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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 69 · No. 3 > Along the Road

Nov/Dec 2005
Vol. 69 · No. 3

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-05-001

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

Peters Departs from FHWA

The 15th Federal Highway Administrator, Mary E. Peters, recently stepped down after serving nearly 4 years as the Nation's top highway official to return to Phoenix, AZ, to be with family. During her tenure at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Peters moved the agency forward by finding new and more effective methods of financing highway and bridge projects, primarily through greater private-sector investment. She encouraged the use of new technologies that reduce construction time and expense and that result in safer, longer lasting highways, led a national campaign to improve safety in highway work zones, and worked to streamline the decisionmaking process for major transportation projects.

"Mary has left a lasting impression on the history of surface transportation," U.S Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said. "She has made us all think about the future of surface transportation in ways we might not have otherwise."

Peters was director of the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) when nominated by President George W. Bush 4 years ago, and she was sworn in on October 2, 2001. She received the 2004 National Woman of the Year Award from the Women's Transportation Seminar, a national organization of transportation professionals. She is a fourth-generation Arizonan with a bachelor's degree from the University of Phoenix. FHWA Deputy Administrator J. Richard Capka is serving as acting administrator.

For more information, contact Brian C. Keeter at 202-366-0660.

Secretary Mineta Announces Public Opportunity To Discuss USDOT Regulations

In an effort to make Government more accessible and to reduce unnecessary costs associated with Federal regulations, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta recently announced an innovative public review of USDOT's regulations and its current regulatory agenda. As part of the evaluation, the department hosted two public meetings in spring 2005, where senior officials--including General Counsel Jeffrey A. Rosen--listened to public opinions on past, present, and future regulations. USDOT required potential participants to submit their initial comments by February 2005 and to indicate their desire to speak at the meeting, but also accepted written comments through April.

"Improving, eliminating, and prioritizing regulations all are important tasks for the Department," Secretary Mineta says. "Making regulations simpler, more effective, and less burdensome is a challenge that can be met only if the public participates." After the information has been evaluated, USDOT will publish a report that responds to comments received, including items that will be put under consideration. To view the Federal Register notice, visit www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html. The docket number is OST-2005-20112. USDOT's current regulatory agenda can be found at www.info.gov.

Public Information and Information Exchange

Peters and Guinn Spearhead U.S. 95 Settlement in Nevada

Former Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters and Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn recently announced an agreement to settle a Sierra Club lawsuit that should clear the way to resume widening U.S. 95 in northwest Las Vegas, NV, as early as fall 2005.

The agreement allows for the addition of new lanes, including high-occupancy vehicle lanes in each direction, and installation of technologies designed to reduce congestion and improve safety. To strike a compromise between the demands of both parties involved in the suit, the settlement also includes environmental measures that will involve testing air-filtration systems in nearby schools, retrofitting Clark County schoolbuses to make them run cleaner, and gathering information on local and national vehicle emissions. As a result of the agreement, FHWA will monitor emissions at up to five major highway locations across the Nation.

Peters said that FHWA worked closely with Guinn and the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) to reach the settlement as quickly as possible. The Sierra Club lawsuit, which stalled construction on the additional lanes in August 2004, ended with the U.S. District Court of Nevada's acceptance of the settlement.

At a press conference, former FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters and Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn announced a settlement with the Sierra Club that will facilitate future widening projects on U.S. 95 near Las Vegas.
At a press conference, former FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters and Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn announced a settlement with the Sierra Club that will facilitate future widening projects on U.S. 95 near Las Vegas.

U.S. 95 is frequently congested, with nearly 12,000 vehicles on the six-lane highway traveling less than half the speed allowed during peak commuting hours, according to Peters. Estimates indicate that even a slight increase in vehicle speed would save the public more than $8.5 million per year in delay costs. Each day, 190,000 vehicles travel the corridor, a number expected to increase significantly as southern Nevada continues to be one of the Nation's fastest growing regions.

For more information, contact Brian C. Keeter at 202-366-0660.

Operation Green Light Helps Coordinate Kansas City Traffic Signals

Operation Green Light (OGL), a recently launched project involving about 20 jurisdictions in the Kansas City, MO, area, is seeking to improve traffic flow and reduce vehicle emissions in the region. The $13.1 million initiative will coordinate signals through numerous high-priority corridors during both morning and evening rush hours. Selective signal controller upgrades currently are underway, and a new wireless communications backbone--which will download signal timing plans to individual controllers--may be installed as early as fall 2005. For OGL's initial phase, 600 signals are expected to be under control by 2007.

According to OGL Project Manager Ron Achelpohl, the operation's sponsoring organization--the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC)--became interested in traffic signal operations through its local work in air quality planning in the mid- to late 1990s. After securing funding to study the potential environmental impacts of improved regional signal coordination and becoming aware that both Kansas City and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) were performing similar studies, MARC combined efforts with the other agencies and invited other local jurisdictions to participate.

