Skip to contentUnited States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration FHWA Home
Research Home
Public Roads
Featuring developments in Federal highway policies, programs, and research and technology.
This magazine is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information.
Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 73 · No. 2 > Along the Road

Sept/Oct 2009
Vol. 73 · No. 2

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-09-006

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.

Technical News

Using WIM Technologies for Better Pavement Design

Obtaining quality data on traffic loading is at the heart of a new workshop developed by the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Offices of Infrastructure and Highway Policy Information. The Weigh-in-Motion (WIM) and Traffic Workshop, which targets traffic and pavement design staff, demonstrates the complete process of using WIM technologies to collect data on vehicle and axle weights, axle spacing, speed, and vehicle class.

Workers install a weigh-in-motion site in southern Virginia for collecting quality WIM data.
Workers install a weigh-in-motion site in southern Virginia for collecting quality WIM data.

"When designing new pavements, it is critical to have accurate WIM data," says David Jones of FHWA's Office of Highway Policy Information. "The better the WIM data that is collected, then the better the weight projections are for the future."

The free, 2.5-day event walks participants through each step of the process, starting with an overview of available WIM technologies and collection equipment. Participants then learn how to select appropriate sites and prepare the pavement for installing the equipment. Instructors also cover procedures for WIM system installation, calibration, validation, and acceptance testing, as well as data collection, processing, and validation. The workshop concludes with a demonstration of PrepME, a software tool developed by the University of Arkansas that is used to input quality data, including traffic data, into the Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide. This guide is a robust tool used to estimate damage accumulation over the service life of pavement. Workshop participants receive a 444-page workbook that contains detailed information for future reference.

"These tools, made possible by the LTPP [Long-Term Pavement Performance] program, bring together the best available prediction models to assist tomorrow's designers in making quality pavement designs," says Mike Moravec, a senior highway engineer with FHWA's Pavement Design and Analysis Team. "These reliably designed pavements, together with timely and effective preservation treatments, will better serve the traveling public for decades to come."

For more information about upcoming workshops or how to host a workshop, contact David Jones at 202-366-5053 or djones@fhwa.dot.gov, or Mike Moravec at 202-366-3982 or mike.moravec@dot.gov.

FHWA Concludes Study on Pedestrian Safety Countermeasures

In 2002, FHWA awarded grants to the cities of Las Vegas, Miami, and San Francisco to deploy and evaluate pedestrian safety countermeasures. The purpose was to demonstrate how a city could improve pedestrian safety by performing a detailed analysis identifying and evaluating high-frequency crash locations involving pedestrians, observing factors such as driver and pedestrian behavior, and deploying various low-cost countermeasures tailored to specific sites. FHWA conducted an independent evaluation to compare the countermeasure deployments in the three cities.

In San Francisco's Chinatown, researchers deployed a safety countermeasure known as a "pedestrian scramble" (shown here), during which all traffic is stopped, and pedestrians are given a walk phase on all four crosswalks.
In San Franciscos Chinatown, researchers deployed a safety countermeasure known as a "pedestrian scramble" (shown here), during which all traffic is stopped, and pedestrians are given a walk phase on all four crosswalks.

At the conclusion of the 6-year study, researchers looked at measures of effectiveness to determine if safety improved. Of the 18 countermeasures deployed, researchers identified the following 7 as highly effective: leading pedestrian intervals (allowing the pedestrian crossing phase to begin before the green phase for vehicles); pedestrian countdown signals; in-street pedestrian signs (flexible, fluorescent yellow signs typically seen on the centerline or in the median of midblock pedestrian crossings); activated flashing beacons; rapid flash beacons (rectangular beacons mounted to pedestrian signs that employ a flash pattern similar to those used on emergency vehicles); call buttons that confirm the pedestrian's press; and Danish offset (an offset used at the middle of a multilane crossing) combined with high visibility crosswalk, advance yield markings, and "Yield Here to Pedestrians" signs.

According to FHWA, the study successfully demonstrated that a locality can make targeted, low-cost improvements and have a positive effect on pedestrian safety.

