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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-18-004    Date:  Summer 2018
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-18-004
Issue No: Vol. 82 No. 2
Date: Summer 2018


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

AASHTO Survey Shows State DOT Use of Drones

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials conducted a survey of State departments of transportation regarding the agencies’ use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones. The March 2018 survey found that 35 of 44 responding State DOTs (80 percent) are using UAS for a wide range of purposes.

Ohio DOT
Ohio DOT drone pilots prepare to inspect the Veteran's Glass City Skyway in Toledo in September 2017.INSERT IMAGE
Ohio DOT drone pilots prepare to inspect the Veteran's Glass City Skyway in Toledo in September 2017.

Twenty State agencies have incorporated drones into their daily operations. Another 15 State DOTs are in the research phase—testing drones to determine how they can be used. All State DOTs deploying drones follow the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 Rule for routine commercial use of small UAS, or the transportation agency has received a public Certificate of Waiver or Authorization from the FAA to conduct drone operations.

All 20 of the State DOTs operating drones on a daily basis are deploying them to gather photos and videos of highway construction projects. In addition to photography, 14 States also reported using them for surveying, 12 for public education and outreach, 10 for bridge inspections, 8 for emergency response, 6 for pavement inspections, 5 for scientific research, 2 for daily traffic control and monitoring, and 1 State DOT is using drones to conduct high-mast light pole inspections.

Of the 35 States deploying drones in some way, 23 have established comprehensive drone policies that cover the acquisition, operation, airspace restrictions, and training and permitting of drones and drone pilots. Twenty-seven State DOTs said they were adding full-time staff to operate and maintain their drone fleets.

AASHTO produced a companion video presenting the survey’s results. The AASHTO Transportation TV “Special Report: Building Highways in the Sky—State DOTs Leading the Evolution of Drones” is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0zrR_5ZyPU. The survey results are available at https://indd.adobe.com/view/12579497-56a5-4d8a-b8fe-e48c95630c99.


FHWA Offers Guidance for Pedestrian Crossings

Cover of the Guide for Improving Pedestrian Safety at Uncontrolled Crossing Locations.The Federal Highway Administration released a report that provides guidance for installing countermeasures at uncontrolled pedestrian crossings. FHWA produced the Guide for Improving Pedestrian Safety at Uncontrolled Crossing Locations (FHWA-SA-17-072) under the Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) program, part of the fourth round of FHWA’s Every Day Counts initiative. By focusing on uncontrolled crossing locations, agencies can address a significant national safety problem and improve quality of life for pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

Uncontrolled pedestrian crossing locations occur where sidewalks or designated walkways intersect a roadway at a location where no traffic control (traffic signal, stop sign) is present. These common crossing types occur at intersections (where they may be marked or unmarked) and at nonintersection or midblock locations (where they must be marked to establish a legal marked crosswalk). Overall, uncontrolled pedestrian crossing locations correspond to higher pedestrian crash rates, often because of inadequate pedestrian crossing accommodations.

The FHWA guide describes countermeasures such as crosswalk visibility enhancements, raised crosswalks, refuge islands, road diets, and pedestrian hybrid beacons and describes the benefits of each. The guide also includes best practices for identifying uncontrolled pedestrian crossing locations and installing countermeasures at these locations.

This guidance is aimed at State and local agencies considering policies for installing safety measures at pedestrian crossings. Agencies can use the guide to develop a customized policy or to supplement existing local decisionmaking guidelines.

For more information, see the full report at www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_4/guide_to_improve_uncontrolled_crossings.pdf.

Public Information and Information Exchange

Evaluating the Eco-Logical Program

In 2013, FHWA initiated an effort to evaluate the Research and Technology Program and communicate the full range of its benefits. As part of this evaluation effort, FHWA recently released FHWA Research and Technology Evaluation: Eco-Logical Final Report (FHWA-HRT-17-036). The Eco-Logical Grant Program offers an infrastructure development process to improve conservation and connectivity of ecosystems as well as predictability and transparency in project development.

The report examines outcomes associated with the program, including (1) the extent to which FHWA has enabled transportation agencies to adopt the Eco-Logical approach, (2) the manner in which transportation agencies have incorporated the approach into their business practices, and (3) the ways in which the Eco-Logical Program has contributed to improved project processes and environmental outcomes.

The evaluation team found that FHWA research and funding have enabled recipients to adopt the Eco-Logical approach sooner and more comprehensively than they otherwise would have been able to do. The approach has led to improved integrated planning between environment, transportation, and land use. In addition, many funding recipients have incorporated the Eco-Logical approach into their long-range transportation planning and project prioritization processes.

The report includes recommendations from the assessment team to continue to support and to expand the effectiveness of the program. Recommendations include implementing a set of consistent questions and tracking methods to evaluate the progress of funding recipient agencies from year to year. These improvements would help ensure that overall progress on the Eco-Logical approach can be measured objectively in the long term.

For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/randt/evaluations/17036/17036.pdf.

TRB Releases Snap Search Series

In January 2018, the Transportation Research Board released a new series of topical overviews called “Snap Search.” Produced by TRB’s Library, part of Transportation Research Information Services, Snap Searches are designed for the busy researcher or professional who would like to quickly get up to speed on complex research topics. Snap Searches provide a succinct summary of information and activities, including current and upcoming projects, upcoming conferences and webinars, names of committees working on relevant issues, and recent reports from TRB and The National Academies.

As of April 2018, 28 Snap Searches are available for a wide variety of topics, including administration and management, cybersecurity, connected and automated vehicles, geotechnology, project delivery, and rural transportation. Each topic includes a link to the Transport Research International Documentation (TRID) Database, automatically filtered to retrieve the most recent year of TRB publications and proposals. Each Snap Search is updated at least annually. The TRB Library can provide updates to existing Snap Searches or create new searches for TRB sponsors on request.

For more information, visit www.trb.org/Information​Services/Snap.aspx.


WSDOT Nears Completion of SR-99 Project

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is progressing with its Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program in Seattle. A double-deck highway now runs end to end inside the new SR–99 tunnel—in March 2018, the contractor installed the last of the 1,152 road panels that together form the lower (northbound) roadway.

Photo. Workers use a small concrete truck inside the tunnel.
Contractors work to complete the walls of the upper (southbound) roadway in the SR–99 tunnel in February 2018.

Crews are installing and testing the tunnel’s operational and safety systems. Inside the tunnel are more than 300 cameras to monitor traffic and security at all times as part of an incident-detection system. The tunnel is outfitted with automatic ventilation systems to keep air quality and visibility high and automated sprinkler systems to put out a fire quickly at its source. These systems will make the SR–99 tunnel one of the “smartest” tunnels ever built.

WSDOT has produced “One Smart Tunnel,” a video to explain how the critical operational and safety systems work together.

The SR–99 tunnel has approximately 95 miles (153 kilometers, km) of electrical wiring, 21 miles (34 km) of sprinkler pipes, 15 miles (24 km) of lights, 13 miles (21 km) of fiber-optic cables, and 8 miles (13 km) of linear heat detectors. Seattle Tunnel Partners will test thousands of components that make up the systems at least three times.

After the systems are all certified, WSDOT will realign SR–99 and build the final ramp connections to and from the tunnel. WSDOT estimates the tunnel may open to traffic as early as this fall. After the tunnel opens to drivers, work will begin to demolish the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

For more information and to view the “One Smart Tunnel” video, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Viaduct/library/advisories-and-updates/the-roads-are-installed.




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