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

Concepts for Enhancing the Effectiveness of Traffic Control Plans


Stuart D. Anderson and Gerald L. Ullman

Texas Transportation Institute


Making Work Zones Better Innovations in Technologies, Practices, and Products

Federal Highway Administration Workshop


The safe and efficient flow of traffic approaching and traveling through work zones is a major concern to highway users and those involved in improving roadways. The traveling public is demanding increased mobility, while displaying less tolerance for delays, increased travel time, and inconvenience because of congestion, especially congestion caused by construction operations.

Construction operations on highways disrupt traffic flow and pose safety hazards for motorists, pedestrians, and workers. The challenge that state highway agencies face is to decide how best to provide sufficient space to perform construction operations, while reducing the impact of these operations on the traveling public. Efficient and effective project phasing, construction sequencing, and maintenance of traffic through a work zone are likely to reduce the impact on motorists and improve safety for all involved.

Maintenance-of-traffic issues are most commonly addressed through the development of a traffic control plan (TCP). The purpose of the TCP is to minimize traffic disruption and eliminate safety hazards involved with work zones. A TCP may include traffic control strategies, construction staging requirements, specifications of traffic control devices, and geometric design features, among other elements (footnote 1).

An important principle in TCP development is to recognize early on that temporal and spatial requirements for a project directly influence the ability of the contractor to perform construction efficiently.  Temporal requirements refer to the amount of time a given work zone is allowed to be in place each day (i.e., for a few hours, for the entire day/night, etc.), the total number of work zone days needed to complete the work, and the number of times the work zone must be set up and taken down during the project (i.e., each day, at the beginning and end of the project, etc.). Spatial requirements refer to the roadway space that the work zone uses to complete a specific work activity, and includes both lateral (i.e., roadway cross-sections) and longitudinal (i.e., work zone length) dimensions. There are a number of temporal and spatial traffic control options for work zone activities. Some specific options are provided in Table 1 and are perhaps more applicable to urban areas where high traffic volumes exist.

Recent research suggests that a common problem with the development of TCPs is that the design basis for the TCP is often determined without early and sufficient input of traffic and construction expertise during project planning (e.g., for either new construction or more likely rehabilitation).  Policy directives concerning allowable lane closures, funding and project limit decisions, and other factors often constrain the number of alternate traffic management strategies considered. In some cases, these decisions lead to only one solution. This solution may not be the most appropriate one.

Table 1. Temporal and Spatial Work Zone Options for High-Volume Roadways

(footnotes 2, 3).

Traffic Management Requirements
Options Available


  • Daytime off-peak work (i.e., 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.)
  • Nighttime work (i.e., 7 p.m. - 6 a.m.)
  • Weekend work (i.e., 7 p.m. Friday - 6 a.m. Monday)
  • Intermediate-term work (overnight to 3 days duration)
  • Long-term work (longer than 3 days duration)

Spatial (Lateral)

  • Lane shifts onto a shoulder or to temporary lanes
  • Lane constrictions. (A.) Lane closures (number of single lanes closed; number of multiple lanes closed; (B.) Traffic-handling schemes (Crossovers, Interior (middle) lane or lanes, and Reversible express lanes
  • Total roadway closures

Spatial (Longitudinal)

  • Full length closures
  • Advancing limited closure
  • Leap-frogging limited closure

Preferred Practice

TCP Development Prior to Detailed Design

The development of TCPs should start early beginning with programming/planning and continuing through the preliminary design phase of a project. It is during these project phases that state highway agencies (SHAs) are evaluating strategies for maintenance, rehabilitation, and reconstruction (MRR) of existing facilities. These strategies include pavement-related processes that focus on pavement condition and causes of pavement distresses to identify appropriate pavement treatments. Pavement related processes determine "what is done."  Conversely, traffic and construction management processes, nonpavement-related, not commonly performed early, identify "how the pavement treatment is accomplished."  Pavement related aspects of MRR strategy selection are generally well developed, however, nonpavement-relatedaspects of strategy selection are not. These nonpavement-relatedaspects of an MRR strategy have, perhaps, the greatest impact on road users and local businesses and may actually have the major influence on strategy selection on high volume traffic roadways.

An integrated process for selecting strategies for MRR of pavements subjected to high traffic volumes that considers both pavement related and nonpavement relatedaspects has been developed. This process was developed under National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 10-50A, Guidelines for Selecting Strategies for Rehabilitation of Rigid Pavements Subjected to High Traffic Volumes. While the process focuses on concrete pavements and facilities under high traffic volumes, the process is sufficiently generic that it can be applied to flexible pavements and other levels of traffic volumes.

