PennDOT is implementing its innovative analysis tool that will help the agency identify and deploy the most effective work zone configurations.
Effective July 1, use of FREeway EVALuation-Pennsylvania (FREEVAL-PA) tool, is now required for limited access facilities performing construction, maintenance and permit-related work zone activities on PennDOT highways.
"It will be the preferred method for analyzing traffic mobility and safety concerns by evaluating work zones prior to deployment to avoid congestion during projects," said Brian Crossley, manager of the Temporary Traffic Control Unit in the Bureau of Maintenance and Operations (BOMO).
This innovation was developed through the State Transportation Innovation Council's (STIC) Safety and Traffic Operations TAG. The FREEVAL tool was first developed by North Carolina State University following a groundbreaking report by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program in 2016.
"Other states have effectively implemented the use of this tool and early feedback from those using the evaluation tool has been positive as it can address work zone safety and mobility concerns quickly," Crossley said.
"The tool is operational and training modules have been developed," added Daniel P. Farley, P.E., chief of PennDOT's Traffic Systems Management and Operations Section and FREEVAL-PA innovation owner.
"The Department developed a website that provides virtual training modules and guidance documents," Crossley said. "Participants can go to the website and take the self-paced virtual training modules prior to using the tool."
He added that business partners who are not PennDOT employees can download the tool from the website.
Among the benefits, Farley noted, the tool's time savings in collecting base data and allowing various scenarios to be considered has been very beneficial. Instead of previously relying on spreadsheets, FREEVAL-PA incorporates many visual performance metrics and visualizations to better evaluate the expected performance.
"Demand to Capacity graphs, performance heat maps, and summary metrics provide the mobility and safety measures to appropriately evaluate whether work zone restrictions can be considered on our limited access roadways," Farley said.
"This innovation will now be used to evaluate prior performance on limited access facilities and could be used to measure the effectiveness of solutions and the accuracy of what FREEVAL-PA provided," Farley added.
He said that BOMO looks to utilize FREEVAL-PA as a support evaluation to its upcoming Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment (ATCMTD) Lane Reservation project that has also been supported by the STIC in the past.
"Yearly evaluations will continue regardless of any changes to ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of the tool," he concluded.