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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 60· No. 3 > Along the Road

Winter 1997
Vol. 60· No. 3

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 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let's meet along the road.

Policy and Legislation

ITS Budget Grows

On Sept. 18, Congress passed a compromise fiscal year (FY) 1997 spending bill for the Department of Transportation (DOT) that boosted discretionary funding for intelligent transportation systems (ITS) by 16 percent compared to FY 1996. Earlier a conference committee from the House and Senate agreed to provide $122 million in discretionary funding for ITS programs. In all, ITS programs in FY 1997 will receive $235 million when an additional $113 million from the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) is included. The total DOT appropriations for FY 1997 are $37.9 billion.

--ITS America

DOT Implements Zero Tolerance

In October, DOT implemented President Clinton's "zero tolerance" policy with a final regulation aimed at preventing persons under the age of 21 with any measurable alcohol in their blood from driving a motor vehicle.

"Last year, more than 2,200 people between the ages of 15 and 20 died in alcohol-related crashes. Tough new rules are needed to prevent these tragedies ... (and to) stop young people from driving while they are under the influence of alcohol," said Transportation Secretary Federico Peña. The new rule requires each state to have a zero tolerance law by Oct. 1, 1998, to avoid losing highway construction funds.

DOT Improves Truck Safety

Two recent moves by DOT will help to prevent traffic crashes involving big trucks by making the trucks more visible in the dark and in bad weather. DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule, which takes effect on July 1, requiring truck manufacturers to install reflectors or reflective tape in patterns on the rear of new large truck tractors; since December 1993, new large trailers have been required to have reflective markings. NHTSA estimates that the new regulation will prevent as many as seven deaths, 160 injuries, and $4.8 million in property damage each year, and the cost to manufacturers for materials and labor will be less than $10 per truck. In another action, FHWA will extend the reflective marking requirement to include all truck trailers manufactured before Dec. 1, 1993, that are wider than 6½ feet (1.98 meters) and have a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds (4536 kilograms). NHTSA estimates that when the FHWA proposal is fully implemented, it will prevent more than 2,000 crashes annually. Before 1993 regulation, the number of nighttime crashes of the type affected by these actions was about 11,000 per year, and in these accidents about 540 people were killed and 8,700 were injured.

I-35 May Be the NAFTA Highway

The North American Super Highway Coalition, formerly known as the I-35 Corridor Coalition, has mounted an effort to designate I-35 as "the NAFTA highway." The coalition is composed of states and provinces and cities from Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Its goals are to persuade these nations to create a continental transportation policy that mirrors the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) trade policies and to persuade Congress to establish a separate fund to maintain and improve I-35 and its feeder highways. A coalition priority is to run fiber-optic cable along I-35 to track cargo. This would allow ports of entry to be established away from the border, and the "inland ports" would expedite the movement of cargo and traffic between Mexico and Canada.

TRB Studies Speed-Setting Criteria

A multidisciplinary panel of experts under the auspices of the Transportation Research Board is conducting a study to evaluate current speed-setting criteria. The final report is expected in September 1998. This study is one of the action items in the (Transportation) Secretary's Action Plan to Reduce Highway Injuries and Related Costs.

More States Raise Speed Limits

The Florida DOT recently raised the speed limit from 55 mi/h (88 km/h) to 65 mi/h (105 km/h) on several sections of rural, four-lane, divided, arterial highways. These changes came after FDOT completed studies of the routes' travel speeds, crashes, and roadway geometry. Earlier this year, FDOT raised the speed limit to 70 mi/h (113 km/h) on its interstate highways, the Florida Turnpike, and several other toll roadways. So far, preliminary reports indicate that raising the speed limit has not adversely affected safety on Florida's roads. During this period, crashes have dropped 5 percent statewide.

