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Safely Implementing Rolling Roadblocks for Short-Term Road Work

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Safely Implementing Rolling Roadblocks for Short-Term Road Work

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration

FHWA Work Zone Management Program
April 23, 2019

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Webinar Purpose

  • Background on Rolling Roadblocks.
  • Safely Implementing Rolling Roadblocks.
  • Example State Policies for Safely Implementing Rolling Roadblocks.
  • Additional Information and Resources.

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Webinar Speakers

  • Jawad Paracha – Federal Highway Administration
    • Program Manager – Work Zone Management Program
  • Larry Haas – Colorado Department of Transportation
    • Traffic Operations Engineer – Northeast Region
  • Dan Smith – Missouri Department of Transportation
    • Traffic Management and Operations Engineer

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What is a Rolling Roadblock?

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Rolling Roadblocks

  • Also referred to as traffic breaks, temporary road closures, pacing operations, or traffic pacing.
  • Temporary Traffic Control (TTC) technique to temporarily slow or stop traffic in order to provide a gap in the flow of traffic in advance of downstream road work activities.
Rolling roadblock on interstate.
Source: Raleigh News and Observer

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Rolling Roadblocks (Continued)

  • Enables the completion of short-term road work where a long-term closure using standard TTC is not needed:
    • Bridge construction and replacement.
    • Placing and removing overhead lights or sign structures.
    • Overhead utility work.
    • Blasting for rock excavation.
  • Allows for faster completion of road work activities by allowing workers full access on and above a roadway, and a safer work environment by completely removing vehicles that would normally be in close proximity to workers.
Road construction of a bridge overpass.
Source: ATSSA

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Rolling Roadblocks (Continued)

Highly effective TTC technique, but…

The use of rolling roadblocks for short-term road work activities can pose safety hazards to the traveling public if not implemented safely.

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Safely Implementing Rolling Roadblocks

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Rolling Roadblock Policies

  • A recent scan of State DOT usage of rolling roadblocks and associated policies found:
    • 23 of 28 responding agencies use rolling roadblocks.
    • Of the 23 States using rolling roadblocks, 16 do so routinely, but five of those States do not have policies governing their use.
    • More than 40% of responding States that use rolling roadblocks do not have standard policies or procedures for their implementation.
  • As a best practice, transportation agencies are encouraged to have policies and procedures in place for the safe use of rolling roadblocks.

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Rolling Roadblock Policies (Continued)

  • Policies and procedures governing the use of rolling roadblocks vary by State.
  • Policies should be documented in a project's Transportation Management Plan (TMP) and specifications, and in every encroachment permit involving a roadblock in the State.
Four work trucks side by side block the interstate in a rolling roadblock.
Source: KYTC

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Best Practices for Rolling Roadblocks

Establishing a rolling roadblock policy:

  • Specify the type of work activities, times of day, and days of the week where the use of rolling roadblocks are permitted and/or required, and clearly detail these points in TTC plans and/or technical specifications.
  • Require the development of an emergency plan to handle traffic should unforeseen circumstances occur.
  • Specify whether the policy varies if the work is being performed by a contractor or the agency's own employees.

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Best Practices for Rolling Roadblocks (Continued)

Prior to the start of a rolling roadblock:

  • Require an advance planning meeting with all stakeholders to define responsibilities and ensure activities required for successfully executing a rolling roadblock will be completed, including notifying fire stations and other emergency response agencies.
  • Require a final meeting among stakeholders before the rolling roadblock is executed to ensure all requirements have been implemented.

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Best Practices for Rolling Roadblocks (Continued)

Notifying the public prior to the start of a rolling roadblock:

  • Require issuing press releases to radio and television stations, newspapers, the agency's website, and agency social media sites.
  • Require advising the public in advance as to when the rolling roadblock will be performed, including using:
    • Portable changeable message signs (PCMS) to display appropriate messages to the public at least a week in advance of the roadblock.
    • PCMS on the day of roadblock to alert users that the operation will be happening that day, including the hours during which the roadblocks will occur.

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Best Practices for Rolling Roadblocks (Continued)

During and after the rolling roadblock:

  • Specify appropriate advance warning signing to alert traffic to the downstream presence of a slow or stopped traffic condition.
  • Require using any permanent changeable message signs (CMS) boards within the activity area for public notification.
  • Considering the use of queue warnings systems to provide drivers with advanced notification of downstream queues.
  • Ensure that traffic queue formations and their dispersals are monitored.
  • Ensure that a rolling roadblock not be started until traffic from a preceding rolling roadblock has been cleared.

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Colorado Department of Transportation's Use of Rolling Roadblocks

Larry Haas – Traffic Operations Engineer

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Google map view of I-70 corridor in Colorado.

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I-76 corridor from Denver into Nebraska.

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Traffic control plan and map of I-70.  Speed limits and control approaches used at certain points are identified such as rolling slowdown.

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Traffic Control Plan for I-70 continued.  Speed limit and control measures are identified.

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Continued traffic control plan for I-70.  this section shows where shoulders will be closed, where guard trucks will be placed, and where traffic drums will be put.

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Colorado Contact

Larry Haas
CDOT Region 4
Traffic Operations Engineer

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Missouri Department of Transportation Traffic Pacing Worksheet

Dan Smith – Traffic Management and Operations Engineer

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Traffic Pacing/Rolling Roadblock

  • Before 2013, Missouri DOT did not have traffic pacing guidelines.
  • MoDOT's Southwest District reviewed several states guidance for traffic pacing.
  • Florida DOT had design standards for traffic pacing.
  • MoDOT Southwest District developed an excel spreadsheet to calculate the pacing speed, pacing length, max. queue, total work time allowed, and hours allowed to work.

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Innovations Showcase Bulletin.  Shows traffic pacing guidelines with description, benefits and contact information.

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Locating Traffic Pacing Worksheet

Screenshot of MODOT's wiki based Engineering policy guide page.

616.13 Work Zone Capacity, Queue and Travel Delay
616.13.7 Traffic Pacing,_Queue_and_Travel_Delay

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Step No 1

Excel Tab of Hourly variation of Daily Traffic.  Spread sheet is broken down into five different Excel tabs of the different steps that we look into: looking at volume, looking at pacing lanes and queuing, and then also calculating the time that we'll take for all the processes.

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Traffic Pacing Worksheet.  Step 1: Calculating the hourly percentage of peak season traffic for each hour of the day and plot the 24 hour traffic percentages.  Information tracked by hour and traffic volume.

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Second page of spreadsheet.  Red fields must be filled in for data to populate.  Percent Trucks, Number of Lanes, Pace Line, Pacing Speed, Work Duration, and Posted Speed are fields to be filled in.

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Zoomed in view of red fields to be filled in: Percent Trucks, Number of Lanes, Pace Line (%  Capacity), Pacing Speed, Work Duration, Posted Speed.

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View of populated spreadsheet based on prior slides entered fields.  The three columns are Hour, AM/PM Hourly Traffic Demand and Percent Capacity.  The Percent Capacity column is color coded with green indicating that you can begin traffic pacing during this time and yellow indicating not to begin traffic pacing during this time.

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Graph of hourly variation of daily traffic.  Vertical line is by hourly percentage of capacity.  The horizontal line tracts the hour of the day.

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Second sheet of worksheet that tracks steps 2 and 3.  Step two calculates pacing length, how long is your pacing going to be for the project.  While step 3 is calculating the max queue line that you are going to have as backup when you are slowing the traffic.

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The next spreadsheet with steps 4 and 5.  4 calculates how long it takes to dissipate that queue built up in step 3.  Step 5 is the total time for the whole pacing operation.

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Traffic Pacing Report sheet that puts the information all together from the previous pages.  It contains the spreadsheets and graphs from the previous sheets.

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Definitions for formula elements

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Graphic of traffic pacing changeable message signs typical placement and messages. Placed the day of pacing operation at 1 mile out is first sign. Then another at 3/4 mile and another one after that.

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Traffic pacing mainline pacing details for 1 direction of four lane roadway example. It gives a location where the law enforcement should be located, what each vehicle's job is, and how to protect - like on ramps, off ramps for people.

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Traffic Pacing

  • Traffic pacing worksheet provides information (work duration, pacing speed, work hours, etc.) to develop an operation plan.
  • MoDOT districts work with many partners (newspapers, radio, contractor, utilities, law enforcement, etc.) to prepare for traffic pacing operation.
  • Communication and coordination is critical.

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Missouri Contacts

Daniel Smith
Traffic Management & Operations

Nick Voltenburg
Intermediate Traffic Studies

Ashley Buechter
Traffic Liaison Engineer

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Additional Information and Resources

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Guidelines on Rolling Roadblocks for Work Zone Applications

  • Establishes best practices in the use of rolling roadblocks:
    • Planning and coordinating a rolling roadblock.
    • Executing a rolling roadblock.
    • Developing a rolling roadblock planning checklist.

Screenshot of cover of Guidelines on Rolling Roadblocks for Work Zone Applications.

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Additional Resources

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Additional Resources (Continued)

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  • State DOTs are encouraged to contact their local FHWA Division Office.
  • Also contact:

    Jawad Paracha
    FHWA Office of Operations
    Work Zone Management Program

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Office of Operations