Toolbox for Work Zone Barriers


Transportation Management Planning at Caltrans

November 2005


Transportation Management Planning (TMP) has become one of the major topics of the day nationwide thanks to the Federal Highway Administration's new Final Rule which says that all states will have to have their TMP process up and running in 2007. A description of the Caltrans experience might be useful for many and open the process up for both understanding and improvement.

This is an adaptation of PowerPoint presentations authored by Jacqueline Y. Ghezzi, Caltrans Traffic Operations. Much has been left out in this adaptation. Also, note that this document has not been updated since November 2005.


Guiding Principles

Although Caltrans has a long history of successfully handling major events and disruptions, two particular, "signature" events led to the notion of Transportation Management Planning as a distinct activity and shaped the guiding principles for this new activity.

Planning as a guiding principle

The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles was the first coordinated use of virtually all of the tools and planning approaches now called "Transportation Management Planning." There was a media blitz that encouraged commuters to alter their work schedures and asked major firms to provide transportation and telecommuting options. Planning led to a reduction of truck traffic during peak times, rescheduled highway maintenance, creation of bus lanes, restricted parking, 24-hour ramp metering, and increased usage of message signs. Afterwards, Caltrans was praised for "great planning," and, two decades later, planning is one of the two major principles underlying Transportation Management Planning.

Partnership as a guiding principle

The 1989 earthquake in San Francisco underscored the other guiding principle of modern Transportation Management Planning. When the Bay Bridge was closed and the Cypress Freeway collapsed, commuters just disappeared and only returned when the Bay Bridge was reopened. In this case, motorists were largely left to their own resources. This disaster showed that people are resilient and resourceful, and that it only makes sense to develop a partner rather adversarial relationship with motorists.

Context and Goals

Caltrans' mission is to improve mobility and safety across California.

The goal of Traffic Management Planning is to minimize motorist delays for all activities on the State highway system without compromising public or worker safety, or the quality of the work being performed.

The context is congestion, danger, and limited resources.

8 of the 15 most congested cities in America are in California, and, in 2003, there were 109 fatalities in California work zones. About 35% of worker fatalities are directly related to traffic moving through the work zone. Speeding, DUI, improper turns, and passing are the direct cause of 68% of all work zone deaths. Meanwhile, California has dropped to 51st among states and the District of Columbia in per capita spending on highways.

Caltrans First Steps

To perform Transportation Management Planning, Caltrans did the following.

  • Created two new positions in each of its 12 districts: Transportation Management Planning Manager and District Traffic Manager.
  • Developed a Transportation Management Planning guidelines.
  • Created a statewide Transportation Management Planning Training Program for all involved: Traffic Operations, Project Management, Design, Construction, and Maintenance.
  • Established eight, regional Transportation Management Centers that, jointly with California Highway Patrol, actively collect and distribute traffic information for use by Caltrans, CHP, and public and private agencies. Among many other things, this information is used to manage lane closures through the Lane Closure System.

The Final Rule

The FHWA recently published the Final Rule on Work Zone Safety and Mobility. In brief, it mandates Traffic Management Planning in a form based upon the TMP process already in place in California.

The rule will affect all State and local governments that receive Federal-Aid Highway funding and is effective Oct 12, 2007. The purpose of the update is to address the changing times of more traffic, more congestion, greater safety issues, and more work zones.

Key features are:

  • A policy based approach to institutionalize work zone processes and procedures, and
  • Emphasis on both the broader safety and mobility impacts of work zones

How it works:

  • Advance work zone considerations as early as possible in project delivery
  • Adopt policy and procedures to support systematic consideration and management of work zone impacts
  • Develop and implement strategies to manage impacts
  • Monitor and assess work zone performance
  • Use work zone safety and mobility data to improve policy, processes and procedures


Why Transportation Management Plans?

The purpose of Transportation Management Plans (TMPs) is to manage congestion in work zones. A TMP is required for all highway work.

What do things cost?

Transportation Management Planning costs money, big money. Here are some sample costs.

