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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 64· No. 2 > Along the Road

Sept/Oct 2000
Vol. 64· No. 2

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

DOT and District of Columbia Make Partnership for Better Roads

DOT and the District of Columbia agreed to a $70 million, five-year partnership to maintain, improve, and preserve 75 miles (120.7 kilometers) of key roadways in the District of Columbia.

The agreement, called “D.C. Streets: An Innovative Partnership for Better Roads,” enables VMS Inc., a Richmond, Va.-based contractor with an office in Northeast Washington, to manage roads in the district that make up the city’s portion of the National Highway System (NHS).

FHWA worked with the district to conduct an inventory of National Highway System roadways to assess the condition of roads, bridges, tunnels, vegetation, and roadside maintenance. The inventory enabled the D.C. Department of Public Works to establish a maintenance baseline to be used to evaluate the performance of the contractor and the effectiveness of the program.

The National Highway System (NHS), designated by law in 1995, is made up of 161,000 miles (259,097 kilometers) of the interstate system and other key roads. NHS constitutes four percent of the nation’s public roads but carries more than 40 percent of the nation’s highway traffic, 75 percent of its commercial traffic, and 90 percent of its tourist traffic.

FHWA provided managerial advice and engineering services to the District of Columbia to develop the performance-based contract. This agreement marks the first urban, performance-based asset preservation effort of its kind in the United States.

FHWA Administrator Kenneth Wykle said, “It’s an innovative and common-sense approach that could serve as a model for other municipalities.”

Florida Governor Signs Transportation Funding Increase

Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed Florida Senate Bill 862 into law, making this legislation the largest transportation funding increase in the state’s history. The initiative, dubbed “Mobility 2000,” was sponsored by Senator Daniel Webster of Orlando and other legislators and local leaders. The new law provides more than $2.5 billion of additional funds for transportation over a 10-year period by returning state road funds previously diverted to general state needs back to transportation, issuing Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds, using one-time surplus General Revenue funds from the state’s economy, and increasing in federal aid.

-Florida DOT

DOT Proposes Rules to Speed ITS Deployment

DOT proposed two notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and a request for comment intended to speed intelligent transportation systems (ITS) deployment locally by requiring planners to consider integration and interoperability during the planning and project development process.

The NPRMs are entitled “Statewide Transportation Planning, Metropolitan Transportation Planning,” and “Intelligent Transportation System Architecture and Standards.”

DOT plans to hold seven public briefings within the 90-day comment period associated with these proposals to explain the content of the ITS architecture and standards provisions and to encourage public input into the final rulemaking.

The proposals and request for comment were posted May 19 on the Federal Register’s Web site, http://www.nara.gov/fedreg/. For more information, visit www.its.dot.gov.

DOT Grants Extension on Proposed Planning and Environmental Rules

DOT granted an extension for the comment period for two proposed rules designed to improve the transportation planning process. The deadline for comments on the proposed rules was August 23, but it has now been extended to September 23.

FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued two proposed rules to strengthen the transportation planning process and promote environmentally sound investment choices. 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).

Management and Administration

FCC Designates Traffic Information Telephone Number

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted U.S. DOT a three-digit traveler information telephone number, which will be made available to the states and local jurisdictions across the country. The new number, 511, provides a simple means of access to traffic information collected through ITS. Once in place, the new number will help travelers avoid congestion and traffic incidents, and will save lives, time, and money.

Vice President Gore proposed a new program that would grant states and local jurisdictions start-up funds of up to $50,000 each to convert their existing numbers to the single number. A new ITS grant program and technical assistance from DOT field staff will help transition the nation to the new number.

DOT petitioned the FCC last year the single number because traffic information numbers and new area codes around the country were being created.

Information about 511 implementation and conversion, and the conversion grant program is posted and will be updated regularly on DOT’s ITS Web site, www.its.dot.gov.

DOT Awards Contracts Under Advanced Vehicle Program

DOT has awarded two contracts valued at $571,300 under the Advanced Vehicle Technologies Program, a public-private partnership intended to create more fuel-efficient vehicles. Through the program, federal funds are matched by private sector investments.

The two projects will be coordinated under contract with the Northeast Advanced Vehicle Consortium (NAVC). One project is the Heavy-Duty Hybrid for Off-Road Vehicles ($309,300). The project will select and complete the preliminary design of an electric series or parallel hybrid drivetrain that would suite heavy off-road vehicles, such as those used in highway construction. The other one is the Micro-Turbine Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) Integration for Hybrid Electric CitiVan ($262,000). This APU will be developed and integrated into a medium-duty vehicle. The APU will extend how far the vehicle can travel on electricity alone, from the current 40 miles (64.37 kilometers) to 140 miles (225.3 kilometers) per charged battery.

The goal of the Advanced Vehicle Technologies Program is to improve energy efficiency and U.S. competitiveness while reducing emissions and to lessen the transportation industry’s dependence on petroleum.

Technical News

FHWA Awards Transtec HIPERPAV Project

FHWA awarded Transtec a research project to extend the abilities of HIPERPAV. HIPERPAV will soon be able to predict the long-term performance of jointed concrete pavements based on early-age behavior conditions and traffic loading. The project also includes adding a continuously reinforced concrete pavement module.

