Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program
Photo collage: temporary lane closure, road marking installation, cone with mounted warning light, and drum separated work zones.
Office of Operations 21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Maryland State Highway Administration Rule Case Study

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) initiated the Work Zone Rule compliance process in the summer of 2005. Personnel in SHA's Office of Traffic and Safety, as well as a consultant hired to assist with the process, reviewed current business practices as they related to work zone safety and mobility. Senior management decided that SHA would look at their entire process, not just the main compliance aspects.

SHA began by developing a work zone business plan that identified 12 key focus areas; goals, strategies, and action items for each of these focus areas; and a timetable for completion of the actions. The 12 key focus areas were: Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), accelerated construction, innovative contracting, incident management, training, research, public awareness, public support/partnership, planning and engineering support, safety, mobility, and enforcement.

After developing the draft business plan, SHA realized that a mechanism was needed for communication and coordination both within and outside of SHA to help review the plan and provide Rule implementation guidance. As a result, the Temporary Traffic Control Safety and Mobility Council (hereafter referred to as "Council") was developed, comprised of several offices within SHA, as well as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Maryland State Police (MSP), the Maryland Transportation Builders and Materials Association (formerly the Maryland Highway Contractors Association), the University of Maryland, vendors, and consultants. This group met as needed to discuss the goals, strategies and major milestones identified in the business plan. In addition to in-person meetings, the group solicited advice and opinions through emails and phone calls.

The first activity of the Council was to review the Rule, identify the areas where SHA had compliant processes and procedures in place, and identify areas where improvement was needed. The Council contacted other State departments of transportation and highway administrations to find out more about agency practices in the areas identified as in need of improvement. The Council determined that SHA was already in compliance with most areas of the Rule, but additional focus on documentation of processes and procedures was needed. For example, work zone impacts assessment was already a part of the process for what would be considered "significant projects", but it was not a formal, documented process. After this review, the consensus was that work zone impacts should be looked at earlier in the process - conceptually in project planning and in more detail during preliminary design.

The need for clearly defined and documented processes and procedures for impacts assessment and transportation management plan development was widely accepted by the various offices within SHA. However, there was concern about who would do this additional work. It was determined that consultants would conduct much of the additional work, with the SHA Design Office and District Traffic Offices providing oversight and input by reviewing and approving all plans and documents.

Compliance

SHA met with the FHWA Maryland Division in November 2006 to formally submit all documentation and request compliance with the Rule. Notification of compliance with the Rule was received in January 2007. Following receipt of notification, SHA decided to include TMPs with all significant projects that were advertised after October 2007, to the extent feasible, provide training to design and District offices on new policies and processes, and develop "blanket exceptions" for projects that are classified as significant by the Rule's more than three-day lane closure requirement, but are not considered significant by SHA.

Policy

SHA developed their Work Zone Policy (PDF 50KB) internally through a team comprised of representatives from Headquarters Design, Communication, and Construction offices, as well as from the district offices. The policy was then sent to the Temporary Traffic Control Safety and Mobility Council for review. The policy was approved with few comments from the Council, as it was primarily based on processes and procedures that SHA already had in place.

The policy outlines the procedures to be followed and identifies responsibilities to achieve safer work zones with minimal impact on the traveling public. The policy applies to all work performed on SHA maintained roads and describes the fundamental principles of work zone safety and mobility, the requirements for compliance with the policy, and roles and responsibilities. It also includes appendices containing guidance on identifying significant projects, guidance on Maintenance of Traffic Alternative Analysis (MOTAA), Transportation Management Plan (TMP) guidelines, Work Zone Lane Closure Analysis guidelines, a sample Temporary Traffic Control Inspection form, a sample Work Zone Traffic Control Annual Inspection report, and the Maryland Work Zone Accidents Comparison report.

Significant Projects

SHA spent more than six months discussing significant projects, a process that took place prior to writing their Work Zone Policy. SHA convened a working group that included representatives from Districts, design, and planning offices to determine how to best identify significant projects. They presented their ideas several times to the TTC Safety and Mobility Council for roundtable discussion. SHA found the significant project definition to be the most difficult part of Rule implementation. After much discussion, a qualitative approach to define significant projects was developed. This approach was based on the working group's determination that a quantitative definition, such as one based on project cost, did not seem to fit because smaller dollar value projects may still have significant work zone impacts or require additional coordination. They concluded that a qualitative approach would allow engineering judgment to play a role in determining significant projects. SHA's Guidance on Identifying Significant Projects (PDF 255KB) explains the purpose for identifying significant projects, provides guidance on when the identification should be done, and presents SHA's processes for identifying significant projects.

