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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-15-005    Date:  July/August 2015
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-15-005
Issue No: Vol. 79 No. 1
Date: July/August 2015

 

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

USDOT Challenges Mayors to Make Streets Safer

As part of the Safer People, Safer Streets initiative announced in early 2015, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx issued the Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets. The challenge is a call to action for mayors and local elected officials of all political jurisdictions to take significant action to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians through early 2016.

The challenge is based on the 2010 USDOT Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities for users of all ages and abilities into transportation projects. Nearly 200 cities across the Nation have accepted the challenge, and more than 110 people representing 64 participating cities attended the kickoff summit in Washington, DC, in March 2015.

Secretary Foxx challenged mayors and officials to three calls to action: (1) issue a public statement about the importance of bicycle and pedestrian safety, (2) form a local action team to advance safety and accessibility goals, and (3) take local action on seven challenge activities. These activities include taking a complete streets approach, gathering and tracking biking and walking data, and improving walking and biking safety laws and regulations. Throughout the challenge year, cities have the opportunity to participate in peer-to-peer sessions, attend topical webinars, and receive USDOT updates and other resources and benefits.

For more information on the challenge and its activities, visit www.transportation.gov/mayors-challenge.

Secretary Foxx Visits Florida Bridge Replacement

As part of a 4-day bus tour, Secretary Foxx recently joined Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown and Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown at the I–95 Overland Bridge Replacement Project in Jacksonville, FL. The structurally deficient interstate bridge serves an estimated 147,000 drivers each day.

Built in 1959 and reconstructed in 1989, the bridge was in need of improvement. At an estimated $160 million in construction costs alone, the project--which is relying on $73 million in Federal funding--is considered the largest highway construction effort in northeast Florida’s history.

Construction began January 14, 2013, to replace a series of overpasses that carry traffic over four major streets along 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) of I–95. The project also includes widening I–95 southbound along the corridor, adding a full interchange between the interstate and a major local road, revamping traffic patterns, and adding bike lanes.

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown (front, fourth from left), U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx (to Brown’s left), and Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown (front, red trench coat) stand with the construction workers and inspection team under the I–95 overpass. The bridge replacement is one of the largest highway construction projects ever undertaken in northeastern Florida.
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown (front, fourth from left), U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx (to Brown’s left), and Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown (front, red trench coat) stand with the construction workers and inspection team under the I–95 overpass. The bridge replacement is one of the largest highway construction projects ever undertaken in northeastern Florida.

The bridge replacement will improve traffic flow along the I–95 corridor by relieving traffic congestion and providing more travel options. Planners expect the work to be completed in mid-2016.

Visit www.i95overlandbridge.com for more information.

Policy and Legislation

New Rule Improves Access to Public Transportation

Obstacles like sidewalk construction, snow, and illegally parked cars can make it difficult for riders to board a bus at the designated stop. For a transit user in a wheelchair, or in need of other types of assistance, these hindrances may be insurmountable. Often a bus driver will make some reasonable accommodation, but not always. To ensure everyone has equal access to public transportation, USDOT developed a new rule to offer a fair solution to address such situations.

Heavy snow plowed to the side of this Boston, MA, road blocks the bus stop, making it difficult for passengers, especially those with disabilities, to board safely.
Heavy snow plowed to the side of this Boston, MA, road blocks the bus stop, making it difficult for passengers, especially those with disabilities, to board safely.

The rule clarifies that public transportation providers are required to make reasonable modifications to their policies, practices, and procedures to avoid discrimination and ensure accessibility. The new rule applies to public entities that provide fixed route, dial-a-ride, and complementary paratransit services.

To help people with disabilities and public transportation providers better understand the line between reasonable and unreasonable modifications, the rule includes a list of 27 examples. However, because of the impossibility of listing all possible situations, it remains the responsibility of the transportation provider to develop a process for making decisions about how best to provide reasonable modifications to policies.

Examples of reasonable modifications include enacting policies permitting bus operators to adjust the boarding location if the designated stop is blocked. Another modification is allowing paratransit providers--who often operate curb-to-curb service--to assist a passenger to the door of the building if needed to enable the individual to use the service. Many transit providers already make these accommodations for riders with disabilities, but the rule ensures these adjustments are applied more uniformly and offers guidance for when reasonable modifications must be made.

For more information, the final rule is available at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-03-13/pdf/2015-05646.pdf. It became effective on July 13, 2015.

Public Information and Information Exchange

U.S. Drivers Topped 3 Trillion Miles in 2014

The Federal Highway Administration recently released new estimates showing that U.S. road users drove nearly 3.02 trillion miles (4.86 trillion kilometers) in 2014, the highest number since 2007 and the second highest since data collection began 79 years ago. The new data reaffirm projections included in Beyond Traffic, USDOT’s 30-year vision for transportation, which shows significant increases in gridlock nationwide unless changes are made in the near term.

Drivers in December 2014 logged 251.4 billion miles (404.6 billion kilometers), the highest level for any December since data collection began. At 5 percent higher than the previous December, it was the year’s biggest single-month increase and the Nation’s tenth consecutive month of growth in vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

All States recorded traffic increases in December. At 10.5 percent, Indiana saw the largest single-State traffic increase compared to the same month a year earlier, followed closely by Oklahoma at 9.3 percent and Montana at 8 percent. Traffic in the South Gulf--a block of eight States including Kentucky and Texas--rose to nearly 49.1 billion VMT, a gain of 6.4 percent over the previous December and the tenth consecutive month of increased traffic for the region.

For more information on the VMT data in FHWA’s Traffic Volume Trends reports, which are based on information collected from more than 2,000 road-mounted sensors nationwide, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/travel_monitoring/tvt.cfm.

FHWA Celebrates 15 Years of Work Zone Awareness

FHWA, in partnership with State and local transportation agencies, sponsored the 15th National Work Zone Awareness Week from March 23 to March 27, 2015. Acting Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau joined State and Federal officials at the Washington Boulevard Bridge over Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA, for the national kickoff event to urge drivers to stay alert when driving near highway workers. Workers and families affected by work zone crashes joined the highway officials at the event.

Poster. This 2015 National Safety Awareness Week poster included the year’s theme, “Expect the Unexpected,” and shows five work zone related images as well as the logos of FHWA and its partners in this year’s event.
FHWA and its partners used this poster and other campaign materials, including public service videos, for the 2015 National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week in March.

This year’s theme, Expect the Unexpected, was the same theme used at the first national event 15 years ago. The slogan emphasizes the need for drivers to constantly be prepared for changes such as reduced speed limits; narrowed, shifted, or closed lanes; and people who may be working on or near the road.

The annual initiative raises awareness of safety measures taken on roads around the country. FHWA works with State and local transportation officials to promote improvements in work zone planning and design, increased law enforcement near work zones, enhanced worker training, and heightened awareness among drivers. Since 2005, FHWA has awarded nearly $33 million in grants to promote training in work zone safety and the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse (www.workzonesafety.org).

The efforts by FHWA, State departments of transportation, and other agencies and organizations to increase awareness are working. Work zone fatalities have decreased by 34 percent since 1999. In 2013 there were 579 fatalities in work zones, a 6-percent decrease from 617 fatalities the previous year.

For more information on National Work Zone Awareness Week, visit www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/outreach/wz_awareness.htm.

Tribal Transportation Safety Gets a Boost

Secretary Foxx recently announced that 82 tribes will receive more than $8.5 million for 94 projects from FHWA’s Tribal Transportation Program Safety Fund. The projects will improve transportation safety on tribal lands.

Tribes will use the funds for safety planning, engineering improvements, enforcement and emergency services, and education for tribal communities. This is the second year such funds have been awarded since the program’s creation in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act. For this round, FHWA received 126 applications requesting a total of $27.1 million in assistance.

