The Minnesota Traffic Observatory (MTO) is a transportation laboratory focusing on the testing and evaluation of new transportation management and operational strategies and traveler information technologies. The MTO is a facility of the University of Minnesota's Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering. It is also affiliated with the Roadway Safety Institute, the Region 5 University Transportation Center.

Our Research

MTO lab

Traffic Management

Improving the management of transportation networks through simulation and modeling.

Learn More about traffic management research projects

Traffic Safety

Investigating and improving the safety and mobility of transportation networks.

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MTO lab staff

Transportation Planning

Developing tools and techniques that bring complex planning issues into clear perspective.

Learn More about transportation planning research projects
intersection cameras

Emerging Technologies

Joining technological innovations with transportation systems to improve safety and efficiency.

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MTO in the News

CTS: Celebrating 30 years of innovation
In celebrating its first 30 years, the Center for Transportation Studies is looking back at research, education, and engagement highlights to illustrate the innovation that makes transportation better. Traffic operations is a great example of how U of M research meets practical needs. Autoscope® technology, invented at the U of M, was commercialized in 1991. Current research at the Minnesota Traffic Observatory builds on this legacy. A short video celebrates three decades of innovation in traffic operations.

Move over one: Determining the effectiveness of ILCS in Minneapolis
Minnesota’s Smart Lanes is the brand name of the active traffic management (ATM) system implemented on I-35W and I-94, the two busiest freeways in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The centerpiece of this system, and a novel idea at the time of its installation since no other U.S. city has anything similar, is the implementation of Intelligent Lane Control Signs (ILCS). Minnesota Traffic Observatory director John Hourdos explains.

Deadly crash highlights danger of left turns
Research shows left-turning vehicles are more likely to be involved in a collision, because the vehicle must cross in front of oncoming traffic.... Experts say that while there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the hazards, such as better road design and alert drivers, turning left is just inherently more risky. "They are the most dangerous because they are direct conflicts between different movements," said John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory and an adjunct assistant civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota.

More News

Research Spotlight: John Hourdos

Featured Research

Evaluation of the Effect MnPASS Lane Design has on Mobility and Safety
This study evaluated the safety and mobility of both restricted and open access MnPASS lanes.

Effect of Signing and Striping on the Safety of a Two-Lane Roundabout
This project examined driving behavior and safety before and after signing and striping changes at a two-lane roundabout.

Modeling Traffic Impacts on Visitor Experience and on Wildlife in Public Spaces
The MTO developed a model to simulate the complex relationships between traffic patterns and wildlife movements in Denali National Park.

Rapidly deployable, low-cost traffic data and video collection device
This portable traffic data collection system—designed for temporary data gathering and video recording—is easily deployable, non-intrusive, and inexpensive.