Congestion management is the application of strategies to improve transportation system performance and reliability by reducing the adverse impacts of congestion on the movement of people and goods. A Congestion Management Process (CMP) is a systematic and regionally-accepted approach for managing congestion that provides accurate, up-to-date information on transportation system performance and assesses alternative strategies for congestion management that meet state and local needs. The CMP is intended to move these congestion management strategies into the funding and implementation stages.
The Congestion Management System (CMS) was first introduced by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 and continued under the successor law, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). The CMS was intended to augment and support effective decision making as part of the overall metropolitan transportation planning processes.
Whereas previous laws referred to this set of activities as a "congestion management system" (CMS), the most recent surface transportation authorization law, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), refers to a "congestion management process," reflecting that the goal of the law is to utilize a process that is an integral component of metropolitan transportation planning.
While the CMS was often treated as a stand-alone data analysis exercise or report on congestion, the CMP is intended to be an on-going process, fully integrated into the metropolitan transportation planning process. The CMP is a "living" document, continually evolving to address the results of performance measures, concerns of the community, new objectives and goals of the MPO, and up-to-date information on congestion issues.
The Fredericksburg Metropolitan Planning Organization's (FAMPO) CMP is intended to serve as an organized and transparent way for our planning area to identify and manage congestion, connect performance measures to support funding for projects, and evaluate recommended strategies to ensure we are effectively addressing congestion.
Traffic congestion continues to challenge our nation’s transportation system, resulting in billions of gallons of wasted fuel, hours of wasted time, and costs to the economy. The Texas Transportation Institute estimates that traffic congestion costs the nation 2.8 billion gallons in wasted fuel and 4.2 billion hours of wasted time per year. Efforts to address congestion in urban areas are one of the primary demands on transportation funding.
A successful CMP offers many benefits to the regional transportation system. Congestion concerns inevitably tie into community objectives regarding transit use, livability, and land use. When identifying goals and actions to address regional congestion, other planning goals should be considered as well in order to create one unified and efficient approach, thereby helping to ensure that the region’s transportation investments support the desired vision of the community. The CMP is therefore not intended to be a standalone process, but instead an integral part of a larger overall planning process. Some specific benefits of the CMP are noted below.
The Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Management Process Guidebook describes a CMP as an “on-going” process. It is continually progressing and adjusting over time as goals and objectives change, new congestion issues arise, new information sources become available, and new strategies are identified and evaluated.
The foundation of the congestion management process is the identification of the goals and objectives for local congestion management. Locally defined objectives delineate what local leaders want to achieve regarding congestion management, and are essential parts of an objective-driven, performance-based approach to transportation planning.
In order to focus transportation planning efforts, the CMP identifies where congestion occurs and what are its causes. Federal regulation 23 CFR 500.109 defines congestion as "the level at which transportation system performance is unacceptable due to excessive travel times and delays." According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), roadway congestion is comprised of three key elements: severity, extent, and duration. The blending of these elements will determine the overall effect of congestion on roadway users.
Developing performance measures to identify, and assess congestion is a critical element of the congestion management process. Performance measures are objective ways to determine the degree of success a project, program, or initiative has had in achieving its stated goals and objectives. In other words, they are ways to track progress.
The key to effective transportation planning decisions is the use of accurate and viable transportation data. The continuous data collection and system performance monitoring is important to determine congestion level and severity, and to evaluate the effectiveness of implemented mitigation strategies. Data collection for the adopted performance measures will be led by the Fredericksburg MPO working in conjunction with its planning partners. As with all planning efforts, public involvement is critical. The Fredericksburg MPO Congestion Management Process will require the public's participation and input on a regular basis.
The CMP is intended to provide a performance based approach to address persistent congestion problems and prioritize investments. There are many congestion management strategies available, all of which differ in terms of effectiveness, cost, complexity, and difficulty of implementation. Congestion management strategies are not one size fits all. Congested roadways and intersections have to be properly examined to evaluate which congestion mitigation strategy will effectively improve the congestion related problems. The CMP framework identifies numerous congestion mitigation strategies that can individually or collectively improve the operational efficiency of our region’s transportation system.
Implementation of congestion management strategies occurs through inclusion of strategies in the fiscally-constrained CLRP and TIP. Any project, including those identified thru the Congestion Management Process, may be considered for incorporation through the adopted respective document development processes. The CLRP development process currently requires that projects considered for incorporation be evaluated on a variety of criteria including: traffic operations, safety, modal impacts, community development, project cost, project readiness, environmental impacts, and system management. In future the CLRP scoring criteria may include scoring elements that give weight to projects based on CMP data. Projects scoring highest may then be considered for inclusion in the fiscally constrained TIP. After all necessary contractual, procedural, regulatory, environmental (NEPA analysis) and public involvement requirements are fulfilled; the project may then be implemented.
At the corridor level, more specific strategies such as bicycle and pedestrian improvements and operational improvements can be assessed in studies and implemented using a variety of funding sources, including Federal funding streams such as the Surface Transportation Program (STP), National Highway Performance Program (NHPP) funds, and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program, as well as through state or local funding or other discretionary funding sources.
Funding of the congestion management process and the selected management strategies is of paramount importance to the success of the process. The Fredericksburg MPO intends to give careful consideration to identification of federal or nonfederal funding for potential CMP-related programs and projects. Customary project funding identification will occur during the CLRP and TIP development processes, while data collection, project monitoring, and evaluation efforts made by the MPO will be funded thru MPO planning funds.
Evaluation of strategy effectiveness is an essential, required element of the CMP. The primary goal of this action is to ensure that implemented strategies are effective at addressing congestion as intended, and to make changes based on the findings as necessary. Two general approaches are used for this type of analysis: