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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 72 · No. 1 > Along the Road

Jul/Aug 2008
Vol. 72 · No. 1

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-08-005

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.

Management and Administration

USDOT Encourages Use of Electronic Tolling  To Reduce Congestion

In spring 2008, USDOT officials announced in a Federal Register notice that States now have greater flexibility to employ high-speed electronic tolling to relieve congestion and finance infrastructure improvements.

Interest in electronic tolling is growing across the country, thanks to new technologies, growing congestion, and the recognition that traditional approaches cannot solve the Nation’s transportation challenges, the officials said.

FHWA’s Express Lanes Demonstration Program provides new opportunities for States to use electronic tolling, such as E-ZPass®, as shown here, to reduce congestion on U.S. interstates.
FHWA’s Express Lanes Demonstration Program provides new opportunities for States to use electronic tolling, such as E-ZPass®, as shown here, to reduce congestion on U.S. interstates.

The Express Lanes Demonstration Program authorizes up to 15 projects that permit electronic tolling on new and existing interstate lanes to reduce congestion and provide funding for road improvements. Administered through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the program gives States more options to use nontraditional approaches such as demand pricing to raise and lower tolls according to traffic levels as a way to keep cars flowing. The program requires electronic tolling so traffic does not slow down while drivers pay the toll.

For more information on the Express Lanes Demonstration Program, visit http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/tolling_pricing/express_lanes.htm.

USDOT Unveils Strategy to Improve Safety  On Rural Roads

Rural roads carry less than half of America’s traffic, yet they account for more than half of the Nation’s vehicular deaths. To address the problem, USDOT announced in early 2008 a national strategy that will bring focus, including resources and new technology, to improving safety on rural roads.

The Department’s Rural Safety Initiative will help States and communities develop ways to eliminate the risks that drivers face on rural roads and highlight available solutions and resources. The new program addresses five key goals: safer drivers, better roads, smarter roads, better trained emergency responders, and improved outreach and partnerships. Approximately $287 million in existing and new funding is available to support the effort.

Smarter, low-cost options are readily available and can be deployed quickly by partnering with State and local leaders, USDOT officials said. Of the more than 4.8 million kilometers (3 million miles) of rural roads in the United States, almost 80 percent are owned and operated by local entities, which is why partnering with States and local governments is critical to the initiative.

For more information, please visit www.dot.gov/affairs/ruralsafety.

Public Information and  Information Exchange

GAO Reviews Federal Surface  Transportation Programs

In March 2008, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that reviews the Federal role in surface transportation and the goals and structures of Federal programs. The report, Surface Transportation: Restructured Federal Approach Needed for More Focused, Performance-Based, and Sustainable Programs (GAO-08-400), summarizes GAO’s conclusions about  the structure and performance of these programs, and examines options for focusing future surface transportation programs.

According to the report, GAO recommends that Congress consider reexamining and refocusing surface transportation programs so they (1) have goals with direct links to an identified Federal interest and role,  (2) make grantees more accountable through performance-based links between funding and program outcomes,  (3) use tools and approaches that emphasize the return on the Federal investment, and (4) address the current imbalance between Federal surface transportation revenues and spending. USDOT officials generally agreed with the information in the report and provided technical clarifications, which GAO incorporated as appropriate.

To access the report, visit www.gao.gov/new.items/d08400.pdf.

GAO

MaineDOT Engages Fourth Graders  To Promote Work Zone Safety

As part of efforts to mark National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 7–11, 2008, the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) developed a six-lesson curriculum on work zone safety for fourth-grade students. The lessons include safety tips (such as “When you see orange warning signs along the highway, think safety and be alert”), true or false statements (such as “True or False: It is safe to wear your seatbelt behind your back or under your arm when riding in a vehicle”), and an exercise to match traffic signs with their meanings.

The curriculum is part of MaineDOT’s Backseat Driver Program, which launched in 2000 to educate fourth graders about the rules of the road. “We know kids love to tell their parents what to do,” says MaineDOT Commissioner David Cole. “By teaching them about good driving skills, we can make sure that the message goes home to adult drivers in the household.”

This student’s illustration shows a car passing a sign that says “Speed Limit 25 MPH” as it approaches a construction work zone indicated with an orange flagger sign. The text on the illustration reads as a knock-knock joke: “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you safer driving slow in a work zone?”
A student from the Holy Cross School in South Portland, ME, submitted this winning entry in MaineDOT’s 2008 Backseat Driver Poster Contest.

The program also features a contest that encourages students to design a poster that displays what they have learned about safe driving in work zones. During National Work Zone Awareness Week, the program awards seven regional prizes of $200, and its Web site displays the winning posters. The department invites the public to vote for the grand prize winner, whose class receives $1,000 to use on a field trip or any other classroom need. MaineDOT also publishes a 12-month calendar highlighting the best artwork from the contest. The  2008 contest winner had the opportunity to meet Maine Governor John E. Baldacci, who autographed the student’s winning poster.

For more information, visit www.mainebackseatdriver.com.

MaineDOT

FMCSA Releases Data on Large Truck Crashes

The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently released a report that provides an overview of data on crashes in 2006 involving large trucks. The study, 2006 Large Truck Crash Overview (FMCSA-RI-07-033), highlights trends and statistics regarding the vehicles, drivers, and crash environments.

