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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 65· No. 4 > Along the Road

Jan/Feb 2002
Vol. 65· No. 4

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

Policy and Legislation

Houston Could Be Headed for FIP

A coalition of environmental advocacy groups petitioned a federal judge last week to order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to honor an earlier settlement requiring it to produce a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) for reducing ozone in the Houston-Galveston area in Texas.

Three advocacy organizations - Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Sierra Club - filed the motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. These same three groups reached an agreement last year with the EPA that required the agency to issue a plan by Oct. 15 detailing how the Houston-Galveston area would meet its deadline for clean air compliance. The agency had the choice of approving a State Implementation Plan (SIP) submitted by Texas officials or of developing a plan of its own through an FIP.

EPA did approve a Texas SIP in October, but that plan apparently leaves the area short of its emissions-reduction requirements. According to an NRDC official, the attainment SIP is 56 tons per day short of the necessary pollution reductions. The motion maintains that EPA is still obligated to produce an FIP.

The region surrounding the Texas cities is plagued with one of the more acute ground-level ozone problems in the country. Last year, Houston had the highest monitored level for ozone and exceeded the national standard more than any other area, including Los Angeles.

Bay Area Ordered To Hit TCM Target

On Nov. 13, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the San Francisco Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the region's six major transit providers to increase ridership on the full system by 15 percent over 1983 levels. The court found that MTC failed to comply with a transportation control measure (TCM) included in the State Implementation Plan (SIP). Because the TCM included a targeted increase in ridership of 15 percent, placement in the SIP rendered it enforceable by law.

The California ruling resulted from litigation filed against MTC and affiliated transit operators in February 2001 by a number of community action and environmental advocacy groups. Some operators already have settled, embarking on draft plans to drive up ridership. Known as TCM 2, the measure was the centerpiece of a commitment developed by MTC in 1982 to counter growing ozone pollution. While population has increased 30 percent in the region since that time, group officials point to an almost steady number of transit patrons.

Maryland Loses Air Law Authority

Failing to bolster some of its air pollution rules and regulations, Maryland has become the first state in the nation to lose its authority to enforce at least some federal clean air laws. The state stands to lose more than $4 million in federal funds provided to administer the clean air program.

The Clean Air Act required states to adopt adequate permit programs by 1993, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that many states failed to reach this milestone. The agency noted a host of permit-related problems, including illegal waivers and exemptions, inadequate requirements for emissions limits, and noncompliance penalties lacking much muscle.

EPA elected to give states a number of time extensions to correct the permit deficiencies. However, many of the states did not strengthen their programs and several environmental advocacy groups filed suit against EPA last year.

Settlement between the groups and EPA provided another extension for the states with Dec. 1, 2001, becoming the latest deadline for compliance. Part of the court-approved settlement paved the way for corrective actions should the states again fail to comply. One of these actions was an EPA takeover of state programs that were left uncorrected. A number of states upgraded permit processes and programs, but Maryland did not.

Bus Security Legislation Introduced in U.S. House

Legislation designed to dramatically improve security in bus transportation was introduced last month in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation, entitled the "Over-the-Road Bus Security and Safety Act of 2001," was introduced by a number of congressmen seeking to strengthen security on our nation's buses.

The new legislation would establish a $200 million fund that would allow the secretary of transportation to make grants to private operators for system-wide security improvements to their operations. The bill also establishes a 25-cent per passenger surcharge for security programs; the surcharge will be applied in future years to tickets costing more than $5. The proceeds of this surcharge - approximately $50 million to $100 million per year - will be remitted to the secretary of transportation and held in a fund for security grants in future years.

This combination of federal funds and passenger fees create an equitable system to benefit the riders. Since Sept. 11, Greyhound Bus Lines, the nation's largest fixed-route intercity carrier, has experienced at least four serious driver assaults. One incident resulted in the deaths of seven passengers, and 33 passengers were injured in another incident. There have been at least three other security breaches. An analysis of worldwide terrorism indicates that 49 percent of international terrorist attacks have involved buses. The latest statistics from the American Bus Association indicate that the over-the-road bus industry - comprised of private bus and tour and travel operators - transports 774 million passengers annually. The industry's 800 bus operators and almost 200 tour operators, using 40,000 motor coaches, transport more passengers - $650 million - more passengers than the airlines or Amtrak. In addition, Greyhound and its interline partners take these passengers to some 4,000 destinations - more than seven times the number served by air or Amtrak.

Management and Administration

FHWA Denies Maryland Request for Project Labor Agreement on Wilson Bridge

FHWA denied a request last month by the Maryland Department of Transportation to require the use of a project labor agreement (PLA) in the superstructure contract of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project. The Wilson Bridge spans the Potomac River, connecting Maryland and Virginia.

