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Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-16-055    Date:  January 2016
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-16-055
Date: January 2016


User-Friendly Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Program Benefit-Cost Estimation Tool

Traffic Incident Management Overview

Traffic Incident Management Strategies

Table 1(4) identifies TIM strategies that transportation agencies can employ within their TIM programs. The strategies span all time periods during an incident response and include planning activities before incidents occur, responses to an actual incident, and activities after incidents occur. The strategies can be strategic, tactical, supportive, or a combination of the three.(13) In table 1, strategies are arranged into five categories based on the suggestion of FHWA’s Best Practices in Traffic Incident Management document.(2) Some TIM strategies align with multiple categories, but they are only listed once in the category that best describes the activity in the list. For activities that do not fit into one of the categories from the Best Practices document, a sixth category, “Other,” is created in table 1. A critical synthesis of this topic can be found at in Hudgins et al.(14)

Table 1. TIM strategies and categories.(4)
TIM Category TIM Strategy/Activity
Detection and verification
  • Incident detection through video monitoring, speed or queue monitoring, mobile phone applications, or 511.
Traveler information
  • Incident or event notification provided via dynamic message signs (DMS), 511 (Web site, mobile, etc.), or highway advisory radio (HAR).
  • Safety-service patrols (SSP) [can be used for incident detection and response].
  • Automated vehicle location CAD (computer aided dispatch) systems.
  • Preplanned diversion routes shared between agencies.
  • Prepositioning assets, vehicles, signs, lighting, tow trucks, etc.
  • Prequalified list of towing services (including capabilities and equipment) for use during incident response and clearance.
  • Prequalified list of contractors qualified to perform hazardous materials remediation (including capabilities and equipment) for use during incident response.
  • Preestablished procedures for fatal incidents that define responsibilities for the coroner or medical examiner.
Scene management and traffic control
  • Traffic diversion or detour (and preplanning of detours).
    • Modifying traffic signal timing on detour routes and arterials.
    • Opening or closing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) and high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes during incident.
  • Temporary traffic control devices (portable DMS and lane control signs) and procedures around incident or at the end of the incident queue.
  • Move Over laws (require drivers to reduce speed and move to adjacent lane when approaching incident scene).
  • Application of certain design treatments with TIM impacts.
    • Incident command system used onscene (consistent with National Incident Management System/National Incident Command System (NIMS/NICS) standards).
Quick clearance and recovery
  • Safe, quick clearance laws.
    • Authority removal laws (allowing predesignated responders to remove disabled or wrecked vehicles and spilled cargo).
    • Driver removal laws (require drivers involved in minor crashes (not involving injuries) to move vehicles out of the travel lanes).
  • Policy for removal of abandoned vehicles.
Other (mostly crossagency coordination, communication, and training)
  • Agency coordination and communication.
    • Agreements for information and data collection, integration, and sharing across agencies.
    • Interoperable, interagency communications onsite between incident responders.
    • Use of transportation management centers (TMC) and traffic operations centers (TOC) to coordinate detection, notification, and response.
    • Agreements for shared use of equipment, signing, and shared quick clearance goals and detour setup times.
  • Training incident responders on NIMS/NICS.
  • Agency support for postincident debriefings, special event planning, and TIM planning for maintenance/construction projects.

Traffic Incident Management Stakeholders

With the variety of TIM strategies available to local agencies, there is an extensive set of potential stakeholders or operators that can be involved in running TIM programs. It is important to note the variety of potential stakeholders in a TIM program because, in most cases, they come from many different agencies.

A truly effective TIM program requires active coordination and cooperation among the various agencies to time responses, maximize the flow of information, and avoid duplication of efforts during an incident. The list below identifies some of the major players in TIM strategy implementation, in addition to the actual roadway users and drivers involved in incidents. (15)

Benefits of Traffic Incident Management Strategies

Application of TIM strategies could bring significant benefits. For the purpose of estimating benefits and costs, some of these benefits are translated into slightly different measures of effectiveness (MOE) that could be directly quantifiable. The MOEs can be defined as “indirect benefits” of the TIM strategies:

Ultimately, society sees benefits from TIM programs in the forms of improved health, productivity, and safety. A survey conducted in 1997(1) indicated that improved traveler information dissemination resulted in increased driver confidence.

The benefits listed above apply most directly to system users (i.e., drivers and passengers on the roadway) and responding agencies, but they also apply to all travelers and many local businesses or industries because of reduced medical costs to society, diminished burden on the environment, and decreased burdens to productivity.

Costs of Traffic Incident Management Strategies

The following cost elements can result from applying TIM strategies:

For the most part, TIM program costs are supported by roadway users through taxes.(5)

Existing Benefit-Cost Estimation Tools

The existing BC estimation tools have two major categories: sketch planning and postprocessing tools. The most popular existing tools for estimating benefits and costs of TIM programs or strategies are listed in table 2.(18)

Table 2. Existing sketch planning tools and postprocessing tools.(18)
Category Name of Tool/Method Developer (Year) MOEs Evaluated
Sketch Planning Tools BCA.net Federal Highway Administration (1998) Mobility, safety, environment, energy, vehicle operating cost
CAL-BC California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) (1999) Mobility, safety, environment, vehicle operating cost
IMPACTS Federal Highway Administration (1999) Mobility, environment, energy, vehicle operating cost
Screening Tool for ITS (SCRITS) Federal Highway Administration (1999) Mobility, safety, environment, energy, vehicle operating cost
Tool for Operations Benefit/Cost (TOPS-BC) Federal Highway Administration (2012) Mobility, safety, environment, energy, vehicle operating cost, reliability, agency cost
Trip Reduction Impacts of Mobility Management Strategies (TRIMMS) Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida (2009) Mobility, environment, energy
Postprocessing Tools Surface Transportation Efficiency Analysis Model (STEAM) Federal Highway Administration (2000) Mobility, safety, environment, energy, vehicle operating cost, reliability, agency cost
ITS Deployment Analysis System (IDAS) Federal Highway Administration (2003) Mobility, safety, environment, energy, vehicle operating cost, reliability, agency cost
The Florida ITS Evaluation (FITSEval) Tool Florida Department of Transportation (2008) Mobility, safety, environment, energy, vehicle operating cost, reliability, agency cost

Source: This table is created by the Transportation Benefit-Cost Analysis Web site with the Transportation Economics Committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB),(19) Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc.,(7) Cambridge Systematics,(8)(20)(21) Concas and Winters,(22) DeCorla-Souza,(23) FHWA,(24) FDOT,(25) Florida Intelligent Transportation,(9) Hadi et al.,(26) and SAIC.(27)

Table 3 (18) describes the differences between sketch planning and postprocessing methods in the fields of geographic scope, budget, turnaround period, staff expertise, and data requirement. It can be seen that the sketch planning approach requires less resources than that of the postprocessing method.

Table 3. Comparison of operational analysis approaches.(18)
Category Sketch Planning Postprocessing
Geographic Scope Any geographic level Any geographic level
Budget Low ($1,000–$25,000) Medium/high ($5,000–$50,000)
Turnaround Period Short (1–8 weeks) Medium (2–12 months)
Staff Expertise General (ability in understanding travel demand model outputs and spreadsheet based tools) Medium/high (ability in travel demand modeling and postprocessing tools)
Data Requirement Less Medium



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