Along the Road
Policy and Legislation
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 (DOT) sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let's meet along the road.
USDOT Implements Executive Order on Environmental Reviews
On September 18, 2002, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced steps that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is taking to implement President Bush's executive order regarding environmental stewardship and streamlining environmental review of important transportation infrastructure projects. The executive order calls for a Cabinet-level task force reporting to the President through the chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality to ensure that environmentally sound projects are not held up unnecessarily by inefficient review procedures.
Secretary Mineta chairs this task force and is mobilizing the Department to streamline environmental reviews of specific, high-impact transportation construction projects and to simplify complex and duplicative permitting processes that often delay projects aimed to ease congestion and reduce emissions.
Secretary Mineta said the Department will develop a list of specific projects "to tackle immediately" and requested project nominations from governors, local authorities such as airport directors and metropolitan planning organizations, and other transportation leaders.
"Working with State and Federal agencies, we expect to help cut through red tape and promote effective strategies for taking time out of the decisionmaking process," Secretary Mineta said.
Based on USDOT's experience in accelerating review of the initial list of high-priority projects, in the future the Department will develop a series of best practices for streamlining the decisionmaking process on all transportation infrastructure projects and for enhancing environmental stewardship.
In addition to Secretary Mineta, task force members include the U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and Defense. Together, the Transportation Infrastructure Streamlining Task Force will carry out the executive order that builds upon ongoing efforts by USDOT, other Federal agencies, and their transportation partners to streamline the decisionmaking process in response to the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR 21).
Management and Administration
FHWA Cites Top Traveler Information Web Sites
In October, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced the winners of its 2002 national awards for traveler information Web sites that provide vital information about safety and mobility to users nationwide.
"These outstanding sites were chosen because of their user friendliness, comprehensiveness of information, and real-time reporting," FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters said.
The winners were recognized formally at the fall 2002 board of directors meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in Anchorage, AK.
FHWA named the following traffic information sites as the top ones in the United States: the Houston (TX) TranStar Web site, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT) traffic information Web site, the Oregon DOT Trip Check Web site, and the Gary-Chicago-Milwaukee (GCM) Travel Web site, developed by the Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin DOTs.
Houston TranStar (http://traffic.tamu.edu) is a consortium of agencies in the greater Houston, TX, area. The Web site provides information and links related to most modes of transportation, emergency preparedness, and environmental issues. Houston TranStar also has added cameras and links to roadway weather stations.
The Rhode Island DOT traffic information Web site
(www.dot.state.ri.us) is known for its cooperation with maintenance and construction departments to provide valuable information for routing and easing commutes. Businesses particularly like the e-mail alerts for routing trucks.
Oregon Trip Check (www.tripcheck.com), developed by the Oregon DOT, helps travelers make smart decisions by linking to more than 100 road cameras, including 45 in rural areas and mountain passes where knowing road conditions can be crucial to safety. Trip Check updates highway information in the regional offices and provides links to transit, ridesharing, bicycle, and airport information.
The GCM Travel Web site (www.gcmtravel.com), developed by the Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin DOTs, is based on extensive data all three States send to a data-sharing system. With this Web site, users can link to information across the entire tri-State priority corridor, including cameras, traffic maps, and messages from dynamic message signs.
Judges evaluated the content on the Web sites for the presentation of information on current conditions, incidents, construction notices, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, tolls, and the extent to which other useful information and links are provided. Usability criteria addressed the organization of information on the site, navigation through the site, and how well the information is described to the users.
Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) provide data to populate traveler information Web sites. For more information about ITS and the Web awards, visit FHWA's operations Web site at www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov.
Iowa Earns FHWA Environmental Award for Innovative Bridge Project
On September 16, 2002, FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters honored the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) with the Administrator's Environmental Quality Award for its work on the Iowa River Bridge.
Iowa DOT and its partners earned this recognition by developing and building the Iowa River Bridge while demonstrating environmental sensitivity in its planning, design, and construction. The bridge is located in the Iowa River Greenbelt, a rare remaining fragment of old-growth woodland that has survived the age of agriculture and is home to several endangered plant and animal species.
As part of a 64-kilometer (40-mile) highway relocation project in the U.S. 20 corridor, the bridge is scheduled to open to traffic in 2003 and will cost a total of $20 million. Of this amount, 15 to 20 percent can be attributed directly to construction, design, and detailing considerations added to minimize physical impact on the floor of the Greenbelt Valley. The bridge has established new records in the United States for the longest total-launched steel bridge and the longest free cantilever.
FHWA served as technical consultant and provided financial support to the Iowa DOT contractor.
FHWA Puts Context-Sensitive Design into Action
A plan selected by FHWA to upgrade Guanella Pass Road in Colorado employs a context-sensitive design that offers a safe and efficient transportation system sensitive to human and natural environments.
Guanella Pass Road stretches 37 kilometers (23 miles) from Georgetown in Clear Creek County, CO, south to Grant in Park County. Originally built in the 1950s, the road needs serious upgrading.
Through more than 11 years of environmental and engineering analysis, reconnaissance and scoping reports, numerous public meetings, and one-on-one consultations with major stakeholders, FHWA developed six alternatives for the road, including a no-build option. After extensive consultation with local residents, businesses, and elected officials, FHWA announced its preference for the sixth alternative because it minimizes the amount of reconstruction yet improves safety and mobility, involves stakeholders, and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic, and environmental resources. The alternative considers the total context for the project and therefore can be characterized as a context-sensitive approach.
FHWA's preferred alternative, by minimizing reconstruction, enables the highway to follow the existing roadway closely and diminish its impact on previously undisturbed areas. Under this alternative, about 63 percent of the roadway improvements will consist of rehabilitation, which means most work will remain within the existing roadway. About 18 percent of the project will involve light reconstruction, where the work will remain within previously disturbed areas of the existing roadway, and about 19 percent will include full reconstruction, where the work will extend outside the existing roadway.
Copies of FHWA's Federal Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) detailing this context-sensitive design alternative and supporting technical reports are available at www.cflhd.gov/projects/co/guanella/index.htm.
New Database to Improve Freight Movement
In October 2002, USDOT released the Freight Analysis Framework (FAF), a database and analytical tool that will help improve planning, operations, and decisionmaking to better manage freight movement across the country.
The database is part of USDOT's efforts to manage the dramatic increase in nationwide freight movement coupled with increasing congestion and inefficiencies in transportation systems. FAF analyzes data that will help decisionmakers understand the geographic relationships between domestic and international trade flows and the Nation's intermodal transportation system. By using this tool, State and local governments and the private sector can determine which transportation corridors are heavily congested, or will become so in the future, and better plan solutions to alleviate bottlenecks in the intermodal transportation network.
The FAF examines four key transportation modes: highway, railroad, water, and air. To evaluate the effect of expected volumes on the transportation network, FAF includes economic forecasts for 2010 and 2020. The tool translates these economic data into transportation demand and assigns that demand to the networks.
Additional information on the Freight Analysis Frame-work is available from the Office of Freight Management and Operations at www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight.
FHWA Researchers Build "Strong Floor" to Test Bridge Structures
Researchers with the bridge design and construction team at FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) are building a "strong floor," which is a 0.9-meter (3-foot)-thick steel-reinforced concrete pad that can be used to test a variety of structures, including bridge supports.
The strong floor's first assignment will be to test a full-scale Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil (GRS) bridge abutment located on the hill above the Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory (FOIL) site at TFHRC. The project, which is being conducted in partnership with the Transportation Research Board's (TRB) National Cooperative Highway Research Program, is designed to evaluate and refine GRS technology for bridge support. The testing is expected to continue until spring 2003.
For more information, contact Mike Adams at 202-493-3025 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Information and Information Exchange
Field Course Reveals How to Protect Wildlife Along Highways
In September 2002, FHWA worked with the Western Transportation Institute (WTI), the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) at North Carolina State University, and the U.S. Forest Service to sponsor a field course on mitigating wildlife-transportation conflicts.
