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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 76 · No. 2 > Along the Road

September/October 2012
Vol. 76 · No. 2

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-12-006

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.

Management and Administration

FHWA Officials Join DC Mayor to Open Trail Bridge

Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Greg Nadeau and the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) District of Columbia Division Administrator Christopher Lawson recently joined Washington, DC, Mayor Vincent Gray for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail bridge over the railroad tracks on the west side of the Anacostia River, in the southeastern section of the District of Columbia. The ribbon-cutting is the latest milestone for a $50 million network of trails in the District, which received $33 million in Federal funding.

Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Greg Nadeau, center left, and FHWA DC Division Administrator Christopher Lawson, center right, cross the recently opened Anacostia Riverwalk Trail bridge.
Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Greg Nadeau, center left, and FHWA DC Division Administrator Christopher Lawson, center right, cross the recently opened Anacostia Riverwalk Trail bridge.

When completed, the 20-mile (32-kilometer) Riverwalk Trail will connect pedestrians and bicyclists to a network of offstreet routes running through 16 waterfront neighborhoods and will provide benches, bike racks, and interactive maps. The project will augment local parklands by providing improved access to waterfront destinations. It also will improve water quality by controlling erosion from wetlands adjacent to the Anacostia River and preventing sediment from entering the river. Nationally, the Riverwalk Trail will provide access to the East Coast Greenway, a network of bicycle trails linking Maine to Florida.

The new bridge completes the Riverwalk Trail connections west of the Anacostia River. Another bridge opened this summer crosses the railroad tracks and completes connecting trails running along the east side of the river.

USDOT-Commerce Partnership Promotes U.S. Manufacturing

USDOT is teaming with the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) to encourage the creation of jobs in domestic manufacturing and opportunities for U.S. suppliers through transportation investments. Through the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), part of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology, USDOT will use U.S. manufacturers and suppliers for work on highways, railways, and transit projects. The arrangement will help ensure that manufacturers meet USDOT's strict "Buy America" standard while creating jobs.

As part of this agreement, FHWA will partner with MEP to help identify U.S. manufacturing capabilities for producing new technologies and emerging products for the Nation's highways. For example, FHWA tasked MEP with identifying manufacturers with production facilities suitable for fabricating the specialized steel fibers used in ultra-high performance concrete. Currently, the steel fibers are made only overseas.

MEP serves more than 34,000 suppliers nationwide and helps them retool their manufacturing capabilities to meet demand, compete in the global marketplace, and sell U.S.-made goods overseas. Leveraging the assistance of more than 1,300 manufacturing experts in more than 350 locations, MEP will assess suppliers' production and technical capabilities to match them with viable business opportunities that otherwise might have gone to foreign suppliers. This effort will help ensure maximum economic benefit for taxpayer-funded transportation investments across all modes.

Technical News

Sketch Tool Enhances Capacity Analysis of Junction Designs

FHWA's Office of Operations Research and Development (R&D) recently developed a spreadsheet-based sketch planning tool to analyze select types of innovative or alternative junction designs using directional traffic volumes. The junction designs include at-grade intersections, interchanges, mini-roundabouts, and full-size roundabouts with one, two, and three lanes. Researchers can evaluate the performance of these designs using a volume-to-capacity ratio to provide a planning capacity assessment at each crossing. Known as Capacity Analysis for Planning of Junctions (CAP-X), the tool expands on FHWA's 2009 release of the Alternative Intersection Selection tool.

FHWA developed the CAP-X tool as a workbook in Microsoft® Excel®. The only data that need to be input are volume counts and number of lanes. The workbook has 32 spreadsheets that analyze 18 different types of innovative junctions. Some of the key junctions are displaced left turns, mini-roundabouts and multilane roundabouts, double crossover diamonds, and single-point interchanges.

According to FHWA officials, CAP-X is a simple and cost-effective planning tool that will help users focus on developing effective intersection and interchange designs prior to conducting more complex and demanding traffic simulations.

