Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Designing for Transportation Management and Operations: A Primer

3. Design Considerations for Specific Types of Operations Strategies

Proper design of operational elements and inclusion of M&O considerations in typical infrastructure projects provide an opportunity to maximize the efficiency of a transportation system. Future deployments can be jeopardized when operations considerations and provisions are not included in projects. This chapter provides an overview of M&O strategies and considerations for incorporating operations into the design of transportation projects. It is intended to help designers understand what design issues may be associated with specific operations strategies and how to include these strategies on typical transportation infrastructure projects. It should be noted that many of these strategies can also be deployed on a standalone basis where appropriate. Many strategies and design considerations described in this chapter are repeated in various sections due to the overlap and interdependence of these strategies. For example, freeway management and arterial management are essentially broader categories that include elements of subsequent sections of the chapter, such as managed lanes, active traffic management, and maintenance. The decision of which operations strategies to consider during the design of projects may often be driven by overarching operations objectives and a concept or plan for managing and operating the transportation system.

3.1 Freeway Management

Freeway operations and traffic management involve managing travel and controlling traffic. The application of appropriate policies, strategies, and actions can mitigate any potential impacts resulting from the intensity, timing, and location of travel and can enhance mobility on highway and freeway facilities. Freeway management systems can improve the efficiency of available capacity, improve safety, and support TIM activities. These systems can also be used to mitigate existing features in the cases of curve warning systems or runaway truck ramps.

Figure 13. Runaway truck ramp on Interstate 24 in Tennessee, a design element that supports highway operations.
A runaway truck ramp on a roadway through a mountainous area with winding roads. (Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation)

The FHWA's Freeway Management and Operations Handbook states: "Freeway traffic management and operations is the implementation of policies, strategies and technologies to improve freeway performance. The over-riding objectives of freeway management programs are to minimize congestion (and its side effects), improve safety, enhance overall mobility, and provide support to other agencies during emergencies." By following the strategies and design considerations described in this chapter, designers can support the strategies described in the Handbook.34

During the design phase for freeways, many operational strategies need to be accommodated. Design for non-recurring congestion caused by weather events, accidents, construction, emergency repairs, and other events must be integral to the physical design of the facility.

Figure 14. One-tenth mile markers support incident management on freeways.
A one-tenth mile marker.
(Source: MUTCD)

As technology has become more integrated with the transportation system, the opportunity to utilize ITS and other means to manage freeways has become more prevalent. Various devices and systems placed on freeways, including CCTV, dynamic message signs (DMS), and ramp meters, have changed the way freeways are operated, but have not adequately changed the way they are designed. ITS and other technologies are too often treated as an afterthought in the design process; designers tend to "fit them in" rather than design optimal locations for them.

The challenge now is not just to include technology in a project, but make it a seamlessly integrated portion of the design, similar to the design of stormwater management, utilities, or guardrail. When ITS is included on a new or reconstructed facility, efforts should be made to integrate the devices and communications into the overall design of the facility in order to ensure optimal placement of the devices. Since ITS is used to monitor and manage the freeway, the locations of devices are crucial. For example, a DMS displaying a message to travelers about the congestion they are currently sitting in is not located in a place where it can have maximum effectiveness. Rather than locating the sign where there is available right-of-way, the sign should be located to improve the operation of the facility. Considerations such as sun glare, guide sign spacing, spacing from the next interchange, and visibility due to horizontal or vertical curvature are just a few of the design considerations for placement of a DMS, as well as for other freeway management strategies. To embrace designing for operations, designers must explore these considerations within the framework of the overall design of the facility.

Table 1 identifies elements to consider during design that can impact freeway operations. It also shows potential opportunities for designers to structure their roadway design (or redesign) to allow for more cost-effective implementation of freeway management strategies in the future. Some of these design considerations would apply to multiple strategies.

An additional resource to supplement the design considerations for ramp meters listed in the table below is the FHWA Ramp Management and Control Handbook.35 This reference contains a section focused on design considerations for ramp metering based on a variety of ramp metering design manuals and guides from across the United States.

Table 2. Example design considerations and opportunities for various freeway management strategies.
Freeway Management Strategy Design Considerations/Opportunities
Strategic Highway Safety Plans or Toward Zero Deaths Efforts
  • Consult operations staff about rumble stripes/strips due to noise, pavement age and thick-ness, and marking.
  • Wider rumble stripes require retrofitting existing equipment.
Managing Non-recurring Congestion
  • Include signing for routing incident-related traffic through adjacent arterials.
  • Include emergency refuge or pull-off areas and crash investigation sites.
  • Provide for large-scale evacuation through contra flow lanes and appropriate signing.
  • Include detection to activate special signal timing schemes on adjacent arterials for traffic diverted off the freeway.
  • Provide median breaks, crash investigation sites, and permanent crossovers at major bridges.
  • Provide 1/10 or 2/10 mile markers and other structure identifiers for the motorist to support incident detection and TIM.
Ramp Meters
  • Consult with arterial road operators to determine the best way to avoid queues on the feeding arterials. Allow for adequate width in the original design to accommodate future HOV bypass lanes.
Traveler Information
  • Incorporate information related to transit operations, such as park-and-ride lot locations prior to bottleneck locations.
  • Provide travel time information for all available modes of transportation, including light rail, bus, and subway.
  • Build areas to allow portable changeable message signs (CMS) to be deployed due to DMS outages and repairs.
Managing Weather Events
  • Consider anti-icing devices for bridges.
  • Consider locations for full road weather information system sites or individual components for specific conditions (e.g., wind or fog).
  • Consider providing storage sites for maintenance.
ITS and Communications Technology
  • Install conduit for fiber optic networks and expansion of communications devices for ITS and other technology along the freeway.
  • Provide adequate points of access for ITS devices as well as other agencies' needs, such as automated enforcement.

