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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Organizing for TSMO
Case Study 10: State Department of Transportation Examples 2 of 2

Chapter 2 - Best Practice Examples

Agencies highlighted in this case study participated in the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) workshops to complete capability maturity model (CMM) assessments. Workshop assessments supported the agencies in understanding their needs and raised awareness of transportation systems management and operations (TSMO). Both agencies created TSMO divisions soon after the workshops and developed strategic plans integrated with other long-term planning activities. This chapter highlights several successful initiatives each agency accomplished, specifically regarding advancing their TSMO programs across the State.

Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT)

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is a multimodal transportation agency serving one of the fastest growing areas in the country. ADOT is responsible for planning, building, and operating a complex highway system, and has seven geographic districts with unique needs and challenges that has led to mobility planning being ad hoc at best. ADOT implemented the statewide TSMO division in 2015 to support statewide optimization of existing infrastructure through TSMO strategies.

TSMO Strategic Plan

ADOT developed a TSMO Strategic Plan after launching the new division in 2015. To develop the Strategic Plan, ADOT engaged internal and external stakeholders concerning design, construction, and maintenance. All stakeholder input was considered for incorporation into the plan. To gain buy-in, ADOT focused on educating stakeholders on what TSMO is and how the strategies supported through the program are cost-effective.

Completing the TSMO Strategic Plan was helpful to ADOT because it provided direction for near-, mid-, and long-term action items to implement TSMO strategies. It set the framework for the new TSMO division, supported decision-making, and helped staff understand the goals and organization of ADOT's TSMO initiative. Now that the plan has been in place for several years, ADOT is planning an update in 2020 to build on progress that has been made and continue process improvements.

Integration with ITS Plans and Statewide Architecture

ADOT updated the statewide architecture to include TSMO strategies such as smart work zones and incident management. Having these elements documented in plans will help with advocating for investing in statewide strategies to improve safety and mobility. Recent revisions to the plan were different from previous architecture updates because they were forward-thinking to include emerging technology and an increased need for effective communication to support connected and autonomous vehicles.

As part of the ITS statewide architecture plan, ADOT has committed to installing communication conduit on all new projects and has included the requirement in standard specifications. Though the segments may not all currently connect, it will help connections in the future, especially outside of urban areas. ADOT understands the key role of communications in enabling emerging technology solutions and the framework that it builds for connected and autonomous vehicles. The agency predicts that emerging technology on key corridors has the highest potential for improving freight movement. They are working on strategies to take advantage of those opportunities.

Chart from the 2018 Arizona Statewide ITS Architecture Website
Figure 2. Chart. 2018 Arizona Statewide ITS Architecture Website

ADOT is planning to deploy other intelligent transportation systems (ITS) solutions including wrong-way driving countermeasures, connecting rural and urban signals, dust detection (notifications on dynamic message signs when dust storms occur), and deployment of solutions contributing to the national signal phase and timing challenge. ADOT noted that strategies for wrong-way driving, connecting rural signals, dust detection, and more would not have been recommended prior to TSMO activities because their traditional business process was focused on design and construction. Now they are forward-thinking on how to operate and maintain their system.

Collaboration and communication have been key to deploying operational and safety strategies. ADOT has worked with AZTech and metropolitan planning organizations (MPO), and internationally with Mexico. Because of relationships that have been developed and an understanding of needs established through TSMO, emerging technology deployments are being advanced to be proactive in managing transportation with support from partners.

Performance Measures

In previous years, the University of Arizona had initiated development of performance measures. Through the TSMO program, the university and ADOT have worked together to expand and streamline these performance measures to assist with project planning and deployment. Each group manager in ADOT's TSMO division reports the "vital few" performance metrics on a monthly basis. The "vital few" are the performance measures that the division sees as most relevant to observing needs and challenges. ADOT collects data in the following categories:

  • Administration (hiring, budget).
  • System maintenance (connectivity, operability).
  • Systems management (permits, coverage, maintenance).
  • Traffic maintenance (pavement marking, signing).
  • Traffic management (traffic incident management training, time to clear, after action reports).
  • Operational traffic and safety (crashes, signal failures, safety funding).
  • Systems technology (delay, reliability, system completion).

The performance metrics are flexible depending on agency needs and current challenges. The "vital few" are reported on a single sheet and color-coded to show if performance is reaching target, is within a range of reaching the target, or is not reaching the target. An excerpt from this output is shown in Figure 3. Having all relevant data on one page makes it easily accessible to executive leadership and staff. Countermeasure triggers have also been defined to highlight when targets are not met for consecutive months. This level of detail is key to ensuring ADOT is proactive in addressing issues.

Excerpt of chart from ADOT TSMO Performance Measure
Figure 3. Chart. Excerpt from ADOT TSMO Performance Measures
Source: ADOT

As a team, group managers discuss the metrics, set targets, and determine how to help meet targets. Focus on developing valuable, effective metrics that capture all work being done has been beneficial for ADOT to continue making progress. By consistently gathering and discussing the data, ADOT is able to support the TSMO story, indicating what the division has been doing and proving the value that it adds statewide.

