team Sponsor can be from the State DOT or FHWA. The sponsor defines the team purpose, chooses the team leader, helps choose team members and checks on progress with the team leader. The sponsor should be a person in a position to implement the changes suggested by the recommendations. The sponsor provides timely guidance, serves as a team enabler and ensures the team is properly resourced.
- Team Leader – The team leader essentially works for the team sponsor. The leader helps choose team members, interacts with the team sponsor, works to establish the review plan, helps establish the ground rules, and keeps the team on task.
- Team Members – Consider including Team Members from FHWA and State DOT (from both the District/Region and Headquarters level) planning, pre-construction, Construction, Traffic and Maintenance Offices. The make-up of the team members depends on the review topics. Each member should be a local expert in his or her field.
- Stakeholders – Stakeholders have an interest in the outcome of the review and are affected by the outcome. They can be a team member and can be used to provide important information during the review. The role of the stakeholder needs to be determined early in the review. Examples of stakeholders could include representatives from law enforcement, the MPO, local businesses, the media, and others. The representatives to involve will depend on what is being covered in a given review.
Schedule and Resources
The review team should also identify target dates for conducting the review and presenting the results, as well as the resources available for the review. Resources should include staff time and expertise, data availability, and budget.
3. CONDUCT REVIEW.
This step involves carrying out the review plan developed by the team. The review team leader should make appropriate assignments among the team members to promote active participation by everyone. It is valuable to document the steps taken and information collected during the review to have a good basis for any conclusions reached and recommendations made. FHWA Division Offices are frequently involved in project inspections on major construction projects. For these projects, it would be beneficial to periodically review the collection and use of work zone mobility and safety data. The results of these periodic reviews can be reviewed in combination during a process review to help identify systemic issues.
4. ANALYZE AND INTERPRET RESULTS.
Well-organized data can help draw conclusions and understand what the recommendations should be.
- Use spreadsheets, tables, figures, charts, graphs, questionnaire summaries
- Represent the existing situation
- Show causal interrelationships
- Keep in mind that tabular data can be better than narrative when demonstrating trends over time, etc.
When analyzing the results it is important to not only look for areas needing improvements, but to also look for best practices. Identify what is working well, and how it is developed and implemented. It is important to share best practices with others so they may benefit from the positive experiences.
One of the main goals of a process review is to identify systemic problems. Look at multiple projects to see if there are recurring issues. If possible, look at project records spanning multiple construction seasons, again looking for recurring problems. In looking to understand and address any issues the team identifies, symptoms may need to be addressed, but real change occurs when you solve the root causes of a problem.
Examples of Typical Symptoms:
- Uneconomical or inefficient use of resources (time, money, manpower)
- Loss of potential income or Fed participation
- Funds improperly spent
- Meaningless or inaccurate info/records (e.g., work zone safety/mobility data are not being used to make decisions)
- Ineffectiveness in accomplishing job
- Inadequate control over resources or actions
- Lack of assurance that job is done properly
- Lack of assurance that objectives are being met
- Significant number of TMP-related change orders.
Examples of Root Causes/Systemic Issues:
- Lack of training (e.g., is there any training/a manual on TMP development?)
- Lack of communication
- Unfamiliarity with requirements (e.g., not aware of agency's work zone policy)
- Negligence or carelessness
- Guidance or standards (criteria) that are inadequate, not provided, obsolete, or impractical
- Conscious decision or direction to deviate from requirements
- Lack of resources (staff, inadequate time to prepare, funding)
- Failure to use good judgment or common sense
- Inadequate data management system
- Lack of effective or sufficient supervision
- Unwillingness to change
- Lack of planning (e.g., TMP development does not begin until late in Design)
- Faulty or ineffective organizational arrangement or delegations of authority.
5. DEVELOP INFERENCES, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND LESSONS LEARNED.
When developing recommendations and solutions ensure they are supportable, directed at solving the problem, focused at the proper level, and supported by data. Implement recommendations at the lowest level of management feasible.
6. PRIORITIZE RECOMMENDATIONS AND LESSONS LEARNED.
Recommendations should have substance and have specific actions or products ready for implementation. Recommendations/solutions should be Conceivable, Achievable, Valuable, Manageable, Constructive, and Realistic. Recommendations should be prioritized by those with the greatest impacts (cost-benefit: $$, time, resources, and consequences).
