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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - Winter 2024

Date:
Winter 2024
Issue No:
Vol. 87 No. 4
Publication Number:
FHWA-HRT-24-002

Along the Road

Along the Road

A line of electric buses are plugged in at a charging station. Image Source: © THINK b / AdobeStock.com.
Strategies for electric vehicle charging are critical to advancing a clean transportation plan.

Public Information and Information Exchange

NCDOT Releases a Statewide Clean Transportation Plan

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) released the guidance document, North Carolina Clean Transportation Plan (NCCTP), in April 2023, detailing a coordinated strategy for how the State can achieve an equitable, versatile, and clean transportation future. The document also describes equitable outcomes for everyone—including people in traditionally underserved communities.

The strategies described in the NCCTP outline four focus areas: governance, infrastructure, funding/finance, and communication/engagement. One strategy from each focus area includes creating a dedicated clean transportation team (governance); evaluating and deploying clean transportation infrastructure to support all types of fleet vehicles and applications (infrastructure); evaluating and applying for new funding that advances clean transportation outcomes (funding/finance); and establishing a coordinated clean transportation communication strategy to increase awareness, align resources and partnerships, and advance the initiative (communication/engagement). Overall, the NCCTP will result in:

  • Sharing best practices and increasing awareness of the current landscape of clean transportation initiatives in North Carolina.
  • Tracking progress, such as new registration and sales of zero emission vehicles, the per capita reduction in vehicle miles traveled, and metrics tied to workforce development initiatives.
  • Developing strategies, with an emphasis on near-term action that will support achieving the goals in Executive Order 246 and the goals of the NCCTP.
  • Assessing the opportunities, challenges, and considerations of creating a more equitable clean transportation system. This should focus on the potential impacts on traditionally underserved communities.
A circular graphic depicts categories such as governance, infrastructure, funding/finance, and communication/engagement in an outer ring. The inner ring of the graphic shows partnerships and equity. Image Source: The N.C. Clean Transportation Plan.

The NCCTP encourages stakeholders from the public and private sectors to collaborate and develop a roadmap for achieving an equitable clean transportation system for North Carolina.

For a summary of the NCCTP, visit: https://www.ncdot.gov/initiatives-policies/environmental/climate-change/Pages/clean-transportation-plan.aspx. To review the full NCCTP, visit: https://www.ncdot.gov/initiatives-policies/environmental/climate-change/Documents/nc-clean-transportation-plan-final-report.pdf.

Photo of a 4-way tree-lined intersection with a stop sign and a "STOP" street marking. Image Source: © 2016 County of El Dorado.
The Apache Avenue Pedestrian Safety and Connectivity project will improve the avenue’s accessibility, mobility, and safety with added signage, street markings, bike lanes, and more.
Photo rendering of a neighborhood two-lane roadway with vehicles, lined with houses, trees, bike lanes, and a sidewalk. Image Source: © Alta Planning + Design.
The Apache Avenue Pedestrian Safety and Connectivity project will improve the avenue’s accessibility, mobility, and safety with added signage, street markings, bike lanes, and more.

Lake Tahoe Transportation Projects Awarded Funding for Improvement

As part of the 2023 Regional Grant Program, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, a federally designated metropolitan planning organization, awarded over $11 million in May 2023 to seven transportation projects that seek to improve safety and climate resilience in the Tahoe region of California and Nevada.

The funding will go toward reducing congestion, expanding regional walking/running/biking trails, continuing free transit, and supporting equitable recreation access. For example, the Kings Beach Western Approach project on the North Shore—an existing signalized intersection awarded $1.5 million and scheduled for completion in 2026—will be converted to a roundabout for improved mobility, safety, efficiency, level of service, and public transit access.

Similarly, the Apache Avenue Pedestrian Safety and Connectivity project on the South Shore—awarded nearly $1.7 million and scheduled for completion in 2026—will be enhanced to provide a safe, walkable, and bikeable roadway through additional roadway signage, highly visible crosswalks and pavement markings, improved stormwater drainage system, bike lanes on both sides of the roadway, and Americans with Disabilities Act-defined curb ramps.

Other projects include the Pioneer Trail/U.S. Highway 50 Intersection Safety Improvement on South Shore (awarded nearly $3.7 million to convert into a modern roundabout and due for completion in 2026); Microtransit EV Charging Base Station (awarded nearly $270,000 to convert microtransit fleet to electric and due for completion in 2024); and continuing the Free-to-the-User Transit Program (awarded $1 million and due for implementation in 2025). The Free-to-the-User Transit Program will utilize the existing Tahoe Transportation District transit service for a free system to help eliminate traffic. A version of the service was rolled out sooner than expected during the COVID-19 pandemic to eliminate fare exchanges between drivers and riders. Nevertheless, zero-fare transit systems have been shown to positively impact on-time performance, efficiency, safety, and climate change mitigation.

For more information on all seven projects, visit: https://www.trpa.gov/11-1-million-awarded-to-seven-transportation-projects/.