TV commercial, local - - $4000+

Permanent Changeable Message Sign - - $300,000

Portable Changeable Message Sign - - $10,000

Ground-mounted Sign - - $300

Radio Ad - - $800 / minute

Newspaper ad, 1/2 page, color - - $14,000 / day

Billboard - - $3,500 / month

Open House - - $3,000

Extra Enforcement (CHP) - - $1000 / night

Moveable Concrete Barrier (Transport Machine Rental) - - $100,000 / 6 months

Temporary Signal - - $30,000

Consultants to do TMP - - $250,000+

For a $9 million project, TMP costs can be $1 million. On jobs such as a shoulder barrier or rockwall repair, TMP costs can be more than the work itself.

What is a TMP?

A Transportation Management Plan is a document ranging in size from three pages to hundreds of pages kept in a loose-leaf binder. A TMP contains:

  • A description of the work to be performed, including time, place, schedule, and activities.
  • The strategies to be used to manage traffic.

Are all TMPs alike?

There three kinds of TMPs based upon the expected impact on traffic:

  • "Blanket" TMP

No expected delays.

Work done at off-peak hours.

Low volume roads.

Moving lane closures.

  • "Minor" TMP (majority of projects)

Minimal impacts caused by work.

Lane closure charts required.

Some mitigation measures required.

  • "Major" TMP (about 5% of projects)

Significant impacts caused by work.

Multiple traffic management strategies required.

Multiple contracts involved.

What are the basic traffic management strategies?

Public information - - such as awareness campaigns.

Motorist information - - such as changeable message signs.

Incident management - - how accidents are cleared.

Construction strategies -- such as night work.

Demand management - - alternate trip modes.

Alternate routes -- detours.

The meaning, possibilities, alternatives, and advantages of each of these strategies is changing relatively rapidly. Also, even though the overall goal is TMP is to increase "safety, mobility, and reliability", maybe additional strategies should be explicitly added to the above list. Such as Technology, Communication, Contracting, Training.

How are the basic strategies used?

Blanket TMPs typically use Portable Changeable Message Signs, Freeway Service Patrol, Transportation Management Teams.

Minor TMPs typically use Lane Closure Charts, night work, Portable and Fixed Changeable Message Signs, CHP enforcement, Transportation Management Teams, Highway Advisory Radio, Freeway Service Patrol, and Gawk Screens.

Major TMPs use everything above plus public awareness campaigns, extended closures, moveable barriers, detours, reduced lane widths, and helicopters.

How is compliance enforced?

The Highway Patrol handle motorist enforcement through COZEEP (Construction Zone Enhanced Enforcement Program) and MAZEEP (Maintenance Zone Enhanced Enforcement Program).

Freeway Service Patrols monitor delays.

Resident Engineers, Traffic Inspectors, and Contractor Safety Officers modify or shut down zones.

What are the basic assumptions?

Development and implementation of a Transportation Management Plan assumes that:

  • All involved have been trained and certified in the Transportation Management Planning process.
  • All provisions of the MUTCD (the Federal Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devicies) are known and will be complied with.
  • All provisions of the California Supplement to the MUTCD are known and will be complied with.

These assumptions allow a shorthand in the development of a Transportation Management Plan. For example, since specifications for use of traffic cones to mark a work zone are set in the MUTCD and California Supplement, there is no need to repeat these specifications in the TMP.


A Transportation Management Plan is a live document in that it is being constantly modified during the life of a project. Following is a description of the basic process.

1. Concept

Traffic plans may or may not be built into project specifications and be a part of the bid process. If they are built in, money for contingenicies are a part of the bid; otherwise, money is set-aside and contingencies later cause change orders.

In districts where Project Design and Transportation Management Planning are under the same Senior, traffic plans are conceptually developed during the design process, and there may be up to 20 traffic related meetings before a bid. In other districts, traffic plans are conceptually developed later in the process, and the traffic meetings begin after the bidding process. In either case, traffic plans depend upon specifications and specifications depend upon traffic plans and both are subject to unforseen events. Which means that flexibility in the event is mandatory, and there must be some concept of strategy and estimate of cost, including provisions for contingencies, from the beginning.

