Skip to contentUnited States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration FHWA Home
Research Home
Public Roads
Featuring developments in Federal highway policies, programs, and research and technology.
This magazine is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information.
Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 63· No. 3 > Along the Road

Nov/Dec 1999
Vol. 63· No. 3

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 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let's meet along the road.

Policy and Legislation

Senate Passes National 911 Access Bill

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999 (S. 800) on August 5. The bill designates 9-1-1 as the universal number for all emergency calls. S.800 emphasizes the importance of having a coordinated and integrated transportation system – a system in which emergency communications and services are integrated with traffic control and traffic management systems.

The bill also leads the way for the eventual creation of a communications infrastructure, such as Automatic Crash Notification (ACN), which would provide an automatic signal to emergency service providers when a vehicle is involved in a crash.

–ITS America

Management and Administration

Highway Construction Costs Increase

FHWA announced that highway construction costs increased 9.7 percent in the second quarter of 1999 compared to the last quarter of 1998, and increased 14.2 percent compared to the second quarter a year ago.

The second quarter results raised FHWA's composite index for highway construction costs to 143.4 percent of the 1987 base index (1987 average costs are equal to 100 percent).

The index was raised in the second quarter because of increases in the unit prices for bituminous concrete, reinforcing steel, common excavation, portland cement concrete, and structural concrete. The unit price for structural steel was lower for the second-quarter index.

Technical News

NDE Validation Center Tests Reliability of Bridge Inspections

FHWA's Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) Validation Center, the only facility in the world dedicated to the development and validation of NDE technologies for highway infrastructure, is conducting a comprehensive study to determine the reliability of bridge inspections. The goal of the study is to determine the reliability of normal bridge inspections and identify factors that affect that reliability. The study will evaluate the impact of human factors, training, experience, and the environment on inspection results.

NDE Test Bridge photo gallery.
FHWA's Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) Laboratory is studying the reliability of bridge inspections. Inspection teams that participate in the study travel to seven test bridges located in Virginia and Pennsylvania. These test bridges are pictured here, at the entrance to the NDE Lab.

Inspection teams that participate in the study travel to FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, in McLean, Va., to undergo a battery of tests, which includes inspecting the Validation Center. s seven test bridges, completing physical and psychological profiles, and testing the participant's vision.

Participating teams undergo a rigorous two-and-a-half day evaluation, which includes a laboratory briefing, vision testing, and the inspection of both concrete and steel bridges under a variety of conditions. Each team inspects the same set of test bridges located in Virginia and Pennsylvania. More than 15 states have already participated in the testing process.

The NDE Validation Center is designed to be a resource for state transportation agencies, industry, and academia concerned with research and development of new NDE technologies. For more information on the center and current research efforts, contact Glenn Washer at (202) 493-3082.

Kentucky Adopts Use of HPC

After nearly two-and-a-half years of research and development, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has adopted high-performance concrete (HPC) as the standard concrete for bridge decks. Kentucky's HPC, know as Class AAA, is also being used in prestressed concrete beams.

The cementitious content per cubic meter consists of 74 percent cement (300 kg), 20 percent flyash (81 kg), and 6 percent silica fume (24 kg).

Smart Concrete Could Eliminate Weigh Stations

Engineers at the State University of New York at Buffalo have developed "smart concrete" – a concrete similar to normal concrete except for one difference: it is reinforced with short carbon fibers. These fibers produce electrical resistance charges in response to strain and stress. These shifts in resistance are directly proportional to changes in the concrete's load. The fibers within the concrete allow the concrete to act as a sensor.

The concrete must contain 8.5 percent carbon per volume of concrete to act as a detector. Tests have shown that the smart concrete can measure loads as light as 29 pounds per square inch (199.96 kPa).

Developed and patented by Deborah D.L. Chung, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, smart concrete would cost about 89 percent more than conventional concrete. However, the smart concrete is still significantly less expensive than the cost of embedding freestanding sensors into roadways – a procedure already in use on some highways.

– ITS America/Business Week

Public Information and Information Exchange

FHWA Publishes Study on European Traffic Control Practices

FHWA's report, Innovative Traffic Control Technology and Practices in Europe, is a product of an international technology scanning tour conducted in May 1998. The study describes successful traffic control practices used in several European countries. These traffic control practices, if applied in the United States, could help make U.S. streets and highways safer and more efficient.

