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Traffic engineering is the study of, well, traffic — where it comes from and where it goes, and then streamlining everything between.

Reverse Traffic Engineering does not exist — at least not by that name — until now.

Consider that vacant lot next door or the farm field behind your house. Just as your current home used to be farmland or woods, that vacant lot next door will some day develop into something else.

And that “something else” generates more traffic than an empty lot. So how can a community possibly plan for this future traffic without knowing the exact nature or the exact timing of such a development? Are we talking about one year or 10 years? Are we talking about a shopping center, a subdivision, or a cemetery?

Here’s where Reverse Traffic Engineering is helpful. It starts with a vision for the perfect community. Retail, residential, commercial, and cultural — all in perfect balance. Accessibility and parking are reasonable, logical, creative, and most of all — intentional.

Development is controlled by the community, not by the developers. It doesn’t just happen; it happens on purpose.

Reverse Traffic Engineering translates community vision into traffic volumes and traffic patterns. Overlaying this future traffic on top of existing traffic reveals potential bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement. Planners now know where to expect traffic signals, roundabouts, extra lanes, parking, pedestrian and bike trails, and even new corridors to help flatten rush hour traffic peaks.

And because technological and economic shifts often cause adjustments to such a plan, Reverse Traffic Engineering can again be called upon to quantify the impact of any changes along the way.

By the way, RTE goes by other names: Traffic assessments, traffic studies, traffic impact studies, common sense, etc. All these incorporate traffic engineering principles to answer the simple question every community must ask: “Should we be concerned about future traffic, and if so, what can be done to accommodate it?”

Traffic engineering can be reactive and it can be proactive. It can also be reverse — fast-forward 10 years and look back. What will you have wished you did 10 years ago? And then do that.

Chet Skwarcan is president of Traffic Engineering, Inc. in Danville. He is an Indiana traffic engineer with more than 30 years of experience solving traffic problems statewide.