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 Nadeau Helps Open LBJ Express Project
Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau recently joined State and local officials to open the LBJ Express project in Dallas, TX. The $2.6 billion project, which relied on nearly $1.2 billion in Federal assistance, rebuilt one of the busiest highways in north Texas and is expected to improve mobility by nearly doubling existing roadway capacity.
The project used the design-build delivery method, an innovation supported by the Federal Highway Administration under its Every Day Counts initiative. Every Day Counts fosters the use of underutilized innovations to shorten the project delivery process, enhance roadway safety, reduce congestion, and improve environmental sustainability.
“Managing growth means managing mobility,” says Administrator Nadeau. “LBJ Express is leading the way with new and improved lanes and roads that will give travelers options in getting to and from Dallas safely.”
The project used funds from an $850 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan. The project spans 17 miles (27 kilometers) and includes the finance, construction, operation, and maintenance of a corridor of frontage roads, general purpose lanes, and toll-managed lanes from Greenville Avenue to Luna Road on I–635 and 13 miles (21 kilometers) of toll-managed lanes from Northwest Highway to Valwood Parkway on I–35. The managed lanes use variable tolling to keep traffic moving at a target speed of 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour.
Final Report on INFLO Prototype Now Available
USDOT’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology recently released a report on two applications for its intelligent network flow optimization (INFLO) prototype system. INFLO is an innovative collection of mobility applications designed to maximize roadway throughput, reduce crashes, and cut fuel consumption. It does so through the use of frequently collected and rapidly disseminated data drawn from wirelessly connected vehicles, travelers’ mobile devices, and roadside infrastructure.
The Technical Report on Prototype Intelligent Network Flow Optimization (INFLO) Dynamic Speed Harmonization and Queue Warning (FHWA-JPO-15-213) is the final report for the project. It describes the prototyping, acceptance testing, and small-scale demonstration for applications for speed harmonization and queue warning, and presents the programmatic and technical accomplishments of the program.
The project demonstrated the INFLO system’s ability to capture current location and telematics data from connected vehicles, as well as vehicle speed data from connected infrastructure. The system analyzed the data to detect congestion, determine the beginning and end of congestion queues, and formulate recommendations for speed harmonization. Speed harmonization involves dynamically and automatically reducing speed limits in or before areas of congestion, crashes, or special events to maintain flow and reduce the risk of collisions caused by speed differentials. The INFLO system was able to communicate information about queue location and speed recommendations to drivers of connected vehicles.
For more information, visit www.trb.org/main/blurbs/172999.aspx.
FHWA and AASHTO Analyze Crashes Into Guardrails
A joint task force with researchers from FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) evaluated real-world data on crashes involving guardrails. The findings suggest that the extruding end terminals of w-beam guardrails made by several manufacturers have performance limitations in certain scenarios. In the report, Safety Analysis of Extruding W-Beam Guardrail Terminal Crashes, the researchers detail the limitations and offer several recommendations, including new crash test criteria for installing guardrail terminals.
The initial dataset included 1,231 crashes involving guardrails. The data came from multiple sources, including input received through a Federal Register notice soliciting crash data. Of these cases, the task force focused on those that provided sufficient information to evaluate the role the terminal played in the crashes. The researchers concentrated on crashes involving severe or fatal injuries, occupant compartment penetration or deformation, rollover, and unusual or extreme outcomes.
Although guardrail terminals are crash-tested in laboratory settings, the task force’s goal was to evaluate how the devices perform in real-world conditions. The impact conditions found to affect performance include side impacts; head-on/shallow angle, corner impacts (that is, head-on impacts that took place near the corner of a vehicle, such as the headlight area); and head-on/shallow angle, high-energy impacts. The installation conditions found to affect performance include initial installation, maintenance, or repair issues; grading issues; and placement of the guardrail terminal in a way that did not conform to accepted guidance and practice.
For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/guardrailsafety/safetyanalysis.
Public Information and Information Exchange
Pilot Projects Explore Overnight Truck Delivery
FHWA recently awarded $200,000 in grants under its Surface Transportation Research, Development, and Deployment program. These grants will enable cities with congestion problems to explore shifting freight pickups and deliveries to nighttime and offpeak hours. The grants will fund pilot projects in New York City boroughs and in Pensacola, FL, to work with large retailers, food companies, and health care centers to research and test the off-hour delivery of goods.
Trucks can aggravate local traffic while being hampered by congestion themselves, costing businesses lost time, money, and productivity. The pilots will look at how truck deliveries made when there is less traffic on the roadways can save time and money, improve air quality, and create more sustainable and livable cities. Businesses will use the funds to retool their operations to accommodate shipments during off hours and help distributors reconfigure routes and supply chains by using low-cost operational strategies.