The North Carolina DOT raised speed limits from 55 mi/h to 65 mi/h on almost 550 km of non-interstate roads Oct. 1. Earlier, NCDOT raised the speed limits on nearly 650 km of interstate highways, mostly from 65 to 70 mi/h. NCDOT is raising speed limits only on four-lane routes with grass medians and fully controlled access.

Traffic Fatalities Increase in Colorado

Since the repeal of the national maximum speed limit, Colorado has seen a slight increase in fatalities. Colorado DOT reported that it's too early to determine whether the change in speed from 65 mi/h to 75 mi/h (121 km/h) has been a significant contributing cause.

Management and Administration

U.S.-Japan Agreement Extended

In October, FHWA and the Japanese Ministry of Construction renewed a five-year agreement that provides for the exchange of information and technology pertaining to highways and safety. The MOC's Public Works Research Institute acts as FHWA's partner in the program. The original agreement facilitated the exchange of engineers and researchers during the 1995 Northridge, Calif., earthquake and the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan. The two agencies have conducted five U.S.-Japan workshops on advanced technology in highway engineering. Also, one FHWA engineer and two Japanese engineers have served one-year assignments with their counterparts.

FHWA and FTA Open Office in Los Angeles

On Oct. 22, 1996, Federal Highway Administrator Rodney E. Slater and Federal Transit Regional Administrator Leslie Rogers jointly cut the ribbon, formally opening the FTA/FHWA Metropolitan Office in Los Angeles. This multimodal office will serve as a central information resource on transportation issues in the second largest metropolitan area in the nation. More than 100 representatives from state, local, and federal agencies and the public attended the open house for the office.

Technical News

Eight States Serve as CVISN Models

Eight states -- California, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington -- were selected in October to participate in the Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks (CVISN) model deployment project, part of the DOT's ITS commercial vehicle operations program. The goal of CVISN is to apply technology to create a national data interchange that will enable government agencies, the motor carrier industry, and others engaged in commercial vehicle safety and regulation to exchange information and to conduct business transactions electronically. These eight states will document their experiences, learn from them, and benefit from technology demonstrated periodically by the two prototype states, Maryland and Virginia. The results of this model deployment project and the lessons learned from the prototypes will be used to develop standards to guide the national deployment of CVISN and to ensure technology compatibility throughout North America.

ITS Tests Planned at Texas Border Sites

FHWA is soliciting proposals to design and install ITS technologies at three bridges crossing the Rio Grande River -- two bridges in Laredo and a bridge in El Paso. These tests will help determine the feasibility of using ITS technology to improve commercial truck clearances and inspections at Texas border sites. For the project, some commercial vehicles will be equipped with electronic transponders and other ITS technologies that will enable inspectors to electronically retrieve customs, immigration, and transportation safety information.

Four Sites Selected for ITI Model Deployment

DOT, in October, chose Phoenix, San Antonio, Seattle, and the tri-state metropolitan New York area as showcase sites for the Intelligent Infrastructure (ITI) program. DOT awarded a total of $38.7 million for these model deployments with the requirement that the sites provide 50-percent matching funds. ITI is defined by nine components: traffic signal control systems, freeway management systems, transit management systems, incident management systems, electronic toll collection systems, electronic fare payment systems, railroad-grade-crossing safety systems, emergency response management systems, and traveler information systems. Only Atlanta now has an integrated ITI.

--ITS America

Innovative Finance Project Opens in Michigan

In Brighton, Mich., a new east-bound entrance ramp onto I-96 from Grand River Avenue was recently opened. This is the first project in Michigan to be completed using an "innovative finance" technique, which expedited the construction. FHWA allowed the state a soft-match credit of $500,000 already spent in local funds for preliminary engineering and right-of-way toward the state's share of project construction costs. Local contributions are being substituted for state funds, freeing up state funds for other transportation purposes.

