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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-17-003     Date:  March/April 2017
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-17-003
Issue No: Vol. 80 No. 5
Date: March/April 2017

 

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.

Policy and Legislation

NHTSA Sets “Quiet Car” Safety Standard

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently announced a sound requirement for all newly manufactured hybrid and electric light-duty vehicles to help protect pedestrians. The new Federal safety standard will help pedestrians who are blind or have low vision detect the presence, direction, and location of these vehicles when they are traveling at low speeds. NHTSA estimates the requirement will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once all hybrids in the fleet are properly equipped.

Under a new regulation, electric light duty vehicles, such as this car at a charging station, will be required to produce an audible noise at low speeds to help alert pedestrians.
Under a new regulation, electric light duty vehicles, such as this car at a charging station, will be required to produce an audible noise at low speeds to help alert pedestrians.

Under the new rule, all hybrid and electric light vehicles with four wheels and a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds (4,500 kilograms) or less will be required to make audible noise when traveling in reverse or forward at speeds up to 19 miles (30 kilometers) per hour. At higher speeds, the sound alert is not required because other factors, such as tire and wind noise, provide adequate audible warning to pedestrians.

The new standard responds to Congress’ mandate in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act that hybrid and electric vehicles meet minimum sound requirements to provide an audible alert for the benefit of blind and visually impaired pedestrians. Manufacturers have until September 1, 2019, to equip all new hybrid and electric vehicles with sounds that meet the new Federal safety standard. Half of new hybrid and electric vehicles must be in compliance 1 year before the final deadline.

For more information, visit www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/nhtsa2716.

Technical News

FHWA Unveils Alternative Fuel Corridors

The Federal Highway Administration recently announced 55 routes that will serve as the basis for a national network of alternative fuel corridors spanning 35 States. The network is nearly 85,000 miles (137,000 kilometers) long, and more miles will be added in the future as fueling and charging stations are built to accommodate electric, hydrogen, propane, and natural gas vehicles.

Corridors for Charging Electric Vehicles
Map. A map of the United States showing the location of electric vehicle charging corridors. Solid black lines indicate “sign ready” corridors that currently provide charging stations. Dotted red lines indicate “sign pending” corridors where charging stations are planned. A majority of the corridors are located along the east and west coasts, and some run through the midwest and Texas.

Corridors designated as “sign ready,” meaning routes where alternative fuel stations are currently in operation, are eligible to feature new signs alerting drivers where they can find alternative fuels for their vehicles. These signs are similar to existing signage that alerts drivers to gas stations, food, and lodging. The designation of these corridors fulfills a directive in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015.

To develop the network, FHWA asked States to nominate corridors along major highways with plug-in electric vehicle charging and hydrogen, propane, and natural gas fueling stations. Congress designated these specific fuels in the FAST Act.

In 2015, the United States pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent or more by 2050. By supporting lower emission vehicles, alternative fuel corridors will help to reduce transportation emissions, one of the leading sources of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/alternative_fuel_corridors.

Public Information and Information Exchange

Partnership Aims to End Traffic Fatalities

Three USDOT operating administrations--NHTSA, FHWA, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration--are joining forces with the National Safety Council to launch the Road to Zero Coalition. The coalition’s goal is to end fatalities on the Nation’s roads within the next 30 years. USDOT has committed $1 million per year for the next 3 years to provide grants to organizations working on lifesaving programs.

The largest increase in traffic deaths since 1966 occurred in 2015, and preliminary estimates for the first half of 2016 show an alarming uptick in fatalities: an increase of about 10.4 percent as compared to the number of fatalities in the first half of 2015.

The Road to Zero Coalition will initially focus on promoting proven lifesaving strategies, such as seatbelt use, rumble strips, truck safety, campaigns to change behavior, and data-driven enforcement. In addition, the coalition will lead the development of a new scenario-based vision for how to achieve zero traffic deaths using evidence-based strategies and a systematic approach to eliminating risks.

The “zero deaths” idea was first conceived in Sweden in 1994 as Vision Zero and since then has spread across the country and across the world. A growing number ofStates and cities have adopted zero fatality visions because of the belief that even one fatality is too many.