The strategic plan, establishing performance measures and integrating TSMO strategies into existing plans, has helped improve the TSMO culture in the agency. As ADOT continues to advance and promote a TSMO approach to mitigating common transportation challenges, their maturity in each CMM dimension has improved. Forward thinking, revised processes, and development of new processes continues to advance TSMO in the agency.

Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT)

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is composed of five regions with a largely centralized organization. CDOT manages highway facilities, including over 35 mountain passes where inclement weather poses additional challenges for safety and mobility. A TSMO division was initiated in 2015 to provide statewide programs and strategies to improve travel time reliability and safety.

Regional Operations Manager

CDOT introduced corridor operations managers in 2014 along Interstates 70 and 25 to help facilitate and support incident management. This role was identified as a need because the facilities span multiple regions; therefore, several different jurisdictions are responsible for management and operations. Corridor operations managers provide consistency by reporting directly to headquarters, but they operate from a traffic management center located along the corridor they manage. Regional Transportation Directors (RTD) saw value in the corridor operations manager position and requested additional support in this capacity.

CDOT implemented regional operations centers that co-located State patrol with operations staff to foster collaboration when dealing with activities such as road weather management, highway maintenance, and incident management. CDOT determined that a regional operations manager would be a valuable role to manage regional operations centers and support the RTD's needs. This role reported to the TSMO division but was also in direct contact with the RTD. The regional operations manager provided valuable input into the direction, needs, and strategy for CDOT given their hands-on experience within the regions working in the operations centers.

CDOT chose to select Region 1 (Denver metro area) and Region 2 (Southern Colorado) regional operations managers. The regions supported these positions with funding for vacant positions and salary, showing their enthusiasm for the regional operations manager strategy. These changes improved collaboration for maintenance and operations statewide. Regional operations managers improved protocols, practices, and expectations for corridor operations, especially during the winter and inclement weather.

TSMO Evaluation

In 2014, CDOT initiated the TSMO Evaluation, an analysis of safety, operations, and technology performed prior to completing a project design phase. The TSMO Evaluation was originally planned to be an approval process similar to project planning processes at CDOT for environmental and right-of-way but it received pushback because it held up the progression of the project. By working closely with CDOT's process improvement team, the TSMO division staff engaged a wide range of stakeholders and revised the process to be a streamlined evaluation, which was very well-received by region staff.

The TSMO Evaluation, shown in Figure 5, addressed and encouraged each element of CMM by acting as a checklist to ensure specific policies, procedures, and considerations are made during the project design. Regional staff used the evaluation to determine if innovative safety and mobility strategies can be incorporated into the project. CDOT planned to develop a process to complete the TSMO Evaluation earlier at the inception of the project to proactively identify if unique solutions can replace a traditional project, such as adding lanes of capacity. Additional details regarding the TSMO Evaluation can be found in Case Study 4: Culture - Changing the Culture Towards Transportation Systems Management and Operations in State Departments of Transportation.

CDOT TSMO Evaluation Flow Chart
Figure 5. Chart. CDOT TSMO Evaluation Flow Chart
Source: CDOT,

Corridor Operation Bottleneck Reduction Assistance

CDOT developed a funded program for Corridor Operations Bottleneck Reduction Assistance (COBRA). Through close collaboration with CDOT regions, a list was formulated of locations where operations could be improved. Previously, these localized issues did not have dedicated funding. The list of over 100 projects was prioritized and each year several projects were distributed to a pool of consultant teams to develop solutions.

Each region could receive COBRA program funding to analyze, design, and construct bottleneck reduction projects. An example of a recent success identified through the program was a lane reconfiguration project in which striping was modified along an urban section of Interstate 70 at a cost of approximately $10,000. With this improvement, CDOT was able to significantly reduce travel times by reducing friction and weaving issues during peak periods.

Statewide Planning Team Engagement

The CDOT TSMO division actively engaged CDOT and local agency planning stakeholders at several opportunities:

  • Recurring planning meetings, including the monthly statewide planning meeting, State transportation advisory committee, and separate transportation planning region and MPO meetings.
  • Statewide initiatives including traffic incident management, safety patrol, program management teams, and the TSMO Evaluation.
  • Project-specific meetings including those for technical advisory committees, 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan, and statewide Smart Mobility Plan.

By attending these meetings and collaborating on statewide initiatives, CDOT's TSMO vision and goals were shared and gained endorsement. Performance measures collected by the TSMO division were incorporated into planning activities to help inform decisions. As partnerships grew, planning groups were a great advocate for TSMO.

TSMO business processes and recommendations were incorporated into planning and environmental linkage studies, a process to identify transportation and environmental concerns on large corridors or specific locations. CDOT identified this project type as a key opportunity to have discussions about operations and maintenance with planning subject matter experts to discuss solutions early in the project development process.

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