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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Introduction and Purpose

This report presents the results of an investigation into low cost traffic engineering improvements, including types of actions, costs, and benefits.

In an effort to reduce crashes and ease traffic congestion on our nation's highways, traffic engineers and planners have traditionally pursued a wide range of actions. In some cases, the most cost-effective solution requires a significant investment in public funds. In other cases, the most cost-effective solution can be achieved through implementation of lower cost solutions. The purpose of this report is to share approaches that have been implemented to provide low cost solutions for improving safety and traffic flow. The report is designed to serve as a primer, or basic introduction, to the subject of low cost traffic engineering improvements. The goal is to provide practicing traffic engineers and planners with information describing the types of low cost actions that have been implemented, along with their cost and benefits.

"Low cost" is a relative term. Agencies implementing large projects with large budgets may perceive a "low cost" project differently than an agency with a limited budget. For purposes of this discussion, "low cost" is defined as a project or strategy that generally requires an investment in the range of $10,000 to $50,000. Many of the strategies discussed range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars in magnitude. The research conducted for this study, however, indicates that "low cost" does not mean "low benefit."

The research results presented in this report are based on a review of the literature as well as interviews with transportation agency staff throughout the nation. The results identify a series of successful and effective low cost strategies that agencies have implemented to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion. Hopefully, many of the practices presented are transferable to other communities dealing with similar problems.

This report is divided into five parts. Following this introductory section, the second part describes several low cost traffic engineering improvements that have been implemented in a variety of locations. The third part of this report discusses why low cost traffic engineering improvements are important. Among the most significant reasons cited for pursuing low cost improvements is that limited funding is available to local jurisdictions for managing growing safety and capacity problems. The fourth part of this report examines the benefits that have been derived from the implementation of low cost improvements based on several examples that have been implemented in different parts of the nation. The fifth part of this report describes several experimental or innovative low cost approaches to increasing safety and mitigating congestion.

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