U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations
This magazine is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information.
|Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-08-006 Date: Sept/Oct 2008|
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-08-006
Issue No: Vol. 72 No. 2
Date: Sept/Oct 2008
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.
According to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), some State transportation agencies have shown progress in implementing the streamlined planning and environmental review processes enacted under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The report, Highways and Environment: Transportation Agencies Are Acting to Involve Others in Planning and Environmental Decisions, concludes that it will take several years to determine the full impact of the changes.
The changes facilitate more efficient reviews of transportation projects, allowing them to be completed more quickly without diminishing environmental protections. For example, SAFETEA-LU requires that State departments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) consult with Federal and State resource agencies when developing long-range transportation plans.
The report focuses on six States and six MPOs selected based on geographic diversity and their varying levels of experience with implementing the new requirements. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), four of these agencies (two DOTs and two MPOs) have issued long-range plans that comply with the post-SAFETEA-LU planning requirements. The others expect to do so by 2010, in line with their planning cycles.
Researchers gathered data for the report through interviews with Federal, State, and local agency officials responsible for implementing the SAFETEA-LU changes within those States.
To view the report, visit www.gao.gov/new.items/d08512r.pdf.
In April 2008, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) kicked off National Work Zone Awareness Month with a ceremony honoring the 170 Caltrans employees who died in the line of duty since 1924, including three who died in 2007. The ceremony marked the first time that the national event has taken place outside Washington, DC.
As part of this year's event, transportation agencies across the United States are adopting the Caltrans campaign slogan, "Slow for the Cone Zone." The goal is to encourage motorists to slow down when driving in work zones.
The ceremony featured a temporary memorial of 170 orange safety cones arranged into a 13-meter (45-foot)-wide caution sign to signify the ultimate sacrifice made by each fallen Caltrans worker. The event also included a ceremonial dove release and wreath dedication performed by the Caltrans Honor Guard.
Transportation experts and leaders from Federal and State government and industry attended the ceremony. Sponsors included FHWA, the American Traffic Safety Services Association, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the Associated General Contractors of America, and the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia DOTs.
FHWA, AASHTO, the Transportation Research Board's (TRB) National Cooperative Highway Research Program, and the Florida Department of Transportation recently completed a Manual on Use of Self-Propelled Modular Transporters to Remove and Replace Bridges (FHWA-HIF-07-022).
The top recommendation from a 2004 international scan tour on prefabricated bridge elements and systems was adoption of self-propelled modular transporters (SPMTs) for use in moving bridges and bridge components. SPMTs are computer-controlled platform vehicles weighing up to several thousand tons that can move bridge systems with precision to within a fraction of an inch. The prefabrication of bridges offsite under controlled conditions followed by rapid installation onsite can achieve quality installations with traffic impacts of minutes to a few hours compared to the months typically required for conventional onsite construction.
The manual, now available on the FHWA Web site, contains information on the equipment, benefits, costs, project selection criteria, planning, design, contracting issues, and sample contract documents for using SPMTs. The document also includes case studies and lessons learned from previous projects. Bridge owners, construction contractors, suppliers, and other professionals involved in bridge design and construction can use the manual to plan and execute projects using SPMTs to remove or install bridges.
Using this manual in combination with the FHWA decisionmaking framework and analysis of delay-related user costs should provide the guidance that bridge owners and other bridge professionals need to understand the technology, determine whether using SPMTs will benefit a specific project, and develop contract documents that incorporate the technology.
To view the manual, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/pubs/07022/hif07022.pdf.
|Researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) outfitted these 11 identical sedans with road departure crash warning systems for use in a field operational test.|
More than 1.2 million road departure crashes occur each year in the United States. Because these crashes often involve rollovers or collisions with fixed objects, they can be particularly severe, and statistics show that they account for a high percentage of fatal crashes. The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center), in support of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), recently completed an independent evaluation of a road departure crash warning system that alerts drivers when they are in danger of departing the road, drifting out of their lanes, or approaching a curve at unsafe speeds. The goal of the study was to determine the safety benefits and driver acceptance of this crash-avoidance system.
