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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 66· No. 1 > Along the Road

July/August 2002
Vol. 66· No. 1

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

Growing Traffic Congestion Threatens Nation's Economy, Quality of Life

In testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters said that increased traffic congestion is a growing threat to the Nation's economy and quality of life of all Americans. Peters delivered her testimony on May 21, 2002, during a subcommittee hearing on "Relieving Highway Congestion through Capacity Enhancements and Increased Efficiency."

To enhance the operation of highways, Peters called for increased coordination among agencies responsible for roadway operations, including traffic, public safety, parking, media, and emergency response agencies. Increased capacity, improved efficiency, and proper system preservation have positive effects on the environment, safety, and security of our Nation's highways, she said.

A long-term strategy is needed to address congestion by increasing capacity, making the system more efficient, and preserving the Nation's system of roads and bridges, Peters said. One of the major reasons for increased traffic congestion is that the system has not kept pace with the growing demands placed on it.

From 1980 to 2000, highway travel increased 80 percent, and the number of drivers rose by 30 percent, while the number of miles of highway increased only 2 percent. At the same time, 84 percent of the Nation's $7 trillion in freight traffic uses highways, with truck travel expected to grow by more than 3 percent annually over the next 20 years.

The number of drivers is increasing slightly faster than overall population, and drivers on average are traveling more miles each year. Presently, 91 percent of all person-miles traveled in the United States occur in private vehicles. Although passenger travel growth is expected to slow, it nonetheless will grow more than 40 percent over the next two decades.

Peters stressed that the physical condition of America's transportation infrastructure is improving, in part be-cause of increased Federal funding from the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).

A recent Texas Transportation Institute study estimates, however, that the cost of congestion in just 68 urban areas has grown from $21 billion in 1982 to $78 billion in 1999 (36 hours per driver annually and 6.8 billion gallons of wasted fuel). The institute's study estimated that congestion results in 4.4 billion person hours of delay annually in the 68 urban areas it studied.

Peters also testified that highway improvements, where appropriate, can help save lives and reduce traffic crashes.

"Highway improvements are sometimes the best way to reduce crashes, fatalities, and injuries on our roads," Peters said. "Removing obstacles, installing barriers and rumble strips, adding passing lanes, and widening shoulders will both improve safety and relieve congestion."

Finally, Peters concluded that while adding capacity, Federal, State, and local agencies will continue to work with other modes of transportation, environmental groups, and other partners and stakeholders to remain good stewards of the environment.

NHTSA Sets Standard for Tire Pressure Monitoring Devices

On May 30, 2002, in response to a mandate in the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation Act of 2000, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued part one of a two-part final rule requiring tire pressure monitoring systems that warn the driver when a tire is significantly underinflated.

According to NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D., properly maintained, properly inflated tires are crucial for safety. Runge said that this new standard and NHTSA's continuing studies of its implementation will help Americans keep their tires in peak condition for optimum control and braking.

According to an NHTSA research survey, 27 percent of passenger cars on U.S. roadways are driven with one or more substantially underinflated tires. In addition, the survey found that 33 percent of light trucks (including sport utility vehicles, vans, and pickup trucks) are driven with one or more substantially underinflated tires.

Operating a vehicle with substantially underinflated tires can result in a tire failure, such as blowouts, with the potential for a loss of vehicle control. Underinflated tires also reduce tire life and increase fuel consumption.

The new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard applies to passenger cars, trucks, multipurpose passenger vehicles, and buses with gross vehicle weight ratings of 10,000 pounds or less, except those vehicles with dual wheels on an axle.

This document establishes two compliance options for the period between November 1, 2003, and October 31, 2006. These options are designed to allow vehicle manufacturers to use either of the two types of tire pressure monitoring systems currently available one measures the pressure in each tire and the other uses a vehicle's antilock brake system to sense tire pressure differences by monitoring the speed of tire revolution.

The second part of the final rule will be issued by March 1, 2005, and will establish performance requirements that will become effective on November 1, 2006. In the meantime, NHTSA will leave the rulemaking docket open for the submission of new data and analyses concerning the performance of the monitoring systems, including systems in the field as well as those under development. The Agency urges anyone who submits comments to supply data and information to substantiate the comments to the maximum extent possible.

NHTSA also plans to conduct a study comparing the tire pressures of vehicles with no monitors to the pres-sures of vehicles with the systems. The study will help the Agency evaluate the differences in tire pressures be-tween vehicles with and without the equipment, which will influence the decision on the second part of the rule.