Congress created the program under MAP-21 to improve highway safety on tribal roads and other transportation facilities--statistically, some of the most hazardous in the Nation because of their poor physical conditions and other factors.

One grant recipient is the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians in California, which will receive $479,224 to better equip the tribe’s emergency responders with supplies they need when responding to crashes on the area’s winding mountainous roads. Another recipient, the Nome Eskimo Community in Alaska, will receive $60,868 to improve warning lights near the Nome Elementary School, making it safer for pedestrians and drivers alike in the extended darkness of Alaska’s winter months.

For more information and a complete list of grant recipients, visit https://flh.fhwa.dot.gov/programs/ttp.

NHTSA Launches “Tween” Seatbelt Campaign

Photo. A girl wearing headphones blows bubble gum with her eyes closed in a vehicle passenger seat. Over the image are the words: “When they’re tuning you out. Never give up until they buckle up. Visit safercar.gov/kidsbuckleup.”In the past 5 years, 1,552 children between the ages of 8 and 14--often called “tweens”--were not wearing seatbelts when they were killed in car crashes. To combat these statistics, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently launched the Never Give Up Until They Buckle Up campaign, targeting seatbelt use for tween passengers and their caregivers driving the vehicles.

The campaign engages parents and caregivers to ensure that tweens consistently and properly wear their seatbelts every time they are in a moving vehicle. A recent series of NHTSA focus groups found that seatbelt use often falls by the wayside during the hectic shuttling of kids to and from school and activities, when running short errands, or when parents are simply worn down.

A section on NHTSA’s “Parents Central” Web site at www.safercar.gov/parents is devoted to the campaign and offers tips to motivate tweens to buckle up, information on how to know when a child is ready to use an adult seatbelt, and more. The campaign’s message is clear: the car does not move until everyone in the vehicle is buckled up. The site also provides campaign materials including TV and radio spots, Web and print ads, and social media badges designed for easy sharing online.

For more information, visit www.safercar.gov/parents/index.htm.

California Completes West County Connectors

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), in partnership with the Orange County Transportation Authority, recently completed the West County Connectors Project in Orange County, CA. The $297 million project, designed to improve mobility, relied on $141.4 million in Federal-aid funds--$49.6 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and $91.8 million in funds from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.

Photo. This aerial image shows I–405 and I–605 in Orange County, California, including the interchanges for the newly linked carpool lanes.
The recently completed West County Connectors Project in Orange County, CA, included improvements to carpool lanes on I–405 and I–605 to alleviate

The project aims to relieve congestion on one of the Nation’s busiest highways, cut commute times, and make travel more efficient. It links high-occupancy vehicle lanes/carpool lanes on the San Diego Freeway (I–405) with those on the Garden Grove Freeway (SR–22) and San Gabriel River Freeway (I–605) to create a seamless carpool connection. The 6-mile (9.7-kilometer)-long project creates a better link between the cities of Garden Grove, Long Beach, Los Alamitos, Rossmoor, Seal Beach, and Westminster.

The improvements included constructing two direct carpool connectors and the addition of a second carpool lane in each direction on the I–405 between SR–22 and I–605. The project also reconstructed numerous on- and offramps, and improved landscaping along the route.

New Mexico to Explore Innovative Contracting

The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) recently received approval from FHWA to use an innovative contracting approach on an experimental basis. The approach may help NMDOT save time and money over the life of a construction project.

Typically, highway projects in New Mexico have gone to the lowest bidder, risking increased costs in later phases. Under the new system, in awarding the job, NMDOT considers a prequalification score based on the contractor’s past performance in addition to the contractor’s bid. The approach applies to projects with a cost of more than $5 million and provides an incentive for contractors to be more reliable with cost--with an eye toward winning future bids.

NMDOT will capture elements of a prime contractor’s performance and calculate a yearly prequalification factor applied to future job bids. Construction quality, timeliness, job safety, compliance, and claims records will be taken into account to develop a rating. Since the system rewards good performers and encourages poor performers to improve, NMDOT anticipates it will hold contractors to greater accountability and help avoid escalating costs and delays.

