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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 67 · No. 6 > Along the Road

May/June 2004
Vol. 67 · No. 6

Along the Road

Policy and Legislation

New Report Tracks Legislation on Cell Phone Use by Motorists

In December 2003, the National Conference on State Legislatures released a report that focuses on cellular phones as a contributing factor in a growing number of automobile crashes. Estimates of the percentage of motorists who use their phones while driving vary from 50 percent to as high as 73 percent.

The National Conference on State Legislatures issued the report, Cell Phones and Highway Safety: 2003 State Legislative Update, in an effort to review cell phone legislation following dramatic increases in phone usage, commute lengths, and congestion rates. The report presents statistics on cell phone-related crashes in six States, followed by a brief presentation of findings from a variety of academic studies. Topics range from enforcement to driver education, legal liability, and legislative actions at the Federal, State, and local levels.

Since 1999, every State has considered legislation related to drivers using cell phones, and 17 States have passed laws regarding the practice. In total, the report documents 116 bills in 42 State legislatures regarding cell phones and driving.

To view the report, go to www.ncsl.org/programs/esnr/cellphoneupdate12-03.pdf.

-National Conference on State Legislatures

Technical News

Truck Inspection Station in Wisconsin Uses Latest Technology

Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Frank Busalacchi and local officials recently opened the Kenosha Safety and Weight Enforcement Facility on westbound Interstate 94, near the Illinois border. The new inspection station in Kenosha, WI, features the latest equipment to ensure that trucks do not exceed weights, safety equipment is operational, and all credentials are accurate. Busalacchi called it the first of a new breed of inspection stations planned for construction at the State's borders.

Photo: A truck makes its way through the new, state-of-the-art truck inspection facility in Kenosha, WI.
A truck makes its way through the new, state-of-the-art truck inspection facility in Kenosha, WI.

The facility incorporates several new features, including two enclosed inspection bays that enable inspectors to work indoors, automated brake-testing equipment, and a weigh-in-motion scale that calculates the truck's weight as it moves through station. The facility also includes ample parking for truck drivers, office space for State patrol troopers to perform administrative duties, and a secure area for testing the breath-alcohol concentration of impaired drivers. The $6.7 million station, which replaces a 51-year-old building that predated the interstate, will enable inspectors to perform more inspections in less time and serve as a first-line defense in homeland security.

-Wisconsin DOT

Inspection Building Opens at Nogales Port of Entry

A new truck-inspection facility on the border of southern Arizona and Mexico combines new technologies and cooperative administration. Operated jointly by Federal and State authorities, the Nogales Port of Entry is a two-story, two-bay, state-of-the-art building that houses inspection teams from the Arizona Department of Public Safety (Highway Patrol), Arizona DOT Motor Vehicle Division, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The new building is part of a larger endeavor called the Nogales Federal-State Port Improvement Project, which combines the efforts of those organizations with those of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. General Services Administration. The project incorporates intelligent transportation systems (ITS), joint credentialing facilities, out-of-service parking, and hazardous waste containment—all within the shared Federal-State facility.

To put these improvements into action, the Port of Entry recently held a training exercise to simulate a suicide bomber setting off explosions. The mock disaster drill, designed to test the readiness of government and military personnel from both sides of the border, demonstrated the efficiency of domestic and international communications at the Port of Entry.

-Arizona DOT

Public Information and Information Exchange

States Address Seatbelt Usage

Through education, legislation, and enforcement, transportation officials in Iowa and Wyoming are promoting seatbelt use in their States. Iowa's seatbelt usage averaged 86.16 percent in 2003, up almost 4 percent from 2002. In fact, Iowa currently holds the highest seatbelt use rate among the four States in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Region VII and the eighth highest in the Nation. Based on observational studies at 100 locations across the State, the rate has increased tremendously since August 1985, when only 18 percent of Iowans were buckling up.

Meanwhile, citations for failing to buckle up in Wyoming have increased 91 percent since a new law took effect on July 1, 2003. Although law enforcement officers cannot pull over motorists simply for seatbelt violations, the new law dictates that if an officer notices any other driver or vehicle infraction, the unbuckled driver can be stopped and cited for nonuse of a seatbelt without issuing the other citation or warning. Previously, officers could cite individuals for not using seatbelts only if the driver was stopped and first ticketed for a moving violation. Wyoming aims to use this law to improve upon its 2002 seatbelt use rate of 66.6 percent. Nationally, seatbelt use averaged 79 percent in 2003.

-Iowa DOT and Wyoming DOT

Arizona DOT Initiates First-Ever Charrettes

As part of the context-sensitive design process for the Red Rock Scenic Highway (S.R. 179) in Sedona, the Arizona DOT recently completed two of its first-ever charrettes. A type of community meeting, charrettes are part of collaborative planning processes that use public workshops and open houses to create and support buildable plans. Context-sensitive solutions aim to strike a balance between mobility, safety, and environmental concerns.

The department planned three charrettes to complement the Uptown Enhancement Project Design, an 18-month process to generate public input and dialogue to determine the best solutions for improving S.R. 179. Although the two-lane road is prone to congestion, extensive widening could have an adverse effect on Oak Creek, an ecologically and recreationally important waterway, and 28 sensitive species living along the corridor. The charrettes provide a forum for representatives from the Arizona DOT, Sedona residents, and community officials to collaborate and voice concerns regarding the impact of the project on regional scenery, area-specific lane requirements, and intersection modifications.

Photo: Residents from Sedona, AZ, gathered at a local bike shop, where team members from the State Route 179 project discussed with community members how the new corridor will accommodate on- and off-road bicycling safely and conveniently.
Residents from Sedona, AZ, gathered at a local bike shop, where team members from the State Route 179 project discussed with community members how the new corridor will accommodate on- and off-road bicycling safely and conveniently.

The second meeting, held in January 2004, addressed the time frame for the project and road proportions. The event included a workshop to establish project priorities and discussions with local artists about how they might contribute to the project. A 3-hour design showcase provided an opportunity for community-based teams to review and critique the proposed designs.

Former Arizona DOT Deputy Director Tom Warne, the keynote speaker at the kickoff charrette, explained the value of community input. "This [charrette] provides you a significant opportunity along with a significant responsibility," he told the transportation officials and community members who gathered for the meeting. "The opportunity is for you to craft a solution that will serve your community for decades and generations."

For more information, visit www.scenic179.com.

-Arizona DOT

FHWA Updates Recommendations for Traffic Control Devices

FHWA recently released updates to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Among the revisions, FHWA engineers recommend that States consider a number of improvements, including incident management signs with fluorescent pink backgrounds to alert drivers about traffic crashes, and larger print on road signs to improve readability for older drivers. "Animated eyes"—an illuminated rendition of a pair of eyes looking back and forth—could help caution pedestrians at intersections. The new standards and guidance for traffic control devices, like highway signs and traffic signals, can increase safety and mobility for older drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and construction workers.

Older drivers will benefit from turn-path pavement markings at intersections, which highlight the correct suggested curvature of the driver's turn. Guidelines for countdown signals that indicate the remaining time for a safe crossing for pedestrians and for in-street signs that focus the eyes of drivers on crosswalk activity will enhance safety for pedestrians. The revised manual also includes new provisions to help pedestrians with disabilities, such as using walls and rails to assist them in navigating walkways and audible devices to communicate sign information.

For construction workers, the manual calls for high-visibility clothing and increased use of barricade devices. It also provides specifications for posting travel reference signs at shorter intervals than the current mileposts. More frequent signs will help emergency responders report and locate the sites of breakdowns, crashes, and other incidents more effectively.

For more information, visit http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/kno_2003.htm.

New Interstate Provides Link to Nevada's Capital

Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn formally awarded a major freeway contract at a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Interstate 580 (I­580) Freeway Extension Project, just off the Mount Rose Highway near Reno in the northern part of the State. The first phase of the new I­580/U.S. 395 will cost $79.5 million and will include the construction of four bridges along the west side of the existing highway between Reno and Carson City. The freeway will bypass the State capital to the west, allowing travelers to circumvent the existing U.S. 395, which goes through Carson City.