2. Decision on Kind of TMP

Project programming generates a request for a TMP Data Sheet. The first decision, made by Traffic Planning staff, is the type of TMP that will be required: blanket, minor, or major.

Blanket - - If the type of work is "blanket," then staff prepares a brief TMP, issues permits, and the process ends here.

Minor - - If the type of work is "minor," then a formal TMP team is not created, but communications begin among interested parties using the Lane Closure System, and meetings occur as needed during the work zone event.

Major - - If the type of work is "major", then a formal TMP team is created with representatives from Traffic Operations, Design, Engineering Services, Construction, and the California Highway Patrol. If bidding has already occurred, a Contractor representative is also named; otherwise the Contractor representative joins later.

3. Prepare Data Sheet

A Data Sheet is prepared for all projects. It includes a work description, lists the work areas, and provides available information about traffic patterns and levels.

A Blanket Closure Data Sheet might be a single page and look like this:



Contact Person:










No. of Lanes Affected


Length of Segment


Location Description




Work Description




Initial Date/Time


Ending Date/Time


Expected Duration


Expected delay (min)



Blanket TMP Activites -- Please check the appropriate box(es):


Bridge inspection / repair


Lighting repairs / relamping




Culvert / drainage - cleanout / inspection / repairs


Non-landscaped area tree / brush / vegetation work


Right-of-way Fence repair


Delineator / Postmile marker repairs / replacement


Electrical maintenance


Safety and Accident investigations


Ditch and channel work


Median barrier / attenuator repairs (off traveled way)


Shoulder area grading for lateral support


Driveway construction


Pavement coring / testing


Sign repairs / replacement


Debris / litter removal


Pavement - minor repairs / replacement


Sump pump repairs / cleaning


Facility patrols and surveillance


Pavement - grinding operations (AC digouts)




Graffiti abatement / clean-up on walls / signs /equipment cabinets


Roadside facilities (Rest Area / Vista Points)


Tree maintenance (trimming / pruning)


Landscaping (irrigation / vegetation control - spraying, mowing)


Roadside facilities (Weigh Station / Park and Ride Lot)


Utilities placement / maintenance








Auxiliary lane












Type of Closure






Full Freeway







Additional Information

Did you prepare Lane Closure Charts?





Was Zero Delay goal accomplished? (If not, be sure to specify the expected delay above.)





Are there adjacent Lane Closures in the same corridor?





If Yes, what is the spacing?





Submit to the District Traffic Manager

4. Prepare Initial TMP

An actual TMP may be two or two hundred pages. It outlines usage of traffic management strategies and how contingencies are to be handled.

Since the TMP assumes all partipants in planning and implementation are aware of rules contained in the federal MUTCD and California Supplement, it can use shorthand statements and assume, for example, that only approved lane delineation devices will be used in only an approved manner.

For example, a minor TMP might contain statements such as:

  • A press release one week prior to closure.
  • Website posting one week prior to closure.
  • Changeable Message Signs on-site one week prior to closure with messages to read: "...."
  • On closure days, Changeable Message Signs starting one mile before closure and at intervals of xx to read: "....".
  • On closure, Highway Advisory Radio messages stating "....".
  • Lane closures allowed at (these) times on (these) days.
  • During lane closures, at least one lane shall be always open for traffic.
  • Full closures allowed at (these) times on (these) days.

5. Inclusion in Programming Document - Funding

The Transportation Management Plan for a project becomes part of the Programming Document for the project. Since a TMP can easily cost several million dollars on a major project, it is a major element either in a bid or in negotions after a bid.

6. Refine - Implement - Modify / Lather - Rinse - Repeat

Review and modification of construction alternatives and traffic plans occur before and during the course of minor and major projects, often on a daily basis. Usually the two interact, as when unexpected traffic volumes make night work necessary or weather changes cure times or any of many other situational variables change.

