An investigation of operational performance on two-lane highways

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Engineering


A high percentage of the US road networks are two-lane highways. The Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) is the standard reference used in the US for traffic analysis of such highways (HCM 2016). This manual uses a qualitative measure called 'Level of Service (LOS)' to show the quality of traffic flow on the highway network. Performance measures are used as indicators of the LOS in the HCM. The current manual uses Average Travel Speed (ATS), Percent Time Spent Following (PTSF), and Percent Free Flow Speed (PFFS) for measuring LOS on two-lane highways. However, several studies reported that the HCM methodology falls short in several aspects including the performance measure used for operational analysis on two-lane highways. Moreover, the current guidelines of the HCM regarding passing lanes are very limited and based on studies conducted more than three decades ago (Harwood and St. John 1985, 1986). Constructing a passing lane is expensive and there is a need to use accurate methods for the design of such facilities. Therefore, the goal of this study is to examine new performance measures for operational analyses of two-lane highways as well as developing new guidelines for the design of passing lanes. Multiple investigations were conducted using field data from four states in the US as well as microscopic traffic simulation software, SwashSim. Using field data and statistical analysis as well as the results of a survey, the most appropriate performance measures were selected. Additionally, traffic simulation software was used to investigate the operational improvement of passing lanes. Optimum length and effective length of passing lanes were investigated. Optimum length has been used to refer to the length that would bring most operational benefits given the amount of passing lane investments while effective length is defined as the length of two-lane highway over which the effect of a passing lane extends. Moreover, the operational efficiency of different passing lane design configurations were examined to identify the most appropriate length and spacing to be used in the planning and design of passing lanes. In addition, the operational performance of 2+1 roads was investigated in this study and some guidelines for design of these facilities are provided. 2+ 1 highways have one lane in each direction of travel and the middle lane alternates between the two directions.




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