How can we optimize roadworks with data intelligence and traffic simulation?

How to use data to plan roadworks?

Road network’s maintenance: Some critical challenges

87% of travels, either exchanging goods or moving people, are made on the road. Road infrastructures are key elements for territories activity and development. The French law on mobility guidance, enforced on December 24th, 2019, turned the road network into the cornerstone of mobility, services’ adaptation, infrastructures, and organization of uses.

However, the road’s assets are degrading because of deteriorating materials, traffic aggressivity, and weather conditions. Upkeeping roads systematically is part of the groundwork for insuring the continuous reliability of service.

In 2019, France was 18th of World Economic Forum’s ranking for the quality of its road infrastructures, a step back comparing to the previous decades.

Furthermore, many works on the infrastructures have to be executed to meet various expectations:

  • Upgrading infrastructures’ safety, as standards and norms are evolving. Something we particularly see on the tunnels.

  • Upgrading the traffic safety, as vehicles and uses evolve as well.

  • Enhancing infrastructures to face climatic and environmental challenges.

Territories competitivity and users’ safety are on the line in this issue. As we can see, there are many imperatives, and the execution of related roadworks does have an impact on traffic operations. Indeed, when interventions do not completely block the infrastructure, they still impact its traffic flow: lane reduction and diversion, speed diminution, … Consequences are observable with temporary congestions during roadworks and/or deviated traffic on alternative routes which are not designed to support this overload of traffic.

Operating roads, highways or tunnels has been significantly changing for the past few years, to meet increasing expectations related to safety and user information. And road operations under roadworks are becoming more and more common in evermore complex contexts, such as environmental issues and air quality.

How can we decide on the appropriate operation measures, on the optimal works planning while minimizing environmental impacts and i traffic congestion?

Coming up with tools combining data intelligence and what-if scenarios simulation to support the decision-making, is a linchpin to tackle the complexity and to decrease uncertainty.

Which simulation solution to choose?

The traffic flow’s dynamic is the key phenomenon that should be well-apprehended and reproduced in a controlled virtual environment brought by a simulation tool. A solution based on a dynamic and macroscopic vision of the traffic usually means a greater value and efficiency for the road operator.

But what do we mean by dynamic macroscopic simulation? A dynamic macroscopic simulation engine computes simulation by spreading traffic conditions by flows on the modelized road network’s links. The benefits from this type of simulation engines lies on its fast-computing capacities: less than 2 seconds for tens of kilometer-long networks, for example. It is a revolution in terms of modelling and traffic simulation. On this type of problematics of large-scale networks and on large peak periods, traditional simulation solutions can take hours to compute. It is usually a turnoff to using these solutions. The complex implementation and the lengthy computing times make the solutions almost unusable for the road operator. Indeed, to bring guidance on deciding the roadworks schedule, the road operator needs to analyze many different possible scenarios to use the optimal one. The traditional process is then too expensive regarding the financial stakes and does not bring answers intelligible enough as they are considerably too much variable to guide the decision. This is the black box effect of traditional simulation tools that makes road operators doubt of the rationality of the answers provided.

With a dynamic macroscopic simulation tool, not only the dynamic of traffic congestion is perfectly reproduced, but the model’s resolution also recreates complex indicators such as traffic volumes and speed, routes’ travel time, trafficolors, and time-space diagram for informed analysis. That kind of traffic model enables to simulate individually or combined, infrastructure layouts (network’s geometrical changes, new lanes, …), dynamic traffic management measures (access and speed limitations, alternative routes, …), access control strategies, roadwork’s phasing elements (lane reductions, diversions, closing of highway ramps, alternative routes, …).

These new dynamic macroscopic simulation software solutions of are paving the way to new perspectives for infrastructure and road network operators. Even more when the solution is operated on the cloud: with the benefits from the fast-computing capabilities, come those from a collaborative platform which enables easy concertation and decision-making for all parties.

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