Panel Discussion on Operational Impacts of COVID-19 on Maryland’s Roadways Recap
The State of Maryland’s response to the global pandemic has impacted many aspects of your daily life, but how has it impacted the traditional patterns of traffic flow and operations across the State? A panel discussion held on September 29th provided insight into what the State’s roadways have looked like the past couple of months WDCSITE was pleased to have Dr. Nicole Katsikides with Texas A&M’s Transportation Research Institute, Mr. Jason Dicembre, the Division Chief at MDOT’s Traffic Management Center Operations Division, and Dr. Jianyang Zheng with MDOT’s Office of Traffic and Safety share their insights on COVID-19’s impact on Maryland’s roadways.
With stay at home orders issued by Maryland’s Governor on March 30th, by the third week of April, Maryland’s permanent traffic count stations registered as much as a 49% drop year to year in the daily traffic volumes. Since then various stages of reopening has increased the traffic volumes on Maryland roadways, however the average daily traffic volumes are still 15% lower than 2019. More significantly, the truck volumes, which are a direct indicator of the freight mobility and the supply chains of essential goods, remain 12% lower than 2019. With an overall reduction of 28% in the VMT, the total number of crashes has significantly decreased by 26%, however the number of fatal crashes has increased by 29%. The panelists discussed that speeding has been identified to have increased significantly across the state, encouraged by the lower traffic volume, along with it being the primary factor in most single vehicle crashes that resulted in fatal and severe injury crashes.
Incident Management is another focal point during the pandemic. Although traffic volumes have decreased, crashes are continuing to occur requiring the usual attention and prompt actions by the Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART). Making sure that MDOT has appropriate staffing levels and proper safety measures in place to protect the health of essential workers are two crucial needs that are being prioritized during the pandemic.
The pandemic has also shown there is a need to better understand the travel behavior data and to develop solutions that address asset management, system management, and operational needs. There is an increase in truck volumes on lower classification roadways that is causing increase in ESAL on the pavement accelerating the pavement deterioration. The shortage of truck parking is an area Maryland is looking to address as an immediate priority.
Curbside management in the urban areas has been identified as another focus area. Maryland is looking to use technology solutions to enhance operation and maintenance efforts that respond to these changes in traffic behavior, during the pandemic and potentially beyond.
Many thanks to Puskar Kar from ATCS for organizing this event and moderating the panel creating an intriguing and information discussion.