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Public Roads - Fall 1996

Along the Road

Policy and Legislation

by Azim Eskandarian, Nabih E. Bedewi, and Leonard Meczkowski

"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.

Several States Increase Speed Limits

Maryland recently approved speed limit increases on 140 kilometers (km) of highway from 55 miles per hour (mi/h) to 65 mi/h (about 105 km/h). This marks the first action since the repeal of the National Maximum Speed Limit.

On Aug. 5, after a seven-month study by state traffic engineers to determine which highways could safely handle increased speeds, North Carolina set a new maximum speed limit of 70 mi/h (about 113 km/h) for nearly 650 km of interstate highways throughout the state.

The Arkansas Highway Commission passed a general resolution on July 17 to raise the speed limit for cars on rural interstate highways to 70 mi/h. The speed limit for trucks will remain at 65 mi/h.

The speed limit of several sections of the Massachusetts Turnpike was raised from 55 mi/h to 65 mi/h. Now, the entire turnpike -- Interstate 90, between I-95/Route 128 and the New York state line -- is now 65 mi/h.

On June 25, the governor of Michigan signed legislation that permanently raises the speed limit to 65 mi/h on most freeways in the state and also provides for experimentation with a 70-mi/h limit on selected highways.

EPA Threatens 10 States With Sanctions

Ten states and the District of Columbia received letters from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informing them that they have failed to complete the "rate of progress" plans called for by the Clean Air Act and warning them that sanctions will be imposed 18 months after notification unless the state submits the plan and fulfills the commitments required by the plan.

DOT Proposes More Flexibility in Clean Air Requirements

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and EPA have announced in the July 9 Federal Register a two-part initiative to provide states and localities greater flexibility in meeting federal requirements to reduce air pollution. The first part of the initiative proposes amendments to EPA's existing transportation conformity rules, and the second part creates a pilot program that will enable selected states to experiment with different ways to achieve clean air standards. "We recognize that areas of the United States that have not met clean air requirements should have more flexibility in devising new and innovative ways to achieve the required standards," said Transportation Secretary Frederico Peña. DOT's FHWA and Federal Transit Administration will administer the proposed pilot program jointly with EPA.

Louisiana Maintains 21 as Legal Drinking Age

The State Supreme Court reversed itself on July 2 and reinstated Louisiana's law establishing the minimum drinking age at 21. In March, the court ruled that setting the drinking age above 18 was unconstitutional because it violated the state constitution's ban on age discrimination. However, in a re-hearing, the state attorney general's office introduced significant evidence showing the inexperience of 18-to-20-year-olds regarding driving and drinking.

Management and Administration

FHWA Selects Two Teams to Advance ITI

In late May, FHWA announced the selection of two companies -- PB Farradyne Inc. of Rockville, Md., and Science Applications International Corp. of McLean, Va. -- to lead teams that will support the FHWA's development of advanced traffic management techniques, traveler information, and other activities in connection with the initiative to deploy a national Intelligent Transportation Infrastructure (ITI). Transportation Secretary Pe¤a announced the ITI initiative, known as Operation TimeSaver, in January 1996.

South Dakota DOT Is Downsizing

In June, South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow announced that there will be a reduction of 250 full-time-equivalent employee positions in the state department of transportation (DOT) within the next three months. In addition, the management structure of SDDOT is being streamlined. More than 170 of these employees are maintenance workers. The anticipated savings from this downsizing will be $7 million, which will be put into infrastructure improvements.

Innovative Financing

HDR Project Services Corporation of Arizona has formed an organization called MetroRoad whose purpose is to accelerate the construction of freeways in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The freeways targeted by MetroRoad are highways included in the governor's transportation plan that are unfunded. MetroRoad would use tax-exempt revenue bonds supported by temporary user fees. Discussions are underway with several local jurisdictions regarding potential projects. MetroRoad's web site can be found at

Technical News

New Patent Filed on Crumb Rubber Use

A patent recently filed outlines a way to extend the material properties of crumb rubber asphalt so that it will be effective in different pavement temperatures and can be used on highways throughout the United States. The inventor developed this technique at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center. It provides a way to obtain the desired crumb rubber-asphalt properties using a chemical additive and may have the potential to revolutionize the way crumb rubber is used in asphaltic concrete pavements.

Innovative Concept Could Lower Bridge Construction Costs

Researchers at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center are testing a new concept in bridge support construction that has the potential to save millions of dollars per year in bridge construction costs. The new support is a bridge pier made of prestressed Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil (GRS), a soil made by adding layers of geosynthetic reinforcement (a woven polypropylene fabric) to layers of compacted gravel. Prestressing makes the soil stronger and helps reduce the amount of settlement from the weight of the bridge. The technique is currently being used in bridge abutment construction and allows speedier construction time, does not require special equipment, and uses less expensive material. Because of its flexibility, this technique may be more resistant to seismic loads, making it attractive for use in earthquake-prone areas.



