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UTA Project Aims to Better Manage Roadway Traffic Flow

ARLINGTON, TX — A civil engineering researcher at The University of Texas at Arlington is leading a project that will aim to improve smart traffic signal management through traffic signal simulation techniques and big data.

Pengfei (Taylor) Li, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, is leading the $292,010 grant funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), titled “Improving traffic signal system planning, design and management with big-data-enhanced Automated Traffic Signal Performance Metrics (ATSPM) system.”

“We want to explore adopting the forward-looking ATSPM systems for better arterial traffic management,” Li said. “We aim to bridge the gap between traffic signal planning and design and operations and evaluations by using the same criteria.

“Right now, the ATSPM can only be used to post-evaluate traffic signal systems after their deployment while most traffic signal systems are still being designed following a traditional framework adopted decades ago.”

Li’s project would develop software tools to link traffic simulation engines with forward-looking ATSPM systems, then comprehensively evaluate the performance of new traffic signal designs before they are deployed.

A commonly used traffic simulation package developed in Germany, VISSIM, will be used to generate realistic traffic data and mobility data under various traffic signal programs. Then the simulation data will be fed into multiple ATSPM systems to evaluate the traffic signal performance.

The project team will also conduct case studies at 10 to 15 intersections along Cooper Street in Arlington to demonstrate the proposed solutions’ performance for TxDOT. Cooper Street, classified as a freight corridor by TxDOT, contains all the complicated components of urban traffic. The outcome of this project will also reshape the framework of traffic signal planning and design in the long term.

Melanie Sattler, interim Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, said Li’s work could coordinate transportation efforts to reduce travel times.

“Projects that can reduce travel times in a growing region like Texas are especially important,” she said. “This project will lead to less traffic, emissions, and fuel consumptions, critical to maintaining a livable community.”
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