Guidelines for the Effective Operation and Control of VDOT Permanent Variable Message Sign and Highway Advisory Radio Units: State of the Practice and Recommendations: Technical Assistance Report

Report No: 96-TAR4

Published in 1996

About the report:

On January 31, 1996, VDOT's Statewide Incident Management (SIM) Committee requested that guidelines for the control of permanent variable message sign (VMS) and permanent highway advisory radio (HAR) units be developed. The guidelines do not address specific operating procedures, such as what words should be used in a message or how long a message should be played; they concern who should control the operation of fixed-site VMS and HAR units proposed for installation over the next 6 years throughout the Commonwealth. The goal of any method of control should be to enhance the application of these devices for communicating real-time information to motorists. For districts without a 24-hour traffic management facility, control of the permanent VMS and permanent HAR units should rest with the statewide Traffic Emergency Operations Center (TEOC). In this report, control means that although responsibility for the physical operation of the devices would reside with TEOC, the districts would significantly affect VMS and HAR applications. Since effective VMS and HAR use is costly in terms of personnel and resources, successful applications can be accomplished only by persons who can focus on the task as a job priority. For both planned and unplanned incidents, TEOC should assume physical control of the signs, but the district should provide significant input into how TEOC operates VMS and HAR devices through the district's point of contact (POC). This POC would work with TEOC to ensure the devices are being used effectively at all times. For areas with a dedicated 24-hour operations facility, currently Northern Virginia and Suffolk, the facility should operate the VMS and HAR units, which is the current practice. This report explains the rationale for these procedures, recommends related improvements, and proposes that VDOT consider creating a communications unit that would deliver real-time information to motorists. Such a unit appears necessary if statewide incident management is to become more successful.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.

Last updated: December 17, 2023

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