FHWA Becomes Ambassador for Preparedness

In October 2016, FHWA officially became a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador as part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) initiative aimed at improving the Nation’s preparedness and strengthening resilience to extreme weather events.

Photo. Cars navigate a snow-covered, multilane highway.
Extreme weather events can cause dangerous driving conditions. FHWA is partnering with the National Weather Service to improve the preparedness of local communities.

NOAA is working to improve accuracy in forecasts and warnings, evolve services to serve community decisionmakers, and find better ways to communicate risk to stakeholders and the public. For the Weather-Ready Nation initiative, NOAA partners with Federal, State, and local agencies, commercial industry, researchers, and other groups to prepare communities for potential weather disasters.

Under its Every Day Counts initiative, FHWA is working to deploy two distinct solutions that enable State and local agencies to manage their transportation systems proactively ahead of and during bad weather. The first, Pathfinder, lays out a multistep process for determining the information to share and how best to do so before, during, and after severe weather events. The second, Integrating Mobile Observations, focuses on vehicle-based technologies. It involves collecting data on weather and road conditions from sensors on vehicles that can inform DOT staff about critical conditions, such as pavement temperature.

As part of the Weather-Ready Nation initiative, teams from FHWA and the National Weather Service will work together to better understand the risks associated with extreme weather events to build stronger communities andupgrade their preparedness.

For more information, visit www.transportation.gov/fastlane/fhwa-becomes-%E2%80%98weather-ready-nation%E2%80%99-ambassador.

MPOwerment Initiative Helps Transportation Decisionmakers Innovate

Transportation planning is critical to addressing regional priorities. To help local and regional decisionmakers, USDOT launched the MPOwerment initiative to engage with metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and other agencies involved in the transportation decision making process. The initiative’s goal is to improve prioritization of Federal funds by providing a forum for candid conversations that help USDOT understand the challenges and opportunities for transportation agencies at all levels to work together to strengthen regional planning processes, improve regional coordination, and streamline decision making.

The MPOwerment initiative responds to one of the key challenges identified in USDOT’s Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices 2045. Specifically, the initiative aims to improve how Federal, regional, State, and local agencies work together to improve transportation decision making regionally and locally. The initiative is focused on the role of MPOs in encouraging collaboration, increasing public participation, and growing opportunity through the transportation planning process.

The MPOwerment initiative consists of a series of 1-day workshops across the country led by USDOT to engage transportation decisionmakers in discussions about ways to improve regional planning, prioritize and expand Federal investments that revitalize communities, and connect people to opportunity. The first four workshops were held in October and November 2016.

For more information, contact MPOwerment@dot.gov.

USDOT Issues Automated Vehicle Policy

In the fall of 2016, USDOT released the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, which “sets out an ambitious approach to accelerate the [highly automated vehicle] revolution.” The policy is an important step in the Department’s efforts to build expertise and knowledge in this rapidly emerging technology. The policy lays a path for the safe testing and deployment of new automated vehicle technologies that have enormous potential for improving safety and mobility on U.S.roads.

In the fall of 2016 in Washington, DC, then Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy.
In the fall of 2016 in Washington, DC, then Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced the Federal Automated Vehicles Policy.

“Automated vehicles have the potential to savethousands of lives, driving the single biggest leap in road safety that our country has ever taken,” said then U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.

The policy sets a proactive approach through four key parts. First, guidance on vehicle performance uses a 15-point safety assessment to set clear expectations for manufacturers developing automated vehicle technologies. Second, model State policy delineates the Federal and State roles for the regulation of highly automated vehicle technologies as part of an effort to build a consistent national framework of laws to govern self-driving vehicles. Third, the policy outlines options for the further use of current Federal authorities to expedite the safe introduction of highly automated vehicles into the marketplace. Finally, the policy discusses new tools and authorities the Federal Government may need as the technology evolves and is deployed more widely.

To develop the policy, USDOT consulted with industry leaders, experts in the field, State governments, the traveling public, and safety advocates, among others. The Department is requesting public comment on the policy and plans to conduct significant public outreach to inform the next update.

For more information, visit www.transportation.gov/AV.

