Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program

1.0 Introduction

1.1 What is a Work Zone Public Information and Outreach Campaign?

A work zone public information and outreach campaign typically involves several strategies to communicate with road users, the general public, area residences and businesses, and appropriate public entities about a road construction project and the safety and mobility effects of the work zone for the project.

Effective public information and outreach campaigns generally include the following key steps:

  1. Determine the appropriate size and nature of the public information and outreach campaign.
  2. Identify resources necessary to support the campaign.
  3. Identify partners to assist in developing and implementing the campaign.
  4. Identify target audiences for the campaign.
  5. Develop the message(s) for the campaign.
  6. Determine communication strategies for disseminating the messages to the target audiences.
  7. Determine communication timing for the campaign.
  8. Evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign.

These steps are discussed in Section 2 and will ideally be presented in a public information and outreach plan that may be coordinated with project stakeholders. Developing the plan is covered in Section 3 and a variety of communication strategies are described in Section 4.

1.2 Why Develop and Implement a Public Information and Outreach Campaign?

Improved work zone practices, including public information and outreach, are important because of the effects that work zones, particularly large ones, can have on regional traffic safety, mobility, and traveler dissatisfaction. In 2003, 1,028 people were killed and 41,000 people were injured as a result of motor vehicle crashes in work zones. About 90 percent of those killed are vehicle occupants and 10 percent are non-occupants, mostly work zone workers [1]. It is estimated that over 3,000 work zones are in effect on the National Highway System (NHS) during the summer, about 13 percent of NHS roadway. This results in a loss of over 60 million vehicles of capacity per hour per day [2]. According to the latest estimates, work zones account for 10 percent of all roadway congestion [3]. Work zones are second only to poor traffic flow in causing dissatisfaction among drivers [4].

A well planned and implemented public information and outreach campaign can help mitigate many of these issues by warning drivers of upcoming work zones and providing information to drivers both pre-trip and en route. This information allows drivers to make informed decisions about the route to take and when to travel.

1.3 Purpose of this Document

This document is meant to help transportation agencies plan and implement effective public information and outreach campaigns for work zones. The focus of this document is not on project selection and design, but on the travel impacts of a work zone – such as lane and shoulder closings, new traffic patterns, and traffic delay – and available travel alternatives such as different routes and travel modes. Furthermore, this document provides information and strategies for developing public information and outreach campaigns for specific work zones, rather than general work zone education and safety campaigns.

This document also provides support to agencies in their efforts to implement the recently updated work zone regulations in 23 CFR 630 Subpart J. The updated regulations address the use of public information and outreach as a work zone management tool. This document contains guidance, as well as many examples of work zone public information and outreach campaigns used by transportation agencies.

Much of the information in this document was gathered through a review of materials and a series of interviews of personnel from about 30 work zone public information and outreach campaigns located across the country. These projects, which are listed in Appendix A, ranged in terms of size and scope and were located in both urban and rural areas. In addition, this information was supplemented by a scan of web sites and literature for public information and outreach efforts for other road projects.

1.4 Target Audience

This Guide is primarily designed for personnel in transportation agencies responsible for planning and operating highway work zones and those responsible for public relations and public information. However, it will also be of interest to transportation policy makers, work zone contractors, consultants, public relations firms, and emergency responders.

1.5 Public Information and Outreach and the Work Zone Rule

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published the Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule (the Rule) on September 9, 2004 in the Federal Register (69 FR 54562) [5]. This Rule updates and renames the former regulation on "Traffic Safety in Highway and Street Work Zones" in 23 CFR 630 Subpart J. All State and local governments [6] that receive Federal-aid highway funding are affected by this updated Rule, and are required to comply with its provisions no later than October 12, 2007. While the Rule applies specifically to Federal-aid highway projects, agencies are encouraged to apply the good practices that it fosters to other road projects as well.

The Rule updates and broadens the existing regulation to address more of the current issues affecting work zone safety and mobility by:

  • Fostering systematic assessment of the work zone impacts of road projects and development and implementation of transportation management strategies that help manage these impacts.
  • Expanding thinking beyond the project work zone itself to address corridor, network, and regional issues while planning and designing road projects.
  • Expanding work zone management beyond traffic safety and control to address mobility in addition to safety, and to address the broader concept of transportation operations and public information.
  • Advocating innovative thinking in work zone planning, design, and management, so as to consider alternative/innovative design, construction, contracting, and transportation management strategies.