It is at this stage that cooperation among all involved becomes important, and safety and cost considerations get hammered out in daily actions. Some daily realities are understood, but not formally voiced, as when a Field Engineer can save a Contractor many thousands of dollars on a particular day by extending a closure an hour or so. Others considerations are formal, as when a Contractor proposes saving months on a job by changing the TMP to allow weekend full closures.

Monitoring a project is particularly important, for many reasons - - traffic data is often stale, closures may be sloppy or non-conforming, and enforcement strategies may need to be modified for unanticipated events.

7. End of Project

Important elements of any project are the TMP post-closure evaluation statement and negotiation of change orders and/or performance incentives/disincentives. And the two are related.

Often the Evaluation Statements exceed the TMP in length and scope, because in any process this complex, the ability to learn over time and adapt to situational variables is crucial to improving the process.

TMP Stakeholders

Following is a list of the direct stakeholders in the TMP process.a

Caltrans - Traffic

District TMP Manager

District level policy and planning. Develops TMP during design phase and modifies TMP during life of project. Interacts with everybody.

District Traffic Manager

Daily operations. Modifies TMP on daily basis and makes decisions based on events and design changes.

Area Traffic Management Center

Monitors traffic in real-time. Coordinates incident response: CHP, medical providers, Freeway Services Patrol. Provides information to media and public. Maintains traffic information web site.

Local Freeway Service Patrols

Clears incidents. Works closely with CHP and guided by Traffic Management Center.

Traffic Operations

Statewide policy and operations. Sets policy. Performs training. Operates Lane Closure System.

Caltrans - Construction

Design Engineer

Project design -- concept to biddable specifications. Estimates TMP costs. May or may not specify TMP strategies.

Project Engineer

Handles design issues on daily basis for a project. May be same person as the Design Engineer.

Contracts Officer

Develop and administer bidding process. Includes TMP in bid as incentives and disincentives.

Area Construction Engineer

Manages construction for an area.

Resident Engineer

Project Manager at site / project level. Makes TMP changes based upon events. The Resident Engineer keeps the District Traffic Management Center well informed and up to date on the construction progress, delays, closures, and other information which may assist them in the performance of their duties. The Resident Engineer coordinates the use of Changeable Message Signs through the District Traffic Management Center. The Resident Engineer provides guidance to CHP officers performing COOZEEP support.

Assistant Resident Engineer

Project Administration at site / project level. Monitors TMP compliance. Interfaces with CHP.

Structures Engineer

Manages bridge portion of projects. Makes TMP changes based upon events.

Construction Traffic Manager

District level, not project level. Interfaces among Traffic Operations, the District Traffic Manager, and Construction.

Caltrans - Maintenance

District Maintenance Superintendant

District level management of maintenance operations. Assigns work to crews.

Yard Manager

Local level management of crews. Arranges for blanket level TMPs.

Supervisor or Lead Worker

Manages individual crews. Maintenance work is performed by specialized crews, such as crews for striping, sealing, guard rails, and signs.


Contractor Safety Manager

Area level supervision of safety and traffic practices.

Contractor Traffic Manager

Project level management of safety and traffic practices. May handle several concurrent projects, so not all projects have an assigned Traffic Manager on site at all times. Works with District Traffic Manager for TMP change orders.

Contractor Project Manager

Project level manager of all aspects of a project, including Traffic Management. May handle several concurrent projects. May also work with District Traffic Manager for TMP change orders.

Contractor Project Supervisor or Lead Hand

Project level manager of work crews.

