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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 68 · No. 4 > Along the Road

Jan/Feb 2005
Vol. 68 · No. 4

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-05-003

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 U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let's meet along the road.

Management and Administration

USDOT Distributes Hazmat Guidebooks To Emergency Organizations

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta recently announced that USDOT is distributing 1.73 million copies of a new safety manual on hazardous materials (hazmat) to police, fire, and other emergency response organizations. Emergency Response Guidebook 2004 is designed to assist emergency response personnel who may be the first to arrive at the scene of a transportation incident involving hazardous materials.

Emergency Response Guidebook 2004 Cover

"This book is the safety gold standard for first responders who must know what they are dealing with before responding to an incident," Mineta says.

A joint project between USDOT, Transport Canada, and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation of Mexico, the guidebook helps first responders identify the types of materials that may be involved in an incident and the threats those materials might pose to emergency crews and the public.

Free copies are available to public emergency responders through State coordinators, whose contact information is accessible on the Hazardous Materials Safety Web site or by calling 202–366–4900. Others may purchase copies through the U.S. Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) or commercial vendors.


NHTSA Announces Historically Low Highway Fatality Rate in 2003

According to recent findings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the fatality rate on the Nation's highways in 2003 was the lowest since recordkeeping began 29 years ago. The number of crash-related injuries also dropped to a historic low in 2003.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta cited NHTSA efforts as instrumental in reducing the fatal crash rate. The agency not only collected crash statistics from each State to produce its annual report on trends in traffic fatalities, but it also led campaigns to encourage safety belt use and discourage impaired driving, worked with State legislatures to pass tougher safety belt and drunken driving laws, and pursued rulemaking efforts to improve vehicle safety standards.

The statistics show that 42,643 people died, and 2.89 million were injured in 2003. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 1.48 in 2003, down from 1.51 in 2002. It was the first time that the rate dropped below 1.5. In 2002, 43,005 were killed, and 2.93 million were injured. Alcohol-related fatalities also dropped significantly in 2003, the first such decline since 1999, as more States adopted laws enabling them to prosecute drivers at levels of 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC) and above. In addition, 2004 marks the first year that 0.08 BAC laws have been enacted in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) also shows that the following happened between 2002 and 2003:

  • Rollovers declined 7.5 percent for passenger cars (from 4,794 to 4,433) and 6.8 percent for pickup trucks (from 2,755 to 2,569).
  • Twenty-seven States reported decreases in the total number of fatalities. The highest percentage decreases were in Colorado (15 percent), Vermont (12 percent), Connecticut (10 percent), Ohio (10 percent), Oklahoma (10 percent), and West Virginia (10 percent).
  • Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities dropped to 31,904—the largest decrease since 1992. Declining fatalities in passenger vehicles are consistent with increases in safety belt use and more crashworthy vehicles.

In 2003, the number of unbelted fatalities declined, reflecting an increase in safety belt use. Still, 56 percent of those killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing safety belts.

In a recent memorandum to FHWA employees, FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters said, “The lower totals and the trend that started is good news, but this is still clearly far too many deaths on our highways. These new data shows that the hard work that we have focused on under the vital few [priorities: safety, congestion mitigation, and environmental streamlining] over the past several years is paying off in the best way possible—lives saved.”

A summary of the 2003 report is available on the NHTSA Web site at www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-30/NCSA/PPT/2003AARelease.pdf.

Public Information and Information Exchange

Summit Helps Advance Regional Transit System in Texas

Elected and appointed officials from throughout Texas recently convened in Irving, TX, to analyze and act on transportation strategies for improved mobility, taking steps to approve a unified transit plan for northern Texas. During the 7th Annual Texas Transportation Summit in Irving, TX, community leaders unanimously approved a 10-point resolution, along with a local financing plan and governance structure, that balances competing interests from across the region. Hundreds of local leaders began discussing the plan during last year's summit and then met more than 70 times over the past year to create a transit plan that will unite six Texas counties and three existing transit authorities under a $3.5 billion, 419-kilometer (260-mile) regional transit system.

The plan is just one of several initiatives and resolutions introduced during the annual summits over the last 7 years. Initially created as a 2-day, regional event drawing about 150 attendees, the summit has evolved into one of the most comprehensive multimodal transportation events in the Nation. This year's 4-day conference, hosted by the city of Irving and 50 additional cities and counties in Texas, drew a record 1,200 participants.

Speakers included U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. In addition, high-ranking transportation officials spoke on roads and highways, freight and passenger rail, high speed rail, transit, safety, air quality, and financing.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay addressed an audience of transportation leaders and panel of elected officials, which included (from left to right) Harris County, TX, Judge Robert Eckels and Irving Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Sam Smith, during the 7th Annual Texas Transportation Summit in Irving, TX.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay addressed an audience of transportation leaders and panel of elected officials, which included (from left to right) Harris County, TX, Judge Robert Eckels and Irving Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Sam Smith, during the 7th Annual Texas Transportation Summit in Irving, TX.

