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T&D > Programs Areas > Engineering > Traffic Surveillance Program Areas

Traffic Surveillance

Author: Greg Napper


The Traffic Surveillance Guide is intended as a reference for Forest Transportation Planners and Land Managers in the application of Traffic Surveillance strategies as they pertain to the National Forest System Roads (NFSR) and Forest Highways. One of the objectives of the guide is to identify for the reader where traffic surveillance is required on roads managed by the forest service and why it is needed (see "Forest Service Responsibilities"). Another objective is to provide quick and easy access to transportation data, terminology, definitions and resources that can help those who would like to start a surveillance program on a ranger district, forest or at a regional level. The primary goal of the guide however, is to facilitate a focused response when there is a need for traffic data, and help those individuals identify appropriate levels of traffic analysis as it relates to forest service management activities (see "Understanding Transportation Modeling…" Niemeier D.A.). And finally, the guide gives the reader a basic introduction to Traffic Detector Devices, and Traffic Analysis Tools. These sections offer an assessment of their appropriate application.

While there are many national forest management activities that can and do use traffic data , most of these activities and program areas do not depend on this data to support program funding. State and local highway agencies on the other hand need travel data for the apportionment of Federal-aide highway funds under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21 st Century (TEA 2-21), and more recently (SAFETEA-LU 2005). Because the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has the responsibility to assure that adequate highway information is available to support its functions and responsibilities (including apportionment, and safety) the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and FHWA have published guidelines for the design and implementation of traffic surveillance programs in order to establish national consistency (Traffic Monitoring Guide, TMG 2001 and Highway Performance Monitoring System, HPMS 2000). These guidelines specifically address the traffic characteristics of state highways, the federal reporting requirements of the states, and contain terminology; analytical procedures and precisions for data collection developed from a long tradition of traffic monitoring and well established legacy programs.

The Forest service has a legacy of traffic monitoring from the 1960's (see "Background" this document). The Forest Service has unique traffic counting needs, priorities, budgets and organizational constraints. The Forest Service manages a wide range of road functional classifications, accommodates all vehicle types and deploys an array of access management strategies. Despite these unique characteristics however, forest roads are not detached from other roads systems. In fact we strive to create a seamless transportation network with states and local agencies (USDA Forest Service 2001), and we collect the same basic types of data as our neighboring transportation agencies. Because of this there is an obvious benefit to all agencies including the Forest Service, to using similar basic data collection frameworks. Therefore the TMG and HPMS should form the basis upon which National Forest traffic surveillance programs are designed and implemented.

This Traffic Surveillance Guide is an attempt to relate unique transportation system characteristics and management requirements of the Forest Service to the guidance for data collection and traffic analysis used by other agencies.

Beyond the Forest Service institutional requirements, Traffic Surveillance Data can be used for many other purposes as described here:

Traffic surveillance is a basic strategy for monitoring the extent to which the National Forest transportation system is being utilized. The data obtained from a well-designed traffic surveillance program can provide road and resource managers with the scientifically sound information needed to develop proactive management strategies. Traffic surveillance data can be used to identify, estimate or predict such things as patterns and trends of use, travel safety issues, road surface wear, future transportation system needs, cooperative shares of road maintenance responsibility, etc. Additionally, it can provide a basis for estimating the extent to which other Forest resources are being utilized (e.g. dispersed recreation opportunities), or impacted (e.g. Wildlife). (Alvarez, unpublished paper).

Project Proposal

The following conventions are used throughout the document:

Words in Italics – Instructional comments to the reader

In the text, references are found in (parenthesis)

Disclaimer Notice

This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the Department of Transportation, Federal Lands Highway Division and the U.S. Forest Service in the interest of information exchange. The United States Government assumes no liability for its contents or use thereof.

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