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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 71 · No. 6 > Along the Road

Nov/Dec 2008
Vol. 71 · No. 6

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-09-001

Along the Road

Management and Administration

USDOT Awards $133 Million to Fight Traffic in the Twin Cities

Faster commutes, more parking, and improved transit are on the way for the Twin Cities area. In spring 2008, USDOT officials awarded $133.3 million in Federal funds to help reduce congestion along the vital I-35W corridor in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN, area. USDOT will make the funding available through an innovative program called Urban Partnerships, which encourages communities to embrace new approaches to cutting congestion, including increased use of tolling, transit, telecommuting, and technology.

USDOT made the funding commitment because Minnesota State legislators provided transportation officials with the authority to implement an aggressive plan to fight traffic. That plan includes converting existing carpool lanes on I-35W to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, allowing single-occupant vehicles to use the lanes for a fee, and extending the new lanes. Minnesota officials also plan to use the funds to purchase 26 new buses, reduce wait times for buses at stoplights, and construct new park-and-ride facilities along the I-35W corridor. In addition, the plan will finance new dynamic message signs and real-time communications systems to help drivers avoid traffic and know when to choose transit.

The Urban Partnerships program is part of USDOT's comprehensive initiative to address congestion throughout the Nation's transportation system. In addition to the Twin Cities region, USDOT has entered similar partnerships with Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, and Seattle.

For more information, visit www.upa.dot.gov.

Private Activity Bonds Issued for Congestion Relief in Northern Virginia

In June 2008, USDOT announced that sponsors of the I-495 Capital Beltway HOT Lanes Project in northern Virginia issued $589 million in tax-exempt private activity bonds to move the project forward. According to USDOT officials, the transaction represents a historic turning point in highway financing.

Issued by the nonprofit Capital Beltway Funding Corporation, the private activity bonds are part of an estimated $1.9 billion finance package to fund the 22-kilometer (14-mile) project, which involves adding two variably priced HOT lanes in each direction on the Capital Beltway. Once construction is finished in 2012, there will be two additional lanes on each side of the Beltway. The two existing middle lanes will be converted to HOT lanes with prices that vary depending on traffic volume, thereby ensuring that traffic in these lanes keeps moving at all times.

Two private companies will finance, operate, and maintain the express lanes using facility revenues to repay the bonds. Additional funding in the amount of $589 million comes from a direct loan issued by USDOT through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, which offers flexible repayment terms to encourage private sector participation in financing highway projects. The Commonwealth of Virginia also is providing significant resources to support this historic partnership.

For more information, visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ppp/tools_pabs.htm.

Technical News

Now Available: Interim Guidebooks on Transportation Planning Processes

The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Operations and Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty, and the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) Office of Planning and Environment recently released two interim companion publications that promote effective approaches to integrating management and operations strategies into transportation planning processes.

An Interim Guidebook on the Congestion Management Process in Metropolitan Transportation Planning (FHWA-HOP-08-008) and Management & Operations in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan: An Interim Guidebook for Creating an Objectives-Driven, Performance-Based Approach (FHWA-HOP-08-007) are the latest documents showcasing strategies for enhancing the quality of congestion management practices. The guidebooks build on more than a decade of experience in effective congestion management and emphasize a regional approach to transportation systems management and operations.

The final guidebooks will be published at a later date. To view the interim drafts online, visit www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/cmpguidebook/cmpguidebook.pdf and www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/moguidebook/moguidebook.pdf.

FHWA/FTA Update Briefing Book on Transportation Planning

The FHWA and FTA Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program recently published an updated version of Transportation Planning Process: Key Issues (FHWA-HEP-07-039), a briefing book for transportation decisionmakers, officials, and staff.

The publication provides an overview of transportation planning and contains a summary of key concepts in statewide and metropolitan transportation planning, along with references for additional information. The briefing book is divided into two parts. The first discusses transportation planning and its relationship to decisionmaking and provides a broad introduction to the planning process. The second part includes more technical information and presents short descriptions of important policy and planning topics, such as freight movement, land use and transportation, and public involvement.

In addition, the publication features several appendices that cover topics including financing statewide transportation plans, innovative highway financing tools and strategy, and FTA programs.

To request or download a copy of the briefing book, visit www.planning.dot.gov.

Shown here is the interior of a German inspection vehicle with conferencing workspace.
Shown here is the interior of a German inspection vehicle with conferencing workspace.

