, Professor, Mechanical Engineering
In this project, Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve sought to undertake a set of studies in order to better understand the constraints on traffic volume and traffic patterns on the park road. Since 1972, traffic on the park road has been limited mostly to buses, and since 1986, a use limit of 10,512 vehicle trips annually has been in effect. Faced with increasing visitation and pressure to defend or change the limits on road traffic, the park service wished to develop a greater understanding of the impacts of traffic volume and traffic and transit patterns on the physical, biological and social environment of the park. The complexities of devising a novel traffic model arose from the stipulation that it must be used for both assessing social and biological impacts, in addition to predicting impacts of proposed road operational strategies. Completed by a team of researchers from the Minnesota Traffic Observatory (MTO), the project required that a preliminary analysis of relevant data for model derivation be conducted first in order to develop a framework for designing such a traffic model. The final result was a traffic simulation tool that will allow park managers to make informed decisions about vehicle trip limits in the park.