The Iowa Model: Developing a Multi-Service Layered TSMO Program Plan

Iowa Department of Transportation


  1. Iowa DOT has also created an internal TSMO Steering Committee to oversee and guide the TSMO program.
  2. Iowa DOT developed a short video to introduce and explain TSMO both internally and to the broader public.
  3. News coverage of Highway Helper program has helped public understand the role of operations.


The Iowa Department of Transportation leveraged SHRP2 funding to initiate and develop a TSMO Strategic Plan and a TSMO Program Plan to help the organization shift its culture to be more operationally-focused. The plans were finalized and made available in February 2016. Iowa’s TSMO plans were developed with input from a broad range of internal and external stakeholders to establish the business case for TSMO in Iowa. As being one of the first TSMO Plans to be completed in the county, the work has been recognized at the national level and often referred to as “The Iowa Model”.

The following figure identifies the three-tiered approach Iowa initiated for the TSMO Program.

Eight Service Layer Plans were identified as key TSMO functional areas, critical to advancing Iowa DOT’s mission:

  • ITS and Communications
  • Traffic Incident Management (TIM)
  • Work Zone Management
  • Traveler Information
  • Emergency Management
  • Advanced Transportation Demand Management
  • Cooperative Autonomous Transportation
  • Traffic Management Center (TMC)
  • Iowa’s Initiatives

Through the development of the service layer plans there have been initiatives that have allowed Iowa the opportunity to share and educate others outside the agency on the benefits of TSMO and to enhance and grow our relationships around the safe mobility of our transportation system.

Iowa has participated in many peer exchanges, summits and interviews with FHWA, NOCoE, and other states to discuss how Iowa chose the approach taken with the TSMO program, including successes and challenges.

From a Traffic Incident Management perspective, the Iowa DOT created a Statewide TIM committee that includes representatives from Iowa State Patrol, local law enforcement, fire and other emergency response representatives, city and county representatives, Iowa Motor Truck Association, private towing companies, Homeland Security, and FHWA. This committee is in the process of being established as a non-profit group to expand its role in serving the TIM community throughout the state.

Iowa DOT has also created an internal TSMO Steering Committee to oversee and guide the TSMO program. As part of this group, subcommittees have been formed to also help progress the program. One of these subcommittees is a Training and Communications committee. This group developed a four-tier training plan for training all DOT employees from a new employee training video to specialized in depth focused training. Some of the training materials also will be able to be used for training external partners.

From an operations perspective, Iowa DOT has been fortunate to be able to share their TSMO program with many different groups to highlight the advancements that have been made within the state:

  • Iowa Legislature to reinforce all aspects of the operations program to provide a better understanding of the work underway.
  • Iowa Motor Truck Association
  • Iowa Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies
  • Des Moines MPO Smart City Roundtable
  • ITS Heartland

Iowa DOT TSMO “Jam” Video

In 2016, as part of the rollout of the TSMO Strategic Plan and Program Plan, Iowa DOT developed a short video to introduce and explain TSMO. Known as the “Jam” video. The short two-minute video gives an overview of TSMO and why Iowa DOT is focusing on improving operations. The video highlights different strategies that Iowa DOT uses to help keep traffic moving and keep freeways “jam free”. The video describes how different tools in the TSMO toolbox work together, including 511 and social media for traveler information, the Highway Helper program, incident responders, overhead dynamic message signs and other strategies. There is a link to the video available from Iowa DOT’s TSMO Web Site (, and the video can be directly accessed on YouTube (

Welcome to the Iowa DOT Traffic Management Center Video

In spring 2018, Iowa DOT developed a video that highlights the critical 24/7 role the Statewide TMC provides. The video is narrated by the Iowa DOT TMC manager, and shows how the TMC monitors and manages the state’s transportation network using various tools and systems, such as cameras, dynamic message signs, work zone technologies, weather/environmental sensors, and central operating systems 24/7. This ten-minute video explains how the TMC detects incidents, supports response to traffic incidents, how the TMC responds weather and weather emergencies, and the tools that the TMC uses to notify and alert travelers of any issues impacting traffic. The video can be accessed here:

Media Coverage of Iowa DOT Highway Helper Program

In addition to the videos developed and produced by Iowa DOT, the Operations group has been able to benefit from the extensive news coverage and feature stories aired by local network channels, notably the CBS and NBC affiliates. One of the most successful and visible operations services provided by Iowa DOT is the Highway Helper program. Over the last several years, as the Iowa DOT has implemented and expanded the Highway Helper program, local news media have aired feature stories that highlight the role and benefit of its services. This media coverage has helped the public to better understand the important service provided by Iowa DOT, as well as how to request Highway Helper support if stranded or in an incident on Iowa roads.

Outcomes, Benefits and Learnings

Iowa DOT and our partners have learned a tremendous amount from the process of developing and implementing a TSMO Program. The Iowa Model has allowed the state to keep focused on the critical aspects of our program while staying aligned with the overall goals and objectives of the agency. Resources have been identified across the agency to allow the program to mature rapidly and keep the goal of operations at the forefront of Iowa DOT.

Since Iowa produced one of the first TSMO Plans and by its nature is very flexible, it has allowed us to share our experiences with other states and partners which has also provided I the opportunity to learn from others and incorporate different strategies into our plan.

Iowa realizes benefits every day on its transportation system from the operational integration of TSMO concepts across multiple agencies (e.g., first responders, law enforcement, towing community, etc.). This integration and coordination provides for quicker roadway clearance and safer operations of all transportation system users.

Organizational Capability Element

  • Leadership/Championship
  • Outreach & Marketing
  • Education, Training & Professional Activities
  • Staff Development

Content Type

  • Case Studies & Lessons Learned

Publishing Organization

  • NOCoE

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Issue Date
July 10th, 2019
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