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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
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This magazine is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information.
|Publication Number: Date: Autumn 1993|
Issue No: Vol. 57 No. 2
Date: Autumn 1993
"Along the Road" is a hodgepodge of items of general interest to the highway community. But this is more than a miscellaneous section; "Along the Road" is the place to look for information about current and upcoming activities, developments, and trends. This information comes from Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let's meet along the road.
FHWA Selects Electronic Recordkeeping PilotsThe Federal Highway Administration recently announced the selection of 10 electronic recordkeeping pilots. One such pilot will include electronic storage of highway project records with potential access from remote project sites.
Federal Funds Will Be Used to Evaluate San Antonio ATMS
On August 9, the Intelligent Vehicle-Highway Systems Partnership Agreement was executed for the San Antonio IVHS Operational Test. Nearly $900,000 in federal IVHS funds will be used to evaluate the Advanced Traffic Management System currently under construction.
Virginia Uses STP Funds for Transit
The Virginia Department of Transportation has taken action to use some of its Surface Transportation Program funds for transit purposes. Approximately $12.6 million, or about 30 percent of the STP flexible funds, are being used to provide statewide transit aid, consisting primarily of capital assistance to various recipients. While VDOT has in previous years used Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program funds for transit, this is its first use of traditional highway funding for this purpose.
Harrisburg Begins Handicap Accessibility Project
Construction is underway in Harrisburg, Pa., to install a downtown network of audible, pedestrian crossing signals; detectable warning intersection cutaways; and several dozen curb cuts in Riverfront Park along the Susquehanna River. Harrisburg intends to be the most accessible city in the state.
The state-of-the-art, audible, crosswalk signals were sponsored by several community service groups and private contributors. The signals, which will be installed at six intersections, emit a continuous, low-volume, chirping sound that changes pitch and timing when it is permissible to cross a street. The signals increase in loudness as the level of traffic and nearby noises increase.
In addition to the curb cuts in Riverside Park, more than 450 cuts will be made downtown, and another 500 cuts in various parts of the city will be made as streets are repaved.
Caltrans Is Developing a Smart Traveler Information System
The California Department of Transportation plans to introduce a Smart Traveler Information System to the public in November. The system, developed with the help of Federal Highway Administration rideshare funding, gathers up-to-the-minute information provided by transit operators, rideshare contractors, and more than 1000 detector loops embedded in the freeways of Los Angeles County. This information is then used by "Smart Traveler" to provide users with transit schedules and fa re information , lists of pote ntia l rideshare partne rs , and freeway traffic conditions. The goals is for users to be able to receive accurate commuter-related information from multiple sources, including multimedia computer touch-screen kiosks, audiotext accessible with a touch-tone telephone, and personal computers.
New Hampshire Responds to Covered-Bridge FiresFires have recently destroyed covered bridges in Swanzey, Plymouth, and Newport, N.H. As a result, the state fire marshal gathered a task force of experts on July 7, 1993, to address the vulnerability of these historically important bridges. The task force included firefighters, municipal administrators, law enforcement officials, historians, economic development specialists, bridge designers and builders, transportation experts, and representatives of the governor's office. They developed an action plan that included deterrent and prevention strategies. Some of the elements of the plan are a public awareness campaign using multiple media to reach school children and adults; a neighborhood watch-type surveillance effort; local fire department contingency plans; an increase in the punishment for arson of a covered bridge; and protection systems such as automatic alarms, fire-retardant coatings, and sprinkler systems.
Several covered bridges in New Hampshire like this one over the Swift River have been destroyed recently by fire.
Florida Monitors Exposure to Asphalt Mixture Fumes
The Florida Department of Transportation conducted an experimental project to monitor worker exposure levels to fumes from an asphalt mixture modified with asphalt rubber. Emissions and fumes were monitored at three locations -- the asphalt terminal, the asphalt plant, and the paving operation. The final analysis of the data did not indicate a problem with exposure levels.
Manv Texas DOT Officials Retire in September
The Texas State Legislature enacted a retirement incentive for all state employees retiring by September 30, 1993. The Texas Department of Transportation estimates that 60 to 70 percent of the 2,200 eligible employees in DOT will retire. As of late July, 23 of the top 50 executives in DOT announced their retirement effective September 30. This includes the executive director, deputy executive director, all four associate executive directors, seven division directors, and 10 state district engineers. In the wake of the retirements, Executive Director-Designate William G. Burnett proposed a new organizational structure, effective October 1, for Texas DOT headquarters.
Pacific Rim Conference Held in Seattle
The Federal Highway Administration and the Washington Department of Transportation co-sponsored the Pacific Rim TransTech Conference in Seattle on July 25-28. More than 1,300 engineers, administrators, and leaders in the transportation industry, representing 37 countries and 43 U.S. states, exchanged information on the most technologically advanced solutions to the transportation challenges of the 21st century.
Minnesota Law Promotes Public-Private Partnership for Toll Roads
A new law in Minnesota provides for agreements between highway authorities and private companies/groups "for the development, financing, design, construction, improvement, rehabilitation, ownership, and operation of a toll facility." Development agreements must be approved by the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Tranportation, and the Twin Cities metropolitan council must also approve developments in the Twin Cities Metro Area. Any county board or municipal council through which a toll facility passes may veto the project within 30 days of approval by the MnDOT commissioner.
The new enabling legislation provides two types of financial/ownership arrangements. One is known as a "build-operate-transfer" (BOT). Under this arrangement, the private company builds and operates the facility and, at the end of a pre-determined period, transfers ownership to the appropriate road authority. The other type is "build-transfer-operate" (BTO). Under BTO, the private company builds the facility and transfers ownership to the road authority prior to the commencement of operations, but the private company operates the facility under the terms of a lease, management agreement, or toll concession agreement with the road authority.
First "Privatization" Project in California begins Construction
On July 26, ground was broken for four new express lanes in the median of state Route 91 from the Riverside, Calif., county line to state Route 55 in Orange County. This is the first of the California Assembly Bill 680 iprivatization" projects to go to construction. It will feature an electronic toll collection system, allowing drivers to pay tolls at freeway speeds with credit card-sized transponders. Free access to toll lanes will be provided to vehicles with three or more occupants, and free or discounted access will be given to zero-emission vehicles and to drivers who are disabled veterans or handicapped.
Florida Also Testing Electronic Toll Collection
The Florida Turnpike Office has conducted extensive analyses and field testing to evaluate components of electronic toll and traffic monitoring technology. An automatic toll collection system is being evaluated under the turnpike's Sun PassTM program. Sun PassTM vehicles are equipped with invehicle transponder units that communicate with toll plaza sensors and provide electronic toll collection. This technology provides increased highway capacity by allowing vehicles to pass through the toll facilities more quickly.
Rule on Roadside Barriers Is Published
The final rule implementing Section 1073 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of 1991, pertaining to roadside barriers, was published in the Federal Register on July 16. The rule provides for an enhanced level of crashworthiness of roadside barriers and other safety appurtenances to accommodate vans, minivans, pickup trucks, and four-wheel drive vehicles.
New York Can Implement a Low-Emission Vehicles Program
In July, a federal judge reversed his previous ruling and said that the state of New York may require additional pollution-reduction equipment and longer warranties on that equipment on all cars and light trucks beginning with the 1995 model year. The judge had previously ruled that New York's low-emission vehicles strategy violated the Clean Air Act by requiring a "third type of vehicle' without simultaneously authorizing cleaner burning fuel. automakers had argued that they would be forced to develop a new pollution control system for New York's high-sulfur fuels and, hence, a third type of vehicle. In the July ruling, the judge said that he is not agreeing witll the state's position, but he decided it was wrong to rule on the issue without a trial. The American Automobile Manufacturers Association is expected to seek an early resolution of this issue. The use of low-emission vehicles to achieve emission reduction is the centerpiece of the state's strategy to attain the air quality standards. The judge also ruled that New York may not order the sale of electric cars.
Motor Carriers Office Enters Into a Cooperative Agreement to Develop Technologies
The Federal Highway Administration's Office of Motor Carriers and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance have entered into a cooperative agreement to provide research, technical assistance, planning, and marketing support for FHWA's development of commercial vehicle operations/intelligent vehicle-highway systems technologies. FHWA will provide two full-time staff members and administrative support for the staff to CVSA for two years. By autumn, CVSA will select from a list of candidates with broad experience in current CVO safety program activities.
Louisiana Develops an Intermodal Transportation Master Plan
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is developing an intermodal transportation master plan, which can he used as a prototype for other states. In support of this effort, the Louisiana Intermodal Transportation Conference was held in New Orleans on July 19-20.
New York DOT Uses Defense Technology
One of the most highly specialized defense research organizations will assist the New York Department of Transportation in efforts to pinpoint the cause of a failure of a major pipe culvert. The pipe had heen inspected a short time prior to its collapse without any sign of a problem. Scientists from the Watervliet Arsenal's Benet Laboratory will analyze the pipe metallurgy and environmental factors in a forensic engineering attempt to identify the cause of the unexpected failure. The results may lead to improvements in inspection techniques and procedures. This transfer of technology from national defense to transportation is a first in New York.
FHWA Streamlines Bridge Design Process in New Jersey
The New Jersey Division of the Federal Highway Administration is on track in a pilot project to reduce the bridge design process for off-system bridges from the usual four or five years to one year. The standard practice, managed by counties, normally requires four different design plan submittals, separate right-of-way and utility reviews, and the normal coordinating process. On July 9, FHWA, New Jersey Department of Transportation, and the County Engineers Bridge Committee met to finalize a cooperative approach. FHWA and NJDOT developed a certification procedure for the counties to use. The state will specify loading, width, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) specifications, and an appropriate hridge rail system and will require local certification of materials. Several, formerly built-in delays have been eliminated, and a federal/state/county engineer working group has been formed to work out the details.
Seat Belts Save Lives
After finding out that 90 percent of people killed in traffic accidents in Florida during the Memorial Day weekend were not wearing safety belts, the Florida Highway Patrol started a three-week information/enforcement blitz, leading up to the 4th of July weekend, about the benefits of using safety belts.
4th of July Was a Relatively Safe Holiday
Several states reported fewer traffic fatalities during the 1993 Independence Day weekend than during this holiday period last year. The four highway-related fatalities in South Carolina were the fewest ever in that state for the 4th of July weekend. The states credit advance media attention to highway safety and increased visibility of the highway patrol with saving lives during the holiday.
North Carolina to Add More Median Barrier Rails
The North Carolina Department of Transportation recently completed a comprehensive study of crossmedian accidents from April 1, 1988, to October 31, 1991, on interstate highways in the state. These accidents, in which a vehicle crossed the median and entered an opposing traffic lane, caused 32.2 percent of the fatalities on interstates in North Carolina. Based on this study, median barrier rail will be added to 24 sections of interstate highways.
Rules Proposed to Control Heavy Truck Combinations
On July 13, the Federal Highway Administration proposed regulations to extend the life of highways hy reducing the number of overweight motor vehicles transporting containers or trailers. The regulations would require parties who initiate the transfer of intermodal containers -- those using at least two different means of surface transportation such as trains and trucks -- to provide written certification of the gross cargo weight and a reasonahle description of the contents. The proposed rule is designed to discourage motor carriers from transporting loads that are overweight under applicable state law.
