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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 77 · No. 2 > Along the Road

September/October 2013
Vol. 77 · No. 2

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-13-006

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.

Personnel

Anthony Foxx Takes Reins as Secretary of Transportation

On July 2, 2013, Charlotte, NC, Mayor Anthony Foxx was sworn in as the Nation’s 17th Secretary of Transportation by Judge Nathaniel Jones at U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington, DC. The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Foxx as the next Secretary of Transportation on June 27.

Anthony Foxx was sworn in as Secretary of Transportation by Judge Nathaniel Jones on July 2, 2013. Secretary Foxx’s wife and children held the Bible for the ceremony.
Anthony Foxx was sworn in as Secretary of Transportation by Judge Nathaniel Jones on July 2, 2013. Secretary Foxx’s wife and children held the Bible for the ceremony.

Prior to his confirmation, Foxx served as the mayor of Charlotte from 2009 to 2013. During that time, he made investments in efficient and innovative transportation projects the centerpiece of Charlotte’s job creation and economic recovery efforts. These investments included extending the LYNX light rail system, expanding Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, and starting the Charlotte Streetcar Project. Prior to being elected mayor, Foxx served two terms as an at-large representative on the Charlotte City Council, where he chaired the Transportation Committee.

Foxx is an attorney, starting after law school as a law clerk for Judge Jones for the Sixth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. In addition, he served as a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and as staff counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary.

Foxx received his law degree from New York University’s School of Law as a Root-Tilden Scholar, the university’s prestigious public service scholarship. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Davidson College.

Management and Administration

Administrator Mendez Helps Break Ground on Alabama Complete Streets Project

In May 2013, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez joined Birmingham, AL, Mayor William Bell to kick off construction of the Enon Ridge Multimodal Corridor and Civil Rights Complete Streets project. Part of a citywide bicycle and pedestrian network, the project will connect neighborhoods in the greater Birmingham area.

The project is included in the city’s Roads to Recovery initiative, which includes seven projects that support multimodal transportation. Using the complete streets approach to project planning, the initiative designs streets to accommodate all users--motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and people of all ages and abilities--to enable them to move around the community safely.

Initiated to assist in Birmingham’s recovery from the devastating April 2011 tornado, Roads to Recovery will create a 34-mile (54-kilometer) regional transportation network with improved and new bicycle trails and sidewalks. The network will better connect 250,000 residents to public transit, employment centers, retail districts, hospitals, and other facilities. Specifically, the Enon Ridge and Civil Rights segment consists of nearly 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers) of complete streets that will connect to some of the area’s largest employers in downtown Birmingham.

Technical News

Alaska to Improve Safety on State Highways

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, Commissioner Patrick Kemp of the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, and Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Joe Masters recently announced that the State will take significant steps to improve safety on Alaska’s highways. The improvement program emphasizes implementation of suggested strategies included in the Strategic Traffic Safety Plan and provides intermediate steps to improve safety as major projects are built incrementally.

The program advances an intelligent transportation system that includes an operations center for highway safety and integrates real-time speed and weather sensors, message boards, and systems for avalanche detection. The system will expand upon the Alaska 511 traveler information system to ensure that information is available around the clock to travelers, department of transportation (DOT) personnel, law enforcement, and emergency medical services.

Alaska has designated four safety corridors along sections of Seward Highway, Parks Highway, Sterling Highway, and Knik-Goose Bay Road to emphasize these improvements. Serious crashes are down 53 percent within these corridors due to ongoing activities focused on education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency response services.

Photo. Shown here is a roadside sign along Seward Highway south of Anchorage, AK, that reads, “Begin Highway Safety Zone, Traffic Fines Double.”
Motorists driving south from Anchorage on the Seward Highway pass through this highway safety zone, one of four designated safety corridors in Alaska.

The department began implementing improvements along the Seward Highway between Potter Marsh and Turnagain Pass, south of Anchorage, in summer 2013. Five additional slow-vehicle turnouts are being constructed along the highway at mileposts 75, 76, 108, 111, and 115. Also, passing lanes are being constructed at mileposts 68, 71, and 95. Guardrail work and modification of the roadway alignment at milepost 88, which is a high-crash location, also started in summer 2013.

In addition, the Alaska Department of Public Safety will procure two 3–D laser instruments for measuring and mapping crash scenes quickly and accurately to help reduce the duration of highway closures during crash investigations.

Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities

Public Information and Information Exchange

NOYS Celebrates Global Youth Traffic Safety Month

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for youth in the United States. In May, the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) held the kickoff event for Global Youth Traffic Safety Month in Washington, DC. NOYS is a partnership consisting of more than 70 national, youth-serving organizations in the nonprofit, business, and government sectors. All participants come together to promote safe and healthy behaviors among the Nation’s young people.

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood speaks at an event in Washington, DC, celebrating Global Youth Traffic Safety Month.
Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood speaks at an event in Washington, DC, celebrating Global Youth Traffic Safety Month.

As part of the launch events, the group hosted a rally followed by The Long Short Walk--a worldwide walking and bicycling initiative to raise awareness of youth traffic safety. The Long Short Walk was held in honor of Zenani Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s great-granddaughter, who was killed in a crash. Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Deborah Hersman, and Kweku and Ndaba Mandela--Nelson Mandela’s grandsons--attended the event.

For more information, visit www.noys.org or www.mylongshortwalk.org.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

NHTSA Survey Finds 660,000 Drivers Using Mobile Devices

Cover of the report, 2012 National Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released survey results showing that Americans continue to use electronic devices while driving, despite warnings that it causes their own driving to deteriorate and can lead to crashes, injuries, and even death. NHTSA released the data in April 2013 at the start of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The data include statistics from the 2012 National Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors (DOT HS 811 729), the 2011 National Occupant Protection Use Survey on Driver Electronics Use, and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

The 2011 National Occupant Protection Use Survey shows that at any given daylight moment across the United States, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010. Separate NHTSA data indicate that more than 3,300 people were killed in 2011 and more than 387,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.

According to NHTSA’s 2012 National Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors, most drivers support bans on hand-held cell phone use (74 percent) and texting (94 percent) while driving. So far 41 States plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. In addition, 10 States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.

NHTSA researchers interviewed more than 6,000 respondents age 16 and older by phone for the survey. Almost half of drivers said they answer an incoming call, and one in four drivers is willing to place a call on all, most, or some trips. Considering that in 2011 there were almost 212 million licensed drivers in the United States, an estimated 102 million drivers were answering calls and 50 million drivers were placing calls while driving.

For more information, download the full report at www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/pdf/811729.pdf.

NHTSA

Maryland Reports on Biological Controls for Invasive Species

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) recently released a report on use of biological controls to manage noxious and invasive weeds on highway rights-of-way. The report, Development of Biological Agents for Invasive Species Control (MD-13-SP009B4T), describes biological controls, such as use of beneficial insects, as a sustainable and cost-effective method for reducing the spread of invasive plants.

Noxious and invasive weeds can easily colonize disturbed areas, outcompeting and displacing native and other desirable vegetation. The result is often a loss of pollinators critical to plant reproduction, such as birds, bees, and other insects that move pollen between plants. Other impacts include diminished food and nesting resources for wildlife, as well as decreased biodiversity in general. Where invasive plants establish monocultures--the growth of only one plant species--and where highway agencies must employ remedial management, winter cover can be lost and soils destabilized. This can reduce the filtering quality of wetlands and increase siltation, the pollution of water by fine dirt, sand, or clay.

Photo. This photo shows a field of weeds with stalks of purple flowers, with an inset closeup image of flowers.
Invasive weeds, such as this purple loosestrife, can displace native vegetation along highways.

SHA spends more than $300,000 per year purchasing herbicides to control exotic weeds. This figure does not include administrative, labor, equipment, and fuel costs. Current practices include herbicide use and mowing, which can cause even further disturbance and perpetuate the cycle of colonization by invasive plants.

A research team at the Maryland Department of Agriculture released two beneficial beetles at strategic locations to control purple loosestrife and mile-a-minute weed, two invasive plant species. The team then monitored the effects on weed populations over the course of two growing seasons. The researchers found that the impact of the beetles varied and would not eliminate the invasive plants, but could help reduce their spread to new areas.

For more information and to download the report, visit www.roads.maryland.gov/OPR_Research/MD-13-SP009B4T_Development-of-Biological-Agents-for-Invasive-Species-Control_Report.pdf

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