For more information and indepth reports from each location, visit http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/tools_solve/ped_scdproj/index.cfm.

Public Information and Information Exchange

USDOT and HUD Launch Partnership For Sustainable Communities

USDOT and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have launched a partnership to help U.S. families access affordable housing and more transportation options with lower costs.

The average working family spends nearly 60 percent of its budget on housing and transportation costs. HUD and USDOT plan to help reduce these costs by creating affordable, sustainable communities with more travel options.

USDOT and HUD have established a high-level, interagency task force to coordinate Federal transportation and housing investments. The task force will undertake a number of initiatives to ensure that the two departments work efficiently to give Americans more choices for affordable housing near employment opportunities; more transportation options to reduce travel costs, shorten trip times, and improve the environment; and safe, livable, and healthy communities.

For more information, visit www.hud.gov/offices/cir/test090318.cfm.

FHWA Revamps National Highway Specifications Web Site

Since 2003, FHWA's "National Highway Specifications" Web site has offered a fully searchable, electronic library of information on highway construction specifications in all 50 States, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and FHWA's Federal Lands Highway Offices. The site, www.specs.fhwa.dot.gov, offers an array of documents, such as standard specifications, construction manuals, drawings, innovative contracting methods, and special provisions for new and emerging materials and technologies.

FHWA maintains the site with material submitted by State departments of transportation and other agencies to ensure that it contains the most current specifications and construction manuals for each contributing transportation agency.

Recent updates simplify the uploading of information, making it easier for States to revise and add material. The improved site also features faster search capabilities. In addition, FHWA added more links to related Web sites and State standard drawings, as well as contact information for State specification engineers, accessible to State personnel with authorized administrative login access.

"As a one-stop source for specification information, the Web site has saved users time and money, while improving practices and promoting higher quality in construction end products," says Ken Jacoby, construction quality management engineer with FHWA's Office of Asset Management.

For more information, visit www.specs.fhwa.dot.gov.

Announcing: 2010 Planning Excellence Awards

FHWA, the Federal Transit Administration, and the American Planning Association recently announced the return of the Transportation Planning Excellence Awards in 2010. The purpose of the biennial program is to recognize outstanding planning initiatives across the country.

In 2008, the Transportation Planning Excellence Awards recognized 13 winners and 9 honorable mentions, including Federal, State, and local agencies and industry organizations. A complete list of the award winners and honorable mentions is available at www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/awards.htm. The winners were recognized during the opening session of the Transportation Research Board Joint Summer Meeting in Baltimore, MD.

The Transportation Planning Excellence Awards are given to outstanding projects, processes, and groups that contribute to the evolution and advancement of transportation planning. An independent panel of judges with expertise in all areas of planning recommends award winners based on innovation; community outreach and public involvement; partnerships and collaboration; multimodalism; and equity, livability, and sustainability.

The call for nominations for the 2010 awards is scheduled for December 2009. For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/awards.htm or contact Fred Bowers at 202-366-2374.

FHWA Announces Excellence in Utility Relocation Award Winners

FHWA recently announced the winners of the 2009 Excellence in Utility Relocation and Accommodation Awards, a biennial program conducted to honor outstanding achievement in the utility arena. FHWA presented awards in four categories: project development, construction management, innovation, and leadership.

The 2009 award winners showcase exemplary programs, projects, initiatives, and practices that integrate the consideration of utilities into the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of surface transportation facilities. For example, one winner transmits utility plan markups in electronic format for construction projects, thereby better facilitating project utility coordination, increasing plan quality, and reducing printing costs for both the agency and utility owners.

For more information and a complete list of award winners and their projects, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/utilities/2009awards.cfm.

AASHTO Report Says Rough Roads Costing Motorists

Cover of AASHTO's Rough Roads Ahead report.

According to a report released by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and TRIP, a transportation research group, driving on rough roads costs the average American motorist approximately $350 a year in extra vehicle operating costs. Drivers living in urban areas with populations of more than 250,000 are paying upwards of $750 more annually because of accelerated vehicle deterioration, increased maintenance, additional fuel consumption, and tire wear caused by poor road conditions.