"Smart Corridor" Opens in Los Angeles

The grand opening ceremony for the "Smart Corridor" in Los Angeles was conducted Oct. 11, 1996. The Santa Monica Freeway Smart Corridor is an innovative ITS project using advance technologies to test the effectiveness of specific Advanced Traffic Information System and Advanced Traveler Information System strategies in improving the flow of traffic and decreasing congestion and delay. The project covers a 23-km stretch of one of the most heavily traveled freeways (I-10) in the nation as well as five parallel arterials in the cities of Los Angeles, Culver City, and Beverly Hills.

Public Information and Information Exchange

Police and Drivers Join in Safety Effort

In September, LETS (Law Enforcement and Truckers for Safety), a national program that encourages police officers and commercial truck drivers to join forces in reducing highway accidents, was initiated. Participants in LETS spend time in their counterpart's vehicle for a firsthand look at what their jobs entail and to share safety information. LETS will help police and drivers to better identify unsafe driving behaviors by allowing them to share experiences and to see the highway from the other's vantage point. LETS is modeled after Maryland's "Troopers and Truckers" program and is sponsored by FHWA's Office of Motor Carriers in cooperation with the Maryland DOT, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the U.S. trucking and highway safety industries. Canada also plans to conduct a LETS program.

Public Says Yes to Federal Role in Highway Safety

Results of a survey conducted under Vice President Gore's National Performance Review show strong public support for a federal role in promoting highway safety. "A large majority of the public thinks it is very important that the federal government conducts public education campaigns, requires manufacturers to improve vehicle safety features, and researches safer vehicles and highways. More than two-thirds favor government testing of vehicles and setting equipment and crash safety standards," said DOT Secretary Peña.

Highway Research Information Available on Internet

Information about the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) is available through the SHRP clearinghouse on the Internet's World Wide Web. From the clearinghouse home page (http://www.hend.com/shrp/shrp.htm), users can find product information, publications, a directory of people and groups active in SHRP, and a calendar of events. SHRP is operated through a special cooperative arrangement by FHWA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the National Research Council.

Atlanta Showcase Continues Through February

FHWA extended the very popular Atlanta Traveler Information Showcase through February. The showcase, which originally was planned for June through September 1996 to overlap with the Centennial Summer Olympic Games, demonstrated several state-of-the-art ATIS (Advanced Traveler Information Systems) technologies and was praised by residents and visitors in Atlanta. For more information about the showcase, see the Summer 1996 issue of Public Roads or Public Roads Online at http://www.tfhrc.gov.

--ITS America

Illinois Reviews All Road/Rail Crossings

In response to the Oct. 29, 1996, release of National Transportation Safety Board's final report on the school bus/commuter train accident at Fox River Grove on Oct. 25, 1995, the Illinois DOT began a statewide survey of all railroad/highway grade crossings in Illinois to ensure that vehicles have adequate space and time to clear the crossing before the arrival of a train. IDOT is also experimenting with signs at railroad crossings to tell drivers the storage distance available on the other side of the tracks and to warn drivers of high-profile crossings.

Three R's Include "Reading" Your Road

On Nov. 26, Administrator Slater unveiled the Read Your Road booklet and campaign to the some of the nation's future drivers at an event held at James Madison High School in Vienna, Va. The event was held to capture the attention of potential partners in the public sector and safety-related private industry for printing and distributing the publication. The event was conducted during the week of Thanksgiving, the busiest travel time of the year, to capitalize on the public's holiday travel plans.

Arkansas Mayors Take Transportation Workshop

Most of Arkansas' 31 African-American mayors participated in a two-day transportation technical assistance workshop made possible by a grant from FHWA. The workshop provided the mayors with information about the planning, approval, and implementation of transportation projects in Arkansas. The National Conference of Black Mayors, which represents 413 mayors nationwide, conducted the workshop.

Red-Light-Running Campaign Extended

The Red-Light-Running Campaign in Tuscaloosa County, Ala., has been very successful and has received strong support from the local law enforcement officers and media. So, local officials decided to extend this campaign for at least a year beyond the original end date of November 1996.

Personnel

Slater Serves on Governors' Task Force

Federal Highway Administrator Rodney E. Slater was selected to become a member of the Task Force on Transportation of the Southern Governors Association. Slater is helping to identify transportation challenges in the region and recommend solutions to them. The task force includes public and private sector officials. The final report of the task force will be presented to the SGA in February 1997. The SGA includes governors from Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and West Virginia.

Kassoff Named Executive VP of ITS America

The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) appointed Hal Kassoff as executive vice president, effective Nov. 1, 1996. Kassoff was most recently Maryland's state highway administrator for 12 years.

--ITS America

HITEC Selects New Chair of Executive Committee

The Highway Innovative Technology Evaluation Center (HITEC), a service center for the Civil Engineering Research Foundation (CERF) to facilitate the evaluation of innovative technologies and new products for the highway community, announced on Nov. 5 the appointment of John L. German, P.E., as chairman of HITEC's Executive Committee. German has been serving on the 18-member Executive Committee as a representative of the American Public Works Association, and he has chaired HITEC's Standards and Specifications Committee. German is the director of public works for San Antonio, Texas.

--CERF

CERF Seeks Entries for Pankow Award

The CERF Charles Pankow Award for Innovation honors individuals or organizations working collaboratively to move innovative civil engineering-related research and development into practice. The competition is open to all private and public U.S. and international firms, government agencies, and academia. Entries are invited in two categories: applications and concept. All awards nominations must be received by April 30, 1997, at 5:00 p.m. Award finalists and winners will be announced and recognized at the Awards Dinner on Oct. 21, 1997, in Washington, D.C. For application forms for the award, registration forms for the awards program and workshop, or more information, contact Mara Tyler of CERF at (202) 842-0555 or mtyler@cerf.asce.org.

--CERF

Vice President Gore celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Interstate Highway System.

Vice President Gore celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Interstate Highway System.

Conferences

DIVINE Concludes

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) DIVINE Concluding Conference will be held on June 23 to 25, 1997, at the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa, Canada. The DIVINE (Dynamic Interaction Vehicle Infrastructure Experiment) program is an ambitious international cooperative research project focusing on how roads and bridges are affected by heavy vehicle dynamics. DIVINE is also a unique multidisciplinary study involving experts in road, bridge, and vehicle engineering. The combination of these diverse disciplines has produced research results that are truly comprehensive in scope and relevant for policy. For more information, contact Pierre Lamoureux, conference manager, via telephone: (613) 993-9431, fax: (613) 993-7250, or e-mail: divine97@nrc.ca.

--OECD

Building "Dirt Cheap"

Proponents of mechanically stabilized backfill (MSB) are claiming that city, county, and state road departments could save more than $1 billion each year by using MSB. An international symposium on MSB will be conducted in Denver, Colo., on Feb. 6 through 8, 1997, to discuss this technology and how it can produce stronger, longer lasting, more versatile, and much less expensive solutions to space constraints, compared to traditional constructions. For more information, contact Prof. Jonathan T.H. Wu, MSB Research Center, Department of Civil Engineering,

University of Colorado at Denver, via telephone: (303) 556-8585 or fax: (303) 556-2368.

--Colo. DOT

IEEE Sponsors ITS Conference

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is sponsoring a conference on basic research and present and future applications of leading-edge advances in communications, computers, control systems, and electronics-based technologies for ITS. The IEEE Conference on Intelligent Transportation Systems will be held in Boston, Mass., Nov. 9 through 12, 1997. This conference incorporates two earlier IEEE conference series that have been held annually in this area -- the Vehicular Navigation and Information Systems (VNIS) and the Intelligent vehicles (IV) Symposium. Contact IEEE's Boston Section for more information. Call (617) 890-5290, or fax (617) 890-5294, or send e-mail to sec.boston@ieee.org. More information is available on the Internet at http://www.ieee.org/itsc/itsc97.

--Colo. DOT

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