FHWA Releases Report on Bridge Evaluations in Europe

FHWA's Office of International Programs released a report summarizing the findings of a 2007 European scan tour that explored quality assurance practices for bridge inspection in Denmark, Finland, France, and Germany. The report, Bridge Evaluation Quality Assurance in Europe (FHWA-PL-08-016), was developed by representatives of FHWA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, academia, and a private sector professional association.

The National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS) require that transportation agencies use quality control and quality assurance procedures to maintain accuracy and consistency in their bridge inspection programs. The purpose of the scan tour was to evaluate European inspection practices related to quality assurance and identify approaches that might assist U.S. bridge owners and FHWA in refining and improving actions taken to address the NBIS provisions.

The scan team found that European agencies emphasize quality assurance through well-defined inspector qualifications, data collection, and use of appropriate equipment to evaluate structures. Based on this assessment, the scan team offered the following recommendations to U.S. officials:

  1. Develop a nationally accepted basis for determining the frequency of bridge inspection that combines different levels of inspection intensity based on factors including safety and the age of the structure.
  2. Draft national guidelines for developing quality assurance and quality control procedures.
  3. Develop detailed coding guidance that includes illustrations and reference photos.
  4. Develop integrated inspection and repair approaches for use by bridge inspectors.
  5. Consider the following potential candidates for technology transfer: crack mapping keys and two-dimensional scaled representations, nondestructive evaluation toolbox data sheets from the European Union's Sustainable Bridge project, expanded inventory of access equipment for bridge inspection, and available data from the Sustainable Bridge project.
  6. Initiate a demonstration project on the ultrasonic shear wave transducer for use in identifying defects in concrete.

To download a copy of the full report, visit http://international.fhwa.dot.gov/pubs/pl08016/pl08016.pdf.

This photo shows how pedestrians in different colored clothing and positioned in various spots in the crosswalk were presented to drivers during studies of midblock crosswalks.
This photo shows how pedestrians in different colored clothing and positioned in various spots in the crosswalk were presented to drivers during studies of midblock crosswalks.

FHWA Report Covers Lighting Design For Midblock Crosswalks

A new FHWA report presents the results of a series of studies looking at the visibility of pedestrians in nonintersection (midblock) crosswalks. The publication, Informational Report on Lighting Design for Midblock Crosswalks (FHWA-HRT-08-053), evaluates lighting designs that might enhance pedestrian visibility to drivers. In addition, the report provides information on lighting parameters and design criteria that transportation agencies should consider when installing fixed roadway lighting for midblock crosswalks.

In compiling the report, researchers looked at driver reaction and performance upon detecting pedestrians in midblock crosswalks under varying experimental conditions, including various types of street lamps, the color of the pedestrians' clothing, the position of the pedestrians in the crosswalk, and the presence of glare.

To download a copy of the report, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/08053/index.cfm.

The RWD is shown here during testing in Vermont.
The RWD is shown here during testing in Vermont.

Rolling Wheel Deflectometer Helps Improve Asset Management

Engineers traditionally have used visual distress surveys to inform decisionmakers about which roads to schedule for improvement and the types of improvements to make. Although these surveys can provide valuable information about a road's condition, they lack a direct measure of the pavement's structural condition. To solve this problem, FHWA researchers developed the rolling wheel deflectometer (RWD), which can perform structural evaluations by collecting continuous profiles of pavement deflection while traveling at normal highway speeds.

The RWD uses four triangulation lasers mounted on a rigid beam beneath a tractor-trailer to calculate the deflection produced by the trailer's dual-tire single axle. The RWD's data acquisition equipment, located in the truck's cab, collects data in real time. With the RWD, no lane closures are needed, providing instead an innovative and nondestructive method for evaluating pavements.

State departments of transportation can use the RWD to identify problems in pavement sections and then revisit the problem areas using other deflection technology, such as the falling weight deflectometer, to obtain more detailed analyses.

Thirteen States, the Natchez Trace Parkway, and Champaign County, IL, have performed full-scale demonstrations of the RWD. Data collected in Indiana, for example, clearly showed the change in deflection, indicating pavement structural capacity. As the pavement became cracked and weaker, the deflections increased and became more variable. Pavements with good structural capacity and uniformity produce low, uniform deflections. Researchers can use the deflection information to evaluate pavement section candidates for preservation treatments and rehabilitation.

For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/focus/08may/02.cfm or contact Thomas Van at 202-366-1341 or thomas.van@fhwa.dot.gov.

Public Information and Information Exchange

National Data Show Fewer People Injured in Highway Crashes

In June 2008, USDOT announced that the number of people injured in crashes on the Nation's highways has declined every year since 1995, and that 4.8 percent fewer injuries occurred in 2006 than in 2005. The trend extends to teenage drivers, who were involved in 6 percent fewer highway crashes from 2005 to 2006.