Researchers at the University of Michigan outfitted 11 identical sedans with roadway departure crash warning systems and two cameras, extra sensors, and data acquisition systems. The researchers then conducted a field operational test of the system, collecting data from 78 participants who drove more than 130,000 kilometers (80,800 miles) on public roads and completed surveys reporting on their experiences.
The final report, Evaluation of a Road-Departure Crash Warning System (DOT HS 810 854), includes a comprehensive analysis of data from the field test and concludes that the system shows positive results in terms of system performance, driver acceptance, and safety benefits.
To access the report, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov/staticfiles/DOT/NHTSA/NRD/Multimedia/PDFs/Crash%20Avoidance/2007/4638-810_854%20RDCW%20EvalCLTest.pdf.
The USDOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, recently announced the opening of the Transportation Research and Analysis Computing Center (TRACC) in suburban Chicago.
The state-of-the-art modeling, simulation, and high-performance computing center will tackle a host of transportation problems, including traffic congestion in major cities, the effects of stresses on transportation infrastructure, and the crashworthiness of vehicles. Using the simulations generated by TRACC, researchers will be able to study road weather and vehicle performance issues such as aerodynamic drag, fuel-injector spray dynamics, and under-the-hood thermal management. The TRACC simulations will closely resemble actual road conditions.
The models generated by TRACC have the potential to save lives by providing researchers with a better understanding of crash behaviors so they can enhance roadside safety structures. USDOT and the automotive industry already perform computerized crash simulations along with real-world crash tests, but TRACC technology will increase the speed and accuracy of these tests significantly.
For more information, visit www.anl.gov/TRACC or www.transportation.anl.gov/publications/transforum/v8n1/tracc.html.
Argonne National Laboratory
Approximately 42,000 people die on the Nation's highways annually, and more than 25,000, almost 60 percent, are killed in crashes caused when their vehicles veer from their lanes. To help improve safety, AASHTO recently released a report detailing low-cost solutions to reduce the number of traffic fatalities in the United States due to lane departures.
The report, Driving Down Lane-Departure Crashes, outlines quick-to-implement strategies to identify and remove, or otherwise protect drivers from, roadside safety hazards such as trees and utility poles. The report features examples from States that have dramatically reduced lane-departure crashes and fatalities through successful leadership and systematic implementation of low-cost safety improvements.
For example, the Missouri Department of Transportation reduced fatalities related to lane departure by 25 percent from 2005 to 2007 through countermeasures such as rumble stripes, pavement markings, and cable median barriers. In Washington State, as the miles of divided highway protected by cable median barrier increased, the number of crossover median collisions decreased 74 percent, from 42 crashes per year to just 11 in 2007.
To view the report, visit http://downloads.transportation.org/PLD-1.pdf.
In 2007, a team of 13 materials experts from the United States visited Belgium, France, Germany, and Norway to witness and evaluate warm-mix asphalt (WMA) paving technologies. FHWA recently released a report summarizing the results of the international scan tour.
According to the report, Warm-Mix Asphalt: European Practice (FHWA-PL-08-007), the benefits of WMA technologies include reduced fuel usage and emissions by the machines used to lay the asphalt when compared to hot-mix asphalt (HMA); improved field compaction, which can facilitate longer haul distances for the WMA and cool weather paving; and better working conditions compared to HMA due to the lower mix temperatures required by WMA that provide a more comfortable working environment.
Although adopting WMA for use in the United States will require modifications to existing materials and production practices, the scan team reported no long-term barriers to using the technology in this country. With additional research and trials, the team expects that State DOTs will adopt WMA as an alternative to HMA.
To view the report, visit http://international.fhwa.dot.gov/pubs/pl08007/pl08007.pdf.
In May 2008, FHWA initiated the Long-Term Bridge Performance (LTBP) program, a 20-year research effort to collect data on bridges nationwide. The LTBP program was designated under SAFETEA-LU in 2005. Researchers will use the data for a variety of purposes, including studying deterioration and durability of bridges and the impacts of maintenance and repair. The program will provide a better understanding of bridge deterioration, including the effects of corrosion, fatigue, environmental conditions, and traffic loading, ultimately leading to better investment decisions.
FHWA awarded a contract worth up to $25.5 million to the Rutgers University Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) to carry out the first phase of the program funded through fiscal year 2012. CAIT will lead and administer the program, with Parsons Brinckerhoff, an infrastructure consulting and engineering firm, as its primary industry partner. Other partners include the Utah Transportation Center at Utah State University; the Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California, Berkeley; Siemens America; Advitam; Bridge Diagnostics, Inc.; and the Virginia Transportation Research Council, which will work closely with the University of Virginia and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
For more information, visit www.tfhrc.gov/structur/ltbp.htm.
Public Information and Information Exchange
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of USDOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administration, released the online version of its latest guide to transportation. The Pocket Guide to Transportation 2008 is a quick reference on changes in the U.S. transportation system since 1970 and how they have affected the Nation's economy, safety, energy use, and the environment.
The guide features the latest available statistics in chapters covering system extent and use (components of transportation network, bridge conditions), safety (transportation fatalities and injuries), security (items intercepted at airport checkpoints, petroleum consumption), mobility (vehicle miles traveled), economy (gross domestic product, trade), environment (vehicle fuel economy, carbon dioxide emissions), and a glossary.
To view the guide, visit www.bts.gov/publications/pocket_guide_to_transportation/2008/pdf/entire.pdf.
In May 2008, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University awarded USDOT the top spot on its list of best government agency performance reports for its publication, U.S. Department of Transportation Performance and Accountability Report for Fiscal Year 2007. This is the second year in a row that the Mercatus Center has recognized the quality of USDOT's report.
To evaluate the performance reports, Mercatus Center officials look at how an agency informs the public about its successes and failures, how it substantiates any benefits cited in the report, and the degree of leadership exhibited in making improvements based on the results of past reports. A team of experts evaluates each report using 12 criteria (such as whether the agency addresses major management challenges and links goals and results to costs), awarding a score of up to 60 points. USDOT's 2007 report received a record-high 55 points and was "well organized, reader friendly, and consistently substantive," Mercatus Center officials said.
For more information, visit www.mercatus.org/Publications/pubID.4509/pub_detail.asp.
Mercatus Center, George Mason University
FHWA and the Consortium for ITS Training and Education (CITE) recently introduced a blended (instructor-led, Web-based) version of the course Improving Highway Safety with ITS. The course aims to increase awareness of the benefits of deploying intelligent transportation systems (ITS) in highway safety applications.
The blended course format combines the best features of instructor-led and Web-based instruction, including live discussions with the instructor through conference calls; convenient, flexible Web-based modules; a specific time schedule during which to complete the course; and the ability to interact with other students through class problems posted on a discussion board.
The course provides an overview of safety challenges currently facing transportation engineers, with a particular focus on 10 areas where ITS applications can help mitigate the challenges. Discussion of these applications includes presentations on nine USDOT-supported ITS initiatives and their impacts on safety. Participants learn about real-world applications of ITS technologies to improve safety by reviewing case studies of actual highway projects. Other modules focus on fusing traditional and ITS approaches, developing safety strategic plans, and meeting FHWA requirements regarding implementing ITS projects.
Throughout the training, hands-on activities help participants identify and prioritize highway safety challenges and formulate organization- and individual-level actions to mitigate the challenges.
For more information, visit www.citeconsortium.org/courses/HighwaySafety-blended.html.
According to USDOT's Fiscal Year 2008 Budget in Brief, each year the department spends approximately $70 billion on transportation-related projects. To help protect this investment, in March 2008, USDOT's Office of Inspector General released a video on fraud awareness to educate government officials, contractors, and the public about common fraud schemes. The purpose of the video is to strengthen collaborative efforts to prevent and detect fraud involving transportation projects and programs.
