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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-18-001    Date:  Autumn 2017
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-18-001
Issue No: Vol. 81 No. 3
Date: Autumn 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.

Technical News

FHWA Launches Safety Microsite

In May 2017, the Federal Highway Administration launched a microsite on the agency’s Web site to provide a central resource for information about guardrails and other roadside safety hardware. The new site is the latest in an ongoing effort to emphasize the importance of, and improve accessibility to, State guardrail data–including preliminary data from an In-Service Performance Evaluation pilot program.

Notably, the site makes it possible for State departments of transportation to share data about in-service performance of roadside hardware. The site hosts a growing collection of findings from the States in response to interest about performance guardrail terminals.

The site highlights FHWA’s In-Service Performance Evaluation pilot, which began in 2015 and will continue through 2019. The project is being conducted jointly with California, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Pennsylvania to find better ways to collect in-service performance data of roadside hardware.

The In-Service Performance Evaluation pilot aims to improve roadway safety by making it easier for States to uniformly collect performance data on guardrails.

For more information, visit https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/roadway_dept/countermeasures/reduce_crash_severity/guardrail_ispe.cfm.

Public Information and Information Exchange

Cambridge Science Festival Held at Volpe Center

Science lovers of all ages gathered in April at USDOT’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Massachusetts to attend transportation events as part of theCambridge Science Festival. The festival is an annual 10-day event that engages an estimated 100,000 people with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This was Volpe’s third year participating in the festival as part of its growing STEM outreach efforts in the local community.

On April 17 and 19, 2017, Volpe hosted three events as part of the Cambridge Science Festival.

Making Places: Building with Blocks invited children ages 5 to 9 to learn about the world of transportation planning. Children engaged in a “place making” activity where they learned about the things that go–such as trains, buses, and bicycles–in different types of places, from cities to neighborhoods to farms. Then, students worked in groups to bring their ideas to life using blocks. At the end, they presented their models to the other students and to Volpe’s transportation planners.

Volpe Center
Photo. Two children work with a Volpe staff member to design a city using blocks and other materials.
Children ages 5 to 9 learned about the world of transportation planning and brought their ideas to life using blocks during Volpe’s events as part of the Cambridge Science Festival in April 2017.

MoveCity: Designing a City that Moves You asked middle school and high school students to become transportation planners for the day. Students engaged in a mock charrette and designed their own cities, including multimodal transportation systems that welcomed skateboard routes and hoverboard lanes. The students collaborated in teams with professional transportation planners and worked through zoning and permitting before presenting their MoveCities.

Vople Talks featured five short talks from Volpe employees who are working on important transportation issues such as work zone safety, alternative jet fuel, and distracted driving. The event was well attended by students, scientists, and members of the general public. After the talks, guests took a tour of the Volpe Center’s Boeing 737 flight deck simulator, custom-builtdriving simulator, andlocomotive simulator.

Volpe Center

FHWA Releases Latest Construction Cost Index

FHWA recently released the first National Highway Construction Cost Index (NHCCI) published since the agency made major methodological revisions to improve its accuracy. Now called “NHCCI 2.0,” the index is a quarterly estimate of the rising cost of domestic highway construction and maintenance over time.

NHCCI 2.0 is the first major revision since FHWA created this index in 2007, and reflects steadily rising costs of highway construction and repair. Though the data fluctuate slightly each quarter because of a variety of factors, including market conditions, labor supply, materials costs, and inflation, the figures show that highway construction costs today have climbed by 68 percent compared to similar costs in 2003.

Such information is of critical importance to national transportation decisionmakers, who rely on forecasts and cost estimates to ensure sufficient financial support for the Nation’s transportation needs.

As measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, key highway components such as asphalt, concrete, and metal grew at 107 percent, 61 percent, and 45 percent, respectively, between 2003 and 2016.

Many States track their own construction costs, with some experiencing much higher inflation than others. For example, California’s composite cost index increased by 143 percent between 2003 and 2016, while Texas’ increased by 122 percent over the same period.

For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/nhcci/pt1.cfm.

Alaska Federal Lands Updates Transportation Plan

Over the past several years, Federal lands management agencies have developed long-range transportation plans (LRTPs). These LRTPs are policy-level plans that help agencies navigate transportation funding and management decisions over the next 20 years. LRTPs require periodic updates to reflect current conditions. Currently, work is underway to develop the first LRTP update for Federal lands in Alaska.

The update to the Alaska Federal Lands Collaborative LRTP will be the first such update for a Federal lands management agency. The original Alaska Federal Lands LRTP, completed in 2012, was a pioneering effort to develop the first multiagency LRTP for Federal lands. It was a collaborative endeavor between six agencies, including the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, and led by FHWA’s Western Federal Lands Highway Division.

