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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

R&T Portfolio: Disruptions

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Disruptions research focuses on ways to minimize the impacts of nonrecurring traffic disruptions, such as collisions, work zones, and inclement weather. Irregular events are impossible to prevent, but their impact can be mitigated with good operations planning and response strategies.

About half of congestion is caused by nonrecurring temporary disruptions that take away part of the roadway from use. The three main causes of nonrecurring congestion are: (1) incidents ranging from a flat tire to an overturned hazardous material truck—25 percent of congestion, (2) work zones—10 percent of congestion, and (3) weather—15 percent of congestion. Nonrecurring events dramatically reduce the available capacity and reliability of the entire transportation system. The type of congestion that surprises us: we plan for a trip of 20 minutes, yet we experience a trip of 40 minutes. Travelers and shippers are especially sensitive to unanticipated disruptions to tightly scheduled personal activities and manufacturing distribution procedures.

Program Objectives:

  • Develop, test, and provide tools to decisionmakers that enable more effective and sustained transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) actions and programs to improve regional transportation system safety, efficiency, reliability, and options for people and goods movement.
  • Make highways safer and more efficient by reducing the impacts of the causes of congestion.
  • Deploy technologies that support safer, more efficient, and improved people and goods movement.

Contact Us

Office of Operations Research and Development
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101
United States

Office of Operations
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC  20590
United States

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