There is a number of highway transportation infrastructures where traffic flow arriving on a higher number of lanes must merge into a lower number of lanes within a limited space, e.g., merging highways, merging on-ramps, toll plazas, work zones. When the arriving traffic flow exceeds the downstream capacity, congestion is formed, and the outflow is reduced due to the congest ion-induced capacity drop. A general conceptual framework for real-time merging traffic control is developed in the paper, aiming at throughput maximization or, equivalently, delay minimization. To this end, an algorithm known from local ramp metering operations is employed (ALINEA). The proposed framework is applied to new and innovative traffic control applications for real-time toll plaza and work zone management. Microscopic simulation results demonstrate the potentially achievable benefits. Further significant applications of the developed concept are outlined. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.