Virginia Starts Fourth Crumb Rubber Project
A resurfacing project on U.S. Route 1 near Richmond will be Virginia's fourth crumb rubber project. These projects have been small in scope, and at the state's discretion, none of these has been federally aided. The latest project provides for the use of about 10,000 tons of asphalt mix and an estimated 20,000 scrap tires. Since the use of crumb rubber is still being studied state officials believe this section of U.S. 1, which has significant cracking problems, will test the degree of cracking resistance provided by the asphalt-rubber mix. The state will also study environmental and safety issues. Use of crumb rubber modifier in asphalt mixes may be a way to reduce the scrap tire disposal problem.
Virginia Is Step Closer to Smart Highway
The Blacksburg to Roanoke highway, one of Virginia's innovative projects under Section 1107(b) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, moves a step closer to implementation with the recent approval of the final environmental impact statement. This project calls for the construction of a six-mile, four-lane highway to demonstrate intelligent vehicle-highway systems, for which $5.9 million was made available under ISTEA. The record-of-decision will be issued following the completion of the public notification process.
First CMAQ Roundtable Held in Michigan
On June 14, transportation and air quality experts from a dozen different organizations -- federal, state, and local-- gathered in Ann Arbor, Mich., at the firstever roundtable discussions held at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency. These discussions focused on the goals and structure of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program. Many issues and recommendations were aired; however, no changes are anticipated at this time.
Historically Black Colleges Form a Research Consortium
On June 24-26, approximately 20 historically black colleges and minority institutions met in Arlington, Va., to form a consortium to conduct research in water resources and environmental management. The Federal Highway Administration provided planning support to the new consortium. At the meeting, participants wrote the by-laws and decided how research teams will be set up and what their specific functions will be.
Motor Carrier Study of Driver Fatigue and Alertness Begins
Two major nationwide motor carriers, Yellow Freight Systems and CF Motor Freight, are the first to have drivers "on the road" under two types of 10-hour schedules. This multiyear, $3.4 million effort began in 1989. It is a research partnership of the Federal Highway Administration and the Trucking Research Institute of the American Trucking Associations Foundation. The study is being performed by Essex Corporation in Goleta, Calif., and Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La Jolla, Calif.
Negotiations are nearly completed with a Canadian motor carrier to provide drivers and runs for the second part of the experiment, 13-hour daytime and nighttime driving schedules. This data collection is slated to begin early this fall. Transport Canada will share the cost of a portion of the research.
A final set of field tests, covering drivers in local/short-haul operations, is scheduled for this winter. FHWA is working with the American Trucking Associations Foundation and the National Private Truck Council to locate U.S. carriers for this part of the study.
Mississippi Bashes Trash
The 1993 Trash Bash, held the last week of March, attracted a record number of participants. Trash Bash is an anti-litter week, designated by the Mississippi Transportation Commission, in which the state's 1,531 adopt-a-highway groups collectively pick up litter on their adopted sections of highway. This collective effort draws attention to the litter problem in the state.
Tribal Leaders Learn About Road Funding Opportunities
The Federal Lands Highway Office and Bureau of Indian Affairs recently conducted four regional conferences for American Indian tribal leaders. The purpose of each three-day conference was to provide information to the tribal leaders about the Indian Reservation Roads Program and other funding opportunities offered by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. Conference topics included transportation planning, management systems, coordination, and ISTEA programs and requirements. In addition to the regional conferences, other meetings were held for tribal leaders in Montana and Oklahoma.
Cherokees in North Carolina Develop Tribal Transportation Plan
The North Carolina Local Technical Assistance Program Technology Transfer Center will oversee an effort to provide transportation planning assistance, including developing a transportation plan, for the tribal government of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, located in Cherokee, N.C. Section 1025 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 outlines this initiative. The center will also conduct a case study of the unique aspects of planning within the Cherokee tribal culture. North Carolina's efforts will serve as a model for other American Indian tribal governments.
National Scenic Byways Report Due to Congress in October
The National Scenic Byways Advisory Committee is a 17-member board established by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 to assist the Secretary of Transportation in developing the National Scenic Byways Program. The committee will provide a report, recommending the minimum criteria and standards to be used by state and federal agencies to designate highways as scenic byways and all-American roads, to the secretary and Congress by October.