Within the Rule are three primary components:

  • Implementation of an overall, agency-level work zone safety and mobility policy.
  • Development of agency-level processes and procedures to support policy implementation, including procedures for work zone impacts assessment, analyzing work zone data, training, and process reviews.
  • Development and implementation of procedures to assess and manage work zone impacts on individual projects. This includes requirements for identifying significant projects [7] and developing and implementing transportation management plans (TMPs).

A TMP lays out a set of coordinated strategies and describes how these strategies will be used to manage the work zone impacts of a project. The scope, content, and level of detail of a TMP may vary based on the agency's work zone policy and the anticipated work zone impacts of the project. The type of TMP needed for a project is based on whether the project is determined to be a significant project. For significant projects, the TMP must include public information and outreach strategies to inform those affected by the project of expected work zone impacts and changing conditions. This Guide is designed to assist agencies with these strategies.

More information on TMPs and significant projects is available in Developing and Implementing Transportation Management Plans for Work Zones. Guidance on these topics can also be found in Implementing the Rule on Work Zone Safety and Mobility [8].

1.6 Overview of Guidance Material for the Rule

To help agencies implement the provisions of the Rule, FHWA has developed a suite of guidance documents that address the following topics:

  • Overall Rule Implementation. Provides an overview of the Rule and general guidance for implementing the Rule, lays out fundamental principles, and presents agencies with ideas for implementing the Rule's provisions.
  • Work Zone Impacts Assessment. Provides guidance on developing procedures to assess work zone impacts of projects.
  • Work Zone Transportation Management Plans (TMPs). Provides guidance on developing TMPs for managing work zone impacts of projects.
  • Work Zone Public Information and Outreach Strategies. Addressed in this document.

All Rule resources will be available on the FHWA work zone web site at the following URL:

1.7 Key Terminology

In this Guide, the term "public outreach" is used to describe the process of communicating with groups and individuals with the intent of both providing and obtaining information about the impacts of a proposed or in-progress work zone. An example of an outreach activity is meeting with a business to determine their concerns and obtain their ideas, as well as provide them with information regarding the impacts of the work zone.

The term "public information" is used to describe the process of making groups and individuals aware of work zones, their impacts, and possible mitigation strategies. A dynamic message sign warning travelers about delays through a work zone is a form of public information. Establishing partnerships is central to the idea of public outreach, whereas public information is the more impersonal communication of ideas and facts.

The term "campaign" is used to describe an entire, though project specific, public information and outreach effort. A campaign will have one or more "goals" that the agency is trying to achieve. The term "strategy" is used to describe a plan of action intended to accomplish a specific goal. There might be several strategies to employ multiple ways of accomplishing a goal, and several methods of public information and outreach. Typically, a campaign will employ multiple strategies. For example, if the goal is to reduce peak period delay in and around a work zone, one strategy to do so may be to promote alternate routes and transportation modes (including telecommuting). There then may be various communication strategies that can be used to promote these alternate routes and transportation modes, including a project web site, newspaper advertisements, and/or highway billboards.

  1. American Traffic Safety Services Association, Traffic Crashes in Construction/Maintenance Zones, available at as of January 26, 2005.
  2. A Snapshot of Summer 2001 Work Zone Activity: Based on Information Reported on State Road Closure and Construction Websites, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, February 2003, (Accessed 06/10/05).
  3. Chin, S.M. et al., Temporary Losses of Highway Capacity and Impacts on Performance, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, May 2002.
  4. Moving Ahead: The American Public Speaks on Roadways and Transportation in Communities, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, FHWA-OP-01-017, February 2001, (Accessed 11/28/05).
  5. The full text of the Rule is available at
  6. Hereinafter referred to as agencies.
  7. The Rule defines a significant project as one that, alone or in combination with other concurrent projects nearby is anticipated to cause sustained work zone impacts that are greater than what is considered tolerable based on the respective agency's policy and/or engineering judgment. Per the Rule, this automatically includes Interstate System projects in a Transportation Management Area that occupy a location for more than three days and have either intermittent or continuous lane closures.
  8. Both documents are available at
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