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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-15-003    Date:  March/April 2015
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-15-003
Issue No: Vol. 78 No. 5
Date: March/April 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

Secretary Foxx Announces Initiative to Enhance Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety

Cover of Safer People, Safer Streets: Summary of U.S. Department of Transportation Action Plan to Increase Walking and Biking and Reduce Pedestrian and Bicyclist Fatalities.U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx recently announced a new initiative to reduce the growing number of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities through a comprehensive approach. Since 2009, injuries and fatalities of pedestrians and bicyclists have steadily increased at a rate higher than motor vehicle fatalities. From 2011 to 2012, pedestrian deaths rose 6 percent and bicyclist fatalities went up almost 7 percent.

Dubbed “Safer People, Safer Streets,” the 18-month campaign will begin with road safety assessments conducted by USDOT field offices in every State. The Federal Highway Administra-tion, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and National Highway Traffic Safety Admin-istration field offices are working with local officials to conduct the assessments and have conducted pilots in Boston, MA; Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX; and Lansing, MI.

The new safety initiative will promote design improvements to ensure safe and efficient routes for pedestrians and bicycles, promote behavioral safety, and provide education to help individuals make safer travel choices. USDOT will work closely with State and local officials to support the implementation of new tools for pedestrian and bicycle safety.

An early product promoted by the initiative is FHWA’s new guide to creating road diets, in which transportation agencies redesign roadways with lower traffic volumes to add space for bicyclists and pedestrians. Additional resources will help practitioners incorporate safety improvements into many road projects, address “last mile” safety for people taking buses and trains, and make it easier for jurisdictions to count and plan for people traveling by foot and bicycle.

For more information, visit www.dot.gov/office-policy/transportation-policy/secretary%E2%80%99s-action-plan-bike-and-pedestrian-safety.

Technical News

Caltrans Launches Interactive Game for Teen Drivers

In an effort to combat distracted driving among teen drivers and raise public awareness, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) developed an interactive, mobile and online game called Distraction Zone that helps educate teens about safe driving. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for 14- to 18-year-olds in the United States.

This screenshot from Caltrans’ driving simulation game shows the player’s car entering a work zone with a reduced speed limit.
Caltrans’ Distraction Zone game helps teens practice safe driving behaviors, such as when entering a highway work zone.

According to 2012 data from NHTSA, among drivers 15 to 19 years old who were distracted in fatal crashes, nearly 1 in 5 were distracted by their phones. Speeding is also a common contributing factor. In 2012, speeding was a factor in almost half (48 percent) of the crashes that killed 15- to 20-year-old drivers.

The Distraction Zone game is specifically designed to reinforce key safe driving behaviors like avoiding distractions, being alert, and slowing down when approaching highway work zones. Mobile versions of the game are available for download from Google Play and the App Store, and the online version is available at www.DistractionZone.com. As always, teens should not play the game or text while driving.

The campaign’s media partner, iHeartMedia, is running a contest as an added incentive to entice teens to play the game. The contest invites teen players to submit their highest game score for a chance to win cash prizes. The top prize is $500. Players can play multiple times to achieve their best score and enter the contest until June 15, 2015.

For more information, visit BeWorkZoneAlert.com.


Public Information and Information Exchange

Technical Assistance Helps States Boost Data Quality

To support improvements in data quality among State departments of transportation, FHWA’s Roadway Data Improvement Program (RDIP) has developed a data review process for States’ roadway inventory databases. A technical assistance team of subject matter experts reviews the data collected; its usage, management, and governance; and the interoperability of the data with other databases.

Staff from the Rhode Island DOT and other stakeholders are shown here attending a workshop to review data on roadway safety.
Staff from the Rhode Island DOT and other stakeholders are shown here attending a workshop to review data on roadway safety.

The RDIP review consists of a workshop addressing good practices for collecting, managing, and integrating roadway data; two technical transfer sessions; development of a summary report; and presentation of the assistance team’s findings to the administrators and managers of the roadway inventory databases. In preparation for these activities, the assistance team reviews relevant materials, policies, practices, and procedures used by the State for its roadway database.

The workshop is open to both State DOT staff and external stakeholders invited by the host agency. The technical transfers are roundtable sessions to review and discuss the team’s findings and recommendations. One session is devoted strictly to the internal practices of the State DOT. The second involves the State DOT and selected representatives from local agencies to examine information sharing practices.

As a final step, the RDIP team prepares a summary report on how the State is performing in collecting, using, governing, and sharing roadway data and makes recommendations for how these processes might be improved. The team presents these findings to the State DOT in a face-to-face meeting at the conclusion of the visit. The RDIP team develops a more complete narrative report of the findings for the State approximately 6 weeks after the site visit.

FHWA has completed reviews with seven States and has several more planned.

For more information, contact Robert Pollack at robert.pollack@dot.gov or 202–366–5019.

