A new decision support tool under development by Maryland’s State Highway Administration will help the agency quickly find cost-effective solutions to address congested travel corridors while protecting the state’s environmental resources and community quality of life.
The Model of Sustainability and Integrated Corridors, known as MOSAIC, is a new planning calculator that will allow planners to quantify sustainability data and compare alternative scenarios to make more informed decisions at the corridor level for transportation planning purposes. The tool will help planners and stakeholders to move more quickly along the project development path by providing clear and succinct assessments of the relative environmental, mobility, safety, and economic impacts of project options being considered at a low cost. MOSAIC is being jointly developed by MDSHA and the University of Maryland.
Six Sustainability Factors
The tool compares project scenarios according to six sustainability factors: mobility, safety, socioeconomics, energy and environment, natural resources, and project costs. Each factor includes multiple performance measures, totaling more than thirty measures overall. MOSAIC then produces a score for each alternative and ranks its performance in relation to the various factors.
Still in the initial phases, MOSAIC is a component of SHA’s Comprehensive Highway Corridor initiative, a program to improve transportation efficiency, safety, and sustainability in critical highway corridors. In its initial version, the tool can compare two alternative scenarios—the adding of a general purpose lane or creating grade-separated interchanges—against a “do nothing” option.
SHA used MOSAIC to plan improvements to the US 15 corridor north of Frederick, Md. The tool suggested that converting at-grade intersections to grade-separated interchanges on US 15 provided more sustainable benefits as compared to constructing additional travel lanes and was much better than the no-build scenario. Over time, MOSIAC will be upgraded to include additional multi-modal scenario options.
SHA recognized the need for “incorporating data-driven sustainable solutions” into the decision-making process for transportation projects, bringing the agency to use an existing contract with the University of Maryland to develop MOSAIC, according to Eric Beckett, a regional planner with SHA.
The developers performed a comprehensive review of literature and best practices and studied state-of-the-art transportation planning strategies and tools used in various state departments of transportation. These reviews provided a baseline of what works and what is applicable for sustainability decisions.
MOSAIC requires a minimum amount of training to use and produces numeric outputs and summary reports. It also creates graphical outputs suitable for sharing with stakeholders. The user supplies data such as land use, transportation, and ecological impacts, and the various factors used in the calculation can be weighted according to policy considerations and agency priorities.
Currently, the tool is in the final stages of Phase 2, which “builds off of the original…model to include multi-modal improvements for comparison,” according to Beckett. SHA will be testing it on improvements to US 29 in the near future, Beckett said.
Ultimately, the MOSAIC tool will be integrated with the Maryland Statewide Transportation Model through SHA’s Enterprise GIS system. The Maryland Statewide Transportation Model is a multi-layer travel demand model working at national, statewide, and urban levels to forecast and analyze key measures of transportation system performance.
“Eventually the MOSAIC tool will allow us to quickly evaluate proposed road improvements and…changes to land use,” Beckett said. “We believe there is a great potential for transferability” to other state DOTs, Beckett added.