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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 64· No. 1 > Along the Road

July/August 2000
Vol. 64· No. 1

Along the Road

"Along the Road" is the place to look for information about current and upcoming activities, developments, trends, and items of general interest to the highway community. This information comes from Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let’s meet along the road.

Policy and Legislation

Slater Forwards Legislation for Transportation Programs

Slater forwarded legislation to Congress that would authorize the use of $468 million in federal transportation funds to support expanded passenger rail services, including improvements for high-speed rail service on intercity corridors across the United States.

By investing money in high-speed rail, DOT can help to reduce congestion on U.S. highways. Less congestion helps to improve the environment and air quality, and contributes to making more livable communities.

Slater also asked Congress to approve $398 million in contracting authority for DOT’s new Emergency Relief Fund Reserve Fund. The annual $100 million allotted for the fund is not enough to keep up with the natural disasters that have occurred over the past few years. A new fund, in addition to the current emergency fund, would eliminate the backlog of current emergency needs.

Slater also requested funding for $221 million in additional contracting authority for surface transportation safety, environmental, and mobility enhancement research. He also requested an additional $120 million for transportation systems deployment; $140 million in additional contracting authority for the Borders and Corridors programs; $74 million from the Revenue Aligned Budget Authority (RABA); $70 million from RABA for research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on heavy trucks, the needs of older drivers, aggressive driving, seatbelt use, and highway safety among rural and minority populations; $48 million from RABA to improve mobility in the Mississippi Delta region; $50 million from RABA for transportation services that provide former welfare recipients with access to employment; $25 million in additional contracting authority for the Transportation and Community and System Preservation Pilot Program; and $10 million from RABA for a commercial driver’s licence pilot program.

Task Force Reports Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel Will Cost Millions More To Complete

A report issued by a federal task force found that Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel (CA/T) Project — the largest highway project ever attempted in American history — could cost an additional $300 million to $480 million, bringing the cost overrun to $1.7 billion to $1.9 billion and the total estimated cost of the project to $13.4 billion to $13.6 billion. The project replaces the existing I-93 elevated highway with an underground expressway and extends I-90 to Boston’s Logan International Airport. It was originally estimated to cost $10.8 billion.

In its report, the task force faulted Massachusetts for breaching its trust with FHWA and others by "intentionally withholding knowledge of the project’s potential cost overrun." The task force also faulted FHWA for failing to maintain a sufficiently independent relationship with CA/T project leadership.

On Feb. 14, DOT’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report on the CA/T project, indicating that cost estimates were much higher than previously thought. The state of Massachusetts announced that the estimate had risen from $10.8 billion to $12.2 billion, a $1.4 billion increase. FHWA Administrator Kenneth Wykle then drafted a six-part action plan to address issues raised in the OIG’s report. Part of the plan was to establish a task force to conduct a complete review of the FHWA oversight processes. The task force found that FHWA needed to enhance federal oversight and require fiscal responsibility from the leaders of the CA/T project.

On May 17, Massachusetts Governor Cellucci signed legislation to authorize the use of state funds to cover some of the cost increase for the CA/T project.

Major challenges for the project’s designers and builders include difficult soil conditions, tight working space, the proximity to huge glass-and-steel office towers and fragile old brick buildings, the need to hold up an elevated highway while tunneling directly beneath it, and keeping Boston open for business throughout 14 years of construction.

The project has been under construction since late 1991.

Boston's Central Artery Tunnel Project
Boston's Central Artery/Tunnel (CA/T) Project — the largest highway project ever attempted in American history — replaces the existing I-93 elevated highway with an underground expressway and extends I-90 to Boston's Logan International Airport. The project will cost millions more than first estimated.

Management and Administration

FHWA and FTA Issue Proposed Planning and Environmental Rules

FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued two proposed rules to strengthen the transportation planning process and promote environmentally sound investment choices. The rules would govern the process for distributing more than $30 billion worth of highway and transit projects annually.

One of the rules is for metropolitan and statewide planning (FHWA Docket No. FHWA-99-5933) and the other is for highway and transit project development and implementation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (FHWA Docket No. FHWA-99-5989). The two rules are linked in terms of their working relationship between FHWA and FTA and are posted in the Federal Register (May 25, 2000, Vol. 65, No. 102).

The proposed rules eliminate the stand-alone Major Investment Study requirement and provide for closer links between planning and project development under NEPA. This allows for planning and project development that can be tailored to state and local conditions.

