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Public Roads - Mar/Apr 2008

Mar/Apr 2008
Issue No:
Vol. 71 No. 5
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.


FHWA Announces $1.59 Million for Innovative Highway Technologies

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently awarded $1.59 million in grants to five companies that are developing innovative technologies to improve highway quality and safety. Distributed in November 2007 as part of the Highways for LIFE (HfL) program, the grants will help move the technologies from the prototype to testing phase.

The technologies under development include wet reflective pavement markings that are more easily seen under rainy conditions, imaging technology that reveals if changes are needed to make pavement mixes more durable before surfacing, sensors that determine in real time when asphalt has set, devices that quickly install pavement markers into roadways, and devices that can indicate the temperature level when asphalt will crack. These technology prototypes will save time and money, and reduce safety risks for highway workers.

For more information, visit

FHWA Allocates $5 Million to Speed  Construction and Reduce Gridlock

In October 2007 FHWA announced the allocation of nearly $5 million to five States under FHWA’s HfL program. The grants will help States build roads faster while making them last longer and be less costly to maintain. In addition to direct funding, the program also will ease State matching requirements for projects, thereby saving millions in State transportation funds. The HfL funds will help the five states -- Maryland, Montana, New York, North Dakota, and Utah -- reduce traffic jams near highway construction sites by speeding project completion.

Maryland will receive $800,000 to replace bridges on MD 28 in Frederick County and MD 725 in Prince George’s County. By relying on prefabricated concrete superstructures, the bridge replacements will reduce the duration of the projects from more than 1 year to just 60 days. Montana will receive $320,000 to retrofit cross-culvert liners on U.S. 12 in Powell by installing plastic or polymer compound liners in the existing culverts rather than excavating and replacing them. The State’s plan will reduce construction time by 70 percent.

New York will receive $1 million for bridge approach slabs on 15 bridges on I–88 in Delaware and Schoharie Counties. By using prefabricated concrete slabs, rather than cast-in-place concrete, crews will be able to work at night and limit interruptions to daytime traffic flow. North Dakota will receive $1 million to help rehabilitate a section of U.S. 2 from Berwick to Rugby. The project will use whitetopping – an innovative procedure in which an existing asphalt road surface is covered with a concrete overlay -- which is expected to reduce construction time by 40 percent. Utah will receive $1 million to replace a bridge on SR–266 over I–215 using prefabricated elements to reduce the impact on traffic flow by an estimated 80 percent.

Technical News

Economic Analysis Improves Transportation Planning in Cincinnati

FHWA’s Office of Asset Management recently released a new case study, The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments Experience (FHWA-IF-07-028). The study looks at how the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), located in Cincinnati, OH, adapted FHWA’s Surface Transportation Efficiency Analysis Model (STEAM) software to assist in prioritizing and selecting projects for its eight-county planning area.

STEAM uses trip time, distance, vehicle miles traveled, and other information already generated by travel demand models to compute the net value of mobility and safety benefits attributable to transportation projects. STEAM accepts input directly from the four-step travel demand modeling process used by most metropolitan planning organizations in their planning exercises. The software enables users to analyze risk and produce estimates of systemwide impact.

OKI is using the STEAM software to help allocate resources for tackling congestion on the Taylor Southgate Bridge (shown here) connecting Cincinnati, OH, and Newport, KY.

In 2006 OKI conducted a trial evaluation using STEAM to analyze the impacts of six projects already well understood based on a completed transportation study. Included were three lane additions, a road extension, and a new interchange. The results showed overall that the group of projects would be cost beneficial, with the findings generally supporting those of the previous transportation study. OKI now is looking to apply STEAM to certain large-scale projects and clusters of related individual projects.

This FHWA case study is available online at To learn more about OKI’s use of STEAM, contact OKI Senior Planner Mary Luebbers at 513–621–6300 or For more information on STEAM or to obtain a copy of the model, contact Eric Gabler at 202–366–4036 or

Policy and Legislation

USDOT Proposes New Safety Rules for Schoolbuses

In November 2007, after a top-level official joined children on a bus ride to Morrisville Elementary School in Wake County, NC, USDOT announced a new Federal  proposal to make schoolbuses safer by requiring higher seat backs and setting new seatbelt standards for the Nation’s 474,000 schoolbuses. The elementary school is one of the first in the country to equip some of its new buses with three-point seatbelts.

Beginning 1 year after the new rule would go into effect, all new schoolbuses would be equipped with seat backs 610 millimeters (24 inches) high. This increase, up from the current height of 508 millimeters (20 inches), would better protect passengers from being thrown over the seat backs in a crash.

The proposed rule also would require that new small buses, which are more prone to rollover than full-size buses, be equipped with three-point seatbelts within 3 years of the new rule taking effect, replacing the current requirement for lap belts only. For large buses, the rule would provide Federal seatbelt standards for school districts. In addition, the Federal Government would allow school districts to use Federal Highway Safety Funds to cover the additional cost of equipping buses with seatbelts.