In general, the following describes Contractor responsibilities:

  • The Contractor submits a schedule to the Project Engineer showing how he will complete the work.
  • The Project Engineer has 7 days to review and accept or reject the schedule.
  • The Contractor conducts his operations so that public traffic has reasonable access to all business and private driveways at all times.
  • The Contractor conducts his operations so that pedestrian traffic has reasonable access to all businesses at all times.
  • The Contractor submits a schedule to the Project Engineer at least 15 days prior to the performance of work requiring construction zone enhanced enforcement (COZEEP).
  • The Contractor bears the costs and expenses for additional CHP support.
  • The Project Engineer makes all arrangements with the CHP for scheduled and requested additional construction zone enhanced enforcement.
  • The Contractor places a portable changeable message sign preceding the on ramp to be closed and another portable changeable message sign up line from the off ramp at the interchange before the ramp closure. Messages displayed on portable changeable message signs are approved by the Project Engineer.


The CHP is organized by Divisions and Areas. A Division roughly equivalent to a Caltrans District.

Transportation Planning Liaison

Works with Caltrans to set and monitor statewide policies for COZEEP and MAZEEP.

Special Project Officer

Attends TMP meetings for an Area.

Field Operations Lieutenant

Supervises Officers for an area.


Shift Sergeant for officers on project. Resident Engineers report problems to the Sergeant.


Office assigned to a project on an overtime shift basis in COZEEP or MAZEEP program. Receives shift instructions from Resident Engineer or Assistant Resident Engineer. Responsible enforcement of motorists in work zone area.

Caltrans Public Communications

Public Communications Officer

Sets and supervises statewide policies and practices for public communications.

Transportation and System Information Group

Creates and manages Lane Closure System and website communications.

District Communications Officer

Plans and implements public communications program specified in TMP. Meets with TMP planning team.


We currently see Transportation Management Planning in the following general context.

  • Caltrans is way ahead of other states in implementing Transportation Management Planning concepts and practices. This is a huge achievement.
  • Caltrans Transportation Management Planning seems to be working well (these pages are a reality check), although things can always be made better. This is also a huge achievement. However, since basic processes seem to be working well, it is now also possible to think of what can be as well as what is.
  • The TMP process is becoming more important as Traffic Management can range from a minimum of 10% to over half of project costs.
  • The Transportation Management Planning process has, perhaps unexpectedly, become a powerful formal and informal nexus point for internal operations as a crossroads for construction, maintenance, operations, design, incident management, and equipment groups. It is also a formal nexus point for external operations, principally involving contractors and the highway patrol, but also involving communities and media groups. Important communication is occuring and important decisions are being made well below the upper management level.
  • Most highway work is done by contractors. Dollars spent on maintenance work performed in-house by Caltrans are now about 1/6 of construction dollars (defining "construction" as anything that is contracted out.)
  • In-house work is routine and done by specialty crews that are small, geographically isolated by yards, and way over-committed. They typically operate under blanket level TMPs and may be relatively immune to the TMP process.
  • By contrast, contractors are highly sensitive to the pushes and shoves that can be delivered through TMPs, both at the point of bidding (in responding to TMP concerns) and in daily operations (as, say, when a Resident Engineer can save a contractor many tens of thousands of dollars on a slow traffic night by allowing them to open early or close late.)

Issues: Development Process

  • An early decision is made as to whether the type of Transportation Plan needed is blanket, minor, or major. In your opinion, are the classification decisions generally correct? Should there be other categories of TMPs?
  • Transportation Management Plans are primarily developed either during or after the design process, depending upon the district. Both process work, but each has their pros and cons. Which process do you favor and why? Do all stakeholders get the opportunity to be involved in creating a TMP?
  • At present, plans go to the Construction Office, not the person responsible for the work, so Resident Engineers only think about a job once it starts. Is this a problem?
  • Contractors cannot see a full TMP because it contains financial information about contingencies. And, depending upon the district, the TMP may or may not have been prepared at the time of bidding. But, since contractors actually do the work, are they consulted early and often in the TMP process?
  • In general and in your opinion, what areas of the Transportation Management Planning process need to be improved?

