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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 66 · No. 6 > Along the Road

May/June 2003
Vol. 66 · No. 6

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

Policy and Legislation

USDOT Clarifies Rural Local Officials' Role In Transportation Planning

Early this year, USDOT's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) defined the role of rural local officials in the statewide transportation planning process. The final rule amends 1993 joint planning regulations and requires each State to create and document a process to consult with nonmetropolitan local officials and provides for their participation in statewide transportation planning and programming.

In addition to the consultation requirement, States also are required to review and solicit comments about this process and make appropriate modifications to ensure that it is effective. Each State has 1 year and 30 days to document and implement its own consultation process.

Although States ultimately are responsible for statewide transportation planning, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) specified a role for rural officials in the process. Under the final rule, States must consult with nonmetropolitan local officials as they develop their statewide transportation plans and transportation improvement programs.

The final rule reflects a compromise jointly agreed upon and submitted by the National Association of Counties, the National Association of Development Organizations, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials—whose members are most affected by the new ruling.

The final rule is in the Federal Register at www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/a030123c.html.

Management and Administration

FHWA Makes Bid Proposals Easier

With the development of the World Wide Web, Internet bidding promises potential savings in time and cost for State departments of transportation (DOTs) and contractors. FHWA now offers a new technical document that provides guidance on using the Internet to announce bid proposals, accept submissions, and post the results.

The guide, Internet Bidding for Highway Construction Projects, targets State DOT personnel, local highway agencies, contractors, and others involved in electronic and Internet bidding for transportation construction projects. The guide discusses current software applications, the benefits from adopting the technology, and how to implement the technology successfully. Also included are testimonials from DOTs that are using Internet bidding and an extensive bibliography of relevant sources.

"Contractors benefit the most from electronic bidding," says Roger E. Bierbaum, contracts engineer at Iowa DOT. "Our contractors that routinely submit bids have found that Internet bidding eliminates the need to bring staff and materials to a central location to receive quotes and submit paper bids. For DOTs, obtaining electronic bids via Internet eliminates the time and effort to hand-enter the information into our letting systems. But the biggest advantage for a DOT is happier contractors."

For more information, contact Joseph Budras at 202-366-2226 or joseph.budras@fhwa.dot.gov. The guide is available online at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/contracts/interbid.cfm.

University Transportation Centers Recognize Student Merit

At the 12th annual University Transportation Center (UTC) Student of the Year Awards in 2003, USDOT recognized 32 outstanding students for their achievements in transportation-related fields. Students were selected by their schools based on their accomplishments in areas such as technical merit and research, academic performance, professionalism, and leadership.

Research and Special Programs Administration's (RSPA) Administrator Ellen G. Engleman announced the awards honoring the students. RSPA administers the UTC program with funding from FHWA and FTA.

"These students are extraordinary, and they are the future of transportation technology," Administrator Engleman said. "We are very proud that our program has encouraged them to make such excellent contributions, and we hope they will pursue transportation careers."

The UTCs conduct combined programs of research, education, and technology transfer activities. The UTC program has produced more than 1,200 research reports and involved more than 3,500 university students and faculty members in the study of transportation.

For additional information on the UTC program, visit www.rspa.dot.gov or contact James Mitchell at james.mitchell@rspa.dot.gov or Gordon Delcambre at gordon.delcambre@rspa.dot.gov.

Technical News

FHWA Offers Self-Assessment Tool For Roadway Operations

To improve the performance of roadway operations, FHWA developed an easy-to-use, self-assessment tool that State and local transportation agencies can use to evaluate a broad range of operations areas, including traffic signal timing, incident management, work zones, and freeway service patrols.

The tool, which agencies can download from the Web, consists of a Microsoft® Word document containing instructions and the self-assessment questions and an Microsoft® Excel file for calculating the score. FHWA organized the tool into discrete modules based on input from more than 40 State and local agencies involved in the development process. The modules enable an agency to use the complete set of topics or choose only specific portions of the tool. In addition, all the questions in the tool apply to both local streets and freeways.

