Road Work Ahead: Using Deep Neural Networks to Estimate the Impacts of Work Zones

posted on Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Roadside construction – be it a detour, a closed lane, or a slow weave past workers and equipment – work zones impact traffic flow and travel times on a system-wide level. The ability to predict exactly what those impacts will be, and plan for them, would be a major help to both transportation agencies and road users. Funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, the latest Small Starts project led by Abbas Rashidi of the University of Utah introduces a robust, deep neural network model for analyzing the automobile traffic impacts of construction zones.

The top three causes of non-recurring traffic delays are crashes, work zones, and adverse weather conditions, with work zones accounting for 10% of all non-recurring delays. Precise work zone impact prediction could significantly alleviate fuel consumption and air pollution.

"Machine learning and deep learning are powerful tools to build different types of data and predict future situations. Using AI for analyzing data is the future of transportation engineering in general," Rashidi said.

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) collects various types of data related to work zone operations. Working with these data, Rashidi and graduate research assistant Ali Hassandokht...

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Cynthia Roe is a civil engineering student at the Oregon Institute of Technology. Originally from Weed, California, Cynthia has been attending Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls since 2017 and is on track to graduate in 2022 with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering. Cynthia is an extremely dedicated student who, in addition to her work with the ITE Student Chapter, served as the 2019-20 president of the American Society of Civil Engineers-Associated General Contractors Student Chapter and serves as a peer consultant in the Oregon Tech Student Success Center. She is the recipient of the 2019-2020 Oregon ITE Undergraduate Scholarship.

Connect with Cynthia on LinkedIn

Tell us about yourself?

Growing up in rural Northern California taught me the value of hard work and adaptability which has gotten me where I am today. I am currently a Graduate student at Oregon Tech with a passion for geotechnical and transportation engineering. I believe making connections with people and in different fields is what makes civil engineering work fulfilling...

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A November 2020 article in Transportation Research Record addresses questions on parking supply and demand at transit-oriented developments (TODs) through comparative case studies of seven TODs in the U.S.A. 

"Comparative Case Studies of Parking Reduction at Transit-Oriented Developments in the U.S.A." was authored by Reid Ewing, Keuntae Kim and Sadegh Sabouri of the University of Utah, with Fariba Siddiq of UCLA and Rachel Weinberger of Weinberger & Associates.

As far as the authors can determine, this is one of the first studies to estimate peak parking generation rates for TODs. Developments are often characterized in relation to “D” variables—development density, land use diversity, urban design, destination accessibility and distance to transit. The seven TODs studied in this project are exemplary when it comes to the Ds.

At the overall peak hour, just 51.2%–84.0% of parking spaces are filled. Because of limited use of shared parking, even these exemplary developments do not achieve their full potential. At the overall peak hour, parked cars would fill just 19.5%–69.4% of parking spaces if the developments were built to Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) standards.

With one exception, peak parking demand is less than 60% of the parking...

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The National Institute for Transportation & Communities (NITC) research consortium, led by Portland State University, has awarded $485,456 in total funding for seven new research projects spanning five universities. With the extension of the FAST Act, NITC received one additional year of funding, and given this limited time frame, we emphasized projects that were relatively short in length, relied on existing expertise, and would yield specific outputs and outcomes. Several of the projects have an equity focus, and much of the research aims to make it easier to get around multimodally and/or by walking. The seven new projects are:

Led by Danya Rumore of the University of Utah and Philip Stoker of the University of Arizona
  • Rumore and Stoker focus on the unique transportation challenges of 'gateway' communities, or small towns adjacent to natural areas that attract large populations. Their previous...
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We're proud to announce that Dr. Sirisha Kothuri, Senior Research Associate at Portland State University, has been awarded the 2021 Research Professional of the Year award by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP). The APBP Professional of the Year Awards recognize the achievements of pedestrian and bicycle professionals made in the last twelve months in the private, public, research, and nonprofit sectors.

Dr. Kothuri’s contributions to advance the state of practice in bicycle and pedestrian safety research are outstanding. She has worked to inspire the next generation in our field and advance the professional knowledge of others through research around multimodal traffic operations, bicycle and pedestrian counting, and safety, with an emphasis in innovation in non-motorized transport.

Watch her accept the reward:

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"Transformative Transportation Survey Methods: Enhancing Household Transportation Survey Methods for Hard-To-Reach Populations," is a new article published in the September 2021 issue of Transportation Research Part D. It was co-authored by Amy Lubitow, a sociology faculty member at Portland State University, Erika Carpenter, a sociology graduate student, and Julius McGee, a faculty member in urban studies and planning.