These revisions are a product of statutory changes made by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). The proposed regulatory language addresses the implementation of Presidential Executive Order 12898 regarding Environmental Justice.

FHWA and FTA invite comments on the proposed rules until August 23. The rules and collateral information are also available through the FHWA and FTA Web sites (www.fhwa.dot.gov and www.fta.dot.gov, respectively).

Supreme Court Rules Railroads Not Liable

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that railroads are not liable for crashes at grade crossings that used federally funded warning devices.

This ruling reversed a lower court ruling that made Norfolk Southern Railway Co. liable for the death of a Tennessee man who was struck and killed at a train crossing in Gibson County, Tenn. The man’s widow was awarded $430,765 by a jury in a federal trial court and the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, finding that the warning system at the rail crossing was inadequate. (The woman also said the train was traveling too fast and the train operator did not sound a horn.) The Supreme Court reversed that ruling based on the fact that the warning device was installed under a state project and was funded by FHWA.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, "States are free to install more protective devices at such crossings with their own funds . . . [but] what states cannot do, once they have installed federally funded devices at a particular crossing, is hold the railroad responsible for the adequacy of those devices." She continued, "Once the FHWA approved the project and the signs were installed using federal funds, the federal standard for adequacy displaced Tennessee statutory and common law addressing the same subject, thereby pre-empting the claim."

The Tennessee crossing had a reflective sign, but no gates or flashing lights to warn of an approaching train.

—U.S. Rail News

FHWA Awards $300,000 in Federal Funds to Honolulu

Honolulu’s Livable Waikiki will receive $300,000 in federal funding under the Transportation and Community and System Preservation (TCSP) pilot program. TCSP consists of grants and research that will assist communities in solving problems involving transportation, land development, environmental protection, public safety, and environmental and cultural preservation efforts.

The partnership is designed to protect the region’s environment while encouraging economic development. The city will receive grant money to develop a community-based mobility plan for Waikiki that will ease traffic congestion, preserve green space, and employ smart growth strategies.

The Honolulu project is among the 84 projects from communities throughout the nation selected from a pool of 327 applicants.

TCSP funds are used to help achieve goals determined by local areas, such as improving transportation efficiency, reducing pollution, providing better job access, and revitalizing underdeveloped and brownfield sites.

Highway Construction Costs Decrease

Highway construction costs decreased 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2000 as compared to the fourth quarter of 1999, and 5.7 percent compared to the first quarter of 1999.

The first quarter results lowered FHWA's composite index for highway construction costs to 138.1 percent of the 1987 base index (1987 average costs equal 100 percent).

Decreases in the unit prices for bituminous concrete, structural concrete, structural steel, and portland cement concrete lowered the index in the first quarter. There were increases in the unit prices for common excavation and reinforcing steel.

The three-quarter moving composite price index for the fourth quarter of 1999, which is calculated by combining data for the last two quarters of 1999 with the first quarter of 2000, decreased 1.1 percent from the previous three-quarter average.

Trends in highway construction costs are measured by an index of average contract prices compiled from reports of state highway contract awards for federal-aid contracts greater than $500,000.

Technical News

ASCE To Develop Standard Guidelines for Subsurface Utility Data

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is developing a national consensus standard (NCS) titled "Standard Guidelines for the Collection and Depiction of Existing Subsurface Utility Data." This NCS is following the legal procedures for adoption not only as an ASCE standard, but also as an American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard.

The purpose of the standard is to present a system of classifying the quality of existing subsurface utility data. Such a classification will allow the project owner, engineer, and contractor to develop strategies to reduce risk or to allocate risk due to existing subsurface utilities in a defined manner. This document may assist engineers, owners, and contractors to understand utility quality-level classification and their allocations of risk.

New Superpave Software Available

New Superpave software, which allows users to design asphalt mixes using the Superpave mix design procedure, is now available. The software is intended for use by pavement materials engineers and technicians, mix designers, asphalt paving contractors, and other asphalt paving professionals. It runs in the Windows 95/98/NT operating systems.

The software is being distributed as part of the AASHTOWare line of products. It can be purchased from the AASHTOWare Web site (www.aashtoware.org) for $350 per copy. Those who are interested in the product and would like to test it before purchasing can visit the Web site and download a 30-day trial run for free.