The concept for the roadway operations self-assessment originated with the National Dialogue on Transportation Operations, a joint effort of FHWA and a core group of government and transportation industry associations that are working together to raise awareness of the value of effective transportation operations.

The self-assessment is a great example of a tool employed by FHWA to offer low-cost opportunities for State agencies to improve the performance of the transportation system through enhanced management of existing facilities.

Alternative Pavement Surfaces May Reduce Roadway Noise

Researchers at the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and FHWA are conducting pilot studies of noise mitigation through the use of pavement surfaces. The study is based on the concept that it is preferable to reduce the amount of noise generated rather than to attempt to shield or block the noise using a barrier.

The two primary purposes of the pilot study are to define the magnitude of noise reduction that can be achieved through the use of new and potentially quieter pavement surfaces and to determine the longterm effectiveness of noise mitigation using pavement surfaces. Currently, both States are working with FHWA to develop work plans for the pilot studies. California's study will focus on open-graded friction courses (OGFCs), which are relatively thin asphalt concrete overlays with a very open texture created by eliminating many of the finer aggregate particles in the mix. Arizona's study will look at asphalt-rubber friction courses (ARFCs), which are similar to OGFCs, but use a mixture of crumb rubber (ground-up discarded tires) and asphalt cement in an open-graded mix.

"The use of pavement surfaces to mitigate noise is highly desirable both to reduce the cost of mitigation—noise walls are very expensive and noise berms take considerable space—and to avoid the undesirable side effects of noise walls in many areas, such as incompatibility with neighborhoods, obstruction of views, etc."

Preliminary data suggest that using ARFCs in Arizona or OGFCs in California could achieve a reduction of at least four A-weighted decibels in the noise generated. Both States are coordinating efforts, exploring other types of pavement surfaces, and sharing results.

For more information about the study, contact Ken Davis at FHWA (ken.davis@fhwa.dot.gov), Bill Vachon in Arizona (william.vachon@fhwa.dot.gov), or David Nicol in California (david.nicol@fhwa.dot.gov).

Connecticut Launches Web Site for I-95, New Haven Project

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) recently launched a new Web site to provide the traveling public with traffic and detour updates related to an I-95 corridor improvement program in New Haven. The New Haven Harbor Crossing (NHHC) project is a multimodal transportation improvement program featuring public transit enhancements and roadway improvements.

The Web site presents traffic information in a user-friendly manner employing interactive icons on a map of the I-95 corridor at New Haven. Among the site's features are Web images taken by ConnDOT's video cameras along the I-95 corridor from Branford to the New York State line and information about construction-related activities affecting road conditions.

"The goal of the Web site is to give the user accurate and comprehensive real-time information on traffic conditions throughout the corridor," says John M. McAvoy, design engineer with FHWA's Connecticut Division. "We can do this through the combination of construction notices and webcams, both available from the user-friendly site. If we are credible with this information, users can make their own decisions on when and where they want to travel in the area and what kind of conditions to expect—minimizing surprises."

Visit the Web site at www.i95newhaven.com.

Public Information and Information Exchange

New Guide Compiles Best Practices In Context-Sensitive Solutions

In December 2002, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) issued a report that demonstrates how State DOTs and other transportation agencies can incorporate context sensitivity into their transportation projects.

A Guide to Best Practices for Achieving Context Sensitive Solutions (NCHRP Report 480) summarizes best practices from five States—Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, and Utah—that agreed to initiate pilot projects to institutionalize context-sensitive design principles in their project development procedures. As the most definitive and comprehensive resource on context-sensitive design/context-sensitive solutions, the guide also includes information from FHWA's Eastern Federal Lands office in Sterling, VA, and other States that are moving toward context-sensitive design.

The authors divided the guide into several sections covering different aspects of the project development process, such as employing a multidisciplinary approach, reflecting community values, achieving environmental sensitivity, ensuring safe and feasible solutions, and addressing organizational needs. Subsections provide best practices in areas like management structure, problem definition, and screening of alternatives. Each major section concludes with a comprehensive list of key resources and references, and the guide also features a section with nine case studies.

The CD-ROM, included with the printed report, reorganizes the material into a matrix of steps in the project development process and issues related to context sensitivity. Background material is drawn from actual projects to provide concrete examples of context-sensitive solutions.

Order a copy of the CD-ROM online from TRB's bookstore at www.national-academies.org/trb/bookstore.

Transportation Research Board

Kentucky Bridge Makes Top 10 List Of Roads & Bridges

In December 2002, Roads & Bridges magazine named the William H. Natcher Bridge in Owensboro, KY, one of the top 10 bridges in the United States. The $70 million cable-stayed structure, linking Owensboro, KY, and Rockport, IN, opened to traffic in October 2002.

According to Bill Wilson, editor of Roads & Bridges, the magazine chose the elite group of bridge projects based on size, impact, and contractor challenges. The four-lane Natcher Bridge is 1,370 meters (4,510 feet) long and is one of the longest cable-stayed bridges spanning an inland waterway in the United States.

"The new bridge improves accessibility from Kentucky to Indiana in the growing metropolitan Owensboro area," says State Highway Engineer James M. ("Mac") Yowell of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Yowell praised the project as an important connector for economic growth for the residents of Kentucky and Indiana, providing easier, faster access to the industrial corridor along Interstate 64 and U.S. 231.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

William H. Natcher Bridge over the Ohio River (Source: Kentucky Transportation Cabinet)

Spanning 1,370 meters (4,510 feet), the William H. Natcher Bridge over the Ohio River between Kentucky and Indiana made Roads & Bridges magazine's Top 10 List for best bridge projects in the Nation. Here, pedestrians cross the bridge during its dedication ceremony on August 16, 2002.

Department of Homeland Security Launches Online Information Center

On January 24, 2003, the first day after establishment of the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Secretary Tom Ridge launched the agency's new Web site at www.dhs.gov. Designed, tested, and deployed within 30 days, the site has become the central place for information and services for homeland security, featuring links on emergencies and disasters, travel and transportation, immigration and borders, research and technology, and threats and protection.

With content based on input from citizens and focus groups, the main goals of the site are informing its audience while protecting travelers and commerce. The site contains specific information geared toward citizens, businesses, governments, and DHS employees. Other features include a press section, a feedback area, frequently asked questions, and photographs of DHS employees.

Since inheriting the professional workforces, programs, and infrastructures of the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Transportation Security Administration, DHS now is responsible for protecting the Nation's transportation system and supervising the entry of people and goods into the United States. DHS duties include protecting the movement of international trade across U.S. Borders, maximizing the security of the international supply chain, and engaging foreign governments and trading partners in programs designed to identify and eliminate security threats before they arrive at U.S. Ports and borders.

Visit www.dhs.gov for information on expediting travel plans and government activities designed to ensure the security of U.S. Travel and trade.

Wisconsin Launches Online Research Library

In January 2003, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) launched an online library of transportation research. The reports in the library are indexed by State, national, and international categories, and researchers can access full-text reports on subjects ranging from building longer-lasting pavements to making intersections safer and protecting the environment. Transportation research posted on State, Federal, and international Web sites is a valuable and growing resource. By referencing research already completed, engineers can save time and access cutting-edge research quickly.

When redesigning its Web site, WisDOT employees teamed up with the agency's research unit to create the 90-page subsite dedicated to research and library issues. Users can access a description of the library collection, an online catalog, other transportation library catalogs around the world, links to online transportation journals, and other cross-disciplinary resources. The library catalog is available through the Wisconsin Catalog, a shared catalog listing the resources of more than 1,400 Wisconsin libraries.

"Our listing is now one of the best ways to find full-text transportation research reports," says John Cherney, WisDOT's librarian. "We created this resource for our own engineers and researchers, but we think it will have a much broader audience, including students, national and international transportation researchers, other departments of transportation, and transportation organizations."

For more information, visit www.dot.wisconsin.gov/library or contact John Cherney at 608-266-0724.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation

FHWA Releases Video on Signal Timing

A new FHWA video, "It's About Time: Cost-effective Street Capacity and Safety," highlights the benefits of optimizing the timing of traffic signals and arterials. Targeted to traffic engineers, the video demonstrates how signal timing on roads can improve air quality while reducing fuel consumption, decreasing traffic congestion, and saving time for commercial and emergency vehicles. The video also makes the case that retiming can reduce aggressive driving behavior and the number of severe accidents.

