Improving traffic incident management is one means to help reduce congestion, as traffic incidents account for approximately 25 percent of total congestion on U.S. highways. Between July and September 2012, 330 collisions were recorded for the I-66 corridor in Northern Virginia alone, of which 82 required more than 1 hour to clear. To improve its incident management efforts, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Northern Region Operations recently piloted a quick clearance policy called Operation Instant Tow. With an instant tow concept, a tow truck and a Virginia State Police trooper are dispatched simultaneously to the site of specific incident types (e.g., lane blocking events), thus reducing clearance time. VDOT’s Operations Division is interested in the potential expansion of this initiative to other operations regions and the employment of other quick clearance initiatives currently not executed in Virginia.
The purpose of this study was (1) to investigate traffic incident management initiatives including quick clearance practices and policies used by other state departments of transportation; (2) to assess the feasibility of adopting strategies that are not currently implemented in Virginia; and (3) to provide emergency responders and VDOT staff with a tool to estimate the benefits of clearing an incident quickly, individualized for a particular incident, location, and time. The tool would provide an incident commander with real-time information on the costs to the traveler from extended lane closures.
The guidance and data tool developed in this study will provide VDOT with additional mechanisms to broaden and strengthen its outreach to the responder community and improve real-time awareness of incident lane closure costs. The guidance on quick clearance is intended to support statewide implementation of strategies to improve incident response and clearance times. Implementing this guidance will provide strengthened interagency coordination and cooperation resulting in measurable benefits for traffic incident management.