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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies



Work zones provide unique challenges to incident responders, including reduced access, narrowed lanes, minimal refuge locations, physical barriers, and reduced sight distances. At times, work zone elements can violate driver expectancy. In addition to reducing the normal capacity of roadways, the potential also exists to confuse drivers with conflicts between construction and maintenance traffic control and incident management traffic control. All of these factors combine to not only increase the likelihood of incidents occurring within a work zone, but also increase the impact that even a minor incident has on traffic operations in the work zone.

Traffic incident management (TIM) and work zone management are two of the tools in the transportation professional’s “operations toolbox” that focus on reducing congestion. Incident management focuses on developing procedures, implementing policies, and deploying technologies to identify incidents more quickly, improve response times, and manage the incident scene more effectively and efficiently. With work zone management, agencies attempt not only to reduce the amount of time work zones are needed, but also deploy strategies for moving traffic more effectively in and around the work zone, particularly during peak travel times.

Many locations already have, either formally or informally, established TIM programs. In these locations, the goal of work zone planners should be not to establish new incident management programs or functions, but to augment or expand these existing programs, ensuring that the specific needs of their construction/ maintenance activities are met. In other locations, where incident management programs are not as well-defined, a construction or maintenance project can be the catalyst for bringing these agencies together to strengthen the incident management process. Oftentimes, formal incident management programs, and the relationships that develop, continue well after the construction project ends and form the foundation for future incident management efforts.

Purpose of This Document

The purpose of this document is to address the special needs and concerns when managing traffic incidents within a work zone. In this document, the user will find a discussion on the importance of transportation management plans in work zones and how incident management is one strategy that should be considered in the transportation operations component of a work zone transportation management plans (TMP). Techniques and strategies that can be used to handle incidents in work zones are contained in this document. The document also contains information showcasing some trend-setting approaches that have been used on high-profile construction projects as examples of how incident response planning can be incorporated into the design of construction projects. This document also discusses the contractor’s role in dealing with incidents in work zones.

Target Audience

This document is targeted toward three distinct audiences that might be required to deal with incident management as part of a construction or maintenance activity. These include the following:

  • Work Zone Planners and Construction/Maintenance Personnel – These would include construction personnel from both public and private entities that are responsible for working with operations personnel to develop, implement, and execute TIM responses in construction and maintenance work zones.
  • Traffic Operations Personnel and Incident Responders – These would be operations personnel that have the responsibility for implementing TIM strategies and systems identified in TMPs. These include not only transportation agencies, but also law enforcement and other emergency services that typically respond to traffic incidents and collisions.
  • Project Planners/Design Personnel – These would be individuals responsible for developing the plan, specifications, and estimates (PS&Es) associated with construction/maintenance projects. These would include individuals that would also be responsible for designing TMPs (see below) for specific construction projects as well as those responsible for developing traffic control standards on an agency-wide basis so that baseline TIM plans can be included as part of project requirements.

Structure of This Guidebook

This guidebook is one in an Information Series on Traffic Incident Management Safe, Quick Clearance. This guidebook focuses on Traffic Incident Management in Construction and Maintenance Work Zones. Other guidebooks available in this information series deal with the following topics:

  • Traffic Control Concepts for Incident Clearance,
  • Hazardous Materials Spills in Incident Clearance,
  • Information Sharing for Traffic Incident Management, and
  • A Multi-disciplinary, Holistic Approach to Traffic Incident Management Resource Management.

This document discusses the special needs and concerns of managing traffic incidents within work zones and describes processes, procedures, and practices related to the detection, response, and clearance of incidents in work zones. Chapter 2 provides background information on the importance and process of developing TMPs for work zones and how incident management procedures and practices are an element of the transportation operations component of these plans. Chapter 3 provides additional background information of the goals, objectives, and reasons for incident management. Chapter 4 discusses some of the issues and concerns that work zone planners, incident responders, and traffic operators need to consider in the planning phases of a work zone project. Chapter 5 provides a brief description of common incident management strategies and lists some of the advantages and disadvantages associated with deploying these strategies in a work zone. Chapter 6 focuses on actions that work zone planners, traffic operators, and incident responders can do during the execution of a particular work zone project to provide insight into enhancement or improvements to incident management activities. Chapter 7 contains references and other suggested readings that were used to develop this guidebook.