Traffic simulations create confident clients

Posted in: Highways, Municipal


Model-1_body_300x180Over the past two decades, I’ve been impressed as innovation in computer microsimulations improved predictive analyses in a number of engineering scenarios and in turn improved public acceptance of the solutions offered. Mead & Hunt uses microsimulations to analyze potential traffic scenarios such as intersection improvements and different lane configurations to help determine what design works best for each situation.

Currently I’m part of the team using traffic simulation on a roadway project that is a principal arterial route connecting three communities. This project area encompasses a combination of residential, office and commercial uses, including a number of parklands and open spaces, two cemeteries and historically significant structures and properties capped on each end by National Register historic neighborhoods. The roadway has discontinuous sidewalks, inadequate intersection sight distances and narrow right-of-way.

Paramics, a robust computer simulation program, was used to analyze whether a road diet was the most viable solution in order to keep the roadway footprint to a minimum. The microsimulation allowed us to look at how a road diet and future intersection improvements like signal installations or roundabouts affected the future traffic patterns and intersection operations. In this case, however, the traffic model actually determined that a large percentage of redirection would occur indicating that a road diet was not the most viable solution.

Model-2_body_300x380Additionally, each of the surrounding communities had a different view of how they wanted the revitalized corridor to look and the appropriate lane configuration. To determine the best course of action, we collected turning movement data at more than 30 intersections and several vehicle classification counts to create a detailed and accurate Paramics computer model. Vehicle speed and queue length information were added to accurately reproduce existing conditions. The model was calibrated to replicate the roadway’s original conditions and future traffic. Using the resulting model, we were able to assure affected communities that our roadway configuration and improved intersection designs would address everyone’s concerns.

It was with macro traffic microsimulation software that our team achieved a design that not only provided the best solution, but also gave the clients and affected communities peace of mind. These test scenarios on a macro scale provided a clear demonstration of how altering the roadway will affect the entire traffic system. This provides greater public acceptance of and confidence in alternatives, scenarios and planning objectives.


John Rathke, PE, SE

About the Author

For John Rathke, P.E., S.E., it is more than managing more than 30 highway and bridge projects each year. It is about connecting with clients and listening to what is important. A leader in transportation engineering, John says that for him, the greatest reward is seeing the constructed product and sharing the pride and accomplishment with his clients, team and the public. According to John, “It’s all about teamwork.”

Read more posts by John Rathke, PE, SE

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