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|Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 68 · No. 3 > Interner Watch|
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-05-002
By Joanne Sedor, FHWA Office of Freight Management and Operations
Improving Operations Using 21st-Century Technologies
Timely and accurate information is the key to moving people and goods more efficiently, safely, and securely. Aware that gaps in information can undermine reliability and productivity across the Nation's entire transportation system, the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Operations uses its Web site, www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov, to fill information gaps and to ensure that its customers and partners obtain the information they need to do their jobs.
The Office of Operations Web site is built around strategies to reduce congestion, improve system performance, facilitate deployment of ITS technologies, and enhance cooperation and collaboration among the office's partners and customers. These strategies provide the backdrop for the following 8 program area categories and 22 Web pages that comprise the Operations Web site. (See also "Operational Solutions to Traffic Congestion".)
Reducing Nonrecurring Congestion
Reducing Recurring Congestion
Improving Day-to-Day Operations
Fostering Regional Transportation Operations Collaboration and Coordination (RTOCC)
Measuring Operations Performance
Improving Freight Operations
Enhancing Emergency Transportation Response
Facilitating Integrated ITS Deployment
Each of these pages highlights best practices, provides information on new and innovative ITS technologies, presents research initiatives, lists training opportunities, and provides links to other important Web sites. A few of these Web pages are highlighted below—along with other Web sites related to improving operations—but all of them can be accessed at the Operations Web site.
Reducing Nonrecurring Congestion. Congestion is a serious problem because it makes travel times longer and more unpredictable. Since unpredictability hinders some manufacturing processes and hampers just-in-time inventory management, congestion can increase the cost of doing business and negatively affect the Nation's economy.
Work zones and weather are just two of the many factors that affect traffic flow. Timely and reliable information about the location of construction sites and existence of adverse weather conditions can help reduce congestion. The Office of Operations' "Real-Time Traveler Information Program" Web site, www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/travelinfo/, provides the latest information on traffic and road closures, organized by State. The site also links to other traveler information sites, such as SmarTraveler®, which has traffic information for 83 cities. Another link to the "I-95 Corridor Coalition" Web site identifies major construction activity along the northeastern corridor from Maine to Virginia. This information enables travelers and freight carriers to plan ahead and locate alternative routes, saving time and resources.
State and local transportation agencies also need information and guidance to improve operations and reduce congestion. Designed with the transportation practitioner in mind, the FHWA "Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program" Web site, http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/index.asp, provides easy access to a variety of tools and information on cutting-edge practices that can reduce congestion and crashes in and around work zones. Many of these tools can be downloaded directly from the Web. The site also provides information on workshops, conferences, and other outreach events and includes links to related Federal, State, and private sector Web sites.
The "Road Weather Management Program" Web site, www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/weather/, promotes the use of effective tools to plan for and alleviate the effects of adverse weather conditions. Adverse weather can affect the safety and performance of the Nation's roads significantly: A snowstorm can shut down a city for days, and hurricanes can prompt massive evacuations—leading to gridlock and highway safety risks. Although the weather cannot be changed, its effect on the operations and safety of the transportation network can be mitigated by state-of-the-art practices, innovative technologies, training opportunities, and outreach events-just a few of the many features highlighted on this site.
To learn more about what FHWA and State transportation agencies are doing to relieve traffic congestion, visit FHWA's "Congestion and Traffic" Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/congestion/.
Improving Day-to-Day Operations. FHWA's Peer-to- Peer Program on Traffic Control Devices connects traffic professionals at the Federal, State, and local levels to share information and work together to solve situations related to traffic control devices. FHWA's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is a complex and evolving document, often requiring further explanation and elaboration as new traffic control devices are developed. In response, FHWA created the MUTCD Web Site at http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov.
The MUTCD Web site provides training conducted through Microsoft® PowerPoint® presentations. The presentations range from 90 minutes to 8 hours in length. For more information, contact one of the FHWA representatives listed in the "Resources" section of the site at http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/res-resources.htm or check the "Frequently Asked Questions" page at http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/kno-faq.htm.
Improving Freight Operations. Locating information on freight transportation is not always an easy task for transportation professionals. The newly redesigned "Freight Management and Operations" Web site, www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/, however, saves time and resources by making this information more accessible. The site provides the latest information on freight transportation in easy-to-use formats. By clicking on an interactive map of the United States, for example, users can access a comprehensive list of freight transportation studies and activities pertaining to each State, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
The site also discusses the development and testing of intermodal freight technologies used to ensure the smooth flow of goods on the U.S. freight transportation network and across international borders. Results of operational tests and other initiatives are posted on the intermodal freight technology page of the "Freight Management and Operations" Web site.
Additionally, the site functions as a base for the "Freight Professional Development Program (FPD)" Web site, www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/fpd. Log on to the FPD Web site to find out about Talking Freight Seminars, which are held monthly using teleconferencing and the Internet to reach hundreds of people on a variety of topics, including current and future freight trends, security issues, and ITS freight technologies.
The site also provides information on freight-related courses, workshops, and conferences sponsored by FHWA and other agencies. Users can search for freightoriented academic programs offered by U.S. colleges and universities. By accessing features like this, freight specialists and other transportation professionals can build their knowledge of freight issues and develop the skills necessary to address them.
Talking Operations—A National Forum On Management and Operations
To increase awareness and promote a dialogue on transportation management and operations among State, local, and regional stakeholders, FHWA collaborated with a number of national associations to create the National Transportation Operations Coalition (NTOC). The coalition is a formal partnership of associations that represent both traditional transportation professionals and nontraditional stakeholders, convened to identify, promote, and implement activities that advance management and operations strategies and improve the overall performance of the Nation's transportation system.
To encourage and support an ongoing dialogue on transportation management and operations, the NTOC created the Talking Operations Webcast series and discussion forum. The Webcasts provide monthly 90-minute information sessions on topics related to transportation operations. Conducted via Internet and a telephone connection, they enable participants to hear and view real-time presentations from experts in a number of operations-related areas. For each session, speakers present information on a particular subject (such as traffic incident management), followed by a question-and-answer period in which participants engage in an open dialogue with the speakers and each other. In addition, after the session, participants may continue the dialogue on the Talking Operations forum located at the "NTOC Talks" Web site, www.ntoctalks.com/index.php.
The Webcast series and forum offer practitioners and decisionmakers the opportunity to learn more about the current state of practice in transportation operations, ask questions that are specific to their needs, and share information with their peers about innovative projects taking place in their jurisdictions-all without leaving their offices.
Participation is free. To view the Webcast schedule or register for a session, visit http://talkingoperations.webex.com. To join the Talking Operations forum, visit www.ntoctalks.com/talkingops/index.cgi.
Other Sites of Interest
FHWA "Freight Planning" Web site. Many State departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) report that freight transportation issues are growing in importance and that the freight challenges and solutions they are confronting are more complex. The recently updated "Freight Planning" Web site, www.fhwa.dot.gov/freightplanning/, serves as a virtual toolbox to help States and MPOs make informed decisions about freight transportation planning. One of the key features is the Freight Planning Peer Exchange Listserv, which provides a forum for public and private sector freight stakeholders to share information on noteworthy practices, data sources, and upcoming events. Visit the "Freight Planning" Web site to find out how to subscribe to the listserv and how to use other activities and resources.
U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) "Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)" Web site. The USDOT ITS Web site, www.its.dot.gov, encourages the development and use of ITS technologies to enhance safety and security on the Nation's roads. The site highlights several major initiatives of the Federal ITS program, including the Intelligent Transportation Infrastructure Program, which enhances the availability of real-time traveler information, and the Intelligent Vehicle Initiative, which focuses on advancing driver assistance systems. To search for information on other ITS technologies and programs, visit the site's Electronic Document Library at www.its.dot.gov/index.htm.
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