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FHWA Home / Safety / HSIP / Highway Safety Improvement Program National Scan Tour

Highway Safety Improvement Program National Scan Tour

Chapter 3–Coordinating with Internal and External Partners

In highly successful programs, internal stakeholders within the DOT (e.g. maintenance, design, and finance) hold a shared commitment towards placing safety first and working together to facilitate and accelerate the planning, design, and construction of HSIP projects. Likewise, it is also important that the HSIP is fully coordinated and integrated with the work of other organizations, associations, and stakeholders (e.g., law enforcement, safety advocates, metropolitan planning organizations [MPO]) that play a role in reducing fatalities and serious injuries.

Internal Coordination

The structure of the traffic safety functions within the Host States was most coordinated when it was a top priority of the traffic operations unit or was itself a separate safety engineering unit with top-level representation to the transportation chief executive. All States exhibited a successful integration of the HSIP into the regional traffic engineering staff, indicating that a core function of regional traffic engineers was to understand safety performance and participate, to varying degrees, in the development and implementation of highway safety improvement projects. In Illinois and Massachusetts, the State's central safety office retains the ability to fund projects with statewide funds controlled directly by that office.

SPOTLIGHT ON SAFETY:

Using a Coordinated Approach to Internally Managing the HSIP in Illinois

In Illinois, the Bureau of Safety Engineering, despite having no corresponding bureau in each of the nine Districts, has a specific, targeted mission and has achieved a high degree of cooperation with the Central Bureau of Operations and the corresponding Operations, Traffic, and Program Development bureaus in each District. The Illinois DOT (IDOT) finds value in using a coordinated approach to manage the program. A successful HSIP requires coordination and cooperation between the Central Office, the Districts, and contractor support. It also requires that the Central Office understands the needs of the Districts and works with them throughout the project selection process.

The IDOT Bureau of Safety Engineering centrally manages the HSIP to ensure the program goals are being met. However, the Districts still have broad latitude in developing and implementing their programs. Every District has a safety/HSIP coordinator and a safety committee, which identifies and reviews the projects and helps prioritize them prior to sending them to the Central Office for review. The Central Office reviews and gives final approval for implementation of projects and provides funding, typically through the District's annual allocation.

The Central Office is responsible for performing statewide analysis and network screening, identifying statewide trends, and providing analysis results to the districts to develop their safety program. The Central Office will identify specific systemic issues and fund improvements to address them. This approach allows them to have an overall view of which projects fit best in a systemic approach.

The Central Safety Committee meets annually to select projects for local roads and continuously reviews applications from the Districts for their projects. The Committee consists of representatives from BSE, the Bureau of Design, the Bureau of Local Roads, and FHWA.

In Illinois, the local share of HSIP funding has increased, becoming a larger portion of the $74 million allocated annually under MAP-21. Illinois has the challenge of obligating 15 percent of HSIP funding for highway-rail grade crossings, which comprise a small amount of the overall severe crash risk on account of significant progress in highway-rail safety since 1990. Under SAFETEA-LU, IDOT obligated 50 percent of local funding to high-risk rural roads. The BSE held $5.5 million of the $35 million annual appropriation for BSE Statewide Safety Funds, to be disbursed at BSE discretion. This policy of BSE-designated projects, typically systemic in nature, has provided BSE an avenue for addressing statewide safety concerns systematically and across District and Region boundaries

Shared Delivery of HSIP

The Alaska DOT&PF delivers their HSIP through Headquarters staff, which consists of the traffic safety engineering practitioners and program development, and the Region staff, which consists of traffic operations engineering and project development staff. This organizational structure, wherein specialists are available from the headquarters and the Regions to carry out day-to-day delivery, is considered a model for other processes and functions within the DOT&PF.

Alaska, Massachusetts, Utah, Oregon, and North Carolina deliver their HSIPs through a combination of Headquarters and Region/Division staff, similar to Illinois.

