BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Powerful, localized snowstorms can snarl
traffic for hours or days, as Western New York saw this week when a
section of the New York State Thruway closed for 24 hours. That's
exactly the kind of scenario that University at Buffalo engineers
hope to prevent when they complete a computer simulation of the
UB researchers should have preliminary results from the Federal
Highway Administration-funded project by this summer with final
results ready by spring of 2012. UB's partners on the project are
the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council
(GBNRTC) and the Niagara International Transportation Technology
"We are building a computer model of the Buffalo Niagara region
to help planners better manage the transportation system during
inclement weather emergencies like this week's snowstorm," says
Adel Sadek, PhD, director of UB's Transportation Systems Laboratory
and associate professor in the UB Department of Civil, Structural
and Environmental Engineering in the School of Engineering and
(Sadek is available to speak with media today, Dec. 3, from
11:30 a.m. to noon and after 2 p.m.)
"The simulation will capture what goes on under various
emergency situations," Sadek explains. "For example, we will be
able to predict how closing one lane -- or an entire section of the
Thruway -- will impact the region's traffic patterns. That
information will allow traffic planners to better plan when and how
they should respond when inclement weather is predicted.
"We also will be able to simulate what is the impact of
recommending alternative routes when traffic is diverted to local
roads that are not designed to handle that volume of traffic, and
how traffic signals could be retimed so that traffic on those roads
goes more smoothly," he says.
The simulation being developed at UB is dynamic and will reflect
the amount of congestion typical for specific times of day,
including morning and evening rush hour periods.
"It will reflect how traffic capacity in the network gets
reduced by inclement weather when people start driving more slowly
because of slick road conditions and leaving longer headway between
cars," Sadek explains.
It also will include information on how specific inclement
weather conditions, such as poor visibility from blowing or
drifting snow, changes driving behavior.
"We have a car fitted with a GPS (global positioning satellite)
system that we take out during snowstorms to precisely record how
such events change the way drivers behave on the road," he
The simulation under development at UB uses TRANSIMS
(Transportation Analysis Simulation System). a software program
developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which is being
modified by the UB transportation engineers.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a
member of the Association of American Universities.