UW WSU WSDOT




Current Projects

WSDOT/UW Intern Program, TMC

The WSDOT’s Northwest Region operates a Traffic Management Center (TMC) in its regional headquarters in north Seattle. This center manages the freeway systems in the central Puget Sound by controlling ramp meters, identifying incidents with closed-circuit televisions cameras, and informing the traveling public in real time. With this effort, the Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium (PacTrans) and WSDOT are cooperatively providing professional experience, training, and research opportunities to students from the UW’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WSDOT’s TMC. Under the supervision of WSDOT engineers, students operate the region’s intelligent transportation system and perform various tasks such as identifying congestion and other problems that affect the operation of the Seattle area freeway system, operating high profile systems such as the I-405 Express Toll Lanes and SR 167 HOT Lanes, and managing centralized traffic signal control, variable messages signs, and ramp meter optimization. This arrangement helps WSDOT reliably staff the TMC without increasing costs while also helping UW students prepare for a future in transportation engineering.

Principal Investigator: Yinhai Wang, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UW
Sponsor: WSDOT
WSDOT Technical Monitor: Sayuri Koyamatsu
WSDOT Project Manager: Doug Brodin
Scheduled completion: June 2025

WSDOT/UW Intern Program, Toll Division

For over a decade the University of Washington (UW) and WSDOT have worked cooperatively to provide professional experience, training, and research opportunities to UW Civil and Environmental Transportation Program students at WSDOT’s Toll Division. Under the supervision of WSDOT engineers, these students assist in collecting, storing, and processing data related to the operation of WSDOT’s toll facilities, as well as in speed studies, data analysis, report writing, field work, and other tasks as assigned. This arrangement helps WSDOT further staff the Toll Division office in Seattle at a reasonable cost while also helping UW students gain valuable experience and prepare for a future in transportation engineering.

Principal Investigator: Yinhai Wang, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UW
Sponsor: WSDOT
WSDOT Technical Monitor: Tyler Patterson
WSDOT Project Manager: Doug Brodin
Scheduled completion: June 2025

Improving Mobility for Disadvantaged Communities through Innovative Transit Approaches: a Comparative Cost Evaluation

Transportation planners and policymakers need an effective and flexible method for estimating and comparing the costs of increasing transit access to more people, especially those living in disadvantaged communities located in urban peripheries or rural areas.  To increase mobility, public transportation agencies typically add a transit line, normally with a fixed route and fixed schedule. However, this approach is not economically efficient for communities outside of high-density urban areas. An alternative is to partner with private providers of mobility services, especially ride-hailing companies, a practice known as transit incorporating mobility on demand (TIMOD). This research will compare the costs of three alternative approaches to improving mobility and accessibility for residents of several representative disadvantaged communities located outside of a major metropolitan area or in a rural area. Those alternatives will be driving a car, taking a bus on a fixed route connecting directly to a destination, and using TIMOD service provided through partnership between local transit agencies and ride-hailing companies. To conduct this comparison, the research team will develop a standardized method for the state, transit agencies, cities, counties, and non-profits to use in comparing the costs and benefits of traditional and innovative public transportation solutions. This will allow them to more effectively make decisions about allocating limited funding for different transit operations challenges anywhere in the state and beyond.

Project Investigator: Qing Shen, Urban Design and Planning, UW
Sponsor: WSDOT
WSDOT Technical Monitor:  Justin Nawrocki
WSDOT Project Manager: Jon Peterson
Scheduled completion: June 2025

Maintenance Practices for Complete Streets

In Washington, the state’s Complete Streets directive requires that certain projects be built, operated, and maintained to enable safe and convenient access to destinations for all people, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders. In response, the state is filling in the transportation network with construction of shared-use paths, sidewalks, and protected bicycle lanes. Lateral separation from motor vehicle traffic may be necessary and supplemented with vegetation, raised curb buffers, traffic barriers, or other features.  These types of facilities have maintenance needs that may differ from those of motor vehicle lanes, such as specific needs for debris removal, snow clearing, or maintenance of vegetation. To help WSDOT in most effectively designing and building Complete Street facilities, this project is determining the most critical active transportation facility issues that WSDOT maintenance staff will face. Such issues may include how maintenance considerations affect the selection of design and materials, which active transportation facility design best practices can simplify maintenance, and the equipment and labor needs for active transportation facility maintenance. To find answers the researchers will interview WSDOT maintenance staff as well as national complete street experts who have experience with different kinds of settings, environments, and active transportation. The result will be recommendations on best practices for the maintenance of complete streets.

Principal Investigator: Don MacKenzie, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UW
Sponsor: WSDOT
WSDOT Technical Monitor: Ursula Sandstrom
WSDOT Project Manager: Jon Peterson
Scheduled completion: September 2024

WSDOT Zero-Emissions Vehicle Course Development

This project will develop four, one-credit courses on zero-emissions vehicles and associated infrastructure specifically designed to meet the training needs of WSDOT personnel. The four courses will cover the topics of transit decarbonization, electric buses and charging, meeting the power needs for electric vehicle charging stations, and hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure. When completed, each online course will entail 30 to 40 hours of largely self-directed learner effort, spread over four to five modules.