A photo simulation of the planned Galena Creek Bridge near Reno, NV. This bridge is one of nine that will be built as part of the I–580 Freeway Extension Project.
A photo simulation of the planned Galena Creek Bridge near Reno, NV. This bridge is one of nine that will be built as part of the I–580 Freeway Extension Project.

According to the Nevada DOT, safety concerns are the primary reason for improving I­580. U.S. 395 through Pleasant Valley, between Reno and Carson City, is considered one of the worst safety hazards in the State. An estimated 40,000 vehicles a day use the road, which is an undivided, four-lane highway with at-grade, unsignalized intersections. In addition to being a regional route for traffic between the two cities, U.S. 395 also serves as a local connector for residential areas. The completed I­580 will provide a more direct passage to Carson City on a six-lane, limited-access freeway equipped with full-width shoulders, turnarounds for emergency vehicles, and pullouts for applying snow chains in the winter.

The freeway will cost a total of $310 million, making it the most expensive road construction project in northern Nevada. The Nevada DOT and Governor Guinn have placed the I­580 Freeway Extension Project on an accelerated schedule, which should enable motorists to drive on the completed freeway by 2008.

-Nevada DOT

Florida DOT Helps Seniors to Remain Viable Drivers

The driver rehabilitation program sponsored by the Florida DOT is helping older drivers make reasonable decisions about whether to continue driving. The 4-year-old program refreshes participants on their driving skills, employing trained therapists to test reaction times, cognitive understanding, and driving ability. Based on the tests, the therapists then provide recommendations about whether the drivers should keep driving or retire their keys. The assessments are forwarded to State authorities for enforcement.

The program is complemented by an Elder Roadway User Program, which includes roadway changes such as 15-centimeter (6-inch) markings and 12-meter (40-foot) spacing for reflective pavement markings. Other improvements include new lettering and sizes for all standard warning signs throughout the State and installation of advance-notice signs before stop signs and lane-assignment signs for freeway entrance ramps.

Such programs are becoming more common at DOTs because of the increasing number of older drivers. Florida leads the Nation, with 18 percent of its population aged 65 or older. By the year 2020, one in four Florida residents will be 65 and older. Of these, almost one half will be 75 or older. For seniors, driving is the preferred method of travel, as they log more than 80 percent of their trips in cars.

More than 20 States require special tests for older drivers, such as the vision test that Florida uses for drivers aged 80 or older when they renew their licenses. Other States, including Florida and Missouri, allow people to submit confidential tips that an older driver is no longer safe on the road. The State then can require the driver to pass a driving program, physical examination, or vision test. If a driver fails to comply, the State can suspend the person's license.

-Florida DOT

Indiana Produces CD-ROM on Asphalt Pavement

The Asphalt Pavement Association of Indiana (APAI), in consultation with the Indiana DOT, FHWA, and the Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), recently released an interactive CD-ROM entitled "Asphalt Pavement, the Best Choice for Indiana." The CD-ROM includes specifications, test methods, guide specifications for local government and commercial applications, information on selecting and using performance binders, a list of certified plants that manufacture hot-mix asphalt, and a sample specification for paving roads and streets.

The Indiana LTAP program included the guide specifications in the Indiana Highway Engineers & Supervisors Handbook. Eighteen local transportation agencies, including the agency for the city of Indianapolis, have adopted the new procedures and specifications for local work.

For more information, or to order a copy of the CD-ROM, contact APAI at 317­632­2441 or inapai@aol.com.

New FHWA Report Links Mobility and Air Quality

Although the primary goal of FHWA's Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement program is to clean the air, many CMAQ-sponsored projects contribute directly to the Nation's mobility goals. An FHWA report, CMAQ: Advancing Mobility and Air Quality (FHWA-EP-03-045), features examples of mobility enhancements attributed to nine projects initially intended to improve air quality. Examples include the Advanced Regional Traffic Interactive Management and Information System in the Cincinnati metropolitan area and the Advanced Transportation Management System in Atlanta, GA.

The report addresses the 25 percent increase in annual vehicle-miles traveled since 1990 and consequent congestion problems in large and small urban areas. The authors encourage using ITS technologies, public transit, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, ride-share projects, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

The CMAQ program was established under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 as a funding source for transportation projects and programs that help support the goals of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. The program was reauthorized under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in 1997, with funding of $8.1 billion for 1998­2003.

To view the report, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/cmaqpgs/amaq/.

Listserv Offers New Resource on Freight Planning

The FHWA "Freight Planning Listserv" is available to the public now in an effort to encourage State and local agencies to integrate freight planning into the transportation planning process. The listserv disseminates information on innovations and best practices for meeting metropolitan and statewide planning needs for freight. Recent topics of discussion include onstreet parking standards for loading and unloading vehicles, accommodating the movement of goods in urban areas, and congestion at border crossings.

The listserv also publicizes programs like FHWA's new Freight Professional Development Program, which consists of a Web site containing information on training courses and workshops, technical assistance tools, university-based freight and logistics programs, and a library of resources. The listserv enables users to obtain written transcripts from seminars and courses such as a recent Talking Freight seminar on short sea shipping.

To access the listserv, go to http://listserv.utk.edu/archives/fhwafp.html.

Mississippi to Use TRAC Curricula in All Public Middle Schools

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' (AASHTO) Transportation and Civil Engineering (TRAC) Program received a $1 million grant from the Mississippi Transportation Commission to fund the program's statewide launch. The TRAC program educates students about the role that civil engineering plays in society and the possibilities for careers in engineering.

Mississippi is the first State to use the program in its 7th grade curriculum in the 2003­2004 school year. AASHTO created TRAC to generate interest in transportation careers among young people. The program addresses two related needs within the field: recruiting top students to transportation and engineering and increasing diversity in the workforce. Currently, 29 States and two countries—South Africa and Tanzania—are using the program.

For more information about the TRAC program, contact Tate Jackson at 202­624­5814 or tjackson@aashto.org.

-AASHTO

Conference on Women's Transportation Issues Planned for 2004

The Third Conference for Research on Women's Transportation Issues, sponsored by the Transportation Research Board (TRB), will be held in Chicago in November 2004. The conference will review topics related to women's travel patterns, needs, and behavior, focusing specifically on data-driven comparative analyses of men's and women's travel patterns and security risks over time, various subgroups of women, and women in different countries.

Topics slated for discussion include older women's travel patterns, women's involvement in transportation planning, and differential impacts of public policies and programs. Participants will include decisionmakers from the public and private sectors working at all levels of government and from diverse geographic areas. Other attendees will include funding agencies, policy analysts, and researchers in the fields of psychology, geography, public administration, and urban design.

To access the conference Web site, visit www.trb.org/Conferences/2004WomensTransportationIssues.pdf.

-TRB

Personnel

FHWA Administrator Recognized as Woman of the Year

Transportation leaders in the Washington, DC, area declared Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters "Woman of the Year" for 2003. The Women's Transportation Seminar recognized Peters for her leadership and dedication to excellence in improving transportation for all Americans. "Peters has built upon her reputation as a hard driving leader at FHWA," says Margaret Mullins, president of the Washington, DC, chapter of the Women's Transportation Seminar. "Throughout her career, she has been recognized as a solid, politically savvy leader dedicated to public service."

Peters began her transportation career with the Arizona DOT in 1985. In 1998, she helped ADOT use previously unanticipated Federal funding to accelerate the completion of Arizona's Valley freeway system by 7 years. Peters also has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Who's Who of Arizona Women in Business, and as the Most Influential Person in Arizona Transportation by the Arizona Business Journal.

For more information on the Women's Transportation Seminar, visit www.wtsnational.org.

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