Schoolbuses already are the safest form of motor vehicle transportation, with a fatality rate that is nearly six times lower than passenger vehicles. On average, fewer than eight passengers die in schoolbus crashes each year, even though they carry 25.1 million children more than 7.7 billion kilometers (4.8 billion miles) annually.

The proposed rule is based in part on information gathered during a public meeting hosted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in July 2007. To view the proposal, visit

Public Information and  Information Exchange

Kansas Receives National Award  For Partnership Efforts

The National Partnership for Highway Quality (NPHQ) recently recognized the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) as the State winner of the “2007 National Achievement Award” for its $66 million collaborative project to improve the 87th Street Parkway and I–35/U.S. 69 in Johnson County, KS.

“This is an excellent example of partnering, and it shows what can happen when the State and local units of government work together on a common goal,” says KDOT Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller.

The design chosen for the interchange, a Single Point Urban Interchange, was one of the first of its kind in Kansas. The project allows for simultaneous traffic movements while reducing stops for turning traffic.

These construction workers are pouring concrete on the 87th Street Parkway and I–35/U.S. 69 interchange in Lenexa, KS. This KDOT construction project featured a Single Point Urban Interchange designed to decrease delays and increase capacity and safety.

NPHQ is a partnership among Federal, State, and roadway industry leaders and officials that promotes highway quality, safety, and service to the highway user. The NPHQ awards recognize many factors, including overall project quality, partnerships between State departments of transportation (DOTs) and private contractors, and effectiveness and creativity of public involvement.

For more information, visit


Documentary Chronicles Rehab of Historic Road

FHWA’s Western Federal Lands Highway Division and the National Park Service (NPS) recently finished production of a documentary DVD about the enormous effort now underway to preserve the historic Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Going-to-the-Sun Road is an 80-kilometer (50-mile) long, two-lane highway that winds through the heart of Glacier National Park. Built mostly between 1921 and 1932, the road is designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and National Historic Landmark. After 75 years of reliable service, the road is in urgent need of major rehabilitation. The documentary is part of a public information program to get the word out about the rehabilitation and the potential impacts of the project on park visitors.

The DVD features three separate productions. The first, “Preserving a Landmark in the Sky,” runs about 13 minutes and will be available to park visitors in Glacier’s St. Mary Visitor Center auditorium beginning in summer 2008. This version features segments on the history  of the road’s original construction and chronicles the planning and execution of the rehabilitation. The second production, “Transportation Options at Glacier National Park,” is a 5-minute edit of the first version, but focuses on Glacier’s various transportation options, including the Blackfeet Cultural Tours and the new voluntary shuttle bus system. This video is available online at and The third production, “Path to Partnership: Rehabilitation of the Going-to-the-Sun Road,” is similar to the first but focuses on the partnership between FHWA and NPS.

For a DVD copy of the documentary, contact Amit Armstrong at 360–619–7668 or

I–70 Mountain Corridor Coalition Launches  New Project Web Site

In fall 2007 the I–70 Mountain Corridor Coalition launched its new and improved “I–70 Coalition” Web site ( to help motorists stay informed about planned improvements along Colorado’s main east-west highway corridor. With up-to-date information, the site provides details about the coalition, the future of transit along the I–70 mountain corridor, and travel tips to avoid congestion in the corridor. The enhanced site also includes access to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s live Web cameras with a preview of traffic along the corridor 24 hours a day.

“We’re offering the public a helpful tool to find information on current and future plans for I–70,” says  I–70 Coalition Director Flo Raitano. “Our goal is to help the public understand who the players are and what they can do to become involved.”

Raitano says the site also enables visitors to sign up for an e-newsletter, I–70 Alert, which provides information about the coalition’s activities, transportation issues at the State and local levels, and upcoming opportunities for public involvement.

For more information, visit or contact Flo

I–70 Mountain Corridor Coalition

Michigan DOT Wins Award for Safe Routes to School

In October 2007, the National Center for Safe Routes to School awarded the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) the first annual “James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award.” Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar presided at the presentation of the award, which bears his name in recognition of his role in creating the Federal Safe Routes to School Program in 2005.

The Federal program will provide approximately $16 million to Michigan for projects to improve infrastructure (sidewalks, marked crosswalks), implement law enforcement strategies (police patrols, crossing guards), and educate parents and students about safe walking and bicycling practices.

The award recognizes MDOT’s efforts in developing Safe Routes 2 School, a handbook encouraging schools to register for the program and submit projects for funding. The handbook is available to elementary and middle schools interested in developing plans of action to create safe routes to their schools. Since Michigan announced its program in May 2006, more than 250 schools have registered interest in participating.

For more information, visit To view the MDOT handbook, visit