Principal Investigator: Don MacKenzie, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UW
Sponsor: WSDOT
WSDOT Technical Contact: Sayma Rahman
WSDOT Project Manager: Jon Peterson
Scheduled completion: June 2024

Automated Traffic Sign Recognition Using Computer Vision and Deep Learning

The importance of traffic signs for traffic operations and safety requires transportation agencies to maintain an inventory of them and their condition. To conduct such an inventory, WSDOT staff must physically visit locations for sign verification and data collection. Given the huge number of posted traffic signs, this means that traditional sign asset management is time-consuming and costly.  New, automated solutions are needed to collect traffic sign data and manage them in a timely and cost-effective manner. To address this issue, this study is developing a traffic sign data collection system from open street images, an algorithm for detecting and recognizing traffic signs in those images, and an expandable sample data inventory of traffic signs in a designated region in Washington, including both freeways and local streets. The final products will provide an automated solution to reduce manual labor and will significantly contribute to traffic sign asset management.  

Principal Investigator: Yinhai Wang, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UW
Sponsor: WSDOT
WSDOT Technical Monitor: Dina Swires 
WSDOT Project Manager: Doug Brodin 
Scheduled completion: March 2024

King County Metro Support for ORCA Data Analysis Improvements

Analysis of electronic transit farecard data can provide insight into how travelers use the system and how their behavior changes as both the urban form and transit services change over time. It can be used to answer a variety of policy questions, ranging from the impacts of adopted policies on transit use, to the quantity and quality of trips taken, to the differences in transit services provided to neighborhoods of different income levels to determine the equity of transit services provided throughout the region.  The Next Generation One Regional Card for All (NG ORCA) effort includes the development and deployment of a database system called DARe (Data Access and Reporting), which is being used to collect, manage, and store data on the use of ORCA cards and accounts. However, to date transit agency analysts have not fully taken advantage of its reporting function. The UW has an ORCA data reporting system that currently houses data from January 2019 through May 2022. This project is funding continued improvements to the UW system.

Principal Investigator: Ryan Avery, Washington State Transportation Center, UW
Sponsor: King County Metro
Metro Technical Monitor: Melissa Gaughan
Scheduled completion: September 2023

WSDOT PacTrans Summer Youth Transportation Program

Two decades ago the Transportation Research Board and National Academies produced lengthy reports recommending the preparation and training of a workforce to support an efficient transportation system. Today, with new challenges such as quickly changing technologies and environmental sustainability, the need for transportation workforce development is more pressing than ever. This need requires a holist approach, beginning with the exposure and education of pre-college students. The objective of the Summer Youth Transportation Program will be to provide high school students, including but not limited to young minorities, women, and disadvantaged individuals, an awareness of careers in the transportation industry to encourage them to pursue a vocation in transportation. The project leads will review programs sponsored by the FHWA National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI), develop a complementary course structure, prepare course materials, and make all necessary preparations, including outreach to prospective students, to teach the course at both the UW and WSU over summer 2023.

Principal Investigators:
Yinhai Wang, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UW
Jia Li, Civil and Environmental Engineering, WSU

Sponsor: WSDOT

WSDOT Technical Contacts:
Pam Vasudeva
Jackie Bayne

WSDOT Project Manager: Doug Brodin
Scheduled completion: December 2023

Using LCA to Reduce Embodied Carbon in Pavement Infrastructure at WSDOT

The 2022 FHWA Climate Challenge included a call for state departments of transportation and other public sector stakeholders to explore the use of life cycle assessment (LCA) and environmental product declarations (EPDs) as a standard practice to inform more sustainable pavement material and design selection and to quantify the emissions and impacts of those practices. EPDs are transparent, objective reports that communicate what a product is made of and the life cycle environmental impacts of that product. LCA and EPDs are needed to credibly inventory carbon and determine greenhouse gas emissions. In response to the Climate Challenge, and in collaboration with the Minnesota DOT and Michigan Technological University, this study is working to meet three research objectives: 1) train WSDOT and industry personnel about carbon emissions measurement and reduction, 2) collect life cycle assessment data on WSDOT paving projects, and 3) enable WSDOT to include EPDs in project procurement processes and specifications. Integrating these into WSDOT standard practices will be a critical step in decreasing the carbon footprint of its transportation infrastructure.

Principal Investigators:
Steve Muench, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UW
Kim Schofield, WSDOT
Curt Turgeon, Minnesota DOT
Zhanping You, Michigan Technological University

Subcontractors:
Headlight Inc.
WAP Sustainability Consulting

Sponsors:
FHWA
WSDOT

WSDOT Technical Monitor: Karen Strauss
WSDOT Project Manager: Jon Peterson
Scheduled completion: December 2024

WSDOT Maintenance Performance Measure Algorithm

The many challenges facing the WSDOT Highway Maintenance program are continually increasing, stretching WSDOT’s ability to keep highway infrastructure in a good state of repair. Since the mid-1990s, WSDOT Maintenance has been evaluating the effectiveness of its Maintenance Program through outcome-based performance measures, referred to as level of service (LOS). The Maintenance Accountability Process (MAP), as it has become known, is a comprehensive planning, measuring, and managing process that provides a means for communicating the impacts of policy and budget decisions on program service delivery to key customers, including WSDOT executive leadership, the legislature, and the public. The objective of this project is to give WSDOT Maintenance the ability to forecast LOS performance by creating an algorithm to predict trends based on different performance measures across different maintenance activities. Based on a data-driven approach, this algorithm will utilize performance measures to forecast LOS at different investment levels.

Principal Investigator: Kishor Shrestha, Construction Engineering, WSU
Sponsor: WSDOT
WSDOT Technical Monitor: Kelly Shields
WSDOT Project Manager: Doug Brodin
Scheduled Completion: June 2023

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