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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-21-002    Date:  Winter 2021
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-21-002
Issue No: Vol. 84 No. 4
Date: Winter 2021


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

USDOT Toolkit Supports Funding of Rural Transportation Projects

The U.S. Department of Transportation developed an applicant toolkit to provide guidance as part of the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) Initiative. This toolkit helps support rural transportation providers in identifying and navigating USDOT discretionary grant funding opportunities. The toolkit provides user-friendly information and resources to support rural applicants' understanding of USDOT discretionary grant programs, planning opportunities, programs, and funding processes.

A freight truck travels on a rural highway. © Flystock / Shutterstock.com.
Rural roadways are critical to the Nation's transportation network.

While one-fifth of Americans live in rural areas, 70 percent of the Nation's road miles are in rural areas, carrying nearly 50 percent of truck traffic. In addition, 44 percent of automobile travel on rural roads is done by metropolitan area citizens and rural traffic fatalities are disproportionately high, with a fatality rate twice that of urban areas. Further, of the Nation's bridges that are posted for weight limits, 90 percent are in rural areas.

The ROUTES Applicant Toolkit illustrates key applicant requirements when participating in the Department's discretionary grants processes. It also catalogues discretionary grant programs by applicant type and eligible project activities. Additionally, the toolkit provides resources for applicants to maximize the potential for award success. The toolkit is available at www.transportation.gov/rural/toolkit.

The ROUTES Initiative is coordinated across key modal administrations, including the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration. For more information, visit www.transportation.gov/rural.

USDOT Enhances Safety Band Website

In September 2020, USDOT launched updates to its Safety Band website with new interactive graphics and materials highlighting the importance of the 5.9 gigahertz (GHz) wireless spectrum in addressing State safety challenges across the country.

Established by the Federal Communications Commission in 1999, the Safety Band is a dedicated wireless spectrum at 5.9 GHz in use for transportation-related safety communications that enable secure, interoperable, connected, and automated ITS ecosystems.

These technologies use the interference-free Safety Band for high-precision, low-latency vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications among vehicles, traffic signals, roadside units, work zones, and even personal devices like smartphones. The technologies generate real-time alerts to prevent crashes, manage traffic flow, warn drivers about hazardous weather conditions, and adjust signals to give emergency vehicles priority in congested traffic. The innovative technologies using the Safety Band have the potential to dramatically improve transportation safety and mobility.

USDOT's enhanced Safety Band site provides detailed information about these lifesaving deployments via an interactive map and a State-by-State index. Users can explore the interactive map to view operational and planned locations across the country deploying V2X communications technologies. The State-by-State index of crash fatalities and related economic costs that could potentially be mitigated through deployment of technology using the Safety Band is available to download.

The Safety Band website also features fact sheets, reports, upcoming related events and announcements, and content from past events on the Safety Band. For more information, visit www.transportation.gov/content/safety-band.

FHWA Releases Updated Livability Fact Sheets

FHWA recently released updates to a series of fact sheets discussing how livability considerations during the transportation decisionmaking process can benefit communities. Through the Transportation and Livability resources available at www.fhwa.dot.gov/livability, FHWA provides support to State departments of transportation, regional planning agencies, Tribes, and other partners in both rural and urban settings.

Screen capture of the webpage for the "Transportation and Rural Livability" fact sheet. Source: FHWA.

The most recent updates focus on the topics of economic development, safety, and rural livability. The "Transportation and Economic Development" fact sheet discusses how targeted transportation investments can improve access to jobs, education, shopping, and goods movement through compact development, relocation decisions, and increased connectivity. "Transportation and Safety" promotes safer roads for all users, including strategies to combine safety and redevelopment, repurpose spaces, and create bike-friendly cities. Since rural communities vary widely, the "Transportation and Rural Livability" fact sheet focuses on providing transportation choices and connections to a broad audience through projects that enhance quality of life, improve safety for students, and create active transportation networks.

All of the livability fact sheets are available at www.fhwa.dot.gov/livability/fact_sheets.

PennDOT Launches Safety Citizens Program

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) recently launched its Safety Citizens program, which encourages community members to answer traffic safety questions in original and creative ways.

The program introduces bimonthly traffic safety topics and poses a question for the public to answer. Participants can respond by submitting a short video, a poem, or an original piece of artwork. PennDOT will display selected submissions on statewide social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

A teenager driving a vehicle with an adult in the passenger seat. © pixelheadphoto digitalskillet / Shutterstock.com.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's first Safety Citizens challenge asked what teen drivers should know before getting behind the wheel.

PennDOT aims to creatively inspire Pennsylvanians to practice safe behaviors on the road. Whether traveling by vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle, or on foot, everyone has the opportunity to be safer on the road. The agency encourages individuals, classes, families, clubs, or other groups to consider this new safety initiative as a program challenge.

The program kicked off in September 2020 with a focus on teen driver safety. PennDOT asked participants to respond to question, "What do you think every teen driver should know before getting behind the wheel?" Some of the featured responses are available at www.facebook.com/hashtag/safetyCitizens.

The topic for February 2021 will be highway safety.

For more information, visit www.PennDOT.gov/SafetyCitizens or email SafetyCitizens@pa.gov.

Technical News

ADOT Innovative System to Detect Wrong-Way Vehicles

Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is piloting a first-of-its-kind thermal camera system on I–17 in Phoenix to detect wrong-way vehicles. The pilot has proven the technology to be a reliable way to detect wrong-way vehicles, alert law enforcement, and warn other drivers to reduce the risk of crashes involving often-impaired wrong-way drivers. ADOT has already expanded use of the technology, with plans to do more as time and funding allow.

Compared to waiting for 911 calls from other drivers, the immediate alerts provided by thermal camera detections result in faster response times by law enforcement, a finding borne out by ADOT's assessment of the I–17 system. The report assessing the pilot project includes recommendations for ADOT to add components at urban and rural locations as funding becomes available.

An urban highway at night with an overhead, electronic changeable messaging sign that reads "Wrong-way driver ahead: Exit freeway." © Arizona Department of Transportation.
Overhead changeable message signs warn other drivers about wrong-way drivers on the freeway as part of Arizona's pilot project.

ADOT installed the detection technology and converted thermal cameras already used on traffic signals to send alerts to the Traffic Operations Center and the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) when wrong-way vehicles are detected. Since the system began operating in January 2018, it has detected more than 100 vehicles traveling the wrong way, mostly on exit ramps and frontage roads.

The alert system also features specialized internally illuminated wrong-way signs with flashing LED lights along I–17 off-ramps, designed to get the attention of a wrong-way driver. At the same time, the system immediately alerts AZDPS and ADOT, enabling law enforcement to respond immediately and ADOT to immediately alert other freeway drivers with "Wrong Way Driver/Ahead/Exit Freeway" warnings on overhead message boards.

In addition to installations completed and planned, ADOT is prepared to work with regional planners on adding wrong-way vehicle alert technology elsewhere as funding becomes available. The priority will be locations with the greatest incidence of wrong-way incursions.



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