The process is based on several key fundamentals:

  • A probable MRR strategy should be identified early in project development;
  • The early and continuing involvement of many agency professionals in the selection process is desirable (including traffic, construction and contracting disciplines);
  • In high traffic volume traffic conditions, the disruption of traffic, even for short time periods, can result in extensive road user costs. Thus, selecting pavement treatments, traffic management approaches, and contracting methods that will accelerate the work and minimize traffic disruption becomes a critical consideration; and
  • In high volume traffic conditions, selecting MRR strategies requires construction knowledge and experience input to insure that each strategy is constructable, cost effective, minimizes traffic delays, and provides a safe environment for workers and the traveling public.

The process was developed based on an assessment of literature and current practice. A process modeling technique was used to formalize and structure MRR strategy selection. This modeling technique helped to identify the main steps and sub-steps. The modeling technique was also used to capture the required information needed to perform each step. The process was validated through reviews performed by SHAs and case studies of actual projects. These case studies demonstrated the applicability of the steps and sub-steps and information that describes the process to select MRR strategies.

Figure 1 shows the four main steps of the process and the sub-steps for each of the main steps (footnote 4). In the description of the process, special emphasis is placed on those steps or sub-steps where high traffic volumes require an increased level of analysis concerning traffic and construction issues.  As shown in Figure 1, this occurs mainly in Step 3, Screening Potential Strategies, and Step 4, Evaluate Feasible Strategies.  Common areas are used to discuss the application of these two steps and include:

  • Objective;
  • Key Activities;
  • Issues to consider;
  • Resources; and
  • Practical illustrations.

Resources refer to tools or techniques that may be useful in performing the key activities of a step or sub-step. A brief description of the resource is provided and a reference is cited where further information can be obtained (see Figure 2 as an example).

As shown in Step 3, Screen Potential Strategies, a key sub-step in strategy screening, is to Identify Traffic and Construction Issues(see Figure 1). This sub-step begins after potential pavement treatment and material combinations are identified. Assessing potential traffic and construction issues this early in the analysis process represents a significant departure from previous MRR selection processes, and emphasizes the importance of considering these issues early in project development. Feasible options for handling traffic and construction are confirmed while those options that are not feasible, based on project specific conditions, are eliminated. A primary objective of this step is to identify traffic and construction limitations that impact the accomplishment of each MRR treatment or combination of treatments. Two tools that maybe useful in performing this sub-step are shown in Example 1 and 2. Example 1 shows a traffic impact analysis tool (footnote 5) and Example 2 suggests a workshop approach to brainstorming different approaches to handling traffic and construction (footnote 4). Example 3 provides an illustration that documents some of the important issues addressed under this sub-step for a California Department of Transportation I-710 project (footnote 6).

As shown in Figure 1, the final step of the process is to Evaluates Feasible Strategies. This step focuses entirely on nonpavement related aspects of strategy selection. A main focus of Step 4 is integrating the appropriate level of traffic analysis and construction planning into the preferred MRR strategy. This is accomplished by first determining the level of detail required to develop a project specific traffic management and construction management approach for each feasible strategy. This effort requires the determination of whether a feasible strategy can be undertaken by utilizing:

  • SHA standard traffic and construction approaches; or
  • SHA standard traffic and construction approaches but with some enhanced techniques to address special traffic and construction needs; or
  • A corridor wide project-oriented traffic and construction approach.

The diagram below displays the four steps and sub-steps in the process of  selecting a preferred MRR strategy.

Step 1. Identify Candidate Sections

Step 2. Identify Pavement Condition

  1. Conduct Survey
  2. Conduct Field & Laboratory Tests
  3. Identify Distress Mechanisms
Step 3. Identify Pavement Condition
  1. Select Possible Treatments
  2. Identify Traffic and Construction Issues
  3. Estimate Preliminary Cost
  4. Identify Feasible Strategies

If additional information is required, return to Step 2. Otherwise, proceed to Step 4.

Step 4. Evaluate Feasible Strategies

  1. Determine Level of Traffic and Construction Analysis
  2. Analyze Traffic Alternatives
  3. Perform Constructibility Analysis
  4. Determine Contracting Approach
  5. Perform Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA)
  6. Recommend Most Appropriate MRR Strategy

After Step 4, MRR Preferred Strategy selection is completed.

Figure 1. Selection Process for Selecting MRR Strategies (footnote 4)

Figure 1. Selection Process for Selecting MRR Strategies

Example 1. Work Zone Analysis Tool (footnote 5)


QuickZone is the first tool being developed under the SWAT (Strategic WorkZone Analysis Tools) Program at the Turner-Fairbanks Highway Research Center at the Federal Highway Administration. QuickZone is a traffic impact analysis spreadsheet-based tool that can be used for work zone delay estimation.Some of its uses include:

  • Identifying delay impacts of alternative project phasing plans,
  • Conducting tradeoff analyses between construction costs and delay costs,
  • Examining impacts of construction staging (location along mainline, time-of-day, season),
  • Assessing travel demand measures and other delay mitigation strategies, and
  • Supporting the setting of work completion incentives.

Example 2. Workshop Approach to Traffic and Construction Analysis (footnote 4)

Workshop Approach

In project situations with extremely high traffic volumes, a decision analysis approach that would identify alternate feasible solutions for specific pavement treatments may be justifiable. This type of decision analysis would be conducted through a short workshop that would allow experts in rehabilitation and reconstruction to brainstorm potential approaches for handling traffic and construction with respect to pavement treatments. The workshop of this nature would be conducted in two one-day working sessions. Steps to plan, conduct and document results could include the following actions: select suitable project within SHA; select facilitator; create local teams to participate in workshop; collect background information on the project; select date for workshop; organize the working sessions; conduct workshop sessions; collect follow-up information; and report the results.

The workshop approach was utilized by the Federal Highway Administration, the California Department of Transportation, and the Transportation Research Board (TRB) to evaluate pavement renewal strategies for urban freeways. Results of the workshop are published in "Get In, Get Out, Stay Out!" by the National Academy Press (footnote 6). Caltrans has adopted a similar approach, termed Value Analysis Study, in the Los Angeles District.

Example 3. Traffic and Construction Approach for I-710 Project Alternate 1 (footnote 6)

Alternative 1 Traffic and Construction Approach

Treatment Selected

Portland Cement Concrete (PCC) solution utilizing a combination of two concrete techniques:

  • New PCC slab over a full depth recycling of existing pavement with some unbonded PCC overlay.

This treatment combination provides forty years of service life with little required maintenance and low life cycle cost


  • Two concrete plants with dual 8.2 cubic meter drums were proposed, which could produce 1377 cubic meters of concrete an hour
  • Pavement production rate of 0.833 mi./weekend/2 lanes
  • Replace PCC pavement with "forty-year" pavement
  • Contractor will have back-up equipment and extra sources of construction material to avoid unforeseen delays and possible shortages
  • Recycle on-site existing PCC pavement and cement treated base
  • Widen and replace median with full structural section
  • Ten hour workshifts
  • Construction stages:
    • Stage I (a)Removal of existing metal beam guardrail at the median, and recycling of existing material
    • Stage II (a)Cement treated base and PCC are constructed
    • Stage III(a)Installation of barriers in the median and shoulders will be widened to 3.6m.


  • Segmental full closures (of 4.8 - 8km in length) of one direction from one major ramp to another off ramp during weekends and late weeknight hours. 
  • All lanes available to traffic on weekdays
  • Install ITS (intelligent traffic systems) with changeable message signs (CMS) to provide real-time information to traffic
  • Recommend use of traffic alternate routes (I-110, I-605, Lakewood Blvd. and other local streets)

Public Awareness

  • Recommend use of television, radio and newspaper media to inform the public about the project
  • Establish 24-hour hotline to inform the motorist


16 weekends along with some mid-week night time closures to complete the work

The level of analysis is influenced by SHA policy and project complexity, size, and traffic volumes carried by the roadway. Analyzing traffic alternatives and performing constructibility reviews, while two distinct sub-steps, should be iterative and should include a collaborative effort between disciplines. The disciplines include traffic engineers, construction engineers, constructibility experts, project engineers, pavement engineers and, as necessary, public information staff. An illustration of a traffic assessment for recent reconstruction of a segment of I-496 in Michigan is shown in Example 4 (footnote 4).

The process has a sub-step under Step 4 that considers possible contract types (see Figure 1). The concept of assessing contract types is to include the impact on cost for accelerating construction or other related issues, such as paying incentives. This would be necessary as the next sub-step covers life cycle cost analysis (LCCA). LCCA often forms the basis for selecting the final MRR strategy. If design-build is considered this may require performing the selection process earlier in project development (i.e., programming).

The selection process is complete when a preferred MRR strategy is selected. Key design criteria for a project would be established for the preferred MRR strategy and serve as a basis for Plans, Specification, and Estimate (PS&E) development.

TCP Development During Detailed Design

During PS&E development several general practices can be employed to enhance TCPs. Many of these practices are discussed in some detail in NCHRP Synthesis 293, Reducing and Mitigating Impacts of Lane Occupancy During Construction and Maintenance(footnote 7). While the main focus of this synthesis is related to techniques, methods, and processes used to reduce lane occupancy and the impact of lane occupancy on the traveling public, many of the techniques, methods, and processes influence detailed design of TCPs. Some of the more specific techniques related to TCP development include:

  • Coordinating tools - integration of construction staging and maintenance of traffic using multidisciplinary reviews;
  • Closure techniques - directional closures, crossovers, reduction of lane width, and temporary widening within existing right-of-way; and
  • Travel flow characteristics - integrating traffic volumes with lane configurations, queue lengths, and level of service.

Constructibility reviews is a technique that can positively impact TCP development. In a 1997 study, traffic control was cited by SHAs, design firms, and contracting firms as a critical constructibility issue (footnote 8). In this survey, SHAs specifically emphasized the need to improve plans and specifications as another critical issue, whereas design firms indicated the need for better-coordinated timing, phasing, and scheduling of construction in relation to maintenance of traffic.  Construction firms also indicated a need for clear design plans and specifications and cited improved quality of scheduling and phasing of construction as critical constructibility issues. The specific constructibility issues cited in the Synthesis 293 focus on these problem areas. A tool to aid SHAs in implementing constructibility reviews is shown in Example 5 (footnote 9).

Several other areas of interest that may impact TCP development include selection of materials such as high early strength concrete, construction equipment such as the use of moveable barriers, and prefabrication of facility components particularly in the case of bridge rehabilitation.  Alternate contracting methods, such as cost-plus-time, lane rental, and incentives and disincentives, may help achieve the intent of the TCP.


The ultimate benefit from using these concepts is to develop TCPs that promote more efficient and cost effective construction, that minimize the impact on road users and local businesses, and that promote a safer work zone environment for the traveling public and construction workers. One of the key advantages of this approach is that special needs (traffic and/or construction) are identified early in project development. With these needs identified early on, better-informed decisions can be made regarding the funding required to complete the work (including funds to handle traffic). It may mean that the project scope has to be scaled back, or additional funding must first be secured before further development of the project occurs.


The concepts presented could be used on projects of any size and complexity. However, greater benefits are likely to occur on projects in urban settings with high traffic volumes. Furthermore, the concepts can be tailored to fit project size and complexity.

Lessons Learned

The team of experts concept, using a workshop approach, has been tested somewhat through the Accelerated Construction Technology Team (ACTT) process under development by Transportation Research Board Task Force A5T60, Accelerating Innovation in the Highway Industry (footnote 10). An Innovative Pavement Research Foundation project is also testing many of concepts presented, including the workshop approach (footnote 11). Some experiences from these two applications indicate:

  • Care has to be taken not to "set" the design basis too early in project development as this may lead to sub-optimal solutions for handling traffic. At the same time, failure to consider multiple traffic-handling options early on may lead to a design that is sub-optimal but the only one believed to be accomplishable within the traffic constraints of the project;
  • A team approach to TCP development is effective and helps enhance traffic management and traffic control strategies for a project; and
  • Early involvement of traffic and construction expertise in assessing traffic and construction issues does help identify problems and propose possible solutions.

Example 4. I-496 Project Traffic Assessment (footnote 4)

Michigan I-496 Project Traffic Assessment

Determined the following traffic restrictions that may be applicable to all reconstruction alternatives under consideration:

  • This portion of I-496 (between Cedar Street and US 127) will be completely closed to vehicular traffic during the construction of bridges and pavement in this area.
  • The closure is necessitated by the replacement of four bridges, two over the Grand River and two over Pennsylvania Avenue, that will take approximately 21 weeks to reconstruct.
  • The closure is being implemented so that the construction of these bridges can be completed in one construction season rather than the two construction seasons it would take to build the project part width.
  • Traffic will be diverted to several alternate routes (parallel route, trunk line routes, etc.) throughout the Lansing area (i.e., Saginaw Highway, Michigan Avenue, Oakland Avenue, Grand River Avenue, I- 69, US 27, US 127, and I- 96).
  • Potential alternate routes were assessed to determine possible impacts.
  • Public events will be held to inform the public of the project early in the planning phase of the project.
  • Monthly meetings with the public communities will be held to see the impact of the project on the community.
  • Funds allocated to public information will be used for radio ads, TV ads, web site, and billboard ads.
  • An ITS system will be provided through an outside consultant. The scope of the ITS system includes:
    • Real time information to motorist
    • Incident management system:
      1. Detect incidents on I-496 and alternate routes
      2. What to do in case something happens
    • Estimated travel time
    • Provide recommended alternate routes to the public during construction
    • The contractor is responsible for providing people to control the ITS system
  • Public surveys purpose
    • Public reactions and major concerns
    • Satisfaction survey during construction phase
  • To reduce the traffic impact 30000 bus passes will be distributed in the downtown area
  • Project start date is set for the week of spring break.

Example 5. Constructibility Review Process for Transportation Facilities:
Workbook (footnote 9)

Constructibility Review Process Workbook

Constructibility review process (CRP) is a formalized process that integrates construction knowledge and experience into the project development process. The CRP analyzes key information and documents produced by the project development process (PDP) following a formal set of constructibility functions or steps and using appropriate tools for performing those steps. By applying constructibility during the PDP, the user can assess construction issues that impact the planning and design of a facility.  This CRP assessment may contribute overall project benefits such as a reduction in costs, an improvement in the quality of the constructed facility, an improvement in safety, a reduction in schedule, an enhancement of management risk, and an improvement in customer satisfaction. This workbook is divided into planning, design and construction guideline sections so constructibility analysis can be performed during each project development process phase. Each guideline section leads the user through a series of steps. These steps contain key information that assists the user in performing the step. The constructibility review process is defined by a generic approach. It was designed to be flexible and to be adaptable to specific project conditions and requirements. Similarly, an agency can modify the CRP to be consistent with its approach to project development, policies, and resources available.


SHAs are encouraged to begin traffic management planning earlier in the project development process and integrate construction expertise and knowledge as traffic management planning occurs. Constructibility reviews should be integral to TCP development. A team approach should be employed on larger and more complex projects. Further, techniques, methods, and processes that enhance TCP development should be integrated into the design process as appropriate for each project.


1. Graham, J.L., and J. Migletz, Development and Implementation of Traffic Control Plans for Highway Work Zones, NCHRP Synthesis 208, Transportation Research Board, National Academy Press, 1994.

2. Dunstom, P.S. and F.L. Mannering, "Evaluation of Full Weekend Closure Strategy for Highway Reconstruction Projects:  I-405 Tukwila to Factoria," Report No. WA-RD 454.1, Washington State Department of Transportation, Olympia, Washington, December 1998.

3. "Traffic Management - Handbook for Concrete Pavement Reconstruction and Rehabilitation." Engineering Bulletin EB213P published by the FHWA, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C., and the American Concrete Pavement Association, Skokie, IL. 2000.

4. Anderson, S. D., Ullman, G.L., and Blaschke, B.C., "A Process for Selecting Strategies for Rehabilitation of Rigid Pavements," Final Report, National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, February 2002.

5. "Quickzone" Information and Technology Exchange Center, Texas Transportation Institute,

6. "Get In, Get Out, Stay Out!" Proceedings of the Workshop on Pavement Renewal for Urban Freeways, Transportation Research Board, 2000.

7. "Reducing and Mitigating Impacts of Lane Occupancy During Construction and Maintenance" NCHRP Synthesis 293, National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Washington, D.C., 2000,

8. Anderson, S.D., and D.J. Fisher, Constructibility Review Process for Transportation Facilities, NCHRP Report 390, 1997.

9. Anderson, S.D. and Fisher, D.J. "Constructibility Review Process for Transportation Facilities Workbook." NCHRP Report 391, National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Washington, D.C., 1997.

10. "Accelerating Innovation in the Highway Industry," Transportation Research Board, Task Force A5T60, Washington, DC, 2002.

11. "Task 1 - Traffic Management Studies for Reconstruction High-Volume Roadways," Innovative Pavement Research Foundation, The Texas Transportation Institute, Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas, 2002.

Office of Operations