Using a cable news format, the video presents examples of investigations that resulted in criminal and civil penalties for businesses and individuals who engaged in fraud while working on contracts funded by Federal transportation dollars. The video provides legal perspectives on false statements and claims and highlights red flag indicators to help government employees, contractors, and others in the transportation community know how to identify fraud. The video also instructs viewers on how to report possible fraud, waste, abuse, and other irregularities in USDOT programs to the Office of Inspector General's hotline.
For more information, visit www.oig.dot.gov/Hotline. To request a free copy of the video on DVD, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
In April 2008, FHWA released A Resident's Guide for Creating Safe and Walkable Communities, a document highlighting examples of communities working to improve pedestrian safety. The guide includes information, ideas, and resources to help community members understand issues that affect walking conditions, identify ways to address or prevent these problems, and promote pedestrian safety.
In addition, the guide features fact sheets, worksheets, and sample materials that communities can adapt and distribute to those working to improve pedestrian safety. For example, one checklist covers the top 10 things that a pedestrian safety organization can do to encourage walking, such as organizing educational seminars and talking to local planning and engineering staff. Another item included in the guide is a template for a letter that can be sent to drivers who are observed disobeying traffic laws.
To download the guide or order a hardcopy, visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/ped_cmnity/ped_walkguide/index.cfm.
According to a new FHWA report, collaboration is more than just the latest buzzword in management. The Collaborative Advantage: Realizing the Tangible Benefits of Regional Transportation Operations Collaboration — A Reference Manual (FHWA-HOP-08-001) is designed to help State, regional, and local officials involved with transportation operations and planning to understand the range of benefits associated with participation in multiagency collaborative efforts.
The strategies and benefits highlighted in the manual represent the combined input of more than 50 transportation and public safety professionals from across the United States. Developed by the FHWA Office of Operations and Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty, the manual highlights nine collaborative efforts to illustrate the tangible benefits of multiagency activities, ranging from incident management to transit operations. Among those benefits are access to additional funding and resources, improvement in agency operations and productivity, and assistance in achieving mobility and safety goals.
To view the manual, visit www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/benefits_guide/index.htm.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) recently posted an online video that demonstrates what truck-only lanes could look like on Interstate 70 (I-70) and how they might operate.
As truck traffic continues to increase, Missourians asked MoDOT to consider separating cars and trucks on the interstate. Therefore, MoDOT is studying truck-only lanes as a way to improve safety and reduce congestion during reconstruction and expansion of I-70. The video helps people understand how the truck-only lane concept works, especially how vehicles get on and off the highway.
The agency also plays a key role in the nationally designated Corridors of the Future program. By conducting this study now, MoDOT will be positioned to move quickly to address I-70's challenges, either by adding more general-use lanes or by building truck-only lanes, if funding for design and construction becomes available.
MoDOT has posted other videos online showing dramatic footage of the Route 19 Missouri River Bridge demolition, testing of guard cable crashes, and an aerial view of ongoing construction of Interstate 64 in St. Louis. Another video helps viewers understand the concept of a shared four-lane highway, which is a highway with additional passing lanes to ease congestion and improve safety.
To view the videos, visit http://youtube.com/user/modotvideo.
In April 2008, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty appointed Thomas K. Sorel commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT). Sorel was serving as division administrator for the FHWA Minnesota Division Office in St. Paul.
Throughout his career, Sorel has held various positions within FHWA, including major project team leader at the agency's headquarters in Washington, DC, and director of planning and program development and chief of technology services in Albany, NY. During the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, UT, Sorel was the USDOT liaison for Federal transportation issues and led the effort to build the infrastructure for the event.
While at FHWA, Sorel received many performance awards. He received the Presidential honor for leading the Federal transportation response, recovery, and rebuilding efforts in Minnesota in the aftermath of the collapse of the I-35W bridge.