Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program
Photo collage: temporary lane closure, road marking installation, cone with mounted warning light, and drum separated work zones.
Office of Operations 21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) & Technology

Dynamic message sign in work zone
Transportation agencies across the country are using ITS to make travel through and around work zones safer and more efficient. ITS involves the use of electronics, computers, and communications equipment to collect information, process it, and take appropriate actions. ITS technology can be applied in work zones for:
  • Traffic monitoring and management
  • Providing traveler information
  • Incident management
  • Enhancing safety of both the road user and worker
  • Increasing capacity
  • Enforcement
  • Tracking and evaluation of contract incentives/disincentives (performance-based contracting)
  • Work zone planning

Many ITS applications in work zones serve a combination of the above purposes.

This page provides a number of resources for implementing various types of ITS in work zones:

ITS in Work Zones Case Studies and Assessments

  • Comparative Analysis Report: The Benefits of Using Intelligent Transportation Systems in Work Zones (HTML, PDF 1.5MB) - Provides insights into the mobility and safety benefits of using ITS for work zone traffic management, as well as tips, and lessons learned. The information presented is based on an FHWA study that examined five case study sites: I-40 outside Winston-Salem in North Carolina; I-30 between Benton and Little Rock in Arkansas; US-131 in Kalamazoo, Michigan; I-35 in Hillsboro, Texas; and DC-295 in Washington, DC.
  • Benefits of Using Intelligent Transportation Systems in Work Zones: A Summary Report (HTML, PDF 810KB) - Summarizes the results of a quantifiable assessment of the effectiveness of ITS in work zones, as well as tips and lessons learned. Five sites participated in the study: I-40 outside Winston-Salem in North Carolina; I-30 between Benton and Little Rock in Arkansas; US-131 in Kalamazoo, Michigan; I-35 in Hillsboro, Texas; and DC-295 in Washington, DC.
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems in Work Zones: A Cross-Cutting Study (HTML, PDF 2.8MB) - Examines how transportation departments in Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, and Arkansas used ITS in their work zones to monitor and manage traffic, including providing traveler information and enhancing incident response. Information covered includes why the systems were selected, design and operational characteristics, any issues/lessons learned, and the benefits derived from using the systems.
  • Informed Motorists, Fewer Crashes: Using Intelligent Transportation Systems in Work Zones (HTML, PDF 38K) - Brochure that examines the safety and mobility benefits of the use of ITS in work zones. The brochure quotes elected officials and transportation professionals from around the country about the benefits they have experienced from using ITS in work zones.
  • FHWA Case Study Series
    • Work Zone Traffic and Incident Management System (HTML, PDF 127KB) - Keeping Traffic Moving During Reconstruction of the Big I, a Major Interstate-Interstate Interchange in Albuquerque
    • Work Zone Travel Time System (HTML, PDF 283KB) - Reducing Congestion with the Use of a Traffic Management Contract Incentive During the Reconstruction of Arizona State Route 68
    • Dynamic Lane Merge System (HTML, PDF 243KB) - Reducing Aggressive Driving and Optimizing Throughput at Work Zone Merges in Michigan
    • Real-Time Work Zone Traffic Control System (HTML, PDF 221KB) - Using an Automated Traffic Information System to Reduce Congestion and Improve Safety During Reconstruction of the I-55 Lake Springfield Bridge in Illinois

Automated Work Zone Information Systems

  • Oregon DOT Portable Traffic Management System Specification (PTMS) (DOC 61KB) - Used when incorporating a smart work zone in ODOT projects, it defines a PTMS, identifies the type of information that should be included on electronic signs, requires the availability of a PTMS technician 24/7, and outlines the duties of the technician, among other pertinent information.
  • Automated Work Zone Information System Updates Travelers with Real-Time Information on I-15 - Describes the resulting benefits of the California Department of Transportation's (Caltrans) use of an automated work zone information system (AWIS) to limit traffic disruption during the rebuilding of a 2.8 mile stretch of roadway in 18 days on I-15 in Devore.
  • Criteria for Portable ATIS in Work Zones: Lane Merge, Travel Time and Speed Advisory Systems (PDF 774KB) - Compares 16 different portable advanced traveler information systems (ATIS) devices in 27 separate deployments throughout the United States. The study recommends an 11-step procedure whereby traffic engineers can choose the most appropriate ATIS configuration for a work zone.
  • Development and Field Demonstration of DSRC-Based V2I Traffic Information System for the Work Zone (PDF 609KB) - University of Minnesota report that examines the architecture, functionality, and field demonstration of a dedicated short range communication (DSRC)-based Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) communication system that can be used to improve traffic efficiency and safety in work zones. The field demonstration showed that the developed system can adapt to changing work zone environments smoothly under various congestion patterns.
  • Evaluation of Work Zone Speed Advisory System (WZSAS) - Evaluates the effectiveness of a WZSAS and its applicability as a traffic management tool. A WZSAS provides en route traveler information to advise drivers of traffic speeds in advance of diversion points upstream of a work zone, encouraging them to divert to alternate routes when the work zone is congested.
  • The Concept of a Smart Drum Speed Warning System - Presentation from January 2007 TRB Annual Meeting Human Factors Workshop on Work Zone Safety: Problems and Countermeasures.
  • FHWA Case Study: Real-Time Work Zone Traffic Control System (HTML, PDF 221KB) - Using an Automated Traffic Information System to Reduce Congestion and Improve Safety During Reconstruction of the I-55 Lake Springfield Bridge in Illinois.