Innovative Traffic Control Technology and Practices in Europe.
Some European traffic-control practices could prove to be effective in the United States. This report outlines some practices used abroad that engineers could implement here.

A team of 10 American traffic engineers traveled to France, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom as part of FHWA's International Technology Exchange Program. Team members represented federal, state, and local governments, as well as two private research organizations. FHWA, the Transportation Research Board (TRB), and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) sponsored the tour.

Members of the teams noted that devices and practices, such as specific freeway pavement markings, variable speed control, and intelligent speed adaption, were recommended for further study for use in the United States.

FHWA Creates New Awards for Engineers

FHWA created two new awards for FHWA engineers and their engineering achievements: the Engineering Achievement Award (Award for Engineering Excellence) and the Partnership for Excellence Award. These awards recognize the contributions of engineers to the safe and efficient movement of people and goods in the United States.

FHWA will present up to three awards for Engineering Excellence. This award recognizes outstanding engineering achievements by FHWA engineers or teams. One of the three winners will be designated as FWHA "Engineer of the Year".

The Partnership in Excellence Award recognizes the grassroots efforts of teams and groups that help support FHWA's strategic goals.

Each award winner will receive $1,000 and will be recognized at the "DOT Engineers Week" ceremony to be held in Washington, D.C., in February 2000.

LTAP Trains More Than 140,000 Personnel in 1998

In 1998, local and tribal transportation agencies participated in a total of 6,750 training events sponsored by FHWA's Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) – FHWA's program that provides training and technical assistance to local and tribal transportation agencies.

The 57 LTAP centers provided 65,689 hours of instruction to 140,058 participants. In addition to providing instruction, LTAP centers provide technical materials, reports, videos, and computer software to local and tribal government transportation agencies.

LTAP centers offer training in a number of different formats, including workshops, roadshows, demonstrations, computer-based instruction, distance learning (teleconferences), and conferences.

FHWA Award Recognizes Excellence in Sharing Technology With the Public

FHWA has developed a new award to recognize those state DOTs that create outstanding projects that present the benefits of transportation technology to the public. The award was presented at this year's National Transportation Public Affairs Workshop (NTPAW) held in Alexandria, Va. The "Technology Award" was presented to Utah DOT in recognition of their CommuterLink program, a public relations effort that introduced Utah's intelligent transportation system program to the public.

The Technology Award recognizes those who do an outstanding job promoting and communicating the use of technology in transportation and supporting technology transfer nationwide.

The NTPAW conference is held each summer and is sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Subcommittee on Public Affairs. The conference provides a national forum for communications professionals to exchange information about transportation issues and programs of mutual interest. The workshop serves as an annual focal point for coordination of national public affairs and community outreach campaigns. Notable examples include the Adopt-A-Highway program initiated at Texas DOT and the work-zone safety campaign, "Give 'em a Brake," originated at California DOT. Next year's NTPAW conference will be held in Michigan.

FHWA Proposes New Requirement for Small Bus Safety

FHWA proposed new rules that would require businesses involved in interstate commerce operating small buses or vans to complete a motor carrier identification report. The rule would apply to vans or buses designed or used to transport nine to 15 passengers, including the driver. Through the report, FHWA could determine the number of companies currently in operation, the number of drivers employed, and the number of vehicles operated. It also would require these companies to mark their vehicles with identification numbers assigned by FHWA and to maintain records on crashes.

The interim final rule and notice of proposed rulemaking are available in the U.S. DOT's docket (docket numbers FHWA-1997-2858 and FHWA-1999-5710). Notices and comments on the proposals can be found online at http://dms.dot.gov.

Rate of Alcohol-Related Crashes Declines

Alcohol-related traffic fatalities dropped slightly according to U.S. DOT data. Alcohol-related fatalities dropped from 16,189 in 1997 to 15,935 in 1998. Those 15,935 deaths accounted for 38.4 percent of the traffic fatalities in 1998. The total number of traffic deaths also declined 1.3 percent in 1998. Fatalities dropped from 42,013 in 1997 to 41,471 in 1998.

