Featuring developments in Federal highway policies, programs, and research and technology.
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|Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 75 · No. 4 > Along the Road|
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-12-002
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
New Research Shows Enforcement Cuts Distracted Driving
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood recently announced dramatic reductions in distracted driving in Hartford, CT, and Syracuse, NY. The reductions come after two pilot programs measured the effects of increased law enforcement coupled with high-profile public education campaigns. The findings show that strong laws combined with visible police enforcement can significantly reduce texting and the use of cell phones behind the wheel.
Researchers conducting the two programs examined whether increased police enforcement, along with paid advertising and news media coverage, could reduce distracted driving during four periods of stepped-up enforcement between March 2010 and April 2011. The pilot efforts featured a media campaign theme, "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other," and were structured similarly to the highly successful national "Click It or Ticket" seatbelt campaign.
Before and after each enforcement wave, researchers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) observed cell phone use on roadways and conducted public awareness surveys at driver licensing offices in the two cities. In Syracuse, both handheld cell phone use and texting behind the wheel declined by one-third. In Hartford, where researchers initially identified drivers talking on their cell phones at twice the frequency of those in Syracuse, there was a 57 percent drop in handheld use, and texting behind the wheel decreased by nearly three-fourths.
NHTSA has not yet determined which States will be chosen to expand the program, but plans to test the same three-part formula -- tougher laws, stronger enforcement, and ongoing public awareness -- statewide in the future.
FHWA Report Provides Template For Statewide Freight Plans
The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Freight Management and Operations recently released a report that provides a template that State departments of transportation (DOTs) can use to develop their statewide freight plans. The template is adaptable so a State can choose to use the entire template or just draw on particular parts of it, depending on the State's unique situation.
Freight transportation is complex because it involves many stakeholders who have varying views on how to resolve the challenges facing the industry. One of the biggest challenges for the public sector is incorporating these diverse freight perspectives into the transportation planning process.
The report recommends that States conduct a freight analysis -- whether included in the update of a general transportation plan or specifically in a freight plan -- during their broader transportation planning processes. It also recommends that States develop their freight plans in coordination with public and private sector entities that are involved with freight movement. According to the report, "Outreach will be a key component of developing an effective freight plan. Developing and fostering relationships with all freight stakeholders will ensure that the plan addresses key issues and concerns of all involved in freight movement in the State."
For more information and to download the report, visit www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop11026/sfp_template.pdf.
Policy and Legislation
First-Ever Fuel Standards Announced For Heavy-Duty Trucks
Under recently announced rules, the Nation's medium- and heavy-duty trucks will be required to meet standards for fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the first time, beginning in 2014. The standards will save approximately $50 billion in fuel costs over the life of the program. According to NHTSA estimates, trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 will reduce U.S. oil consumption by 530 million barrels and GHG emissions by 270 million metric tons.
USDOT and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly developed the national program with support from other stakeholders, including the trucking industry. The joint program will include a range of targets that are specific to diverse vehicle types and purposes. This flexible structure enables significant but achievable fuel efficiency goals to be charted for each year and for each vehicle category and type.
Beyond the direct benefits to businesses that own and operate these vehicles, the program also will benefit consumers and businesses by reducing costs for transporting goods. The program will improve energy and national security, reduce harmful air pollution, and spur job growth in the clean energy sector by fostering innovative technologies and providing regulatory certainty for manufacturers.
For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov/fuel-economy.
Intelligent Asphalt Compaction Analyzer Offers Real-Time Quality Control
Good compaction of newly placed hot-mix asphalt (HMA) is needed to ensure longer lasting performance. Through the Technology Partnerships Program, FHWA and Haskell Lemon Construction Co. of Oklahoma City, OK, developed and tested a quality control tool to assist paving contractors in real time.
The Intelligent Asphalt Compaction Analyzer (IACA) is mounted on pavement rollers and analyzes their vibrations using neural network technology. It relates pavement responses in real time to the contractor's compaction operations. The new technology can take the guesswork out of paving jobs, enabling roller operators to view the information on a monitor and evaluate when the compaction is sufficient.
Independent testing of the device was conducted at nine sites in Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania on full-depth HMA. Now that the Technology Partnerships evaluation is complete, project partner Volvo Construction Equipment plans to introduce the IACA as an option on new compactors in the future.
