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Innovative and Unique Features of the Regional System Management and Operations



1. By 2030, the MAG regions’ roadways will grow by 35%.

2. How the plan identified priority arterial corridors as regionally significant based on a data-driven assessment using safety, reliability, and vehicle-miles-traveled as criteria.

3. The operations plan focused on performance measures to understand regional benefits.


Over the last 20 years, the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) has placed significant focus on building and investing in Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) infrastructure. The MAG region is expected to grow at a steady pace over the next several years. MAG estimates:

  • By 2030, there will be 24,500 miles of roadway in the region, which is a 35% growth over what is in place in 2018.
  • By 2050, the region’s current population of 4.55 million is expected to grow to 7.7 million.

As the region grows, transportation infrastructure will need to connect growing communities, continue to attract commerce and industry, and link travelers and residents to academic, medical, recreational, and civic facilities throughout the region. With the recent decision by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to limit “expansion” projects and instead focus on preservation and modernization, the region’s ITS and associated Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) strategies will play an important role in managing the existing transportation network in the face of growing demands.

In 2016, MAG initiated the System Management and Operations (SM&O) Plan to factor in current investments and projects and identify several new priorities and project needs. It addressed a critical funding gap by identifying and allocating $80 million in essential funds for agencies to continue to deploy and operate important traffi c operations and management infrastructure.

The MAG SM&O Plan helps guide the region in making strategic investments to:

  • Expand and support essential transportation technology/ITS infrastructure
  • Implement effective strategies toward achieving highly efficient operations and management on the most critical components of the regional transportation system
  • Support investment, deployment, and fl exibility in ITS infrastructure and communication that addresses emerging technologies.

The SM&O Plan is the MAG region’s first comprehensive roadmap for making systematic regional investments specifically aimed at funding and improving the management and operation of traffic on the region’s transportation system as a whole, rather than as separate freeway and arterial systems. The SM&O Plan is built on solid experience that ITS and traffic management staff gained by implementing complex ITS technology and traffic management strategies over the last two decades.


To achieve the MAG SM&O Vision and future concept, agencies identified the need for investments in local and regional infrastructure, systems, and resources to support operations. The MAG SM&O Plan was organized around four categories of priorities for funding consideration through the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP):

1. Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) Corridors – ICM supports improved freeway-arterial coordination, particularly when an incident closes a freeway and diverts traffic to adjacent arterial routes. The ICM priorities include all freeways in the MAG region and the adjacent arterial corridors (and crossing arterials) that provide direct support for the freeway as a detour route.

2. Regional Priority Arterials – These are the key corridors that connect travelers to freeways and destinations that are among the most traveled in the region, and are critical routes for transit and freight. More than 400 road segments were evaluated against a set of prioritization criteria to arrive at the list of regional priority arterials.

3. Local Priority Corridors – Local agencies will continue to be able to submit project requests for funding for ITS projects within their jurisdiction. These projects include a range of ITS improvements, technologies or plans. Funding will be available annually through the MAG Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) programming process.

4. Regional Operations Priorities – These are regional activities and initiatives essential to support operations at the regional level. New priorities funded in the plan include after-hours staffing to support ICM and incident management, a regional fiber maintenance contract, expansion of arterial traffic incident management capabilities, and developing a regional strategy for connected and automated vehicles.


The 2018 SM&O Plan recommends a data-driven methodology for prioritizing key facilities for programming future investments in SM&O infrastructure. Priority arterial corridors were identified as regionally significant based on a data-driven assessment using safety, reliability, and vehicle-miles-traveled as criteria. In addition, other factors included freight routes and high-ridership transit routes.

Corridor segments of approximately four to five miles were evaluated and ranked. MAG will update these rankings over time to identify if there are new priority corridors that have emerged, as well as use the assessment to track trends and identify any positive impacts of SM&O investments. This methodology, along with established ADOT priorities for freeways, will be applied during the TIP programming process for recommending technology investments on key corridors important to the regional economy.


All funds earmarked in the 2003 RTP by MAG for arterial ITS infrastructure have now been fully programmed, with no remaining funding for future years until the next RTP in FY2026. The approval of this plan by the MAG Regional Council, followed by a subsequent amendment of the TIP, will enable needed funds to flow to member agencies to continue to make strategic investments in ITS technology infrastructure and provide support to critical traffic operations. By FY2020, the full coverage of ITS infrastructure on freeways will meet and exceed what was promised in the 2003 RTP, well ahead of schedule.

Nearly $50 million in freeway ITS funds, earmarked in the RTP, have been utilized in the funding proposal for Phase 1 of the SM&O Plan, with complete support for the plan expressed by ADOT. MAG identified an additional $30 million in funding that is applied to the overall Phase 1 SM&O Plan for a total of $80 million.

The SM&O Plan identified several key performance measures, organized around the SM&O investment categories. These metrics focus on regional impact of SM&O investments, and include the following measures:

  • Integrated Corridor Management: Traffic Incident Management, Travel Time Reliability, Corridor Throughput and Safety
  • Regional Priority Arterials: Travel Time Reliability, Corridor Throughput, Safety and Transit Mobility - May also be utilized for relevant Local Priority Corridors
  • Regional Operations Priorities: After-Hours TMC Operations, Freeway Service Patrol, Traveler Information and Alerts MAG will be collaborating with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Valley Metro, and other SM&O Partners to identify, collect, and use both annual data and real-time operational data to support performance reporting on key performance metrics and identify the long-term and real-time impacts of SM&O investments.


MAG is now moving forward with packaging the SM&O Plan for TIP programming for the FY2020 – FY2022 programming cycle. This initial programming cycle provides $50 million in funds for ITS and system operations to advance Integrated Corridor Management, address priority arterial corridors, implement new regional ITS and operations strategies, replace and upgrade outdated existing ITS infrastructure, and provide funds to local agencies to address their ITS priority needs. As a testament to the value of this plan, several near-term recommendations are already in the process of being implemented, and MAG is moving quickly to program the first three years of plan funding.

This SM&O Plan is gaining national recognition for its role in linking the planning process with ITS project development and implementation, and for providing a consensus-based approach to identifying regional ITS and operations priorities. Agencies and travelers in the MAG region will be experiencing the benefits of the SM&O Plan’s strategic approach to mapping out ITS investments and prioritizing traffic operations for years to come.

Operations Area of Practice

    Planning for Operations

Organizational Capability Element

    Program Status/Authorities
    Local government/MPO/RTPA cooperation

Content Type

Case Studies & Lessons Learned

Publishing Organization

Issue Date