Issues: Enforcement

  • Does real or perceived intimidation influences communication between Officers and Resident Engineers?
  • Do imprecise instructions from Resident Engineers adversely affects enforcement? For example, the instruction to "handle traffic."
  • Are on-site communications adequate? For example, Resident Engineers tend to use Caltrans radios, Contractor Traffic Managers tend to use cell phones, and Officers use CHP radios.
  • In a moving train, does placing the Officer behind the Attenuator Vehicle unduly endanger the Officer?
  • Should there be joint training sessions for Officers and Resident Engineers related to enforcement?
  • Has the time come for automated surveillance and enforcement?

Issues: Public Communications

"If you drive I-80, you might want to consider an alternate route or telecommute this morning."

For a freeway replacement project in District 4 involving a full-freeway closure and an extensive public information campaign, here's what the public noticed for a list of public information strategies.

Newspaper - - 78%

TV News - - 63%

Freeway Signs - - 50%

Radio Traffic Reports - - 42%

Radio News Reports - - 40%

Word of Mouth - - 37%

Fold-out Brochures - - 32%

Newspaper Ads - - 15%

Newsletters - - 11%

Billboards - - 10%

One-Page Flyers - - 7%

Banners - - 6%

"Man in the Street" - - 5%

Other - - 4%

Public Meetings - - 2%

Maybe you can think of other strategies.

If only, say, 5% of motorists slowed down in a work zone, others would have to match their pace and things might be profoundly different: smoother flow and greater safety.

  • How can present strategies be made more effective?
  • Should Caltrans employees be visiting local classrooms?
  • Should DMV Driver Training Manuals include more information on Work Zones?
  • Should Caltrans hand out bumper stickers at parades?
  • Should Caltrans use low-power, wide-band broadcasts in work zones so that all cars hear warnings while passing through?
  • What other public information strategies should be used?

Issues: In The Event

Many things can happen "in the event."

Perhaps the traffic data was stale, so traffic volumes are higher or lower than expected on a particular night. Perhaps the time for a concrete cure is greater than expected. Perhaps a queue suddenly lengthens due to an event or just the ebb and flow of unexpected traffic. Perhaps a contractor can save significant time with a full weekend closure rather than daily single lane captures.

In any case, traffic plans depend upon specifications and specifications depend upon traffic plans and both are subject to unforseen events. Which means that flexibility in the event is mandatory, and there must be some concept of strategy and estimate of cost, including provisions for contingencies, from the beginning.

The issue of whether contractors have adequate input during the TMP development process is covered elsewhere: Here are issues that involve daily work in a zone.

  • What kind of challenges are encountered during the implementation of the TMP?
  • Should every Work Zone have an on-site, trained Contractor Safety Officer?

Issues: Training

  • Should there be joint training sessions for Resident Engineers and California Highway Patrol Officers?
  • Is the training for Contractor Safety Officers adequate? Should there be a certification program?

Issue: Contracting

Following is a basic list of contracting strategies.

  • A+B Contracting - - cost plus performance contracts with delay penalties and performance incentives is perhaps the most important single strategy as it directly brings contractor and agency interests into alignment. Other significant innovations now being tried in other states include A+B+C Contracting (design - bid - build) and Value Contracting (bid awarded on basis of value and history rather than just cost.)
  • TMP before bid - - although work zone changes are inevitable in the event, specifying expectations and groundrules before a bid assigns costs reponsibilities and reduces often highly adversarial change order negotiations.
  • Extended and full closures - - one estimate is that a weekend full-closure is worth six weeks of partial, rolling closures.
  • Narrow lane widths or use of shoulders for peak period work.
  • Moveable barriers - - quick set positive separation alternatives also now exist (see the Issues page following.)
  • Contraflow - - "crossovers"
  • Contingency plans - - redundancy

Incidentally, about 60% of highway maintenance and construction work in California is now performed at night.







The purpose of this site is to help plan Work Zones.

The basic idea is to present basic information about barriers and attentuators in a format that will allow quick comparisons in support of Work Zone planning. The primary sources of the information presented here are NCHRP 350 approval letters. The next steps in developing these pages are to improve the information presented and to review the presentation format. This will require practitioner input.

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