The study explores the challenges that hard-to-reach populations face in completing household activity surveys. Researchers drew on qualitative data from hard-to-reach populations regarding the limits of the Oregon Household Activity Survey and found evidence that the survey methods lack social, cultural, and linguistic applicability for Black, Indigenous and other people of color, as well as low-income populations. The authors argue that Oregon’s household travel survey prioritizes certain ways of understanding and experiencing mobility that are, by default, exclusionary. The article concludes in sharing insights regarding how transportation professionals might ...

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Polycentric development is being promoted to lessen problems of urban sprawl and reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT). A new article published in the August 2021 issue of Applied Geography examines the difference between "morphological" and "functional" polycentricity in the Wasatch Front Region.

"Trip generation, trip chains and polycentric development in metropolitan USA: A Case Study of the Wasatch Front Region, Utah" asserts that walking friendly built environments are a critical concern in generating trip chains within urban centers, and public transit is an essential mode to connect centers. 

Authored by Yehua Dennis Wei, Weiye Xiao and Yangyi Wu of the University of Utah Department of Geography, the paper draws on findings from the NITC project "Reducing VMT, Encouraging Walk Trips, and Facilitating Efficient Trip Chains through Polycentric Development."

The authors argue that moderately compact urban design helps trip generation more than extremely compact urban design. The study examines polycentric development in the Wasatch Front Region, Utah, from a morphological perspective using employment data and a functional perspective by analyzing trip chain behavior. Regarding trip chains, the researchers find that although the automobile is the dominant travel...

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We're proud to announce the publication of a new NITC dissertation: "Modeling Capacity: Multiple Weaving Areas," by Sheida Khademi of the University of Texas at Arlington.

"Traffic congestion on freeway systems is one significant concern in urban areas throughout the U.S.A. In this era, building new freeways to reduce congestion is less feasible due to the high capital and social costs. Thus, the effective management and operation of existing freeway facilities has become a preferred approach to reduce traffic congestion. Using the outcomes of this research, agencies can get an idea of which effective variable they should control to manage freeways' multiple weaving areas more efficiently; obtaining the highest capacity while planning for existing freeways. The results will be presented to DOTs and MPOs. The model would be highly useful and money-saving for these agencies, as they prefer to obtain higher capacity by managing existing freeways rather than buying right of ways," Khademi said. 

Systematic, well-designed research provides the most effective approach to the solution of many problems facing highway administrators and engineers. Traffic congestion on freeway systems is one significant concern in urban areas throughout the U.S.A. In this era, building new freeways to...

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Ash Avila, a 2022 TRB Minority Student Fellow, will be a junior this fall in the Sustainable Built Environment undergraduate program at the University of Arizona. She is working with NITC researchers Ladd KeithNicole Iroz-Elardo and Kristina Currans looking at the intersection of transportation and heat as it relates to climate adaptation planning for active travelers. This summer, Ash is working on analyses related to exploring transportation infrastructure and environmental influences of thermal comfort and evaluating some potential mitigations.

Connect with Ash on LinkedIn

Tell us about yourself?

I’m a third year student at the University of Arizona majoring in Sustainable Built Environments with a minor in Spanish. I grew up in a small Southern Arizona border town which led to my interest in urban design, especially in communities with majority Latino populations. In my free time, I work in a small community garden and love to crochet.

What (or who) has influenced your...

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How can we use a variety of data-driven speed management strategies to make transportation safer and more efficient for all modes–whether you’re driving, walking or taking transit?

The project was led by Yao Jan Wu, director of the Smart Transportation Lab at the University of Arizona. Co-investigators were Xianfeng Terry Yang of the University of Utah, who researches traffic operations and modeling along with connected automated vehicles, and Sirisha Kothuri of Portland State University, whose research has focused on improving signal timing to better serve pedestrians. Join them on Sept 15, 2021 for a free webinar to learn more.

"We want to improve mobility for all users, be it pedestrians, vehicle drivers or transit riders, and there are different strategies to do this. How do we harness data to drive us to these strategies?" Kothuri said.

Funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), this multi-university collaboration addressed the question from three angles:

  • Wu and his students in Arizona looked at the impact of speed management strategies on conventional roadways...
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The latest report funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities – Transit Impacts on Jobs, People and Real Estate, from the University of Arizona – represents the culmination of nearly a decade of research into the economic effects of transit. To unpack the dense and substantial findings from 17 LRT, 14 BRT, 9 SCT, and 12 CRT systems in 35 metro areas across the United States, we've been telling the story in chapters. Previously we have explored how transit affects real estate rents, the locations of jobs and where people live.

Now we'll dive into the final chapter: Volume 5: Improving Transit...

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