Traffic incidents cause Americans delay, waste fuel, cause injuries, and create toxic emissions. Transportation professionals have implemented a variety of tools to manage these impacts and researchers have studied their effectiveness, illustrating a wide range between different tools and locations. To improve this state of knowledge, this dissertation sought to 1) identify prominent and effective incident management strategies, 2) model six selected incident management strategies within five highway corridors in South Carolina, and 3) apply benefit-cost analysis to evaluate the impact of various combinations of these strategies.
To meet these objectives, the author evaluated published literature of the selected strategies, administered a nationwide survey of these strategies, conducted traffic simulation, and performed benefit-cost analysis. The literature review guided the author to fill gaps in knowledge regarding the effectiveness and expense of identified strategies. The nationwide survey identified effective incident management tools, the extent of their adoption, and their common problems. The author then applied PARAMICS traffic simulation software to evaluate the impact of six tools at five sites on metropolitan interstates throughout South Carolina. Finally, benefit-cost analysis was used to evaluate the benefits against costs at each study site.
The survey provided many insights into both the effectiveness and collaboration within and among traffic incident management agencies and guided
the author in selecting tools for evaluation. While the simulation study found that as the severity and duration of incident increases, so does the potential benefit of incident management tools, the frequency of incidents also produces significant impact on annual benefits.
The benefit-cost analysis indicated that while all the incident management tools evaluated provided more benefits than costs, freeway service patrols and traffic cameras produced the highest return for incidents of varying severity. It was also found more advantageous to select one expensive but efficient incident management technology, rather than engage in the incremental deployment of various systems that might provide redundant benefits. Departments of transportation across the United States see the need to manage incidents more efficiently, consequently this dissertation developed data and analysis to compare benefits with costs to aid decision makers in selecting tools and strategies for future incident management endeavors.