by Dick Stirba
The following article introduces a new, regular feature in Public Roads. "Internet Watch" will track new and interesting developments in transportation resources on the Internet.
Touring Highway and Surface Transportation Web Sites
The rising popularity of the Internet has brought about an explosion in the scope of transportation-related information available to computer users at the click of a mouse button.
From the engineering student with an on-line master's thesis to the U.S. Department of Transportation's official web site, the Internet today offers a smorgasbord of text, graphics, animation, movies, and sound bites on a vast array of transportation topics. This article (available at www.tfhrc.gov) will provide both novice and experienced Internet users with a roadmap for exploring this specialized information.
Simply put, the Internet is a conglomeration of interconnected computers that provide a technological foundation for interpersonal communication, professional collaboration, and everything in between. All that's required to take advantage of this "network of networks" is an Internet connection, a telephone line, a computer capable of running communications software, and a web browser such as Netscape Navigator, Mosaic, or Microsoft Explorer.
Federal government agencies have wasted no time in making their resources publicly available to citizens via the Internet. (See FHWA Web Sites.) Now it's possible to:
- Look up the phone number of U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater at (www.dot.gov).
- Review the Federal Highway Administration's Commercial Motor Vehicle Vision Research Plan (cti1.volpe.dot.gov/ohim/).
- Download 1994 highway statistics from the national transportation data archives maintained by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (www.bts.gov).
- View slide presentations of intelligent transportation systems operational field tests conducted by researchers at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (www.tfhrc.gov).
To date, at least 37 state departments of transportation (DOT) provide information through World Wide Web or Gopher (text-based) servers. Three of note:
- The Ohio DOT's web site
(www.dot.state.oh.us/), which is clean and graphically pleasing, offers access to contracts awarded over the past three years, links to home pages for each of the state's 12 highway districts, and a "conference" feature enabling web site visitors to post messages to existing discussion groups or propose new subject areas.
- The Virginia DOT site
(pratt.vtrc.virginia.edu/vdot.html) provides phone and e-mail contacts for study coordinators and district engineers. The site also offers a clickable image map for information about ongoing construction projects and links to real-time traffic cameras.
- The Washington DOT site
(www.wsdot.wa.gov/) publicizes the State Transportation Commission meeting agenda and minutes, current projects, regional operations, legislative outlooks, and even a 700-kilobyte movie of "Galloping Gertie," the spectacular wind-aided failure of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Public Service Sites
Many state and local transportation agencies offer web users the opportunity to view actual images from traffic surveillance cameras along commuter routes. Commuters in Pittsburgh can check out the Parkway West Cam, which feeds a still image of the highway to the web server every minute (www.ontv.com/parkway/).
Perhaps more useful are on-screen highway maps that provide real-time updates of traffic tie-ups. For instance, the Illinois DOT hosts a site that offers commuters estimated times of travel to and from Chicago's Loop ( www.ai.eecs.uic.edu/GCM/CongestionMap.html). Additional sites for major cities can be found in the Yahoo directory ( www.yahoo.com/Business_and_Economy/Transportation/Traffic_and_Road_Conditions/).
Educational and Research Institutes
Institutes of higher education and their affiliated research arms comprise a significant segment of Internet resources -- and transportation is no exception.
- University of New Hampshire: National Geotechnical Experimentation Sites (NGES)
(www.unh.edu/nges/index.html) -- Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Federal Highway Administration, the NGES site offers a locator map, an updated bulletin board, and a password-protected NGES database.
- University of California, Davis: Institute of Transportation Studies
(www.engr.ucdavis.edu/~its/) -- The institute's web site focuses on electric drive vehicles, energy and environment, intelligent transportation systems, traffic behavior analysis, and safety.
- Georgia Tech: Transport Research and Education Center (TREC)
( www.ce.gatech.edu/Centers/TREC/Programs/programs.html) -- Available at this site are brief descriptions and contacts for current research programs, including poor visibility warning systems, traffic monitoring accuracy, geotechnical engineering, and an Advanced Traffic Management System human factors study.
