Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

Chapter 4H. Traffic Control Signals for Freeway Entrance Ramps

Section 4H.01 Application of Freeway Entrance Ramp Control Signals

Ramp control signals are traffic control signals that control the flow of traffic entering the freeway facility.

Freeway entrance ramp control signals are sometimes used if controlling traffic entering the freeway could reduce the total expected delay to traffic in the freeway corridor, including freeway ramps and local streets, and if at least one of the following conditions is present:

  1. Congestion recurs on the freeway because traffic demand is in excess of the capacity, or congestion recurs or a high frequency of crashes exist at the freeway entrance because of inadequate ramp merging area. A good indicator of recurring freeway congestion is freeway operating speeds less than 80 km/h (50 mph) occurring regularly for at least a half-hour period. Freeway operating speeds less than 50 km/h (30 mph) for a half-hour period or more would indicate severe congestion.
  2. Controlling traffic entering a freeway assists in meeting local transportation system management objectives identified for freeway traffic flow, such as the following:
    1. Maintenance of a specific freeway level of service.
    2. Priority treatments with higher levels of service for mass transit and carpools.
    3. Redistribution of freeway access demand to other on-ramps.
  3. Predictable, sporadic congestion occurs on isolated sections of freeway because of short-period peak traffic loads from special events or from severe peak loads of recreational traffic.

The installation of ramp control signals should be preceded by an engineering study of the physical and traffic conditions on the highway facilities likely to be affected. The study should include the ramps and ramp connections and the surface streets that would be affected by the ramp control, as well as the freeway section concerned. Types of traffic data that should be obtained include, but are not limited to, traffic volumes, traffic crashes, freeway operating speeds, and travel time and delay on the freeway, approaches, ramps, and alternate surface routes.

Capacities and demand/capacity relationships should be determined for each freeway section. The locations and causes of capacity restrictions and those sections where demand exceeds capacity should be identified. From these and other data, estimates should be made of desirable metering rates, probable reductions in the delay of freeway traffic, likely increases in delay to ramp traffic, and the potential impact on surface streets. The study should include an evaluation of the ramp’s storage capacities for vehicles delayed at the signal, the impact of queued traffic on the local street intersection, and the availability of suitable alternate surface routes having adequate capacity to accommodate any additional traffic volume.

Before installing ramp control signals, consideration should be given to their potential acceptance by the public and the requirements for enforcing ramp control, as well as alternate means of increasing the capacity, reducing the demand, or improving the characteristics of the freeway.

Section 4H.02 Design of Freeway Entrance Ramp Control Signals

Ramp control signals shall meet all of the standard design specifications for traffic control signals, except as noted herein:

  1. The signal face for freeway entrance ramp control signals shall be either a two-lens signal face containing red and green signal lenses or a three-lens signal face containing red, yellow, and green signal lenses.
  2. A minimum of two signal faces per ramp shall face entering traffic.
  3. Ramp control signal faces need not be illuminated when not in use.

Ramp control signals shall be located and designed to minimize their viewing by mainline freeway traffic.

The required signal faces, if located at the side of the ramp roadway, may be mounted such that the height above the pavement grade at the center of the ramp roadway to the bottom of the signal housing of the lowest signal face is between 1.4 m (4.5 ft) and 1.8 m (6 ft).

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