Figure 15. Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS) may be considered to support freeway management during weather events.
A mastarm used to close the roadway containing a sign that reads 'Road Closed Due to Fog'.
(Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation)

3.2 Arterial Management

Arterial management involves implementing practices and operations strategies that promote the safe and efficient use of arterial roadway capacity to manage congestion. It also promotes the idea of treating the transportation system as a network that serves transit, bicycles, and pedestrians in addition to motorists. Improved modeling capabilities have improved understanding of how the transportation system is a connected network: what happens in one location affects another. Design of freeway, arterial, and bridge projects must consider impacts on the operations of the local transportation network. Agencies must work together regardless of jurisdiction to ensure the proper strategies are put in place to mitigate the impacts on the surrounding network.

Caltrans applies ramp metering as a crucial operational strategy for managing traffic and has developed two documents to guide project developers and designers in the planning and design of ramp meters. The Caltrans Ramp Metering Design Manual defines the "traffic operational policies, design standards and practices for ramp metering installations at new or existing entrance ramps," whereas the second document, the Ramp Metering Development Plan, establishes a list of each ramp meter currently in operation or planned over the next 10 years throughout California. The development plan is framed as a tool to facilitate coordination between functional units in Caltrans and with external partners in the planning and programming of ramp meters. Caltrans has also incorporated ramp metering into its statewide training courses to help integrate ramp metering throughout the project planning, design, and construction process. The ramp metering design manual contains information on storage length, HOV preferential lane, modifications to existing HOV preferential lanes, enforcement areas, and maintenance pullouts.

The ramp metering design manual instructs project development teams to consult the District Operations Branch before beginning any ramp meter design thus encouraging cross-functional collaboration. The manual also indicates that any freeway segment identified within the development plan should include provisions for ramp meters.

For more information, see:

Successfully managing the safety and performance of arterials involves the following core functions:

  • Cooperation of municipalities;
  • Managing access for all modes; and
  • Monitoring and actively managing traffic conditions and intersection signalization. Other arterial management strategies to consider include traffic management during construction (alternate/detour routes), turn lanes, bus turnouts, crosswalk layout, and alternative intersection designs, such as displaced left-turn intersections and U-turn intersections.
Figure 16. Gates to manage highways during weather events or emergencies may be considered during design.
A retracted gate at the side of the road has an arm that can be dropped down from the vertical to the horizontal to close the road.
(Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation)

3.2.1 Cooperation of Municipalities

Because arterials often fall under the jurisdiction of different agencies, managing arterials properly requires cooperation and collaboration with neighboring communities. A project under one jurisdiction should achieve a level of operation similar to the rest of the corridor. In order to accomplish this, agencies may need to form agreements. For example, to move traffic through the signals on a multi-jurisdictional corridor in order to maintain traffic flow, a designer may need to connect to another agency's network to share intersection data, share information on preemption for transit and emergency vehicles, or consider special event timing plans.

These agreements can be formal concepts of operations or memoranda of understanding, or they can be informal "hand-shake" agreements that have been institutionalized through years of effort. Designers must educate themselves on the content of these documents or other collaborative arrangements to understand how a project may impact the arterial as a whole. These agreements help agencies share a common language regarding operational goals, performance measures, and strategies to manage the arterial.

Figure 17. Example of a facility design that did not account for pedestrians or bicycles.
A truck and car pass each other moving in opposite directions on a two-lane curving road. The car must swing out over the double yellow line to pass two pedestrians walking on at the edge of the roadway.
(Source: SAIC)

Intersection Control Evaluation (ICE) is a process by which the most appropriate traffic control is selected through a holistic decisionmaking framework. Significant intersections are targeted, and impacted agencies provide feedback on which traffic control strategies to deploy (e.g., traffic signal vs. roundabout). This process helps support context sensitive solutions such as road diets and complete streets. Minnesota DOT practices ICE and has an Intersection Control Evaluation Guidelines for Implementation document. Caltrans is considering adopting the practice as well.


3.2.2 Managing Access for All Modes

Managing access is a primary strategy for improving operations on an arterial. Many agencies have guidelines on design elements such as driveway spacing, corner clearance from major intersections or interchanges, and the optimum location of signals and roundabouts. While these provide foundational knowledge to apply to arterials, designers cannot expect to follow the guidelines exactly, as adjustments are often necessary.

Designers should check for operational impacts due to deviations from these guidelines. For example, when implementing context-sensitive solutions such as road diets and adding bicycle facilities, the operational impacts of the following should be considered:

  • Intersection traffic control (e.g., pre-timed, actuated coordinated, closed loop, adaptive control, roundabouts) – Selection requires a detailed analysis to balance cost, travel time, and delay for all modes as well as other defined operational parameters.
  • Median treatments (e.g., pedestrian refuge, center turn lanes, raised medians) – These treatments can impact the overall safety for all users of the facility, access to adjoining property, and efficiency for all modes.
  • Multimodal transportation facilities – this including bus stops or turnouts and bicycle lanes.
Figure 18. The photo highlights the importance of considering safe, efficient pedestrian access to bus stops as part of a complete arterial management strategy.
Pedestrians walking on a narrow, snow-covered sidewalk between a gas station from a major arterial. The landscaping of the gas station has grown out over the sidewalk, narrowing it further.
(Source: SAIC)

3.2.3 Monitoring and Actively Managing Traffic Conditions and Intersection Signalization

Designers planning physical changes to an arterial roadway will need expertise in traffic operations in order to evaluate these changes because a simple report about level of service will not adequately address operational issues. Proper design and management of intersection traffic signalization is essential to optimizing the operation of arterial roadways. Designers must consider the overall corridor and roadway network signalization concept when designing a project for individual intersections. Questions about managing queues, operating speeds, safety modeling, and impacts due to growth in traffic and increases in pedestrian and bicycle modes need to be addressed. Designers should provide for in-pavement loops or other traffic monitoring devices to allow for operational assessments, including signal timing and progression.