The original Superpave software was created under a Strategic Highway Research Program project that involved researchers from the Texas Transportation Institute, University of Texas Transportation Institute, University of Texas at Austin, Deighton & Associates, University of California at Berkeley, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Florida. The DOS-based Version 1.0 was released by FHWA in 1996.

Public Information and Information Exchange

FHWA and NPS Open Park Transportation System and Visitors Center

FHWA and the National Park Service (NPS) opened Utah’s Zion National Park Transportation System and Visitors Center this past May. The visitors center opening follows a memorandum of understanding signed by Transportation Secretary Slater and Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt in 1997. The agreement established a team of employees from FHWA, FTA, and NPS who worked together on the project to preserve Zion National Park.

Visitors can go to the center and learn about the park and can use the transit system. The bus system, which must be used during the peak season (March through October), has two loops. The park loop operates from the new visitors center to the north end of Zion Canyon. The Springdale loop will operate from the new visitors center to locations within Springdale, just outside the park.

Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway in Zion National Park was completed and opened to the public in 1930. The park's most impressive construction project, the 1.8-kilometer- (1.1-mile-) long tunnel cut through solid sandstone, was begun in 1927 and completed in 1930 at a cost of $2 million.

DOT Issues Condition and Performance Report: 1999 Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges, and Transit

DOT issued a report on the status of the nation's surface transportation system, which states that the record levels of highway and transit investment by the Clinton-Gore Administration — $34.5 billion in 2000 alone — have improved transportation safety and have enhanced system conditions.

The report finds that the average annual cost to maintain the physical condition of highways and bridges for the next 20 years is projected to be $56.6 billion by all levels of government in 1997 dollars. Also, capital spending on highways and bridges would need to rise 16.3 percent above 1997 levels to maintain this level. Over the life of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), this difference is expected to decline to 5.7 percent.

Total spending on highways and bridges was $101.3 billion for highways and bridges in 1997, an 8.4-percent increase over 1995. Of this, $48.7 billion was for capital improvements, a 10.2-percent increase. The federal government contributed 41.1 percent of the capital outlay, down from 44.5 percent in 1995.

The report also finds that the pavement condition of the nation's urban and rural highways has improved overall. Since 1993, the percentage of Interstate road-miles with acceptable ride quality increased from 91.2 percent in 1993 to 92.4 percent in 1997. The percentage of total road-miles in poor condition dropped from 8.6 percent to 6.6 percent over that same time period.

The report also finds that the condition of the nation's bridges has improved, with the percentage of deficient bridges overall at 29.6 percent in 1998, compared with 34.6 percent in 1992. The Interstate system has the lowest percentage of deficient bridges – 16.4 percent in rural areas and 26.8 percent in urban areas. (Deficient bridges are not necessarily unsafe, however, in many cases, they are not built to meet current traffic demands.)

DOT’s Condition and Performance Report: 1999 Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges, and Transit is a biennial report to Congress that provides information on the physical and operating characteristics and future investment needs of the highway, bridge, and transit segments of the nation's surface transportation system. Copies of the report can be obtained by calling toll-free (800) 240-5674 or, in the Washington, D.C. area, (202) 366-9899.

DOT To Help Speed Use of Intelligent Transportation Systems

Secretary Slater today announced proposed rules that would lead to faster incorporation of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) on streets and highways.

Two notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and a request for comment are intended to speed ITS deployment locally by requiring planners to consider integration and interoperability during the planning and project development process. Such consideration would help stakeholders incorporate ITS integration and interoperability strategies early in the planning process, and thus reduce the possibility of costly, incompatible systems in the future.

The proposals emphasize the need to develop an ITS integration strategy as part of the transportation planning process. They further require development of an ITS regional architecture, based on the national ITS architecture, to which subsequent ITS projects will adhere. They also encourage the use of applicable ITS standards and interoperability tests and require the use of those standards that U.S. DOT will adopt in the future.

ITS Training Now Available Online

The Consortium for ITS Training and Education (CITE) is offering interactive Web-based courses over the Internet.

CITE is an organization made up of universities, associations, and private-sector members focused on providing comprehensive ITS training and education. CITE developed interactive, Web-based courses for graduate students and professionals who wish to enhance their knowledge and skills in ITS. Graduate-level, for-credit courses developed by CITE are offered through CITE member universities. Training courses for continuing education units are available directly through CITE.

