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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 66· No. 3 > Along the Road

Nov/Dec 2002
Vol. 66· 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 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

Americans Invited to Comment on Future Transportation Programs

In July 2002, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced that individuals and groups across the country can take advantage of a new online service to express their opinions and offer ideas as the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) prepares its proposal to Congress on reauthorizing the Nation's surface transportation programs.

For the first time ever, USDOT is providing an Internet-based forum for individuals and groups to submit comments, ideas, and analyses regarding reauthorization. The Department also invites comments via postal mail. The goal is to gain valuable insight from State and local partners and the private sector to shape Federal programs.

For more information about the reauthorization of surface transportation programs or to submit comments, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/reauthorization. Send written comments to the Docket Clerk, USDOT, Room PL-401, Docket Number OST-2002-12170, 400 Seventh St., SW, Washington, DC 20590. To order a copy of the brochure, America's Surface Transportation Programs: Meeting the New Challenges, write to: Public Affairs, Room 10416, USDOT, 400 Seventh St., SW, Washington, DC 20590.

Management and Administration

"Infostructure" to Improve Safety of U.S. Transportation System

Transportation officials from across the United States gathered in Irvine, CA, in August 2002 to discuss how digital maps, wireless communications, and devices to track the movement of vehicles could improve the safety of the U.S. transportation system. The Roadway Infostructure Workshop grew out of a USDOT initiative known as "infostructure," which aims to increase surveillance of the Nation's transportation system, especially in metropolitan areas, and lay the foundation for better management of surface transportation resources.

Infostructure's two primary functions are to develop security elements that will assist in protecting critical infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels, ports, and airports and to increase the safety of the traveling public across all modes of transportation. The infostructure concept also is the foundation for a broader integrated network of transportation information referenced in ITS America's National Intelligent Transportation Systems Program Plan: A Ten-Year Vision.

Cosponsored by the Transportation Research Board's ITS Committee, ITS America, and the California Department of Transportation, the workshop focused on improving transportation security, mitigating congestion on U.S. highways, providing surface transportation weather information, and providing more information to travelers. Workshop attendees discussed the value of infostructure and considered how to educate the public about the concept in order to minimize fears associated with increased surveillance. Participants agreed that collaboration between the public and private sectors is essential to making infostructure a reality.

For more information, visit www.itsa.org.

ITS America

USDOT Funds University-Based Center for Transportation Excellence

USDOT's Research and Special Programs Administration granted $1.7 million to George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, to operate a university-based excellence in transportation center on its campus. The center's objective is to promote the deployment of intelligent transportation systems (ITS), particularly in Virginia, but also around the Nation and even globally.

George Mason University's ITS Center is one of 33 University Transportation Centers (UTCs) funded by USDOT to conduct combined programs of research, education, and technology transfer. More than 80 schools throughout the United States participate in UTCs. Since the program's inception in 1998, UTCs have involved more than 3,500 university students and faculty members in the study of transportation, and produced more than 1,200 research reports. Recipients of UTC grants are required to provide matching funds.

Information on the UTC program is available on the Web at http://utc.dot.gov.

Making Work Zones Work Better

Making work zones more enforcement friendly and using innovative traffic control devices to improve safety in rural work zones were among the issues discussed at a pilot workshop on work zone mobility and safety in Raleigh, NC, in June 2002. The workshop, Making Work Zones Work Better, was cosponsored by FHWA and the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The event served as the pilot for a series of work zone-related workshops that will be held around the country over the next year.

More than 115 participants heard presentations on topics such as worker safety, work zone strategies, traffic management, contracting, and travel information. In one presentation, attendees learned about the new dynamic late-merge concept, which integrates conventional lane closure merge control with the late-merge approach to encourage drivers to remain in their lanes until the merge point at the lane closure taper.

Attendees also heard a case study about the $26 million rehabilitation of the McClugage Bridge in Illinois. The rehabilitation relied on a combination of moveable barrier and interactive traffic management systems to reduce traffic delays. Other presentations explained outcome-based contracting techniques and assessed new technologies including an intrusion device that alert workers when a vehicle has penetrated the work zone.

The workshop series is part of FHWA's nationwide effort to promote new technologies, practices, and products that will enhance mobility and safety in highway work zones. In addition to providing lectures by experts in the field, the workshop series features open forums and other activities in which State highway officials can share best practices. State police representatives also are encouraged to participate, as law enforcement is key to making work zones operate effectively.

FHWA Loan Launches Central Texas Turnpike Project

In a continued effort to employ innovative financing techniques to help surface transportation projects move forward, FHWA closed on a $916.76 million loan to the Texas Transportation Commission. The loan will help fund the $3.6 billion first phase of the Central Texas Turnpike Project, a toll highway facility through central Texas.