Table 3 identifies elements to consider during design that can impact arterial operations. It also shows potential opportunities for designers to structure their roadway design (or redesign) to allow for more cost-effective implementation of arterial management strategies in the future. Some of these design considerations would apply to multiple strategies.

Table 3. Example design considerations and opportunities for various arterial management strategies.
Arterial Management Strategy Design Considerations/Opportunities
Strategic Highway Safety Plans or Toward Zero Deaths Efforts
  • Type of median treatment for passing lane configurations.
  • Use of rumble stripes/strips.
Collaboration of Agencies and Municipalities
  • Designers can facilitate regional operational practices and procedures by providing technical information to support multi-agency agreements. For example, designers can provide intersection dimensions for a system-wide change of clearance intervals of signalized intersections.
  • Support existing maintenance agreements between jurisdictions through infrastructure design related to snow removal, striping, signal maintenance and repair, roadway surface repair, permitting, and drainage as networks cross jurisdictional boundaries.
  • Seek out informal but institutional arrangements related to management and operation of the corridor and advance them into standards or executed agreements.
  • Uphold the principles and performance measures established in any concept of operations being used to govern the management of the corridor.
Manage Access
  • Use traffic modeling to assess changes in access management near signals and other major intersections.
  • Consult expertise in traffic operations to evaluate the impacts of adjusting access due to actual site conditions.
  • Have designers and operators jointly review redevelopment proposals containing changes in access to be sure transportation needs are met (e.g., road diets).
Intersection Control
  • Establish operations objectives and performance measures related to queue management, storage requirements, multi-modal impacts, and turning restrictions.
  • Use the FHWA systems engineering process to evaluate the appropriate signal system for progression (e.g., actuation, closed loop, or adaptive signal control).
  • Consult with operations staff about the location of signal hardware for ease and safety of maintenance.
Signal Coordination, Traffic Responsive Intersection Control, and Adaptive Signal Control Technology (ASCT)
  • Provide traffic monitoring devices to allow for optimum operations and signal timing and progression.
  • For regional traffic signal systems, designers must consider how communications and maintenance will be managed since multiple agencies may be responsible for a single system. Agreements between agencies should be developed during the design stage to address these issues.
Context Sensitive Solutions (e.g., complete streets)
  • When constructing or upgrading sidewalks, eliminate other barriers to pedestrian access by adding countdown pedestrian signals, pedestrian ramps, and associated hardware and conduit for these treatments.
  • Contact the appropriate department or agency to update pedestrian timing at signals.
  • Facilitate transit operations by implementing strategies such as bus turnouts, preemption for buses, and directional signing of transit facilities.

3.3 Active Traffic Management

Active traffic management (ATM) and managed lanes (see Section 3.4) are becoming increasingly popular in the United States as facility operators seek innovative solutions that can improve throughput and safety on congested facilities largely within the footprint of existing highways, thus requiring little or no roadway widening.

Figure 19. ATM lane control signage on a highway in Washington is placed in a high-visibility location to optimize operations.
ATM lane control signage, with one sign per lane, is mounted on gantry over a multi-lane highway.
(Source: Washington State DOT)
Figure 20. Variable speed limit sign in fog warning zone on I-75 near Cleveland, TN. Speed limit is reduced during periods of fog.
Variable speed limit sign uses led lights to indicate the speed limit.
(Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation)

ATM is the dynamic management of recurrent and non-recurrent congestion based on current and forecasted traffic conditions. ATM focuses on maximizing trip reliability through approaches that seek to increase throughput and safety through the use of integrated systems and new technology. ATM includes the automatic and dynamic deployment of M&O strategies to optimize performance quickly and avoid the delay that occurs with manual deployment.

Some ATM strategies, such as ramp metering and variable speed limits, have been successfully implemented within many parts of the United States. Most other ATM strategies are relatively new concepts in the United States; however, they have been successfully implemented in many parts of Europe.

Table 4. Example design considerations and opportunities for various ATM strategies.
ATM Strategy Design Considerations/Opportunities
Dynamic Speed Limits (DSL)
  • During original roadway and ITS design, provide adequate conduit in the median barrier or shoulder to accommodate future DSL signage.
  • Consider line-of-sight impacts in placement of DSL signs.
  • Consider how DSL signs will compete with other signs.
Speed Harmonization
  • If gantries are used, locate periodic overhead signage that takes into account how sight distance is affected by vertical/horizontal alignment, the ease/expense of retrofitting with sign foundations, and required spacing for messaging.
  • Consider catwalks or other means of maintaining equipment while limiting lane closures.
Dynamic Lane Use Control
  • During placement, consider special geometric characteristics and driver decision points.
  • Consider line-of-sight impacts in placement of lane control signs.
  • Ensure that lane control symbol options (text, symbols) comply with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
  • Consider catwalks or other means of maintaining equipment while limiting lane closures.
Dynamic Shoulder Lanes (Hard Shoulder Running)
  • Provide emergency pull-off areas where right-of-way allows.
  • Design exceptions for geometric standards, including lane width, vertical and lateral clearance, and stopping sight distance may be required.
  • Consider drainage structures and storm water/snow storage, including inlet grates (motorcycle safety).
  • Striping of shoulder lanes must comply with the MUTCD (outside edge and separation between general purpose and shoulder lane).
  • In deciding whether to utilize left or right-side shoulder, analyze primary access points, especially for bus-on-shoulder lanes.
  • Consider site-specific criteria when designing for safe crossing of ramps at interchanges.
  • Account for speed differentials between dynamic shoulder lane and general purpose lane.
  • Provide CCTV coverage to make sure lanes are clear of vehicles and debris.
  • Consider providing additional static signing.
Queue Warning
  • Locate signage in advance of locations where queues typically form.
Traffic Surveillance and Incident Management
  • Design and construct CCTV in high-crash locations to improve detection and verification time.
  • Provide maintenance access to CCTVs.
Adaptive Ramp Metering
  • Allow for adequate width in the original design to accommodate future HOV bypass lanes.
  • Provide maximum available approach lane for vehicle storage to avoid backing up onto intersecting arterials.
Dynamic Junction Control
  • Requires traffic information to operate the strategy. Data regarding maximum capacity of upstream lanes; traffic volumes on highway lanes and merging ramps; travel speeds on highway lanes and merging ramps; and incident presence and location are essential.
  • Optimally, include an expert system to deploy the strategy based on prevailing roadway conditions without requiring operator intervention.
  • Dynamic merge control requires overhead electronic signage.

