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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 - January/February 2013

January/February 2013
Issue No:
Vol. 76 No. 4
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Along the Road

Management and Administration

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

Administrator Mendez Breaks Ground on Improvements to High-Fatality Road

Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez recently joined the Joint Business Council of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho to break ground on Wyoming's $18.8 million reconstruction of 17 Mile Road. The project will make significant safety improvements to the roadway, which has the highest fatality rate in the State.

The improvements to 17 Mile Road, which is currently a paved wagon trail, will be made with the help of $8.2 million in 2011 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funds, $10.2 million from the State, and $430,000 from the tribes. The project will include widening the lanes and shoulders and incorporating rumble strips and guardrails.

"Seventeen Mile Road is a route of vital importance to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes, who need a safe and efficient route to travel through the region," Administrator Mendez said at the groundbreaking. The road serves as the main route for tribal residents traveling to commercial services and health care centers in Riverton, WY.

FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez (right) greets a member of the Wind River Indian Reservation's transportation staff at the groundbreaking for 17 Mile Road.

Asset Management Expert Group Established

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) established an expert task group to identify strategies to advance the practice of transportation asset management. Liaisons to the group include representatives from FHWA; State departments of transportation (DOTs); the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO); the Transportation Research Board (TRB); the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia; the Alberta, Canada, Ministry of Transportation; and consulting firms.

Although States have varying levels of experience in implementing asset management programs, they all face some common issues. For example, DOTs face increased demand to make performance-based management decisions that consider risk and long-term financial consequences. The expert task group will serve as a hub for information exchange, bringing together ideas from Federal and State agencies, the international asset management community, and the private sector.

Among other initiatives, the group will outline a framework for financially sustainable transportation infrastructure that clarifies connections among asset management, stewardship, risk management, performance management, and long-term financial planning. The group also will identify strategies for advancing asset management practices and influencing change within State transportation agencies, and provide input to FHWA, AASHTO, and TRB regarding implementing State and local asset management plans.

Other identified needs include exploring national performance metrics and data issues, fostering the development of related tools and templates, and discussing practices and process changes that will enable agencies to manage their assets more effectively.

For more information, visit

Administrator Mendez Opens Gateway Project

Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez recently joined Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley and other State and local officials at the opening of Detroit's Gateway Project, a series of freeway ramps designed to relieve severe traffic congestion to and from the nearby Ambassador Bridge. The new access and outlet ramps between I–75, I–96, and the Ambassador Bridge -- the most heavily traveled international border crossing between the United States and Canada -- are expected to remove an estimated 10,000 vehicles from local side streets.

Work on the $258 million project, which was made possible through an investment of $202 million in Federal funding, began in 2007. In addition to improving traffic flow on streets throughout southwestern Detroit, the project will offer improved access to a pedestrian bridge and an international welcome center. Eliminating this major traffic chokepoint in the neighborhood will improve safety and enhance livability in nearby communities.

FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez speaks at the Gateway Project's ribbon cutting in Detroit, MI, as Lt. Governor Brian Calley, Michigan DOT Director Kirk Steudle, Michigan DOT Chief Operations Officer Gregory Johnson, and State Representative Douglas Geiss look on.

Technical News

New Study of Safety EdgeSM Underway

Researchers at FHWA are conducting a study to determine the crash modification factor (CMF) of Safety EdgeSM, a sloped, 30-degree pavement edge designed to minimize dropoff-related crashes by making it easier for drivers to safely reenter the roadway after inadvertently driving off the pavement. The research aims to provide a better understanding of potential crash reductions and greater justification for widespread implementation of this countermeasure to improve safety. CMFs help highway safety engineers and transportation researchers estimate the safety effectiveness of various countermeasures. Further, they provide information used in analyzing benefits and costs and can help highway designers select appropriate treatments to improve safety. 

After conducting a 3-year study of Safety Edge, researchers found that for two-lane highways in Georgia and Indiana the treatment could reduce crashes by about 5.7 percent. Installing the Safety Edge involves minimal time and cost when applied during paving. It uses a commercially available shoe that attaches to existing equipment in just a few minutes. When constructing a 1.5-inch (3.8-centimeter) asphalt overlay, less than 1 percent of additional asphalt is needed to create the slope. The study determined that the theoretical cost per mile for application on both sides of the road is approximately $536 for a 1.5-inch (3.8-centimeter) treatment depth and $2,145 for a 3.0-inch (7.6-centimeter) depth. Researchers studied a variety of roadway sections and calculated positive benefit-cost ratios ranging from 4 to 63.