Data Shows Nearly 20 Percent Of U.S. Drivers Are Over 65

FHWA data shows that there are more drivers than ever before--an estimated 217.9 million--and that 42.8million, or nearly one in five, are over 65 years old. Drivers over 65 are one of the fastest growing demographic groups among U.S. motorists. With a 2-percent increase over 2015, representing 4.4 million more drivers over 65, it is the biggest single-year percent increase on record for that population.

FHWA researchers continue to develop and improve safety enhancements for the Nation’s roads to address the challenges facing older drivers, ranging from declining vision to decreased flexibility and psychomotor performance, and changes in perceptual and cognitive performance. Some innovations include longer merge lanes, roundabouts, better lighting, more visible signage, and other intersection improvements.

Additional information about how FHWA designs roads for older drivers can be found in the Handbook for Designing Roadways for the Aging Population (FHWA-SA-14-015), available online at http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/older_users/handbook, which offers substantial information on the methods and techniques used to accommodate this growing driver demographic.

Framework Guides Life Cycle Assessments of Pavements

Increased awareness of the importance of environmental protection and the possible impacts associated with the production, use, and retirement of products has generated considerable interest within the transportation community. One area of interest is the use of assessment methods to better understand and address environmental impacts. A technique developed for this purpose is life cycle assessment, which quantifies environmental impacts over the full life cycle of a product or system, including impacts that occur throughout the supplychain.

Life cycle assessment has a commonly accepted standard method published by the International Organization for Standardization. However, there are no widely accepted standards that focus specifically on the life cycle assessment of pavements. To address this gap, FHWA recently published Pavement Life Cycle Assessment Framework (FHWA-HIF-16-014), which provides an important first step. The publication presents a framework for performing an assessment specific to pavement systems along with guidance on the overall approach, methodology, system boundaries, and current knowledge gaps.

Life cycle assessment provides a comprehensive approach for evaluating the total environmental burden of a product by examining all the inputs and outputs over the life cycle, from raw material production to the end-of-life. For pavements, this cycle includes the material production, design, construction, use, maintenance and rehabilitation, and end-of-life stages.

For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement/sustainability/hif16014.pdf.

GAO Recommends Tracking Link Between Funding and Bridge Conditions

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, Highway Bridges: Linking Funding to Conditions May Help Demonstrate Impact of Federal Investment (GAO-16-779), that examines trends in the condition, management, and funding of the Nation’s bridges. The 612,000 bridges in the United States are critical elements of the surface transportation system, which is under growing strain. Funding the system is on GAO’s High Risk List. Although FHWA estimates total funds dedicated to bridges and collects data on bridge conditions nationwide, it does not track the linkage between Federal funds and changes in bridge conditions.

Bridge conditions have generally improved nationwide from 2006 to 2015, based on the GAO analysis of Federal bridge data. And, Federal funds obligated for bridge projects have remained relatively stable over the same period--between $6 billion and $7 billion in most years. Linking performance outcomes with resources invested can help agencies to determine more clearly how changes in investments may affect performance. The GAO report recommends that FHWA develop measures on the linkage between Federal funding of bridges and desired outcomes--maintained or improved bridge conditions--and report the results to Congress.

For more information, visit www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-779.

GAO

Arizona Holds Inaugural Innovation Day

In October 2016, Arizona highlighted advanced technologies and solutions as part of the State’s first Innovation Exchange Day. Hosted by the Arizona Council for Transportation Innovation, the event focused on the future of transportation and included an innovation showcase. Exhibitors from the public and private sectors spoke about new technologies and techniques they aredeveloping.

Some of the innovations on display included a smartphone app that rewards drivers for taking the least congested routes, an advanced mobile-mapping system, and technology being developed to produce a 3–D-printed, fully recyclable vehicle. The event also highlighted low-tech improvements, such as a method for adding new synthetic materials to asphalt to increase strength and lengthen the lifespan of roadways.

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) participated as well, highlighting the agency’s efforts to detect wrong-way drivers and to reduce rush hour congestion with responsive ramp meter timing.

“We need to continually look for innovations that will save lives and make the transportation experience better for all of us,” says Dallas Hammit, ADOT’s deputy director for transportation.

More than 150 people attended the 1-day event, which received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Planning is underway for the 2017 AZ Innovation Exchange Day.

For more information, visit www.azdot.gov/acti or contact Randy Everett at randolf.everett@dot.gov or 602–382–8989.

ITE

 

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