3.4 Managed Lanes

Impacts of not considering operations during design. It is common for ITS specifications to provide recommended spacing of certain devices, and designers have effectively applied such spacing on traditional highway projects. Managed Lane and ATM applications require much more precise locations to fit project-specific needs. For example, generic placement of variable message signage could lead to providing real-time traffic and toll rate information beyond the point on the facility where a driver can use the information to make a route choice decision. Furthermore, the proliferation of information available through ATM applications can lead to confusion and apathy on the part of the driver. The information must be delivered in a very specific sequence and location in order to be of most use to the driver and operating agency.

Managed lanes are highway facilities or a set of lanes where operational strategies are proactively implemented and managed in response to changing conditions. Managed lane projects take lane management strategies that have been used extensively for decades-such as HOV lanes, bus-only lanes, truck lane restrictions, and express lanes-and incorporate the concept of active management. These strategies can be implemented utilizing concurrent flow lanes (adjacent to general purpose lanes), reversible flow lanes, contra flow lanes, or existing shoulders. Colorado DOT took enforcement needs into consideration when designing their high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes by adding a widened shoulder (see Figure 21).

Caltrans issued guidance in 2011 titled "Traffic Operations Policy Directive 11-02 – Managed Lane Design," which institutionalizes the practice of designing for operations. The directive states that it "shall be applied during the planning and development of freeway managed lane projects, including conversion of existing managed lanes to incorporate tolling or utilize continuous access. It shall be considered during the planning and development of all other freeway improvement projects (e.g., pavement rehabilitation project) and during the course of traffic investigations that are addressing operational and safety performance deficiencies."36

Table 5 identifies elements to consider during design that can impact managed lane operations. It also shows potential opportunities for designers to structure their roadway design (or redesign) to allow for more cost-effective implementation of managed lane strategies in the future. Some of these design considerations would apply to multiple strategies.

Figure 21. Colorado I-25 HOT lanes enforcement shoulder.
Colorado I-25 HOT lanes.
(Source: Myron Swisher)
Table 5. Example design considerations and opportunities for various managed lane strategies.
Managed Lane Strategy Design Considerations/Opportunities
HOT Lanes
  • In order to optimize transit use of a managed lane facility, consider major bus routes when locating weave zones to enter and exit the lanes.
  • Access/egress zones for buffer separated facilities must be carefully located, with consideration given to traffic patterns from intersecting facilities. Operations and safety are optimized by locating access and egress on tangent alignments.
Express Toll Lanes
  • Ensure that traveler information and toll rate signage is provided in advance of the driver’s decision point regarding whether to use the managed lane(s).
  • Barrier separation is typically preferred but often impractical due to expense and right-of-way needs. Buffer separation of two to four feet provides separation from the general purpose lanes, which can have slower travel speeds than the express toll lanes.
  • Managed lanes require weave zones for access and periodic widened shoulders for enforcement. While there is commonly not enough right-of-way to widen the entire length of a future managed lane, there might be certain locations along the corridor that can be preserved for such use. During the original design, avoid unnecessarily precluding these opportunities.
Truck-Only Toll Lanes
  • Initial pavement design can take into account heavier design loads when a truck-only toll lane is anticipated in the future
Reversible Lanes
  • In conversion of reversible lanes from HOV to HOT operations, roadway design may require provision of adequate width at certain points in the corridor for tolling gantries and enforcement.
  • Enable emergency personnel to respond to incidents on a facility with limited access
  • Address the need for monitoring and proper deployment/closures during directional changes.
  • Signs and markings to indicate traffic directionality.
  • Provide for enforcement and tolling (if required).37
Contra Flow Lanes
  • Movable barrier systems require the designer to identify adequate space at termini for storage of the barrier moving machine.
  • Provide CCTV coverage to make sure lanes are clear.
Variable Tolls
  • Roadway and structure design will need to provide for future overhead signage in advance of driver decision points.
Priced Dynamic Shoulder Lanes
  • Provide full-depth shoulders during normal paving operations to avoid tearing out shoulder and sub-base for future lanes.
  • Drainage structures and grates should be initially designed to align with wheel paths; adjustments after-the-fact can require major reconstruction.
  • May require slight adjustments in vertical and horizontal clearance. These can be very costly, if not prohibitive, to retrofit.

3.5 Transit

During the design of a transportation facility, the transit rider must be considered just like the motorist. Transit provides the ability to increase the throughput of a facility, thereby improving overall facility operations. There are opportunities on both freeway and arterial facilities to incorporate transit operations considerations into design. One high profile application for transit on freeways is bus-on-shoulder (BOS) or bus-only shoulder. There are documented examples of BOS in California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, and Delaware. Minnesota is a leader in BOS operations, with more BOS lane miles than the rest of the country combined.