HIPERPAV is a Windows®-based computer program that provides guidance on the design and construction of concrete pavement. Transtec originally developed HIPERAV while working on a previous project to address potential problems that occur during the first several days after concrete placement and that affect the long-term performance of concrete paving projects.

In this new project, a new technical advisory panel consisting of experts in the design and construction of concrete pavements will be selected to provide guidance during development and implementation.

-HIPERPAV Workzone

AASHTO and ASTM Adopt Ontario Ministry of Transportation Test Method

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) adopted test methods that were developed by the Ministry of Transport of Ontario (MTO) to assess the performance of premium cold mixes for patching.

MTO’s Maintenance Office and Bituminous Section, Materials Engineering, and Research Office, developed two new laboratory test methods and a field evaluation protocol to ensure that an MTO-designated premium cold mix would meet minimum performance criteria. Specifically, the new methods set the requirements for field handling and performance properties. The protocol calls for at least 75 percent of the mix to remain intact for nine months after placement. All mixes are tested through the critical spring-thaw period. The winter mix met all protocol criteria and exceeded required standards.

-Road Talk

ODOT Prevents Crashes on Interstate 5 With Unique Barrier System

Since the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) installed a three-cable barrier system in the median of Interstate 5 between Wilsonville and Salem in 1996, there have been no traffic fatalities in a crossover-type traffic crash.

According to statistics compiled by ODOT’s Research Group, vehicles hit the 22-mile- (35.4-kilometer-) long section of barrier about 65 times each year. Of those impacts, ODOT estimates that approximately half could have resulted in a car crossing the median area and conflicting with oncoming traffic.

An ODOT spokesperson said that the barriers are saving the public hundreds of thousands of dollars a year based on estimates developed by the National Safety Council. Crash-related costs have dropped from $600,000 per year to $200,000 per year when comparing crashes before and after installation of the initial nine-mile- (14.5-kilometer-) long section of barrier.

The barriers are not recommended for used in locations where there is enough room for lateral deflections of up to 11.5 feet (18.5 kilometers).

-Oregon DOT

Billboard along Missouri I70
The Missouri Department of Transportation has erected seven billboards along Interstate 70 in an effort to solicit ideas from the public on how to fix the problems they are having with the roadway.

Public Information and Information Exchange

MoDOT Uses Billboards to Solicit Input for Fixing Highway

Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has erected seven billboards along Interstate 70 (I-70) in an effort to solicit ideas from the public on how to fix the problems they are having with the roadway. I-70 is the oldest Interstate highway route in the United States and the 251-mile (403.9-kilometer) section running through Missouri is in poor condition.

Highway officials posted billboards along I-70 stating: “70 needs help! Got ideas?” More than 6000 motorists have contacted MoDOT through their Web site and numerous people have written and called in with suggestion on how to improve the condition of I-70.

Using input from the public, MoDOT will first develop a plan focusing on the 200 miles that stretch from Kansas City’s Interstate 470 to Lake St. Louis just outside St. Louis. Within that area are 53 interchanges and 130 bridges.

-The Kansas City Star

FHWA Releases Transportation Conformity Reference Guide

FHWA released the Transportation Conformity Reference Guide, a 453-page guide designed to help state and local agencies comply with the transportation conformity requirements in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) prepared the guide in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency and other stakeholders.

The guide will be updated periodically on FHWA’s Web site to include new information, guidance, court rulings, case studies, and research findings.

The guide is also available on CD-ROM and may be obtained from FHWA division offices and resource centers, FTA regional offices, state DOTs, and metropolitan planning organizations. The guide can be viewed or downloaded from the FHWA Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/conform.htm.

FHWA’s Native Plant Handbook Temporarily Out of Print

Copies of the first printing of FHWA’s newly released handbook, Roadside Use of Native Plants, are no longer available. FHWA has made arrangements with Island Press, Inc. to reprint the handbook this year. All orders received since January will be notified of the second printing.

Researchers in Georgia Create Train Detector

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta have developed a safety warning system to alert motorists to oncoming locomotives at rail crossings.

A transmitter about the size of a brick would be installed on trains and would be capable of transmitting a nine-digit alphanumeric code (and in special designs, even a voice message) to radar detectors located on vehicles.

The system, which has been funded partially through a grant from FHWA, may be less expensive to install than electronic signals and gates (which can cost up to $100,000) on all unguarded rural grade crossings. The safety warning system would cost about $600 for each receiver on each locomotive, less than $100 per radar detector receiver, and about $25 for reflectors at each grade crossing. The reflector, a one-square-foot (.0929-square-kilometer) metal plate, is used to reflect the signal from the locomotive up either side of the highway, alerting equipped motorists that a train is approaching the crossing.

The device could significantly reduce collisions at grade crossings and save lives. Detectors can be installed on school buses and transmitters could even be installed on crossing gates and be programmed to beam the signals when the gates are closing.

Researchers noted that about half of all train/vehicle collisions occur after motorists see crossing gates, but ignore them and drive around the gate to try to beat the train.

-Knight Ridder/Tribune

Cell Phones Add To Congestion

A 1997 study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that using a cell phone quadruples a motorist’s risk of a collision. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a survey showing that a quarter of the 6.3 million vehicle crashes each year in the United States involve some form of driver distraction or inattention and that 44 percent of drivers have cell phones in their vehicles or carry a cell phone while driving. Not only is there evidence that cell phones increase the chance of a crash, but there is testimony that they trigger another traffic problem: once motorists are involved in a crash, they often use their cell phone to call friends and family to help them.

Minor crashes that occur on highways cause some slowing of traffic; however, authorities at the California Highway Patrol report that individuals using their cell phones to call friends and family to help them are compounding the problem. “Rescuer” cars are coming to the aid of the motorist, jamming the shoulder. A crowd milling about next to the cars moving along the highway causes the traffic to slow to a crawl, which leads to a major traffic jam.

-San Diego Union-Tribune and the Washington Post

The TransVISION center
The TransVISION center, located in Tarrant County, Texas, is TxDOT's newest traffic management center.

Photo by:Geoff Applod, TxDOT

TxDot Opens ITS Control Center

Texas DOT opened its third traffic management center on June 27 in Tarrant County, Texas. The new system, titled TransVISION, uses ITS to manage traffic and allows real-time communication between TxDOT's Dallas and Fort Worth districts. Lockheed-Martin Space Information Systems Group developed the hardware and software systems for TransVISION. The system on Tarrant County highways is nearly half complete and includes 54 video cameras, 50 changeable message signs, 1,453 traffic sensors, and 244 lane control signals.

The center cost $8.4 million to build and has 29,622 square feet (2,752 square meters).

For more information, contact Jodi Hodges at TxDOT, (817) 370-6737.

New Mexico Takes Lead in Value Engineering

The New Mexico State Highway and Transportation Department (NMSHTD) has saved $140 million this past year as a result of aggressively pursuing value engineering, thereby ranking first among the states in dollars saved. They account for more than 16 percent of all value engineering savings in the United States.

New Mexico recently implemented a $2.7 billion transportation program to improve highways and develop economic corridors. To accomplish this, NMSHTD pursued value engineering principles, such as clarifying how design solutions match with road performance and available funds and considering both technical solutions and public expectations.

(See related article on value engineering, “Value Engineering: An Incredible Return on Investment,” Public Roads, September/October 1999, p. 39.)

-Tech Logic New Mexico

Superpave Is the Best

Experts speaking at Superpave: Building Roads for the 21st Century, a three-day conference held in April 2000 in Denver, Colo., emphasized that Superpave is the best mix design system available, and by 2001, more than 80 percent of hot-mix asphalt (HMA) used by state highway agencies is forecast to be Superpave. However, that mix design alone cannot guarantee pavement performance. High-quality materials and careful attention to construction technique and quality control remain the keys to success.

The Denver conference marked a landmark in Superpave implementation, with the first group of users and suppliers now comfortable with the technology and able to pass on the knowledge they have gained through experience to assist newer users in their transition to Superpave. A number of speakers suggested that the time has come to drop the name "Superpave" and refer instead to the "HMA mix-design system in the United States."

Personnel

Slater Names Trupo to Head DOT Public Affairs

Mary Trupo was appointed as the new assistant to the secretary and director of public affairs for U.S. DOT. Trupo has been acting director of public affairs since January. She was appointed deputy director last fall.

Trupo was previously employed at the White House in the Office of Presidential Personnel. She joined the Clinton-Gore Administration in 1997 as the deputy director of public affairs for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Prior to those positions, Trupo spent 12 years with the Eastman Kodak Company in Atlanta, as the director of regional communications and public affairs.

Hart To Be Acting Deputy Administrator at FMCSA

Clyde J. Hart, Jr., Administrator of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), will serve as the acting deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Hart was confirmed as Maritime Administrator by the U.S. Senate in August 1988. Hart has co-chaired the highly successful Marine Transportation System review and has led the administration’s promising maritime negotiations with China, Japan, and Korea. He previously served for four years as the senior democratic counsel of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Hart will serve in this acting capacity at FMCSA on a temporary basis. During this time, Deputy Administrator John Graykowski will serve as acting administrator of MARAD. Julie Cirillo, formerly acting deputy administrator of FMCSA, will now serve as the acting chief safety officer.

Conferences

FHWA Plans Winter Symposium and Equipment Exposition

FHWA, Virginia DOT, the Virginia Transportation Technology Transfer Center and Virginia Tech University will host the fifth annual Eastern Winter Road Maintenance Symposium and Equipment Expo on Sept. 6-7, 2000, at the Roanoke Civic Center in Roanoke, Va.

Attendees at the symposium can exchange information and learn about technologies available to predict and combat the effects of winter on roads, bridges, and other transportation facilities. The symposium features more than 150 exhibitors and a display of 40 new snow-fighting vehicles, such as snow plows and anti-icing sprayers.

The symposium is free, but those attending must pre-register. For event details and registration forms, visit the expo Web site at www.easternsnowexpo.org.

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