Photos of cars on freeway, speeding sign

Freeway Management and Operations Handbook


Over the past three decades, the practice of freeway operations has matured. Strategies have evolved, techniques have been developed, and new technologies (ITS) have emerged. Traffic operation centers have reported successes and failures as lessons learned. The intelligent transportation community has quickly incorporated those lessons, and the resultant systems have progressed with each new generation of the freeway traffic management system.

The profession's view of freeway management and operations has also changed. Freeway management strategies and concepts were initially developed to counter congestion. That is still a major goal, along with enhance safety. But freeway practitioners are also beginning to view themselves as good stewards and responsible managers, managing not only the traffic flow on the network but also the being more proactive in addressing potential problems, rather than merely reactive. Moreover, part of this stewardship includes managing the elements of the network itself (e.g., asset management), not just the traffic flow. Another important consideration in this regard is that transpo rtation is becoming increasingly customer-driven, with a need to view the network at more of a regional scale.

This expanded view of freeway operations and management is reflected in the key and recurring themes in this Handbook, including:

  • Even though their primary responsibility may be the freeway network, practitioners must not address freeway management and operations in a singular, isolated manner. Accordingly, freeway managers must view the overall performance of the transportation network as a whole, and consider a vast array of potential actions to imp rove its performance. This may mean looking beyond the "typical" freeway management and operation alternatives and technologies.
  • Freeway management and operations extends beyond ITS and electronic systems.  Freeway managers must be familiar with all of the tools available to improve the safety and efficiency of the freeway system, including major roadway improvements, minor roadway improvements, and traditional traffic control devices (such as, static signing, pavement marking, and illumination systems); and look for appropriate opportunities to utilize these tools.
  • Several processes have been instituted for developing transportation programs, planning and prioritizing potential improvements, and defining individual projects and strategies. Freeway management and operations should be an integral part of the established processes within an agency. Moreover, the freeway management practitioner must be cognizant of and, to the greatest extent possible (commensurate with his/her responsibilities), participate in these processes ensuring that freeway management and operations receives appropriate consideration.