FHWA found that Maryland officials had not demonstrated that the proposed PLA met the agency's standards for evaluating PLAs in federally funded projects, nor had they proven that the proposed PLA would provide the benefits claimed in Maryland's submissions.

New FHWA Study Offers Help To Improve Regional Transportation Operations

FHWA has released a study that demonstrates how state and local agencies can work together to improve operation of the road networks in their regions. The report, Organizing for Regional Transportation Operations, made its debut at the annual American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) meeting, held Nov. 30-Dec. 4 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The report focuses on six case studies in which innovative approaches to regional transportation operations were undertaken. The case studies involved the New York metropolitan area; the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas; the San Francisco Bay area; Houston; Phoenix; and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The case studies were selected to present a variety of approaches that differ in regional size and characteristics, organizational structure, scope, and geography. They focused on large metropolitan areas, with many findings broadly applicable to regions of all sizes. Despite differences among the locations, certain common critical elements emerged, including the importance of visionary, influential leadership and the need for a source of funding to support coordinated regional efforts.

Organizing for Regional Transportation Operations is a product of FHWA's National Dialogue on Transportation Operations (www.nawgits.com/opdialog)and was developed with assistance from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE).

Copies of this report can be ordered via e-mail by contacting Vince Pearce at vince.pearce@fhwa.dot.gov.

Technical News

Number of New Autos With Onboard Navigation Systems Increases

While the number of cars with onboard navigation systems make up less than 1 percent of the market, the number of car, van, and light-truck models that offer factory-installed navigation systems grew from 26 to 45, according to a recent J.D. Power and Associates survey. The survey indicated that the number of vehicles with factory-installed navigation systems rose to an estimated 175,000 in the 2001 model year.

Although the number of consumers with previous exposure to navigation systems is increasing, most owners are selecting a vehicle equipped with a navigation system without any prior experience in using one, according to the survey. The survey also found that more than one-half of new owners use their system at least once or twice a week. Finding residential/business addresses or routes to unfamiliar locations are the most common system uses.

-J.D. Power & Associates

States Quickly Join the QuickZone Partnership

Since the release of QuickZone 1.0, the software tool that estimates delay in work zones, four states have agreed to partner with FHWA to modify the software to fit their specific needs. Earlier this fall, Maryland, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, and Ohio signed a partnership agreement with FHWA.

The varied needs of transportation agencies in modeling and assessing work zones cannot be addressed by a single version of QuickZone. Instead, FHWA is providing the computer program and encouraging states and local transportation agencies to modify the underlying core code to create state-specific versions that are tailored to local needs.

Orange County, Calif., Drivers To Use First-Ever Solar-Powered Device To Pay Tolls

The county government of Orange County, Calif., recently announced that drivers in Southern California are getting the first-ever solar-powered devices to enable them to automatically pay tolls.

The pocket-sized devices, known as transponders, are part of the FasTrak™ system for collecting tolls electronically on Orange County's 51-mile (82-kilometer) public toll-road system. Solar-powered transponders are estimated to last up to 11 years - twice as long as the battery-powered transponders currently in use.

The transponders are mounted on vehicle windshields and automatically deduct tolls from prepaid accounts when toll-road drivers pass under overhead readers. They work the same way as a solar-powered calculator - a glass strip on the front of the device soaks up light and converts sunlight into electrical energy. And, unlike a regular battery-powered transponder, a solar transponder alternates between sunlight and a lithium battery for power. In sunlight, the device draws power from the solar cell; when it's dark or dim, power is drawn from the battery.

- The Orange County Register

European Lighting Technology Report Issued

FHWA's Office of International Programs has released a new report on lighting technology on European roads and highways. European Road Lighting Technologies was the result of a cooperative study performed by representatives from FHWA, state departments of transportation (DOTs), and representatives from the private sector.

Photo of Underground Tunnel
A panel made up of FHWA and state DOT personnel studied roadway lighting in Europe, such as this underground tunnel and roundabout in Switzerland lit with fluorescent lights.

The U.S. transportation community is interested in researching and identifying new and advancing technologies in highway and roadway lighting systems because nighttime road crashes are disproportionately higher in both number and severity compared to daytime crashes. In the United States, the nighttime fatality rate, weighted for kilometers traveled, is three times the daytime figure.

A team of roadway lighting and safety experts traveled to five European countries (Belgium, Finland, France, The Netherlands, and Switzerland) in April 2000 to observe innovative lighting practices and to identify those practices that could be implemented in the United States. Based on findings from this tour, the panel developed specific recommendations for the roadway lighting and safety communities in the United States, now contained within European Road Lighting Technologies.

To obtain a copy of this report or to obtain more information, please contact the FHWA Office of International Programs at (202) 366-9636 or via e-mail at international@fhwa.dot.gov. You can also visit the Office of International Program's Web site at www.international.fhwa.dot.gov.