CITE was started with seed funding provided by the I-95 Corridor Coalition. The Coalition is a regional partnership of transportation agencies from Maine to Virginia, bringing its members together to address ITS solutions to shared transportation problems and challenges. For more information, visit CITE's Web site at www.citeconsortium.org.

Smart Road, Blacksburg,Va.
Smart Road, the world's first all-weather road test facility built especially for scientific research in the transportation field, opened on March 23 in Blacksburg, VA.

Virginia's "Smart Road" Opens

The world's first all-weather road test facility built especially for scientific research in the transportation field opened on March 23 in Blacksburg, VA. The facility, known as the "Smart Road," is the result of a partnership between the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Virginia Tech's Transportation Institute, and FHWA. VDOT owns the land on which the facility was built; Virginia Tech operates the facility. FHWA participated in the design and funding of an experimental highway lighting system.

Currently, the Smart Road is a 2.7-kilometer (1.7-mile) stretch of two-lane roadway equipped with 400 electronic sensors, video cameras, and 75 weather towers that can create rain, snow, and icing conditions. It features 14 instrumented pavement sections and embedded magnetic strips for measuring lane-keeping and driver behavior. The experimental lighting system section is 1.2 kilometers long and provides for a wide variety of luminaires selections, pole spacings, and changes in mounting heights. The system will serve as a test facility for new and novel highway lighting designs; visibility studies, as well as the evaluation of the interaction between fixed lighting, headlighting, and signing; and roadway markings under different weather conditions. TFHRC designed and built the computer-based lighting control system that allows for instantaneous changes of many of the lighting parameters from a central command post.

The test track cost $12 million to $15 million and was funded by VDOT, but is reimbursable by FHWA.

More than 70 research projects are now underway at the facility for both private industry and government agencies.

The Smart Road test facility is the result of a movement started in the 1980s to connect Blacksburg to Interstate 81 and Roanoke to the north. Smart Road is projected to be a part of Interstate 73, eventually linking Blacksburg to I-81.

FHWA Announces 2001 Environmental Excellence Awards Call for Entries

FHWA is accepting entries for the biennial Environmental Excellence Awards Program. FHWA developed the biennial awards program to draw attention to those partners, projects, and processes that excelled in meeting the growing transportation demands, while protecting and enhancing the environment.

The award winners will be announced at an Earth Day ceremony on April 21, 2001 in Washington, D.C.

Each entry should include a complete application form and a summary of the outstanding accomplishments of the nominated project, process, person, or group. Project entries must include at least two professional-quality color glossy prints showing different views of the project or associated persons nominated. All materials submitted become the property of the U.S. Department of Transportation. No entry materials will be returned. For more information about submitting entries and to obtain an application form, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/eea_call.htm.

Personnel

Hart Appointed Acting Deputy Administrator at FMCSA

Clyde J. Hart, Jr., Administrator of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), was appointed the acting deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on May 22.

FMCSA, the newest mode within DOT, was established Jan. 1, 2000. Its mission is to improve roadway safety by preventing commercial motor vehicle-related injuries and fatalities.

Hart was confirmed as Maritime Administrator by the Senate in August 1998. He has co-chaired the Marine Transportation System review and led MARAD’s negotiations with Japan, Korea, and China. Previously, he served four years as the senior democratic counsel of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. There, he advised committee members on legislative issues and oversight matters and assisted in the development of policy positions and legislative initiatives.

He will serve as acting deputy administrator temporarily. Deputy Administrator John Graykowski will serve as acting administrator of MARAD.

NAPA Holds Elections

The National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) held their annual elections for officers during their 45th Annual Convention in Hawaii. Michael D. Mangum, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Magnum Group of Raleigh, N.C., was elected chairman of the board of NAPA for 2000. R. Wayne Evans, senior vice president, Asphalt Operations, The Hubbard Group, Inc. in Orlando, Fla., was elected first vice chairman; Peter A. Wilson, Senior Vice President, Barriere Construction Co., L.L.C., in New Orleans, La., was named third vice chairman; David B. Carlson, president, Fred Carlson Co., Inc., of Decorah, Iowa, was elected second vice chairman; Tom Hill, CEO, Oldcastle Materials Group in Washington, D.C., was elected treasurer; and Larry H. Lemon, secretary/treasurer of Haskell Lemon Construction Co., Oklahoma City, Okla., was re-elected secretary of NAPA for 2000.

NAPA represents the interests of hot-mix asphalt producers/contractors.

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