Figure 22. Bus-only shoulder in Minneapolis, MN required site-specific design and operational considerations.
Bus traveling on a bus-only shoulder on an interstate.
(Source: David Gonzales, Minnesota Department of Transportation)

Minnesota DOT has developed guidelines for geometric design and signing for bus-only shoulder operations.38 Geometric standards regarding lane widths, vertical clearance, stopping sight distance, and lateral clearance/clear zone must be considered and may not always be full design standards for retrofit applications.39 Figure 22 shows the use of minimum 10-foot shoulders.

An FHWA report titled Efficient Use of Highway Capacity describes recommended spacing and design of emergency refuge areas for stalled vehicles when implementing BOS.40

A BOS program ensures that buses can achieve significant travel time savings by not having to enter the weave through general purpose traffic to enter or exit an interior managed lane. Some of the routes in Minneapolis experienced a 9 percent increase in ridership. A successful BOS implementation requires highway designers and transit operators to work together to implement a solution that considers ramp operations, merging, and weaving. BOS can be implemented in conjunction with managed lane strategies or ramp metering.

Another important transit operations strategy is bus rapid transit (BRT). BRT is an advanced bus system that relies on several techniques to provide faster travel times, greater reliability, and increased customer convenience over ordinary bus service. BRT offers the flexibility of buses and the efficiency of rail by operating on bus lanes or other transitways and applying advanced technologies or infrastructure such as transit signal priority and automatic vehicle location systems.41

Florida DOT District 4 (Ft. Lauderdale) is studying transit queue jumps for use on heavily congested arterials, including the impacts of queue jumps on intersection and approaching roadway geometry. They will evaluate the traffic control devices and transit operator protocols associated with queue jumper operations and will assess their impact on other arterial traffic. They will develop a design "template" that can be utilized to identify intersections at which queue jumping should be provided and to guide the design/placement of associated traffic control devices and the design of any needed roadway modifications. The template will be systematically used in future resurfacing and other projects.

Transit operators understand best which strategies work best for certain corridors. Transit agencies should be engaged in design to help select the most appropriate features that allow for the maximum efficiency of the facility. Rather than retrofitting an existing freeway or arterial with these types of strategies on a case-by-case basis, they should be considered as part of an overall corridor management strategy and mainstreamed into the design process.

Table 6 identifies elements to consider during design that can impact transit operations. It also shows potential opportunities for designers to structure their roadway design (or redesign) to allow for more cost-effective implementation of transit strategies in the future. Some of these design considerations apply to multiple strategies.

Table 6. Example design considerations and opportunities for various transit strategies.
Transit Strategy Design Considerations/Opportunities
Make HOV and HOT Lanes Accessible to Buses
  • In order to optimize transit use of a managed lane facility, consider major bus routes when locating weave zones to enter and exit the lanes.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
  • Consider additional right-of-way to accommodate in-line stations or direct access ramps to optimize operations for stations that are adjacent to the facility. Design should allow for acceleration/deceleration lanes for buses needing to re-enter or exit lanes that may also operate as HOV lanes. For future BRT, initial roadway geometry should be designed to allow for future in-line stations and direct access ramps.
  • Ensure that traveler information and toll rate signage is provided in advance of the driver's decision point regarding whether to use the managed lane(s).
  • Pedestrian access from park-and-ride lots and circulation is critical for peak operational efficiencies and should be integral to the design process.
Designated Transit Lanes
  • Initial pavement design can take into account heavier design loads when transit use is anticipated in the future.
Provide Access to Park-and-Ride Lots
  • Bus access must be designed to minimize circulation and dwell time by providing direct access (dedicated ramps, priority signalization) from the adjacent highway facility. For park-and-ride lots that also function as transfer stations (bus to express bus, bus to rail), the parking side of the lot should also provide priority to buses.
Roadway DMS Used for Transit Information and Comparative Travel Times for Alternate Modes
  • DMS must be placed in advance of the point on the facility where a driver can use the information to make a mode choice decision and safely weave to access a park-and-ride lot.
  • For future transit corridors, roadway and structure design will need to provide for overhead signage at those locations.
Park-and-Ride Space Finders
  • Similar to DMS (above), these systems must be located strategically so that real-time information is transmitted to drivers at a point where it can effectively aid in decision-making regarding transit and carpool use.
  • Because most bus-only shoulders are retrofit, consideration of lane delineation and signage conventions should occur in the design phase to ensure regional consistency. Bus-only shoulders are for professional drivers only, so training can be geared to operating buses within these conventions.
  • Provide full-depth shoulders during normal paving operations to avoid tearing out the shoulder and sub-base for future lanes.
  • Drainage structures and grates should be initially designed to align with wheel paths; adjustments after-the-fact can require major reconstruction.
Arterial Bus Lanes
  • Bus stop placement (near side vs. far side of intersection) has a significant impact on bus operations. Transit agencies need to be involved in the design stage as bus stop locations can depend upon the type of service (local, express).
  • Transit signal priority (TSP) works in conjunction with the bus stop locations to optimize express bus operations. The transit agency should have input in the design of the facility and the TSP software programming.
  • Real-time arrival displays aid riders in selecting bus routes. The design needs to provide for electrical and communications connections.
  • Where space permits, queue jump lanes can be used at signalized intersections in conjunction with TSP to reduce dwell time at stops. Adding queue jump lanes requires transit agency input in the design process.

3.6 Work Zone Management

Managing traffic during construction is necessary to minimize traffic delays, maintain or improve motorist and worker safety, complete roadwork in a timely manner, and maintain access for businesses and residents. Work zone traffic management strategies should be identified based on project constraints, construction phasing/staging plan, type of work zone, and anticipated work zone impacts.42

Additional Work Zone Strategies

  • Automated work zone information systems and automated work zone enforcement systems (if legislation allows).
  • Traffic management systems such as dynamic lane merge systems and speed management systems.
  • Capacity enhancements such as contraflow lanes and express lanes (i.e., lanes in which high levels of congestion are managed typically by varying the toll price by time of day or level of traffic).
  • Improvements to detour routes.
  • Incident pull-off areas, incident staging areas and investigation sites.
  • Incident turnarounds and access gates.
  • Evaluate need for temporary traffic signals and integrate them into the existing system so they can be timed appropriately.

