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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-07-005    Date:  Jul/Aug 2007
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-07-005
Issue No: Vol. 71 No. 1
Date: Jul/Aug 2007


Internet Watch

by Marianna Rizzo

FHWA Focuses on Congestion Relief

Congestion is one of the largest drains on the Nation's economy — from freight delayed at overwhelmed seaports to jets circling above overcrowded airports to commuters stalled in rush hour traffic. To address congestion on a multimodal level, in May 2006 the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced the National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation Network (also known as the Congestion Initiative). The objective is to reduce congestion, not simply to slow its increase, through the application of a variety of solutions that include expanding capacity and improving the productivity of existing transportation assets. See www.fightgridlocknow.gov.

For its own part, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is focusing on a number of high-priority efforts to help reduce backups on the Nation's highways. To support State and local departments of transportation (DOTs) in their efforts to address traffic congestion, FHWA recently launched two new Web sites, "Focus on Congestion Relief" (www.fhwa.dot.gov/congestion/index.htm) and "Freight Congestion" (www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/congestion.htm). The easy-to-navigate sites feature a variety of links to FHWA and State DOT programs to relieve congestion as well as descriptions of best practices and contacts for more information.

Using 21st Century Operations And Technologies

Congestion relief begins with an understanding of the problem. Visitors to the FHWA "Focus on Congestion Relief" Web site may learn more about the causes of congestion by choosing the link "Describing the Congestion Problem." This area of the site depicts the results of a national study on the sources of congestion. Here, site users can gain a better understanding of the causes of congestion, which include physical bottlenecks, weather, traffic incidents, and poor timing of traffic signals.

Detailed information and strategies to reduce congestion are outlined in a section called the "Congestion Reduction Toolbox." The toolbox section is a central location where visitors can find information on methods to decrease the effects of congestion on roadways, such as 511 traveler services, road pricing strategies, and optimized management of work zones. Strategies in the toolbox typically address more than just congestion — often improving safety and enhancing the quality of the motorist's driving experience through improved communication.

The toolbox divides the solutions into six categories: Improve Service on Existing Roads, Pricing, Add Capacity, Better Work Zones, Travel Options, and Traveler Information. By clicking on any of the categories, visitors may learn more about specific solutions and innovative technologies to increase capacity and expand travel options for people and freight. Each of the sections highlights the problem, explains the data to support recommended practices, provides new and innovative approaches and technologies, and offers links to related Web sites.

Another section of the site, "State-By-State Congestion Reduction Links," provides links to State-specific information on road closures, traveler information, and policies regarding congestion. Individual categories within each State page organize that State's efforts into categories such as "Value Pricing," "Congestion Relief Efforts," and "Travel Demand Management." For example, by clicking on Indiana, users can link to street closures, motorist information, and commuter services. The Indiana page also includes updates on expressway and interstate construction.

Understanding Freight Congestion

Increases in the volume of freight shipped in the United States are straining the transportation network in some locations and exacerbating conflicts between the traveling public and freight carriers. Recent growth in international trade has placed greater pressure on gateways, ports, airports, and border crossings, which are nodes in the system that represent potential bottlenecks for the movement of freight. Many gateways already suffer from congestion, which has only been intensified by heightened security following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

FHWA's "Freight Congestion" Web site offers a one-stop shop for information, data, tools, and guidance on addressing freight congestion. For example, visitors can access the Freight Analysis Framework, which integrates data from a variety of sources to estimate commodity flows and related freight transportation activity among States, regions, and major international gateways. The site also features a number of publications covering freight-related topics including travel times for freight-significant corridors, border crossing delays, and highway bottlenecks.

For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/congestion/index.htm or www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/congestion.htm, or contact Marianna Rizzo at 202-366-9631 or marianna.rizzo@dot.gov. For more information on the multimodal aspects of the Congestion Initiative, visit www.fightgridlocknow.gov.

The FHWA Web site 'Focus on Congestion Relief.'
The FHWA Web site "Focus on Congestion Relief."

Marianna Rizzo is operations coordinator in the FHWA Office of Operations.



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