Management and Administration

U.S. Transportation Department Recognizes Commuter Choice Pioneers

In presentations at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, DC, Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters joined EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman in recognizing public sector organizations for expanding choices available to commuters. On May 14, 2002, in conjunction with National Transportation Week, DOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta commended 11 publicly supported agencies from eight States and Washington, DC, as pioneers in providing choices for commuters in dealing with congestion and the challenge of getting to work:

  • King County Department of Transportation, Seattle, WA
  • Washington State Department of Transportation, WA
  • CARAVAN for Commuters, Inc., Boston, MA
  • The Rideshare Company, Windsor, CT
  • RIDES for Bay Area Commuters, Oakland, CA
  • Metro Commuter Services, St. Paul, MN
  • TMA Group, Franklin, TN
  • Ride Arrangers Program, Denver Regional Council of Governments, Denver, CO
  • Valley Metro, Phoenix, AZ
  • Commuter Connections, Metropolitan Washington Area Council of Governments, Washington, DC
  • Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Washington, DC

By improving the choices available for commuters, these agencies are playing an important role in reducing the overall impact of congestion and protecting the environment, Secretary Mineta said.

Commuter Choice is a partnership between government and business, designed to help employers create customized solutions to the commuting challenges faced by employees. Commuter Choice can involve communities and residents, schools and students, and even developers and future tenantsall working to provide and promote choices for travelers.

Peters said that these public agencies led the way on Commuter Choice through transit and vanpool benefits, consolidated ownership of vanpool fleets, guaranteed ride programs, telecommuting, ride matching services, alternative work arrangements, parking programs, bike and walk initiatives, and commute trip reduction laws and ordinances. Several are providing real-time traveler information and services at employment sites.

Additional information about the Commuter Choice initiative is on the Internet at www.commuterchoice.gov and www.commuterchoice.com.

Mineta Announces $11 Million Grant to Reduce Congestion in Washington, DC

DOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced $11 million in Federal discretionary funds to improve safety and reduce congestion on the 14th Street bridges connecting Washington, DC, and northern Virginia on heavily traveled I-395. U.S. Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia and DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton joined the Secretary at the Jefferson Memorial for the May 13 announcement.

Under the 14th Street Bridges project, safety improvements will be made to the interchanges where I-395 meets the bridges from the Virginia and the District of Columbia sides and to the nearby Humpback Bridge on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which intersects I-395. The overall project also includes access improvements to the Columbia Island Marina on the parkway and improvements on roads within the District of Columbia.

The 14th Street Bridges project is eligible for funding under the Public Lands Discretionary Funding Program, one of several discretionary funding categories administered by FHWA.

Colorado DOT "Unwire" Provides Travelers with Real-Time Road Condition Information

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is providing a new and innovative service that enables travelers to obtain real-time information on weather and road conditions just about anywhere in the State and even the country. The "unwire" is a process that enables mobile users to access dynamic information from CDOT's Web site and other databases, using virtually any Web-enabled cell phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), or other wireless device. Travelers can access statewide infor-mation on current incidents, weather, and road conditions by entering www.cotrip.org in a wireless browser.

The technology provides critical information to drivers, enabling them to make informed decisions on whether to travel, the route to take, or the best way to prepare for travel. Colorado is among the leaders in the Nation in providing this type of technology in a user-friendly format that accommodates many devices.

For more information, contact Frank Kinder with CDOT's Intelligent Transportation Systems at 303-512-5820.

- Colorado Department of Transportation

Screenshot of Colorado DOT's new real-time traveler informtion Web site

The Colorado Department of Transportation's new real-time traveler information Web site at www.cotrip.org provides travelers using Web-ready cell phones and personal digital assistants with access to everything from weather conditions and road closures to rest area locations and current ski conditions.

FHWA Awards $2.9 Million for Improving U.S. 212 In Minnesota

On April 29, 2002, DOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and U.S. Congressman Mark Kennedy of Minnesota announced that FHWA is awarding Minnesota with $2.9 million in discretionary funding for U.S. 212 in the Twin Cities area. The project will help provide safer and more efficient movement of people and goods in the Twin Cities area, Secretary Mineta said.