The turnpike project spans a travel area that is vital to the safety and mobility of drivers in central Texas and is composed of three distinct elements. The 5.6-kilometer (3.5-mile) Loop 1 will serve as a major north-south route in the Austin vicinity. A 21.2-kilometer (13.2-mile) stretch of State Highway (SH) 45 North will serve as a connector between the cities of Austin, Round Rock, and Pflugerville. The final element is the northern segment of SH-130, a 78.9-kilometer (49-mile) stretch of roadway that will provide an eastern bypass for Austin, TX, and is parallel to and east of I-35, one of the more congested urban parts of the interstate.

Gabby Garcia, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), says that this is "one of the largest and most anticipated construction projects going on across the State, and things are moving quickly. We're planning to break ground in early 2003."

The Turnpike Authority Division of TxDOT is managing the project. TxDOT retained a general consultant engineer and two engineering firms to assist with managing the construction project. Loop 1 and SH-45 will be constructed using the traditional design-bid-build process, and SH-130 is under an exclusive development agreement with Lone Star Infrastructure, a consortium of engineering and construction firms. The turnpike will open in segments, with the completed project opening to traffic in December 2007.

Memo on Changeable Message Signs

After California and neighboring State authorities used changeable messages signs (CMS) to rescue a 10-year-old girl abducted from Riverside, CA, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a memorandum recognizing the value of the America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) program. AMBER is a voluntary program through which State and local departments of transportation can issue emergency alerts—using CMSs, radio, and other means—to notify the public about child abductions.

The FHWA memo dated August 16, 2002, supports State and local governments' choice to implement the AMBER program and explains the Agency's policy to ensure that the program is implemented appropriately on U.S. roadways. So that messages are not overused and provide clear caution to drivers, FHWA limits the use of real-time displays to managing travel, controlling and diverting traffic, identifying current and anticipated roadway conditions, or regulating access to lanes. Displaying AMBER alerts or child abduction messages on a CMS is acceptable only when part of a well-established local AMBER program and when the public agency authorizing the display has developed a formal policy to govern the operation and messages. CMS messages should be kept current and short in duration, and they should relate to a specific safety campaign.

Changeable sign - Lane Shift to the left 3 miles ahead

Under the AMBER program, State and local governments may use changeable message signs like this one on Interstate 25 in Denver, CO to notify the public about child abductions.

FHWA's memorandum explaining the AMBER policy is available online at www.fhwa.dot.gov/legsregs/directives/policy/ambermemo.htm.

Technical News

New Software to Help States Evaluate Highway Performance

At a conference in North Carolina in September 2002, representatives from 17 States got a first look at a new software program that uses engineering principles to simulate future highway conditions and performance levels, while identifying deficiencies.

FHWA's Highway Economic Requirements System-State Version (HERS-ST) software evaluates the relationship between highway investment and system condition, performance, and user cost levels. Using State-supplied data, HERS-ST employs economic criteria to simulate the selection of improvements for implementation. State highway agencies can use HERS-ST for planning and scheduling highway work, as well as determining future transportation system needs.

The HERS-ST national conference provided a forum for participating States to review the software's applicability in a State setting and to recommend enhancements. The State input helps ensure a tool that will satisfy the requirements of most State departments of transportation.

For additional information on the conference or HERS-ST, contact David R. Winter at FHWA by phone at 202-366-4631 or e-mail david.winter@fhwa.dot.gov. Information also is available on the HERS-ST Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/asstmgmt/hersindex.cfm.

Public Information and Information Exchange

TRB to Release Access Management Manual

In late 2002, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) will release the Access Management Manual—the definitive source on developing and implementing an access management program.

Traffic managers define access management as the systematic control of the location, spacing, design, and operation of driveways, median openings, interchanges, and street connections to a roadway. Putting effective access management programs in place is important to State transportation agencies, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, developers, and others involved in transportation planning because it can reduce crashes, increase roadway capacity, and reduce travel time and delay. The manual is the culmination of extensive research on best practices throughout the United States.

Guidelines and information in areas such as program development, implementation, and access design are presented in 12 chapters that integrate planning, engineering, transportation, and land use considerations.

To reserve a copy of the Access Management Manual, send your name and mailing address via e-mail to Kim Fisher at kfisher@nas.edu.

Transportation Research Board

Personnel

Mineta Names Capka to Serve as FHWA Deputy

On August 5, 2002, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta appointed J. Richard Capka to serve as FHWA's deputy administrator. As deputy administrator, Capka will help prepare the Bush administration's transportation reauthorization proposal, shape the management of highway mega-projects across the country, and develop other programs and initiatives for FHWA. Before assuming this FHWA post, Capka served as executive director and chief executive officer for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, where he directed oversight of the $14.5 billion Central Artery/Tunnel project in Boston—the largest and most complex infrastructure project in the United States.

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