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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Traffic Signal Management Capability Maturity Framework


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The concept of a capability maturity framework (CMF) emerged from the Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP2) L01 and L06 projects that promoted a process-driven approach to improve Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSM&O). SHRP2 implementation activities have successfully used the overall framework to work with State DOTs to develop action plans to improve their TSM&O capabilities. To continue the emphasis on capability maturities and to provide program level guidance, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) developed additional TSM&O improvement actions-focused capability maturity frameworks including for Traffic Signal Management. More details can be found on the FHWA Operations web site:

The Traffic Management Capability Maturity Framework

The traffic signal management capability maturity framework is intended for agencies or regions to assess current capabilities with respect to traffic signal program management. Once the current capabilities are identified, the tool provides a set of potential actions for consideration to address risks that could be associated with current practices. Adoption of incremental improvements to design, operations and maintenance activities within each dimension of capability will improve the capability of the organization.

Traffic signal programs should strive to achieve delivery of Good Basic Service (GBS); defined as doing what's most important in the context of limited resources. GBS requires strategically aligning design, operations and maintenance strategies to ensure that the agency is able to effectively design, implement and operate the traffic signals it constructs. Traffic signal management involves the planning, design, integration, maintenance, and proactive operation of traffic signal systems in order to achieve policy-based objectives to improve the efficiency, safety and reliability of signalized intersections.

This framework incorporates the concepts presented in the FHWA guidance document "Traffic Signal Management Plans: An Objectives and Performance-based Approach for Improving the Design Operations and Maintenance of Traffic Signal Systems". Development of a Traffic Signal Management Plan ( would be beneficial to agencies or regions that are considering development or update of documents that direct the day to day maintenance, design, operation and management or strategic implementation plans for traffic signal systems.

In all these instances, the use of the framework will provide a structured approach to review the complex institutional architectures and business processes required to make traffic signal management a success. By reviewing the "non-technical" issues in detail and implementing the prioritized actions, agencies will increase the capability and reliability of their traffic signal management.


Consistent with the SHRP2 guidance, the frameworks are all described as a matrix that defines the process improvement areas and levels (from Level 1, ad-hoc to Level 4, optimized of capability).

Following a self-assessment process for each of the traffic signal program areas, specific actions are identified to increase capabilities across the desired process areas. Dimensions of capabilities are described for the following six Dimensions or Process Areas:

  1. Business processes
  2. Systems and technology
  3. Performance measurement
  4. Organization and workforce
  5. Culture
  6. Collaboration

Table 1. Capability Maturity Framework Process Overview

Table 1 shows an overview table of the Capability Maturity Framework (CMF), which is based on the Information Technology-developed Capability Maturity Matrix concept.  The table shows in the first column the six Dimensions or Process Areas that are to be addressed within the CMF, which include the Business Process, Systems and Technology, Performance Measurements, Workforce, Culture, and Collaboration.  The second column provides explanations for each of these Dimensions/Process Areas. The header row contains four different levels at which each process area might be evaluated by the government agency performing the self-evaluation. Level 1 is ad-hoc or low level of capacity, Level 2 is managed or a medium level of capacity, Level 3 is integrated or high level of capacity, and Level 4 is optimized or highest level of capability. Shown are also 3 call-out boxes describing three steps that must be performed during the evaluation: Step 1 is the Self-Assessment, which is described as work with your stakeholders to assess where you are in terms of the capabilities in each process area (or dimension). Step 2 instructs the viewer to identify areas of improvement and the desired levels of capability to improve program effectiveness, and Step 3 instructs the viewer to identify actions that you need to take to move to the desired levels of capability.

Traffic Signal Management Program Areas

Traffic signal program management should follow the Good Basic Service (GBS) Model. The definition of GBS is doing what's most important given a set of limited resources. Delivering GBS requires consideration of five principles and relies on balancing Design, Operations and Maintenance strategies. The GBS Model can be represented as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 indicates the Good Basic Service model depicted by a 3-legged stool, where each of the legs is one of the foundations for good basic service support and state: left leg = Design, middle leg = Operations, and right leg = Maintenance. The seat of the stool is the Good Basic Service.  There are arrows pointing to the seat of the stool showing the different functions that are supported by the Good Basic Service, which are 1) Clarity of Objectives, 2) Objectives-driven Strategies, 3) Performance Measurement, 4) Plan Resource Needs, and 5) Clear Communications.
Figure 1. Good Basic Service (GBS) Model

The Design, Operations, and Maintenance strategy areas address activities such as systems engineering, operational flexibility, automation of performance measurements, training, data sharing, and collaboration with external stakeholders.

Each strategy area must also play a role in strategic planning, programming and budgeting, allocation of resources, procurement, reports, definition of performance measures, outreach and leadership, workforce development, and collaboration with external stakeholders.

Using the Framework

A Traffic Signal Management CMF and a supporting interactive tool have been developed. The framework is available at

A collaborative process is recommended for using the CMF for Design, Operations and Maintenance strategy areas within the traffic signal program. Typically, a local agency champion or an agency program area champion will pull together stakeholders in the agency or region for a day-long workshop to walk through the framework. Traffic signal management stakeholders may include traffic engineers involved in signal design and operations, transit agencies and operators, emergency response personnel, and traffic and emergency operations staff in the region. The outcomes of the workshop are a consensus of the current capabilities across all the dimensions and an initial list of prioritized actions.

The champion might then convene future meetings or identify existing forums where the identified actions will be championed and implemented.

The framework is not intended as a benchmarking tool, but rather as a resource for agencies to identify appropriate actions for improving management and operations of traffic signal systems. While periodic assessments are not required, revisiting the tool is recommended when significant organizational change occurs or prior to major investments in the area.

Figure 2 shows a screenshot of the online tool specific to the Traffic Signal System Management program area.
Figure 1. Screenshot of Tool

Get involved:

If interested in using the framework, or hosting a CMF workshop for your agency or region, please contact: Jamie Mackey at


Office of Operations