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Integrate Road Weather Information Systems program and Transportation Management Centers to improve internal operations practices.
Evaluated based on the experience of the Utah DOT's integration of their Weather Operations/RWIS Program with Traffic Operations.
Made Public Date

Utah, United States

United States

Evaluation of the Utah DOT Weather Operations/RWIS Program on Traffic Operations


While there have been many studies done to evaluate the benefits of using road weather information to improve roadway conditions for drivers, no study had previously been done to evaluate the impact of Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS) on Transportation Management Center (TMC) operations. The study focused on the Utah Department of Transportation's Traffic Operations Center (TOC) and how the year-round stationing of meteorologists through the RWIS Program impacted the operations of the TOC divisions, including the Incident Management, Traffic Signal Systems and Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS) divisions. The report also includes a literature review on the impacts of weather on travel variables (travel time, speed, traffic volume, and roadway capacity).

Lessons Learned

The Utah DOT took a unique approach to integrating RWIS into their daily traffic operations, particularly during the winter months. The five divisions of the TOC all have independent responsibilities for daily operations and during weather events. The addition of a dedicated meteorologist in the RWIS program, located in-house, allows the TOC divisions to receive localized weather forecasts with the necessary information required to make appropriate roadway operations decisions. The findings of an impact study for the benefits of the integration of RWIS with TOC divisions are listed below.

Use weather information from sensors and forecasts to improve incident response times and only having crews on call when weather events are looming. The availability of up to 10 forecast updates during a storm allows the Incident Management Team (IMT) to place crews in areas where they will most likely be needed before the weather worsens. Flexible staffing has been made possible through the use of forecasts to increase staff only when necessary. Additionally, because the RWIS program staff provides weather reports to TOC staff at least twice daily (and more frequent updates during weather events), the IMT no longer needs to spend staff time on looking for weather updates.

Use weather information to disseminate better quality information and adequately assign staff in order to provide that information to the public quickly. The Traffic Management (TM) staff was able to prepare for and assign adjusted duties two days in advance with the forecasts provided by the RWIS program staff. The weather information provided to the TM staff (road temperatures, wind speeds and weather inversions) is more helpful for providing special instructions and information to the public than information they were able to gather from outside sources previous to the integration of RWIS.

Keep roadway workers safe by using weather information to schedule maintenance and construction projects and alert them of changing conditions. The Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS) division, which is responsible for the maintenance and deployment of the ITS components utilized by the other four divisions and the RWIS program, saw an increased ability to keep their roadway workers safe through localized weather information provided by the RWIS program staff. Information about high winds and approaching weather improved their ability to schedule maintenance and construction projects, resulting in safer conditions for workers. Advanced warning of storms also allows the workers time to ensure that equipment that is used to provide traveler information is functioning properly, thus optimizing runtime on equipment.

Trigger an action set of alternative signal timings and snow coordination plans for the affected areas based on integrated road weather information. These forecasts helped the Signal Systems team develop snow plans as well as increase the level of service with snowplowing operators through signal timing adjustments on specific corridors during and after storms.

Staff dispatch desks and police patrols adequately and efficiently by using weather forecasts. The Department of Public Safety said that the weather information allows them to be more proactive about dealing with approaching storms and adjust staffing needs to cover additional dispatch consoles and provide additional troopers in order to keep the public safe.

Overall, the divisions agreed that they are now more efficient in their scheduling of staff and that they are solely reliant on the weather information provided to them daily by RWIS program staff.

System Engineering Elements