A variety of businesses and other event sponsors from the transportation industry hosted booths during the summit to promote some of the latest developments in transportation technology. One of the featured devices was a 16-meter (53-foot) truck-driving simulator showcased by the Texas Motor Transportation Association. The simulator, which offers a virtual trip behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler, serves as a classroom to train truck drivers on how to react to obstacles or hazards in the road and changes in weather.

For more information on the summit, contact Jane Card at 972–721–4978 or jcard@ci.irving.tx.us.

City of Irving, TX

North Carolina Launches 511 Traffic Information Service

Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters and State highway officials recently announced that North Carolina drivers now can access up-to-the minute information about local road and traffic conditions by calling 511, the three-digit number designated nationwide for traveler information.

The new system enables callers to find the latest information about traffic jams, road construction, and alternative routes across the State. An innovative feature of North Carolina's system is that it also includes information regarding trains and ferries, which are integral to transportation in the eastern part of the State.

USDOT provided a $100,000 grant to help North Carolina develop its 511 service. Twenty-one 511 systems currently are up and running in other parts of the country. In some of those areas, up to 97 percent of drivers who use 511 say they have changed their travel routes because of the information provided.

"The service will help North Carolina drivers get to where they need to go and get there on time," Peters said during a speech at the J. Douglas Galyon Depot in Greensboro, NC. "Folks will be making the call before setting out for Asheville, Charlotte, Wilmington, or just across town."

With 511 service now available in North Carolina, almost 25 percent of the total U.S. population lives in areas covered by a 511 system. By the end of 2005, half the population is expected to have access to the travel information service.
For more information, visit http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/TravelInfo/index.htm or www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/index.htm.

TTI Annual Mobility Report Finds Congestion Worsening

Despite efforts to control traffic congestion, U.S. cities are falling further behind with each passing year, according to 20-year trends recently announced by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). The 2004 Urban Mobility Report published by TTI shows traffic congestion across the Nation is growing in cities of all sizes, consuming more hours of the day, and affecting more travelers and shipments of goods than ever before.

"We can see pretty clearly what 20 years of almost continuous economic growth can do to us," says Tim Lomax, one of the study's authors. "If we're lucky enough to sustain this growth and the funding levels and options do not increase from current trends, we shouldn't be surprised if we see even more congestion."

The TTI study ranks congestion in urban areas according to several measurements, including annual delay per peak period (rush hour) traveler, which has grown from 16 hours to 46 hours since 1982; annual financial cost of traffic congestion, which has ballooned from $14 billion to more than $63 billion since 1982 (as expressed in 2002 dollars); and wasted fuel, totaling 21.2 billion liters (5.6 billion gallons) lost to engines idling in traffic jams.

This year's installment of the report increases the number of urban areas studied from 75 to 85 and includes all urban areas with a population exceeding 500,000. The report also measures the degree to which contributions from public transportation services and techniques for improving roadway operating efficiency have reduced congestion. Although the techniques discussed can be used both nationally and locally to help reverse the trend of worsening traffic problems, researchers say that the problem has grown too rapidly and is too complex to be addressed by a single solution. The report recommends that in addition to new road and public transportation projects, the United States needs to use its roadways more efficiently, improve demand management, and diversify its land use options.

"We're facing an increasingly urgent situation," Lomax says. "To make real progress, it's critical that we pursue all transportation solutions—short-range, small-scale projects and policies, midrange efficiency programs, and longer term, more significant projects and programs that require more planning and design time."

FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters echoed Lomax. "Today's report validates what we've known all along," she says, "the solution to road congestion isn't just pouring new concrete and paving new roads."

Short-term solutions include using toll-based high-occupancy vehicle lanes to encourage carpooling, incident management techniques that rapidly remove stalled vehicles and collisions, congestion-based toll charges to discourage highway use at the busiest times of day, and ramp-metering technologies that improve the flow of traffic onto and off of highways. Additional measures include improving the timing of traffic signals to match traffic patterns and avoid gridlock, and investing in new telephone and Internet-based information systems to help drivers avoid traffic and construction.

For more information, contact Tim Lomax at 979–845–9960, t-lomax@tamu.edu or David Schrank at 979–845–7323, d-schrank@tamu.edu. To view the report, visit http://mobility.tamu.edu/ums/report.

