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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations
This magazine is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information.
|Publication Number: Date: May/June 1999|
Issue No: Vol. 62 No. 6
Date: May/June 1999
"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 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let's meet along the road.
Policy and Legislation
FHWA Grant Finalists Announced
FHWA designated 49 proposals as finalists for funding under the Transportation and Community and System Preservation (TCSP) Pilot Program that was created by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). The proposals, totaling $27.7 million, were submitted from 31 states and the District of Columbia.
Funding for the TCSP program is authorized at $20 million in fiscal year (FY) 1999. As part of the Sustainable Communities Initiative announced Jan. 11 by President Clinton and Vice President Gore, the administration has proposed to increase the contract authority for this program to $50 million in FY 2000.
The TCSP program was established under section 1221 of TEA-21. The program distributes grants to fund research that will examine relationships between transportation and community and system preservation, and initiatives based in the private sector. States, local governments, and metropolitan planning organizations are eligible for these discretionary grants.
The following states and localities are finalists for receiving funds:
FHWA Provides Funds for Safety Enforcement
FHWA awarded a $100,000 grant to the Virginia Department of Public Safety Division of State Police to enhance safety enforcement efforts on Route 15 in Loudoun County, Va., northwest of Washington, D.C.
The section of Route 15 between Interstate 66 (near Haymarket, Va.) north to Route 7 (near Leesburg, Va.) is narrow with no should space to allow officers to conduct safety enforcement activities at the roadside. The Virginia Department of Transportation is planning roadway improvements along that corridor. While roadway engineers plan changes, motorists on Route 15 will benefit from increased police presence in that area.
Management and Administration
FHWA Reports Road Construction Costs for Fourth Quarter of 1998
FHWA announced that highway construction costs decreased 3.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 1998 compared to the third quarter of 1998 and 4.9 percent compared to the fourth quarter a year ago.
The fourth quarter results lowered FHWA's composite index for highway construction costs to 131.4 percent of the 1987 base index (1987 average costs equal 100 percent).
A decrease in the unit prices for bituminous concrete, common excavation, and structural steel lowered the index in the fourth quarter. The unit prices for portland cement concrete (PCC), structural concrete, and reinforcing steel increased.
The three-quarter moving composite price index for the third quarter of 1998 obtained by combining data for the first three quarters of 1998 increased 3.8 percent from the previous three-quarter average.
Trends in highway construction costs are measured by an index of average contract prices compiled from reports of state highway contract awards for federal-aid contracts greater than $500,000.
VE Fosters Record Highway Construction Savings in FY 1998
State highway and transportation departments saved taxpayers a record $750 million in FY 1998. These savings are a direct result of FHWA implementing a review process called value engineering (VE) for federally funded highway projects .
VE involves FHWA working with state and local governments to review the features of a highway project and analyze options for better and less expensive ways of completing the project. The program is designed to improve project quality and eliminate unnecessary and costly design elements. States may conduct the reviews in-house or through the use of consultants.
In FY 1998, 421 VE studies were completed. Based on these studies, 735 alternatives and recommendations were approved, resulting in a cost savings of more than $750 million, the largest in the program's history and a 47-percent increase over FY 1997 savings. State DOTs spent $6.23 million to administer their VE programs for a return of $121 for every dollar spent.
FHWA Awards SCSU $1.5 Million
FHWA awarded South Carolina State University (SCSU) $1.5 million to administer FHWA's National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI).
SCSU will establish a National Resource Center to provide guidance, training, and technical support for colleges and universities participating in the NSTI program. Summer transportation institutes allow students the opportunity to consider careers in the field of transportation.
Colleges and universities that host the institutes provide housing and instructors for each session. Approximately 1,300 students participated in the pilot institutes that were held at a variety of Minority Institutions of Higher Education throughout the United States. Up to 35 schools will be selected throughout the nation to host on-campus institutes this summer.
This grant formally establishes NSTI, which concluded its five-year pilot in 1998.
Researcher at FHWA Receives Patent
Dr. Mohammed Memon, a research chemist at FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Va., received a patent for inventing a process that improves the reactivity, separation, and rheological properties of crumb-rubber modified asphalt.
