Employ a proactive approach for building public awareness of the project requiring a work zone and deliver accurate information to the public.

The experiences of four state DOTs using ITS in work zones.

Date Posted

Intelligent Transportation Systems in Work Zones: A Cross Cutting Study - Integrated Work Zone Systems for Improving Travel Conditions and Safety

Summary Information

Work zones cause congestion and result in more than 800 fatalities and 37,000 injuries in the U.S. every year. The increasing maintenance and rehabilitation of our aging infrastructure, combined with the growing travel and congestion on our roads, heightens the need for finding new ways to enhance mobility and safety in work zones. Forward-looking transportation agencies across the country are using ITS to make travel through and around the work zones safer and more efficient.

To better identify and document uses and benefits of ITS in work zones, the FHWA's ITS Joint Program Office conducted a cross-cutting study examining the application of ITS in work zones at sites in four states:

  • Springfield, Illinois I-55
  • Lansing, Michigan I-496
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico I-40/I-25
  • West Memphis, Arkansas I-40

All four sites employed ITS for monitoring and managing traffic and for providing traveler information. One site also used ITS for incident management. The purpose of the study was to share with other regions the experiences of early deployers of ITS in work zones.

Lessons Learned

The experiences of four state DOTs examined in this study enable other regions to benefit from the knowledge gained by state departments of transportation that have been early deployers of ITS in work zones. Following these lessons learned increases the likelihood of reaping similar benefits of fewer crashes, better informed motorists, shorter backups, and lower costs. The subsequent paragraphs describe three lesson learned elements.

  • Employ a proactive approach for building public awareness of the project. It is important to use a proactive approach in building public awareness of the project and the information that the ITS application will provide. Successful techniques include holding press conferences, issuing news releases, and keeping local media (especially those the public turns to for traffic information) up-to-date.
  • Deliver accurate information to the public. If inaccurate information is provided, the public can quickly lose confidence and negative public relations result. For example, some agencies have decided not to display travel time or length of delay in minutes on Dynamic Message Signs because it can be more difficult to ensure the accuracy of this information. In addition, motorists may be more likely to submit complaints when their experience differs from the displayed estimate.
  • Provide enough information to be useful, but not so much as to be overwhelming when setting up automated information delivery and sharing with other agencies. Particularly with an automated system, it is possible to deliver too much information for the agency and its partner agencies to process effectively. The frequency, usefulness, and volume of information delivered to managers and partners need to be appropriate; otherwise, the information will likely be discarded or ignored. Many ITS applications can be set to automatically deliver e-mail, faxes, or pages to the agency or partners such as the media and public safety agencies. If the thresholds for delivery of these messages are not carefully considered, a recipient may be inundated with information and unable to sort out what is useful.

These experiences show that it is important to use a proactive approach for building public awareness of an ITS project. To maintain good public relations, it is vital to deliver accurate information to the public, and it is important to carefully consider how to set up automated delivery and sharing of information with other agencies. Keeping the public updated about the latest traffic information may lead to increased customer satisfaction.