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 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let's meet along the road.
Policy and Legislation
Clinton Passes Motor Carrier Improvement Act
On Dec. 9, President Clinton signed the Motor Carrier Improvement Act of 1999, which calls for improving the commercial driver's license program and allowing the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the states to effectively identify problem drivers and take remedial action. The law will enable DOT to ensure that newly formed motor carrier companies follow safety regulations, levy sanctions on foreign carriers who operate illegally in the United States, deny entry to carriers who are not properly registered,and to fine those who violate the law.
This law also created the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a new office within DOT, which regulates and supports the nation's interstate commercial carrier industry. FMCSA is set up to develop and promote, in coordination with other departmental modes, data-driven, analysis-based, and innovative programs to achieve continuous safety improvements in the highway system, intermodal connections, and motor carrier operations.
Slater Signs Order Establishing New Policy With Native Americans
Transportation Secretary Slater signed an order calling for agencies of DOT to build more effective working relationships with Native American tribal governments and to provide more opportunities for Native Americans to participate in transportation programs.
The new policy implements federal mandates, including a memorandum in which President Clinton directed all federal agencies to respect tribal sovereignty when implementing activities that affect Indian tribal rights or trust resources.
The order enumerates 17 instructions for all the department's components. They include consulting with Indian tribes before taking any action that may significantly affect them; assessing the environmental impact of department activities on tribal trust resources; and responding to the transportation concerns of Native Americans and Alaska Natives related to environmental matters.
Management and Administration
FHWA Issues $286 Million for States in Highway Discretionary Funds
Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater announced $286 million in FHWA discretionary funds for infrastructure projects in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
There are seven categories in which the funds will be used:
- Construction and improvement of roads formally designated as scenic byways ($20.3 million).
- Repair and improvement to the Interstate Highway System ($88.5 million).
- Repair of deficient bridges ($65.3 million).
- Repair of deficient bridges that require seismic retrofitting ($21.8 million).
- Innovative bridge research ($15.9 million).
- Construction of highways on public lands such as national parks ($42.8 million).
- Improvement of ferry boats and terminals to facilitate movement of people and goods across land and coastal waterways ($31.4 million).
Discretionary funds from FHWA are made available upon selection by the Secretary of Transportation after requests from states for funds for projects that meet criteria established by federal law and the regulations and procedures of DOT are considered.
FRA Proposes Requirements for Train Horns at Public Highway-Rail Grade Crossings
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) proposed a rule that would require trains to sound their horns at public highway-rail grade crossings except at select crossings in communities that meet specific criteria for quiet zones.
The proposed rule describes safety measures that communities could use in an established quiet zone that would still deter drivers from taking risks at crossings. These measures include the use of four quadrant gates, channelization devices or crossing closures at highway-rail grade crossings, or photo enforcement to deter violators. The rule also proposed a limit for the volume of the trains' horns.
In 1998, there were 3,508 highway-rail grade crossing collisions, resulting in 431 fatalities and 1,303 injuries. Studies have shown that there is a 62 percent greater probability that highway-rail grade crossing incidents will occur at crossings where train horns are not sounded.
The proposal is posted on the Internet at http://dms.dot.gov. Comments should be sent by May 26, 2000 to the DOT Central Docket Management Facility, Docket Number FRA-1999-6439, 400 Seventh St., S.W., Washington, D.C.
FHWA Helps Fund Millennium Trials Initiative
FHWA has provided $3.6 million in discretionary funds to four trails as part of the Millennium Trails Initiative. This initiative is a collaborative effort of the White House Millennium Council, DOT, and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. American Express Corporation and the National Endowment for the Arts are among the other financial contributors.
There are three categories of designated millennium trials: national, legacy, and community. The four trails projects to receive funding include:
- The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trial in California, a national millennium trial that received $200,000.
- The Columbia River State Highway Trail in Oregon and the Blackstone River Bikeway in Rhode Island, which are both millennium legacy trails. They received $435,500 and $1.7 million, respectively.
- The Teton Pass Trail in Idaho and Wyoming, which is expected to be nominated as one of 2,000 community millennium trails, received $1.3 million.
For more information about the Millennium Trails Initiative, visit http://www.millenniumtrails.org/.
FHWA and Industry Researchers Develop HIPERPAV software
Researchers at FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, along with industry researchers, developed the High-Performance Paving (HIPERPAV) System, a software package that predicts pavement performance. This will help engineers construct longer lasting, crack-free pavements. The system will provide a more accurate prediction of the potential for cracking in concrete pavements and overlays during construction.
The system evaluates the factors that make each project unique, enabling engineers to fine-tune each job and eliminate potential problems before construction begins. This will eventually save time and money and will yield a better product.
Factors such as moisture and temperature changes affect the stress and strength development of pavements. These factors can damage the concrete during the first 72 hours of construction since the concrete is relatively weak at this stage. This could lead to cracking and ultimately to rough pavement and poor performance.
