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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 72 · No. 4 > Along the Road

Jan/Feb 2009
Vol. 72 · No. 4

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-09-002

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

Management and Administration

Transportation Workers Face Tougher Drug Testing

Shown here, the new asphalt mixture performance tester is used to evaluate Superpave mixtures.
Shown here, the new asphalt mixture performance tester is used to evaluate Superpave mixtures.

As of August 25, 2008, USDOT requires that all mandatory drug tests for the Nation's transportation workers be analyzed for tampering. The rule covers the approximately 12.1 million transportation employers, safety sensitive transportation employees, collectors, labs, and medical review officers.

Under the previous regulations, labs had the option of testing urine samples for signs of cheating, but with the implementation of the new rule, every specimen must be tested for possible adulterants and urine substitutes. All collectors are required to adopt new procedures to prevent tampering with drug tests, such as checking employees for items designed specifically to cheat the test. New procedures also are required for monitoring all tests for workers who return to their jobs after previously failing a drug test.

The change in policy is an effort by USDOT to ensure that everyone working in transportation is able to do their jobs as safely as possible. According to USDOT, tests determined to have invalid results will be treated the same as a refusal to be tested by an employee who admits to tampering with his or her test.

Technical News

Improving Pavement Performance With the Asphalt Mixture Performance Tester

A pooled fund study launched by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) offers State transportation agencies the opportunity to obtain and learn to use the new asphalt mixture performance tester (AMPT) to evaluate Superpave mixtures. The AMPT is a computer-controlled hydraulic testing machine that subjects an asphalt mixture specimen to cyclic loading that mimics traffic loading and then measures the deformation of the mixture to assess performance. The system offers an improved method of predicting the performance of Superpave mixes, including the likelihood of rutting.

The 3-year study, Implementation of the Asphalt Mixture Performance Tester (AMPT) for Superpave Validation, has the following objectives:

  • Purchase and deliver the AMPT for highway agencies.
  • Provide training in using the AMPT to perform proposed American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) standard practices for measuring dynamic modulus and flow number and developing dynamic modulus master curves.
  • Evaluate the nationwide implementation and use of the AMPT to assess performance over a range of climatic conditions, materials, and structures.

The average cost of an AMPT ranges from $75,000 to nearly $90,000. The pooled fund study will provide a means for participants to purchase the device at a discounted rate. In addition, the study will provide technical support and implementation assistance, involve development of a National Highway Institute training course for the AMPT, and cover travel and course expenses for two representatives from each participating agency.

To learn more about or join the pooled fund study, contact Audrey Copeland at 202-493-0341 or audrey.copeland@dot.gov. More information is also available at www.pooledfund.org/projectdetails.asp?id=405&status=4.

Book Introduces Quieter Pavements To a Broad Audience

The Little Book of Quieter Pavements (FHWA-IF-08-004), recently released by FHWA, introduces readers to the basics of sound, traffic noise, tire-pavement noise, and strategies for designing and building quieter pavements. The book answers basic questions such as "How do we hear?" and "What is a decibel?" and "How does sound travel?" as well as more complex questions regarding mechanisms that produce noise, such as tires on pavement.

One section of the book focuses on methods for measuring noise, such as wayside, source, and invehicle noise measurements. The authors also examine how pavement texture, porosity, and stiffness affect noise. The final section profiles the pros and cons of asphalt and concrete from a noise perspective and describes criteria to consider when choosing a quieter pavement.

The book is accompanied by MP3 (digital audio) files, so readers can play samples of various pavement noises where noted in the book. This interactive approach helps readers — even those outside the transportation field — understand the factors that contribute to highway noise and the latest strategies for creating quieter pavements.

The Little Book of Quieter Pavements is available from the Federal Highway Administration R&T Product Distribution Center, HRTS-03 (email: report.center@dot.gov)

Public Information and Information Exchange

Busy Interstates Receive $11 Million For Truck Parking

Two of the Nation's busiest interstates, I-95 and I-5, recently received more than $5 million each in Federal support for innovative strategies to assist truckers looking for parking along these congested routes.

The Truck Parking Facilities program uses intelligent transportation systems to provide truckers with real-time information on available parking. The technology monitors and transmits parking updates to truckers, enabling them to find vacant spots without having to look for parking while driving. Truckers can plan their stops according to the information transmitted to them and prevent traffic problems that could occur from slowing down to search for parking.

FHWA selected I-95 and I-5 for the Truck Parking Facilities program based on a corridor-wide approach to addressing congestion along interstates heavily used to transport freight. The average daily truck traffic on both I-95 and I-5 is more than 10,000, and the two corridors represent 10 percent of total interstate truck traffic.

