About the research
Adverse weather reduces the capacities and operating speeds on roadways, resulting in congestion and productivity loss. A thorough understanding of the mobility impacts of weather on traffic patterns is necessary to estimate speed and capacity reductions. Nearly all traffic engineering guidance and methods used to estimate highway capacity assume clear weather. However, for many northern states, inclement weather conditions occur during a significant portion of the year.
The technical report describes how the authors quantified the impact of rain, snow, and pavement surface conditions on freeway traffic flow for the metro freeway region around the Twin Cities. The research database includes four years of traffic data from in-pavement system detectors, weather data over the same period from 3 automated surface observing systems (ASOS), and two years of available weather data from 5 road weather information systems (RWIS) sensors at the freeway?s roadside. Our research classifies weather events by their intensities and identifies how changes in weather type and intensities impact the speed, headways, and capacity of roadways.
Results indicate that severe rain, snow, and low visibility cause the most significant reductions in capacities and operating speeds. Rain (more than 0.25 inch/hour), snow (more than 0.5 inch/hour), and low visibility (less than 0.25 mile) showed capacity reductions of 10%-17%,19%-27%, and 12 % and speed reductions of 4%-7%, 11%-15%, and 10%-12%, respectively. Speed reductions due to heavy rain and snow were found to be significantly lower than those specified by the Highway Capacity Manual 2000.
The general report describes the impacts of inclement weather identified through the literature and through prior research conducted by the Center for Transportation Research and Education (CTRE).
The findings of recently completed research conducted to quantify the impact of weather on traffic flow are specifically highlighted. The most important conclusion of this research is that weather matters–weather conditions have an important impact on traffic safety, traffic demand, and traffic flow. Much more research is needed to measure, understand, and develop management strategies to mitigate inclement weather impacts.