In New York, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy received a $100,000 grant to engage large, nationwide and regional retailers and food companies that are already operating in New York City to explore this approach in other boroughs, and eventually nationwide.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will use its $100,000 grant to partner with the Sacred Heart Health System to explore off-hour freight deliveries at its medical campus in Pensacola. The grant will help FDOT and the hospital investigate the costs and benefits of off-hour deliveries, including materials for campus operations and hospital supplies.
FHWA Takes on Misconceptions Surrounding Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects
As part of its Safer People, Safer Streets initiative, USDOT is working to address nonmotorized safety issues nationwide. Since launching the initiative, discussions among safety experts, stakeholders, local officials, and the public have raised a number of common misconceptions about the use of Federal funding, street design, and the environmental review process. FHWA recently released a resource called Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding, Design, and Environmental Review: Addressing Common Misconceptions to clarify these issues and prevent confusion and potential project delays.
With regard to Federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects, the document highlights the broad range of available funding sources beyond the well-known Transportation Alternatives Program. These include the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, the Highway Safety Improvement Program, and the Surface Transportation Program. In addition, the resource provides information about the types of projects for which Federal funds may be used.
The document also sheds light on the design concerns such as flexibility in design, lane widths, and how speed limits are set. Further, it reinforces FHWA’s support for the use of roundabouts, road diets, and curb extensions to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
Finally, the resource clarifies the misconception that FHWA regulations require bicycle or pedestrian projects to be within the existing right-of-way to be eligible for a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act. The review process considers the environmental impacts of a proposed project regardless of its siting within or outside of existing rights-of-way.
For more information, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/misconceptions.cfm.
Report Projects Growing Needs in Transportation Workforce
The U.S. Departments of Transportation, Education, and Labor recently released a joint report, Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways Across the Transportation Industry. The report details future employment hot spots in transportation by industry subsectors, occupations, career areas, and geographic areas. It also identifies high-demand transportation jobs and analyzes patterns in the education and work experience required--as well as on-the-job training requirements to help new entrants gain greater competency.
The report concludes that employers across the main subsectors of trucking, transit, air, highway, rail, and maritime will need to hire up to 4.6 million workers--1.2 times the current transportation workforce--in the next decade to meet the demands of expected growth, retirements, and turnover in the industry. Each year, USDOT provides more than $51 billion in funding to build and maintain U.S. highways, bridges, and public transportation systems. For every $1 billion in investments in transportation infrastructure, the report projects that 13,000 jobs will need to be created over the next decade.
Although demand for transportation workers will vary by region, subsector, and occupation, these workforce changes will result in increased job opportunities for skilled and semi-skilled workers across the sector. Recruiting and training new and current workers will be critical to maintaining a transportation system that meets the economic and security needs of the Nation’s growing population.
For more information, visit http://cte.ed.gov/initiatives/advancing-cte-in-state-and-local-career-pathways-system.
USDOT Survey Reaffirms Need for Truck Parking Solutions
USDOT recently released survey results that point to a lack of truck parking capacity across the country. The survey also demonstrated a need for improvements in data to measure the extent of the problem and technology to help truck drivers locate available parking. In response, the Department launched a national coalition to address the problem and help find solutions. Almost half of the State departments of transportation surveyed reported that truckers were parking on freeway interchange ramps and shoulders of highways, which represents a safety concern.
The new National Coalition on Truck Parking includes representatives from FHWA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, AASHTO, the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the National Association of Truck Stop Operators, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, and other stakeholders.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act required USDOT to conduct the survey to determine if adequate parking is available for truck drivers based on the level of commercial traffic in the States. In addition to surveying State DOTs, USDOT solicited input from safety officials, truckers and truck stop operators, law enforcement, and other trucking industry stakeholders.
The findings in the Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey Results and Comparative Analysis show that most States reported having a shortage of truck parking at all times of the day, every day of the week. The analysis includes a discussion of the factors that can influence truck parking and offers ways to improve the collection and measurement of data on supply and demand, congestion, and safety.
USDOT and the National Coalition on Truck Parking will produce an action plan to help expand the dialogue to the regional level, so that State and local governments, law enforcement, and the trucking and business communities can develop parking solutions to meet the needs of the Nation’s truck drivers.
For more information, visit www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/infrastructure/truck_parking/index.htm.
USDOT Releases Report From Summit On National Address Database
In 2015, USDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics sponsored a summit to explore the feasibility of creating a national address database. The database would include a complete, current, and accurate list of addresses nationwide, including street name, number, and city, as well as less commonly used information like latitude, longitude, and spatial reference coordinates. Such a resource could improve emergency response, census activities, mail delivery, and more--ultimately helping save lives, reduce costs, and improve services for public and private interests.
The summit brought together representatives from Federal, State, local, and tribal government organizations; the private sector; and nonprofits with an interest in creating a national address database with geospatial coordinates. USDOT recently released the final report from the summit.
