Ch 21: Operations Strategies
Historically, highway agencies have focused most of their
attention on building and maintaining roads. Much less attention has been
paid to operating the road system to provide the highest level of service
possible. With increasing congestion, the expense and difficulty of building
new facilities, and the need for safe and secure highways, this view has
begun to change.
Many highway officials now recognize that operations strategies can
make a major difference in how the highway system performs.
Operations strategies can influence the reliability, timeliness, security, and safety of highway use; this chapter primarily looks at the first two impacts.
Reliable, predictable travel times are especially important in a society where travelers put a high value on their own time and where many goods are relatively expensive and are needed in tightly scheduled manufacturing and distribution systems.
A reliable transportation system, however, is inadequate if it does
not get travelers to their destinations within a reasonable time.
Traveler needs and economic efficiency are not served if highways slow consistently to a crawl. In addition to the temporary sources of capacity loss and delay, recurring congestion and poor traffic control increase travel time, adding significantly to the cost of travel and goods movement.
With more attention to operations, lives will be saved and Americans
will be less vulnerable to congestion, incidents, work zones, weather,
and traffic control problems.
Freight transportation enables economic activity, and trucking
is a key element of freight transportation. The condition and performance
of the highway system is crucial to the efficiency and effectiveness of
trucking. Recent growth in truck traffic is placing greater burdens
on the highway system.
Nearly seven million businesses rely on the U.S. transportation network to conduct local business, engage in interstate commerce, and carry out international trade. At the same time, more than 100 million households rely on freight transportation to provide access to goods and services produced by businesses both here
Although commercial vehicles account for less than 10 percent of all vehicle-miles
of travel, truck traffic is growing faster than passenger vehicle traffic
and having major effects on intercity highways. Trucks already account
for more than 30 percent of traffic on about 20 percent of Interstate
System mileage. This share is likely to grow substantially if the demand
for freight transportation doubles over the next 20 years, as expected
by many forecasters.
More than 25,000 miles of highway will carry more than 5,000 commodity-carrying
trucks per day. Approximately one-fifth of that mileage will be significantly
congested. Congestion is particularly onerous for freight companies
and manufacturers who depend on the efficient shipment of materials and
finished products. Congestion represents a hidden tax to these firms,
which value speed and reliability. The U.S. Department of Transportation
is working with its State and local partners to reduce congestion and
eliminate bottlenecks in the surface transportation system.