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South Dakota Department of Transportation
Project Synopsis
SD2003-01


Title: Improved Traffic Signal Maintenance and Management
Project Researcher: Charles Schwinger, Bucher, Willis & Ratliff Corp
Project Manager: Christina Bennett
Research Period: 8/12/2003 - 2/27/2004
Status:
Cost: $60,000.00

Problem Statement:Traffic signals on the state highway system are normally maintained by local government entities. Brief, simple agreements between the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) and local entities are the primary vehicles stipulating how modifications to signal phasing and timing are to be developed. Otherwise, undocumented procedures gradually develop that are supposed to be mutually "understood" by all parties involved. To ensure that traffic signals are always operating as required, the Department needs timely notification, adequate documentation, and the ability to audit signal work as various maintenance needs arise. Traffic movements, levels of service, timing progressions, and safety can all be compromised if traffic signals are ever modified improperly. Currently, the SDDOT does not have any reliable means to verify, track, review, and record an inventory of traffic signal maintenance along state routes.

Considering the increasing frequency of litigation involving accidents at signalized intersections, it is apparent that more effective management and maintenance procedures for traffic signal systems are needed. In the early 1990s, the City of Sioux Falls Traffic Engineering Office averaged only one yearly instance of litigation where traffic signal operations played a part in legal reviews. This past year, that office has either been subpoenaed, provided depositions, or provided traffic signal timing data to attorneys for court cases at least a dozen times. Compounding the problem is the lack of any qualitative means to systematically track work that occurs on traffic signal systems, nor are there currently any reliable means to retain records of such work. Also, there is no formal inspection program in place in regard to the structural integrity of traffic signal poles and mast arms. Finally, access to traffic signal control boxes is currently provided through a single "one size fits all" key and there are no certification or licensing requirements for those accessing the control boxes to perform maintenance work.

South Dakota has determined the need to develop a traffic signal management and maintenance system to address all of the deficiencies that currently exist. At the same time, there is a strong recognition that initiation of such a development effort cannot happen until the underlying policies, agreement forms, and "undocumented" procedural standards become more resolutely and fully defined. The policies, agreements, and procedural standards collectively represent the guidelines that would normally be used to develop the system requirements for a traffic signal management and maintenance system. Until now, the collective guidelines for traffic signal maintenance on state routes have never undergone a thorough review. The process of reviewing these guidelines would entail close coordination with affected local government entities so that mutually satisfactory levels of understanding might be achieved. The reviews would help the Department and local government entities to:

  • assess adequacy of the guidelines as they currently stand for traffic signal management and maintenance;

  • identify and resolve barriers that may be inherent;

  • ensure that mutually satisfactory procedural standards can be drafted and enjoined;

  • ensure that all duly recognizable legal, jurisdictional, and authoritative requirements are met;

  • prepare for a systems development effort that would ultimately support better traffic signal management and maintenance in South Dakota.

  • Formulation of the final policies, agreements, and procedural guidelines would outline the system requirements for a South Dakota Traffic Signal Management and Maintenance System. However, development of the system requirements would also need to be complemented with thorough reviews of any existing management and maintenance systems that might have related aspects that could be incorporated. These reviews would include examination of the South Dakota "Traffic Signal Inventory System" (developed approximately 5 years ago, but never put into production), any Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies that might be associated, or any similar system development efforts that may have occurred at other state transportation departments.



    Findings: In recent years, some cities in South Dakota have experienced an increased frequency of legal inquiries involving accidents at signalized intersections. Currently, the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) does not have a qualitative means to systematically track work that occurs on traffic signal systems or a reliable means to retain records of such work. SDDOT recognized the need to develop a reliable means to verify, track, review, and record an inventory of traffic signal maintenance along state routes, and to produce a set of improved signal maintenance and management procedures. SDDOT through its Office of Research initiated a research study to formulate new policies, agreements, and procedural standards for effective management and maintenance of state highway traffic signals. The research project involved a workshop to provide local and national insight; a review of SDDOT's existing policies, agreements, and procedures; and surveys of maintenance and management practices, as well as computer system needs at other state departments of transportation with similar operational needs to South Dakota. Using the information compiled in the research effort, the study team identified fourteen issues and formulated seven specific recommendations that include development of a maintenance inspection checklist, a final acceptance punchlist, revised maintenance agreements, a comprehensive policy and procedures for traffic signals on state highways, a traffic signal inventory and maintenance database, and updates to the existing standard specifications. The study team also defined the system requirements, opinions of costs and system benefits, and implementation for a Traffic Signal Management and Maintenance System.

    Research Objectives:
    1  Review, and redefine as necessary, policies, agreements, and procedures regarding the management and maintenance of existing traffic signals on state routes in South Dakota.
    2  Formulate the new policies, agreements, and procedures so that they are defined and drafted from all necessary practicable, legal, and operational standpoints, and so that they can be instilled effectively within the SDDOT organizational structure.
    3  Define the requirements of a Traffic Signal Management and Maintenance System that includes an inventory database, and also provides the needed technical and organizational capabilities to vastly improve current operations and procedures.

    Research Tasks:
    1  Review, and become familiar with material furnished by the Project Technical Panel related to the performance of traffic signal maintenance in South Dakota, including: agreements, policies, procedures, and other corresponding documentation.
    2  Meet with the project's technical panel to review the project scope and work plan.
    3  Review traffic signal management and maintenance processes at other state departments of transportation where operational needs are similar South Dakota, summarize the findings, and also provide details for any state(s) where their procedures and sup
    4  Contact other state departments of transportation exhibiting similarities to South Dakota in regard to traffic signal management and maintenance computer system needs, summarize the findings, and also provide details for any existing state system(s)
    5  Through a facilitated workshop involving management and staff from the SDDOT, local government entities, and others with interests directly tied to the subject, assess the current procedures, supporting guidelines, perceived needs, and ongoing operat
    6  Propose and present, for review and approval of the technical panel, recommendations for new policies, agreements, and procedural definitions that are based on well-founded criteria to specifically address South Dakota's traffic signal management and
    7  Upon final approval by the technical panel, prepare final drafts of the new policies, agreements, and procedural definitions, as well as recommendations on the best way to incorporate them at the Department, and then assist the panel in their prepara
    8  Based on feedback and concurrence of the SDDOT Executive Team on the new policies, agreements, and procedural definitions, develop a system requirements document for a traffic signal management and maintenance system for review and approval by the pr
    9  Upon review and approval of the system requirements document by the technical panel, develop estimates for system costs, levels of development effort, system integration needs, and any impacts to Departmental operations.
    10  Prepare a final report and executive summary of the workshop, reviews of other state processes and systems, research methodology, findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
    11  Make an executive presentation to the SDDOT Research Review Board at the conclusion of the project.

    Documents Available:
    SD2003_01_Final_report.pdf
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