FHWA's Every Day Counts initiative -- which aims to identify and deploy innovations that can shorten project delivery, enhance roadway safety, and protect the environment -- is working to raise awareness and encourage implementation of Safety Edge technology across the country. Demonstration projects have led most State DOTs to adopt the Safety Edge, increasing the sample size available for the CMF study and therefore the reliability of the resulting factor. Three new projects constructed in 2012 also will be included in the study, providing before-and-after measurements of the edge conditions.

Researchers expect to publish the final CMF report in 2017, enabling the collection of more data for recent projects. Over the next 3 years FHWA will receive interim CMF calculations as crash data become available. The researchers hope that the CMFs will provide highway agencies the information needed to expand the use of Safety Edge to more types of roadways.

Chris Wagner, a pavement and materials engineer with FHWA's Resource Center, prepares to measure the height of a Safety Edge treatment installed on a road in North Carolina.

For more information, visit

Public Information and Information Exchange

Colorado's I–70 Glenwood Canyon Team Celebrates 20 Years

On October 14, 2012, I–70 through Colorado's Glenwood Canyon celebrated its 20th anniversary. The stretch of interstate often referred to as a "modern engineering marvel" took 13 years and nearly $500 million to construct -- and still, the elevated highway sculpted through the 12.5-mile (20-kilometer) Colorado River gorge remains a vital transportation corridor and an important link to world-class recreational areas.

In the planning stages, a citizen's advisory group greatly influenced the design of the project, calling for an approach that would "tread lightly" in the canyon. State-of-the-art techniques were used for rock excavation, traffic handling, and revegetation. Engineers ultimately constructed two roadways -- one elevated -- greatly reducing the impacts, both environmental and aesthetic. The project received the 1993 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement award from the American Society of Civil Engineers, as well as more than 30 other awards and recognitions. 

To celebrate 20 years, some 50 project engineers, consultants, designers, and others gathered at the historic Hotel Colorado in Glenwood for an evening of reminiscing and a day of cycling along the canyon bike path they constructed. 

In all, the Glenwood Canyon project involved 300 engineers and 40 bridges, 15 miles (24 kilometers) of retaining walls, two 4,000-foot (1,220-meter)-long tunnels (including one that houses a traffic management and emergency services facility), 150,000 new trees and shrubs planted, 30,000 tons (27,200 metric tons) of structural and reinforcing steel, 810,000 tons (735,000 metric tons) of concrete, and 4 full-service rest areas.

"Like me, many cut their engineering teeth on this project," says Joe Elsen, a program engineer with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), who at 22 had just begun working with the department as a surveyor. "And for many of us, this remains the project of our careers."


Nine New Walk Friendly Communities Announced

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) recently designated nine communities as walk friendly, recognizing their outstanding walkability initiatives and pedestrian-friendly features. The communities are Long Beach and Redwood City, CA; Fort Collins, CO; Washington, DC; Gainesville, FL; Northampton, MA; Rochester, MN; Essex Junction, VT; and Shorewood, WI.

PBIC's Walk Friendly Communities program, supported by FHWA and other partners, provides guidance to help communities encourage residents to leave their cars at home and walk instead. The Walk Friendly designation recognizes cities and towns for their demonstrated commitment to improving and sustaining walkability and pedestrian safety through comprehensive programs, plans, and policies. The newest additions join 24 other communities previously honored. Communities are designated at the platinum, gold, silver, or bronze level; only Seattle, WA, has achieved platinum, indicating high-level achievements in all areas of pedestrian programs.

Communities can apply for designation through a comprehensive Web-based assessment tool that evaluates walkability and pedestrian safety through questions related to engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation, and planning. The questions are intended to both evaluate conditions for walking and provide communities with feedback and ideas for promoting pedestrian safety and activity.

For more information, visit


Colorado's I-70 through Glenwood Canyon, shown here, required state-of-the-art construction techniques. About 50 people involved in the development and construction recently gathered for a reunion to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the road's opening to traffic.