Agencies should consider performance-based maintenance of traffic requirements, such as maximum allowable delay, rather than geometric or time of day restrictions. This approach allows greater creativity and innovation by contractors, which may result in both cost savings to the agency and time savings to motorists.

A transportation management plan (TMP) is a successful approach to identifying transportation management strategies and describing how they will be used to manage the work zone impacts of a project. The FHWA publication Developing and Implementing Transportation Management Plans for Work Zones defines planning and design considerations for work zone management. Throughout the development of a TMP, designers and operational stakeholders have the opportunity to consider the impacts of their work zones and to identify strategies to improve work zone performance.43 The TMP is primarily intended for managing traffic during a construction project. However, some of the elements of the TMP, particularly ITS improvements, could remain in place to aid ongoing operations. Additionally, the cross-functional and interagency relationships formed during the development and use of the TMP should be continued after the project to promote a coordinated approach to operating the facility.

The inclusion of work zone management and operations should be identified during needs development and preliminary engineering so that strategies can be implemented prior to the start of major construction activities if needed. In addition, the transportation facility should be designed with construction and post-construction maintenance of traffic activities in mind. Designers must consider how the facility will be constructed in a manner that provides a safe working environment and minimizes the impact on the operation of the facility. This may require consideration of construction methods and staging.

Traffic capacity and shoulder/pullout areas are often restricted in work zones. Prompt detection and clearance of traffic incidents in work zones can help reduce secondary crashes and delay. Preparing a work zone TIM plan and using strategies that improve detection, verification, response, and clearance of crashes, mechanical failures, and other incidents in work zones and on detour routes can benefit safety and mobility. Specific strategies are identified in FHWA's, Traffic Incident Management in Construction and Maintenance Work Zones.44

3.7 Traffic Incident Management

Traffic incident management (TIM) practitioners become well aware of shortfalls in operational provisions when it affects their ability to respond to incidents safely and efficiently. There are several ways that designers can ensure that the needs of this end-user group are considered and included in the final design of a project. The National Unified Goal (NUG) for TIM is a foundational element of a well-developed TIM Program and provides a valuable opportunity to link program decisions to physical design. Table 7 identifies elements to consider during design that can address various NUG strategies.45

Table 7. Example design considerations and opportunities for NUG TIM strategies.
NUG Strategy46 Design Considerations/Opportunities
Strategy 1 – Partnerships and Programs. Partners should work together to develop and promote public awareness and education about roadway and incident safety.
  • Locate DMS where safety concerns exist to raise awareness.
Strategy 4 – Technology. Partners should work together for rapid and coordinated implementation of beneficial new technologies.
  • Partnerships that promote laws in support of TIM (e.g., Move-It, Move-Over, Hold Harmless, Quick Clearance).
  • Employ ITS standards that promote consistency and interoperability.
  • Include a system interoperability plan for agencies responsible for detecting and verifying incidents.
Strategy 6 – Awareness and Education. Broad partnerships to promote public awareness of their role in safe roadways.
  • Include the provision to hold coordination meetings as part of the design phase that focuses on emergency services.
Strategy 7 – Recommended Practices for Responder Safety. Recommended practices for traffic control at incident scenes should be developed and widely published and adopted.
  • Expand maintenance and operations of traffic plans to include considerations for responder safety such as temporary barrier placement, temporary shoulder width, and others.
Strategy 11 – Response and Clearance Time Goals. Partners should commit to achievement of goals for response and clearance times.
  • Provide median breaks and crash investigation/motorist information exchange sites (can include "fender bender" signage to direct non-injury accident vehicles out of traffic).
  • Provide static signs directing responders to investigation sites, including1/10 mile markings and a system to identify locations on ramps within complex interchanges.
  • CCTV should be designed and constructed in high-crash locations to improve detection and verification time.
Strategy 17 – Prompt, Reliable Traveler Information Systems. Partners should encourage development of more prompt and reliable traveler information systems that will enable drivers to make travel decisions.
  • Incorporate incident information into pre-trip (e.g., 511) and en-route traveler information services and alerts.

Figure 23. One of the design considerations for TIM is shoulder width for accommodating response vehicles.
Responders using a wide shoulder for their vehicles as they respond to a highway incident.
(Source: Florida Department of Transportation)

During the design phase, the project team should seek input on roadside safety from emergency responders or a TIM team at important milestones, such as the transition from preliminary engineering to final design. Input from responders on roadside features such as noise walls, median barriers, and ITS device locations should be considered a priority in the design process. If a local TIM team does not exist where the project will be located, the project team should establish one with the goal of creating a framework that will ensure continued TIM team existence after the project is complete. During construction, the TIM team should be engaged to ensure that both constructability and emergency response risks are balanced.

It is important to develop a good rapport with emergency responders during a construction project. An effective way to make the best use of their time and to gain valuable insights into their operational needs is to conduct a table-top exercise that includes the proposed design. After the design plans have reached a level that makes it clear what will change from the existing situation, the design team should gather the local TIM team members or establish the TIM team and conduct a table-top exercise to "test" the design for operations. In addition to agency design personnel, the team should include maintenance staff and emergency responders. It is suggested that at least three scenarios be included during this session to generate discussion:

  1. A crash and subsequent release of hazardous materials.
  2. A full directional blockage during construction when access is reduced.
  3. A full directional blockage for the final condition.

In addition to documenting the needs of emergency responders in each of these scenarios, there should also be discussion about how the response to these scenarios differs if construction workers are present at the incident site. The response to less severe events should also be covered.