FHWA is managing the multiagency update with USDOT’s Volpe Center supporting the effort by researching existing conditions, advancing performance management, and conducting financial analyses of available funds, needs, and gaps based on available data from each agency. The Volpe Center will also develop the updated content for publication.

The update will reflect new requirements and funding opportunities in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, as well as other national guidance for Federal lands management agencies. It will incorporate updated data, report on accomplishments since the 2012 plan, and build on the team’s progress to develop performance measures and monitoring systems. The Alaska Federal Lands LRTP update is expected to be complete by December 2018.

In addition, as part of the update, the multiagency team will document their process to provide a template for other Federal lands management agencies to follow when updating their LRTPs.

Volpe Center

Minnesota and Wisconsin Open St. Croix Crossing

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently cut the ribbon on the long-awaited St. Croix Crossing project. The $646 million effort, which began in 2012, connects the city of Oak Park Heights, MN, to the town of St. Joseph, WI. It spans the St. Croix River with a more than 5,000-foot (1,524–meter) bridge that will carry four lanes of traffic in each direction.

Minnesota DOT
This aerial view looking west toward Minnesota shows the St. Croix Crossing in June 2017, near the end of construction.
This aerial view looking west toward Minnesota shows the St. Croix Crossing in June 2017, near the end of construction.

The project replaces the Stillwater Lift Bridge, which was dedicated more than 80 years ago. Since it opened, the Lift Bridge carried thousands of motorists between the two States on Minnesota Highway 36 and Wisconsin Highway 64. Over the years, as traffic increased, travelers faced mounting delays from congestion because the bridge periodically needs to lift to accommodate boat traffic on the St. Croix River. Although the bridge is currently closed to vehicle traffic, it continues to lift daily to allow water traffic to pass below.

The new bridge, about a mile (1.6 kilometers) downstream from the Lift Bridge, is designed to carry more than twice the 18,000 vehicles a day that crossed the river on the Lift Bridge. The St. Croix Crossing is 100 feet (30 meters) wide and rises between 110 feet (34 meters) and 150 feet (46 meters) above the water, enabling boat traffic to freely move beneath it.

The bridge is a hybrid design structure combining a cable-stayed build with a segmented concrete box design. Planners chose the hybrid design to ensure that the pier heights, which are 65 feet (20 meters) above the bridge surface, would not be higher than the bluffs along the river. It is intended to fit into the river gorge as naturally as possible.

For more information, visit www.dot.state.mn.us/stcroixcrossing.

Minnesota DOT

ODOT Launches Distracted Driving Campaign

Nearly 500 people lost their lives on Oregon roads in 2016, and crash data analysis points to a contributing cause: distracted driving. Every 3 hours someone is injured by a distracted driver in Oregon.

Through a campaign launched in September, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) aims to help reduce distracted driving by making healthy driving a competition. The department and its partners, AAA of Oregon/Idaho and the Oregon State Police, invite those who drive in Oregon to join the movement toward healthy driving at www.drivehealthy.org.

Screen capture. The homepage of Drive Healthy, ODOT’s campaign to reduce distracted driving.

The concept is simple. Groups of Oregonians band together to compete with others to see who can keep their phones locked while driving: school against school, Rotary Club against the Kiwanis, one church challenges another across town. The free app shows the top scorers in each category, plus an organization’s monthly score.

The campaign comes as the result of the recommendationsfrom a statewide task force convened in 2016. The task force recommended taking a positive approach to the problem.

Organizations can register on the competition Web site then download the app. Each month is a new opportunity to compete. Will it be effective? A recent, similar campaign inBoston reduced distracted driving by 47 percent.

The campaign also encourages local advocates to help reduce distracted driving in their communities.

For more information, visit www.drivehealthy.org.


Arizona Installs First Prefabricated Bridge

In March 2017, Arizona constructed the State’s first prefabricated bridge over the Sacramento Wash along historic Route 66. The at-grade wash encompasses a large watershed near Topock, AZ, and is notorious for flooding the highway.

The rural two-lane road flooded 33 days during a 2-year period, causing a 24-mile (39-kilometer) detour each time and costing motorists an estimated $33,000 a day.

Workers lower a section of Arizona’s first prefabricated bridge into place over the Sacramento Wash near Topock, AZ.
Workers lower a section of Arizona’s first prefabricated bridge into place over the Sacramento Wash near Topock, AZ.

To address the problem, Mohave County partnered with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to install a bridge over the wash to raise the road’s profile by 10 feet (3 meters). Design work began in February 2016 and construction started with bridge placement in March 2017. The 114-foot (35-meter) bridge was fabricated in Phoenix and transported in sections to the site nearly 4hours away.

Engineers planned for a 4-day (96-hour) road closure, but crews completed the project in 87 hours. A typical accelerated bridge replacement project often can be done faster, but because this was a new bridge, the contractor also had to construct the approaches. The actual bridge construction time was about 30 hours. Conventional bridge construction would have required an 11-week closure.




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