Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program

Background and Purpose

FHWA began the WZ SA in 2003 and conducts the assessment annually. In 2008, each FHWA Division Office was asked to re-examine and update the results of its 2007 WZ SA, working with transportation agency staff from its State partner. Each Division Office had the option of performing a simple update or a more in-depth reassessment. A simple update would focus on revising past scores to reflect current practices based on observations and an ongoing knowledge of work zone practices. For a more in-depth reassessment, the WZ SA is conducted as a group exercise and involves a structured discussion among stakeholders to develop consensus ratings for each of the questions.

While the WZ SA score provides a metric for measurement, the most important information is derived from the discussions conducted among the participants. The interchange among stakeholders provides an opportunity for an agency to identify specific areas for improvement and provides the basis for structuring approaches to improve work zone policies, programs, and practices.

The WZ SA is intended to help agencies identify areas of strength and areas for improvement and to then use that information to identify needs and gaps in practices that could benefit from additional focus. Techniques and strategies that will lead to filling those gaps in the project development process are key to improving work zone operations. While a goal of the WZ SA is to identify opportunities for improvement, the "next step" in making use of the information is to identify techniques and actions that can improve upon current operations.

The WZ SA consists of six primary assessment areas and a set of five supplemental questions. The six primary areas are:

  • Section 1: Leadership and Policy
  • Section 2: Project Planning and Programming
  • Section 3: Project Design
  • Section 4: Project Construction and Operation
  • Section 5: Communications and Education
  • Section 6: Program Evaluation

Each assessment area contains a set of questions about a particular work zone related policy, strategy, process, or tool. For each question, respondents were asked to evaluate the extent to which a particular practice has been incorporated into an agency's way of doing business. The questions in each section were rated according to the level of adoption phase, using a scale of 0 to 15 that is broken into a set of five progressive levels based on the quality improvement process model used by industry. Definitions and characteristics for these ratings are listed in Table 3. A score of 7 or more on a question signifies that a State is implementing and executing the item in that question.

Table 3. WZ SA Rating/Scoring Scale
Adoption Phase Scoring Range Description
Initiation (0-3)
  • Does agency management acknowledge the need for a particular item?
  • Has exploratory research taken place to assess the benefits of this item?
  • Does management support further development of this item's requirements?
Development (4-6)
  • Has the agency developed a plan or approach to address the item’s requirements? Has the agency started to investigate the feasibility of implementation?
  • Does the agency have standards and guidance to enable the item’s implementation?
  • Does the agency have the approvals necessary for implementation?
    Are resources in place to support the adoption of this item?
Execution (7-9)
  • Is the agency implementing/carrying out the requirements of this item?
    Has the agency allocated financial or staff resources necessary for the item’s execution?
  • Have appropriate personnel been trained to execute the item’s requirements?
  • Has a process owner been established?
Assessment (10-12)
  • Has the agency assessed how well this item reduces work zone congestion and crashes?
  • Has the agency assessed the process for carrying out this item?
  • Has the agency implemented appropriate changes to the requirements of this item based on performance assessments?
Integration (13-15)
  • Has the agency integrated the requirements of this item into quality improvement processes?
  • Are the requirements of this item integrated into agency culture?
  • Are the requirements of this item included as part of the employee performance rating system?

Several questions in the WZ SA are based on the magnitude of impact that a project may have on a particular area. These project types are described in Table 4.

Table 4. Project Types Used in the WZ SA
Type Characteristics Examples
Type I
  • Affects the traveling public at the metropolitan, regional, intrastate, and possibly interstate level
  • Very high level of public interest
  • Directly affects a very large number of travelers
  • Significant user cost impacts
  • Very long duration
  • Central Artery/Tunnel in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Woodrow Wilson Bridge in District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia
  • Springfield Interchange “Mixing Bowl” in Springfield, Virginia
  • I-15 reconstruction in Salt Lake City, Utah
Type II
  • Affects the traveling public predominantly at the metropolitan and regional level
  • Moderate to high level of public interest
  • Directly affects a moderate to high number of travelers
  • Moderate to high user cost impacts
  • Duration is moderate to long
  • Major corridor reconstruction
  • High-impact interchange improvements
  • Full closures on high-volume facilities
  • Major bridge repair
  • Repaving projects that require long term lane closures
Type III
  • Affects the traveling public at the metropolitan or regional level
  • Low to moderate level of public interest
  • Directly affects a low to moderate level of travelers
  • Low to moderate user cost impacts
  • May include lane closures for a moderate duration
  • Repaving work on roadways and the National Highway System (NHS) with moderate Average Daily Traffic (ADT)
  • Minor bridge repair
  • Shoulder repair and construction
  • Minor interchange repairs
Type IV
  • Affects the traveling public to a small degree
  • Low public interest and user cost impacts
  • Duration is short to moderate
  • Work zones are usually mobile and typically recurring
  • Certain low-impact striping work
  • Guardrail repair
  • Minor shoulder repair
  • Pothole patching
  • Very minor joint sealing
  • Minor bridge painting
  • Sign repair
  • Mowing
NOTE: These levels may not encompass all possible combinations or degrees of work zone categories. Some terms are general to allow flexibility in categorizing borderline project types.

In order to assess how States' practices may have changed as a result of the Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule (deadline for implementation was October 12, 2007), the following five supplemental questions were added in 2008:

  1. While planning and designing road projects, the agency is expanding planning beyond the project work zone itself to address corridor, network, and regional issues (e.g., alternate routes and/or modes, truck traffic, special events, etc.) - particularly when congestion is an issue.
  2. The agency is seeing enhanced consideration and management of work zone safety and mobility impacts, starting during planning and continuing through project completion.
  3. The agency is expanding work zone management beyond traffic safety and control to address mobility through the consideration and use of transportation operations and public information strategies.
  4. As a result of its work zone policy, the agency is using a more consistent approach to planning, designing, and constructing road projects.
  5. The agency has updated/changed training for its staff (designers, planners, construction staff, etc.) to address broader consideration of work zone impacts and management in the scheduling, design, and implementation of projects.

States were asked to select from one of the following five responses on how the Work Zone Rule has changed their practices:

The Rule Has Caused Change:

  • The agency has significantly experienced this as a result of the Rule.
  • The agency has somewhat experienced this as a result of the Rule.

The Rule Has NOT Caused Change:

  • This was already taking place prior to the Rule and has not changed since the Rule was implemented.
  • This was not taking place prior to the Rule and is still not occurring.


  • It is too early to tell if the Rule has caused this to occur (but I might know later).

FHWA plans to include these five supplemental questions in the 2009 WZ SA.

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