For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/hfl/partnerships/haskell.cfm.
Nation's Largest Solar Highway Project to Power Rest Area
Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez recently joined State and local officials in Wilsonville, OR, for a groundbreaking for the installation of a solar array along Interstate 5. The solar array is on 7 acres (2.8 hectares) owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). ODOT officials expect the Baldock Solar Highway project -- the Nation's second such project -- to be completed and begin generating clean, renewable energy by early 2012.
The Baldock installation will consist of nearly 7,000 panels, each 250 watts, in a 1.75-megawatt array that will produce approximately 1.97 million kilowatt-hours of energy. Some of that energy will power the nearby Baldock Safety Rest Areas on I-5 in Clackamas County, OR.
"Finding sources of renewable energy is in everyone's interest and is consistent with sound transportation policy," Mendez says. The Baldock Solar Highway project reflects State and national policies focused on developing sustainable energy resources, will help the State and ODOT meet renewable energy goals, and will create or sustain 60-70 jobs.
The Baldock project is funded through a public-private partnership and will feed energy into the Portland General Electric grid. In addition to green energy, the project will generate renewable energy certificates, certifying the ownership of green power, that will be shared primarily between Portland General Electric and ODOT. FHWA assisted ODOT in the design, environmental review, and issues related to right-of-way and traffic control for the project.
For more information, visit www.oregonsolarhighway.com.
Electronic Document Management Improves Utility Coordination
Each year millions of dollars are spent to relocate or adjust utility facilities prior to road construction projects. Greater emphasis on coordination early in the process can facilitate streamlined utility relocations, expedite project delivery, and reduce the potential for construction delays and extra costs.
Toward that end, a technology implementation group within the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recently selected the Utility Relocation Electronic Document Management System (UREDMS) as one of its focus technologies. The UREDMS technology facilitates communications and document management to help expedite utility relocation.
A Web-based project planning and construction program, UREDMS provides secure communications, document submission, access to stored documents, and report generation. In addition to a paperless process, UREDMS reduces the need for physical storage space, minimizes lost or misplaced files, and offers a secure environment for transportation agencies and utilities to share information. Further, the system provides a platform to enhance coordination, cooperation, and communications among all stakeholders to help ensure project success.
To encourage use of the UREDMS technology, the AASHTO technology implementation group and FHWA have formed a Lead States Team with representatives from the Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Texas DOTs. Team members are available to provide guidance and answer questions as agencies consider use of this technology.
For more information, visit http://tig.transportation.org/Pages/UtilityRelocationElectronicDocumentManagementSystem.aspx.
FHWA Report Highlights Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement Use
Many State DOTs are looking at increasing their use of reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) to conserve natural resources and save money. A new report from FHWA, Reclaimed Asphalt Pavement in Asphalt Mixtures: State of the Practice (FHWA-HRT-11-021), highlights RAP use across the United States. The report also describes best practices for increasing the percentage of RAP used in HMA pavements while maintaining high-quality infrastructure.
The use of RAP enables DOTs to reduce the need for virgin aggregate, a scarce commodity that in some regions necessitates high transportation costs. Using RAP also reduces the amount of costly new asphalt binder required to produce paving mixtures. In addition to lowering project costs, by using RAP, State agencies can decrease the construction debris added to landfills.
Analyses of test sections containing 30 percent RAP showed similar performance and pavement life when compared to virgin asphalt sections. The test sections were part of FHWA's Long-Term Pavement Performance program and were located across the United States and Canada.
For more information and to download the report, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/infrastructure/pavements/11021/index.cfm.
Public Information and Information Exchange
Now Available: State Best Practice Policy for Medians
Safety is USDOT's number one priority, and that includes providing safe and effective accommodation of pedestrians wherever possible. Recently, FHWA's Office of Safety published the State Best Practice Policy for Medians (FHWA-SA-11-019), which details the benefits of raised medians and highlights three State DOTs -- Florida, New York, and Oregon -- that have implemented policies and plans to promote their use.
