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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 66 · No. 5 > Along the Road

March/April 2003
Vol. 66 · No. 5

Along the Road

Author

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.

Norman Y. Mineta

Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta addressed honorees, including FHWA Charles E. Ford and William L. Parsons, at an award ceremony held during Minority Enterprise Development week.

Personnel

USDOT Honors Minority Enterprise Development

On October 28, 2002, USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta presented two FHWA employees, Charles E. Ford, J.D. of Lansing, MI, and William L. Parsons of Vancouver, WA, with awards that recognize minority and women entrepreneurs and USDOT employees who have made significant contributions to the transportation industry and the Nation's economy.

USDOT's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization presented the awards at a ceremony following the 20th annual national observance of Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week, which was celebrated September 24-27, 2002. Created in 1983, MED Week celebrates the achievements of exemplary minority entrepreneurs and the contributions of outstanding advocates on behalf of small, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses. The theme for this year's MED Week was "Strategies for Growth in the American Economy, Part II: The Entrepreneurial Economy."

Policy and Legislation

FHWA Approves Final Rule for Innovative Contracting Method

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published a final rule in the Federal Register to allow design-build contracting, an innovative technique that combines, rather than separates, responsibility for the design and construction phases of a transportation project. Compared with traditional contracting, design-build contracting has the potential to save time and taxpayer dollars on transportation infrastructure projects.

Recipients in the Federal-aid highway program will be able to use design-build contracting just as they would traditional contracting. In the streamlined process, firms develop technical and cost proposals that optimize use of their design, construction, and managerial abilities. The contracting agency then rates the proposals, considering factors such as design quality, timeliness, managerial capability, cost, and ability to minimize traffic disruption.

By enabling contractors to optimize their workforce, equipment, and scheduling, the design-build concept provides more flexibility for innovation. From the contracting agency's perspective, the potential savings in time are a significant benefit. Also, because design and construction are performed under the same contract rather than two separate ones, design-build contracting limits confusion about responsibilities and tasks and thereby minimizes claims for design errors or construction delays.

FHWA provided flexibility in the final rule by delegating the approval of projects to FHWA Division Offices in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Management and Administration

FHWA Shares "Best of the Best" in Highway Design

In October 2002, FHWA recognized winners of the biennial Excellence in Highway Design Awards at the 2002 meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), held in Anchorage, AK. FHWA received approximately 190 entries for the 2002 awards, covering a range of highway-related projects. Among those honored in 2002 were forest highways, historic bridges, and intelligent transportation systems (ITS).

The purpose of the awards program is to recognize the superior efforts and achievements of public agencies and private organizations in designing highway-related facilities that provide safety and mobility while being sensitive to the human and natural environment and contributing to a more pleasing highway experience. The program features nine categories, with the winner in each category receiving an excellence award and two others receiving merit and honorable mention awards.

A detailed list of award winners, including merits and honorable mentions, is available at www.fhwa.dot.gov/eihd/index.htm.

FHWA Allocates $98.9 Million in Federal-Aid for Road Repairs

In November 2002, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced its allocation of emergency relief funds totaling $98.9 million that will go to 23 States, American Samoa, Guam, and Puerto Rico for repairs on Federal-aid roads that have been damaged as a result of flooding, storms, and other natural disasters. The agency provided the funds in response to requests for help from States and other jurisdictions to correct major or unusual damage. FHWA division administrators in each State will administer the funds, working closely with State and local officials to assess damage and review funding requests.

FHWA awards money after the President or a State Governor issues a formal emergency proclamation and the State files a preliminary damage assessment. The funds reimburse the State for the repair work already completed and provide additional money for the remaining work. FHWA can provide an initial allocation of $2 million for an evolving event as the State assesses the extent and severity of the damage. Eligible repair work includes reconstructing damaged bridges and pavement surfaces; establishing detours; removing slides and debris; and replacing signs, lighting, and guardrails.

View of collapsed I-40 bridge

One of the largest allocations of FHWA emergency funding, a total of $11.86 million, went to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for reconstruction the I-40 Bridge after it was struck by two barges in May 2002. Federal-aid funds initiated the careful planning and work that enabled the bridge to reopen in July.

Panel Develops Roadmap for Reliable Travel Times

In November 2002, the research team and oversight committee for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program's (NCHRP) Project 20-58(3) conducted a panel in New Orleans, LA, to develop a plan for improving the reliability of travel times on the Nation's highway system.

Providing highway users with reliable travel times is an important focus of the Future Strategic Highway Research (F-SHRP) program, an initiative created in response to recommendations in the Transportation Research Board's (TRB) Special Report 260 Strategic Highway Research. Along with representatives from FHWA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the F-SHRP panel included local public works officials, emergency and security personnel, and representatives from State DOTs, the American Automobile Association, and the trucking and towing industries.

The panel identified incidents, special events, work zones, weather, day-to-day volume fluctuations, timing of traffic control devices, and inadequate base capacities on roadways as sources of travel time unreliability. These driving elements lead to highway congestion, which drains drivers' time, fuel, and money and increases safety risks.

A research plan is now in the final stages of development at Cambridge Systematics. Completing the plan requires identifying synergies with other F-SHRP areas and FHWA/NHTSA research programs and increasing focus on implementation and products.

For more information about the panel or research, contact Ray Derr, NCHRP senior program officer, at 202-334-3231 or RDerr@nas.edu.

Technical News

Traveler Information Comes to Acadia National Park

As part of a field test to evaluate the effect of deploying advanced traveler information system (ATIS) technologies in a national park, FHWA is installing ITS technologies to address transportation issues during the peak visiting season at Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine. The ATIS offers travelers real-time information on parking availability, bus arrival and departure times, and weather, and in the future may include other information such as the availability of accommodations and notices of park events.

Electronic display sign with shuttle bus in the background

The Island Explorer Shuttle at Acadia National Park is equipped with a global positioning system to relay arrival and departure times to visitors on electronic display signs throughout the park.

FHWA provided funding and technical expertise for the installment of several ITS technologies at the national park during the 2002 tourist season, and several more will be implemented in 2003. In October 2002, contractors began interviewing managers and field staff with the National Park Service and the Island Explorer bus service, which are the two key stakeholders in the field evaluation test. Researchers also are surveying park visitors and members of the local business community to assess the impact of ITS technologies on the environment, community, and overall park experience.

A bus equipped with a global positioning system that calculates and relays departure and arrival times to variable message signs posted along its route enables visitors and employees to check the shuttle schedule and navigate the park easily. Other technologies, such as devices to monitor the park entrance and parking lots, are less noticeable to visitors, but they help keep park staff up-to-date on traffic and parking issues. By monitoring the parking lots and enhancing the shuttle service, the staff wants to encourage visitors to take the shuttle rather than their own cars. Overcrowded lots cause visitors to park their vehicles on the sides of park roads, where they trample park vegetation and undermine the quality of the roads.

For more information, contact James Pol in FHWA's ITS Joint Program Office at 202-366-4374 or james.pol@fhwa.dot.gov.

Public Information and Information Exchange

New Jersey Designates Its First Scenic Byway

In October 2002, FHWA and the New Jersey DOT kicked off a project offering New Jersey a unique opportunity to demonstrate environmental stewardship. With funding from FHWA's National Scenic Byways Program, New Jersey designated 92 hectares (228 acres) along Route 29 as the Delaware River Scenic Byway.

The Route 29 corridor represents the State's first scenic byway designated under FHWA's program to help preserve scenic corridors. USDOT recognizes certain roads as National Scenic Byways based on their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. To date, 72 designated byways exist in 32 States.

With approximately 56 kilometers (35 miles) bordering the Delaware River, the Route 29 scenic byway stretches from the historic areas of Trenton to the rural landscapes of Hunterdon County. Funding for the purchase includes $1 million from the National Scenic Byways Program. The State Green Acres Program and the Garden State Preservation Trust provided the remaining funding.

