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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 - March/April 2005

March/April 2005
Issue No:
Vol. 68 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.

USDOT Awards Grants for Transportation Research and Education

USDOT's Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) recently announced 20 grants totaling $17.9 million to support advanced transportation-related research and transportation workforce development at University Transportation Centers (UTCs) nationwide. The grants will support research to improve safety, security, and efficiency while providing innovative solutions for key transportation issues.

More than 75 colleges and universities across the Nation participate in the UTC program by conducting transportation research, education, and technology transfer. Last year, UTC colleges and universities graduated 1,100 students with advanced transportation-related degrees, offered almost 2,000 undergraduate and graduate transportation courses, conducted nearly 300 research projects, and trained more than 32,000 practicing transportation professionals.

The grants, administered by RSPA, ranged from $680,000 up to $2 million, with each UTC providing its own matching funds. Northwestern University in Illinois and George Mason University in northern Virginia received the most funds, with $2 million and $1.8 million, respectively.

For more information, contact Debbie Hinz at 202–366–4831 or To learn more about the UTC program, visit

Technical News

Florida Engineering Faculty Members Design New Highway Barrier

Three members of the engineering faculty at the University of Florida recently designed and patented a new low-profile concrete barrier. The 46-centimeter (18-inch)-high barrier, which comes in 3.7-meter (12-foot) segments, was developed to provide a less expensive, easier-to-align buffer at highway construction sites. The Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) expects to begin using the new barriers next year in work zones with speeds not exceeding 72 kilometers per hour (45 miles per hour).

The University of Florida's low-profile traffic barrier, shown here during installation, provides greater visibility, making roadways safer for drivers and construction workers.

The new barrier can successfully deflect any vehicle ranging from a small car to a standard pickup truck approaching from a 25-degree angle, preventing it from crashing into a work zone and protecting the occupants of the vehicle. The low vertical profile of the barrier provides drivers with an unimpeded view of other vehicles at points of crossing, dramatically decreasing the chances of crashes. In addition, the barrier system provides an innovative connection mechanism that permits layouts with both horizontal and vertical curvature.

For more information or to receive copies of the license agreement and engineering drawings, please contact Karl R. Zawoy with the University of Florida's Office of Technology Licensing at 352–392–8929 or and reference Case #1105.

University of Florida

Public Information and Information Exchange

Bush and Peters Announce Pennsylvania Avenue Improvements

First Lady Laura Bush and Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters recently reopened to pedestrians the section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, DC. The area was closed since January 2004 for scenic renovation and security improvements.

Each year, thousands of tourists visit the pedestrian plaza located between the White House and Lafayette Park. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) engineers and architects renovated the area using new "rustic pavement" technology and walkways, which re-create the historic look of 19th-century streets and landscaping. "We've completed a gracious, beautiful, and secure public streetscape that all Americans can enjoy," said Peters.

Joining Mrs. Bush and Administrator Peters at the ceremony were Washington, DC, Mayor Anthony A. Williams; National Capital Planning Commission Chairman John V. Cogbill III; and architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, who provided the design for the new look of the street and pedestrian plaza. The design maintains the safety of pedestrians in the modern-day District of Columbia, while incorporating elements of Pierre-Charles L'Enfant's original, European-influenced plans for the city, the natural beauty of Andrew Jackson Downing's Lafayette Park, and the landscaping on the White House grounds. Construction teams also have begun placing asphalt at Jackson Place and Madison Place.

For more information, contact Doug Hecox at 202–366–0660 or

National Transportation Week Educates And Enlightens

Each year, the U.S. transportation system helps millions of travelers reach their destinations and carries more than 14.5 billion metric tons (16 billion tons) of freight worth almost $12 trillion. To recognize the hard work of U.S. transportation planners, designers, and engineers in achieving these successes, USDOT, FHWA, and other transportation agencies will celebrate National Transportation Week (NTW) from May 15–21, 2005.