USDOT’s Project Delivery Center of Excellence Dedicated to Delivering Infrastructure on Time, on Task, and on Budget

In July 2023, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched the Project Delivery Center of Excellence at the USDOT Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. The Center of Excellence provides information and resources to support the successful implementation of infrastructure projects from concept to completion.

“We want this resource to be useful, so we will partner with Federal, Tribal, State, and local Bipartisan Infrastructure Law project sponsors to grow the Center of Excellence to ensure good projects are delivered well—and that means on time, on task, and on budget,” said USDOT Volpe Center Director Anne Aylward in a press release.

A woman in a hard hat and safety vest holds a laptop as she watches a crane lift a bridge beam during construction. Image Source: © denklim / AdobeStock.com.
The Project Deliver Center of Excellence is helping to advance infrastructure work around the Nation, including bridge reconstructions.

The Center of Excellence aims to bridge the gap between practitioners in the field and leading thought leaders and academic researchers, to share perspectives, exchange expertise, and identify best practices. “We are optimistic about what can be done, but we also know that it won’t happen on its own,” said Pete Buttigieg, US Secretary of Transportation, in an official statement.

Buttigieg added that now is “the best chance probably in our lifetimes in the United States to transform our transportation systems for the better, to make communities safer, to make transportation cleaner, to advance equity, and to connect people to the resources, opportunities, and jobs that are going to shape their lives.”

Additional plans for the Center of Excellence focus on best practices related to streamlining construction contracts and examining the causes of construction change orders. Find out more at the Project Delivery Center of Excellence’s website: https://www.volpe.dot.gov/project-delivery.

STIPDG Internship Helps Further USDOT Diversity Goals

The Summer Transportation Internship Program for Diverse Groups (STIPDG) is a unique opportunity for undergraduate, graduate, and law students to gain hands-on experience in public service while learning about transportation challenges and advancements in the United States. With opportunities available in each operating administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation, STIPDG is a critical part of USDOT’s efforts to increase diverse representation in its workforce. Recruitment for the program is targeted toward Historically Black Colleges and Universities and minority-serving institutions. All students who have completed at least their freshman year of college are encouraged to apply.

Three people, two female and one male, sit in a circle. Image Source: © insta_photos / AdobeStock.com.
USDOT student internships create new opportunities in public service and transportation.


Through an internship at USDOT, students build professional networks, develop vital skills, and learn about exciting opportunities. Students are assigned to a USDOT employee who serves as a mentor throughout the 10-week program, and opportunities are available throughout the country, as well as Puerto Rico. Compensation includes a competitive stipend in addition to fully furnished housing and roundtrip travel to the assignment location.

For more information about STIPDG, please visit: https://twc.edu/programs/summer-transportation-internship-program-diverse-groups.

Technical News

Federal Highway Administration Partners with NSF on Convergence Accelerator Program

In 2019, the National Science Foundation (NSF) launched the NSF Convergence Accelerator to merge innovative ideas, approaches, and technologies from a diverse range of sectors to solve societal challenges. Areas funded by the accelerator include People and Society; Education and Training; Earth and Environment; Technology; Facilities and Infrastructure; and Engineering. According to their website, the NSF Convergence Accelerator “support[s] engineering research that addresses national challenges—such as smart manufacturing, resilient infrastructure, and sustainable energy systems—and brings about new innovations, from biotechnologies to semiconductors.”

In May 2023, NSF leveraged FHWA’s applied engineering expertise for their Convergence Accelerator program, “Sustainable Materials for Global Challenges.” Ben Graybeal, the Bridge Engineering Research team leader in FHWA’s Office of Infrastructure Research and Development, served as an expert for a panel discussion on the ways funded research teams can become better aware of the needs of infrastructure owners and the pathways through which innovation can move from research concept to deployed solutions.

Beams of light stream across the sky over the earth. A satellite can be seen hovering over the earth. Image Source: © lin / Artsiom P /AdobeStock.com.
The NSF Convergence Accelerator can prove useful for future transportation technologies and applications.

“It’s great to see that NSF is placing an emphasis on facilitating connections between basic research and deployed solutions, between the researchers and the owner/operator/user community,” Graybeal said. “It was a pleasure to share insights with a broad range of subject matter experts who know their technical topic areas but might lack connection to the end users of the technologies that they are developing. At FHWA, we can be a conduit through which NSF-funded solutions can reach the surface transportation community of practice.”

For more information, visit NSF Convergence Accelerator website at https://new.nsf.gov/funding/initiatives/convergence-accelerator.

Policy, Regulations, and Grants

$20 Million in Grants to Help Communities Prosper Via Transit

In July 2023, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced that $20 million in Federal support will be divided among 47 communities across the country (https://www.transit.dot.gov/funding/grants/grant-programs/fiscal-year-2023-areas-persistent-poverty-aopp-project-selections) to help improve public transportation options in areas experiencing long-term economic distress. The award comes via FTA’s Areas of Persistent Poverty (AoPP) program, which provides support to State and local governments, transit agencies, and nonprofit organizations to improve the accessibility and affordability to transit for residents with limited or no viable transportation options. Improved transit options can lead to better jobs, resources, and other opportunities.

