Evaluating the effect of ramp metering on freeway safety using real-time traffic data

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Ramp metering relieves traffic congestion, reduces delay, and maintains the capacity flow on freeways. Due to its operational mechanism, ramp metering can also improve freeway safety. While the operational benefits of ramp metering have extensively been quantified, research on its safety effects is sparse. This study focused on evaluating the effects of ramp metering on the safety performance of the freeway mainline. It developed a crash risk prediction model for segments downstream of the entrance ramps when ramp metering is activated. The study was based on a corridor with system-wide ramp metering along I-95 in Miami, Florida. Real-time traffic, crash, and ramp metering operations data collected from 2016 to 2018 were used in the analysis. The study adopted a matched crash and non-crash case approach to evaluate the crash risk when ramp meters were activated and deactivated. A penalized logistic regression model was developed using a bootstrap resampling technique to estimate the effects of ramp metering activation and select important variables that could predict crash risk when ramp meters were activated. Results indicated that ramp metering improves safety along the freeway corridor by reducing the crash risk downstream of the entrance ramps. During ramp metering activation, the crash risk on segments downstream of the entrance ramps 5 min later can be predicted using the difference in the average lane speeds between upstream and downstream detectors, the average traffic volume in the lanes at the downstream and upstream detectors, and the coefficient of variation of speed between lanes in the upstream detectors. Also, the coefficient of variation of occupancy downstream could predict the crash risk 15 min later. The study results could be used by transportation agencies when evaluating the deployment of ramp meters. Moreover, the developed crash risk prediction model could be used in real-time to help agencies identify the increased crash risk and provide appropriate warning information to the upstream traffic.

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Accident Analysis and Prevention



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