The week provides an opportunity for transportation-related agencies and organizations—including Federal, State, and local governments and educational institutions—to celebrate past accomplishments and look toward the future. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will sponsor several events including a visit to Potomac Airfield, Maryland, where students will serve as roving reporters, with articles appearing in the FAA "Intercom" online newsletter.

For the week, USDOT also will hold a national poster contest for fifth graders, inviting students to enter artwork that represents their thoughts on the theme "One Nation on the Move!"

For additional information about NTW, visit or contact Maggie Glesner at 703–235–0519 or

Arizona Uses Single Detour System to Benefit Taxpayers and Commuters

Freeway projects often are marked by long traffic delays and confusing detours, but the engineers and planners who are building the new Loop 202/U.S. 60 interchange in the East Valley region of Arizona have found a way to reduce driver frustration and save taxpayer dollars.

Several large overhead ramps that will eventually connect U.S. 60 to other roads were all built simultaneously while more than 113,000 vehicles per day were directed to a single alternate route, cutting nearly 300 days off the detour schedule and eliminating unnecessary delays for motorists. Projects with multiple detour schemes not only take longer but also cost hundreds of thousands of additional dollars in "throw-away" costs—funds spent to build temporary roads or to rent detour barricades and signs.

When complete, the interchange will connect the Red Mountain and Santan freeways with U.S. 60, essentially creating a freeway loop around the Southeast Valley. The interchange will provide freeway access to the rapidly growing populations of the cities of Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert. Completion is scheduled for 2007.

For more information, visit the project's Web site at

Colorado Program Selects T-REX Team As 2004 Award Recipient

The Transportation Expansion (T-REX) Project in Denver, CO, recently received the Colorado Performance Excellence (CPEx) program's Timberline Award, an honor recognizing sound management and systems practices. The T-REX Project is a $1.67 billion, Denver-based highway and light-rail expansion partnership of the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Regional Transportation District (RTD).

During the award assessment process, CPEx evaluated T-REX on the key management processes developed for the project, including its direction, audit program, controls, public information program, contract change controls, and partnering. CPEx is a nonprofit effort whose mission is to advance and recognize the efforts of Colorado industry, nonprofit, health care, education, and governmental organizations committed to quality and performance excellence.

"This award acknowledges the hard work, insight, and overall commitment of the entire T-REX team," says Tom Norton, executive director at the Colorado DOT. "We're confident that regardless of the various opportunities and challenges we face on T-REX, our team is able to address and resolve these issues because of the management practices we have in place."

Construction is scheduled to be completed in September 2006, and the Southeast Corridor Light Rail is on track to open in December 2006.

For more information, visit or contact Toni Gatzen at 303–357–8571 or Pauletta L. Puncerelli at 303–357–8578.

Transportation Expansion Project

Talking Operations Seminars Transmit New Knowledge

The National Transportation Operations Coalition (NTOC), in partnership with FHWA's Office of Operations, recently created a series of monthly seminars called "Talking Operations." These information sessions are conducted via the telephone and Internet and are designed to educate stakeholders on current trends, tools, and noteworthy practices in transportation management and operations and intelligent transportation systems (ITS). For the first seminar offered in fall 2003, NTOC achieved full registration at all 100 sites where the class was offered.

Each seminar includes a 60-minute information session followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer period. After the Webcast concludes, participants can continue the dialogue on the Talking Operations Forum located at The seminars provide a convenient way for practitioners to stay up to date while developing new skills, all at no cost.

This year's scheduled topics—including optimization of traffic signal systems, innovative financing, and work zone strategies for reducing congestion—reflect current industry issues and were chosen based on input from the transportation operations community. Participation is limited to the first 100 registrants, so multiple participants from a single agency or organization should gather at a single location to allow maximum participation.

