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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 - July/August 2016

July/August 2016
Issue No:
Vol. 80 No. 1
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.

Deputy Administrator Kim Joins Dedication of Portland Bridge

Deputy Federal Highway Administrator David Kim recently joined U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matt Garrett, and other local and State officials to dedicate the new Sellwood Bridge in Multnomah County, OR.  The nearly 2,000-foot (610-meter), $319 million bridge replaces a 91-year-old bridge that was unable to keep up with a growing volume of traffic.  The project received $38 million in Federal funds, including a $17.7 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant.

The original Sellwood Bridge, built in 1925 to replace a ferry crossing, was the area’s first bridge over the Willamette River without trolley tracks. It was not designed for the weight of streetcars and consequently was less substantial than the city’s other river crossings and more prone to damage from heavy traffic volume and seismic activity.


The central arch of the new Sellwood Bridge in Oregon is shown here during construction in April 2015. It replaces a nearly century-old bridge that no longer meets traffic volume or seismic requirements.


The design consultant ensured the new bridge meets the latest seismic standards and construction engineering to enable it to remain standing through an earthquake equal to the largest recorded there in the last 1,000 years. In addition, it features shoulders and wider lanes for drivers, wider sidewalks for pedestrians, and access to nearby trails for bicyclists.

The new Sellwood bridge is Oregon’s first project registered by Greenroads, a nonprofit that has provided certification recognizing the bridge’s overall sustainability. Notably, workers recycled 91 percent of the project’s overall waste, which ensured fewer materials went to local landfills, and Multnomah County donated cedar trees removed during construction to local Native American tribes for use in traditional garments and ceremonial items.

For more information, visit

Guidance Helps States “Repurpose” $2 Billion in Unused Earmarks

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced that roughly $2 billion in previously unused earmarks can be put back to work to support infrastructure projects across the country, as described inrecent guidancefrom the Federal Highway Administration.

The guidance implements a provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, which gives States the option of repurposing certain earmarked funds if the original earmark is more than 10 years old and if less than 10 percent of the project funds have been obligated, or if the project is closed.  Through the end of fiscal year 2016 (on September 30, 2016), States have the option of redesignating these dollars to other projects within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the original location of intended use.

The guidance describes the process by which State DOTs issue such notifications, making the funds immediately available for use. Once a State elects to repurpose funds, it has until the end of FY 2019 to obligate thefunds.

This action builds on a similar one in August 2012, when USDOT made more than $470 million in unspent earmarks immediately available to States for projects that created jobs and helped improve transportation across the country.

For more information, visit

Public Information and Information Exchange

USDOT Leaders Name Winner Of Innovation Challenge

Senior transportation leaders convened in February at the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, MA, to choose the winner of Volpe’s fourth Innovation Challenge.  The challenge is an annual event that encourages multidisciplinary staff teams at Volpe to develop and pitch creative ideas to improve some aspect of the transportation enterprise.  The winning team receives seed funding to further its idea.

Participating teams spent more than 3 months developing, analyzing, and quantifying their ideas and creating their pitches for a panel of seven senior USDOT judges. The judges included leaders from USDOT’s Office of the Secretary and several of the modal administrations, including FHWA.  The four finalist teams delivered presentations in December describing the challenges they chose to tackle, the solutions they proposed, and the impacts those solutions could have on the future of transportation.

The 2015 Innovation Challenge winning team, TransportSE: Moving Justice Forward, proposes to create a new interactive screening tool to visualize interactions between multimodal transportation and social vulnerability.  This methodology aims to compile multiple vulnerability categories into a single, transparent, customizable tool that could be used to identify vulnerable locations.  The proposed Transportation Social Equity (TransportSE) tool would provide transportation agencies and the public with a readily available, easy-to-use source for exploring the social equity implications of USDOT projects.

The team’s next step is to develop a prototype of TransportSE by early fall 2016.  The development process will incorporate an iterative schedule, which will enable stakeholders to provide input along the way.

For more information, visit

USDOT Releases 30-Year Freight Projections

The latest version of the Freight Analysis Framework, the most comprehensive publicly available dataset of freight movement, provides projections by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and FHWA showing that freight tons moving on the Nation’s transportation network will grow 40 percent in the next three decades.  The value of the freight will almost double, increasing by 92 percent. By 2045, total freight on all modes--air, vessel, pipeline, rail, and trucks--is projected to reach 25 billion tons, while the value is expected to grow to $37 trillion.


Increased freight traffic could lead to greater congestion on the Nation’s roads, such as this highway in Stamford, CT.


The current estimates show that in 2015, the transportation network moved nearly 18.1 billion tons of goods worth about $19.2 trillion. On a daily basis, 49 million tons of goods valued at more than $53 billion are shipped throughout the country on all transportation modes.  Trucks are by far the single most used mode to move freight, accounting for 64 percent of tonnage in 2015 and 69 percent of the value.  Tonnage for trucking is forecast to grow 44 percent by 2045, and value is forecast to grow 84 percent.

