For more than a decade, the Federal Highway Administration’s Every Day Counts (EDC) program has promoted proven but underused innovations that enhance roadway safety, improve project delivery, and reduce traffic congestion. Across the country, agencies attest to the value of adopting these new technologies and processes, along with a cultural change in how they deploy innovation. As the transportation community participates in EDC round six, Innovator is featuring articles that reflect on what the program has accomplished.

Since its inception, the EDC program has helped identify and promote innovations to help improve traffic flow and increase safety. In rounds one through three, these included adaptive signal control technology (ASCT), national traffic incident management (TIM) responder training, and smarter work zones (SWZ). Each successive round of EDC is building a network of connections that creates more opportunities for enhancing the Nation’s transportation system.

Creating a Path Forward for ASCT

Traffic congestion slows the movement of travelers and freight, and as congestion increases, so do traffic-related incidents and air quality impacts. Studies have shown that about half of all delays happen at the same times and places every day, and the rest are due to temporary disruptions of the transportation system such as traffic incidents, work zones, weather, and special events. Traffic signal timing that is not in sync with traffic conditions can contribute to congestion and delays. ASCT adjusts the timing of each signal phase to accommodate changing traffic patterns throughout the day, helping improve traffic flow.

When ASCT first became available, its benefits were apparent but its implementation and maintenance needs for public agencies were not yet clear. In round one of EDC (EDC-1), the focus on ASCT provided additional resources that helped agencies move this relatively new technology into widespread use. EDC’s ASCT team developed a resource guide and offered training through FHWA’s National Highway Institute as well as local workshops for agency staff to gain proficiency with the technology.

Prior to the start of EDC, about 12 agencies were using ASCT. During EDC-1 that number rose to more than 100 agencies, and the number of agencies using ASCT continued to grow after EDC-1 ended. ASCT is now widely deployed in both urban and suburban locations, and even in some rural locations, based on agency needs and resource levels.

“EDC resources helped stakeholders advance from being excited about the technology to being successful” said Eddie Curtis, an FHWA traffic operations engineer and EDC ASCT team leader. “Agencies are now seeing a return on investment,” he said. “The network of people and connectivity built through EDC helped it arrive at this point.”

Spreading TIM Training

When a traffic incident occurs, it can create congestion and unsafe driving conditions that affect both motorists and first responders. In round two of EDC, FHWA partnered with the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) to expand TIM training, offering a new, interdisciplinary approach to traffic incident response.

“Adaptive signal control technology works with both traffic incident management and smarter work zones,” said Curtis. “There is a lot more discussion of integration, more offices working together. These initiatives have helped move us in this direction.”

EDC helped expand this new type of training throughout the country by providing a national forum for telling transportation and public safety professionals and elected officials the story of TIM, including sharing best practices and case studies on how it has been implemented successfully. EDC’s outreach helped the ongoing TIM training evolve from an innovation to a standard business practice for many organizations and for the 500,000 responders who have received the training.

“The EDC marketing and outreach process helped spread TIM training,” said Curtis. “The EDC model created opportunities and momentum for cooperation by bringing police, fire, towers, public works, and DOT traffic signal people together at workshops, which had not happened before.”

Jim Austrich, FHWA TIM program manager and EDC team co-lead, said TIM is now taught routinely as part of the curriculum for traffic operations, police and fire academies, and technical colleges. “EDC helped build connections across State divisions, departments, and groups that raised awareness of the impact of closing lanes,” he said. “Traffic signals experts are now working with winter operations personnel, and they are coordinating with incident managers. TIM has become part of their common language.”

Making Work Zones “Smarter”

Work zones are meant to provide a safe environment for highway workers and travelers alike, but changes in traffic patterns, narrower rights-of-way, and other construction activities are factors that can lead to crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Round three of EDC promoted Smarter Work Zones (SWZ), which focused on two strategies to minimize travel delays and help maintain motorist and worker safety: coordination of construction projects to reduce work zone impacts, and technology applications, such as queue management and speed management systems, to dynamically control traffic in and around work zones.

Because implementing new technology applications and synchronizing work zones involves coordination among different divisions and groups, sometimes across jurisdictional lines, the working relationships set in place by previous EDC rounds helped lay the groundwork for SWZ to succeed.

Building an Innovation Deployment Network

Because many EDC innovations are connected, especially in traffic operations, the processes, approaches, and relationships inherent to the program have provided one of its biggest outcomes—a deployment network that is used beyond a single innovation and has lasting benefits over time.

David Johnson, manager of FHWA’s road weather management and work zone safety management programs, said the connections formed during the EDC process have created future opportunities for progress. “It’s really about the momentum behind EDC,” he said. “If we pull on the thread behind TIM and other EDC innovations, we can uncover more advances based on the momentum they have helped build. This is what the EDC story has been about.”



Contact Eddie Curtis, FHWA Office of Operations, for information on ASCT.

Contact Jim Austrich or Paul Jodoin, FHWA Office of Operations, for information on TIM training, including the latest resources available through EDC-6 Next-Gen TIM.

Contact David Johnson, FHWA Office of Operations, for information on SWZ.