The MassDOT Traffic Engineering and Safety Section (TESS) is staffed with eight employees and is responsible for all statewide HSIP management, crash data management, and the coordination of HSIP implementation. Traffic Engineers in each of the six Districts work with the 13 MPOs and the TESS to identify candidate sites and recommend projects based on the screening process, within the structure of the District project development process. TESS has established working relationships with MassDOT Planning in order to deliver the HSIP, with TESS providing information, the MPOs and Districts working together to identify projects either from TESS list or other data-driven means, and the Districts delivering the projects.

In Utah, the Central Office, working in conjunction with Region staff, identifies and selects projects, and the Region Engineers deliver the projects. The Traffic and Safety Division develops a list of prioritized eligible HSIP projects and then the Safety Programs Engineer, in conjunction with the Region Offices, programs the projects. This Safety Leadership comes from the UDOT Executive Office and Safety Leadership Committees within UDOT. UDOT staff recognized that the reason the program has been so successful is due to the support they receive from executive leadership in making decisions.

ODOT delivers their entire HSIP through the ARTS program, using Central Office-originated screening processes that rely on input from the ARTS staff in each Region. The Central Office provides guidance and policy, while the five ODOT Regions locally manage the ARTS program, with ARTS oversight responsibilities assigned to the Regional Traffic Engineer/Manager. The ARTS staff in the regions select the projects and supervise the design of selected projects, delivering them through the conventional capital construction program using HSIP funds.

In Oregon, the Central ODOT office provides HSIP guidance and policy, but the five ODOT Regions locally manage the program.

Chart. NCDOT traffic safety unit organization chart. Flow chart showing organization of the Traffic Safety Unit. There are three sub-groups: "Traffic Safety Systems Management," "Traffic Field Operations," and "Traffic Safety Information Systems." From "Traffic Safety Systems Management" is a sub-subgroup with the list, "Safety Planning, HSIP, Safety Evaluation, Traffic Safety Specialist."

Figure 3. NCDOT traffic safety unit organization chart.

The NCDOT's Traffic Safety Unit has 43 positions dedicated to improving safety and mobility in North Carolina; they are organized into the Traffic Safety Systems Management Section, the Traffic Field Operations Section, and the Traffic Safety Information Systems Section. The Traffic Safety Systems Section is comprised of three groups: Safety Planning, HSIP, and Safety Evaluation. Figure 3 depicts the Traffic Safety Unit organization chart.

The State is divided into three geographic Regions (West, Central, and East) that have eight Mobility and Safety Traffic Safety Field Engineering offices across the State that are responsible for investigations, countermeasure identification, project development, project inspections, appeals, regulatory and traffic ordinances, and project recommendations across NCDOT's 14 Divisions (100 Counties). All three of these sections (Traffic Safety Systems Section, the Traffic Field Operations Section, and the Traffic Safety Information Systems Section) work closely to improve and deliver the HSIP as well as other safety programs, initiatives, and traffic engineering and regulatory recommendations and responsibilities.

Centralized Delivery of HSIP

New Hampshire was the only Host State that managed and delivered the HSIP solely from Headquarters. NHDOT's HSIP staff are a part of the Design section and work with the State Traffic Engineer and the Highway Safety Engineer to plan, select, deliver, and evaluate projects. This organizational strategy has been a driver for incorporating highway safety methodologies into design for all projects, even those not subject to HSIP funding. NHDOT's Districts are small in geographic size and the District Engineers have solely a maintenance function, as the Central Office carries out the functions of planning, design, and traffic operations and safety engineering. As with several of the other Host States, NHDOT addresses staffing level issues through the use of consultants. NHDOT has two on-call consultant contracts, one for design of projects and the other for analysis.

Relationships with External Partners

Every Host State identified relationships with external partners as key to the success of HSIP. This included relationships with the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, Federal agencies, State agencies (such as law enforcement), and universities. States typically meet with partners through HSIP and Safety Committees. States also had significant relationships with MPOs, which is further discussed in Chapter 7 – Addressing Local Road Needs.

