AbstractDespite the wealth of research that has sought to understand the effects of highway work zones, very little definitive information is available concerning the determination of work zone length (WZL) of rural highway rehabilitation projects. Despite its significant impact, adaptive models that holistically estimate reasonable WZLs are very rare. To fill this gap, this study first created a high-confidence data set through a series of scheduling and traffic simulations and subsequently identified critical factors affecting WZL through a descriptive factor analysis. Based on these data sets and findings, a novel decision support framework was developed to determine the most economical WZL in a balanced trade-off between motorists’ inconvenience level induced by traffic disruption and their opportunity cost. The practical applications of the WZL determination framework were then demonstrated through a systematic eight-step procedure, followed by an illustrative use case of an actual project. The results revealed that traffic loading and work zone duration are critical factors, with an important benchmarking point being traffic loading at approximately 41,000 vehicles per day. As the first of its kind, this study will help state transportation agencies devise sounder construction phasing plans by providing a means of establishing WZL that strikes a balance between travelers’ inconvenience and constructability.

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