For more information or to register for a seminar, visit or contact Jennifer Seplow at 703–676–6849, To learn more about NTOC and the Talking Operations Forum, visit

VDOT Opens First Rural Smart Traffic Center

The Virginia DOT (VDOT) recently opened a Smart Traffic Center in Staunton, VA, to improve traffic flow management in the Shenandoah Valley. In addition to housing the Staunton District's traffic engineering section, the center is home to the Staunton District Operations Center, a 24-hour facility that manages all intelligent transportation devices used for monitoring traffic and road conditions and managing incidents along the I–81 corridor in the Staunton District. The facility also serves as the base of the Augusta County office of the Virginia State Police, so both agencies contributed funding for construction.

The one-room operations center includes two stations that face a large projection screen showing multiple camera images from interstate corridors across the region. Operators not only can rotate the cameras to capture different views of I–81, but they also can adjust State-operated traffic signals to handle overflow traffic on arterial roads during an incident. The operators will manage the variable message signs along the interstate and adjacent roads, and input incident data into the area's 511 travel services system.

Images from four pilot cameras are available through the VDOT Web site at The cameras are located on I–64 on Afton Mountain, I–81 at Exit 298 near Strasburg, Exit 283 near Woodstock, and Exit 264 near New Market.

For more information, visit


FHWA and The Weather Channel Collaborate on Video Project

FHWA's Road Weather Management Program recently sponsored several events in partnership with The Weather Channel. The cooperative efforts began more than a year ago, as FHWA staff interacted with the meteorological community—including representatives from the television channel—to discuss how collaborative efforts between the transportation and weather forecasting communities could benefit both groups.

Since then, the FHWA Office of Operations has partnered with The Weather Channel to create a video that explores the effects of weather on highway operations and the solutions—both existing and emerging—being implemented to save lives, time, and money. The 30-minute video, "Road Risk," discusses ongoing efforts to improve highway operations, particularly under adverse weather conditions, and identifies the role that new ITS technologies play in achieving that goal. The presentation also features a number of solutions, including low-visibility warning systems, maintenance decision support systems, and 511 traveler information systems.

The producers acknowledged a number of officials in the transportation and weather communities, including professionals at the Iowa, Tennessee, and Virginia DOTs; States participating in the Aurora Program, a collaborative research program for road weather information systems; the University of North Dakota; and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. During mid-November, just in time to reach travelers during the busy Thanksgiving holiday, the video aired eight times on The Weather Channel.

For more information or to request a copy of the video, contact Paul Pisano at 202–366–1301 or

Iowa Issues Video on Innovative Bridge Construction Technology

The Iowa DOT, in cooperation with FHWA and Iowa State University, recently released a video and detailed report to inform the engineering community of a new bridge construction technology called "launching."

The Iowa DOT and its partners earned the FHWA Administrator's Environmental Quality Award for their use of the technique to minimize the environmental impacts of a bridge crossing the Iowa River on U.S. Route 20. The bridge's steel girders were launched directly from the east embankment to the west on a series of concrete piers—without disturbing the ecologically sensitive river bottom. The technique entails assembling the bridge superstructure at a safe distance from the river and then launching the entire assembly longitudinally to its final location. To set bridge beams, contractors normally use a barge, crane, or work bridge that may disturb the ecological balance of the river they are working over. The process Iowa used, however, causes only minimal disturbance and may even be combined with the use of precast bridge elements to reduce construction time and further minimize impacts.

The project marked the longest total-launch steel bridge in the Nation and was named one of the top 10 bridges in the United States by an industry publication. Although launching typically is used to protect ecosystems, habitats, and archeological sites, the success of Iowa's project has encouraged researchers to look into the possibility of using the same technique to limit congestion and improve safety during construction.

To receive a free copy of the video and report, contact Max G. Grogg at 515–233–7306 or For technical information, contact Ahmad Abu-Hawash at 515–239–1393 or

The new U.S. 20 Bridge over the Iowa River, shown here during construction, was built using an innovative construction process that is described in a report and video available from the Iowa DOT.