The new process involves treating crumb rubber particles with a carbonium ion-generating material that enhances the production of carboxylic sites. Pavements made with the newly patented process can withstand a wider range of temperatures and have fewer pavement-performance problems, thereby, producing high-performance pavements that bring about a considerable cost savings to the pavement industry. FHWA Researchers Develop Standard Test Method
The Concrete Team of the Special Projects and Engineering Division at FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center has developed a standard test method and equipment with which to determine the thermal coefficient of expansion (T-coeff) of portland cement concrete.
The T-coeff of PCC, the rate at which concrete contracts and expands as temperature changes, is a critical element in pavement design. However, it is normally represented as an average value rather than a mixture-specific one. This may lead to erroneous assumptions about a pavement's thermal response and possible distress, since the value for the T-coeff can vary significantly with the mixture proportions and type of aggregate used. This new test method requires that both specimen and measurement frame be placed in a water bath to allow for constant monitoring of the specimen length and for water to be used as a heating or cooling medium.
The test has been submitted to American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) for approval.
Public Information and Information Exchange
United States and Canada Reach Agreement on Commercial Driver Requirements
The United States and Canada agreed that the medical fitness requirements of the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and the Canadian National Safety Code are equivalent. This agreement will facilitate the free flow of highway commerce under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The two countries have agreed to adopt an international licensing code, which will be displayed on the license and on the driver's driving record, to identify commercial drivers who are not qualified to operate outside the borders of their country. Canada and the United States will recognize the Canadian commercial driver's license as proof of medical fitness to drive, thereby eliminating the requirement for Canadian drivers to obtain a U.S. medical examiner's certificate. However, Canadian drivers who are insulin-using diabetics, are hearing-impaired, or have epilepsy will not be permitted to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in the United States because U.S. regulations prohibit those drivers from operating CMVs in the United States. The agreement will take effect March 30, 1999.
Seat-Belt Use at Record High
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a series of tracking surveys in 1998 to judge progress in seat-belt use over the year. The survey revealed that an estimated 19 million more Americans began using seat belts in 1998, bringing the nation's seat-belt use to a record high level.
Between May and December of 1998, seat-belt use rose from 62.2 percent to 70.1 percent nationwide, the highest use rate ever. The surveys measured seat-belt use of drivers and passengers in all types of vehicles, unlike earlier state surveys that have traditionally been used to calculate national seat-belt use averages.
Starting this year, states will be using uniform, scientifically based survey methods that should provide more accurate assessment of seat-belt use nationwide.
The rise in seat-belt use is attributed to tougher enforcement, stricter laws, education and public service campaigns, and the efforts of public and private partners.
FHWA to Change HPMS
Plans for Woodrow Wilson Bridge Unsettled
FHWA Administrator Kenneth R. Wykle and Alexandria, Va., Mayor Kerry J. Donley signed a settlement agreement March 1 on the proposed Woodrow Wilson Bridge project. As part of a compromise with the city of Alexandria, U.S. DOT agreed to initially design the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge for 10 lanes, potentially expanding to 12 lanes. Although the city dismissed its lawsuit against U.S. DOT, Alexandria community activists continued to pursue legal action against DOT, taking the matter to a federal court. On April 15, U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin issued a ruling blocking construction of the bridge project until further environmental review is done, leaving the status of the bridge project unsettled.
The Woodrow Wilson Bridge is the only federally owned bridge on the Interstate system. It is a critical link in the transportation network of Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas and carries traffic from Interstate 95, one of the nation's most heavily traveled highways.
BTS and TRB Sign Memorandum of Understanding
The U.S. DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) and the Transportation Research Board (TRB) signed a memorandum of understanding to develop, test, and implement a fully searchable, Web-based version of the Transportation Research Information Service (TRIS) and to integrate it with the National Transportation Library (NTL) developed by BTS.
The existing TRIS database consists of about 500,000 records and is expected to be accessible on the Internet later this year. Nearly 70 percent of the government reports listed in the database are expected to become available within three years for downloading or through e-mail requests. The database, to be known as TRIS Online, will allow users to share in-progress research information.