According to the report, of the 42,642 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2006, 12 percent died in crashes that involved a large truck. Another 106,000 people suffered injuries in crashes involving large trucks. About 16 percent of those killed and 22 percent of those injured in large truck crashes were occupants of the trucks.

Between 1996 and 2006, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes dropped by 0.5 percent, to 4,732. During the same period, the number of large trucks involved in injury crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled declined by 30 percent, while the rate for passenger vehicles dropped by 38 percent.

In fatal crashes involving large trucks, the report cited driver-related factors for 39 percent of the incidents. In comparison, for fatal crashes involving passenger vehicles, the report noted driver-related factors for 66 percent of the incidents. Some of the most common factors cited for drivers of large trucks and drivers of passenger vehicles were the same: driving too fast, failure to keep in proper lane, inattention, and failure to yield the right of way.

To view the document, visit http://ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/CarrierResearchResults/PDFs/2006LargeTruckCrashOverview.pdf.

WisDOT Studies How States Track  Environmental Mitigation Projects

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) recently released a short-term synthesis report that summarizes the tools and processes other States use for tracking their environmental mitigation projects. WisDOT was particularly interested in learning how other States track internal staff costs to design and monitor the mitigation facilities (such as wetland enhancements, wildlife crossings, and detention basins for storm water runoff), construction costs to build the mitigation facilities, and costs to maintain the facilities over time (staff and materials).

The six-page report, Tracking Environmental Mitigation Projects: A Survey of Methods Used by State DOTs, highlights the results of WisDOT’s research on other States’ tracking mechanisms. To identify current practices, WisDOT surveyed FHWA, TRB, and State department of transportation (DOT) Web sites, and the Transportation Research Information Services database.

The results suggest that specialized databases are one of the more popular tools for tracking environmental mitigation projects. The Colorado, Illinois, Montana, New York, and Washington State DOTs and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission have used this method. Further, several States developed mechanisms to track costs associated with environmental mitigation. For example, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet introduced 22 new activity codes for use by environmental staff and a comparable set of codes for tracking consultant activity that will help improve the agency’s cost-tracking capabilities.

For more information, visit www.dot.wisconsin.gov/library/research/docs/tsrs/tsrenvironmentalmitigation.pdf.

Personnel

USDOT Celebrates National Engineers Week

National Engineers Week is a coalition of more than 70 engineering, education, and cultural societies, and more than 50 corporations and government agencies that support raising awareness of the contribution engineering makes to U.S. technological innovation and quality  of life. Each year, USDOT recognizes the engineering discipline’s contribution to the design and development of the Nation’s multimodal transportation system. For 2008, the USDOT celebration focused on the need to recruit and sustain the next generation of transportation engineers, with the theme “Engineering Innovation and Workforce Development.”

Held on February 19, 2008, at the USDOT headquarters in Washington, DC, the USDOT celebration of National Engineers Week included remarks from USDOT Deputy Secretary Vice Admiral Thomas J. Barrett, who noted the many challenges to providing safe, efficient transportation in the United States now and in the future. He expressed confidence in the Nation’s ability  to meet the challenges because of the vital role and continuing contribution of engineers and the engineering discipline to the transportation enterprise.

USDOT Deputy Secretary Vice Admiral Thomas J. Barrett (right) and National Society of Professional Engineers President Bernard R. Berson (left) at the USDOT celebration of National Engineers Week.
USDOT Deputy Secretary Vice Admiral Thomas J. Barrett (right) and National Society of Professional Engineers President Bernard R. Berson (left) at the USDOT celebration of National Engineers Week.

National Society of Professional Engineers President Bernard R. Berson also spoke during the celebration, focusing on the critical need for all areas of transportation to develop the next generation of engineers. Senior managers from USDOT operating administrations participated in a roundtable discussion of the contributions the engineering discipline makes to their respective mode of transportation and how they are meeting the challenges to developing a pipeline of career engineering professionals. The roundtable representatives included the following: James Williams, Federal Aviation Administration; John Hill, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Dr. Magdy El-Sibaie, Federal Railroad Administration; Susan E. Schruth, Federal Transit Administration; Julie Nelson, Maritime Administration; Thomas Cooper, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and Kelly Leone, Research and Innovative Technology Administration. FHWA Associate Administrator for Professional and Corporate Development Joe Toole moderated the roundtable.

Also during National Engineers Week, William Prosser from the FHWA Office of Infrastructure was named FHWA Engineer of the Year. He and three others in FHWA received Engineering Excellence Awards: Raj Ghaman from the Office of Operations Research & Development (R&D), Clayton Chen from the Office of Safety R&D, and Fred Skaer from the Office of Environment, Planning, and Realty.

Paniati Appointed FHWA Executive Director

In April 2008, FHWA announced the appointment of Jeffrey F. (Jeff) Paniati as the agency’s new executive director. The position is one of the only civil service positions that is established in law and requires the approval of the President of the United States.

After beginning his career in 1983 as a highway engineer trainee, Paniati played a key role in leading change within FHWA and sustaining a focus on making America’s transportation systems work safely and efficiently. His extensive and varied experience with FHWA includes leading work in such priority areas  as congestion management, workforce development, intelligent transportation systems (ITS), highway safety design and analysis, and highway safety information.

Paniati has served as associate administrator of the FHWA Office of Operations; acting director of the USDOT ITS Joint Program Office; program manager for ITS, ITS Joint Program Office; deputy director, ITS Joint Program Office; and division chief, Office of Safety Design Research & Development.

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