A building with lights and flag poles in front. An American flag and two other flags can be seen. A brick sign reads Cherokee Nation. Image Source: © Roberto / AdobeStock.com.
The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma received an FTA grant to support its long-range planning.

Through the AoPP program, grants are awarded for studies to advance transit in low-income areas defined by data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. For this award, FTA received applications totaling close to $36 million in requests. Requests were narrowed and projects selected based on criteria described in the award’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (https://www.transit.dot.gov/notices-funding/areas-persistent-poverty-program-fy-2023-notice-funding-opportunity), including being able to demonstrate the requisite legal, financial, and technical capabilities to receive and administer Federal funds under the AoPP program.

The Cherokee Nation in Northeastern Oklahoma is one entity that will receive an AoPP grant. The Tribal Nation will receive $576,188 to update the Cherokee Nation’s long-range transit plan to guide the planning, construction, and deployment of future Tribal transit projects. The update will include an electric vehicle infrastructure assessment to plan for expansion and increase user access for its 450,000 Tribal citizens.

For more information, visit: https://www.transit.dot.gov/about/news/biden-harris-administration-announces-20-million-grants-help-communities-prosper.

Empowering Truck Drivers: Your Roads. Their Freedom.

In May 2023, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a new human trafficking awareness campaign—“Your Roads. Their Freedom.”—to provide the Nation’s 8.7 million commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers with information to help identify and report suspected human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or a commercial sex act, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children under any circumstance. Globally, an estimated 25 million people are subjected to human trafficking and forced labor, which produces adverse effects for the safety and health of communities and transportation networks. Human traffickers often use transportation systems (e.g., truck stops, rest areas, and travel centers) when recruiting and trafficking victims. Through this national campaign, FMCSA aims to educate and empower CMV drivers by raising awareness of the signs of human trafficking and encouraging drivers to report possible issues to authorities.

Ad titled "Human traffickers use America's transportation systems to facilitate unimaginable crimes." A view of the driver’s side of a motorcoach vehicle with two hands on the steering wheel. “Report What You See” appears near the top. Below is National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888, text 233733 or BEFREE); scan this code to learn the signs and indicators; Your Roads. Their Freedom; and Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking. Image Source: USDOT.
“Your Roads. Their Freedom.” represents FMCSA’s new human trafficking awareness campaign to alert the Nation’s nearly 9 million CMV drivers.

Along with FMCSA, “the Federal Highway Administration seeks to combat human trafficking by reaching a broad audience of public sector partners who may be building, operating, and maintaining public rest areas where truckers stop,” says Caitlin Hughes, director of FHWA’s Office of Freight Management and Operations. “We encourage States, local governments, port terminal operators, and more to incorporate the anti-trafficking design recommendations for truck parking facilities that we included in the 2022 Truck Parking Development Handbook (https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/Freight/infrastructure/truck_parking/docs/Truck_Parking_Development_Handbook.pdf).”

If CMV drivers see or suspect any indicators of human trafficking, they are encouraged to call 911, the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888-373-7888; text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733); or follow their company’s reporting policy, if established.

For more information on the “Your Roads. Their Freedom.” campaign, along with shareable resources, visit https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/stophumantrafficking. To review a previous article on anti-human trafficking efforts in Public Roads, visit: https://highways.dot.gov/public-roads/winter-2021/combating-human-trafficking.

FHWA’s AID Demo Resumes Call for Innovation in Highway Transportation

Since the Federal Highway Administration launched the Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) Demonstration in 2014, more than $95.7 million was awarded for 127 grants. These grants are incentives to accelerate the deployment and adoption of proven innovative practices and technologies in highway transportation projects. In October 2023, FHWA announced a call for AID Demonstration applications and will issue nearly $12.5 million in grants during fiscal years 2024 through 2026 from amounts authorized within the Technology and Innovation Deployment Program under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

A tractor trailer drives over an overpass as another passes underneath. Construction equipment can be seen on the roadside. Image Source: © ungvar / AdobeStock.com.
Highway construction projects, and others, benefit from AID Demonstration funding.

AID Demonstration funds are available to eligible entities for activities authorized for assistance under Title 23, United States Code; involve in any phase of a highway transportation project between project planning and project delivery, including planning, finance, operation, structures, materials, pavements, environment, and construction; and address the Technology and Innovation Deployment Program goals. State departments of transportation (DOT), Federal land management agencies, and Tribal governments are eligible and encouraged to apply. Local public agencies may apply for AID through their State DOT. The FY 2024 application deadline is April 23, 2024. FHWA will also host a webinar.

For complete eligibility requirements, webinar information, and more, visit https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/grants/.