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final report

Traffic Congestion and Reliability:
Trends and Advanced Strategies for Congestion Mitigation

1.0 Introduction

This report is the second in an annual series developed by the FHWA's Office of Operations. This series is meant to highlight recent trends in congestion across the Nation and to highlight the activities that Federal, state, and local transportation agencies have initiated to control congestion. The series pays particular attention to the concept of travel time reliability—how consistent travel conditions are from day-to-day—and strategies aimed at improving reliability.

Mitigating congestion is a high priority for the FHWA, which has established congestion mitigation as a key focus area.4 This report supports this effort by providing a review of congestion issues and solutions in the United States. The emphasis of the report is on measuring trends in travel time reliability and making travel more reliable through Transportation System Management and Operations (TSM&O) initiatives. The topic of congestion is clearly much broader than this focus. While the broader context of congestion is discussed, the report spends most its effort on defining and measuring travel time reliability, and highlighting TSM&O strategies to address it.

One of the key principles that the FHWA has promoted in congestion measurement is that the metrics used to track congestion should be based on the travel time experienced by users of the highway system. While the transportation profession has used many other types of metrics to measure congestion (such as "level of service"), travel time is a more direct measure of how congestion affects users. Travel time is understood by a wide variety of audiences—both technical and nontechnical—as a way to describe the performance of the highway system. All of the congestion metrics used in the report are based on this concept.

This year's report covers several topics, many of which are recurring themes in the series. However, when the same basic topics as previous years' reports are covered, new information that has come to light is used. The topics covered in this report are:

  1. Federal Highway Administration, FY 2004 Performance and Accomplishments Report.

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