California Department of Transportation

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Program

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) improves transportation safety and mobility and enhances productivity through the integration of advanced communications technologies into the transportation infrastructure and in vehicles. Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) encompass a broad range of wireless and wire line communications-based information and electronics technologies.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Program focus on federal-aid Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) project development procedures to assure compliance with the federal ITS regulations, per Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 23, Section 940 (23 CFR 940) entitled “Intelligent Transportation System Architecture and Standards.” In addition, these procedures establish the roles and responsibilities for all parties who are involved in the federal-aid ITS process.

“Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Program” reissued in its entirety with LPP 10-01 and Chapter 13 of “Local Assistance Program Guidelines” (LAPG).

Caltrans Division of Local Assistance (DLA) issued its Office Bulletin 10-10 "High-Risk (Formerly “Major”) ITS Project Procedure Change" on August 3 to address the procedure change for High-Risk (Formerly "Major") ITS Projects.

The requirements for projects in this program are subject to changes by Congress or FHWA each year. For the most current requirements, the local agency must rely on the latest annual FHWA ITS Deployment Program Guideline. The FHWA guidelines are normally issued every January and are available on the FHWA Discretionary Program web site at:

Even after the Authorization Act or Appropriations Act is passed, local agency sponsors with listed earmarks must submit a project description for review and approval by FHWA prior to authorization in order to proceed with the project. FHWA reviews the project description for integration, eligibility, funding match, ITS architecture, standards, reporting requiremnts, etc.

Upon FHWA approval of the project description, the project follows the federal-aid procedures in Chapter 13 "Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Program," of the LAPG. This program, however, has a couple more requirements during and after construction. They are the quarterly status reports and project evaluation.

A. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Program Guidelines

Option #1Download the Entire ITS Program Guidelines.

Option #2Download individual sections (Please click each section to start downloading).

TOC Table of Contents Section 8: Right-of-Way
Section 1: Introduction Section 9: Procurement/Construction
Section 2: Types of ITS Projects Section 10: Record Keeping
Section 3: ITS Project Development and Funding Section 11: References
Section 4: General ITS Responsibilities Section 12: Web Sites
Section 5: Funding Process Step-By-Step Procedures Section 13: Definitions
Section 6: Environmental Exhibit A: Process Flowchart - High-Risk (formerly Major) ITS Projects
Section 7: ADA Requirements Exhibit B: Process Flowchart - High-Risk (formerly Minor) ITS Projects

B. Types of ITS Projects

ITS projects are divided into three types:  Exempt, Low-Risk, and High-Risk projects.  The planning and development process to be followed is different for these three types.  The previous version of this Guideline referred to Low-Risk projects as “Minor” ITS projects, and High-Risk projects as “Major” ITS projects.

The following attributes can often be used to classify ITS projects as exempt, low, or high risk.

Exempt ITS projects do not require a Systems Engineering Analysis (SEA) and are not covered under these ITS Program Guidelines.  All activities of the traditional roadway project development life-cycle process will be followed.  No further ITS-specific action is necessary.  They can be any the following:

  1. Upgrades to an existing traffic signal – This may include, for example, adding or revising left-turn phasing or other phasing, adding pedestrian-crossing displays.
  2. Installing an “isolated” traffic signal – This is a signal not connected to any type of external signal-control system, nor likely to be in the future because of its isolation.
  3. Traffic signal timing projects – This includes all “studies” whose purpose is to change the coordination parameters for controlling a group of signals – but with no installation of new hardware or software.
  4. Studies, Plans, Analyses – This includes ITS Master Plans, Deployment Plans, Technology Studies, etc. whose product is only a document, with no new hardware of software installed.
  5. Routine Operations – This includes operating and maintaining any ITS elements or systems – again with no new hardware or software installed.

Low-Risk (formerly “Minor”) ITS projects are often referred to as ITS infrastructure expansion.  Standard Plans, Standard Specification, and Standard Special Provisions are well documented.  They will have all of the following characteristics:

  1. Single jurisdiction; single transportation mode (highway, transit or rail)
  2. No software creation; commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) or proven software
  3. Proven COTS hardware & communications technology
  4. No new interfaces
  5. System requirements fully detailed in writing
  6. Operating procedures fully detailed in writing
  7. Project life-cycle not shortened by technology service life

High-Risk (formerly “Major”) ITS projects are often referred to as ITS “System Developments.”  They have one (or more) of the following characteristics:

  1. Multi-Jurisdictional or Multi-modal
  2. Custom software is required
  3. Hardware and Communications are “cutting-edge” or not in common use
  4. New interfaces to other systems are required
  5. System requirements not detailed or not fully documented
  6. Operating procedures not detailed or not fully documented
  7. Technology service life shortens project life-cycle

These risk factors are discussed in

  • single transportation mode (highway, transit or rail)

more detail in Table 13-1.

