Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program
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Significant Project Examples

Transportation Management Area: 1) All urbanized areas over 200,000 in population, and any other area that requests such designation. 2) An urbanized area with a population over 200,000 (as determined by the latest decennial census) or other area when TMA designation is requested by the Governor and the MPO (or affect local officials), and officially designated by the Administrators of the FHWA and the FTA. The TMA designation applies to the entire metropolitan planning area(s). (23CFR500)

Section 630.1010 of the Work Zone Safety and Mobility 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 State policy and/or engineering judgment. States have some flexibility to tailor their definition of significant project based on local considerations. The Rule also states that in addition to projects meeting the agency's own definition of significant: "All Interstate system projects within the boundaries of a designated Transportation Management Area (TMA) that occupy a location for more than three days with either intermittent or continuous lane closures shall be considered as significant projects." More information can be found in Implementing the Rule on Work Zone Safety and Mobility.

The following examples are meant to assist agencies with developing their own significant project definitions.

Significant Project Information in FHWA Online TMP Course

Module 2 of the FHWA self-paced online course on Developing TMPs for Work Zones includes information on defining a significant project. The module includes examples of significant project criteria from Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, and Tennessee.

Maryland State Highway Administration

The Maryland State Highway Administration (MDSHA) developed a qualitative approach to define significant projects based on the findings of a working group that: (1) a quantitative definition, such as one based on project cost, did not fit, because smaller dollar value projects could still have significant work zone impacts or require additional coordination, and (2) a qualitative approach allows for engineering judgment to play a role in determining significant projects. MDSHA's Guidance on Identifying Significant Projects (PDF 255KB) explains the purpose for identifying significant projects, specifies when identification should be done, and lays out a process. The guidelines apply to all work performed on MDSHA maintained roads.

Two flow charts help with defining significant projects. One flow chart is for projects that fall under the Planning and Design Central Offices, which tend to be larger and more complex. 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. If the project meets a certain number of criteria and is considered to be significant, the next step is to perform a Maintenance of Traffic Alternatives Analysis (MOTAA) to try to identify a solution to reduce impacts below thresholds defined in the MDSHA Work Zone Lane Closure Analysis Guidelines (PDF 53KB). If the MOTAA does not identify a solution that will reduce impacts, 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 if the work will or will not 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.

Montana Department of Transportation

Appendix A of the Montana Department of Transportation's (MDT) Work Zone Safety and Mobility Policy (PDF 537KB) includes criteria for determining whether or not a project is considered significant. MDT identifies three levels of impact. MDT's policy includes a list of corridors in Montana that are automatically of Level 1 and Level 2 significance. It also includes a checklist to help identify significant projects.

  • Level 1 projects are considered significant projects. These projects typically impact the traveling public at the metropolitan, regional, or interstate level; have a high level of public interest; directly impact a large number of travelers; have high user cost impacts; and are of long duration.
  • Level 2 projects impact the traveling public at the city or regional level; have a moderate level of public interest; directly impact a moderate level of travelers; have low to moderate user cost impacts; and can include lane closures for a moderate duration if not during peak hours.
  • Level 3 projects impact the traveling public to a small degree; public interest is low and AADT is low; duration of work is short to moderate; construction zones can be mobile; and typically this work is recurring (such as mowing, pothole patching, etc.).

North Carolina Department of Transportation

The North Carolina DOT (NCDOT) includes a definition for significant projects in its Work Zone Safety and Mobility Policy (PDF 528KB). This definition expands on the definition included in the Rule: "'Significant' project/activity is one that, alone or in conjunction with other projects/activities, is anticipated to cause sustained work zone impacts to the road users, businesses, or local communities during construction or one that will substantially relieve existing congestion on the highway network upon its completion. Additionally, all Interstate projects/activities within the boundaries of a Transportation Management Area (areas with populations greater than 200,000) that occupy a location for more than three days with either intermittent or continuous lane closures shall be considered a 'Significant' project/activity. Projects/Activities classified in the 'Statewide' and 'Regional' Tiers of North Carolina's Long-Range Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan may also be designated as 'Significant.'" The policy explains what significant projects/activities require, at a minimum, to ensure the safety and mobility of workers and road users.

The NCDOT Significant Project Criteria Chart (PDF 14KB) identifies criteria for determining significant projects that categorizes projects into four levels. Projects that are level 1 and level 2 are "significant" and will receive additional scrutiny and have more measures implemented in an effort to reduce their overall impacts to safety and mobility. The NCODT Significant Project Outline provides a checklist of activities to be undertaken through each phase of the project management process for significant projects.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

The Pennsylvania DOT's (PennDOT) Traffic Engineering Manual (PDF 5.91MB) includes a process for identifying significant projects (starting on page 280). The process begins by scoping the project and defining impacts. The next step is to determine if anticipated delay from the project is greater than, equal to, or below a pre-defined threshold for freeway and arterial projects. The District responsible for the project may use spreadsheet tools, QuickZone, Synchro, HCS, or similar programs to model the expected added travel time that will be generated. The District has discretion in determining how added delay will impact the surrounding community. If additional project-related travel time through the project area (including detours) is less than or equal to 20 minutes the project is not considered significant. If it is greater than 20 minutes for periods of two or more consecutive hours, then it is considered significant.

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