Permanent Median Crossovers

At approaches to major bridges or freeway segments where there are long distances between exits, designers should consider converting construction detour crossovers to permanent cross over facilities to accommodate detours for incident management. The crossover should have proper treatments, such as delineators, to protect against wrong-way use.

3.8 Security

Transportation agencies need to deploy appropriate risk reduction methods to minimize or eliminate identified vulnerabilities in their system, and designers need to consider if countermeasures are appropriate for their particular project. NCHRP Report 525 – Surface Transportation Security discusses many of the tools and countermeasures that should be considered in the design phase as a means to improve the security of critical infrastructure and facilities, information systems, and other areas.47 Physical security countermeasures that should be considered by a designer may include signs; emergency telephones, duress alarms, and assistance stations; key controls and locks; protective barriers; protective lighting; alarm and intrusion detection systems; electronic access control systems; and surveillance systems and monitoring.

Agencies must conduct threat and hazard analyses for use in prioritizing the most important roads and infrastructure. Controlling access to critical components, providing standoff from critical components, eliminating single point of failure construction, and ensuring that surveillance systems are tied directly into response units are the best strategies to deter or prevent terrorist or criminal acts. Many of these strategies are very costly and must be considered in the scoping phase. Even though making these decisions is beyond the authority of the individual designer, there are related elements that can be considered in the design phase.

Designers should contact internal and stakeholder security and emergency management officials to develop security and emergency management requirements. This coordination can prevent issues such as designing and building a structure for standard loads then retrospectively learning that it is a critical primary route that must be designed for moving heavy equipment into an area during an emergency. Security and emergency management planning and designing takes a community of people drawn from law enforcement/security, fire and emergency medical services, emergency management, occupational safety, and highway/transportation organizations.

Table 8 identifies elements to consider during design that can impact infrastructure security. Transportation agencies must examine the threats against infrastructure and identify the most useful means to reduce the vulnerabilities associated with those threats to acceptable levels. Often less costly but more effective solutions are available that the agency can select to meet security requirements. In making these choices, designers can benefit from an analysis that compares one countermeasure against another based on protection provided, cost, and effort required.

Table 8. Example design considerations and opportunities for various security strategies.
Security Strategy Design Considerations/Opportunities48
Monitoring Systems
  • Place CCTV systems in areas of high interest, such as bridges and tunnels.
  • Include alarms on access doors and equipment cabinets.
Preventative Infrastructure Design
  • Place barriers or gates at on/off-ramps to close a road during an emergency.
  • Increase the “stand-off” or buffer distance around bridge abutments or tunnel entrances.
  • Install dolphins or fender systems around bridge supports in navigable waterways to protect them from intentional accidents or impacts.
  • Incorporate “web walls” between bridge piers to strengthen them to better resist damage from vehicle wrecks or train derailments.

3.9 Freight Operations

Figure 24. Weigh-in-motion station.
A truck departing a weigh-in-motion station.
(Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation)

Freight operations are an important consideration with respect to improving mobility and productivity. Improved operation can benefit the freight industry through:

  • Immediate cost reductions to carriers and shippers, including gains to shippers from reduced transit times and increased reliability, resulting in decreased cost of raw materials and finished goods.
  • Reorganization-effect gains from improvements in logistics. The quantity of firms' outputs changes, but quality of output does not.
  • Gains from additional reorganization effects such as improved products or new products.49

Additionally, improving freight operations enhances the safety and efficiency of the transportation system for all users by lessening the impact of freight movements on the general public and vice versa. Virginia DOT has been focused on improvements geared toward truck traffic along Interstate 81 (its most heavily traveled truck route) for years. Improvements include interchange redesign, truck climbing lanes, ITS improvements, and ramp extensions. During design, however, consideration of freight must extend beyond the geometric considerations associated with commercial vehicles to include operational elements that support enforcement and hours-of-service requirements, as well as elements to improve safety and overall efficiency.

The table below illustrates specific actions that designers can take to enhance freight operations. In some cases, where significant infrastructure improvements are involved, strategies must be initially considered in the scoping/planning phase. However, designers can optimize the effectiveness of these strategies through use of the specific design considerations.

Table 9. Example design considerations and opportunities for various freight strategies.
Freight Operations Strategies Design Considerations/Opportunities
Consider Trucks as a Discrete Mode with Different Characteristics than Passenger Vehicles
  • Consider turning radii, lane widths, ramp geometry, acceleration/deceleration lanes, directed signing.
  • Need for urban loading zones, delivery windows, signal timing, turning lane lengths.
  • Match truck routes with appropriate infrastructure, considering height and weight constraints.
  • Make freight operational improvements part of the total system to avoid down-stream effects.
Improve Size and Weight Enforcement to Extend Infrastructure Life
  • Mitigate noise, visual, and air pollution by enforcing regulations and decreasing congestion.
  • Include weigh-in-motion stations to improve enforcement and reduce delays.
  • Embrace automated inspection technology.
  • Utilize commercial vehicle information systems and networks and electronic credentialing.
  • Ensure appropriate truck route, clearance, and weight limit signing system-wide.
Consider Infrastructure and Systems that Improve Driver and Vehicle Safety
  • Provide rest areas and services for long-haul drivers.
  • Deploy “smart” truck parking systems that provide information on available parking spaces to upstream truck drivers.
  • Deploy over-height vehicle detection systems and comprehensive restrictions signing where over-height crash rates are high.
  • Deploy truck escape ramps on severe downgrades. Designers can work with the trucking industry and operations staff to identify locations and designs appropriate for each specific steep grade.
  • Implement truck restrictions such as “no passing, right lane only.”
  • Accommodate appropriate shoulder and travel lane widths on primary and secondary roadways.
  • Include slow moving vehicle lanes (upgrade/downgrade). Designers should consider truck acceleration/deceleration and other characteristics in locating termini of these lanes.

3.10 Maintenance

Maintenance of a roadway can have a major effect on operations. Maintenance personnel have a variety of issues to deal with; from mowing operations in the summer, to snow plowing operations in the winter, to maintenance of roadside devices, they are constantly working to keep roadway networks operating. Taking into consideration certain aspects of the design of the roadway and devices can reduce the impacts of maintenance operations. For example, inadequate shoulder widths may require maintenance personnel to shut down a lane to perform their duties.

Figure 25. Grade warning and runaway truck ramp location sign for trucks.
Roadside grade warning and runaway truck ramp location sign.
(Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation)
Figure 26. The utilization of two types of median treatments may impact mowing activities.
Roadside with a cable median barrier and a guardrail with a retroreflective impact absorber placed on the leading end of the rail to alert traffic to the rail's presence.
(Source: SAIC)

Including maintenance personnel in the design process can help designers identify many maintenance issues that they may not be aware of. There are two ways this can be achieved. First, during the design phase, the project team should invite maintenance personnel to design meetings where they can provide input on design aspects. Input from maintenance personnel on roadside features such as noise walls, median barriers, and ITS device locations should be considered a priority in the design process.

Second, agencies should include processes or checklists in design manuals to obtain sign-off on plans from their maintenance division. Maintenance personnel should comment on issues that relate to snow plowing operations, barrier selection and placement, impact attenuator selection, signal systems and ITS infrastructure, landscaping, median crossovers/turnarounds, shoulder width, and culvert treatments, among others.

Table 10 identifies elements to consider during design that can impact maintenance operations. It also shows potential opportunities for designers to structure their roadway design (or redesign) to allow for more cost-effective implementation of maintenance strategies in the future. Some of these design considerations would apply to multiple strategies.

Table 10. Example design considerations and opportunities for various maintenance strategies.
Maintenance Strategy Design Considerations/Opportunities
On-going Routine and Preventive Maintenance
  • Incorporate areas for maintenance equipment and personnel to safely address immediate and small areas of pavement repair (e.g., potholes).
  • Provide portable DMS to alert drivers to moving operations.
  • Locate lighting to minimize knockdowns.
  • Provide fall protection elements on bridges for maintenance personnel.
  • Provide maintenance access for stormwater management facilities.
Managing Preventive Maintenance Impacts (e.g., shoulder and lane widths)
  • Ensure that improved and new shoulders are wide enough to accommodate typical operations and maintenance vehicles without encroaching on travel lanes.
  • Provide areas behind guardrail for maintenance personnel to work or pull over their vehicles and equipment.
  • Provide brackets for sign structure lighting that allows it to be swung to the side of the road so that lane closures are not necessary with working on the lighting.
  • Consider maintenance needs during crash cushion selection.
Roadside Equipment (e.g., DMS, CCTV, other ITS, signs, lighting)
  • Consider placing ITS devices near bridges to prevent the need for a lane closure to maintain the device.
  • Provide a proper workspace around roadside equipment for an operator/repair team to access the equipment.
  • Consider providing stone drives to ITS devices in median that have to be protected by guardrail.
  • Provide locations for bucket trucks to park to access ITS devices.
  • Design catwalks and signs that can be rotated for ease of access without closing lanes to minimize traffic disruptions.
Mowing Operations
  • Place center median guardrail so that it allows mowing without having to place any portion of the mower on the pavement.
  • Limit steep slopes so that mowing can occur without specialized mowers.
Plowing Operations
  • Flare energy absorbing terminals away from the lane of travel.

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34 FHWA, Freeway Management and Operations Handbook, Section 1.1 "Scope of Freeway Management and Operations," June 2006. Available at: [ Return to note 34. ]

35 FHWA, Ramp Management and Control Handbook, January 2006, FHWA-HOP-06-001. Available at:[ Return to note 35. ]

36 Caltrans, "Traffic Operations Policy Directive 11-02: Managed Lane Design," 2011. Available at: [ Return to note 36. ]

37 FHWA, Managed Lane Chapter for the Freeway Management and Operations Handbook, January 2011. Available at: [ Return to note 37. ]

38 Minnesota Department of Transportation Metro Division, Guidelines on Shoulder Use by Buses, 14 Jan 1997. Available at: [ Return to note 38. ]

39 Jones, Greg. Design and Maintenance: A Facilitated Roundtable Discussion, Regional Workshop on the Use of Shoulders for Travel Lanes, FHWA, 3 May 2012. [ Return to note 39. ]

40 Kuhn, Beverly, Efficient Use of Highway Capacity System, FHWA, May 2010. Available at: [ Return to note 40. ]

41 U.S. DOT, Federal Transit Administration, Research and Technology, Bus Rapid Transit Web site. Available at: [ Return to note 41. ]

42 FHWA, "Work Zone Traffic Management," Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program. Available at: [ Return to note 42. ]

43 FHWA, Developing and Implementing Transportation Management Plans for Work Zones, December 2005, FHWA-HOP-05-066. Available at: [ Return to note 43. ]

44 FHWA, Traffic Incident Management in Construction and Maintenance Zones, FHWA-HOP-08-056x, 2008. Available at: [ Return to note 44. ]

45 National Traffic Incident Management Coalition, National Unified Goal for Traffic Incident Management Detailed Explanation. Available at: [ Return to note 45. ]

46 Ibid. [ Return to note 46. ]

47 NCHRP Report 525, Surface Transportation Security Volume 1, Responding to Threats: A Field Personnel Manual, Transportation Research Board/National Academies of Science, 2004. Available at: [ Return to note 47. ]

48 FHWA, Considering Security and Emergency Management in the Planning of Transportation Projects, May 2012. Available at: [ Return to note 48. ]

49 FHWA, Freight Benefit/Cost Study: Compilation of the Literature. February 2001. Available at: [ Return to note 49. ]

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