U.S. 212 is a new 29-kilometer (18-mile) freeway from I-494 in Eden Prairie to Cologne through the cities of Eden Prairie, Chanhassen, Chaska, and Cologne in Hennepin and Carver counties. Construction was completed on part of the road, from I-494 to CSAH 4 in Eden Prairie, with right-of-way and other work underway or planned for the rest of the road. The estimated cost of completing the project is $175.6 million.

Because Minnesota borders Canada, our Nation's largest trading partner, the U.S. 212 project is eligible for funding under the National Corridor Planning and Development Program and the Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program, which provide funding for planning, project development, construction, and operation of projects that serve border regions near Mexico and Canada, and other high-priority corridors throughout the United States. The programs are among several discretionary funding categories administered by FHWA.

Under the corridors program, States and metropolitan planning organizations are eligible for discretionary grants for corridor feasibility and planning, multistate coordination, environmental review, and construction. Under the borders program, they are eligible for grants for improvements in transportation and safety infrastructure, operations, regulations, coordination, and safety inspections.

Technical News

University of Nebraska Researchers Develop SAFER Barrier

The University of Nebraska's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, a research organization focusing on all aspects of highway design and safety, developed a new Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier, which was installed in all four turns at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Under development since 1998, SAFER is designed to absorb energy during a crash, thus giving the driver a better chance of survival at crashes up to 150 miles per hour. The research facility, receiving some funding from the Midwest Regional Pooled Fund program, is looking for ways to incorporate the barrier into highways.

Saskatchewan Project Aims to Deter Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions

Wildlife-vehicle collisions soon may be reduced if a pilot project tested in rural Saskatchewan, Canada, proves effective. Saskatchewan Highways and Transportation, Saskatchewan Government Insurance, and a local Canadian company partnered to install a wildlife warning system along a 5-kilometer (3-mile) stretch of highway with a history of wildlife-vehicle collisions.

The devices consist of a small cabinet containing electronic and communication hardware, sensors for vehicle detection, and an animal warning devicemounted to roadside poles every 300 meters (980 feet). Approaching vehicles trigger a sensor that activates the warning system, which uses sounds and lights to repel wildlife. The solar-powered warning system has no physical barriers, allowing animals to maintain their normal migration patterns.

"This unique initiative could make highways much safer for drivers since wildlife collisions are a major problem in Saskatchewan," Highways and Transportation Minister Mark Wartman said.

The wildlife warning system will be tested for 2 years. A committee including representatives from Saskat-chewan Highways and Transportation, Saskatchewan Environment, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Automobile Association, and others will evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot project.

- Government of Saskatchewan

AASHTO Adopts New Asphalt Temperature Prediction Standard

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' (AASHTO) Subcommittee on Materials recently adopted a new asphalt pavement temperature prediction standard developed through FHWA's Long-Term Pavement Performance (LTPP) program. The standard provides an improved method for predicting the temperature within the asphalt layers of a pavement, using readily available data such as the infrared pavement surface temperature collected during routine deflection testing, the average air temperature the day before testing, and the time of testing.

Being able to predict pavement temperature accurately and its effect on the deflection testing is important, as deflection testing is used to evaluate such pavement characteristics as axle and vehicle load capacities, structural life, and uniformity. To analyze the data effectively, the researcher needs to adjust the deflection results to account for both seasonal and temperature variations. Along with the temperature prediction method, the LTPP program developed procedures for adjusting the deflection data for temperature. Applying these procedures allows data collected under varying temperature conditions to be compared and used interchangeably.

The new AASHTO standard entitled, Prediction of Asphalt-Bound Pavement Layer Temperatures (No. T317-02), will be published in the 22nd edition of AASHTO's Standard Specifications for Transportation Materials and Methods of Sampling and Testing. The new edition is expected to be available in August 2002.

The temperature prediction and data adjustment procedures developed by the LTPP program are available in the report, Temperature Predictions and Adjustment Factors for Asphalt Pavements (Publication No. FHWA-RD-98-085).

The report is available on the LTPP Web site at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement/pub_listing.cfm?areas=LTPP. Or request a printed copy from the FHWA Research and Technology Report Center at 301-577-0818. For more information, contact Cheryl Richter at FHWA, 202-493-3148 or e-mail cheryl.richter@fhwa.dot.gov.

For more information on the AASHTO standard, contact the AASHTO Publications Order Department at 800-231-3475 or visit AASHTO's Web site at www.transportation.org/publications/bookstore.nsf.