For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/safetealu/factsheets/truckpark.htm.

Guides Highlight Pedestrian Safety in Neighborhoods and at Transit Stops

In a continuing effort to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities, FHWA released two guides — one to help residents and community groups make their communities safer for walking, and another to assist transit agencies in creating safer environments for pedestrians accessing transit stops.

A Resident's Guide for Creating Safe and Walkable Communities (FHWA-SA-07-017) includes numerous resources, such as factsheets, worksheets, sample materials, and references, to assist residents in planning pedestrian safety projects and addressing issues that affect walking conditions. The guide also highlights several successful community-oriented pedestrian projects and programs. A walkable community makes it easy and safe to walk to stores and services, encourages pedestrian activity, expands transportation options, and serves people with different levels of mobility.

The Pedestrian Safety Guide for Transit Agencies (FHWA-SA-07-016) addresses the need for transit agencies to ensure that conditions are safe for pedestrians traveling to and from transit stops. The transit guide, like the resident's guide, provides a wealth of resources, including background information, references, case studies, and descriptions of engineering, education, and enforcement treatments and programs. The guide also emphasizes the importance of working with State and local transportation agencies, municipalities, and road users to solve pedestrian safety issues.

To order or download a copy of either guide, visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/ped_bike_order/.

USDOT Selects University of Minnesota as Clearinghouse for Rural Road Safety

Aiming to reduce the number of injuries and deaths on the Nation's rural roads, USDOT recently announced the establishment of a new national clearinghouse for information on ways to make rural roads safer. Created by the University of Minnesota's Center for Excellence in Rural Safety, the clearinghouse is part of a new national strategy to bring resources and new technologies to improving rural road safety.

The primary responsibility of the clearinghouse is to collect lessons learned by researchers and transportation officials who are successfully combating fatalities on rural roads and to distribute the information to transportation officials and first responders across the country.

The clearinghouse is a component of USDOT's Rural Safety Initiative, which aims to help States and communities develop safety strategies to eliminate drivers' risk on rural roads. The effort addresses five key goals: safer drivers, better roads, smarter roads, better trained emergency responders, and improved outreach and partnerships.

For more information, visit www.dot.gov/affairs/ruralsafety. To view the clearinghouse resources, please visit www.ruralsafety.umn.edu/clearinghouse/index.html.

Transportation Public-Private Partnerships Hit Record High

According to a USDOT report released in July 2008, the number of public-private partnerships (PPPs) has increased significantly in recent years and continues to climb. The report, Innovation Wave: An Update on the Burgeoning Private Sector Role in U.S. Highway and Transit Infrastructure, states that more than 20 major highway and transit projects currently are being conducted in partnership with the private sector in the United States. The number of partnerships completed over the last 3 years is higher than in any other comparable time period in history.

Transportation officials credit the increase to innovative approaches to financing and managing transportation, which are "increasingly attractive compared to traditional tax and spend methods," one USDOT official says. The report shows that States and localities can reduce project costs, accelerate project delivery, and transfer risks to the private sector while also protecting public sector interests through concession agreements. The report also asserts that the increase in use of PPPs is because of their proven track record for relieving congestion and encouraging infrastructure development.

The report is available for download at www.fhwa.dot.gov/reports/pppwave/ppp_innovation_wave.pdf.

California Transportation Projects Receive Excellence Awards

In August 2008, Caltrans selected 14 transportation projects to receive Excellence in Transportation Awards. The annual awards recognize excellence in design, construction, traffic operations, maintenance, planning, and improvements throughout the State.

By region, the categories and winners are as follows: North Coast: historic preservation/cultural enhancement, Fernbridge Emergency Bridge Rail Replacement; transportation innovations, Pacific Coast Bike Route Modified Delineator Demonstration Project; transportation-related facilities, "Hole in the Hammond" Multi-Use Trail Extension; and seismic, Noyo River Bridge. Sacramento: environment, Highway 149 Environmental Impact Mitigation Project; safety, Highway at Excelsior Road Safety Improvements; maintenance (operations or equipment), Pavement Recycling-Cold in Place; context sensitive solutions, Sutter-Highway 99 Sound Wall; and public awareness, 2007 Construction Rollout. San Diego: intermodal transportation, I-5, International Friendship Plaza; system operations, SR-76 at Olive Hill Road Intersection Improvements; and highway (urban), New SR-125 and SR-54 Segments (South Bay Expressway). Orange County: highway (rural), SR-133/Laguna Canyon Road. San Francisco Bay area: major structures, Benicia-Martinez Bridge.

Caltrans

AASHTO Video Advances Study on Lane-Departure Crashes

AASTHO released a short online video to promote its report Driving Down Lane-Departure Crashes.
AASTHO released a short online video to promote its report Driving Down Lane-Departure Crashes.