TRIS, the world's largest transportation bibliographic database, has been under development by TRB for the last 30 years. TRIS Online will continue to be produced by TRB. BTS will publish the database on the Internet as a component of NTL and will have full text links to TRB, AASHTO, and Transportation Officials and other transportation resources.
The information will be available to both industry specialists and to the public. The NTL may be accessed on the Internet at www.ntl.bts.gov. BTS also has a statistical information hotline at (800) 853-1351.
Eisenberg Named Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy
Albert C. Eisenberg was appointed deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy at U.S. DOT. Eisenberg was a four-term member and four-time chairman of the Arlington (Va.) County Board and has served on regional panels working to address transportation needs throughout the Washington, D.C. area.
He chaired the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Northern Virginia Planning District Commission and served as Arlington County's representative on the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, which is the Washington area's metropolitan planning organization.
In addition, Eisenberg was chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government's Public Safety Policy and Metropolitan Development Policy Committees. He has also served as a commissioner of the Virginia Housing Development Authority, the state's bond finance agency for housing construction.
He was director of federal legislative affairs for the American Institute of Architects and deputy director of conservation policy at the National Parks and Conservation Association.
Eisenberg received a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Richmond, and a master's degree in education from Hampton University.
FHWA's S.C. State Director Receives Trailblazer Award
FHWA's South Carolina State Director for the Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety Curtis L. Thomas was honored as a Trailblazer at the African-American History Month celebration held Feb. 25, 1999, in Washington, D.C. Thomas is the first African-American to serve as an FHWA state director. As an FHWA state director, Thomas works in partnership with other federal, state, and local agencies, academia, and industry to administer a comprehensive surface transportation program. He enforces federal truck, bus, and hazardous materials safety standards for the state of South Carolina.
The Trailblazer Award is given each year by the Garrett A. Morgan Association, an employee organization of FHWA, to a U.S. Department of Transportation employee who actively supports diversity and who fosters better communication between minority and non-minority employees.
McMurray Is Head of NHTSA Traffic Safety Programs
Rose A. McMurray was appointed associate administrator for traffic safety programs for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Jan. 26, 1999. This position provides national leadership and technical assistance to the motoring public, states, local communities, public and private organizations, and other federal agencies.
She held senior leadership positions in the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), including a one-year assignment as the acting administrator of the agency in 1993. In 1996, she left RSPA to assume the position of director of the Office of Motor Carrier Safety and Technology at FHWA. She has been in that position until this recent appointment.
McMurray is a graduate of West Virginia University.
Spangler Elected Chairman of NAPA
John S. Spangler, Chairman of Milestone Contractors, L.P., in Columbus, Ind.,was elected chairman of the board of the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) for 1999. Spangler was first vice chairman of NAPA in 1998 and served as chairman of the membership steering committee in 1998. He also represented the state of Indiana on the NAPA board of directors on twoseparate occasions, 1983-1989 and 1993-1994.
Spangler is a registered professional engineer.
Bowen Selected Division Administrator
J. Michael Bowen was selected as division administrator for Bismarck, N.D. Bowen currently serves as the assistant division administrator/program manager in Cheyenne, Wyo. He has held other FHWA positions, including district engineer and senior area engineer. He holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering.
National ITS Architecture for Deployment Workshop Offered
U.S. DOT is sponsoring a free, three-day workshop for transportation professionals entitled "Using the National ITS Architecture for Deployment." This workshop discusses the role architecture plays in the systems engineering process, what differences there are between logical and physical architecture, what role standards play to support interoperability, and how to use the architecture to solve local and regional problems. The workshop will be held at U.S. DOT headquarters in Washington, D.C. on May 11-13, June 8-10, and July 13-15, 1999. For more information, contact Lee Simmons, ITS Joint Program Office, (202) 366-8048.
The Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS), a national database that provides critical information about the nation's highways to FHWA and states, will undergo improvements that will reduce reporting requirements for states, add to the quality of information on the nation's infrastructure, and make the data easier to obtain.
HPMS was establish in 1978, which replaced uncoordinated annual state data reports and biennial special studies conducted by each state. Over the last two decades, HPMS has been modified several times to meet changing requirements.
FHWA has reduced the data items to help ease data reporting by the states. At the same time, FHWA will provide states with PC-based data submittal software and is developing Internet access to the HPMS data.