Table 13-1 – Risk Assessment for ITS Projects


Low-Risk Project Attributes

High-Risk Project Attributes

Risk Factors


Single jurisdiction and single transportation mode (highway, transit or rail)

Multi-Jurisdictional or Multi-modal

With multiple agencies, departments, and disciplines, disagreements can arise about roles, responsibilities, cost sharing, data sharing, schedules, changing priorities, etc.   Detailed written agreements are crucial!


No software creation; uses commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) or proven software

Custom software development is required

Custom software requires additional development, testing, training, documentation, maintenance, and product update procedures -- all unique to one installation.  This is very expensive, so hidden short-cuts are often taken to keep costs low.  Additionally, integration with existing software can be challenging, especially because documentation is often not complete and out-of-date.


Proven COTS hardware and communications technology

Hardware or communications technology are “cutting edge” or not in common use.

New technologies are not “proven” until they have been installed and operated in a substantial number of different environments. New environments often uncover unforeseen problems. New technologies or new businesses can sometimes fail completely.  Multiple proven technologies combined in the same project would be high risk if there are new interfaces between them.


No new interfaces

New interfaces to other systems are required.

New interfaces require that documentation for the “other” system be complete and up-to-date.  If not (and often they are not), building a new interface can become difficult or impossible.  Duplication of existing interfaces reduces the risk.  “Open Standard” interfaces are usually well-documented and low risk.


System requirements fully-detailed in writing

System Requirements not detailed or not fully documented

System Requirements are critical for an RFP.  They must describe in detail all of the functions the system must perform, performance expected, plus the operating environment.  Good requirements can be a dozen or more pages for a small system, and hundreds of pages for a large system.  When existing systems are upgraded with new capabilities, requirements must be revised and rewritten.


Operating procedures fully-detailed in writing

Operating procedures not detailed or not fully documented

Standard Operating Procedures are required for training, operations, and maintenance.  For existing systems, they are often out-of-date.


None of the technologies used are near end of service life

Some technologies included are near end of service life

Computer technology changes rapidly (e.g. PC’s and cell phones become obsolete in 2-4 years). Local area networks using internet standards have had a long life, but in contrast some mobile phones that use proprietary communications became obsolete quickly.  Similarly, the useful life of ITS technology (hardware, software, and communications) is short.  Whether your project is a new system or expanding an existing one, look carefully at all the technology elements to assess remaining cost-effective service life.

C. SERF Form and other editable Forms

System Engineering Report Form (SERF), Exhibit 7-I (Word version, 2-page PDF version, and 4-page PDF version), is required for Low-Risk (formerly "Minor") and High-Risk (formerly "Major") ITS Projects. For detailed information regarding SERF, access Chapter 7 "Field Review," of Local Assistance Procedure Manual (LAPM). Samples of SERF can be found at FHWA California Division website

Other editable forms: Exhibit 3-A "Request for Authorization to Proceed with Preliminary Engineering", Exhibit 3-G "Federal Project Log Sheet (Minimum Requirements)"/, Exhibit 3-O "Local Federal-Aid Project Finance Letter", and Exbihit 7-B "Field Review Form".


System Engineering Management Plan (SEMP) is required for High Risk (formerly "Major") ITS Projects. The samples of SEMP can be found at FHWA California Division website

E. Related Links

Caltrans home page:

FHWA California Division Office:

FHWA home page:

ITS Benefit-cost Database:

ITS System Cost Database:

ITS Conformity Rule:

ITS Eligibility Costs for Operating a Transportation Management System:

ITS Integration Program:

ITS Standards:

National ITS Architecture:

System Engineering Guidebook for ITS:

NHI Its Training Courses:

UC Berkeley ITS Courses:

US DOT ITS site:

If you have any questions or are experiencing problems downloading, please contact your local Caltrans District Local Assistance Office or the Caltrans HQ Division of Local Assistance ITS Coordinator.

To report any difficulty experienced in accessing Caltrans programs, services or activities or any discriminations covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act or the Fair Employment and Housing Act, please contact us at (866)810-6346 Voice; 711 TTY; (916)653-3055 Fax or email to


Page Last Updated: 9/2/10 10:51 AM