Traffic Management Systems

Dynamic Lane Merge Systems(DLMS) - These systems use dynamic electronic signs and other special devices to control vehicle merging at the approach to lane closures.

Speed Management Systems - There are a variety of technologies that can be used to help manage and enforce speed limits in work zones, including Variable Speed Limit (VSL) systems, automated enforcement, radar, and speed advisory systems.

Portable Changeable Message Signs (PCMS)

Work Zone ITS Deployment Examples

  • I-35 in Central Texas - The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is using ITS as part of a construction traveler information system along I-35 in the Waco District to provide motorists with travel time information for the 90-mile stretch of roadway that is being converted from four to six lanes. Dynamic message signs have been installed to let motorists know how long it will take to get to specific destinations along the route. This is the first phase in providing advanced traveler information along the route. Future phases will incorporate information about construction delays resulting from lane closures. The travel time information is obtained through sensors placed at 40 locations along the interstate. Information will also be posted to the I-35 web site and provided through social media channels. The I-35 system will eventually connect to other ITS systems across the state to provide statewide traveler information. Once the I-35 project is finished in 2017, TxDOT plans to maintain the sensors to help manage traffic along the I-35 corridor.
  • I-15 CORE in Utah County, Utah - The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) worked with contractors to develop an innovative approach to provide real time arterial traffic information during the I-15 Corridor Expansion (I-15 CORE) project and minimize delays for local motorists. This involved installing a monitoring system along nearby arterial routes, which uses anonymous vehicle data obtained from travel time detectors to measure actual traffic flow conditions. UDOT's Traffic Operations Center collects and analyzes the data, then updates and displays current travel time information every six minutes on variable message signs along the I-15 corridor and the I-15 CORE web site to provide motorists with current information comparing local road travel times versus freeway travel times. Motorists are directed to take the least congested routes – either I-15 or the state road US-89, leading to a reduction in delays, stops, emissions, and the number and severity of traffic incidents.
  • I-93 in Salem, New Hampshire - The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) is using ITS extensively during the reconstruction of a 20 mile portion of I-93 from Salem to Manchester. ITS has been used at Exits 1, 3 and 5 as part of individual Smart Work Zones. NHDOT is now beginning the implementation of a corridor-wide Smart Work Zone system. Phase I will install a number of devices such as variable speed limit (VSL) signs, cameras, variable message signs (VMS) and Roadway Weather Information Systems (RWIS), as well as communication devices to help relay the information back the NHDOT's Transportation Management Center. This system will be used during construction and remain in place post-construction to help manage traffic.
  • "In Case of Fire: Technology Helps Clear a Path for First Responders" - Article in January 2011 issue of Roads & Bridges, Volume: 49 Number: 1, by Arthur Schurr, describing the successful use of an ITS-based Emergency Vehicle Conflict Warning System (EVCWS) during the replacement of the Brighton Road Bridge over I-376 near Pittsburgh, PA. The EVCWS enabled emergency vehicles to have quick access to the work zone and nearby areas by allowing them to avoid a detour and safely enter the road from the opposite direction, A siren-activated system detected the emergency vehicle and activated changeable message signs to alert drivers that an emergency vehicle was about to cross the roadway.
  • Dynamic Work Zone Traffic Management (PDF 340KB) - May 2010 ITE Journal article that describes how the Oregon DOT is using smart work zone technology to increase safety and provide motorists with work zone delay and travel time information, as well as to collect real-time traffic data for work zone traffic management during construction.

Additional Work Zone ITS Resources

General ITS Resources

  • NCHRP Report 560: Guide to Contracting ITS Projects (PDF 883KB) - Provides guidance on the procurement of ITS, including variable message signs, traffic detectors, signal controllers, and a variety of other hardware and software that entail application of advanced electronics and information management to regulate and facilitate traffic flow. The report highlights best practices and recommends contracting strategies and contract types, terms, and conditions for ITS development, integration, system acceptance, warranty, maintenance, and upgrade.
  • ITS Library - Contains documents on ITS topics published or sponsored by the USDOT.
  • ITS Peer to Peer Program - Provides public sector transportation stakeholders with a convenient method to tap into the growing knowledge base of ITS experience receive short-term assistance.
  • ITS Knowledge Resources Portal - Contains searchable information regarding the benefits, costs, lessons learned, and deployment status of ITS.
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Web Site on Speed Management - Provides resources related to speed management and automated enforcement.

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