Public Information and Information Exchange

Study Shows Economic Impact of U.S. Vehicle Crashes Reaches $230.6 Billion

A comprehensive new study released on May 9, 2002, by DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that the economic impact of motor vehicle crashes on America's roadways has reached $230.6 billion per year, or an average of $820 for every person living in the United States. The new report, based on calendar year 2000 data, calculates the U.S. economic costs of an average roadway fatality at $977,000 and estimates the economic costs associated with a critically injured crash survivor at $1.1 million.

"This new report offers further proof of the enormous toll America faces each year due to death and injury on our roadways," said Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. "It underscores the compelling need for all of usindividuals as well as governmentto strengthen our commitment to highway safety."

The NHTSA study highlights the vital importance of seat belts. The use of seat belts prevents an estimated 11,900 fatalities annually and 325,000 serious injuries, saving $50 billion in medical care, lost productivity, and other injury-related costs. Conversely, the failure of crash victims to wear seat belts leads to an estimated 9,200 unnecessary fatalities and 143,000 needless injuries, costing society $26 billion.

The report underscores the huge economic expenditures associated with alcohol-involved crashes, which resulted in an estimated 16,792 fatalities in 2000 and 513,000 in nonfatal injuriesamounting to $50.9 billion in economic costs. Alcohol-related crashes account for 22 percent of all crash costs. The impact of alcohol involvement increases with injury severity. Crashes linked to alcohol accounted for 46 percent of fatal injury crash costs, 21 percent of nonfatal crash costs, and 10 percent of the costs in crashes involving property damage only.

The study determined that excessive driving speed is associated annually with 12,350 fatalities and 690,000 nonfatal injuries, representing 30 percent of all fatalities and 13 percent of all nonfatal injuries. Crashes in which at least one driver was exceeding the legal speed limit or driving too fast for conditions totaled $40.4 billion in 2000, or $144 for every person living in the United States.

The NHTSA study, The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2000, also estimates the annual economic cost of roadway crashes:

  • $61 billion in lost workplace productivity
  • $20.2 billion in lost household productivity
  • $59 billion in property damage
  • $32.6 billion in medical costs
  • $25.6 billion in travel delay costs

All told, the cost of motor vehicle crashes in the United States has reached 2.3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

The new study is available on NHTSA's Web site at www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

ITS Operations Guide 2002 Now Available

An online version of the FHWA ITS/Operations Resource Guide 2002 is now available. The guide is a comprehensive listing of more than 300 documents, Web sites, training courses, software tools, and points of contact related to intelligent transportation systems (ITS).

To access the guide, visit www.its.dot.gov/guide.html.

New CD Offers Information on ITS Standards

The ITS Standards Program Resource CD 1, released by DOT at the ITS America Annual Meeting in May 2002, contains resources to help transportation professionals learn about, procure, and deploy standards-based intelligent transportation systems. The CD contains links to resources on the ITS Standards Web site www.its-standards.net and multimedia presentations about the benefits of using ITS standards. The CD also contains information about the extensive technical assistance resources offered by the ITS Standards Program to public agencies considering standards-based ITS equipment.

To request free copies of the CD, complete the online form at www.nawgits.com/jpo/stdscd1_req.html.

FHWA Announces 2001 Roadside Photography Winners

Twelve States submitted more than 100 photographs for consideration in FHWA's annual Photo Opportunity competition, which recognizes outstanding photographs of protected or restored native flowers and vegetation along State and Interstate highways.

Photo of flowers

The Missouri Department of Transportation increases public and agency awareness of roadside vegetation by hosting an annual photography competition.

Four States brought home all the first-place awards. Maryland earned three first-place nods in the categories of Planted Non-natives, Public Awareness, and Invasive Species. Idaho picked up two first-place awards in the categories of Planted Natives and Restoration and Management. California took first place in the Close-Up category, and Minnesota came through with a first-time win in the Protective Natives category.

This year's photographs included a number of exceptional views from the roadway and roadside, representing the many roles that vegetation plays in transportation corridors. A selection of these photographs will be featured in the 2003 Earth Day calendar. Bonnie Harper-Lore, a restoration ecologist with FHWA's Roadside Vegetation Management Program and organizer of the awards, is especially enthusiastic about the newest category, Invasive Species. "Maryland's work on a laminated guide to distinguish between the invasive Ailanthusor tree of heavenand the common native plant, Rhus, or sumac, will certainly be useful for maintenance crews and others," Harper-Lore says. "Identification is the key first step in controlling costly weeds."

