Establish the roles and responsibilities for overall management of the project at the onset, and alter the field operation test (FOT) process if needed.
Irvine, California's experience in managing a field operational test of an integrated Advanced Transportation Management System.
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United States

Lessons Learned from the Irvine Integrated Freeway Ramp Metering/ Arterial Adaptive Signal Control Field Operational Test


A field operational test (FOT) of an integrated Advanced Transportation Management Systems (ATMS) was attempted from 1994 to 1999 in Irvine, California. The ATMS was intended to extend the capabilities of existing traffic management systems in Irvine and in California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 12. The FOT was to have introduced several new technologies to create an integrated freeway/arterial corridor that adapted to real-time traffic conditions. The FOT was conducted by a consortium, consisting of Caltrans, the City of Irvine, and two private sector consultants, and was cost-share funded by the FHWA as part of the Intelligent Vehicle Highway System Field Operational Test Program. The planned technologies included a System-Wide Adaptive Ramp Metering (SWARM) system, an Operator Decision Support System (ODSS), and a Management Information System for Traffic (MIST). The report concluded that the FOT failed: none of the planned technologies were successfully implemented due to a number of technical and institutional issues. The lessons learned in the FOT evaluation report focused on institutional issues related to the failure of the FOT. The lessons learned were derived from direct observation of participants over the duration of the project and interviews with key project participants and FHWA administrators. Lessons learned related primarily to overall project management and administration and the procedures employed for choosing and managing the deployment of particular technologies.

Lessons Learned

Parties who were interviewed regarding this project were sharply divided along jurisdictional lines over project management. The City of Irvine and the freeway consultant, the two partners responsible for project management and system coordination, felt the project management and schedule were extremely useful. All other parties thought the project lacked overall management and reported that the schedule served no purpose because most participants did not use it, refer to it, or adhere to it. Lessons learned from these experiences include:

  • Alter the FOT process to address administrative issues. Participants suggested several significant changes to the FOT process to address administrative issues, including:
    • Clearly define decision-making authority by empowering the group, an independent party, or FHWA to make binding decisions needed to move the project ahead.
    • Require software developers to put up a bond, as construction contractors do.
    • Require an initial systems requirements document designed to fit existing budgets. The document should cover functions and features of the technologies involved.
    • Remove the cost-sharing requirement when an FOT is really a research and development project.
    • Change the FOT contracting process to design-build or design-build-operate projects to avoid some of the problems on this and other FOTs.
  • Assign the program manager full responsibility and authority. Success of large technical projects such as the Irvine FOT is usually facilitated by assigning the program manager full responsibility and authority. The Irvine FOT was characterized by a desire for consensus that translated into nebulous project authority and a circular review structure. This ultimately led to loss of coordination, project direction, and morale. An example of this lack of clear project authority is when the arterial consultant originally wanted to use its real-time adaptive signal control software package, Optimized Policies for Adaptive Control (OPAC), on arterials to accommodate freeway dumps, although they ultimately recommended OPAC for modeling vehicle queues on freeway ramps. If the arterial consultant successfully modified the algorithm, OPAC would have set ramp metering rates based on the ramp queues. Caltrans did not like this approach, and during the proposal process, Caltrans changed certain objectives and partners. For example, Caltrans tried to eliminate OPAC completely, and use an NTCIP installation and its own ramp metering. Caltrans unilaterally selected the freeway consultant to replace the University of California at Irvine on the project because of the consultant's existing statewide relationship with Caltrans.
  • Consult with project partners and make decisions on a timely basis so as not slow down the project schedule. Administrative concerns with respect to this project focused on leadership and decision-making. Persons interviewed for the FOT evaluation report felt that since the City of Irvine was in charge, it did not have to answer to anyone and felt no need to consult with any other partners in making decisions. The report also commented that the City demonstrated very little administrative follow-through and required considerable time to complete decision-making tasks, especially regarding certain hardware and software technologies. One quarter of the participants noticed that the project stalled repeatedly while waiting for technical decisions on technology selection. According to interviewees, the City's poor project administration hindered the entire project.
  • Assign the contractor to be in charge of the documentation. The contractor should establish the nature of the documentation required rather than the vendors. This would have helped to avoid the problems associated with freeway consultant's decision to provide large quantities of mostly irrelevant status reports and specifications for systems that would never be implemented, while declining to provide an operator's manual for the SWARM system software.
  • Ensure that technical leadership has direct access to the actual software development personnel. It is essential that technical leadership have direct access to the actual software development personnel in any project involving the development of large integrated software packages with multiple developers and responsible entities. In the Irvine FOT, attempts to achieve coordination only through high-level management contacts led to miscommunications, unrealistic lead-time requirements for simple changes, and extensive development delays.
  • Solidify the deliverables and timetable. The actual FOT deliverables and timetable were never fixed; evaluation man-hours were wasted meeting ad hoc requests from the FOT partners to repeatedly update evaluation workplans for systems that were ultimately never deployed. The evaluation team complied with these requests in an unsuccessful effort to encourage reciprocal responsiveness from the FOT partners. The objective of the evaluation should have been allowed to focus on assuring technical and institutional performance, rather than assessing the consistency of the FOT with nation-wide ITS objectives.

When working with a number of different project parties, it is important to establish the roles and responsibilities of the different project partners before the start of the project, and have the project manager adhere to being the project manager and keeping with the schedule. Due to the administrative issues that occurred during this project, a number of suggestions were made by project participants in order to address and improve administrative concerns; the implementation of these suggestions may lead to increased project productivity.

Lessons Learned from the Irvine Integrated Freeway Ramp Metering/ Arterial Adaptive Signal Control Field Operational Test

Lessons Learned from the Irvine Integrated Freeway Ramp Metering/ Arterial Adaptive Signal Control Field Operational Test
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C. Arthur MacCarley, Stephen P. Mattingly, Michael G. McNally, James E. Moore, II,Daniel B. Mezger
Institute of Transportation Studies University of California

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