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Applying Transportation Asset Management to Traffic Signals: A Primer



With increasing emphasis on setting and achieving targets for congestion mitigation and reliability, transportation agencies recognize the critical contribution of traffic signals to roadway performance. Asset managers of traffic signals have made significant strides in developing and maintaining comprehensive asset inventories driven, in part, by the prospect of better access to real-time information about how the transportation system is performing, allowing agencies to make more cost effective choices with limited maintenance dollars. Comprehensive inventories, when linked with performance data and replacement and maintenance costs, support greater accountability and better decisionmaking for managing resource investments. However, operational and performance data on these assets is often limited to device type, manufacturer/installer, location, and anticipated lifespan.

With a lack of detailed, reliable, and comprehensive real-time performance data, agencies continue to face challenges in planning for the entire lifecycle of traffic signals, which are not always included in the agencies’ core planning and programming processes. However, as the Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) practice continues to evolve, U.S. transportation agencies are identifying signals as critical elements in asset management and long-range planning.


This primer provides information for applying transportation asset management (TAM) principles to traffic signals assets. It also describes how transportation agencies can benefit from including traffic signals in their asset management planning and integrating asset management practices for traffic signal assets.

This primer provides information for transportation agencies responsible for:

  • Managing and maintaining traffic signals.
  • Improving asset management practices.
  • Planning new traffic signal assets and understanding the long-term responsibility (and cost) involved.

The anticipated audience may include (but is not limited to) State departments of transportation (DOT), cities, counties, and other similar agencies. Although the primary objective of this primer is to equip State DOT that wish to add traffic signals to their Transportation Asset Management Plan (TAMP) developed pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 119(e), this guide can also assist agencies looking to enhance their TAM practice for traffic signals apart from the TAMP, including local agencies.

Primer Structure

This primer has four key sections:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction—Introduces the primer and its purpose.
  • Chapter 2: BackgroundProvides the background, history, and importance of TAM, both in general and specific to traffic signals. This section also introduces the five emerging themes developed from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) research.
  • Chapters 3 to 7: Emerging Themes for Applying TAM to Traffic Signals—Details five emerging themes in traffic signals asset management. For each theme, the chapter provides an overview, examples from various transportation agencies, and key actions that agencies can take when implementing asset management for traffic signals.
  • Chapter 8: SummarySummarizes the actions agencies can use to adopt and implement TAM for traffic signals.

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