The Capacity Analysis for Planning of Junctions sketch tool helps planners analyze junction designs, such as the full displaced left-turn intersection shown in this screen capture.
The Capacity Analysis for Planning of Junctions sketch tool helps planners analyze junction designs, such as the full displaced left-turn intersection shown in this screen capture.

For more information, visit http://tsi.cecs.ucf.edu/index.php/cap-x.

Online ASR Reference Center Updated

FHWA's online ASR Reference Center includes the most current information on alkali-silica reactivity (ASR). Launched under FHWA's ASR Development and Deployment Program in 2009, the center now contains more than 300 specifications, guidance documents, test methods, and other references.

A reaction occurs when silica in some aggregates and alkalis in concrete combine with water to form a gel-like substance known as ASR. As the gel absorbs water and expands, it can cause the concrete to crack, leading to premature deterioration and loss of service life for concrete pavements and structures. FHWA's ASR Development and Deployment Program focuses on providing information and technologies that can help prevent and mitigate the problem.

Designed for quick and easy access, the reference center features an overview of ASR, as well as research reports and State specifications. Also featured are case studies from around the world, including summaries of field trials that document treatment methods and test results. Site visitors also will find specifications and guidance from international organizations, such as the Canadian Standards Association and the International Union of Laboratories and Experts in Construction Materials, Systems, and Structures.

Dr. Benoit Fournier, an associate professor of geology at Laval University in Quebec, Canada, draws a grid on a concrete barrier to measure crack widths and determine the cracking index, which is used to estimate expansion and evaluate ASR damage.
Dr. Benoit Fournier, a professor at Laval University in Quebec, Canada, draws a grid on a concrete barrier to measure crack widths and determine the cracking index, which is used to estimate expansion and evaluate ASR damage.

For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement/concrete/asr.cfm.

Public Information and Information Exchange

National Survey Reveals Attitudes On Distracted Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently conducted the first of several planned national surveys on distracted driving. The surveys aim to monitor the public's attitudes, knowledge, and self-reported behavior related to cell phones, texting, and driver choices. About three-quarters of survey respondents (80 percent of men; 73 percent of women) indicated that they answer calls on trips, and the majority of these respondents (66 percent) answer and continue driving. Close to half of these (45 percent) keep the phone in their hands while driving.

Five percent of survey respondents reported being willing to place calls on all driving trips; 10 percent on most driving trips; and 26 percent on some driving trips. About one-third of respondents (32 percent of men; 37 percent of women) considered a driver who was talking on a cell phone and holding the phone as "very unsafe."

When asked how they thought their own driving changed when they were sending text messages or emails, 25 percent responded that "it makes no difference." Thirty-one percent of respondents said they "drive slower" when texting or emailing, and 8 percent of men and 6 percent of women said they "drift out of their lane." However, as passengers, almost all respondents considered a driver who was sending a text message or email (86 percent of men; 90 percent of women) and reading emails or text messages (84 percent of men; 88 percent of women) "very unsafe." Nine of 10 respondents support laws that ban texting, and 6 of 10 support laws that ban all phone use while driving.

Findings from the survey provide further evidence that distracted driving is a complex problem that is both hard to measure and difficult to address, given conflicting public attitudes and behaviors. The results also point to the need to continue focusing on education, laws, enforcement, and vehicle design to help keep drivers' attention on the road.

For more information, visit www.distraction.gov/download/research-pdf/8396_DistractedDrivingSurvey-120611-v3.pdf.

Virginia Prepares Drivers for New Express Lanes

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), with partner Transurban-Fluor, recently launched an educational campaign to prepare Virginia drivers for the change coming to I–495, the Capital Beltway, in late 2012. The high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, known as the 495 Express Lanes, will provide options for faster, more predictable trips on the Capital Beltway in Virginia. The name of the project was changed from HOT lanes to Express Lanes to help familiarize drivers with what they will see on the onroad signage.

The 495 Express Lanes team unveiled a new Web site, www.495ExpressLanes.com, as the first step in a year-long campaign focused on educating the community on how to take advantage of the new travel options safely once the lanes open. The site includes detailed maps outlining how each interchange will work and lane safety information. Travelers can access the site to plan routes, obtain customized directions, and sign up for email alerts.

Screen capture from the “495 Express Lanes” Web site.
The new “495 Express Lanes” Web site, shown in this screen capture, helps drivers understand what to expect when the lanes open in Virginia in late 2012.

The 14-mile (23-kilometer) express lanes will be free of charge for buses, motorcycles, emergency vehicles, and carpoolers with three or more people. Other drivers may choose to pay a toll for a faster, more predictable travel option. The first roadway of its kind in Virginia, the lanes will use dynamic pricing based on real-time conditions to keep traffic flowing. VDOT implemented the express lanes project with its private partners to provide relief from heavy congestion in the area. According to the Texas Transportation Institute's 2011 Urban Mobility Report, the Washington, DC, area has the worst traffic congestion in the United States.

For more information, visit www.495ExpressLanes.com.

VDOT

Phase VI of Study on Low Cost Safety Improvements Underway

FHWA's Offices of Safety R&D and Infrastructure R&D recently initiated Phase VI of the Evaluation of Low Cost Safety Improvements Pooled Fund Study. Phase VI is a pioneering study of pavement improvements that have the potential to reduce the frequency and severity of run-off-the-road crashes. The study involves statistical evaluations of before-and-after crash and pavement data to determine which safety improvements are most effective. Specifically, researchers will evaluate various improvements made to flexible and rigid pavements. Expected outcomes include development of crash modification factors, economic analyses of costs and benefits, and technical recommendations.

With 29 States involved, the effort is the second largest FHWA pooled fund study, and research is expected to continue beyond 2017. The goal of the study is to develop reliable estimates of the effectiveness of the safety improvements identified in the National Cooperative Highway Research Program Report 500 guides. To develop the estimates, FHWA is conducting scientifically rigorous before-and-after evaluations at sites in the United States where these strategies have been implemented.

For more information or to participate in this safety performance research program, contact Roya Amjadi at roya.amjadi@dot.gov or Jim Sherwood at jim.sherwood@dot.gov.

FHWA Launches Online Toolbox For Bridge Preservation

State and local departments of transportation (DOTs) face a number of challenges in preserving bridges, including an aging inventory, increases in traffic and congestion, limited funding, and rising costs for labor and materials. To help, FHWA developed a new online compendium of information and strategies related to bridge preservation. The Bridge Preservation Toolbox, available at www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/preservation, is structured into four main categories: legislation and policies, bridge management, preservation treatments, and research and development.

The legislation section includes the latest on Federal, State, and local laws and policies related to bridges. This section also features background information on terminology and links to Federal and State resources, including FHWA's Bridge Preservation Guide (FHWA-HIF-11-042). Under the bridge management section, resources include guidance from FHWA and States on topics such as condition assessments, performance measures, strategies, cost data, deterioration trends, and life-cycle cost analyses. The section on treatments features information on methods and procedures for preservation and maintenance, including repairs and protective systems. In the section on research and development, users can find technical presentations, details on standards and specifications, reports from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, and information on training opportunities.

For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/preservation.

USDOT Offers Free Online ITS Training

The Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Professional Capacity Building Program is offering free online training on ITS standards. The 18-module series is aimed at practitioners in State and local highway agencies and transit agencies who seek the skills needed to procure, implement, and operate standards-based devices and equipment. The training also is applicable for consultants, system designers and integrators, and system testers.

The nonproprietary communications interface standards define how devices interconnect and exchange data to support the delivery of ITS services across a multimodal transportation network. The USDOT program has teamed with public highway and transit agencies and with standards development organizations to develop nearly 100 standards for use in ITS implementations.

USDOT encourages agencies to incorporate ITS standards into new systems, as well as in upgrades and enhancements to existing systems. Among other benefits, the use of adopted standards has the potential for reducing life-cycle costs. In addition, consistent and widespread use of standards will enable public agencies and private organizations to share information across disparate networks. This sharing of information will result in improved coordination and delivery of transportation services on a regional basis and, collectively, to a safer and more efficient national transportation network.

For more information or to access the free training modules, visit www.pcb.its.dot.gov/standardstraining.

 

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