7. PRESENT THE FINDINGS FROM THE REVIEW.
The purpose of a closeout report is to summarize the results of the process review, document observations, and document the resolutions discussed at the closeout meeting. Observations in the report can be either positive or negative. Observations in a closeout report should be arranged in order of priority and significance. If the team considers an observation significant, it should be reported and addressed. There is no maximum number of observations in a report. The review team should provide recommendations in the report that will resolve or improve the documented observations. The report also serves as an avenue to share "best practices".
Recommended contents for a closeout report are:
- Title of Review
- Purpose of Review
- Scope of Review
- Identification of Team Members
- Executive Summary
- Observations, including "best practices," in order of significance – each observation should have a recommendation
- Proposed implementation plan
- Attachments (supporting documentation, example specifications, graphs, photos, etc.)
Recommendations to improve the content of process review closeout reports include:
- Use statistics whenever possible to justify observations (i.e., "In 7 out of 9 Districts/Regions, this procedure was followed…etc.").
- Recommendations should have substance and have specific actions or products ready for recommended implementation.
- If possible, obtain information from other states on their policies and procedures. These can be shared as "best practices" (e.g., sample specifications, procedures, forms).
- Material to back up the observations should be included as attachments to the report. Examples include charts, graphs, sample specifications, checklists, etc.
8. APPLY RECOMMENDATIONS AND LESSONS LEARNED.
- Are the process reviews performed at least every two years to assess the effectiveness of their work zone safety and mobility procedures?
- Has the implementation plan been carried out?
- Are the process review results used in such a manner that lead to improvements in agency work zone policies and procedures, data and information resources, and training programs, that ultimately enhance efforts to address safety and mobility on current and future projects?
A work zone process review should address all the areas that influence work zone operations and the agency's whole work zone management program. For some process reviews the agency may evenly spread its efforts across the whole program, while in other years the agency may choose to spend most of its process review focusing on one or two areas. While every work zone process review should at least briefly cover the basics of the whole work zone program, an agency may "zero-in" on one or two particular areas of interest or concern.
Following are some sample sets of questions that could be used by the agency to do a first-level review of the areas indicated. Through this review the agency may decide that a particular area warrant a more in-depth analysis and should be selected as a special focus area in a given process review cycle. Some suggestions for how to select a special focus area are discussed below.
- Overall Work Zone Policy Implementation
- Impacts Assessment
- Use of Work Zone Data
- WZ Training Process Review Questions
- Significant Projects
- Traffic Control Component of TMPs
- Transportation Operations Component of TMPs
- Public Information Component of TMPs
ii. Selecting Special Focus Areas
There are several reasons an agency may choose to spend a majority of its review on a particular focus area. The agency may decide that an area warrants a more in-depth review if:
- The review of the basics had indicated that one particular area is not working well.
- During the course of normal project development over the past year or so, one area seems to regularly cause delays or the need to go back and redo earlier work.
- The agency has seen an increase in complaints about a certain element or in a part of the State.
- The agency has not looked in-depth at a certain area, such as TMP development, for a while and has decided to rotate through certain key areas – choosing one for each process review.
- A new process was added since the last process review and the agency wants to look more closely at how the new process is working.
Example – Work Zone Traffic Incident Management as a Focus Area
Last year the agency added a work zone traffic incident management (WZ TIM) program across the State and has begun regularly working with emergency response partners to develop TIM plans for its construction work zones. These plans are now being included in the agency's TMPs for road construction projects. As part of its process review focus area, the agency could assess the overall effectiveness of the incident management strategies and techniques employed and how well the process of developing the plans is working. This review could involve an assessment of a sample of projects and how the WZ TIM strategies in the TMP performed on those projects. Ideally, at the conclusion of each of those projects, the work zone planners, construction personnel, and incident responders would have made some notes as feedback for use in planning for future work zones. For the review, some interviews could be held with those personnel to either gather the information or to ask follow-up questions to any post-construction notes. Construction personnel and incident responders should be asked to evaluate the strategies used against the traffic incident management objectives defined during the work zone planning processes.
Construction personnel and incident responders should specifically assess the following:
- Did the strategies help reduce the time required to detect the presence of incidents in the work zone?
- How did the strategies help expedite the clearance of incidents in the work zone?
- How did the strategies help facilitate or improve incident responses in the work zone area?
- Did the strategies deployed reduce the frequency and severity of crashes and secondary crashes in the work zone?
- Did the strategies reduce the number of public safety personnel needed to respond to the incidents?
- How did the strategies impact incident responder safety, cooperation, and collaboration within the work zone?
- How might customer satisfaction be improved in future work zone traffic incident management efforts?
Steps should also be taken to document the effectiveness of the strategies, wherever possible.
Work Zone Self Assessment
The annual Work Zone Self Assessment can be a source of information to utilize in determining areas for improvement in the TMP development and implementation process. By reviewing the responses of the assessment, it should be possible to identify weaknesses in the performance of work zones within the State. These could be either safety or operational problems.
Crash Data – Systemwide
A complete review of all work zone crash data should be conducted. Crash patterns can be used to identify possible problems with work zone traffic operations. The problems could indicate a need to review and possibly revise the agency's work zone policies and procedures. For example, an unusual number of crashes occurring in queues of vehicles approaching work zones could indicate that additional advance warning signs should be included in the plans for future work on those types of facilities. It could also be an indication of a lack of mobility/decreased capacity through the work area versus what was anticipated. This could lead to a review of the agency's method for estimating impacts.
A review of the crash data gathered at the project level during construction should be undertaken to determine if there are any crash patterns that can be identified and attributed to the work zone activities. The team should review the crash reports from the crashes that occurred in or related to the work zone to determine if there are any work zone related factors that contributed to the crash. Spot checking of each project's post-crash reports could lead to the identification of trends that should be evaluated closer. For example, if agency project files contain a significant number of post-crash reports of rear end crashes that occurred in the activity area of various projects, this could point to operational problems caused by construction traffic ingress/egress at the work area. Such a finding could lead to adjustments to agency traffic control plans.
Operational Data – Project Level
Methods should be developed and utilized to provide information on the operational performance of the work zone design and implementation. These methods could use technology to measure delays through the work zone or the length of the queue. These measures provide an insight into the effect the work zone strategies employed in the TMP had on the impacts caused by the work zone. This data should be analyzed to determine how accurate the estimates are of the impacts for projects. For instance, if the impacts are significant, but the project was not designated as a "significant project", then an adjustment to the criteria for "significant project" could be in order.
Field Observations – Project Level
The construction personnel assigned to the project should be requested to provide an assessment of the effectiveness of the TMP through field observations and provide quarterly reports for the duration of the project. These reports can be used to identify any problems associated with the various phases of the work.
Traffic Control Review Documentation
Project personnel are responsible for making routine inspections of the temporary traffic control on each project. Their documentation records should be reviewed to determine if the temporary traffic control was adequate as designed or if there were field modifications necessary to improve operations. Maintaining effective traffic control during stage or phase changes can be critical. The project documentation should include observations on how well these revisions were accomplished and note any problems. This information should be shared with designers to relay what types of staging works well and what causes problems.
Customer surveys can provide an insight into how the public views the performance of the agency in providing for mobility in work zones. Unexpected delays are often one area that the public rates as unsatisfactory. This may be an indication that the agency is not doing a good job of assessing and mitigating the impacts caused by the work zones. Either the process used to estimate the magnitude of the impacts should be reviewed or the decision process on how to apply various strategies to mitigate the impacts may need to be revised.
Work Zone Traffic Control Reviews
The work zone traffic control review is a tool that can be used to determine if the provisions of the TMP are being properly implemented in the field. Improper design or placement of traffic control devices in the Traffic Control Plan can be an indication that the field staff needs additional training in the importance of applying proper traffic control. This review could also be used to determine the effectiveness of the persons responsible for the implementation of the TMP. The reports from these reviews can identify programmatic issues that may need to be addressed through the revision to standards and specifications. Some examples of work zone traffic control checklists are available.
The policy established by the agency should include goals for safety and mobility in work zones. A review of the actual results compared to the goals will be a good indication of how well the policies and procedures are working. Examples could include the maximum delay encountered in work zones or a reduction in the number of crashes related to the work zone. Not reaching the goals in an area can be an indication of what processes should be included in the review.
Post Project TMP Evaluation and Performance Assessment
Upon completion of the project, the TMP team will prepare a concise evaluation of the TMP. Include successes and failures, revisions made to the TMP and the results of those revisions, public feedback, actual conditions versus those predicted, cost for implementation of the TMP, and recommended improvements.