Photo of Idaho roadside
The Idaho Transportation Department plants native penstemons and other species as part of its roadside beautification program.

The deadline for photo submissions for the 2002 Photo Opportunity Awards is November 5, 2002. Visit FHWA's Roadside Vegetation Management Web site at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/veg_mgt.htm or contact Bonnie Harper-Lore at 651-291-6104 for more information.

Washington State Doubles Its Ability to Clear Disabled Vehicles

Under a $3 million program, Washington State is doubling its incident response trucks (IRTs) from 19 to 38, beginning in July 2002. Washington's legislature authorized the Washington State Department of Transportation to borrow money from the State's paving program to expand the incident-response team.

The vehicles will be positioned on 34 segments of the busiest and most congested sections of freeway in the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area. Along with tow trucks, other IRT vehicles will include large trucks that can push disabled cars out of the roadways, flash warning signs to oncoming cars, carry crews to clean up debris, change flat tires, and deliver gas to stranded motorists.

Since January 1, 2002, the State's IRTs have responded to nearly 3,000 incidents. The sooner an IRT can get to an incident, the sooner the traffic can flow once again.

Video to Help Curb Road-Building Delays from Utility Relocations

FHWA has produced a 19-minute video for audiences in highway construction agencies and utilities, outlining seven States' successful approaches for saving time and money when coordinating utility relocations.

The video, "CCC: Making the Effort Works!" focuses on the "CCC" principles of coordination, cooperation, and communication that can help infrastructure builders and utility staff compare notes earlier in the relocation process to receive better results.

Based on research and recommendations contained in the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' (AASHTO) Utilities Guidelines and Best Practices, the video provides tips about how agencies and utility companies can partner and work together through the process.

Copies of the video may be obtained by contacting FHWA's Paul Scott at 202-366-4104 or John Perry at 202-366-2023.

Personnel

Mineta Announces Federal Transit Deputy Administrator

On May 29, 2002, DOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced the appointment of Robert Jamison to serveas deputy administrator for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Jamison has more than 15 years experience in domestic and international corporate planning, operations, and management. He comes to FTA from the American Red Cross, where he served as an operations manager from 1997 to 1999, when he became Senior Operations Officer, with responsibilities for managing a $2.5 billion budget and a 33,000-employee nonprofit organization. His management experience also includes 13 years at United Parcel Service, where he had many roles ranging from operations supervision to oversight of investment in foreign operation infrastructure to management of systems and infrastructure for the Washington metropolitan area for the $30 billion company.

As deputy administrator, Jamison will lead the operations of the 170-person, 10-region field staff that administer the $6 billion FTA programs with hands-on, day-to-day contact with transit operators across the country. He will shepherd the investment of FTA's $4.5 billion budget for transit capital construction to ensure that America's transit riders continue to get the most from America's transit resources.

Jamison is a 1987 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Memphis. He and his wife, Meg, reside in Alexandria, VA.

FHWA's First Environmental Statesmanship Award Goes to Bradley Mallory

FHWA awarded the Agency's first Environmental Statesmanship Award to Bradley L. Mallory, secretary of transportation for Pennsylvania. The award recognizes individuals whose high standard of commitment contributes in a positive way to both the environment and transportation.

Under Mallory's leadership, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) increased transit ridership; added hundreds of miles of new walkways and bikeways; and benefited from programs like wetland banking, land-use planning, and environmental research.

At the award ceremony, Mallory said, "I strongly believe that a commitment to the environment is crucial if we are to move transportation forward both in Pennsylvania and around the Nation. We at PennDOT are working hard to be good environmental stewards as we provide a safe, swift, and smooth transportation experience."

FHWA Executive Director Frederick "Bud" Wright presented the award to Mallory during the spring meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in Farmington, PA.

Conferences/Events

Register Now for Traffic Court Seminar

The American Bar Association's 58th Annual National Traffic Court Seminar will take place October 9-11, 2002, at the National Judicial College on the University of Nevada Reno campus.

Among the topics for discussion are instruments for checking vehicle speeds, the admissibility of speed check evidence, and railroad grade crossing safety. Attendees also will have the opportunity to participate in live demonstrations of breath testing instruments and to learn more about problems involving drug- and alcohol-impaired drivers.

To register or find out more, contact the Traffic Court Committee at 800-238-2667, ext. 5700.

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