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Traffic engineering is a branch of civil engineering that uses engineering techniques to achieve the safe and efficient movement of people and goods. It focuses mainly on research and construction of the immobile infrastructure necessary for this movement, such as roads, railway tracks, bridges, traffic signs and traffic lights.

Increasingly however, instead of building additional infrastructure, dynamic elements are also introduced into road traffic management (they have long been used in rail transport). These use sensors to measure traffic flows and automatic, interconnected guidance systems (for example traffic signs which open a lane in different directions depending on the time of day) to manage traffic, especially in peak hours. Also, traffic flow and speed sensors are used to detect problems and alert operator, so that the cause of the congestion can be determined and measures can be taken to minimize delays. These systems are collectively called intelligent transportation systems.

The relationship between lane flow (Q, vehicles per hour), maximum speed (V, kilometers per hour) and density (K, vehicles per kilometer) is Q = KV. Observation on limited access facilities suggests that up to a maximum flow, speed does not decline while density increases, but above a critical threshold, increased density reduces speed, and beyond a further threshold, increased density reduces flow as well.

Therefore, managing traffic density by limiting the rate that vehicles enter the highway during peak periods can keep both speeds and lane flows at bottlenecks high. Ramp meters, signals on entrance ramps that control the rate at which vehicles are allowed to enter the mainline facility, provide this function (at the expense of increased delay for those waiting at the ramps).

Highway safety engineering is a branch of traffic engineering that deals with reducing the frequency and severity of crashes. It uses physics and vehicle dynamics, as well as road user psychology and human factors engineering, to reduce the influence of factors that contribute to crashes.

Traffic engineering is closely associated with other disciplines:

Typical Traffic engineering projects include:

  • Designing traffic control device installations and modifications, including traffic signals, signs, and pavement markings
  • Investigating locations with high crash rates and developing countermeasures to reduce crashes
  • Preparing ccnstruction traffic control plans, including detour plans for pedestrian and vehicular traffic
  • Estimating the impacts of commercial developments on traffic patterns
  • Along with computer and electrical engineers, developing systems for intelligent transportation systems

See also


  • Homburger, Kell and Perkins, Fundamentals of Traffic Engineering, 13th Edition, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California (Berkeley[1]), 1992.
  • Das, Shantanu and Levinson, D. (2004) A Queuing and Statistical Analysis of Freeway Bottleneck Formation. ASCE Journal of Transportation Engineering Vol. 130, No. 6, November/December 2004, pp. 787-795


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