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Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / November 2005

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-06-020
Date: November 2005

FHWA Provides Guidance on Implementing Updated Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule

As traffic congestion continues to increase around the country, along with the need to perform rehabilitation and reconstruction work on aging roads, maintaining work zone safety and mobility has become an increasingly complex challenge. To help address the challenge, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published an updated Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule in the Federal Register in September 2004. The rule applies to all State and local governments that receive Federal-aid highway funding. Transportation agencies are required to comply with the provisions of the rule by October 12, 2007. A new guidance document available from FHWA, Implementing the Rule on Work Zone Safety and Mobility, provides assistance in understanding and following the rule's updated provisions.

The rule's overarching goal is to reduce crashes and congestion in and around work zones. Provisions in support of this goal encourage expanding work zone planning beyond the project work zone itself to address corridor, network, and regional issues. The updated rule also advocates expanding work zone management beyond the basics of traffic safety and control to address the need for continued mobility.

At the heart of the new rule is the requirement that transportation agencies develop an agency-level work zone safety and mobility policy. "This policy is intended to support systematic consideration and management of work zone impacts across all stages of project development," says Tracy Scriba of FHWA. To support implementation of the policy, the rule includes provisions for developing agency-level processes and procedures. These processes and procedures encompass the areas of work zone assessment and management, use of work zone safety and operational data, implementation of training, and process reviews. The rule also calls for developing project-level procedures to address the work zone impacts of individual projects.

The rule's overaching goal is to reduce crashes and congestion in and around work zones.

FHWA's new guide includes a general overview of the rule, a look at differences between the updated rule and the former rule, sample approaches to implementation, examples of State transportation agency practices that relate to the rule's provisions, and sources for more information.

The guide features sections on developing and implementing a work zone policy and implementing agency-level processes and procedures. Additional sections provide guidance on identifying "significant projects" and developing and implementing transportation management plans (TMPs), which are required for all Federal-aid highway projects. Simply stated, "significant projects" are those expected to cause a relatively high level of disruption to safety and mobility in the area. Strategies for managing the work zone impacts of a project are contained in a TMP. For all projects, the TMP must include a Temporary Traffic Control (TTC) plan that addresses traffic safety and control throughout the work zone. For significant projects, the TMP must also contain both a transportation operations component and a public information component. However, the guide encourages transportation agencies to consider including transportation operations and public information components in all TMPs, as appropriate, regardless of whether or not a project is considered significant.

The guide also highlights examples of how States across the country have already implemented practices that address the rule's goals. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), for example, uses three categories of TMPs based on the expected work zone impacts of projects. A "Blanket TMP" applies to projects where work is done on low volume roads during off-peak hours, with no delays expected. The majority of Caltrans' road projects fall into the second category, a "Minor TMP," where minimal impacts are expected. Mitigation measures for the Minor TMP might include using highway advisory radio or performing work at night, along with implementation of a TTC plan. A "Major TMP" is used for projects expected to cause significant work zone impacts. Mitigation strategies might include use of extended road closures to accelerate work on a project, reduced lane widths, moveable barriers, and public awareness campaigns.

Cover of the Implementing the Rule on Work Zone Safety and Mobility Report

The guide contains several examples of different types of work zone safety and mobility policies and associated procedures. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), for example, has a policy in place that lays out ODOT's approach to work zone traffic management. To help ensure that the policy is implemented, ODOT has a required work zone training class for highway workers, project inspectors, consultants, and other staff. The training addresses application of the agency's work zone policy, the use of work zone modeling software, and implementation of work zone traffic control and inspection requirements.

The Massachusetts Highway Department uses a 12-Minute Delay Rule when analyzing expected work zone delays. If the expected delay approaches or exceeds 12 minutes, design alternatives or alternate work hours are suggested.

The new guide is the first in a series of four FHWA guidance documents designed to support implementation of the rule. The forthcoming additional documents are Work Zone Public Information and Outreach Strategies; Developing and Implementing Transportation Management Plans for Work Zones; and Work Zone Impacts Assessment: An Approach to Assess and Manage Work Zone Safety and Mobility Impacts of Road Projects. They will be available by early 2006.

The new guide, as well as additional information about the Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule, is available online at www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/resources/final_rule.htm. The guide will also be issued in print and CD-ROM formats by the end of this year. For more information, contact Tracy Scriba at FHWA, 202-366-0855 (email: tracy.scriba@fhwa.dot.gov).

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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