National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 520: Sharing Information between Public Safety and Transportation Agencies for Traffic Incident Management
National Cooperative Highway Research Program Project (520 Sharing Information between Public Safety and Transportation Agencies for Traffic Incident Management ) was completed in 2004 and provides a number of case studies detailing the experiences of nine traffic incident management programs located across the country. The project was initiated to provide lessons learned to agencies considering deploying incident management systems.
The overall purpose of the study was to assist transportation and public safety agencies in better understanding the role each plays in the management of traffic incidents on the highway system. The document contains specific information for each location and also provides guidance to agencies seeking to establish a traffic incident management program or improve an existing program.
The first traffic management center was opened in the Minneapolis area in 1972 and while equipped with several hundred pieces of traffic monitoring equipment and the highway helpers, public safety professionals were housed elsewhere.
In 2003, the Regional Traffic Management Center (RTMC) opened and provided several workstations for freeway operations, state police dispatch, maintenance and traffic signal systems, and traffic radio. The new facility located in Roseville, MN approximately 7 miles northeast of Minneapolis, is a state of the art incident management center.
This unique situation encountered in Minnesota's traffic incident management program resulted in the following experiences:
- Consider co-locating to improve working relationships between public safety and transportation professionals.
- A key characteristic of a successful traffic incident management program is communication and good working relationships between public safety and transportation professionals. In several of the study locations it was noted that co-locating of public safety and transportation professionals helped tremendously to develop these relationships.
- Interviews conducted with all parties revealed that this change has resulted in better working relationships. While the RTMC was not able to provide hard evidence to document the improvements in responding to traffic incidents, co-locating is believed to strengthen the relationship between public safety, maintenance, FIRST (Freeway Incident Response Safety Team), and transportation professionals.
- Recognize that daily interactions help overcome institutional barriers among agencies.
- As institutional barriers are often at the heart of failed traffic incident management programs, several interviewees noted that getting to know your counterpart on a day to day basis through shared facilities promoted greater sharing of information between agencies. These types of interactions, which can often take place in the lunch room or around the water cooler, can bridge the communication gap workers may experience with workers from another agency or profession.
- Allow researchers to witness the change in relationships before and after the opening of the RTMC.
- The timing of the study allowed for researchers to witness the change in professional demeanor before and after the opening of the RTMC. Co-locating, in this instance, provided the pathway towards better cooperation between all agencies and is viewed as a success. The lesson demonstrated through this experience is for agencies to recognize the value of strong, professional relationships and in some cases co-locating can be the catalyst towards forming those bonds.