Traffic Incident Management: Protecting Officers, Saving Lives, and Ensuring the Surface Transportation System’s Efficiency

As federal, state, and local budgets shrink and the national economy struggles to leave behind what some now call the Great Recession, transportation infrastructure will likely see modest government investment with only incremental infrastructure expansion. The maintenance and upgrade of the current system of roads and bridges may well require all available transportation infrastructure resources, and overall capacity will likely remain static. Some states are investigating public-private partnerships that may result in new roads and bridges funded by tolls, but this effort is unlikely to add significant interstate miles to the overall system. Most urban areas with major freeways are struggling to maintain aging transportation infrastructure. At the same time, traffic volumes appear to be returning to their highest levels ever recorded. Peak traffic volumes were recorded nationally in 2007 after several years of increases. The Great Recession caused pullbacks in 2008 and 2009, but the second half of 2010 indicated that the United States might be returning to 2007 levels in 2011 and may set a new volume high. Congestion, which already is restricting economic growth in major cities and the efficient movement of interstate freight, will increase to historic highs if volumes continue to increase as the national economy slowly recovers.