Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Mohammed Hadi

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

L. David Shen

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Albert Gan

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Xia Jin

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Shih-Ming Lee

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Variable Speed Limit, Shockwave, Traffic Breakdown, Recurrent Bottleneck, Microscopic simulation, Breakdown Probability, Calibration, Connected Vehicle Technology, Wavelet Transform

Date of Defense



Variable Speed Limit (VSL) strategies identify and disseminate dynamic speed limits that are determined to be appropriate based on prevailing traffic conditions, road surface conditions, and weather conditions. This dissertation develops and evaluates a shockwave-based VSL system that uses a heuristic switching logic-based controller with specified thresholds of prevailing traffic flow conditions. The system aims to improve operations and mobility at critical bottlenecks. Before traffic breakdown occurrence, the proposed VSL’s goal is to prevent or postpone breakdown by decreasing the inflow and achieving uniform distribution in speed and flow. After breakdown occurrence, the VSL system aims to dampen traffic congestion by reducing the inflow traffic to the congested area and increasing the bottleneck capacity by deactivating the VSL at the head of the congested area. The shockwave-based VSL system pushes the VSL location upstream as the congested area propagates upstream. In addition to testing the system using infrastructure detector-based data, this dissertation investigates the use of Connected Vehicle trajectory data as input to the shockwave-based VSL system performance. Since the field Connected Vehicle data are not available, as part of this research, Vehicle-to-Infrastructure communication is modeled in the microscopic simulation to obtain individual vehicle trajectories. In this system, wavelet transform is used to analyze aggregated individual vehicles’ speed data to determine the locations of congestion.

The currently recommended calibration procedures of simulation models are generally based on the capacity, volume and system-performance values and do not specifically examine traffic breakdown characteristics. However, since the proposed VSL strategies are countermeasures to the impacts of breakdown conditions, considering breakdown characteristics in the calibration procedure is important to have a reliable assessment. Several enhancements were proposed in this study to account for the breakdown characteristics at bottleneck locations in the calibration process.

In this dissertation, performance of shockwave-based VSL is compared to VSL systems with different fixed VSL message sign locations utilizing the calibrated microscopic model. The results show that shockwave-based VSL outperforms fixed-location VSL systems, and it can considerably decrease the maximum back of queue and duration of breakdown while increasing the average speed during breakdown.





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