Using the results of its research, OGL will update and coordinate the timing plans currently installed at 600 intersections across seven counties and two States. In a recent test on Barry Road in Kansas City, MARC and its partners retimed and coordinated 10 signals along a 1.6-kilometer (1-mile)-long stretch of the road, reducing the number of stops and improving travel times significantly. After finishing some design work on the communications system and controller upgrades, OGL will begin constructing its wireless communications backbone for the Kansas City Scout—a congestion-management and traveler-information system managed by MoDOT and the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT).

For more information, visit www.marc.org/transportation/ogl or contact Reggie Chandra at 816-474-4240 or rchandra@marc.org.

Operation Green Light, an initiative to retime traffic signals in Kansas City, MO, could significantly reduce congestion at intersections like this one.
Operation Green Light, an initiative to retime traffic signals in Kansas City, MO, could significantly reduce congestion at intersections like this one.

I-93 Widening on Fast Track Due To Priority Designation

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta recently confirmed that plans to expand a 32-kilometer (20-mile) stretch of Interstate 93 (I-93) between Salem, MA, and Manchester, NH, are back on track after Federal transportation officials expedited an environmental review process that had been underway since May 2000. The project, which will expand I-93 from four to eight lanes, was placed on the Bush Administration's priority list for accelerated decisionmaking because of its importance to the local and regional economies, according to Secretary Mineta. After Federal officials approved the environmental review, the project now advances to the design phase and should be completed by 2012.

The I-93 project is one of 15 across the Nation designated by Secretary Mineta for priority status. The priority designation invokes authority granted by President George W. Bush under which Federal officials with responsibility for reviewing, permitting, and deciding to approve transportation projects can commit to a faster, higher level review process. More efficient reviews can lead to swifter project completion and lower costs for planning, construction, and labor.

The expedited decisionmaking process, however, must still comply with all environmental laws. Consequently, the I-93 project also will include construction of three park-and-ride lots, several variable message signs to reduce congestion, and other technologies and procedures to maximize traffic flow. When completed, the expanded section of I-93 will help reduce chronic congestion in heavily traveled southern New Hampshire. Parts of I-93 carry more than 104,000 vehicles per day, a number expected to swell to more than 143,000 per day by 2020. For more information, contact Brian C. Keeter at 202-366-0660.

VDOT Launches Statewide 511 System

Motorists may now obtain traffic updates and travel information for all Virginia interstates by simply dialing 511. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently launched the State's new system so that motorists can make more informed travel decisions by accessing round-the-clock information on traffic incidents, road and weather conditions, work zones, and other potential traffic difficulties. In addition to real-time road and traffic reports provided by VDOT and the Virginia State Police, 511 also will provide information on gas, food, lodging, and transit connections.

Virginia's 511 Web site.
Virginia's 511 Web site.

"511 Virginia is unique because it uses information received directly from the source," says Constance Sorrell, VDOT chief of systems operations. "When the Virginia State Police respond to [a crash], or when a VDOT representative updates construction information or information about how weather is affecting travel conditions, within minutes this information is available on 511 Virginia."

The service, which has been available for I-81 for the past 3 years and now covers all Virginia interstates, will soon become available for some primary routes as well. Along with the expansion of the information service, VDOT also upgraded the Web site, www.511Virginia.org, which formerly offered information only for travelers on the I-81 corridor. VDOT is upgrading the site to include statewide traffic and traveler information, as well as driving directions, a trip-planning function, and a link to the Virginia Tourism Corporation. Virginia is one of 22 States to offer a 511 service.

For more information, please contact Scott Cowherd, VDOT 511 travel information program manager, at 804-786-2451 or scott.cowherd@virginiadot.org.

VDOT

USDOT Provides Innovative Loan to Help Launch Central Texas Turnpike

To relieve congestion in one of the fastest growing regions of the country, the Federal Government is closing on a $66 million loan that will help launch construction of the 183A Turnpike near Austin, TX. The USDOT funds, loaned to the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, are expected to lower overall costs and accelerate completion of the turnpike project. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta indicated that the loan will not only give the project the extra push needed for success, but also will help attract private funding.

The loan, announced on March 2, 2005, will help finance design and construction of an 18.7-kilometer (11.6-mile), four-lane toll highway that will run roughly parallel to an existing stretch of U.S. 183. The heavily traveled highway now carries approximately 44,000 vehicles per day, a figure expected to climb to 58,500 vehicles per day in 15 years.

This map shows the proposed route of the new U.S. 183A roadway in Texas.
This map shows the proposed route of the new U.S. 183A roadway in Texas.

USDOT provided the funding using an innovative financing program established by the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. With a credit-assistance component to help State and local governments add private-source transportation funding to available public sources, the program potentially could advance large, capital-intensive transportation projects that otherwise might be delayed or not completed at all.

For more information about innovative financing, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovativefinance/. To learn more about the turnpike project, visit www.183a.com.