This photo shows four layers of geosynthetic reinforced soil supporting more than nine metric tons.

TFHRC Tests Aluminum Bridge Deck Panel

This autumn, the Structures Laboratory at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center is testing a section of a new orthotropic bridge deck system, developed by Reynolds Metals Corp. and scheduled for installation on a bridge in Virginia. The test objective is to verify finite element analyses of the aluminum panel and to determine how well the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) strip method predicts behavior. A series of elastic tests will be conducted by varying the wheel load position and boundary conditions. The final test will be to ultimate strength to study the failure modes of the panel. Testing is being conducted cooperatively with the Virginia Transportation Research Council and Reynolds, which will be providing personnel to assist with instrumentation and testing.

D.C. Uses Test Pothole-Patching Equipment

At the May 2 "Winter Road Maintenance Symposium," the District of Columbia was presented with the "Roadpatcher," an innovative, pothole-patching machine. The district, with the assistance of the manufacturer, has trained several operators on the use of this specialized equipment. The D.C. Department of Public Works will provide a formal evaluation of the equipment at the end of a 90-day test period.

New Hampshire Cited for Energy Savings

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had awarded a certificate of recognition to a long-time NHDOT employee for an innovative technology application. NHDOT is replacing all incandescent traffic signal bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LED) within five years. Upon completion of the program, the state expects to save approximately 3.3 million kilowatts per year. With this energy savings comes associated emission reductions related to the production of electricity.

Transit ITS Project in Place for the Olympics

To assist the city of Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, a joint FHWA-Federal Transit Administration project, which normally would have taken four years to complete, was completed in 16 months. The Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority (MARTA) project includes a transit dispatch center that was operational on June 19 and an "intelligent" Transit Fleet Management System with passenger information and a trip itinerary planning system, installed in 235 buses. The cost of the Transit Fleet Management System is $16.25 million, of which $13 million are federal funds.

Synchronization Saves Time and Money in Denver

During the last two years, the Denver metropolitan area has been improving and synchronizing traffic lights. As a result, it has reduced vehicle travel-hours by 33,000 hours per day, air pollution by more than 17 metric tons per day, and fuel consumption by almost 51,000 liters per day, saving motorists and residents $183,000 per day. The Denver Regional Council of Governments spearheaded this effort with funds provided by FHWA through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program.

Public Information and Information Exchange

Several Cities Join the Campaign to Eliminate Red-Light-Running

On June 20, the city of Boston and U.S. DOT held a joint ceremony in Boston to commemorate the establishment of an anti-red-light-running (RLR) campaign, a public information and education campaign to reduce the number of crashes caused by running red lights. U.S. DOT presented a $35,000 grant to the Boston Transportation Department.

Also on June 20, the Polk County, Fla., Community Traffic Safety Team kicked off their RLR campaign in Lakeland. The team received $35,000 from FHWA. Rutland, Vt., started an RLR program on July 2. Lincoln, Neb., began its RLR campaign on Sept. 13. The project is supported by an FHWA grant of $20,000, Section 402 funding of $30,000 (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and FHWA), and $15,000 in state and University of Nebraska funds. The project funding also includes a private fund donation of $1,000.


Red-Light-Running Campaign Is Showing Results

In the first six weeks of the Richmond (Va.) Area Coalition campaign on red-light-running, 904 red-light-running citations were issued by the participating police departments in Chesterfield County, Henrico County, Hanover County, and the city of Richmond. The police are increasing their patrols at high-volume, high-accident intersections and are airing public service announcements regarding the importance of this effort.

FHWA Is Employer of the Year

FHWA was selected as the 1996 Employer of the Year by the Women's Transportation Seminar (WTS), a national organization of more than 3,000 women transportation professionals. WTS honored FHWA for enhancing the transportation industry through a commitment to excellence, maintaining an outstanding record of equitable hiring and promotion practices at all levels, supporting continuing education and employee development opportunities, encouraging women students to enter the transportation field, and supporting WTS.

Information Center for Transportation Enhancement Activities Established

FHWA has joined the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the Bicycle Federation of America to establish a National Transportation Enhancement Clearinghouse (NTEC) to provide information and referrals to the public on Transportation Enhancement Activities (TEA). NTEC will function as a central point of contact for all aspects of TEA and will publish and distribute TEA reports and materials. NTEC is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern time). The phone number is (202) 463-0641 or 0643. The toll-free number is (888) 388-6832.

