Weather-Responsive Traffic Management

FHWA Office of Operations


Improve transportation operations, safety, passenger mobility, and agency productivity during adverse weather conditions.

Project Overview

The negative impact of adverse weather on transportation system performance is significant:

  • Crashes annually injure more than 450,000 people and kill more than 6,400
  • Travel time increases by 24 percent
  • The freight industry loses more than $3.5 billion in travel time delays

Working closely with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Operations, Cambridge Systematics developed a Concept of Operations for transportation management center response to weather-related events. Five different weather scenarios were developed along with specific response plans. Scenarios included incidents and weather-related emergencies such as road closures due to flooding. Response plans addressed agency coordination requirements and use of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) equipment to provide motorist information and support in incident clearance. Response plans then were reviewed in a workshop with representatives of five state departments of transportation (DOT), FHWA personnel, and representatives of the meteorological community.

Our Approach

The Concept of Operations was written to identify tools and practices to help transportation managers:

  • Plan for and respond to weather-related events effectively
  • Promote inter-agency coordination, particularly with public safety and emergency management agencies, in responding to weather-related events and their consequences, including increased number of roadway incidents
  • Provide improved level of information to the public on weather-related roadway conditions
  • Provide information to help improve weather-related maintenance activities such as snow and debris removal

The Concept of Operations was based on "state-of-the-art" in transportation management, recognizing that in many metropolitan areas the full set of tools identified may not be available. During the review workshop, state DOT operations personnel provided feedback on which strategies were most likely to be adopted by transportation mangers in the short term.

Next Steps

Cambridge Systematics’ next goal is to document best practices in weather-related responsive traffic management and to quantify the benefits. To further more accurate planning, we will undertake predictive modeling using historic and real-time data for more accurate planning. We will then:

  • Document the impact of weather on operations at a more detailed level
  • Implement standard performance measurements
  • Further cooperation among transportation agencies and divisions and other key response agencies, including law enforcement, emergency management, and public works