Two flow charts were created to use in defining significant projects. One flow chart is for projects that fall under the Planning and Design Central Offices, which tend to be larger, more complex projects. The other flow chart is for District-initiated projects and minor projects. The major criteria used by the Planning and Design Office flow chart to define significant projects are project location, anticipated mobility and safety impacts, and project and/or work zone characteristics. According to the flowchart, if the project meets a certain number of criteria and is considered to be significant, the next step is to perform an MOTAA to identify a solution to reduce impacts below thresholds defined in the SHA Work Zone Lane Closure Analysis Guidelines (PDF 53KB). If the MOTAA does not identify a solution that will reduce impacts, then the project is considered significant and a TMP containing traffic operations and public information and outreach strategies must be developed. The District and minor projects flow chart is based on whether or not the work will involve continuous or intermittent lane closures on a freeway/expressway for more than three days, if the project falls under the "Blanket Exceptions" category, and if the project complies with the Work Zone Lane Closure Analysis Guidelines.

Transportation Management Plans (TMPs)

SHA also developed guidelines to provide information and guidance to SHA staff, consultants, and contractors who are involved in the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of SHA facilities on how to develop, implement, and evaluate TMPs. These guidelines were developed jointly by the SHA Headquarters Design and Planning offices and are based on the guidance provided in FHWA's Developing and Implementing Transportation Management Plans for Work Zones. The offices were asked to review their project development process and then identify steps to develop a TMP that correlates as much as possible with existing processes. As a result, the guidelines include a 13-step process for TMP development. They also include appendices such as a maintenance of traffic red flag summary form, a summary of work zone impact management strategies, and guidance on developing public information and outreach plans.

Training

Prior to finalization of the Policy and TMP guidelines, SHA gave presentations to their Headquarters Design and Planning staff to make them aware of what was planned for these documents and to solicit comments and questions. Following release of the Policy and TMP Guidelines, SHA held extensive training with the District offices to educate them about the final policy and related components. After the policy was completed, SHA provided work zone traffic analysis training to District traffic staff. While consultants did not receive formal training from SHA, they do have access to all of the Rule materials through the SHA Processes and Guidelines for Compliance with Final Rule on Work Zone Safety and Mobility Web site.

SHA has updated some of their existing work zone training courses and also developed a new course for law enforcement officers (LEO), based on the FHWA law enforcement course. The SHA's LEO course is anticipated to provide officers a better idea of what is expected of them, starting during the project planning process, and to encourage their consideration of safety and mobility when they are deployed in the work zone. The course is currently in an instructor based format, but SHA is sponsoring the development of an online version. According to SHA, all LEOs who serve on work zone details after December 2009 are required to complete the course. This requirement is proposed for inclusion in the Interagency Work Zone Service Agreement between MSP and SHA. It will be the responsibility of the MSP to maintain the database identifying LEOs who have completed the course.

Data Collection and Performance Measurement

While SHA currently does not have formal work zone performance measurement or data collection processes in place, they are working on several ideas, anticipated for implementation in the near future.

On a recent project along the Capital Beltway, SHA developed models to determine the optimal time of day to install girders for the construction of a flyover ramp with the least impacts to traffic. To determine the accuracy of the if the model/analysis performed was accurate, data from the time of the actual closure was collected to determine the percentage of vehicles that cancelled trips or bypassed I-95 due to public information and outreach campaign; how accurately pre- and post-construction simulation models replicated conditions noted in the field; and to develop a basis for assumptions in future work zone modeling of the impacts of advance signage and public information and outreach campaigns. The findings indicated that the queues of the simulation model matched observed queues in the field. It is anticipated that similar procedures will be done for future projects.

SHA has plans for more formalized performance measurement and data collection procedures in the near future. They are considering developing a questionnaire to give to staff involved in development of TMPs to solicit feedback on what is working and what is not working in order to determine if the TMP Guidelines need to be revised. They are also currently working on a work zone component of collecting and analyzing crash data, and are looking to track where work zone crashes that cause injuries are most likely to occur and how these crashes can be reduced.

Lessons Learned

The primary lesson learned during SHA's Rule review and implementation process was to get buy-in from senior management and input from those doing the work. The overall feeling was that if those doing the work are part of the process, they will be more willing to accept the changes.

Additional Resources

  • Maryland SHA's Rule Implementation Process (PPT 776KB) - Provides more information on SHA's implementation of the Rule.
  • Summary of National Transportation Operations Coalition (NTOC) May 2009 interview with SHA about their work zone safety and mobility efforts.

 

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®.

Office of Operations