The National Academies

NCHRP 03-113 [Active]

Guidance for Traffic Signals at Diverging Diamond Interchanges and Adjacent Intersections

  Project Data
Funds: $999,941
Staff Responsibility: B. Ray Derr
Research Agency: North Carolina State University
Principal Investigator: Christopher Cunningham
Effective Date: 6/13/2014
Completion Date: 6/12/2018



Objective A of this research is to develop guidance on the operational analysis and traffic signal design and operation of DDIs and adjacent traffic signals. The guide should be useful to (1) a modeler working with designers to optimize the geometric design, (2) a signal designer implementing operational strategies, (3) a signal technician wiring the cabinet(s) and programming the controller(s), and (4) an operator fine-tuning the operation of the interchange and adjacent intersection in real-time throughout the day.


Objective B of Phase II of this research is to identify, review, and evaluate the geometric design features and the associated safety and operational performance of in-service DDIs across the US. Two basic questions will be addressed: (1) What are the essential design characteristics of a DDI and how should an engineer utilize this information in the design of a DDI and (2) What are the safety and operational benefits of utilizing a DDI and how might the designer utilize this information in their design?


Work is well underway..


 Perform an inventory of in-service DDIs.

Objective A: Operational Analysis and Traffic Signal Design and Operation


Task A.1. Review pertinent domestic and international literature on traffic signal design and operation at DDIs to identify best practices and lessons learned. This literature review should be kept current throughout the project since this design is new to the United States. 


Task A.2. Identify leaders in the design, installation, maintenance, and operation of DDI signals. Use interviews or other techniques to gather information on best practices and lessons learned on traffic signals at DDIs, by themselves and in conjunction with adjacent intersections. Identify situations and typical failure modes that warrant the development of new control strategies to address them.


Task A.3. Describe new control strategy concepts that could address the problematic situations and failure modes identified in Task 2.


Task A.4.Calibrate and validate the microscopic simulation model that will be used in Task 6. 


Task A.5. Within 9 months, submit an interim report documenting Tasks 1 through 4. The interim report shall also include a complete plan for conducting the simulation runs in Task 6 and a detailed outline of the guide.


Task A.6. Conduct microscopic simulation runs to explore issues such as (1) benefits of best and innovative control strategies that have been identified, (2) sensitivity of the operation to distances and speeds between signals, (3) impacts of different volumes and directional distributions, (4) sensitivity of the operation to timing parameters (e.g., offsets, cycle lengths, overlaps, phase sequence), (5) effectiveness of different detection schemes, (6) interactions between a DDI traffic signal and ramp meters, (7) optimal control for ramp traffic, (8) effective pedestrian strategies, (9) effective preemption and priority strategies, and (10) strategies to address phase starvation and queue spillback. 


Task A.7. Insofar as practical, work with a transportation agency to field validate any new traffic signal control strategies developed. 


Task A.8. Develop the guide on the operational analysis and traffic signal design and operation of DDIs and adjacent traffic signals that encapsulates best practices, lessons learned, and new strategies.


Task A.9. Submit a final report that documents the entire research effort and includes the Task 8 guide as a stand-alone document.


Objective B: Geometric Design and Safety Analysis


Task B.0. Prepare amplified work plan for the tasks associated with the second objective.


Task B.1.  Perform an inventory of in-service DDIs.


Task B.2. Meet with stakeholders to with first-hand experience in the design of DDIs.


Task B.3. Assess whether, and to what extent, the current design process reflects the explicit consideration of performance (e.g., pedestrian treatments, safety) and promotes efficient, if not optimal, combination of design elements to yield designs that are cost-effective when considering life-cycle benefits and costs.


Task B.4. Design a series of studies and experiments to fill gaps in the available knowledge of DDI design and safety performance. The studies are intended to answer very specific research questions and knowledge gaps based on the results of prior tasks.


Task B.5. Develop an interim report documenting the results of Tasks B.0 through B.4. Meet with the panel to finalize the experiment plan developed in Task B.4.


Task B.6. Execute the work plan following prioritization and approval from the panel.


Task B.6. Develop material on the geometric design and safety analysis of DDIs for inclusion in the NCHRP Project 03-113 guide. Provide any recommended text changes to the Green Book in an appendix.

The diverging diamond interchange (DDI, also known as a double crossover diamond interchange) is a relatively new design to the United States that can increase throughput and safety without widening bridge structures. An introduction to DDIs is available at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/07048/. There are currently more than 20 DDIs in operation in the United States and more than 50 under design.

Because the DDI is a new and novel design, traffic signal designers and operators and geometric designers lack the depth of experience that they have with traditional interchange forms. Determination of the best geometric and traffic signal design depends on the appropriate use of analysis tools, particularly microscopic simulation models. Integrating operational analysis into the design phase of a project is becoming more common and will be beneficial in these early years of DDI deployment.

One area of concern seen at installed DDIs are the interactions with an adjacent traffic signal. The unusual operation of the DDI can impair progression and waste green time at the DDI or the adjacent signal.

In many ways, the expected growth of DDIs in the United States parallels the growth of modern roundabouts several years ago. Information on best practices and lessons learned from these early installations will be beneficial in elevating the state of the practice.

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