Held at Canada's Banff National Park, the Wildlife Crossing Structure Field Course provided transportation and resource management professionals with an opportunity to see animal exclusion fencing and crossing structure installations that allow wildlife to cross the Trans-Canada Highway safely. Participants in the 3-day course discussed the many aspects of incorporating wildlife mitigation into transportation projects, including planning and permitting issues; technical considerations such as cost, placement, design, landscaping, and maintenance; and performance-monitoring methods for wildlife mitigation projects.
The goal of the course was to show examples of how engineers, planners, and resource management professionals can use a context-sensitive design approach to transportation projects that cross through important wildlife habitat. Context-sensitive design places the preservation of historic, scenic, and ecological resources on an equal footing with mobility, safety, and economic considerations in the development of transportation projects.
The sponsors selected Banff National Park as the setting for the field course to learn from Canada's experience with mitigating wildlife-transportation conflicts on the high-traffic-volume Trans-Canada Highway, which runs through the park. Over the past 20 years, Canada fenced and erected 24 wildlife crossing structures of various designs to allow animals to pass under or over the busy highway safely.
The Banff crossing structures and fencing are notable because of their success in reducing the number of roadkills. Since November 1996, the Parks Service has recorded 41,700 crossings by 11 large mammal species, including deer, elk, moose, bear, wolves, and coyotes. Vehicle collisions with elk, previously the most frequent animal involved in wildlife-vehicle collisions in Banff National Park, have decreased by 95 percent.
For more information about the Wildlife Crossing Structure Field Course, visit www.itre.ncsu.edu/cte/gateway/home.html or contact WTI Research
Ecologist Amanda Hardy at 406-994-2322 or email@example.com.
New Web Site Shares Projects in Transportation Research
In July 2002, TRB launched a new Web site called Research in Progress (RiP), featuring information about more than 6,600 new, current, and recently completed research projects in transportation. The purpose is to facilitate the exchange of information on transportation research projects. Any State agency planning to begin a research project can access the site to find out what other States already are doing, explore opportunities for collaboration, and possibly avoid duplicating efforts.
Covering subjects ranging from bridges and highway maintenance to transportation law, planning, and administration, RiP provides easy access to project summaries, start dates, and contact and funding information for projects in the United States and Canada. A data-entry system enables authorized users at State departments of transportation to add, modify, and delete information on their research projects and access detailed contact information in the personnel directory.
The new RiP Web site enables users to:
- Search by keyword or browse project records by subject
- Link and perform a RiP search in the Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) online database
- Subscribe to receive e-mail notification of new RiP records in specific subject areas
- Submit current research projects to TRB for entry into the system
Each month about 100 new RiP projects are added to the database and another 150 RiP records are updated. In November 2002 alone, more than 6,000 visitors accessed the site, and some logged on from as far away as Botswana, Germany, and Korea.
Check out RiP at http://rip.trb.org. For more information, contact Barbara Post, manager of information services at TRB, at 202-334-2990 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transportation Research Board
Hamilton Receives Transportation 9-11 Medal
Arthur Hamilton, associate administrator for FHWA's Federal Lands Highway Program, was recognized with the Transportation 9-11 Medal during a commemorative ceremony held September 11, 2002. The award honors his efforts as cochair of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Team, a partnership between FHWA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Under Hamilton's direction, the team provided guidance to the Divisions assisting State DOTs in reviewing security and operations plans, and conducting risk assessments of the States' critical infrastructure. The team's efforts helped States determine what steps they need to take to reduce their vulnerability.
"Hamilton's initiative, patriotism, and direction reflect great credit upon himself, FHWA, and the United States of America," said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.
Larsen Retires from Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center
In September 2002, FHWA's Office of Operations Research and Development (R&D) said goodbye to Director Gary E. Larsen as he retired after 33 years of service with FHWA. His positions included serving as division administrator for Oklahoma and deputy regional administrator.
Toni Wilbur, technical director for FHWA's Office of Operations R&D, temporarily will serve as acting director.