On June 2, the committee held its fourth and final meeting. Topics discussed during the meetings included the economic development and tourism benefits of the program and the importance of balancing environmental interests with economic benefits.
Massachusetts Will Conduct an Electric-Vehicle Demonstration
The Massachusetts Highway Department is embarking on a project demonstrating the use of electric vehicles. Fifty vehicles will be purchased, and recharge stations will be built at transit and "park-and-ride" facilities. The vehicles will be leased, and the project will be fully evaluated. The $2 million project is funded by the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program.
"You'll Be On Video Live If You Drink and Drive"
On May 28, Idaho kicked off a campaign called "You'll Be On Video Live If You Drink and Drive." This effort is an expansion of a program started last year when the Aetna Insurance Co. provided 36 invehicle video cameras to the Idaho State Police for taping drunk-driving arrests. The program was so effective that 114 more cameras were purchased using funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A full-sized campaign billboard is also planned.
Contracts Awarded to Develop IVHS Architecture
On September 13, the Federal Highway Administration awarded contracts to four consortia to develop different system architecture concepts for the Intelligent Vehicle-Highway Systems Program.
The first consortium includes Hughes Aircraft as the lead, Delco Electronics, Electronic Data Systems, General Motors, Hickling, JHK & Associates, Michigan Department of Transportation, Minnesota DOT, and Sprint.
The second consortium includes IBM as the lead, Ameritech, Louis Berger & Associates, University of Michigan, New Jersey Highway Authority, Oakland County (Mich.) Road Commission, and Siemens.
The third consortium includes Rockwell International as the lead, Apogee Research, California PATH, California Department of Transportation, George Mason University, GTE Laboratories, Honeywell, and Iowa State University.
Highway Seismic Research Council Created
The Federal Highway Administration asked the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research to establish a Highway Seismic Research Council to provide technical and operational assistance in conducting seismic vulnerability studies of the National Highway System. The council is comprised of recognized academic, public, and private sector leaders in the fields of seismology, earthquake engineering, and highway and bridge design. The council members are divided into a technical group and a coordinating group. The technical group will be involved in technical and scientific issues. The coordinating group will provide input on issues of technology transfer and coordination with endusers including state transportation agencies and federal agencies working to reduce earthquake hazards. The first product, due at the end of the year, will be an update of a 1983 FHWA report, Seismic Retrofitting Guidelines for Highway Bridges.
FHWA Develops a Network of International Technology Exchange Centers
The Federal Highway Administration is developing a network of international technology exchange centers to serve as focal points to acquire foreign technologies, promote U.S. expertise abroad, and increase the transfer of U.S. technologies to other countries. FHWA will furnish the centers, which are modeled after the Local Technical Assistance Program technology transfer centers, with technical information, research findings, training, and demonstration materials. The host country will reciprocate by providing access to its research findings and implementation materials.
FHWA recently established an exchange center in Finland. Information gathered through the center is circulated to the U.S. highway community through FHWA, state departments of transportation, and LTAP technology transfer centers. LTAP technology transfer centers in Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have already linked to the Finnish center.
More Than 50,000 Commercial Vehicles Checked in 72-Hour Inspection
During a 72-hour, around-the-clock, coordinated inspection on June 8-10, more than 50,000 commercial vehicles and their drivers underwent safety checks at about 300 roadside sites throughout the United States and Canada. In this massive safety effort, called "Roadcheck '93," inspectors followed the regular practices used in roadside safety inspections. Vehicles with serious defects and drivers violating safety standards were not allowed to continue until the problems were remedied. The inspectors also collected information on hazardous materials documentation and how much training the drivers had.
In last year's three-day effort, about 46,000 inspections were conducted, and approximately 12,000 vehicles (26 percent) and 2,000 drivers (4 percent) were removed from the road. For all of the last fiscal year 27.9 percent of the vehicles inspected and 7.2 percent of the drivers were detained.