In the video, senior agency and elected officials provide testimonials on their experiences and the public's reception to improved signal timing.

For more information or a copy of the video, contact Pam Crenshaw at 202-366-1482 or pam.crenshaw@fhwa.dot.gov. The video also may be downloaded from FHWA's Office of Operations Web site at http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/Travel/art_mgmt_toolbx2.htm.

Innovative Traffic Management Practices Benefit Small Communities

When large metropolitan areas are faced with traffic management problems, they often respond with complex and costly solutions that seem out of reach for small communities. New roadways, light rail lines, and many of the more ambitious intelligent transportation systems are far too expensive for small cities and towns to build and maintain. As a result, small communities across the United States are finding progressive and innovative solutions to manage traffic with modest financial and human resources.

In a new report, Small Community Benefits: Innovative Traffic Management Practices in Small Communities, FHWA highlights progressive traffic management practices at five small cities and towns in various States across the country.

Monrovia, CA, deployed an emergency vehicle preemption and visual warning system to reduce collisions at intersections. A modern roundabout constructed in Towson, MD, helped improve a dangerous and congested five-way signalized intersection. Mount Desert Island, ME, home to Acadia National Park, instituted a seasonal shuttle bus service to address growth in tourism. Orem, UT, installed a computerized traffic signal coordination system to reduce congestion in the central business district. And, in Aspen, CO, a nonprofit car-sharing organization is reducing the demand for parking.

The report is available online at www.itsdocs.fhwa.dot.gov/JPODOCS/REPTS_TE/13612.html.

Personnel

President Bush Approves New Assistant Secretary for Administration

Vincent T. Taylor

Vincent T. Taylor USDOT's new assistant secretary of transportation for administration.

In January 2003, after receiving President George W. Bush's approval, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta swore in Vincent T. Taylor, formerly the Department's deputy chief of staff, as the Department's new assistant secretary of transportation for administration. Taylor replaces Melissa Allen, who will be working on transition issues for the Department of Homeland Security. As the assistant secretary for administration, Taylor will lead USDOT's management and administrative programs, including human resources, building and personnel security, and procurement.

Originally from Los Angeles, CA, Taylor joined USDOT in spring 2001 from the U.S. Department of State. In his last position at the State Department, he was the program manager for counter-narcotics, law enforcement, and terrorism in the Office of the Inspector General.

Taylor has a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, MD; a master's degree in criminal justice from California State University, Long Beach, CA; a master's degree in public administration from Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, PA; and a master's degree in strategic studies from the United States Army War College.

Former FHWA Official Leads ODOT Program

In January 2003, Leonard E. Brown joined the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to head its Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP). Brown served as administrator of FHWA's Ohio Division for the past

5 years and now will ensure that Ohio's LTAP provides cities and counties with technical assistance in maintaining their local roads and bridges.

Deputy Director Brown will be responsible for developing training opportunities and coordinating the dissemination of resources to aid local governments in improving their transportation operations. ODOT, FHWA, and The Ohio State University have a long-standing partnership to provide LTAP services to the local transportation community in Ohio. For the past two decades, the program was housed at The Ohio State University, but because of ODOT's expertise in providing practical training and technical assistance to Ohio's local governments, the LTAP duties have been transferred to ODOT.

State LTAP centers serve 38,000 local agencies responsible for maintaining more than 4.8 million kilometers (3 million miles) of roads and approximately 29,000 bridges nationwide. LTAP's primary function is to help local governments tap into new technology, information, and training so they can operate more efficiently and safely.

Prior to his appointment at FHWA, Brown served as an FHWA assistant division administrator in Indiana; chief of district operations in the FHWA California Division Office; and several field engineer positions in Iowa, Louisiana, and Ohio.

Brown is a graduate of Prairie View A&M University in Texas and completed the majority of the requirements toward a master's degree in public administration from Iowa State University. He has received numerous performance and honor awards, including the FHWA Administrator's Award for Superior Achievement.

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