How Do I Deliver My Traffic Operations Program? By Dean H Gustafson, PE, PTOE State Operations Engineer, Virginia DOT

Every State DOT and locality is trying to improve how they operate their transportation system.  Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSM&O) has several key building blocks: 

•    Transportation Management Center (TMC), 
•    Freeway Service Patrol (FSP)
•    Maintenance of field ITS devices
•    Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS)

How do we assemble and deliver these services to operate?  Do we hire contractors or hire state employees with state equipment?  What will work best for my jurisdiction?  
Each state has a different operating environment.  Virginia is an at-will employment state.  We have flexibility in creating positions (types) to fit our need, but we are limited in numbers of positions assigned to operations.  Traffic Operations is a dynamic business and we cannot operate on fixed numbers of positions.  While our hiring process has improved, it is challenging to remove non-performing employees.  Our agency equipment fleet is driven by dump trucks and pick-up trucks, not freeway service patrols.  We used the same assumptions regarding when to replace vehicles.  
For these reasons, VDOT has continued to use contractors to deliver these services, for our 5 Traffic Operations Centers (TOC’s), 49 Safety Service Patrols (SSP) routes and ITS Maintenance Services (over 3,000 field devices).  We have successfully relied on the private sector to provide our services and we keep evolving our contract requirements to optimize service delivery and cost.  We have about 50 VDOT employees leading 550 contract employees through an $85 million annual program. 

Our big change over the last several years was consolidating these contracts into statewide contracts.  These statewide contracts gave us interoperability and ability to reach economies of scale.  For example, moving SSP trucks between regions is easy and seamless, with the same looking vehicle across Virginia.  We leverage a statewide spare parts inventory rather than 5 regional inventories.  Lastly, we can provide TOC operators the same training across the state.  We continue to focus on improving service delivery to drive agency performance outcomes, shorter incidents, less congestion and improved safety.