Transporting Hazardous Materials Requires a Federal Permit
The Federal Highway Administration has proposed regulations that would require motor carriers to obtain safety permits to transport high-risk hazardous materials. FHWA published the proposals in the Federal Register in response to statutory directives under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Uniform Safety Act of 1990. The permit program would cover four general classes of hazardous materials: (1) class A and B explosives, (2) liquefied natural gas, (3) hazardous materials designated as extremely toxic by inhalation and (4) highly radioactive materials. Carriers, their employees, and their agents who violate any of these regulations would be subject to the loss of their permit plus civil penalties up to $25,000 or criminal penalties up to $50,000 for willful violations.
Motor Vehicle Fatalities Are at a 30-Year Low
On June 22, Secretary of Transportation Federico Peña announced that motor vehicle fatalities declined 5.5 percent last year to their lowest level in 30 years. He attributed the decline to a decrease in alcohol-related fatalities and an increase in the use of safety belts, child seats, and motorcycle helmets.
Statistical estimates using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatal Accident Reporting System show:
In addition, NHTSA estimates that air bags saved 500 lives through 1992 and will save 2,400 lives between 1990 and 1995. Almost all new passenger cars will have air bags by model year 1995, and FHWA has proposed that all model year 1998 passenger cars and 1999 light trucks be equipped with air bags as well as safety belts for the driver and right-front-seat passenger.
NHTSA Hails Safety Features in 1994 Vehicles
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that the new vehicle side-impact standard, which takes effect this fall, will improve the safety of model year 1994 passenger cars, light trucks, and vans. NHTSA considers the side-impact standard to be the most significant safety improvement since its 1984 standard requiring automatic crash protection -- air bags or automatic safety belts. The agency estimates that the side-impact standard, when fully implemented, will prevent more than 500 fatalities and 2,600 serious injuries each year.
The new rule, which amended the agency's "sidedoor strength" standard, was issued in 1990 and set a four-year phase-in schedule that begins Sept. 1, 1993. During the upcoming model year, 10 percent of each car maker's production must meet the new standard. This increases to 25 percent in model year 1995, to 40 percent in model year 1996, and to all new cars produced after Sept. 1, 1996. Compliance with the standard is determined by laboratory crash tests. Manufacturers generally meet the improved standard with additional energy-absorbing padding or structural upgrades.
The agency also noted that all light trucks and vans produced after Sept. 1, 1993, must have a center, highmounted stop lamp and that 90 percent of each manufacturer's light trucks and vans must comply with the same side-door strength requirements that all cars now meet. The lighting standard is estimated to prevent up to 90,000 collisions annually, saving consumers up to $143 million and averting almost 27,000 injuries.
PBS Will Broadcast a Transportation Miniseries in 1994
In 1994, public television stations of the Public Broadcasting Systems will present "Coming and Going," a four-hour miniseries on the story of transportation in America. The series will take the viewer from coast to coast to examine the importance of mobility to our economy and way of life -- in the past, present, and future. As America passes from the "Interstate Age" into a new era characterized by intense global competition and aging infrastructure, the series explores new directions and exciting initiatives for the next century.
The first one-hour program will look at long-distance travel. It will focus on how and why our nation's character and economy are inextricably connected to our desire and need to travel.
The second program will be about the importance of freight transportation to the nation's commercial and social well-being.
The third program will journey into rural America to explore how some people have become disconnected and to illustrate how critical transportation is to rural and urban Americans.
The last program looks at the big picture, visiting several major cities to investigate how our transportation systems are being challenged and how the nation is responding. The question posed in this final episode is: "Have we met the enemy -- and is he us?" Major corporate funding for "Coming and Going" is provided by The CIT Group. Additional support is provided by the American Steel Industry together with the United Steelworkers of America, Consolidated Freightways, The GAR Foundation, the Laborers' International Union, and the UPS Foundation. The series also received a substantial grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
- WETA, Washington, D.C.