FHWA requires NMDOT to evaluate the new process every 3 years and to report to FHWA on a regular basis. Once FHWA has sufficiently evaluated the process, the agency will take steps for future implementation.

The State received approval to use this approach under FHWA’s Special Experimental Project No. 14 (SEP-14) for innovative contracting. Under SEP-14, FHWA has allowed many State DOTs to embark on nontraditional, but carefully monitored, contracting practices aimed at streamlining the process. Many approaches, such as design-build, which enables the simultaneous design and construction of different phases of a project, have proven to be successful and are now widespread.

Grants Expand Realtime Travel Information

FHWA recently announced $2.6 million in grants to expand the use of realtime travel information in 13 highly congested urban areas across 10 States. These selected cities or regions will combine numerous information technologies and realtime travel information from highway, rail, and transit operations.

Many State and local agencies offer similar travel information, but separately. This new effort, known as integrated corridor management, takes realtime information a step further by combining updated congestion and incident data from various State and local agencies.

Travelers can use realtime information to avoid congestion and find alternate routes or transportation systems, such as transit or rail. Shippers can receive information concerning the entire network, not just one route. Such tools can help engineers make better decisions about congestion management by recommending where traffic should flow and onto which systems commuters should be shifted based on up-to-the-second data.

The technologies rely on many data sources simultaneously, such as live camera feeds, hundreds of traffic speed and volume detectors, pavement sensors, and even weather monitors to gather, transmit, and analyze information.

Two pilot systems are currently operational--on U.S. 75 in Dallas, TX, and on I–15 in San Diego, CA--and the lessons learned there are helping to improve other deployments. San Diego’s I–15 traveler information app is tied into integrated corridor response plans and provides realtime updated information about traffic incidents and alternative routes.

The 10 States with the 13 selected projects are Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

For the complete list of projects and corridor locations, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/pressroom/fhwa1504.cfm.

Caltrans Updates Strategy for Safety and Mobility

In a continuing effort to provide a safe, sustainable, integrated, and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability, Caltrans has released its Complete Streets Implementation Action Plan 2.0. The updated strategy outlines how the department will continue to address the safety and mobility needs of all modes of transportation through June 2017.

The action plan illustrates and details all the current efforts underway at Caltrans to further integrate complete streets design from the earliest stages of system planning through project delivery and maintenance and operations. The plan includes 109 additional action items, such as developing a State bicycle and pedestrian plan, collecting complete streets data and performance measures, and providing the Complete Streets Overview Training Course for Caltrans staff in all departmental functions.

A complete street design addresses the needs of all users of the system, including bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, and motorists, in a way appropriate to the local community. Benefits include mobility options and access for nondrivers; decreased vehicle trips, associated air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions; improved livability; and lower transportation costs.

State Route 255, shown here as it passes through Arcata, CA, serves as a main street and gateway for the city. The SR–255 project is an example of Caltrans’ efforts to incorporate complete streets design into planning. The project won the Caltrans 2014 Excellence in Transportation Award in the category of Highway as a Main Street.
State Route 255, shown here as it passes through Arcata, CA, serves as a main street and gateway for the city. The SR–255 project is an example of Caltrans’ efforts to incorporate complete streets design into planning. The project won the Caltrans 2014 Excellence in Transportation Award in the category of Highway as a Main Street.

Caltrans’ original plan for 2010–2013 consisted of 73 action items. More than three-quarters of those items are now complete or have seen substantial progress. Two completed items are a comprehensive update to the Highway Design Manual to facilitate the design of complete streets, and the release of Complete Intersections: A Guide to Reconstructing Intersections and Inter-changes for Bicyclists and Pedestrians available at http://nacto.org/docs/usdg/complete_intersections_caltrans.pdf.

For more information, visit www.dot.ca.gov/completestreets.

Caltrans

 

 

 

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