USC Receives Federal Grant for Transportation Research

The Research and Special Programs Administration granted $262,200 to the University of Southern California (USC) to operate a university-based center of excellence in transportation on the campuses of USC and the California State University at Long Beach.

The grant supports the National Center for Metropolitan Transportation Research (METRANS), established last year under a similar grant. METRANS is one of 33 university transportation centers (UTCs) granted funds by U.S. DOT. The UTCs include more than 80 schools throughout the United States. All of the centers conduct combined programs of research, education, and technology transfer activities.

Houston METRO and Partners Celebrate MAP's 10 Years

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Texas (METRO) has partnered with the Harris County Sheriff's Department, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the Houston Automobile Dealers Association, and the Houston Cellular Telephone Company to renew the Motorist Assistance Program (MAP). MAP, which offers free services to stranded drivers along Harris County's major freeways, has assisted more than 400,000 people with crashes, flat tires, and broken-down vehicles throughout its 10-year history.

MAP has played a critical role in reducing traffic congestion caused by minor accidents, which can cause significant delays along area highways'sixty percent of congestion in the Houston region is attributed to those types of incidents.

– METRO

Free Software Available for Assessing ITS Benefits at Weigh Stations

FHWA's Joint Program Office, FWHA's Office of Freight Management and Operations, and Mitretek Systems have developed the Westa (Weight Station) computer simulation model. The Westa model simulates and reports the benefits of ITS strategies at weight and safety inspection stations, at customs inspection facilities at border crossings, and at toll collection facilities. Those interested can download the Westa software for PCs, sample data files, and the program documentation at no charge by visiting http://www.nawgits.com/jpo/westa.html.

– ITS America

Results of Red-Light Running Survey Released

A survey sponsored by FHWA, the American Trauma Society (ATS) and DaimlerChrysler Corporation revealed that 98 percent of Americans agree that red-light running is dangerous, but more than half of those surveyed admit deliberately running red lights because they are in hurry.

Drivers who run red lights are involved in 89,000 crashes a year, causing nearly 1,000 deaths. Of those surveyed, 55.8 percent of the respondents admitted to running red lights.

The poll was conducted by the Social Science Research Center at Old Dominion University. The study involved 880 licensed drivers ages 18 and older. It was conducted on behalf of the Stop Red-Light Running program. For more information, visit FHWA's Web site http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection/redlight/outreach/.

FHWA Hotline Hours Expanded

FHWA has expanded the hours of its toll-free hotline for reporting violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The hotline (1-888-DOT-SAFT) is now being answered between 6 a.m. and 12 a.m. (EST), seven days a week.

The hotline was prescribed in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and became operational in September 1998.

FHWA and WVU Sign Cooperative Agreement

FHWA and West Virginia University have signed a cooperative agreement, which was executed under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st (TEA-21), to conduct a study on the development and deployment of second generation fiber-reinforced polymer composites applied to concrete pavements. FHWA will contribute $600,000 and WVU will supply $150,400.

U.S. DOT Announces Incentive Grants

DOT has awarded incentive grants totaling $42.75 million to states for implementing strict programs to combat drunk driving and to increase the use of seat belts and child restraints.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that approximately 41,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes each year. The agency estimates that 10,750 lives are saved annually when motorists use seatbelts and another 312 lives are saved when child restraints are used. Alcohol was involved in 38.4 percent of traffic fatalities in 1998.

These grants support programs that will encourage motorists to use seat belts and child restraints, and deter motorists from driving drunk, thereby reducing the number of fatal crashes.

For a state-by-state list of grant recipients, visit the DOT public affairs Web site.

DOT Announces Critical Standards for ITS

U.S. DOT identified 17 standards as critical to the smooth operation of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) throughout the United States. More than 100 standards have been identified so far for ITS, based on the national ITS architecture. which was developed under DOT's sponsorship . and provides a framework for integrated ITS. These standards establish a common language for ITS components to communicate with one another.

The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) requires DOT to identify which ITS standards are critical and to have those critical standards in place by January 2001. The law provides that provisional standards will be established for any identified critical standard that cannot be developed or approved by that time. FHWA. s ITS Joint Program Office estimates that the most critical standards will be completed before the deadline. A report listing the critical standards is available online at http://www.ITS.dot.gov.