Four key points emerged from the summit to help guide the initiative. (1) Local authorities should be the authoritative sources for address assignment and should originate the datasets. (2) State authorities should be statewide aggregators of county and local datasets. (3)Given the complex nature of the United States, it is critical to recognize the role of non-State governmental entities such as tribal nations, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. (4) Federal leadership and support is needed for a sustainable national approach.
USDOT is working to identify existing resources and determine next steps, including establishing small pilot studies to demonstrate the feasibility of creating a national database.
The complete National Address Database Summit Report is available at www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/NADSummitReport_Final.pdf.
University of Michigan Opens Mcity Test Environment
Last summer, the University of Michigan opened Mcity, the world’s first controlled environment specifically designed to test the potential of connected and automated vehicle technologies. The facility was designed and developed by the university’s interdisciplinary Mobility Transformation Center, in partnership with the Michigan DOT.
Mcity is a 32-acre (13-hectare) simulated urban and suburban environment that includes a network of roads with intersections, traffic signs and signals, streetlights, building facades, sidewalks, and construction obstacles. It is designed to support rigorous, repeatable testing of new technologies before they are tried out on public streets and highways.
In particular, Mcity enables researchers to simulate the environments where connected and automated vehicles will be most challenged. For example, a tunnel simulates an overpass that can block vehicles from receiving wireless and satellite signals. Even seemingly minor details a vehicle might encounter in urban and suburban settings have been incorporated into Mcity, such as road signs defaced by graffiti and faded lane markings.
The facility is equipped to test connected vehicle technologies at various levels of sophistication and automation, all the way up to fully autonomous, or driverless, vehicles.
Launched in 2013, the Mobility Transformation Center is a public-private partnership among industry, government, and academia. Mcity construction began in 2014, and the University of Michigan and the Michigan DOT have invested about $10 million in the test facility. Mcity will be available for use by any organization, but priority will be given to the center’s partners and University of Michigan faculty and students.
For more information, visit www.mtc.umich.edu/test-facility.
University of Michigan
Florida Breaks Ground on Innovative Interchange
FDOT recently began work on an innovative diverging diamond interchange project at I–75 and University Parkway in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. The interchange is the first of its kind in the State. The $74.5 million reconstruction project will improve traffic flow and enhance safety at the intersection. Planners expect construction to be completed in September 2017.
The project expands I–75 to an eight-lane freeway with three through lanes and an auxiliary lane in each direction from University Parkway to the Fruitville Road interchange. The auxiliary lanes will provide a dedicated travel lane between the two interchanges.
The project also includes rebuilding I–75 bridges over University Parkway and widening I–75 bridges over Foley Creek and Erie Creek. FDOT also plans to widen approximately 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) of University Parkway from Cattlemen Road to Market Street to accommodate the interchange improvements. The new interchange will improve pedestrian safety, ensure interstate traffic flows between the two interchanges, alleviate delays, and reduce conflict points by eliminating some left-hand turns.
For more information, visit www.swflroads.com/i75/university.
Connecticut Completes the State’s Largest Highway Project Ahead of Schedule
In September 2015, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) opened the southbound side of the new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge on I–95 in New Haven--informally known as the Q Bridge--approximately 8 months ahead of schedule. Construction of the main span bridge was completed in July 2015 on schedule and on budget.
The new bridge, which carries traffic over the Quinnipiac River, is the central component of the 18-year, nearly $2 billion I–95 New Haven Harbor Crossing Corridor Improvement Program--by far the largest and most comprehensive program ConnDOT has ever undertaken. The improvements aim to increase capacity and reduce congestion on I–95 in the greater New Haven area. In addition to the new bridge, the program includes the complete reconstruction of the I–95/I–91/Route 34 interchange, and additional lanes along 7 miles (11 kilometers) of I–95 northbound and southbound between New Haven and Branford.
With five lanes and two full shoulders in both northbound and southbound directions, the new bridge has significantly improved capacity. The first phase constructed the northbound side of the bridge, which opened to traffic in June 2012. Construction on the southbound phase began immediately thereafter.
When the main span opened in 2012, it was the first “extradosed” cable-stayed bridge built in the United States. There are fewer than two dozen such bridges worldwide. Cable-stayed bridges have one or more columns or towers with cables supporting the bridge deck. An extradosed bridge has a more substantial bridge deck that, being stiffer and stronger, requires fewer cable supports and avoids the height requirements of a traditional cable-stayed bridge. This design was necessary for the Q Bridge because air traffic in and out of Tweed New Haven Regional Airport passes directly over the bridge.
Constructed in the late 1950s, the original bridge has been among the most heavily traveled segments of the northeast corridor between New York and Boston. The new bridge serves more than 140,000 vehicles per day.
For more information, visit www.i95newhaven.com.