For more information about the National Scenic Byways Program, visit www.byways.org.

ITS World Congress Focuses on Benefits, Costs, and Evaluation

At the ITS World Congress in Chicago, IL, on October 15, 2002, the International Benefits, Evaluation, and Costs group of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America conducted a series of discussion sessions on hot topic areas such as evaluating the security of transportation networks, determining the costs of ITS, measuring customer response to ITS products and services, and measuring travel time reliability. Nearly 50 participants attended each session, which was designed to develop links among evaluation communities around the world.

Speakers addressed the universal problem of obtaining accurate and useful cost data for future ITS deployments. Drawing on case studies and real-world experiences, participants discussed the costs of ITS systems, the successes and challenges of reporting and collecting ITS cost data, and funding issues. Highlights included a description of a centralized technical management system in France's Mont Blanc tunnel. The system provides assistance to tunnel controllers and maintenance services. Another highlight was a recommendation for a European ITS costs database.

Evaluating the security of transportation networks and managing and assessing risk was another major focus. Sessions exploring ways to measure user response to ITS featured a study of traffic information sources in Los Angeles and implications for ITS systems as the increasingly digital way of life requires them to become more flexible, decentralized, individualized, and democratic rather than centrally controlled. Session participants explored ITS evaluation through discussions of new models to measure and forecast travel time reliability, including a system developed in Spain that produces short-term forecasts and travel time estimates by analyzing information linking different routes and travel times.

Once the proceedings are finalized, they will be available online at www.atlan-tic.net.

Transportation Agencies Respond to Earthquake in Central Alaska

On November 3, 2002, an earthquake shook Alaska's interior, triggering mudslides, splitting roadbeds, and causing a shutdown of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The earthquake, which was 7.9 on the Richter scale, resulted in widespread damage to Alaskan roadways and spurred cooperation between Federal and State highway personnel to respond rapidly with road damage assessments and repairs.

The earthquake occurred on the Denali Fault and was preceded by a 6.7 earthquake 11 days earlier. The second quake was the largest seismic event ever recorded on the Denali Fault and one of the largest ever recorded on U.S. soil.

Engineers standing in 2 lane roadway with 2 large cracks across the road

Engineers assess an earthquake damaged section of the Richardson Highway in Alaska.

The affected highways are the only routes between Alaska's two largest cities and connect to the three highways that lead out of the State to Canada and the lower 48 States. Although two of the highways, the George Parks and the Alaska Highway, sustained limited damage, two other important roads, the Richardson Highway and the Tok Cutoff, were not passable over numerous miles.

The Maintenance and Operations Division of the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) responded within minutes, identifying highway, airport, and road damage and making emergency repairs on the spot. The decentralized organization of FHWA's Alaska Division facilitated the quick response. When the earthquake hit, two district managers, an area manager, and five maintenance foremen located throughout the road system in interior Alaska immediately began driving the State-maintained highways, and their crews began repairing the damage quickly.

Established emergency procedures also were integral to the rapid response. Division Director Jim Little did not have to spend time tracking down his crews to start the work because they were already out in the field. In addition, the department used a newly hired public information officer to coordinate with the media and the public, freeing the director, managers, and foremen to gather information and coordinate the DOT&PF response. The public information was timely and accurate, the road work fast and efficient.

New Transportation Engineering Courses Available

The Northwestern University Center for Public Safety (NUCPS), a national nonprofit organization serving public agencies responsible for law enforcement, criminal justice, public safety, traffic management, and highway transportation systems, now is offering a variety of transportation engineering workshops. Upcoming offerings for transportation engineers include workshops that focus on traffic studies, traffic calming, geometric design, and transportation engineering for elected officials.

