Whenever I introduce myself to a new contact and tell them I work as a Traffic Engineer, the number one response is always "So what is that?" Obviously it has something to do with traffic ,but how do we go about engineering it? Being in a smaller group at Foresite Group allows us to work on a large variety of projects and touch almost every aspect of traffic engineering. Traffic affects everyone's life in some way or another, and we are the ones that try to fix it.
Intersections and Driveways
Driveways and roadway intersections are the connections to the greater roadway network that get us to where we need to go. Almost every roadway intersection and driveway, in the United States, has either been designed by or analyzed by a traffic engineer. To a traffic engineer these roadway features are more than just two roads running into each other, we are constantly analyzing driveways and intersections for safety, capacity, operations, and feasibility. Almost every conversation about traffic I have, either in a private setting or at a public meeting, includes a discussion about intersections and driveways.
Remember every morning where you hit every single red light on the way to work? Well that is in part our fault, sorry. Traffic engineers are deeply involved with almost every single aspect of a traffic signal. We work on everything from determining if a signal is needed, the location, the design, and the timing of the signal. Traffic signals are not something that can just be set up and forgotten about; they need a good amount of attention to keep them operating smoothly. Poor traffic signal timing (setting how long the green light is) can greatly affect the operations of an entire roadway network. Many of our projects are solved by simply implementing a better signal timing plan. The problem is traffic patterns are constantly changing based on new developments, and sometimes the roadway is just at or over the capacity of the intersection.
Foresite Group performs a lot of land development work designing commercial and residential sites, and many of these sites will require a traffic impact study. Every state, county, and city is different, but normally once a development reaches a certain size, a study is required. At its core, an impact study states how much traffic the development will generate, where it is coming from/going to, and what is the impact on the surrounding roadway system. For a small development it could be looking at the impacts of the driveways, and for a DRI (Developments of Regional Impact) it could be a several mile radius around the development. The number one question / complaint we run into at public information meetings is "how is this going to affect the already miserable traffic?"
An important role of traffic engineering is being able to plan what is going to happen in the future. Every state, most counties, and some cities have traffic master plans. These plans lay out the improvements needed for the transportation systems in their area for the next five to thirty years. As a traffic engineer, it is our job to forecast to the best of our ability what the traffic will be like in the near future and be able to determine what improvements will be needed. We even do this on small scale with larger developments, by anticipating what the traffic will be like by the time the development is built and what improvements will be required at that time.
Although each section requires a different set of skills and analysis methods, everything a traffic engineer does is concerned with what the traffic is doing, what is it going to do, and how do we go about fixing the problems. Traffic engineering is an important role that has an impact on everyone's daily life. At Foresite Group we work on every aspect of traffic engineering to provide our clients with a comprehensive look of how their projects will affect the surrounding roadway system.
About Foresite Group
Foresite Group is a multidisciplinary engineering, planning, and consulting firm providing services to public and private sector clients nationwide. Our team’s collaborative process results in creative products and services that help our clients achieve their goals. Our team takes pride in enhancing and developing the cities and communities where we live, work, and raise our families.