Before HIPERPAV was in use, other pavement predictive models did not account for the complex interactions between the elements involved in each specific project. That resulted in generic or inaccurate predictions of performance.
Public Information and Information Exchange
FHWA and NHTSA Develop Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool
FHWA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have developed a Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool (PBCAT) through the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC). PBCAT is a software product intended to assist state and local bicycle coordinators, planners, and engineers with identifying problem intersections and devising solutions.
PBCAT is both a database and an analytical tool. It analyzes data put into a database, which contains certain details associated with crashes between motor vehicles and pedestrians or bicyclists. One of these details is the crash type, which describes the pre-crash actions of the parties involved. With the database developed, the software can then be used to produce reports and select countermeasures to address the problems identified.
The draft version of PBCAT is now available on CD-ROM and includes the software itself and a user's manual (Publication No. FHWA-RD-99-192). For more information on this product, contact Carol Tan Esse at email@example.com.
FHWA, Iowa Receive Vice President's 1999 Hammer Award
FHWA; Iowa DOT; Iowa's Department of Public Safety; Iowa State Court Administrator's Office, Judicial Branch; and Iowa State University received Vice President Al Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government Hammer Award. The award was presented for the development of the National Model, a system devised to improve the collection, transmittal, and management of highway safety data in Iowa.
The National Model replaced paper-based, labor-intensive processes with methods that delivered data about safety more quickly and with greater accuracy to agencies responsible for analyzing that data. The system improves highway safety by delivering information to police administrators, safety engineers, and other decision-makers quickly and accurately.
During June 1, 1998 to May 31, 1999, the National Model effort helped Iowa collect data on 48,602 motor carrier inspections; 39,956 traffic citations; and 8,837 crash reports. The amount of time it took to relay that information was reduced from 120 days to one day. Using the model also reduced the time involved in completing law enforcement and crash reports up to 50 percent, freeing up resources for other community policing duties.
The Hammer Award is presented to teams of federal employees who have made significant contributions in support of reinventing government principles. More than 1,200 Hammer Awards have been presented to teams comprised of federal employees, state and local employees, and citizens who are working to build a better government.
DOT Releases Transportation Statistics Annual Report 1999
DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) released Transportation Statistics Annual Report 1999, a comprehensive assessment of the nation's transportation system .
The report examines all aspects of the transportation system, including its physical characteristics and condition, economic performance, safety record, energy use, and environmental impacts.
This year's edition includes information on high-speed rail corridors and a discussion of pedestrian and bicycle safety.
The environmental impact section of the report was expanded to include topics on transportation infrastructure, equipment manufacturing, vehicle maintenance and disposal, and direct impacts of transportation activities.
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century mandates the this report be published each year. It is available in both a printed and an electronic copy. To obtain a printed copy, call (202) 366-DATA. The electronic version of the report will be available on BTS's Web site at www.bts.gov.
Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project Approved
On December 17, a federal appeals court ruled that the 12-lane Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project may proceed according to the original schedule, with construction anticipated to start in late 2000. The three-judge panel reversed an April 1999 U.S. District Court ruling and found that the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the 12-lane project fully complied with laws pertaining to environmental and historic preservation.
When completed, the bridge will have eight regular lanes; two lanes for merging/exiting traffic coming from adjacent interchanges; and two lanes to handle a variety of future multiple-passenger transportation options, such as carpool lanes, rail transit, or express bus lanes.
Jeff Leaves FHWA; Sutton Appointed Acting Deputy Administrator
Gloria J. Jeff, former FHWA Deputy Administrator, left her position after six years of service to FHWA to become manager of transportation programs for Parsons Brinckerhoff. Walter L. Sutton Jr., who was director of policy at FHWA, will serve as Acting Deputy Administrator.
Jeff was named deputy administrator in August 1997. She was the first African-American and the second woman to hold that position. She served as acting administrator from August 1997 to November 1999. Jeff previously served as FHWA associate administrator for policy, where she directed the development of the agency's strategic plan; initiated development of the National Freight Partnership; and oversaw the development of an agreement between FHWA, Federal Transit Administration, and the South Africa Department of Transportation.
Sutton, who was named acting deputy administrator on January 10, was formerly working as head of FHWA policy since September 1998. He came to work at FHWA from Dallas, where he was senior environmental attorney with Fina Oil and Chemical Company. Before that, he was regional counsel and deputy regional counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and practiced environmental law with Hughes and Luce, L.L.P., in Dallas.
During Sutton's tenure as acting deputy administrator, King W. Gee, director, Office of International Programs, will serve as acting director of policy.
Bein Named President-Elect of ASCE
Robert Bein of Robert Bein, William Frost & Associates (RBF) of California, was named president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Elected by the ASCE membership, Bein will begin his one-year term as president in October 2000.
Bein has more than 40 years of professional engineering experience in the public and private sector. He joined RBF in 1962 and became president of RBF, a civil engineering and land surveying firm, in 1964.