Although many of the latest statistics are positive, the new data also indicate that teen injuries make up more than 16 percent of overall crash-related injuries, even though teens represent only 8 percent of the driving public.

To help improve safety for teens on the road, USDOT officials announced a nationwide competition to develop the next generation of advertising and educational materials, with a focus on encouraging teenagers to drive safely. The winning campaign will receive $5,000, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will help distribute the campaign broadly to where it can do the most good.

USDOT also announced that it will provide $300,000 each to two States to promote seatbelt use in their communities through creative and highly visible law enforcement efforts. In addition, USDOT will award two more States with $100,000 each for efforts to combat drunk driving through use of technologies that disable a vehicle if the driver is legally impaired.

For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov.

FHWA Receives Recycling Award

In spring 2008, the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive announced that it selected FHWA's Recycling Team as winner of the 2008 White House Closing the Circle Award for Recycling Leadership in the Transportation Sector for successfully promoting recycling as an integral part of road construction. FHWA works across the Nation to educate the highway industry and promote recycling technology to ensure that hundreds of millions of tons of materials are put back into roadways rather than disposed in landfills.

For more than a decade, through research, field studies, experimental projects, and long-term performance testing and analysis, FHWA has educated the road construction community about the engineering properties, environmental benefits, and economic feasibility of using recycled materials. For example, FHWA funds the Recycled Materials Resource Center, and with the highway industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has published two popular factbooks for highway engineers on using coal fly ash and spent foundry sand in highway construction. The fly ash factbook is in its fourth edition, with more than 50,000 copies printed and distributed nationwide.

FHWA outreach activities include an October 2007 forum (cosponsored by EPA) on recycling spent foundry sand into roadways and highway embankments and a June 2008 workshop on in-place asphalt recycling. FHWA also is planning Green Highway Partnership recycling workshops in Virginia and West Virginia.

Since 1996, the White House has given more than 200 awards for environmental contributions in the Federal sector. In 2008, the White House selected 15 winners and 14 honorable mentions from nearly 200 nominations.

For more information, visit www.ofee.gov/ctc/ctc08prWinners.pdf.

FHWA researchers participate in an asphalt recycling study.
FHWA researchers participate in an asphalt recycling study.

FHWA, U.S. Fire Administration Complete Study On Traffic Incident Management

FHWA and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), working in partnership with the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA), recently developed a report that provides technical guidance and training programs in traffic incident management for fire and emergency service providers.

The report, Traffic Incident Management Systems (TIMS), features guidance for local fire departments and emergency responders on compliance with USDOT's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and the National Fire Service Incident Management System (IMS) Consortium's Model Procedures Guide for Highway Incidents.

The report includes case studies on roadway incidents that have killed firefighters, highlights basic information about safety and survival during highway incidents, and shares examples of effective TIMS programs. In addition, the report provides information on the American National Standards Institute and International Safety Equipment Association (ANSI/ISEA) standard 207-2006, High-Visibility Public Safety Vests.

The report resulted from a study that included research on TIMS implementation by emergency service personnel and application of practices described in the IMS Consortium guide. The study examined technologies and practices for placing roadway warning signs; the ideal amount and type of warning lighting necessary on emergency vehicles; and training, placement, and use of protective equipment by flaggers.

To download the report, visit www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/tims_0408.pdf. For more information on USFA roadway safety projects and partnerships, visit http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/research/safety/roadway.shtm.

Fire department personnel respond to a traffic incident in Pennsylvania.
Fire department personnel respond to a traffic incident in Pennsylvania.

NIOSH Online Library Promotes Road Safety at Work

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) created an online library hosting information on preventing injuries and deaths resulting from the driving of motor vehicles for work purposes. The online resource features a range of information, from best practices in engineering controls to examples of policies, administrative procedures, and guidance for improving roadway safety. The site targets international organizations, governmental institutes and agencies, academic institutions, corporations, unions, and nongovernmental organizations involved with road safety at work.

For example, clicking on one of the subjects listed in the toolbar on the left-hand side of the screen, such as "Vehicle," takes visitors to a page listing online publications and materials related to vehicle safety, including antilock braking systems. Beneath each publication, the site indicates the type of document (such as modeling tool, public information), target audience (such as employers, workers, policymakers), and language in which the material is provided (such as English, Spanish).

The Web site also enables users to recommend additions to the library. By clicking on "Suggest Materials" on the left-hand toolbar, visitors can suggest materials they would like to see in the library.

For more information, visit www.roadsafetyatwork.org.

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