Alabama Wins Community Partnership Award for Safety

The Alabama Department of Transportation won the 1996 Secretary of Transportation Community Partnership Award for Transportation Safety. The "Team-Up Talladega" project in Talladega County was successful in reducing fatalities, injuries, and property damage due to vehicle crashes.

Russians Visit North Carolina

Thirteen Russian highway officials from the Krasnodar region visited North Carolina from June 2 to June 11. The visit was part of an ongoing twinning effort between NCDOT and the Krasnodar region of Russia sponsored by FHWA. The Russian delegation, mostly contractors, visited construction and maintenance projects, aggregate quarries, and talked with contractors and highway officials throughout the state.

HBCUs and FHWA Sponsor Youth Programs

This past summer, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in several states hosted youth programs that they co-sponsored with FHWA. The Summer Transportation Institutes held at 12 HBCUs throughout the country are four-week programs that are designed to attract promising high school students to careers in the transportation industry.

Maryland Receives Safety Award

The Maryland State Police received an FHWA safety award for the first occupant protection program specifically targeted to commercial motor vehicle drivers. Implementation of this program resulted in an increase in commercial motor vehicle operator seatbelt use from 11 percent to 40 percent.

Group Transfers Anti-Icing Technology to States

As a result of the successful anti-icing technology studies that involved 15 states over the last two years, anti-icing technology is considered a viable alternative to deicing for snow and ice control. FHWA's Special Projects and Engineering Division formed an anti-icing outreach group composed of representatives of four states that have been very successful in implementing anti-icing techniques. The group will adopt up to four of the remaining states, visit with them, and teach them the anti-icing methods so they can start their own anti-icing practices. Currently, 12 states are participating in this new anti-icing outreach program. A total of 27 states, more than 75 percent of the states that normally fight snow and ice storms, are learning anti-icing technology.

From the left: Houston Metro Chairman Billy Burge, Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, U.S. Tranportation Secretary Federico Pena, Houston Mayor Bob Lanier, Houston City Council member Helen Huey, and Texas Transporation Commissioner David Laney cut ribbon to open Houston's traffic management system, Houston TransStar.

From the left: Houston Metro Chairman Billy Burge, Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, U.S. Tranportation Secretary Federico Pena, Houston Mayor Bob Lanier, Houston City Council member Helen Huey, and Texas Transporation Commissioner David Laney cut ribbon to open Houston's traffic management system, Houston TransStar.

FHWA and NSC Form "Partnership for a Walkable America"

Secretary of Transportation Federico Peña joined Gerard Scannell, the president of the National Safety Council, at a breakfast meeting on June 10 of the public/private partners in the "Partnership for a Walkable America" as part of the Moving Kids Safely Conference. The partnership will promote safety, access, and health programs to bring about greater public awareness and the activities needed to increase the safety and amount of walking in the United States. Peña announced the partnership at his opening remarks for the Moving Kids Safely Conference and during his luncheon address at the National Transportation Enhancements Conference.

Highway Statistics Are on the Internet

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in cooperation with the FHWA Office of Highway Information Management, has developed an initial version of the 1994 Highway Statistics on the Internet. The Internet address is: Due to the tabular format of the statistics, optimum viewing is achieved using the latest versions of Netscape or Microsoft Internet Explorer.


Betsold Heads FHWA Research and Development

Robert J. Betsold has been appointed FHWA associate administrator for research and development (R & D). Betsold replaces John A. Clements, who resigned in April. As associate administrator, Betsold will head the Office of R & D and the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Va. An FHWA engineer and manager since 1964, Betsold most recently served as deputy associate administrator for R & D. He holds a bachelor's and a master's degree in civil engineering from the University of Massachusetts and a master's degree in public administration from American University. He has also completed management training programs at the Highway Management Institute, the Federal Executive Institute, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

McMurray Named Chief of Motor Carrier Safety and Technology

Rose A. McMurray has been appointed director of FHWA's Office of Motor Carrier Safety and Technology. McMurray has held senior executive positions with the Research and Special Programs Administration and the Urban Mass Transit Administration. She holds a bachelor's degree in public administration.

Crunican Picked to Lead Oregon DOT

On June 2, the Oregon State Senate confirmed the appointment of Grace Crunican as director of the Oregon DOT. Crunican previously served as the deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.

Welch Is FHWA Engineer of the Year

Bob Welch, a materials engineer who managed the materials program for the Central Federal Lands Highway Division, has been named the FHWA's engineer of the year for 1996. Welch developed comprehensive testing for full-scale bolt anchor systems used to secure stone masonry on the recently constructed Sentinel Bridge in Yosemite National Park; the systems have won several national honors. He also developed a quality assurance program for the division's construction program and developed specifications and laboratory testing capabilities for use in the Strategic Highway Research Program. He has headed projects in Saudi Arabia and Russia. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering from the University of Utah.