Clean Air Web Site Available

FHWA, FTA, and the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Mobile Sources have launched a new Web site, through the public service campaign, . It All Adds Up to Cleaner Air.. The campaign is designed to teach drivers how to make a positive impact on traffic congestion and air quality. The site contains the scripts of the television and radio public service announcements, print advertisements, media and community outreach materials, and contact information associated with the campaign. The site's address is http://www.epa.gov/.

FHWA, Mexican University Establish Technology Transfer Center

FHWA and the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon in Mexico have joined to open the Nuevo Leon Technology Transfer Center. The center will offer training in highway infrastructure to transportation professionals and technicians in Mexico and the United States. This training will improve safety and the flow of commerce along our borders.

The center will be in the university. s College of Civil Engineering, which is located in Monterrey in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. FHWA and the university will provide instructors and equipment for the center. The courses, which are available to transportation professionals and technicians, include the latest methods and technologies for highway planning, design, and construction.

FHWA will provide support to other technology transfer centers expected to be established in California and in other locations in Mexico, such as Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, and Coahuila.

Convicted Illinois Firm, Individuals Excluded From Highway Projects

FHWA has permanently excluded six Illinois companies and individuals from federally funded highway construction projects. This is the first time FHWA has used the voluntary exclusion mechanism and the first time a company or individual has been permanently barred from participating in federally funded highway projects.

Palumbo Bros., Inc.; Monarch Asphalt Co., Inc.; and Orange Crush Recycle Company, Inc. were convicted in U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois of racketeering and mail fraud. They falsified weight tickets for materials never used during highway construction. Peter Palumbo and sons, Joseph and Sebastian Palumbo, were convicted of filing false documents under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which contained falsely understated hours worked by employees and of submitting reduced payments on behalf of the employees to union health and pension funds. These companies and individuals are permanently excluded from participating in any manner in federally funded highway projects, including construction, maintenance, oversight, and provision of materials.

ISTHA Uses NTCIP to Operate Variable Message Signs

The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority (ISTHA) is the first transportation agency to operate variable message signs (VMS) using National Transportation Communications and ITS Protocol (NTCIP) Class B. NTCIP is emerging as the industry standard for telecommunication between traffic management centers and field devices such as traffic signals, detectors, VMS, and environmental sensors.

ISTHA will add 14 new VMS to the eight they currently have. All will share NTCIP-based control.

– ITS America

Flying Car Prototype Developed

Moller International of Davis, Calif., has developed a prototype Skycar . a vertical take-off-and-landing vehicle that can travel on roadways and then take to the air. The M400 Skycar, the result of more than 30 years of research, is planned to be unveiled at the end of this year.

The passenger vehicle sits between four engine cases and has a glass dome to provide a view of the sky and landscape. The four-seat model can carry a maximum payload of 740 lbs (335.7 kg), have a range of up to 900 miles (1448 km), and get roughly 15 miles-per-gallon, using regular automotive fuel. The cost for the Skycar is estimated at $1 million, but with increased production, the price could fall to $60,000. Flight tests were scheduled to begin Sept. 1999.

For more information visit Moller International's Web site: http://www.moller.com/skycar.

– Reuters

TxDOT Develops Program to Reduce School Zone Traffic Problems

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Dallas District developed a pilot program called . Precious Cargo,. which will allow TxDOT staff, when asked by local school districts, to review site plans of future school facilities and to recommend improvements to traffic safety and efficiency in a school zone . before a problem ever occurs. The program also proposes that school districts partner with the community to complete unbudgeted road improvements. The community would provide materials, while TxDOT would supply equipment and labor.

The program will be available to all schools experiencing traffic problems within the Dallas District's seven-county area. Though Precious Cargo is geared primarily toward public schools, private schools located along state highways are also welcome to contact TxDOT for traffic planning assistance.

For more information contact Mark Ball, public information officer, TxDOT Dallas District at (214) 320-4480.

