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

Organizing for TSMO
Case Study 6: Collaboration - Partnering for Traffic Incident Management

Chapter 2 - Best Practice Examples

AZTech, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA), and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) participated in previous second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) efforts. The capability maturity model (CMM) workshops with SHRP2 helped inform them about transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) and how it can apply to their agencies. The Transportation Operations Coordinating Committee (TRANSCOM) did not participate in the CMM workshops; however, they have excelled in TSMO activities and completed a modified CMM process with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The following subsections highlight several successful initiatives that each agency accomplished, specifically regarding collaboration with first responders for TSMO.


AZTech is a regional traffic management partnership in the Phoenix metropolitan area that guides application of intelligent transportation systems technologies for managing regional traffic. Six groups make up the partnership, including the executive committee, strategic steering committee, operations committee, traffic incident management (TIM) coalition, traffic management center (TMC) operators working group, and the media communications task force.

Co-location of Law Enforcement

The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), and the Maricopa County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) collaborate to provide incident management strategies for the Phoenix metropolitan region. Previously, the Regional Emergency Action Coordination Team (REACT) focused primarily on responding to incidents on the region's arterial network. A culture shift towards regional collaboration was facilitated by employing a former police chief who began communicating the role that law enforcement can play in an incident management program. Through a Maricopa Association of Governments-funded project in 2015, ADOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC) became home to ADOT and DPS staff and improved coordination with MCDOT REACT. DPS has been a huge champion for TIM through this multi-agency collaborative TOC. Since merging each agency's incident response programs into a single collaborative effort, improved event response and clearance times have enabled the region to leverage the full capacity of their arterial network and highway system.

TIM Coalition

The AZTech TIM Coalition includes a range of incident management disciplines and the opportunity to discuss best practices, share ideas, and provide training. When the TIM Coalition was initiated, only transportation agencies were involved. To gain buy-in from other stakeholders, AZTech hired a retired police chief to lead field operations and provide a unique perspective to transportation agencies and first responders by experiencing all aspects first hand. AZTech also made a concerted effort to provide training on TIM strategies and express the value of TIM collaboration. Over time, the TIM Coalition has grown to include law enforcement, TMC operators, public information staff, and towing agencies.

During the meetings, tabletop exercises are performed to provide hands-on training and review best practices. This has been an effective way to encourage communication and discussion between first responder partners. When incidents occur, there is smooth collaboration between agencies to retime signals, deploy messages to dynamic message signs, and disseminate traveler information. The TIM Coalition is developing TIM Coins that will be awarded to first responders for completing training activities. These rewards will encourage continuous involvement in TIM activities and act as a physical reminder of best practices.

Data and Archiving

The Regional Archive Data System (RADS) is a regional repository for transportation data including signal timing data, 911 data, freeway management sensor data, construction and maintenance data, and additional third-party system data. RADS is valuable in providing analytics of incidents for traveler information and data to support TMC operator's decision-making.

AZTech developed the AZTech Regional Information System (ARIS) to provide geographically specific data, as shown in Figure 2. The system will send alerts to TMC staff when events occur within their geographic area and includes a tactical dashboard for TMC staff to act to dispatch staff or change signal timing. ARIS is most beneficial for areas outside the major metropolitan areas that do not have the need or resources for fully equipped TMCs.

ARTS tactical dashboard
Figure 2. Photo. ARIS Tactical Dashboard

Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT)

GDOT supports the transportation needs of the State of Georgia through seven districts. GDOT manages over 18,000 miles of interstates and highways, 5,000 miles of railroad track, 454 airports and heliports, and two marine ports.

Collaboration Task Force

Since 2002, GDOT has had the Traffic Incident Management Enhancement (TIME) Task Force in place to connect with first responders in the metro Atlanta region. The TIME Task Force meets monthly as well as annually to refine and improve incident management protocols and procedures. The TIME Task Force has been expanding statewide through TIM teams so other regions benefit from collaboration activities with first responders. TIM teams have been beneficial in engaging not only leadership in first responder organizations but also the "on the ground" staff such as the Highway Emergency Response Operators (HERO) within the Atlanta region and the Coordinated Highway Assistance and Maintenance Program (CHAMP) responders for rural areas. GDOT attributes their success with TIM to frequent engagement with first responders through the TIME Task Force that helps maintain open relationships, communicate training, and gain acceptance of new strategies.

One of the TIME Task Force's major initiatives is encouragement of quick clearance through the Open Road Policy, which states "whenever a roadway or travel lane is closed or partially blocked by a traffic incident, the Georgia State Patrol, Department of Transportation, local law enforcement and other public safety agencies and responders will re-open the roadway as soon as possible.4" The policy has been beneficial to collaborating with local agencies regarding TIM best practices to reduce non-recurring congestion. To encourage agencies to agree to the Open Road Policy, the TIME Task Force has allocated funding for first responder materials and equipment for agencies that have signed the policy.

The TIME Task Force also has an informative website that holds the TIM Guidelines for Georgia, a calendar of upcoming training opportunities, online training resources, and information regarding regional TIM teams and champions. This is a valuable resource for statewide stakeholders to learn more and get engaged. Figure 3 shows a typical regional TIM team meeting.

Regional TIM team meeting
Figure 3. Photo. Regional TIM Team Meeting

First Responder Project Input

The TIME Task Force has been the primary opportunity for GDOT to discuss new operations strategies (including variable speed limits, ramp meters, and lane control) with first responders to gather feedback, train participants, and present on upcoming initiatives. GDOT has been designing and constructing a new partially elevated and tolled express lane facility that is approximately 30 miles long. This express lane facility includes reversible lanes to address peak travel time flows. Prior to opening the facility, GDOT collaborated with first responders to prepare for how incidents will be addressed on the new facility. Due to the close relationships GDOT has developed through the TIME Task Force, first responders were comfortable voicing their concerns and were open to learning more about technologies and operational strategies on the new express lane facility. GDOT has been meeting with first responders frequently to review and provide training for new infrastructure solutions included in the project, such as emergency access gates.

Transportation Operations Coordinating Committee (TRANSCOM)

The Transportation Operations Coordinating Committee (TRANSCOM) consists of representatives from 16 New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut transportation and public safety agencies. TRANSCOM is also supported by FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration. TRANSCOM's goal is to improve communication and the value of existing transportation management systems through collaboration and sharing data. Local law enforcement agencies are part of this 16-member agency and are integrally involved. Other first responders, such as tow operators, safety service patrols, and fire departments, receive communication from transportation agencies.

Member agencies meet regularly through committees including a board of trustees, technology and operations committee, and the finance and policy committee. Additional meetings are held to discuss specific technology developments and upcoming operational needs.

Regional Incident Management

Because the three States involved in TRANSCOM are geographically close, a trip may include travel on all three agencies' facilities. Real-time Regional Conditions Maps, shown in Figure 4, display travel conditions during major incidents and events, such as adverse weather events. During incidents or events, TRANSCOM acts as a regional clearinghouse by sharing messages or data to the member agencies and the agencies' TMCs. This helps TMC staff dispatch first responders and provide traveler information to the public. To do this, TRANSCOM uses technologies including traffic and incident management data, analytics for incident mobility impacts, and a unified closed-circuit television camera system. After an incident, a regional condition report is created that documents the impact and delay of trips caused by a specific incident. The data and analytics from TRANSCOM support continuous improvement of first responder and transportation agency response plans and actions.

TRANSCOM's approach is beneficial because it provides multi-state incident response using a unified approach. Data collected from condition reports informs future planning initiatives for the entire region.

Photo from TRANSCOM of a regional conditions map
Figure 4. Photo. Regional Conditions Map

Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA)

The MDOT SHA is composed of seven districts that focus on policies, programs, and projects across the State. Non-tolled facilities including highways, freeways, and major arterials are managed and operated by MDOT SHA and all toll roads are owned and operated by Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA).

Coordinated Highways Action Response Team Strategic Planning

Maryland's operations element, the Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART), was formed through the collaboration of federal, local, and State agencies. CHART was established as a separate office with dedicated funding in 1998. The State agencies that are part of the joint program include MDOT SHA, MDTA, and Maryland State Police (MSP). CHART was initiated as a corridor-specific initiative, but it has since expanded to a statewide program.5

Through CHART, MDOT SHA has agreements and memoranda of understanding (MOU) with emergency service agencies to solidify partnerships. Collaboration activities are identified in the CHART Long Range Strategic Deployment Plan, such as identification of staffing, training, and dedicated funding. These activities are coordinated with local agencies, public safety agencies, and MSP as joint activities with CHART. The plan also includes regional communication networks, sharing data between agencies, traveler information, statewide service provider partnerships, and other strategies to improve maintenance and operations while working across jurisdictions.

Partnership Opportunities

The CHART Board leads the program, sets strategic objectives, and establishes working groups to accomplish specific safety and mobility goals. The Board includes leadership representatives from technical and operational disciplines of MDOT SHA, MDTA, law enforcement, FHWA, and the University of Maryland and includes managers from many divisions and toll facilities. The group meets four times per year and offers the opportunity for leaders to develop multijurisdictional partnerships, protocols, and responsibilities.

MDOT SHA is also engaged in TIM for the Baltimore Region subcommittee, which includes representatives from local and State first responders. The subcommittee was formed to improve communication and coordination between agencies during incidents. MDOT SHA is a member of facility-specific organizations, such as the I-95 Corridor Coalition and the I-81 Corridor Coalition. These coalitions improve incident management data sharing, communications, and cooperation in corridor projects. Coalitions include law enforcement, State and local transportation agencies, and other public safety agencies.

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)

TDOT manages and maintains interstate and highway facilities statewide as well as rail, transit, waterways, and trail systems. TDOT is composed of four regions as well as a Traffic Operations Division that report to the Assistant Chief Engineer of Operations.

TIM Committees

TDOT implemented a regional TIM Coordinator stationed at the four regional TMCs. The regional TIM Coordinator is responsible for bringing together first responder partners and also holds the title of TMC Assistant Manager. This role provides continuity for TIM activities since the champions from partner agencies change often.

The regional TIM Coordinator also leads regional TIM committees, one per region for a total of four committees. Regional TIM committees meet quarterly with first responder partners. At the committee meetings, the group discusses annual self-assessments, MOUs for quick clearance, incident management strategies, and training needs. The regional TIM committee is the lead organization for hosting the SHRP2 TIM training, which helps connect first responders and encourages engagement.

TIM regional committees interface with a parent Statewide TIM Steering Committee that meets each quarter with statewide first responders, statewide agencies (including agencies relating to freight, agriculture, etc.), and local agencies.

Because of close collaboration with local agencies in TIM committees, over 300 agencies have signed quick clearance MOUs. This was achieved through goal setting on individual performance plans. It was also a requirement for grant funding from the Governor's Highway Safety Office, which encouraged significant participation from local agencies.

With TIM strategies in place, TDOT was able to achieve the goal of clearing over 98 percent of incidents within 90 minutes or less. They have also started tracking secondary incident reduction and other performance metrics that are regularly shared with leadership and first responder partners.

TIM Training Facility

TDOT's TIM training facility was first considered at the Statewide TIM Steering Committee after the deployment of FHWA's SHRP2 National TIM Responder Training. The TDOT TIM training facility is the first in the country and was a collaborative effort between Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, and TDOT. The State's enthusiasm for the TIM training facility was best highlighted when the Commissioner included the project in his individual performance plan with the Governor. With support from leadership and federal funding from the Highway Safety Improvement Project, TDOT completed the design and construction of the facility in October 2014.

The TIM training facility includes infrastructure for multiple scenarios including two to six travel lanes with guardrail, an interchange, cable and steel barrier rail, and a four-way intersection. These infrastructure alternatives allow first responders to prepare for a wide range of conditions and provide the opportunity to learn best practices for responding to incidents. The TIM training facility is used for live exercises during the four-hour SHRP2 TIM Training as well as other training opportunities. TDOT has developed and advanced a TIM training course that includes integration with other operations and maintenance programs. The advanced, hands-on training at the TIM training facility has led to better understanding and comprehension of TIM techniques.

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