Georgia Helps Teens Commit to Safe Driving

To promote safe driving habits among newly licensed drivers, the Governor's Office of Highway Safety in Georgia recently issued a Teen Driver/Parent Agreement--a short-term safe driving contract to be used during the intermediate licensing phase (Class D) and to be periodically revised as a teen increases his or her driving experience and maturity. The agreement is designed to be a signed safety contract between teens and parents during the most dangerous time for a new driver--the first year of independent driving, when young people lack mileage exposure but are no longer required to have a parent or an adult driver who is 21 years or older accompanying them.

Because teens between the ages of 15 and 18 years are more likely to be injured or killed as a result of motor vehicle crashes than by any other cause, special attention to their safety is warranted. The agreement sets out the expectations that parents should have for teens who are developing safe driving and decisionmaking skills. During that critical year, the agreement may be modified as frequently as needed while the teen gains experience and driving judgment.

The agreement includes several stipulations under the categories, "Be Safe and Obey the Law" and "Be Responsible," for each teen and parent to initial. Safety agreements include: "Never use alcohol or drugs," "never drive aggressively (follow too closely or cut others off)," and "always check blind spots before passing and changing lanes." In addition, parents and teens agree to time periods for potential revocations of driver privileges according to the severity of the infractions.

To view the agreement, visit www.gahighwaysafety.org/teendriverparent.html.

Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety

Mississippi and Michigan Crack Down On Roadside Litter

The departments of transportation (DOTs) in Mississippi and Michigan recently expanded their programs to combat roadside litter. The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), with help from its Myrtle the Turtle character mascot, recently partnered with the city of Natchez to bring the agency's message, "I'm not your Mama--Pick it up Mississippi," to Natchez schoolchildren in kindergarten through the third grade. The MDOT District 7 Antilitter Coordinator Barbara Mercier used a Myrtle the Turtle video, puppet, and other reinforcement materials during the 30-minute presentations. The "I'm not your Mama" message was made famous by Mississippi's former First Lady Pat Fordice in public service announcements.

MDOT originally developed the "I'm not your Mama" campaign to reduce litter, avoid expensive cleanups, and save tax dollars. In addition to the award-winning message, which emphasizes personal responsibility and teamwork, the department's antilitter coordinators in various Mississippi cities have used the Myrtle the Turtle video, along with a Litter Patrol Pledge and an MDOT Litter Patrol badge, to elicit an enthusiastic response from student participants.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (also called MDOT) also recently strengthened its campaign to keep roadways in the Detroit metropolitan area free of litter by using an expanded Youth Corps program. In 2005, the department added a spring program to the region's successful summer program to ensure that grassy slopes and medians along the freeway system do not become roadside garbage collectors.

"The spring program will give us a jump-start on controlling the litter issue while providing area youth the opportunity to learn working skills and earn a paycheck," says Greg Johnson, the MDOT metro region engineer.

The 2005 spring session began in mid-March with two crews of five workers each, patrolling freeways for eight consecutive weekends, focusing on those areas most cluttered with litter after the winter months. The summer program, which began in mid-June 2005, also offered enrichment opportunities where participants interacted with transportation professionals, area universities, and business leaders to learn about careers available in the transportation industry.

For more information about Mississippi's Antilitter Program, contact Amy Land, MDOT public affairs, at 601-359-7017 or visit www.gomdot.com/antilitter/educational_components/educational_main.htm. For more information on the Michigan Youth Corps program, contact Rob Morosi with MDOT at 248-483-5127.

Mississippi and Michigan DOTs

Personnel

Kaveeshwar Named Head of New DOT Agency

The U.S. Senate recently voted unanimously to approve Dr. Ashok G. Kaveeshwar as the first administrator of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), a newly created agency within USDOT. Kaveeshwar was nominated to the position in May 2005 by President George W. Bush.

RITA was created under the Norman Y. Mineta Research and Special Programs Improvement Act to coordinate and manage the agency's research portfolio more effectively and to expedite the implementation of cross-modal, innovative technologies.

"The goal in creating RITA is to have a focused research agency, which is part Silicon Valley entrepreneurial company and part university research lab," Secretary Mineta says. "By forming innovative partnerships with transportation-related industries, government agencies, and other public and private stakeholders, RITA will be more effective in coordinating research to more efficiently address the transportation needs of the 21st century. Dr. Kaveeshwar's diverse experience, from managing successful high-technology companies to performing cutting-edge scientific research, makes him uniquely suited to carry out this vision."

Kaveeshwar has 35 years of experience in providing research and technology development to a wide range of Federal agencies. He most recently served as president of Orange Technologies, Inc., a small business that provides information technology to government and commercial customers. From 1998 to 2002, Kaveeshwar served as senior vice president of Raytheon Technical Services Company, where he was responsible for leading more than 4,000 employees worldwide.

Kaveeshwar moved to the United States from his hometown of Indore, India, in 1961. He received his bachelor's degree from Holkar Science College in Indore and his Ph.D. in physics from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

For more information, contact Roger Lotz at 202-366-2246.

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