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

Organizing for TSMO
Case Study 12: Border Crossings

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Historically, transportation agencies have managed congestion primarily by funding major capital projects that focused on adding capacity to address physical constraints such as bottlenecks. Operational improvements were typically an afterthought and considered after the new infrastructure was already added to the system. Given the changing transportation landscape that includes increased customer expectations, a better understanding of the sources of congestion, and constraints in resources, alternative approaches were needed. Transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) provides such an approach to overcome these challenges and address a broader range of congestion issues to improve overall system performance. With agencies needing to stretch transportation funding further than ever and demand for reliable travel increasing, TSMO activities can help agencies maximize the use of available capacity and implement solutions with a high benefit-cost ratio. This approach supports agencies' abilities to address changing system demands and be flexible for a wide range of conditions.

Effective TSMO efforts require full integration within a transportation agency and should be supported by partner agencies. This can be achieved by identifying opportunities for improving processes, instituting data-driven decision-making, establishing proactive collaboration, and developing actionable activities to develop processes that optimize performance.

Through the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2), a national partnership between the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the Transportation Research Board (TRB), a self-assessment framework was developed based on a model from the software industry. SHRP2 developed a framework for agencies to assess their critical processes and institutional arrangements through a capability maturity model (CMM). The CMM uses six dimensions of capability to allow agencies to self-assess their implementation of TSMO principles2:

  1. Business processes - planning, programming, and budgeting.
  2. Systems and technology - systems engineering, systems architecture standards, interoperability, and standardization.
  3. Performance Measurement - measures definition, data acquisition, and utilization.
  4. Culture - technical understanding, leadership, outreach, and program authority.
  5. Organization and workforce - programmatic status, organizational structure, staff development, recruitment, and retention.
  6. Collaboration - relationships with public safety agencies, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations (MPO), and the private sector.

Within each capability dimension, there are four levels of maturity (performed, managed, integrated, and optimized), as shown in Figure 1. An agency uses the CMM self-assessment to identify their level of maturity in each dimension as well as their strengths and weaknesses and to determine actions they can take to improve their capabilities.

Chart showing the four levels of maturity from FHWA's Jan 2012 document - Creating an Effective Program to Advance Transportation System Management and Operations
Figure 1. Chart. Four Levels of Maturity
Source: Creating an Effective Program to Advance Transportation System Management and Operations, FHWA Jan 2012

Purpose of Case Studies

In the first 10 years of implementation of the TSMO CMM, more than 50 States and regions used the tool to assess and improve their TSMO capabilities. With the many benefits experienced by these agencies, FHWA identified the need to develop case studies through previous efforts in SHRP2 to showcase leading practices in order to assist transportation professionals in mainstreaming TSMO into their agencies. The purposes of the case studies are to:

  • Communicate the value of changing culture and standard practices towards TSMO to stakeholders and decision-makers.
  • Provide examples of best-practices and lessons learned by other State and local agencies during their adoption, implementation, and mainstreaming of TSMO.

These case studies support transportation agencies by showing a wide range of challenges, opportunities, and results to provide proof for the potential benefits of implementing TSMO. Each case study was identified to address challenges faced by TSMO professionals when implementing new or expanding existing practices in the agency and to provide lessons learned.

Identified Topics of Importance

The topic of border crossings is important because of the unique challenges faced by border agencies, including collaborating with international stakeholders, mitigating security concerns, and managing traffic demands and congestion around the border check points. The agencies highlighted in this case study addressed those challenges through consistent collaboration, integrated intelligent transportation systems (ITS) solutions, and employing data-driven decisions.


Agencies were selected for each case study based on prior research indicating that the agency was excelling in particular TSMO capabilities. Care was taken to include a diversity of geographical locations and agency types (departments of transportation, cities, and MPOs) to develop case studies that other agencies could easily relate to and learn from. Interviews were conducted with selected agencies to collect information on the topic for each case study.

Description of Border Crossings

Travel and transporting commercial freight across the United States borders into and out of Canada and Mexico play a vital role in each country's economy. Roads and bridges approaching the borders have a significant impact on the flow of people, goods, and services across international boundaries. Long delays at borders can cause logistical concerns for both the traveling public and commercial freight, so it is important to develop safe, reliable operations. Transportation networks around border crossing locations experience unique challenges such as increased security concerns, international coordination, and a higher saturation of commercial freight vehicles than other facilities. Incorporating TSMO into an agency's operating procedures can be advantageous for addressing these challenges efficiently and effectively.

Examples of border crossing opportunities within each capability dimension of TSMO include:
  • Business processes - Developing a strategic plan and budget for improving freight management.
  • Systems and technology - Using ITS at border crossing to manage traffic and provide traveler information. The selection and availability of traveler information is determined in accordance with security protocols.
  • Performance measurement - Monitoring travel times, delay at ports of entry, or traffic flow rates as well as developing program performance measures from topics discussed at regional stakeholder meetings.
  • Culture - Providing outreach to border crossing operators to express the importance of moving traffic safely and efficiently and explaining the value of the data collected and potential mobility improvements.
  • Organization and workforce - Establishing a border crossing committee of regional stakeholders.
  • Collaboration - Working jointly with federal, State, and local agencies on both sides of the border to improve mobility across ports of entry.

2FHWA, Office of Operations, "Organizing for Reliability - Capability Maturity Model Assessment and Implementation Plans Executive Summary," May 2015. [ Return to Note 2 ]

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