– TxDOT

Personnel

FHWA Official Receives National Environmental Award

Eugene Cleckley, the director of FHWA's Southern Resource Center in Atlanta, received the 1999 National Environmental Quality Award from the Natural Resource Council of America, a non-advocacy membership organization comprised of environmental and conservation groups.

Cleckley, who has worked at FHWA for 26 years, initiated a conference to develop a blueprint for transportation decision-making, which integrates planning and decision-making with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

In addition, he developed the . Red Book,. a document used by FHWA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the NEPA process and other environmental reviews for highway projects that require permits under the Clean Water Act.

Cleckley was named director of the Southern Resource Center in Atlanta in 1998. Prior to that position, he was chief of the agency's environmental operations division in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) standing committee on the environment and the World Road Association. s environmental committee.

Tooley Named Director of Transportation Center

Melissa Tooley.Melissa Tooley has been named director of the Mack-Blackwell Transportation Center (MBTC) at the University of Arkansas, one of the 33 University Transportation Centers (UTCs) authorized by TEA-21. As director, she will manage and oversee MBTC's research initiatives in the area of rural transportation'she joined the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Arkansas in 1998 after serving as assistant professor at the University of Florida'she was a master's- and doctorate-level recipient of the Dwight David Eisenhower Graduate Fellowship and a Faculty Fellowship recipient, both sponsored by FHWA. Tooley was also selected by the Eno Transportation Foundation as an Eno Fellow. As a graduate student in civil engineering with an emphasis in transportation at the University of Arkansas, she assisted in setting up the MBTC.

Tooley has published papers on rural transportation planning, women in engineering, travel survey methods, and professional engineering issues. A native of Little Rock, she was selected as "Young Engineer of the Year" in 1995 by the Arkansas Society of Professional Engineers.

Iowa DOT Announces New Director

Mark F. Wandro was appointed director of the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT). He will assume his duties with the department on Oct. 8.

Wandro previously was the assistant county engineer at the Polk County (Iowa) Department of Public Works. Prior to that position, he worked at the Iowa DOT as an assistant resident construction engineer.

He holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Iowa State University and is a licensed professional engineer in Iowa.

– Iowa DOT

Conferences

New Course Offered at Modal Analysis Conference

FHWA's Office of Infrastructure and Bridge Technology, the National Highway Institute, and the Society for Experimental Mechanics, Inc. are sponsoring a two-day course to provide the theoretical as well as practical aspects of bridge responses to various dynamic loadings. The course will be offered at the 18th International Modal Analysis Conference (IMAC) in San Antonio, Texas, on Feb. 5-6, 2000.

The course will cater exclusively to bridge engineers and will provide an introduction to modal testing and analysis, which are becoming important tools for understanding the fundamental response of a bridge and for identifying the potential for damage and deterioration in bridges.

For more information, contact Dr. Hamid Ghasemi, (202) 493-3042, hamid.ghasemi@fhwa.dot.gov, or Dr. Philip Yen, (202) 493-3056, wen-huei.yen@fhwa.dot.gov.

OMCHS Develops Safety Leadership Seminar

FHWA's Office of Motor Carriers and Highway Safety (OMCHS) is developing a safety leadership seminar. The seminar will train FHWA leaders to better understand their state's highway safety problems and program delivery and take consistent, systematic safety program actions supported by safety data analysis.

The seminar is a recommendation of the 1998 program review, The Role of the Federal-aid Division in Highway Safety 'safety at a Crossroad. A presentation will be made to key FHWA field leadership in early 2000. Following these initial sessions, seminars will be available to FHWA program personnel nationwide in late 2000.

Senator John Chafee Dies at Age 77Senator John Chafee, R-R.I.

Senator John Chafee, R-R.I., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, died of congestive heart failure Oct. 24 at Bethesda's National Naval Medical Center.

Chafee served as a key author of the ground-breaking Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and worked tirelessly to preserve and build on those gains in the 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which authorized funding for transportation programs for the next six years.

Chafee created the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, and as part of TEA-21, he pushed for a 60 percent increase in funding -- to $1.5 billion -- for projects to alleviate air-quality and congesion problems in transportation. TEA-21, which was signed by President Clinton in June 1998, was his last major act.

ResearchFHWA
FHWA
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration