Expressways are of great importance and serve as the backbone of a roadway system. One of the reasons why expressways increase travel speeds and provide high level of services is that limited access is provided to permit vehicles to enter or exit expressways. Entering and exiting of vehicles are accomplished through interchanges, which consist of several ramps, thus the spacing between ramps is important. A weaving segment might form when an on-ramp is closely followed by an off-ramp. The geometric design of ramps and the traffic behavior of weaving segments are different from other expressway segments. These differences result in distinct safety mechanisms of these two expressway special facilities. Hence, the safety of these two facilities needs to be addressed. The majority of previous traffic safety studies on expressway special facilities are based on highly aggregated traffic data, e.g., Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT). This highly aggregated traffic data cannot represent traffic conditions at the time of crashes and also cannot be used in the study of weather and temporal impact on crash occurrence. One way to solve this problem is microscopic safety evaluation and prediction through hourly crash prediction and real-time safety analysis. An hourly crash study averages one or several hours' traffic data in a year and also aggregates crash frequencies in the corresponding hour(s). Then it applies predictive models to determine the statistical relationship between crashes and hourly traffic flow characteristics, such as traffic volume. Real-time safety analysis enables us to predict crash risk and distinguish crashes from non-crashes in the next few minutes using the current traffic, weather, and other conditions. There are four types of crash contributing factors: traffic, geometry, weather, and driver. Among these, traffic parameters have been utilized in all previous microscopic safety studies. On the other hand, the other three factors' impact on microscopic safety has not been widely analyzed. The geometric factors' influence on safety are generally excluded by previous researchers using the matched-case-control method, because the majority of previous microscopic safety studies are on mainlines, where the geometric design of a segment does not change much and geometry does not have a significant effect on safety. Not enough studies have adopted weather factors in microscopic safety analysis because of the limited availability of weather data. The impact of drivers on safety has also not been widely considered since driver information is hard to be obtained. This study explores the relationship between crashes and the four contributing factors. Weather data are obtained from airport weather stations and crash reports which record weather and roadway surface conditions for crashes. Meanwhile, land-use and trip generation parameters serve as surrogates for drivers' behavior. Several methods are used to explore and quantify the impact of these factors. Random forests are used in discovering important and significant explanatory variables, which play significant roles in determining traffic safety, by ranking their importance. Meanwhile, in order to prevent high correlation between independent variables, Pearson correlation tests are carried out before model estimations. Only the variables which are not highly correlated are selected. Then, the selected variables are put in logistic regression models and Poisson-lognormal models to respectively estimate crash risk and crash frequency for special expressway facilities. Meanwhile, in case of correlation among observations in the same segment, a multilevel modeling structure has been implemented. Furthermore, a data mining technique–Support Vector Machine (SVM)–is used to distinguish crash from non-crash observations. Once the crash mechanisms for special expressway facilities are found, we are able to provide valuable information on how to manage roadway facilities to improve the traffic safety of special facilities. This study adopts Active Traffic Management (ATM) strategies, including Ramp Metering (RM) and Variable Speed Limit (VSL), in order to enhance the safety of a congested weaving segment. RM regulates the entering vehicle volume by adjusts metering rate, and VSL is able to provide smoother mainline traffic by changing the mainline speed limits. The ATM strategies are carried out in microscopic simulation VISSIM through the Component Object Model (COM) interface. The results shows that the crash risk and conflict count of the studies weaving segment have been significantly reduced because of ATM. Furthermore, the mechanisms of traffic conflicts, a surrogate safety measurement, are explored for weaving segments using microscopic simulation. The weaving segment conflict prediction model is compared with its crash prediction model. The results show that there are similarity and differences between conflict and crash mechanisms. Finally, potential relevant applications beyond the scope of this research but worth investigation in the future are also discussed in this dissertation.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Engineering and Computer Science
Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Wang, Ling, "Microscopic Safety Evaluation and Prediction for Special Expressway Facilities" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5065.