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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / July/August 2000

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-RD-00-060
Date: July/August 2000

FHWA Develops Tools for More Strategic Work Zone Planning

The strategic work zone analysis tools will help reduce work zone delays and costs.

The strategic work zone analysis tools will help reduce work zone delays and costs.

With the national highway system complete and more rehabilitation work being done to maintain rehabilitation work being done to maintain existing roads, increased attention is being paid to work zones. Often, the user delays caused by work zones and the resulting costs to motorists, as well as the costs of mitigation strategies to lessen these delays, are not considered during the design and planning of projects. A new initiative of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), known as the Strategic Work Zone Analysis Tools (SWAT) program, is out to change this.

Four tools are being developed as part of the initiative: an Expert System software program, a traffic impact analysis spreadsheet, a cost/alternative analysis spreadsheet, and a detailed simulation model. "These tools will greatly expand the analysis capabilities of highway agencies," says John Harding of FHWA. "Other tools that are out there don't encompass the impacts to areas surrounding work zones."

With the Expert System, a user would enter data on the characteristics of the work zone, such as what type of highway improvement or repair work is being done and the duration of the work. The program would then provide a list of possible mitigation strategies for reducing work zone delays and costs, such as retiming an alternative route's traffic signals.

The traffic impact analysis spreadsheet, known as QuickZone, would take the analysis a step further by comparing the traffic impacts for work zone mitigation strategies and estimating the costs associated with these impacts. For example, if a highway agency was widening a lane of traffic, QuickZone could estimate the costs of doing work at night instead of during the day or diverting the traffic to one road versus another road during different phases of the construction. The costs can be estimated for both an average day of work and for the whole life cycle of construction.

The cost/alternative analysis spreadsheet will provide more detailed cost analysis, while the simulation model will be used in conjunction with QuickZone to more precisely estimate the impacts of specific work zone strategies and the effectiveness of mitigation techniques.

Version 1.0 of QuickZone is scheduled to be released in March of next year. In the meantime, a prototype version will be available for trial use and evaluation. A user need only have Microsoft Excel 97 or higher running on a Windows-based PC to use the QuickZone application. The evaluators will include a steering committee composed of States and Metropolitan Planning Organizations, among others.

A definite date has not yet been set for the release of the Expert System software, cost/alternative analysis spreadsheet, and simulation model. The SWAT program is expected to run through 2004.

For more information, or if you are interested in using and evaluating QuickZone, contact Raj Ghaman at FHWA, 202-493-3270 (fax: 202-493-3219; email: raj.ghaman@fhwa.dot.gov)

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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