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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 62· No. 6 > The ational Work-Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse

May/June 1999
Vol. 62· No. 6

The ational Work-Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse

by T. Peter Ruane and Gerald Ullman

Tom Everett needed information about improving safety in roadway construction zones. Everett, a bridge safety engineer with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in Nashville, Tenn., found what he was looking for when he contacted the National Work-Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse (NWZSIC).

"Not only was I provided information that was pertinent to my inquiry, I was given the addresses of two additional Web sites that contained more information," Everett said. "The service exceeded my expectations."

Work-zone on congested roadway.
Work zones are inherently dangerous places. More than 700 people are killed and 37,000 ar injured every year at these sites. The National Work-Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse provides useful information to protect motorists and workers in work zones.

Testimonials like this have become commonplace during the first year of the clearinghouse project. The facility is fast becoming the leading source of information to help reduce the number of deaths and injuries associated with roadway construction sites. More than 700 people are killed and 37,000 are injured every year at these sites.

Opened in February 1998, the clearinghouse is a unique partnership between the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and FHWA. The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), located on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, handles the day-to-day operations. The National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) assist ARTBA in marketing and publicizing the clearinghouse.

The clearinghouse project has captured the attention of the media and transportation community over the past year. Through 95 news articles that have been generated about the project, potentially more than 10 million people, readers of publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Engineering News-Record, have been reached. As a result, ARTBA and its marketing partners have made great progress towards increasing the awareness of the clearinghouse and the use of the Web site.

Construction industry trade publications have also stepped up to the plate by providing more than $30,000 in free advertising space as a public service to promote the clearinghouse. More than 20,000 people around the nation have received the clearinghouse newsletter. During the first nine months of 1998, the clearinghouse Web site logged more than 230,000 "hits." In addition, the clearinghouse received a large number of telephone calls, faxes, and e-mails seeking information about work-zone safety issues.

Safety in roadway construction sites is taking on new significance in 1999. Congress already made the first down payment on the six-year Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) by appropriating $25 billion for the core highway program in 1999.

TEA-21 will go a long way toward improving the safety of America's highways, but the dramatically increased investment levels also mean that there will be thousands of new construction sites in the coming years. ARTBA's vice president of economics and research Dr. Bill Buechner estimates a 66-percent increase in the number of construction sites over the next few years.

Some other transportation officials estimate that construction work zones are likely to appear as frequently as every 50 to 65 kilometers on the Interstate Highway System. Potentially, this places motorists and construction workers at greater risk.

The transportation construction industry and the federal government understand that more must be done to improve safety in our nation's roadway work zones. Better worker safety training; motorist education; and work-zone traffic control design, procedures, and technology are needed. Information-sharing and technology transfer are key. NWZSIC has become part of the solution as an increasing number of work-zone safety professionals are looking to new places for answers.

The clearinghouse was established to collect roadway safety-related information and to serve as a central library on the subject. Anyone can contact the clearinghouse to ask questions about work-zone safety topics. NWZSIC maintains a comprehensive Web site (www.wzsafety.tamu.edu) that includes additional work-zone safety-related information.

The facility provides information that is useful to contractors, educators, labor union officials, public safety officers, public and private work-zone safety advocates, manufacturers, researchers, suppliers of traffic control devices, traffic law enforcement officials, traffic and highway design engineers, utility company workers, and members of the news media.

Over the past year, TTI researchers have compiled the most comprehensive library available on roadway work-zone safety. Users can take advantage of the databases and electronic links to find information about the following topics:

  • Successful strategies for public education and outreach programs.
  • State specifications related to work-zone safety.
  • Training courses, seminars, and products.
  • Research reports on new technologies.
  • Crash data.
  • State work-zone contacts and best practices for improving work-zone safety.
  • Current laws and regulations to improve work-zone safety.

ARTBA and FHWA are not alone in demonstrating their commitment to improving safety in roadway construction sites. In September 1998, the clearinghouse's board of advisors held its inaugural meeting at the ARTBA Building in Washington, D.C. The board, which includes more than 20 corporate and organization leaders, counsels FHWA and ARTBA on the development and general operation of the clearinghouse.

Board members are also helping to develop long-term financial support for the project. To that end, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Laborers' International Union of North America, CNA Commercial Insurance, Lanford Brothers Co., and ARTBA have pledged more than $100,000 to support the facility in 1999. FHWA provided the initial seed money for the project, which is to become fully self-sustaining by October 2000.

This funding is an investment in improving safety at roadway construction sites. The clearinghouse helps engineers, such as Tom Everett, and others find the information - strategies and best practices; research; and specifications, laws, and regulations - they need to protect motorists and workers in work zones.

Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, and "Friends of the Clearinghouse" sponsorship opportunities are available. To become a clearinghouse sponsor, contact ARTBA's Brad Sant at (202) 289-4434. Clearinghouse services can be accessed via toll-free telephone at (888) 447-5556, fax at (409) 845-0568, e-mail at workzone@tamu.edu, and Internet at http://wzsafety.tamu.edu.

T. Peter Ruane is president and chief executive officer of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

Dr. Gerald Ullman is an associate research engineer at the Texas Transportation Institute, Texas A&M University.

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