The Freight Analysis Framework includes data to help the public and private sectors at all levels better understand freight movement.  Transportation planners use it to better target resources to improve operations or increase capacity. USDOT will release additional updates throughout 2016, including State-to-State flows for 1997, 2002, and 2007 and truck flows assigned to the highway network for 2012 and 2045.

For more information, visit

U.S. Driving Tops 3.1 Trillion Miles in 2015

The year-end data from FHWA show that U.S. driving reached 3.148 trillion miles (5.066 trillion kilometers) in 2015, shattering the previous record of 3.003 trillion miles (4.833 trillion kilometers) set in 2007.  The data, published in FHWA’s Traffic Volume Trends report--a monthly estimate of U.S. road travel--show that drivers logged more than 264.2 billion miles (425.2 billion kilometers) in December alone, highlighting the growing demands facing the Nation’s roads.

The December 2015 report also includesseasonally adjusted data, which is produced by USDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics as a way to even out seasonal variation in travel and enable comparisons of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) with any other month in any year.  The seasonally adjusted VMT for December 2015 were 268.5 billion miles (432.1 billion kilometers), a new monthly record. December VMT increased by 4 percent compared to the previous December and by 1.4 percent compared with seasonally adjusted November 2015 figures.  The estimates include passenger vehicle, bus, and truck travel.

At 11.3 percent, California led the Nation with the largest unadjusted single-State traffic percent increase compared to the same month a year earlier, followed by Hawaii at 7.2 percent and Arkansas at 6.2 percent.

For more information, visit

Guide Helps Agencies Adapt to Climate Change

FHWA recently released a guide that explains how transportation agencies can incorporate climate change into their operations, maintenance, and emergency management activities. Climate Change Adaptation Guide for Transportation Systems Management, Operations, and Maintenance (FHWA-HOP-15-026) provides a primer for program managers and supervisors in all operational aspects. It describes the context and rationale for adapting to climate change, what State DOTs are currently doing, steps for adaptation, and how to get started.


The 77-page guide includes appendices covering climate-sensitive decisions, additional resources, future research needs, sample workshop handouts, and a checklist for technical staff.  The checklist is also available as part of a four-page fact sheet, Transportation System Resilience to Extreme Weather and Climate Change (FHWA-HOP-15-025), which aims to help highway departments take action to improve their transportation systems’ resilience to extreme weather and climatechange.

Climate change threatens the ability of transportation agencies to manage, operate, and maintain safe, reliable transportation systems effectively. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense, and long-term climatological trends are changing how transportation systems need to be operated, managed, and maintained.  These changes necessitate adjustments by State DOTs to ensure the resilience of activities such as traffic monitoring and management, dissemination of traveler information, traffic incident and emergency management, and maintenance management.

The guide is available at, and the factsheet is available at

Inspections and Enforcement Saved Lives in 2012

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently released an analysis that estimates that traffic enforcement programs and roadside safety inspections of commercial vehicles saved 472 lives in 2012.Since 2001, these programs have saved more than 7,000 lives.

FMCSA’s annual Roadside Intervention Effectiveness Model (RIEM) analysis estimates that in 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available), these life-saving safety programs also prevented nearly 9,000 injuries from more than 14,000 crashes involving large commercial trucks and buses.

FMCSA developed the tool to annually measure and analyze the effectiveness of roadside safety inspections and traffic enforcement activities in terms of crashes avoided, injuries prevented, and lives saved.In this model, roadside safety inspections and traffic enforcements are considered interventions.  As a result of these interventions, unsafe trucks and buses, and unsafe commercial drivers face fines and removal from the roadway.The ultimate goal is to change behavior by carriers and commercial drivers to operate in compliance with Federal safety regulations, leading to a reduction in crashes involving commercial motor vehicles.

The RIEM tool associates each violation of FMCSA’s safety regulations with a specific crash probability. Using these probabilities, analysts can estimate the number of crashes avoided as a result of correcting these violations.

For the full 2012 report, visit


NC Governor Breaks Ground for New Bonner Bridge

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory recently broke ground on the long-awaited Herbert C. Bonner Bridge replacement over Oregon Inlet on the coast.  An important lifeline for the State’s economy, the Dare County bridge originally opened in 1963 and provides the only highway connection between the Outer Banks’ Hatteras Island and the mainland. North Carolina Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson joined the Governor for the groundbreaking celebration, along with Federal, State, and local government officials and hundreds of local residents.


The existing Bonner Bridge, shown in this 2008 aerial photo, is the only highway access between Hatteras Island (right) and mainland North Carolina.


The new 2.8-mile (4.5-kilometer) bridge is designed to have a 100-year lifespan and is scheduled to open to traffic in November 2018.  The North Carolina DOT expects the overall project, including the demolition of the existing bridge, to be completed in September 2019.

The new bridge also benefits maritime traffic, as the high rise will be 3,500 feet (1,067 meters) long and have seven navigational spans, each averaging about 300 feet (91 meters) in width, which will provide more options for navigation under the bridge. Comparatively, the arched high rise of the existing bridge provides for only one navigational span with an opening of 130 feet (40 meters).

For more information on the project, visit

North Carolina DOT