HSIP and Safety Committees

In North Carolina, the Secretary of Transportation chairs the Executive Committee for Highway Safety and NCDOT executive staff and partner agency representatives are actively involved in the committee. The Executive Committee meets three times annually and provides oversight and leadership of North Carolinas' safety efforts, particularly in the area of strategic direction and program performance. The Executive Committee is instrumental in achieving collaboration and a unified direction with multiple State agencies, including NCDOT. NCDOT also has a Safety Project Review & Selection Team comprised of the State Traffic Engineer, State Traffic Safety Engineer, Field Operations and Investigations Engineer, Mobility and Safety Field Operations (M&SFO) Program Manager, Governor's Highway Safety Program representative, and a representative from the Rail Division. This Team meets quarterly to review, assess and provide recommendations for candidate Safety Projects for investment under the Department's State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

The NHDOT HSIP Committee includes representatives from FHWA, a local agency, an MPO, an RPC, and various NHDOT divisions. The committee reviews and selects projects, identifies trends in funding and project development, monitors projects, and addresses policy and compliance issues.

In New Hampshire, the Assistant Director of Project Development chairs the HSIP Committee. Membership on the NHDOT HSIP Committee includes representatives from FHWA, a local agency, an MPO, a regional planning commission (RPC), and various divisions within NHDOT, including design, maintenance, traffic, rail and transit, and those representing the needs of vulnerable users. The committee's composition helps to deliver a broad perspective on both program operations and program policy. In addition to reviewing and selecting projects, the HSIP Committee also meets annually and as necessary to review project progress, identify trends in funding and project development, and address policy and compliance issues related to program performance and FHWA policy changes and guidance. In their efforts to monitor projects, the HSIP Committee examines progress in construction and project cost. If project costs are set to exceed a relative value, defined by policy, the Committee undertakes a more intensive review. The Committee also evaluates the need for integrating SHSP emphasis areas and oversees the project evaluation processes, ensuring that the HSIP investments are addressing the SHSP objectives and that those same investments are achieving strategic and system safety performance goals such as the targeted return on investment and expected crash reduction.

The MassDOT HSIP Task Force consists of seven members. These members include two FHWA staff members, three MassDOT staff members (the Chief Engineer and representatives from the Bureau of Traffic and Safety and the Bureau of Planning), and members from two MPOs. The task force meets annually or as needed to develop guidelines for acceptable HSIP projects but does not approve individual projects. The guidelines for the HSIP program and an interactive map of eligible locations are both available on the MassDOT web site. (10) The HSIP guidelines correlate with programs, projects and systemic approaches in the Massachusetts SHSP.

Governor's Office of Highway Safety

Relationships with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)-mandated Governor's Office of Highway Safety were often key contributors to the success of public outreach campaigns and successful integration of enforcement efforts.

In Utah, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety resides within the DPS, and UDOT and DPS staff in the Secretary's Office work closely together to coordinate the work of the DPS and UDOT. This relationship has led to coordinated media campaigns, a unified approach to expending NHTSA funds that complements UDOT efforts to promote passenger safety and combat impaired driving, and a public face that demonstrates that UDOT and the DPS are partners in transportation safety work.

The strong relationship between NCDOT and the Governor's Highway Safety Program (GHSP) allows the two entities to work together to share information, leverage resources, and coordinate efforts. Furthermore, a GHSP representative sits on the NCDOT Safety Project Review and Selection Team.

North Carolina DOT's Safety Project Review and Selection Team includes a Governor's Highway Safety Program representative.

In Illinois, the Governor's Highway Safety Office manages Illinois-apportioned NHTSA funding and works with the Illinois State Police (ISP) on traffic safety initiatives through the Division of Traffic Safety (DTS), which, like the Division of Highways, reports directly to the Illinois Secretary of Transportation. In addition to managing deployment of NHTSA initiatives, the DTS also provides for the collection, entry, and management of the Department's traffic crash data system. IDOT is also cooperating with the ISP to use their crash reconstruction teams to identify crash trends and locations with potential for safety improvement as well as to use the “heat map” capabilities of the Department's analysis tools to assist in planning special and emphasis enforcement activities.

Safety Innovation

In Illinois, coordination between the Division of Highways through its Bureau of Safety Engineering and Bureau of Operations and the Division of Traffic Safety has led to the development of policy concerning the use of variable message signs on freeways for traffic safety messages, the content of those messages, and the refinement and development of future approaches to public information related to Department traffic safety initiatives.

Federal Agencies

Utah's Safety Leadership Executive Committee is a broad coalition of executive-level State officials and partner agency representatives. The Committee includes representatives from the DPS, Department of Health (DOH), UDOT, FHWA, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and NHTSA, providing for coordination between these organizations. UDOT also views FHWA as a resource and partner in the HSIP effort and works closely with the FHWA Utah Division Office to ensure HSIP program objectives align with FHWA strategic and tactical initiatives.

Utah's Safety Leadership Executive Committee includes representatives from UDOT, DPS, DOH, FMCSA, and NHTSA.

Universities

Some States emphasized their relationships with universities as key to the success of data evaluation improvements, validation of screening and selection approaches, and their ability to develop new and innovative programs that engage local agencies.

Partnerships with universities can help agencies develop tools, new approaches, and implement new programs to enhance various aspects of the HSIP.

IDOT worked with the University of Illinois to develop their initial set of Safety Performance Functions (SPF) for each roadway type for the State highway system. Chapter 5 further describes the use of SPFs to analyze potential projects.

UDOT's partnerships with the University of Utah and Brigham Young University have led to substantial advancements in the understanding of crash prediction modeling and the success of safety countermeasures. Chapter 6 further describes these efforts.

NCDOT is working in partnership with the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (UNC-HSRC) to deliver a pilot program to introduce communities to the concepts required to implement low-cost safety improvements in a data-driven traffic engineering program. Chapter 6 further describes this program.

Summary

The traffic safety engineering functions within each of the Host States were most coordinated when safety was a top priority of the traffic operations unit or was itself a separate safety engineering unit with top-level representation to the transportation chief executive. In Illinois, the Bureau of Safety Engineering, despite having no corresponding bureau in each of the nine Districts, has a specific, targeted mission and has achieved a high degree of cooperation with the Central Bureau of Operations and the corresponding Operations and Traffic bureaus in each District. In smaller States, such as New Hampshire and Alaska, the centralization of traffic safety engineering functions is complemented by the collaborative involvement of local traffic engineers and maintenance and operations personnel.

All States exhibited a successful integration of the HSIP effort at the regional or division level, indicating that a core function of regional traffic engineers was to understand safety performance and participate, to varying degrees, in the development of the HSIP. In Illinois, this means District staff has direct control over evaluation and programming a portion of the HSIP dedicated to that District. In North Carolina and Oregon, staff participation in project development is supported by a centralized screening of the roadway network. In Alaska, Utah, and New Hampshire, the screening of the roadway network is a key function of the central office staff. New Hampshire centralizes all project development efforts and thus the HSIP is administered from the Planning office.

Every State identified relationships with partners as key to the success of HSIP. Utah and Alaska both indicated that relationships with their NHTSA-mandated Governor's Office of Highway Safety were key contributors to the success of public outreach campaigns and successful integration of enforcement efforts. Utah, Illinois, and North Carolina emphasized their relationships with universities as key to the success of data evaluation improvements, validation of screening and selection approaches, and their ability to develop new and innovative programs that engage local agencies.


  1. MassDOT. Highway Safety Improvement Program. Available online at massdot.state.ma.us/highway/Departments/TrafficandSafetyEngineering/HighwaySafety/HighwaySafetyImprovementProgram.aspx. Accessed February 24, 2016.
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