Through its workshops, NUCPS serves local, county, State, and Federal government agencies with specialized training and education. More than 200,000 participants from all 50 States and 38 foreign countries have attended NUCPS training. NUCPS is located 19 kilometers (12 miles) north of Chicago's Loop on Northwestern University's Evanston campus bordering Lake Michigan. In addition to the on-campus offerings, upcoming workshops also will be held in Boston, MA; Jackson, WY; and Seattle, WA. The duration of courses ranges between 2 and 10 days.

For a list of courses, visit http://server.traffic.northwestern.edu/course/

course_schedule.asp?division=transportation_engineering.

Wyoming Sends Safety CD-ROMs to Schools

In September 2002, in cooperation with the Wyoming DOT, FHWA's Wyoming Division Office sent interactive CD-ROMs on pedestrian and driver safety to school districts and driver education classes throughout Wyoming. The CD-ROMs, "Moving Safely Across America—The Interactive Highway Safety Experience" and "Safer Journey—Interactive Pedestrian Safety Awareness," will help students become better drivers by increasing their awareness of how to react to different driving situations.

According to Carol Graham of the Wyoming Division Office, the importance and potential impact of sending out the "Safer Journey" CD-ROM heightened on October 4, 2002, when a 12-year-old boy was killed trying to cross Interstate 25 in Casper, WY. "After having such a tragic incident occur in the State," Graham says, "we hope that the CD-ROM highlighting the risks associated with children crossing streets will be a powerful and timely learning tool for teachers and students."

The Wyoming Division Office plans to contact county school district administrators and driver education instructors throughout 2003 to evaluate each district's use of the CD-ROMs.

New Alabama Bridge Improves Traffic Flow

Completed in October 2002, the new $47.1 million, six-lane Patton Island Bridge over the Tennessee River will reduce congestion and improve safety and the quality of life in northwest Alabama.

Prior to the opening of the new bridge, access across the river in the Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia areas was limited to a four-lane bridge completed in the 1930s and a narrow two-lane connector across Wilson Dam. Crashes on either of these older facilities created major disruption to traffic flow across the river.

Plans for the new bridge began in 1974 with a study to determine the need for another river crossing in the area. In October 1994, construction began with the piers for the bridge. Subsequent projects every 2 to 3 years added the roadway decking and approaches.

The completed Patton Island Bridge is actually two separate structures. One carries three lanes of northbound traffic and an attached pedestrian/bike pathway, while the other carries three lanes of southbound traffic. The bridges span the Tennessee River, Florence Canal, and Patton Island. The structures are 1,360 meters (4,456 feet) long, 18 meters (58 feet) wide, and rise 29 meters (94 feet) above the water.

Alabama DOT

Texas Wins Award for Protecting Bats

When the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) learned that migrating bats were joining motorists as frequent bridge users, the agency started a habitat protection project that earned the department and bridge engineer Mark Bloschock an award of excellence from Bats Conservation International (BCI).

The bat habitat project started in 1994 when a large colony of Mexican Free-Tailed bats settled under the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin. Bloschock and BCI began a study to determine why the bats settled there. Also, they were concerned about the damage bats might do to the bridge and potential effects on human health.

The study determined that slot-shaped crevices under the bridge were similar in size to spaces found in bat caves. Under ideal roosting conditions, bats need a crevice that is 1.9-2.5 centimeters (0.75-1.0 inch) wide and 30.5 centimeters (12 inches) deep. Bats also may consider crevices as wide as 3.8 centimeters (1.5 inches) and 10.2-20.3 centimeters (4-8 inches) deep. Any slot larger or smaller and the bats will not use the roost. Bats also are comfortable with culverts and will even settle under wooden bridges.

The study showed that the bats do not threaten the highway structures or community health. Biologists estimate that the bats eat 10 to 15 tons of insects on their nightly flights.

Based on the success of the bat habitat in Austin, Bloschock established the Bats and Bridges program, which has spread to 24 States and 17 countries. Overall, TxDOT has 218 structures currently used as roosts—almost three times more bat habitats than any other State taking part in the program.

For more information on the bat habitat project, visit www.batcon.org or contact Mark Bloschock at 512-416-2178.

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