A new rule called the Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule (23 CFR 630, Subpart J) took effect last October, and if you do any work on federally-funded roads projects, you’re going to need to know about it. Check that — If you do any road work you need to know about this rule, because states were encouraged to apply best practices of the rule to non-federally funded road work as well.

Does the title of the new rule sound familiar? The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued the rule in September 2004 to improve upon the previous version, Traffic Safety in Highway and Street Work Zones.

Why a new rule?
There are several reasons for the new rule:
  • Our highway infrastructure has become increasingly needy with age; numbers of work zones are on the rise to facilitate needed repairs.
  • Traffic volumes are higher than ever, which justifies new construction (which means even more work zones).
  • Increasing traffic volume also means more vehicles through the work zone, which increases delays and the odds of an accident.
  • Over the last several years, traffic accidents related to highway construction, maintenance or utility work have resulted in roughly 40,000 injuries and 1,000 fatalities per year.
Bottom line: Increases in work zone accidents and increased traffic delays prompted the new rule.

What’s in the rule?
What’s in the rule? A whole lot of work for state transportation agencies. They’ve had to define who does what, when, where, how and why in policy, processes and procedures used to manage work zone safety and mobility. First, the rule asks that states develop a policy that addresses all phases of a project from inception through development and implementation. The rule also asks states to include policy provisions for mobility, the movement of road users efficiently through or around a work zone area with minimal delay.

The rule then asks that states develop processes and procedures that implement and sustain their policy objectives. Key provisions that you’ll find in agency-level processes/procedures include:
  1. General information on how work zones will be assessed and managed.
  2. A means for collecting, processing and using work zone data to manage individual projects, along with a means for trending data from multiple projects for purposes of identifying agency-level improvement opportunities.
  3. Requirements for training all personnel involved in the development, design, implementation, operation and enforcement of work zone traffic management and control.
  4. Information on how states perform process reviews to determine the effectiveness of agency-level procedures. Required at least once every two years, these reviews may include state-level evaluation of work zone data and detailed reviews of randomly selected projects.
Lastly, the rule asks that states develop project-level procedures that minimize adverse impact to work zone safety and mobility during project implementation. In general, project-level procedures relate to plans/strategies to manage work zone impacts, responsible persons to carry out the plan, and pay provisions that ensure resources are available for plan implementation.

Key provisions that you’ll find in project-level procedures include Transportation Management Plans (TMPs). TMPs are project-specific plans defining strategies to manage work zone impacts (safety and mobility). In the previous rule, the focus was on Traffic Control Plans (TCPs), which neglected many components found in TMPs.

Transportation Management Plans
Need-to-know information regarding TMPs includes:
  1. They are required for every project.
  2. They are typically developed in coordination with stakeholders (e.g., transportation agencies, emergency responders, schools, etc.).
  3. Scope, content and detail vary according to project characteristics and the state’s work zone policy.
  4. They may consist of a Temporary Traffic Control (TTC) Plan, or a TTC and many other components. TTC Plans define measures (signs, barriers, other traffic control devices) used for facilitating road users through a work zone or incident area.
  5. Transportation Operations (TO) Plans and Public Information (PI) Plans are two other types of plans that may or may not be chosen as components of the overall TMP.
  • TO Plans define operational strategies (e.g., timing of stop lights) used to reduce impact on the transportation system in the work zone area.
  • PI Plans define communications strategies used to inform road users, the general public, etc., about work zone impacts and changing conditions.
  • TMPs for “significant projects” require all three types of plans (TTC, TO and PI).
    • The state (in cooperation with the FHWA) determines which projects are significant projects on the basis of sustained or intolerable work zone impacts.
    • Projects with continuous or intermittent interstate lane closures within the boundaries of a Transportation Management Area are always significant, unless the state is granted an exception by the FHWA.
    • Plans, Specifications and Estimates (PS&Es) need to include the TMP, or provisions for a contractor to develop a TMP. Contractor-developed TMPs must receive state approval. PS&Es need to include pay provisions for implementation of the TMP.

      The state and the road work contractor are each required to designate a responsible person with the primary responsibility and sufficient authority for implementing the Transportation Management Plan.

      Be ready
      Road crews will be patching up winter road damages under new rules. You need to be ready. Getting ready means developing project-specific TMPs and knowing the specific policies, processes and procedures implemented in state(s) where you work. It also means getting people trained on the specific policies, processes and procedures related to this new work zone safety and mobility rule.