FHWA Releases Report on Effectiveness of Dynamic Message Signs

Cover of the report Effectiveness of Safety and Public Service Announcement Messages on Dynamic Message Signs.The number of transportation agencies that use dynamic message signs to provide traffic information to motorists has increased dramatically over the past four decades. However, despite extensive research about traffic-related messages, policies regarding the display and type of messages that are unrelated to traffic vary greatly among States. It also remains unclear how effective these messages are at modifying behavior.

A recent FHWA study, Effectiveness of Safety and Public Service Announcement Messages on Dynamic Message Signs (FHWA-HOP-14-015), aims to help USDOT, transportation management centers, State agencies, and local transportation partners optimize the utility of safety and PSA messages on dynamic message signs.

USDOT selected four urban areas as study sites: Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Orlando, FL; and Philadelphia, PA. The goal was to collect approximately 500 survey responses per city. In total, researchers received 2,088 responses.

Most respondents reported that they do see safety and PSA messages on dynamic message signs while driving, at least sometimes. The majority also noted that such messages are useful, with some even noting that those messages are more effective on dynamic message signs as compared to other media (such as television).

The survey results showed that messages were considered useful if the driver encountered them often. Respondents also thought that those messages could be effective in changing behavior.

Because drivers’ stated preferences may differ from their actual preferences, researchers recommend an onroad impact assessment of safety and PSA messages on dynamic message signs to confirm the findings of this study.

For the full report, visit www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop14015/fhwahop14028.pdf.

Now Available: Guide for Effective Tribal Crash Reporting

The Transportation Research Board recently released the National Cooperative Highway Research Program’s Report 788: Guide for Effective Tribal Crash Reporting. The publication presents guidance for State agencies and tribal leaders for effective crash reporting. The guidebook also reviews the root causes of issues and deficiencies related to tribal crash reporting, highlighting best practices, success stories, lessons learned, published literature, and data from tribes and States involved in the data collection and analysis phase of the project.

The guidebook includes self-assessment tools for State agencies and tribes, and is accompanied by a CD with a supplemental report documenting the research approach and findings. In addition, it includes flyers intended for use as handouts and reference materials at meetings, conferences, and events. The guidebook and contents of the CD are available to download at no cost, or hardcopies may be purchased from TRB.

The guidebook offers information on establishing, building, and maintaining communicative relationships between tribes and States, establishing effective methods for collecting crash data, creating a data-sharing system, and using the crash data to improve tribal traffic safety. Case studies are included to provide practical examples of implementing an effective system for reporting tribal crashes.

To download the guide or purchase a hardcopy, visit www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/171540.aspx.


MassDOT to Redevelop Space Under Elevated Roadways

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) recently announced its “Infra-Space” program to identify areas under elevated roads, bridges, or viaducts for possible opportunities for redevelopment. The Infra-Space program follows the successful ongoing development of a parking facility, a multimodal path, and adjustable ornamental light displays under a large elevated portion of the I–93 Southeast Expressway in Boston.

An artist’s rendering shows park areas, pathways, benches, and basketball courts under a series of highway overpasses.
An artist’s rendering of repurposed space below highway overpasses shows the type of project MassDOT is funding through its “Infra-Space” program.

The program requested input from municipalities, businesses, nonprofit institutions, property owners, developers, and community and arts organizations for nominations and proposals for redevelopment projects. MassDOT selected nine locations from those nominated from across the Commonwealth where elevated roadways, bridges, viaducts, or other transportation infrastructure are barriers to neighborhoods, pedestrians, bicyclists, multimodal travel, urban resources, and economic development. The agency is now reviewing redevelopment proposals for these locations.

The Infra-Space program asks for redevelopment ideas that would create a gateway between neighborhoods and urban resources, create better connections for multimodal travel, and support local economic development through commercial uses or parking. The projects could also create an arts or events space, add recreational amenities for adjacent communities, or increase safety and security through more active use and lighting. The selected projects would use public-private partnerships to fund and implement the improvements.

For more information, visit www.mass.gov/massdot/realestate.


California Creates Nation’s Largest Active Transportation Program

The California Transportation Commission adopted 265 biking and walking projects--collectively valued at about $1 billion--in the State’s 2014 Active Transportation Program, making it the Nation’s largest such program.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., created the program in 2013, replacing a patchwork of small grant programs with a comprehensive program. Projects selected for funding include improvements for Safe Routes to School programs, transit accessibility, multiuse trails, active transportation education and outreach programs, and bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements. The full list of 265 adopted projects is available at www.catc.ca.gov/programs/ATP.htm.

Caltrans received hundreds of applications for projects located in cities and counties across the State. The adopted projects will receive a total of almost $368 million in program funds. The projects comprise three components: a Statewide Program ($183.8 million for 126 projects), a Small Urban & Rural Program ($37 million for 22 projects), and a Metropolitan Planning Organization Program ($147.1 million for 117 projects). Nearly 85 percent ($311.3 million) of the funds are directed at 220 projects that benefit disadvantaged communities.