Public Information and Information Exchange

States Could Jump-Start More Than 2,200 Transportation Projects Worth $14.2 Billion

Transportation departments in 47 states have identified 2,277 projects, worth more than $14.22 billion, that can be obligated for construction within 90 days should additional federal funding become available, according to a survey conducted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

The survey found that state departments of transportation, working with their partners in local government and the private sector, can provide an immediate stimulus to the economy by creating thousands of jobs while addressing high-priority infrastructure needs.

Every $1 billion of increased investment in highway infrastructure generates 42,000 jobs, according to FHWA. Estimates are that 75,000 jobs would be created within 12 months of enactment, and an additional 100,000 would be created in the following year.

-AASHTO

Shoulder Rumble Strips in Virginia Win FHWA Award

FHWA selected the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) as one of the recipients of the 2001 National Highway Safety Awards on Nov. 8. VDOT was recognized under the category of safety improvements for its Optimal Continuous Shoulder Rumble Strips.

These rumble strips helped Virginia reduce run-off-the-road (ROTR) crashes by 51.5 percent, saved 52 lives, and prevented 1,085 injuries. By avoiding 1,150 ROTR crashes on the state's 917 miles (1476 kilometers) of Interstate highway system, the project saved $31.2 million, establishing a high benefit-to-cost ratio of a $45 return for every dollar invested.

New Jersey Launches Work-Zone "Circuit Rider" Program

To establish safer highway work zones, FHWA and the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) recently launched a work-zone safety "Circuit Rider" program. A full-time traffic and safety engineer from NJDOT will conduct periodic site visits and training via the "circuit rider van," which will provide continual reinforcement of the safety mission.

Kentucky Distributes GPS Units

In an effort to obtain better collision-location data, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is using federal funds to purchase and distribute global positioning system (GPS) units to all personnel in Kentucky who deal with traffic crashes.

Improved traffic collision-location data will help traffic engineers and law enforcement by getting resources to the proper locations to better combat Kentucky's highway safety problems. As of December 2001, more than 180 enforcement agencies have received GPS units and have been trained to use them.

San Antonio District's New Maintenance Database Links ITS, Operations, and Maintenance

The Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT's) San Antonio District has recently deployed a new Integrated Maintenance Database Management System (IMDBMS), linked to the TransGuide Advanced Transportation Management System (ATMS), which helps the agency keep track of its Intelligent Transportation System devices.

IMDBMS is also being adopted by TxDOT's Houston District to help manage traffic signal maintenance and will be available statewide in the near future. The agency is also willing to make this software available free of charge to other public sector transportation agencies through traditional licensing arrangements.

California "Scrappage" Program Hits Milestone

A program that allows owners to voluntarily "retire" and scrap cars that fail the state's biennial smog check reached a milestone in November 2001 when the state destroyed its 25,000th vehicle. California's "scrappage" program began in July 2000, and has reached this milestone in less than 18 months.

The program helps California reduce vehicle emissions by allowing eligible consumers to turn in vehicles that fail the smog check and receive $1,000 from the state. The vehicles are scrapped. In certain cases, drivers can request a $500 credit from the state to be applied toward repairs that will reduce the vehicle's emissions and bring it into compliance.

Thus far, the program has reduced mobile-source emissions by an estimated 8500 tons annually. In addition, each surrendered vehicle is drained of fluids, and crushed, and then the recovered metals are sent to a recycling program.

FHWA Recognizes Outstanding Traveler Information Web Sites

FHWA has announced the first winners of its new national awards for traveler information Web sites. Recognized as the top traffic information sites in the United States are Houston's TranStar Web site (www.traffic.tamu.edu); the Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART) Web site in Hanover, Md. (www.chart.state.md.us/travinfo/travinfo.asp); and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) traffic information Web site (www.vdot.state.va.us/traf/traf.html)

The selections were made after a national review of 102 traveler information Web sites. The review focused on both content and usability of the sites. The content was evaluated as to whether sites presented information on current conditions, incidents, construction notices, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, tolls, and the extent to which other useful information and links were provided. Usability criteria addressed such factors as the organization of information on the site, navigation through the site, and the ways in which information is described to users.

Screenshot of Virginia's DOTs Web site
The Virginia DOT's Traffic Information Web site was recognized by the FHWA as one of the four best traffic information Web sites.

Personnel

Magaw Nominated for Under Secretary of Transportation for Security

John Magaw was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as Under Secretary of Transportation for Security. The nomination must be approved by the U.S. Senate.

Currently the acting executive director of the Office of National Preparedness within the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Magaw is a former director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and the U.S. Secret Service.

As director of the U.S. Secret Service, Magaw was responsible for ensuring the security of the president of the United States and other U.S. officials, and for enforcing laws regarding counterfeiting, false identification, and credit card and computer fraud.

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