Texas Transportation Institute

WSDOT Wins Awards for Excellence in Communication

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) recently won two national communications awards from the National Transportation Public Affairs Workshop (NTPAW), a subcommittee of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

The first award recognized the "Tacoma Narrows Bridge" Web site (www.wsdot.wa.gov/TNBhistory) for excellence in online communications. The site spans the history of the bridge from "Galloping Gertie"—the first structure that collapsed in a 1940 windstorm only 4 months after construction—through the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge, currently under construction.

WSDOT's new Web site featuring the history of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge takes the viewer from the construction of the original bridge, shown here, to current plans for a replacement bridge.
WSDOT's new Web site featuring the history of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge takes the viewer from the construction of the original bridge, shown here, to current plans for a replacement bridge.

The second award, in the category of "Issue Management," honored WSDOT for its communications plan for the construction site of the Hood Canal Bridge Graving Dock. WSDOT issued the plan after Native American artifacts and remains were discovered in the construction area. The plan called for an active outreach strategy, including community meetings to discuss the findings, project status, and long-term impacts the discovery could have on construction.

Details about the project and the accompanying communication plan are available at www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr104hoodcanalbridgeeast.

For more information on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, contact DawnMarie Moe at 360–705–7898 or moed@wsdot.wa.gov. For more information on the communication plan or the Hood Canal Bridge Graving Dock communications plan, contact Lloyd Brown at 360–357–2789 or brownl@wsdot.wa.gov.

Expo Highlights Practices for Managing Winter Weather

Following the "Blizzard of 1996," which nearly paralyzed transportation in the eastern United States by dropping between 46 centimeters (18 inches) and 0.92 meter (3 feet) of snow, FHWA set out to develop a forum that would expedite the exchange of information and technologies available to manage winter weather. The result was the Eastern Winter Road Maintenance Symposium and Equipment Expo—now held annually in September—for winter maintenance managers and other public works practitioners from cities, townships, counties, and States (as well as other public agencies and private sector partners) east of the Mississippi River.

FHWA and the Tennessee DOT recently sponsored the 9th annual symposium in Knoxville, TN, drawing an audience of 1,000 winter maintenance professionals. Participants learned about the latest developments in road maintenance during the winter season and viewed the newest equipment and technology available to battle snow and ice, gaining insights into best practices and materials, while comparing notes with peers from other States.

The topics discussed included state-of-the-practice anti-icing techniques and technologies, such as salt-brine pretreatment and automated bridge deck deicing systems. Also highlighted were Weather Information Systems, which use meteorological measurement stations strategically positioned to collect data on local pavement and atmospheric conditions. In addition, this year's symposium focused on environmental concerns, such as how to store chemicals safely and how to clean and fuel maintenance equipment.

For more information, contact Mark Sandifer at 708–283–3528 or mark.sandifer@fhwa.dot.gov.

Personnel

Arkansas's Dan Flowers Receives MacDonald Award from AASHTO

Dan Flowers, P.E., director of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, recently received the Thomas H. MacDonald Memorial Award for service to the State transportation community. He accepted the award at the AASHTO annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA. Presented since 1957, the MacDonald Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the fields of highway administration, engineering, and research. Nominees are judged by a panel of their peers in the State highway and transportation community.

In addition to serving as a senior member of AASHTO's Board of Directors, Flowers was especially instrumental in developing Arkansas's $1-billion Interstate Rehabilitation Program. He started with the department as a summer employee in the Resident Engineer's Office in Batesville, AR, before becoming a full-time employee in 1969, after graduating from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering.

Flowers was president of AASHTO in 1999 and chairman of the Standing Committee on Highways, Subcommittee on Design, and Special Committee on International Activity Coordination. In addition, he served as vice president and president of the Southeastern Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and on the board of directors of the Mississippi River Trail Corporation.

To view an application form for the award, visit http://downloads.transportation.org/MacDonaldAward.pdf

Maryland's Thomas Hicks Honored for Engineering Achievements

Thomas Hicks, P.E., director of the Office of Traffic and Safety at the Maryland State Highway Administration, was named the 2004 recipient of the Alfred E. Johnson Achievement Award. The 21-year-old award honors contributions to management in the field of highway engineering. Hicks received his award during the recent AASHTO annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA.

During almost five decades in the transportation field, Hicks held posts in the transportation departments of the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Maryland. Hicks also served a number of professional organizations, including 42 years with the AASHTO Subcommittee on Traffic Engineering, where he currently is vice chair.

Committed to the development of transportation in academia, Hicks served on the faculty of a mentoring program on transportation management systems at Texas A&M University and helped develop Maryland's Traffic Engineering Skills Training program with the University of Maryland and private business.

In 1991, Hicks received the AASHTO President's Transportation Award in the category of "Highway Traffic Safety" and the Institute of Transportation Engineers' Theodore M. Matson Memorial Award in 1999. Hicks resides in Towson, MD, and holds degrees from the University of Maryland and Yale University.

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