For more information, visit www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/atp/index.html.


TDOT Opens U.S. 41 Bridge in Marion County

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer joined State and local officials to celebrate the official opening of the recently completed bridge on U.S. 41 over the Tennessee River at Nickajack Lake in Marion County, TN. The new concrete and steel structure has two 12-foot (3.7-meter) lanes and full 10-foot (3-meter) shoulders, and replaces a nearby 1929 truss bridge. U.S. 41 is an important route, often used as an alternative to I–24.

A new concrete and steel bridge carries U.S. 41 over the Tennessee River in Marion County, TN. The bridge replaced a 1929 truss bridge that TDOT permanently closed to traffic in 2012. This image from August 2014 shows the new bridge nearing completion adjacent to the old truss bridge.
A new concrete and steel bridge carries U.S. 41 over the Tennessee River in Marion County, TN. The bridge replaced a 1929 truss bridge that TDOT permanently closed to traffic in 2012. This image from August 2014 shows the new bridge nearing completion adjacent to the old truss bridge.

Work began on the $21.5 million bridge replacement in March 2011. Unforeseen issues with rock near some of the new bridge piers added more than a year of additional work to the project and also forced the closure of the existing bridge, which project officials originally planned to keep open until they completed the replacement. TDOT permanently closed the old 1929 truss bridge to all traffic on January 9, 2012. 

Joining Commissioner Schroer at the ribbon cutting was Madge Elizabeth Boggild. As a small child, Boggild rode with her father in the first vehicle to cross the adjacent 1929 truss bridge. In January 2012, Boggild was in the last vehicle across the truss bridge before it was closed to traffic. At the recent opening ceremony, she rode in the first vehicle to officially cross the Tennessee River on the new bridge.


MDOT Report Illustrates Economic Benefits of Bicycling

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) recently released a report, Community and Economic Benefits of Bicycling in Michigan, which details the economic benefits of bicycling on Michigan’s local and statewide economies.

Researchers found that pedestrians and bicyclists, such as the ones shown here riding in a bike lane, provided a significant boost to Michigan’s economy.
Researchers found that pedestrians and bicyclists, such as the ones shown here riding in a bike lane, provided a significant boost to Michigan’s economy.

The report finds that bicycling provides an estimated $668 million per year in employment, retail revenues, in-State tourism expenditures, and increased health and productivity. Statewide, 39 percent of households reported using a bicycle for transportation in 2013, and nearly 800 people are employed by bicycle-related industry in the State.

Using both quantitative and qualitative data, MDOT identified five communities across the State to measure the annual impacts of bicycling on a local economy. All of the case studies occurred within city limits and did not include the broader metro areas. The study found that bicycling provides a $5.5 million economic boost in Traverse City, $6.4 million in Holland, $20.7 million in Detroit (defined as southwest Detroit and the Conner Creek Greenway area), $25.4 million in Ann Arbor, and $39.1 million in Grand Rapids.

The second phase of the project is underway and will include specific data on the economic impact of cross-State bicycle touring, Michigan as a bicycle destination, and cycling events including races like the Iceman Cometh Challenge and multiday fundraising rides. That phase is scheduled to be complete in late spring 2015.

To view the full report, visit www.michigan.gov/mdot/0,4616,7-151-9615_11223_64797_69435---,00.html.


MassDOT Displays #DOTspeak Safety Messages

In the summer and fall of 2014, MassDOT displayed the winning messages from a #DOTspeak Highway Message Board Contest on hundreds of message boards across the State. The winning messages from the social media contest were displayed throughout the State during some of the busiest travel periods of the year.

MassDOT launched the contest in June 2014 to collect ideas from the public for creative ways to remind drivers about proper driving behavior and to improve safety for all roadway users. The agency received more than 500 entries in three categories from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and email.

The winner in the road rage category, “Keep Calm and Drive On,” submitted by Patrick Casey of Allston, MA, ran August 15–18, 2014 (a top 10 travel weekend based on 2013 toll data). Labor Day weekend drivers were reminded, “Put down the phone! Your LOLs and OMGs can wait.” Submitted by Justin Lovell of Whitman, MA, the message won in the distracted driving category. The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program team of Safe Roads Alliance submitted the winner for seatbelt use with “Make yah Ma proud, wear yah seatbelt,” which MassDOT displayed over Columbus Day weekend.

“With the ‘Use Yah Blinkah’ sign, we got people’s attention,” says Massachusetts Acting Secretary of Transportation Frank DePaola, referencing a tongue-in-cheek message displayed earlier in 2014. The viral popularity of that message inspired the contest. “By changing the routine messages, we hope to bring a new light to important public safety messages that sometimes may be overlooked.”




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