AASHTO recently released a short informational video to promote its report Driving Down Lane-Departure Crashes. The video, featuring AASHTO President Pete Rahn, draws attention to the report and the steps State departments of transportation (DOTs) are taking to reduce crashes due to cars leaving their lanes.

Rahn, who is also director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, offers his perspective on the challenges State DOTs are facing. "Over half of the fatalities...on our roads today occur when vehicles are leaving their lanes," Rahn says in the video. However, he remains optimistic about the progress made so far, adding, "We have seen, in the last 2 years, a cumulative reduction in fatalities on our roadways [in Missouri] that has exceeded 25 percent."

The report outlines a number of relatively low-cost, systematic approaches — such as rumble strips and enhanced pavement markings — that many State DOTs are implementing to help prevent deaths from collisions that occur when a vehicle veers from its lane. The report and video are part of a plan to reduce the death toll on U.S. highways by half within two decades, a goal set by AASHTO in October 2007.

To view the video, visit www.youtube.com/aashtovideo. For more information, visit www.transportation.org. To order the report, see https://bookstore.transportation.org/item_details.aspx?ID=1216.

AASHTO

Strategic Plan Released for Infrastructure Research and Development

The FHWA Office of Infrastructure Research and Development (R&D) released a strategic plan to guide all aspects of the office's research and technology initiatives for the next 10 to 15 years. The plan, Highways of the Future — A Strategic Plan for Highway Infrastructure Research and Development, provides direction for future infrastructure research and a framework to support the reauthorization efforts in advance of the expiration of authority under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

The plan focuses on several challenges faced by highway agencies in meeting the increased demands placed on the country's highway infrastructure. Challenges include the need to extend the service life of existing highway infrastructure; to build, rehabilitate, and rebuild infrastructure; and to address the mobility challenges posed by natural and manmade hazards by designing and constructing less vulnerable infrastructure and employing rapid restoration techniques to restore functionality after a disaster occurs.

According to the plan, the FHWA Office of Infra-structure R&D will conduct research to develop knowledge, guidelines, analytical and physical tools, and test methods and procedures that enable the delivery of safe, environmentally friendly, long-lasting, disaster-resilient, and cost-effective highway infrastructure. Another goal is to support end user efforts to maintain and manage the Nation's infrastructure more effectively based on the realities of funding needs versus constraints. The office also will provide specialized technical assistance to address infrastructure issues of national importance requiring research capabilities and technical expertise available at the FHWA Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, VA.

To view or download the plan, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/infrastructure/structures/08068/index.cfm.

Minnesota Updates Guidance on Public Involvement

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT), in conjunction with the FHWA Minnesota Division and the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota, recently updated its guidance materials for public and stakeholder participation in transportation projects. The updated components include a new Web site, a training curriculum that addresses managing effective public involvement, and a revised version of Mn/DOT's public involvement guidance "Hear Every Voice: A Guide to Public Involvement at Mn/DOT."

The goal of the "Hear Every Voice" initiative is to provide an opportunity for both internal and external partners to learn more about the Mn/DOT approach to public involvement and ways to identify and balance stakeholder values and objectives during project development. The initiative offers state-of-the-art, comprehensive curricula and skill building in best practices. Training is supported with online tools and resources to provide real-world implementation opportunities and achieve maximum efficiency.

Mn/DOT launched the initiative in 1999 to address State laws and Federal mandates requiring public involvement in statewide planning and project development. The updates reflect additional 2005 SAFETEA-LU requirements and current best practices from the International Association of Public Participation. The new Web site and technical training opportunities will help implement the public involvement process throughout the State.

For more information, visit www.dot.state.mn.us/planning/publicinvolvement.

Mn/DOT

Personnel

FHWA Employees Judycki and Gee Receive Notable Awards

Two FHWA employees, King W. Gee, associate administrator for infrastructure, and Dennis C. Judycki, former (retired) associate administrator for research, development, and technology, recently received the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive. The President gives this award annually to leaders who consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to public service.

Gee received the recognition for his visionary leadership and ongoing contributions to advancing FHWA's goals of improving safety, mobility, global connectivity, and security. Judycki received the recognition for providing national leadership and direction in coordinating and implementing the FHWA and USDOT Exploratory Advanced Research Program within the transportation research and technology community.

In addition, Judycki also received the 2008 Roy W. Crum Distinguished Service Award from the Transpor-tation Research Board for his outstanding leadership in research management. As FHWA's chief manager, overseer, and champion of research, Judycki worked to enhance national programs and develop partnerships in highway research and technology, reaching out to stakeholders and promoting implementation of innovative research results.

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