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.

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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.

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intersection cameras

Emerging Technologies

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

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MTO in the News

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.

The Drive: Do Smart Lanes Help Drivers? Sort of
A new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Traffic Observatory shows that drivers are heeding the messages displayed on the high-tech warning signs designed to get them to switch lanes before they reach the point where there is a stall, crash or hazard impeding traffic.

Seven stories down: U building serves as a tribute to Minnesota experimentalism
Highlights of the underground Civil Engineering building includes the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, and how researchers there study how traffic moves through the metro area.

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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.