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas: Transportation Research Center
(www.unlv.edu/~rasas/) -- This Nevada-based center for multimodal transportation research and policy analysis also provides contacts for students, faculty, and staff.
- North Carolina State University: Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE)
(itre.ncsu.edu/) -- This site describes ITRE's education, training, and research mission in North Carolina and the southeastern United States.
- Penn State University: Pennsylvania Transportation Institute
(www.pti.psu.edu/welcome.htm) -- At this site are summaries in five major areas of transportation research: construction engineering and management, pavements and materials, transportation operations, transportation structures, and vehicle systems and safety.
- University of South Florida: Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)
(www.cutr.eng.usf.edu/CUTR/) -- Information pertaining to public transportation, intelligent transportation systems, transportation demand management, transportation safety, transportation for elderly and disabled persons, access management, transportation finance and economics, geographic information systems, aviation, and freight transportation is available at this site.
- University of Texas: Center for Transportation Research
(www.utexas.edu/depts/ctr/index1.html) -- The center provides research reports, summaries, and publications on transportation issues ranging from "Additional Fatigue Tests of Hybrid Plate Girders Under Pure Bending Moment" to "Wet-Dry Indirect Tensile Test for Evaluating Moisture Susceptibility of Asphalt Mixtures."
Many companies and associations representing transportation interests have web sites. ITS America (www.itsa.org/) -- an association of companies, public agencies, and research organizations developing intelligent transportation systems -- offers non-members a repository of documents on programs and standards. Members of ITS America can use the web site to obtain news, to learn about contracting and employment opportunities, and to participate in on-line discussions.
Special Interest Sites
It may be unusual for a construction project to have its own web site, but you'll understand why when you see the Northumberland Strait Bridge. When it opens next year, the 12.9-kilometer span will be the first to link Canada's Prince Edward Island with New Brunswick (www.peinet.pe.ca/SCI/bridge.html).
For lists of other transportation resources on the Internet, check the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center at U.S. DOT (www.volpe.dot.gov/o_transp.htm), or Yahoo's directory (www.yahoo.com/Business_and_Economy/Transportation/).
FHWA Web Sites
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) headquarters
(www.fhwa.dot.gov) -- The headquarters' site contains information about major programs (Federal Aid, Federal Lands, and Office of Motor Carriers), plus extensive contact listings for highway officials at federal, state, and regional levels.
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center
(www.tfhrc.gov) -- From the home of FHWA's research laboratories, this site features current issues of Public Roads magazine and Research & Technology Transporter, plus technical summaries and technical reports on a variety of highway research subjects.
Office of Technology Applications (OTA)
-- OTA's site provides descriptions of OTA's featured programs, plus official contacts on federal and state levels.
FHWA/NHTSA National Crash Analysis Center (NCAC)
(www.va.gwu.edu/ncac/) -- NCAC offers access to film, animation, papers, and other publications reviewing tests of vehicle crashworthiness.
National Automated Highway System Consortium
(www.volpe.dot.gov/nahsc/) -- This is the home site of the public/private partnership developing a "safe, reliable, cost-effective automated highway system capable of substantially improving throughput, safety, and air quality along high-demand travel corridors."
FHWA's Automated Highway System (AHS)
(www.volpe.dot.gov/ahs/) -- The Intelligent Systems and Technology Division's page offers technical summaries of research aimed at developing automated vehicle control technologies.
National Geotechnical Experimentation Sites (NGES)
(www.unh.edu/nges/index.html) -- Funded by the National Science Foundation and FHWA, the NGES site offers a locator map, an updated bulletin board, and a password-protected NGES database.
DOT's Research & Technology Activities page
(www.dot.gov:80/dotinfo/general/research/) -- The Department of Transportation provides descriptions of technology sources and lists of contacts related to DOT's R&T programs.
Dick Stirba is the former webmaster/electronic publishing specialist at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Va. He started his career as a daily newspaper reporter, and in the subsequent 18 years, he has co-authored industry studies and corporate profiles, managed newsroom operations, and spearheaded the creation of an electronic publishing division for an independent newsletter publisher.