Why Are Low Cost Traffic Engineering Improvements Important?
Low cost traffic engineering improvements offer local traffic engineers means for improving safety in the face of increasing traffic volumes and decreasing budgets for traffic improvements.
Demand for highway travel by Americans continues to grow as population increases, particularly in metropolitan areas. Construction of new highway capacity to accommodate this growth in travel has not kept pace. Between 1980 and 1999, route miles of highways increased 1.5% while vehicle miles of travel increased 76%. The Texas Transportation Institute estimates that in 2000, the 75 largest metropolitan areas experienced 3.6 billion vehicle hours of delay, resulting in 21.6 billion liters (5.7 billion gallons) of wasted fuel and $67.5 billion in lost productivity. Traffic volumes are projected to continue to grow. Congestion is largely thought of as a big city problem, but delays are becoming increasingly common in small cities and some rural areas as well.
There is a need to provide tools and information on modest traffic improvements (roadway geometry, signage, striping, etc.) that can be implemented by state and local traffic engineers to reduce traffic congestion and improve traffic flow. Budget constraints in the face of continually increasing safety and congestion problems have meant that local traffic engineers need to apply low cost solutions wherever feasible. As the examples presented in this report show, these solutions cover a wide range of actions.