AASHTO's report, Rough Roads Ahead: Fix Them Now or Pay for It Later, finds that one-third of the Nation's major highways, including interstates, freeways, and main roads, are in poor or mediocre condition. The report points out that traffic growth has far outpaced highway construction, particularly in large metropolitan areas. For example, in some parts of the country, dramatic population growth has occurred without a corresponding increase in road capacity, placing enormous pressure on roads that, in many cases, were built 50 years ago. Recommended solutions include increased investment, improved management strategies, a focus on preserving essential public assets, and development of better, longer lasting materials.

For more information and to download the report, visit http://roughroads.transportation.org.

AASHTO

Centers of Innovation Sharpen Volpe Center Focus

The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center recently underwent a reorganization to better define its focus and enhance its ability to anticipate future transportation challenges and use internal and external assets to improve the Nation's transportation system.

To clarify, reinforce, and strengthen the Volpe Center's role in applying its technical capabilities to USDOT strategic goals and national transportation priorities, the center has been restructured into eight Centers of Innovation focused on the following: multimodal systems research and analysis; safety management systems; environmental and energy systems; freight logistics and transportation systems; physical infrastructure systems; communication, navigation, surveillance, and traffic management systems; human factors research and system applications; and advanced vehicle and information network systems.

According to Volpe Center officials, the restructuring will increase opportunities for research and technology synergy both within and outside USDOT and enhance the effectiveness of the Volpe Center's crossmodal and multimodal capabilities.

For more information, visit www.volpe.dot.gov.

USDOT Observes Multiyear Decline In Work Zone Fatalities

In spring 2009, transportation leaders kicked off the 10th annual National Work Zone Awareness Week with a ceremony near the Nation's capital. At the event, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced a 17 percent drop in work zone fatalities and injuries in 2007, the most recent year for which data are available.

Participants talk to Joseph S. Toole, associate administrator for FHWA's Office of Safety, at a kickoff event for the 10th annual National Work Zone Awareness Week.
Participants talk to Joseph S. Toole, associate administrator for FHWA's Office of Safety, at a kickoff event for the 10th annual National Work Zone Awareness Week.

This decrease represents the sharpest single-year percentage decline since USDOT began observing National Work Zone Awareness Week in 1999. This decrease continues a multiyear trend of increasingly safe work zones. There were 835 fatalities in 2007, down from 1,004 in 2006.

National Work Zone Awareness Week is a national campaign conducted each year at the start of construction season to encourage safe driving through highway construction sites. Federal, State, and local transportation officials and the public observe National Work Zone Awareness Week during the first week of April.

For more information, visit http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/outreach/wz_awareness.htm.

Program Encourages Tennesseans To Reduce Air Pollution

TDOT's "Clear the Air Tennessee" Web site offers steps motorists can take to reduce air pollution.
TDOT's "Clear the Air Tennessee" Web site offers steps motorists can take to reduce air pollution.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) recently launched Clear the Air Tennessee, an educational program designed to encourage Tennesseans to take action against poor air quality by changing their travel habits. The program is funded through the Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program and targets Tennessee counties designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as being in need of air quality improvement.

TDOT's program uses the acronym SIMPLE to help Tennesseans remember the steps they can take to reduce air pollution: S (watch your speed); I (idle less); M (maintain your vehicle); P (plan your trips); L (leave your car at home); E (educate others).

According to TDOT officials, the program hopes to mitigate the health-related impacts of air pollution, including aggravated allergies, heart disease, eye and respiratory irritation, and asthma and bronchitis. Currently, more than half of all Tennesseans live in areas where air pollution poses a health risk.

TDOT is promoting the program through messages on billboards, banners, print ads, and on television and radio. The program also operates a Web site with information on the causes of air pollution, ways to reduce individual impacts on air quality, and links to local clean air groups.

For more information, visit www.cleartheairtn.org.

TDOT

ResearchFHWA
FHWA
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration