The National Academies

SHRP 2 C05 [Completed]

Understanding the Contribution of Operations, Technology, and Design to Meeting Highway Capacity Needs

  Project Data
Funds: $1,000,000
Research Agency: Kittelson & Associates, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Wayne Kittelson
Effective Date: 1/7/2008
Completion Date: 12/31/2010

Project Snapshot. More details below.

(Project Number)
Impact on Practice
Product Status
Understanding the Contribution of Operations, Technology, and Design to Meeting Highway Capacity Needs (C05)
Guide for modelers on how to compare the effectiveness of less complex operational strategies, such as
intersection channelization, with more expensive and complex treatments, such as adding general]purpose highway lanes.
With the enhanced capability to measure the cost and effectiveness of traffic operations strategies, planners and decision makers can  demonstrate whether a strategy solves a particular congestion problem and can more confidently act to improve the function of their highway networks.
The report is available at

Staff Responsibility: Stephen J. Andrle

Continuing growth in urban travel demand inevitably leads to a need for more physical capacity within the transportation system. However, limited financial resources, high construction costs, environmental considerations, long timelines, and an increasingly complex regulatory process have essentially rendered capacity-adding projects to be actions of last resort. Before such projects are undertaken, decision makers, planners, and engineers evaluate alternative operational improvement strategies that can eliminate, mitigate, or forestall the need for a more traditional highway construction project. Effectively evaluating the wide range of operational improvement strategies that are available is not a trivial matter, and this is particularly true when the performance of such strategies is compared to the construction of new lanes.

This project had three objectives: (1) quantify the capacity benefits—individually and cooperatively—of operations, design, and technology improvements at the network level for both new and existing facilities; (2) provide transportation planners with the information and tools to analyze operational improvements as an alternative to traditional construction (for example, determining what operational improvements will give the same capacity gain as an additional lane); and (3) develop guidelines for sustained service rates to be used in planning networks for limited access highways and urban arterials.

The final report includes a summary of the operational improvement strategies found to be most effective in enhancing network performance characteristics. It contains a description of the model enhancements and methodology used to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies, both individually and cooperatively. It presents an illustrative application of the enhanced model and methodology as a demonstration of the new and more comprehensive insights that can be obtained by engineers, planners, and decision makers. The report also provides a recommendation for an additional enhancement that can more fully and fairly inform both analysts and decision makers about the opportunities to employ operational improvement strategies in lieu of new construction.

Status: This project is complete.

Product Availability: The final report is available as a prepublication document.

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