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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-20-001    Date:  Autumn 2019
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-20-001
Issue No: Vol. 83 No. 3
Date: Autumn 2019


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 sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let's meet along the road.

Public Information and Information Exchange

Federal Grants Help Modernize 911 Services

In August 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Commerce announced more than $109 million in grants to 34 States and 2 Tribal nations as part of the 911 Grant Program. The grants will help 911 call centers upgrade to Next Generation 911 (NG911) capabilities.

The funding will power basic improvements such as providing digital and network capabilities to 911 emergency call centers and will assist implementation of advanced mapping systems that will make it easier to identify a 911 caller's location. NG911 will help 911 call centers manage call overload, as call takers will be able to transfer calls, messages, and data between interconnected, networked public safety answering points. The 911 Grant Program also provides funding for training costs directly related to NG911 implementation.

The program made grants available to States, territories, Tribal nations, and the District of Columbia, provided that they successfully submitted a State 911 plan and project budget, designated a 911 coordinator, and certified that they did not use funds designated for 911 systems for other purposes in the past 180 days. The complete list of grant recipients is available at www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/departments-commerce-and-transportation-announce-109-million-grants-modernize-911.

The 911 Grant Program is jointly administered by the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

For more information, visit 911.gov and www.ntia.doc.gov/category/next-generation-911.

USDOT Selects Two New University Transportation Centers

USDOT recently announced $15 million in grants to two new national University Transportation Centers (UTCs) to advance research and education programs that address critical transportation challenges facing the Nation. The University of South Florida and Washington State University will each receive $7.5 million.

"These investments in transportation research will help address our country's congestion and durability challenges," says U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

USDOT received 51 competitive grant applications for the two new national UTCs. The centers will help develop answers to two key problems facing U.S. drivers: congestion and deteriorating infrastructure. The University of South Florida will focus on "Congestion Relief," and Washington State University will focus on "Improving the Durability and Extending the Life of Transportation Infrastructure."

UTCs advance U.S. technology and expertise in transportation's many modes and disciplines, and address workforce needs for the next generation of transportation leaders.

For more information, visit www.transportation.gov/utc/fast-act-utc-grantees.

Colorado DOT Unveils Truck Safety Program for Mountainous Driving

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) recently launched a safety program geared toward truckers who travel over mountainous terrain.

The Mountain Rules, launched in August 2019, is a safety initiative meant to educate trucking companies and drivers about the challenges of driving through mountainous areas. The program is a partnership among CDOT, the Colorado State Patrol, the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, and driver alert providers PrePass Safety Alliance and Drivewyze.

Traffic, including trucks, on a segment of Interstate 70 in Colorado. Source: CDOT
CDOT will implement the pilot program for the Mountain Rules on I–70.

CDOT established the partnership after recent runaway truck incidents resulted in fatalities. Colorado's high elevation, topography, and severe weather can present challenges for drivers, especially those maneuvering trucks. Long and heavy vehicles moving along a mountain corridor can sometimes experience brake failure.

The Mountain Rules will involve infrastructure and operational improvements, including signage displaying brake check locations along a portion of eastbound I–70, the primary east-west route in Colorado. CDOT will restripe an exit ramp at the Genesee Park interchange off I–70 and turn the space into a short-term truck parking area so that drivers can allow their overheated brakes to cool and also perform equipment checks before entering the Denver area.

The program also will create a subscription-based, in-cab alert system that will warn truckers about specific areas where there are steep grades and provide locations for brake check areas and runaway truck ramps. Runaway truck ramps alongside highways are meant to give drivers a place to slow down when a vehicle loses its brakes while traveling downhill at a high speed. The Mountain Rules will gather information on the feasibility of new ramps and measures to mitigate runaway trucks.

The initial pilot for the program will take place on the I–70 Mountain Corridor, which stretches between Glenwood Springs and the Denver metropolitan area. CDOT plans to expand the program to other mountainous locations.

PennDOT Innovations Challenge Combats Roadway Litter

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently announced that students in grades 9 through 12 are invited to participate in the third PennDOT Innovations Challenge. The annual program encourages students to use their problem-solving, creative, and strategic-thinking abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges in a competition among their peers.

This year's Innovations Challenge asks students to look at cost-effective technologies and innovative solutions that can be developed in the next 5 to 10 years to help PennDOT more efficiently, effectively, and safely control litter along roadways. Last year, PennDOT spent nearly $13 million cleaning up roadside litter across Pennsylvania.

Regional Innovations Challenge winners will be invited to compete in Harrisburg for the State championship. This year, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Traffic Safety Services Association and the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful organization are providing a combined total award of $3,000 to be divided among the first-, second-, and third-place statewide winning teams. The deadline for submissions is December 20, 2019.

For more information, visit www.penndot.gov/innovation.

A group of men and women including U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao pose during the Americas Transportation Summit.  Source: USDOT
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, center, is joined by representatives from 19 Latin American and Caribbean countries at the first-ever Americas Transportation Summit in June 2019.

Secretary Chao Co-hosts First Americas Transportation Summit

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao co-hosted the first-ever Americas Transportation Summit with Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) President Luis Alberto Moreno in Washington, DC. The summit brought together delegations from 19 Latin American and Caribbean countries, including 9 Transport Ministers. The summit discussed visionary leadership to safely integrate innovation in transportation.

The Americas Transportation Summit engages both the public and private sectors in exploring innovative practices to advance competitive, safe, and secure transportation services. The event gathered ministerial authorities from the region's transport sector, recognized international experts, and representatives of the private sector.

At the summit, Secretary Chao spoke with Latin American and Caribbean Ministers of Transport about the Department's number one priority-safety-along with infrastructure improvements, investments, and emerging technology such as unmanned aerial systems (drones), autonomous (self-driving) vehicles, and commercial space. The leaders shared and exchanged information and best practices to address common transportation challenges. The historic summit was the first-ever meeting between these Ministers of Transport, IDB, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

To read Secretary Chao's remarks from the summit, visit www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/remarks-americas-transportation-summit.

A small pile of trash on the side of a highway. © Vitali Chesnokov / Shutterstock.com
This year's PennDOT Innovation Challenge asks students to find innovative solutions to the problem of litter on roadways.


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