In June 2011 USDOT finalized a report assessing Weather Responsive Traffic Management (WRTM) strategies in Utah. This report provides a comprehensive overview of weather-responsive traffic management practices. It focuses on what WRTM strategies exist, where they have been used, the benefits realized, what improvements are needed, and how to implement and evaluate them as part of transportation operations. The report also contains concepts of operations and high-level requirements that an agency can use to design and develop advanced WRTM strategies. Guidance was also developed to assist in evaluating the benefits and performance of several WRTM strategies.
For example one of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) WRTM Strategies, Agency Coordination and Integration, involves establishing policies and procedures encouraging increased levels of intra- and inter-agency coordination during inclement weather. These increased levels of coordination and integration are intended to facilitate better event planning, knowledge sharing, effective decision making, and efficient response. Experience indicates that implementing this strategy by agencies that respond to major weather events can have dramatic positive impacts on improving their operations. Examples of such policies range from sharing of weather and pavement condition information between TMCs and maintenance centers/personnel to facilitate more timely traveler notification and better informed maintenance decisions, to co-location of highway patrol and emergency response agencies co-located in a TMC to enhance communications and mutual awareness of impending adverse weather conditions, or tabletop exercises include local TMC operators, State DOT personnel, emergency responders, road maintenance, and meteorologists to plan for weather condition responses and decision making strategies. They may also include multijurisdictional sharing of control strategies (regional traffic signal programs, coordination of ramp meters and adjacent signal systems, regional 511), regional data sharing.
An evaluation was conducted for UDOT to examine the business case for their weather operations and assess the effectiveness and benefits particularly to the UDOT maintenance and construction functions. The evaluation examined the value and ease of use of the information, its effect on users’ behaviors, and the benefits of the weather service to winter maintenance personnel. The evaluation sheds light on the value of co-locating meteorologists in the UDOT TMC and of enhanced collaboration between operations, maintenance and related functions. Four meteorologists provide year-round support to activities including operations, winter maintenance, road construction, planning, training and incident management.
The evaluation included both a quantitative component that involved benefit-cost modeling and a qualitative component based on interviews with the user community. The modeled component sought to predict labor and material costs of road maintenance using a set of factors that included use and perceived value of UDOT’s weather services by maintenance sheds, level of anti-icing practices, vehicle miles traveled, and winter severity index. Eighty UDOT maintenance personnel were surveyed and asked about their use of UDOT’s weather services to support their decision making, their perceived usefulness of those services, methods by which this information was shared with them, frequency of the uses of this information, and their perceptions of the overall reliability/quality of the information and their satisfaction with it.
The evaluation report assesses and demonstrates the value to operations and system performance of a proactive approach facilitated by improved weather information coming into the DOT, being interpreted by professional meteorologists, shared and coordinated with key stakeholders, and yielding measurable benefits that exceed costs, primarily to winter maintenance. The MOE for this strategy most directly supported by this evaluation study is: “Improvements in agency staff perceptions of coordination during adverse weather,” and more specifically the perceived value of close interaction between meteorologists and the operations, maintenance, and construction functions of a DOT/TMC.
- 76% of respondents said that UDOT’s weather forecasts were more reliable than other services, and 85% said they were more usable
- 90% said the program provided a better level of service compared with other services
- 80% of maintenance personnel said they changed their approach to winter maintenance by using these services
- UDOT’s program is estimated to save UDOT maintenance $2.2 million per year in labor and material costs for winter maintenance, yielding a benefit-cost ratio of 10:1
- Respondents said they particularly desired increased personal communications between maintenance employees and the meteorologists
The full report, finalized in June 2011, assesses many strategies for WRTM efficiency, safety and mobility. These findings along with the benefits provide a valuable resource to those considering the implementation of WRTM systems.