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

Low Cost Improvements for Rural Roads

On rural roads, low cost treatments have been used to address run-off-the-road crashes and to improve visibility.

Numerous low cost traffic-engineering improvements have been made to rural two-lane roads. Many of these treatments are designed to reduce the number of run-off-the-road crashes that account for a significant share of crashes in rural areas. Treatments installed include the following:

  • bigger and brighter curve and chevron signs,
  • inside- and outside-curve paved shoulder with rumble strips,
  • rumble warning panels in advance of curves,
  • shoulder edge drop-offs,
  • installation of paved shoulders,
  • brighter and more durable pavement markings, and
  • flattened slopes.

It becomes more important to consider improvements to signs, signals, and markings to improve visibility as the rural population ages. Example low cost treatments that have been implemented to improve the visibility of traffic control devices include the following:

  • installing larger stop signs,
  • placing flags on stop ahead and stop signs,
  • placing a flashing beacon on stop signs,
  • installing advance stop sign rumble strips, and
  • installing larger 8-inch street name signs.
photo of chevron sign to the right of a roadway  photo of yellow median markings on roadway  photo of a roadway with a stop sign visible in the distance with red flags on the top left and right of the sign

Chevron signs (left), night performance pavement markings (middle), flags on stop sign (right)

photo of roadway with raised horizontal rumble strips across the lane  photo of roadway with high grassy bank on the right  photo of roadway with almost level grassy bank on the right

Rumble warning panel (left), before slope flattening (middle), after slope flattening (right)

Arlington County, Virginia Department of Public Works

The "intelligent" pedestrian crosswalk is a state-of-the-art system that provides additional pedestrian safety at high volume mid-block locations. The system uses sensor technology to trigger a set of lights, which are located along the marked crosswalk. The signals warn motorists that a pedestrian is in the crosswalk. This passive system uses an infrared eye with a one-directional setup to avoid extended activation as pedestrians clear the crosswalk. Timing is set using standard federal guidelines for crosswalk clearance times. The system in Arlington cost approximately $9,800 dollars, with an additional $10,000 in labor for installation. It has a 10-year life expectancy.

Maryland State Highway Administration

Route 4 North toward Washington, D.C. carries a significant volume of traffic to I-495, the National Capitol Beltway, and to downtown destinations during the morning peak period. The three-lane route is limited to two lanes in both directions 1.5 miles south of I-495. To eliminate the bottleneck created by the lane reduction, MDSHA needed an innovative, low cost method of maintaining adequate capacity. Using signage and pavement markings, peak period traffic is directed to use shoulders, thus relieving congestion. In the southbound direction, MDSHA has extended an on-ramp, allowing traffic to use the shoulder. Confirming signs are used to indicate the special use provision.

photo showing sign to the right of a roadway with the words "Begin shoulder use OK, Mon-Fri 6-9 AM, no trucks"  photo showing sign to the right of a roadway with the words "Begin 3 lanes, end special shoulder use"

Shoulder use on Route 4 is permitted during peak periods (left). Signage indicates the end of the special use provision (right).

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