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Publication Number:      Date:  March/April 2003
Issue No: Vol. 66 No. 5
Date: March/April 2003


Internet Watch

by Keri Funderburg

A Click of the Mouse to Curb Congestion

What would you do if you had an extra day off each year? Perhaps spend time with family or take a day trip? According to a 2002 study by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), commuters in the 75 areas studied give up almost 3 full days per year on average—62 hours to be exact—sitting in traffic. Congestion is a severe problem in many regions of the country, which is why the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) made congestion mitigation one if its "vital few" priority areas. Two new Internet resources developed by FHWA should help with this congestion problem.

The Congestion and Traffic Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/congestion/ provides a range of information—from traffic statistics and analysis tools to reports such as TTI's urban mobility study. And FHWA's Transportation Management Center Web site at http://tmcpfs.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/projects.htm (click on "Current Projects") now features case studies that portray best practices garnered from strategies for minimizing congestion during special events like the Indianapolis 500 and the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Screenshot of FHWA's Congestion and Traffic Web site

FHWA's Congestion and Traffic Web site.

A Traffic Tool

Recognizing that information on congestion mitigation was spread across several FHWA Web sites, FHWA's Office of Operations developed the Congestion and Traffic Web site as a central location for transportation agencies and the public to learn about ways to reduce traffic and improve vehicle flow on the Nation's highways.

The Web site serves as a one-stop location for FHWA information on congestion mitigation and a tool for information exchange—a place where States can go to find out what other States are doing to combat congestion. The Web site features a clickable U.S. map identifying State-by-State activities and resources to mitigate congestion.

The site has several pages devoted to answering common questions about congestion such as: "Is congestion the same everywhere?" These pages feature links to related articles, reports, and presentations.

Transportation engineers and managers responsible for developing strategies to mitigate congestion will find the site particularly informative. Under the "Tools" link, users can assess their agency's performance in reducing congestion or learn about mitigation strategies that already have proven to be effective. Other features include links to self-assessment tools and information about incident- and work zone-related problems and effective use of existing facilities, programs, and partnerships.

For those who want additional assistance or information, the site features a list of FHWA contacts specializing in issues such as management of arterials, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, and value pricing.

Special Events, Special Planning

Although congestion is an everyday problem in many areas, events such as national conventions, marathons, football games, fairs, and music concerts can place additional stress on the transportation system. Agencies or jurisdictions may need to collaborate and perform advance planning to manage the extra traffic associated with these events.

To assist with special event planning, FHWA is developing a technical reference guide called Transportation Management Strategies for Special Events. After talking with traffic managers at public agencies nationwide to learn about innovative techniques for coordinating transportation for special events, FHWA posted the case studies on the Web.

"The case studies illustrate some of the best practices we have uncovered around the country," says Jon Obenberger, transportation specialist in FHWA's Office of Transportation Management. "The case studies will be useful for transportation agencies or teams of stakeholders from various agencies, such as transit, fire, and emergency services. The case studies identify innovative techniques, new technologies, or strategies that stakeholders can apply to improve how they currently plan, coordinate, and manage special-event travel or to use even if they have no prior experience planning for a special event."

The Republican National Conference, the New England 300, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, and the Kentucky Derby are among the events highlighted in the case studies. Specific resources from these events include transportation plans and guides, the texts and schedules of variable message signs, traffic routing information, and contacts. In the future, FHWA will continue to add new case studies to the Web site.

Congestion is a costly and time-consuming problem, and transportation agencies are working long hours to solve it. Whether helping a commuter arrive home faster after a long day at work or ensuring that families return home safely after a day out, the new information posted on these two Web sites is a move in a less-congested direction.




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