FHWA encourages State and local agencies to consider raised medians in curbed sections of multilane roadways in urban and suburban areas, particularly where there are mixtures of a significant number of pedestrians, high volumes of traffic, and intermediate or high travel speeds. Adding medians and refuge islands to roadways can increase both pedestrian and motor vehicle safety, helping to solve multiple challenges. They enable pedestrians to cross one direction of traffic at a time rather than having to anticipate traffic for the entire width of the road. Raised medians also provide a space to install improved lighting, which can reduce nighttime pedestrian fatalities at crossings by 78 percent. In addition, these countermeasures lower vehicle speeds on the roadway, reduce motor vehicle crashes by 15 percent, decrease delays for motorists by more than 30 percent, and increase the capacity of roadways by more than 30 percent.
The new publication also addresses budget and maintenance concerns, which can hinder implementation of these policies. To deal with concerns regarding winter road maintenance, for example, the New York State Department of Transportation trained and educated snowplow drivers to increase their confidence and ability to adapt to plowing around this roadway design.
For more information and to download the publication, visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/tools_solve/fhwasa11019.
Smarter Traveler System Helps Commuters Before They Drive
Researchers at the California Department of Transportation, IBM, and the University of California, Berkeley, recently announced a joint research initiative to develop an intelligent transportation solution that will help commuters avoid congestion and enable transportation planners to better predict traffic flow. The Smarter Traveler Research Initiative will use predictive analytics software, global positioning system (GPS) monitoring, and road sensors to build a model of each participating motorist's usual commuting route and then send targeted traffic alerts. The initiative will enable commuters to check a forecast of their route before they leave the house.
Spanning the San Francisco Bay area, the Smarter Traveler project is an opt-in program that uses a participating driver's GPS in his or her mobile phone to develop common routes for a morning commute, for example. These routes are then cross-referenced with real-time traffic data from sensors in the roadways and predictive analytics capabilities to alert the traveler to traffic jams or other potential problems before they even exist. This information will generate alerts that are delivered automatically via email or text message on the status of the driver's typical commute before the trip begins -- providing the additional benefit of eliminating potential distraction once the driver is on the road.
Traffic delays caused by crashes, work zones, or simply daily rush hours routinely cause commuters across the United States to waste on average almost a week's worth of time, 28 gallons of gas, and $808 over the course of a year. The IBM Smarter Traveler alerts will enable drivers to plan alternative routes to avoid congestion and save time and money, while helping transportation agencies reduce bumper-to-bumper traffic through improved traffic signal timing, ramp metering, and route planning.
YouTube Video Explains Procedures For Setting Speed Limits
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Michigan State Police have released a YouTube video to help motorists understand how speed limits are established. The 1-minute video, which explains the process that State agencies use to set speed limits, is available on MDOT's YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/michigandot.
As explained in the video, MDOT works closely with partners in law enforcement to establish the safest speed limits possible for the benefit of all motorists. Speed studies are conducted to determine the 85th percentile speed and identify reasonable driver behavior for a particular stretch of roadway. Speed studies are one component of an engineering and traffic investigation and are a nationally accepted guideline for setting speed limits. A survey team in the field identifies and considers other factors, including crash data, traffic volumes, roadside development, roadway configuration and condition, number of intersections and driveways, and sidewalks, all of which may influence road users.
MDOT and police officials note that a comprehensive analysis for determining speed limits relies heavily on identifying normal and safe driver behavior and whether a given speed limit is realistic.
For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/speedlimits. To view the MDOT video, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5pzYoX1cTw.
Kentucky Uses RSAs to Support Healthy Communities
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, in partnership with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and FHWA's Kentucky Division, recently asked health departments across the State to conduct walkability audits as a part of the State's Healthy Communities initiative. The initiative seeks to improve communities' health through policy, systems, and environmental changes. The agencies established the program in response to Kentucky's 2010 rankings as seventh highest in obesity and sixth lowest in physical activity.
To support the health departments' efforts, the FHWA Office of Safety trained local personnel on road safety audits (RSAs) through 1-day workshops held in the towns of Bowling Green, Frankfort, and London. Nearly 80 people attended the training courses, and participants included representatives from each health department in the area, officials from cities and municipalities where the health departments are planning audits, and representatives from the local highway district offices and area development districts. The training provided an overview of the eight-step RSA process with a focus on pedestrians and also included a field exercise.
The local agencies will use the results from the walkability audits to select streets or roadways to undergo more comprehensive pedestrian road safety audits. Once the RSAs are completed and analyzed, the multidisciplinary review team will submit a report to the appropriate governing bodies.
For more information, visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/rsa.
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