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Author: Charles Cochran, PE, PTOE
Sain Associates is currently working for ALDOT (Alabama Department Of Transportation) on two TSM&O projects– one for ALDOT’s East Central Region (includes the Birmingham metropolitan area) and one for ALDOT’s Southwest Region (includes the Mobile area).
What is TSM&O?
TSM&O stands for Transportation Systems Management & Operations. Essentially, TSM&O is a set of strategies to anticipate and manage traffic congestion, while minimizing the other unpredictable causes of delay.
Why do we need TSM&O?
The main purpose of TSM&O projects is to improve safety and mobility in order to develop and preserve a sustainable transportation network.
How is a TSM&O project performed?
The first step in a TSM&O project is to identify significant routes to be included in the study. These significant routes are usually important freight corridors or commuter routes.
Once the study routes are identified, an assessment of the existing conditions is performed. We locate any existing traffic equipment (e.g. cameras, vehicle detectors, dynamic message signs, etc.) on the roadways and note any equipment deficiencies. We analyze crash data to identify locations with high crash rates.
After the existing conditions assessment is complete, recommendations are developed for needed equipment. For example, in ALDOT’s East Central Region, we are recommending the installation of 468 miles of fiber optic cable, 331 cameras, and 29 dynamic message signs. This equipment can help ALDOT monitor traffic and, if there is an accident or roadway closure, allow them to communicate to the traveling public about delays and potential detours. We also make recommendations on any staffing needs. For the Birmingham metropolitan area, we are recommending the expansion of the Alabama Service Assistance Patrol (ASAP) to help clear traffic incidents.
When will these programs and improvements be implemented?
There is no set timeline to incorporate the recommended improvements from this project. Some of the improvements will be standalone projects, while others will be incorporated into projects that have already been planned. ALDOT’s TSM&O project does not end with the completion of Sain’s work. It is an ongoing iterative process. The report and files we submit for these projects are “living documents” and will be tweaked and amended throughout the years as traffic patterns change or new technology emerges.
As traffic engineers, we are often tasked with fixing a short term problem right now in 2017. Working on TSM&O projects allows us to take a higher-level view of a transportation network, anticipate problems, and develop recommendations that will provide an area with efficient traffic operations in 2037.