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 U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let’s meet along the road.
NHTSA, EPA Propose National Standards for Trucks and Buses
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are proposing the first national standards to improve the fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks and buses and reduce their associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The standards would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 250 million metric tons and save 500 million barrels of oil over the lives of the vehicles produced within the program’s first 5 years.
The standards would cover three categories of heavy trucks: combination tractors, heavy-duty pickups and vans, and vocational vehicles (such as delivery trucks and school buses). For combination tractors, the agencies are proposing engine and vehicle standards that begin in the 2014 model year and achieve up to a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fuel consumption by the 2018 model year. For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, the agencies are proposing separate gasoline and diesel truck standards starting in the 2014 model year and achieving up to a 10 percent reduction for gasoline vehicles and 15 percent reduction for diesel vehicles by the 2018 model year. Lastly, for vocational vehicles, the agencies are proposing engine and vehicle standards starting in the 2014 model year that would achieve up to a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by the 2018 model year.
Overall, EPA and NHTSA estimate that the program will provide $41 billion in net benefits, including fuel savings and emissions reductions, over the lifetime of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles. The innovative technologies such as aerodynamic improvements, tire rolling resistance, and engine and transmission upgrades fostered by this program also will yield economic benefits, enhance energy security, and improve air quality.
Public Information and Information Exchange
USDOT Launches Distracted Driving Video Series
In November 2010, USDOT launched “Faces of Distracted Driving,” an online video series showing the consequences of using cell phones while driving. The series features people from across the country who have been injured or lost loved ones in distracted driving crashes. The videos are part of USDOT efforts to raise public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and to support victims.
At its launch, the series contained three videos, each featuring a family member of a victim of distracted driving. In one video, a mother talks about how her 13-year-old daughter died when a truck driver talking on his cell phone crashed into the back of the school bus in which she was a passenger. In another video, a woman shares how her 58-year-old mother died when a distracted driver struck her as she walked beside a road. The third video features a father talking about how his 16-year-old daughter died when she lost control of her vehicle, crossed the centerline, and hit a pickup truck because she was texting while driving.
In an introductory video, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood says, “Our ‘Faces of Distracted Driving’ Web series shares the stories of these people, whose lives have been forever changed because of texting or talking behind the wheel.” In 2009, nearly 5,500 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.
For more information, visit www.distraction.gov/faces.
Montana Encourages Drivers to Use Cell Phone Pull Outs
In an effort to discourage cell phone use while driving, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) recently started posting signs on existing highway pull outs -- designated areas where drivers can pull off the highway -- where cell phone service is available. MDT hopes the signs will encourage drivers to use the pull outs and resist the urge to use their phones while driving.
The signs are installed along the roadside prior to pull outs with verified cell phone service, and simply state, “Cell Phone Pull Out ¼ Mile.” Since the first installation in July 2010, MDT has installed 18 signs in western Montana. MDT plans to expand the number of pull outs across the State to increase awareness and help prevent cell phone use while driving.
Posting signs at pull outs is inexpensive and has potential for reducing crashes. Since the pull outs already exist, MDT crews simply verify cell phone coverage and then install the signs, making this a low-cost safety solution.
Rhode Island Opens Multimodal Hub
In October 2010, Rhode Island opened the T.F. Green Airport InterLink, one of the State’s largest transportation projects. Designed to improve convenience for travelers such as airport users and commuters, the facility connects travelers going by plane, train, bus, and car.
The InterLink connects travelers with several options for getting where they need to go, including a consolidated rental car facility serving both the airport and commuter trains traveling between Boston, MA, Providence, RI, and Warwick, RI. The facility also provides for the area’s first-ever connection between commuter rail service and the airport, bus service, and rental cars.
The project’s 1,200-foot (366-meter)-long Skywalk spans the airport’s upper level, connects to the airport terminal at the third floor, and joins to the rental car and commuter parking garage. The Skywalk uses high-efficiency glass, heating and ventilation, and light fixtures to help keep energy costs low. The six-level garage has 2,600 parking spaces and a three-level platform for fueling, washing, and vacuuming rental cars. Precasting its nearly 3,500 concrete pieces in Connecticut and assembling them onsite reduced construction time and improved the garage’s overall quality.
For more information on the project, see “Small State, Big Vision” in the March/April 2010 issue of Public Roads.
Complete Streets Partners with CDC
The National Complete Streets Coalition is serving as a technical assistance provider for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Communities Putting Prevention to Work program. The program fights tobacco use and obesity using a three-step approach that includes policy, systems, and environmental change.
The project, started in late 2010, reaches 52 communities across the country. In communities interested in pursuing Complete Streets policies, the coalition will work to help them draft policies and then guide them through policy adoption. After adoption, the coalition will educate the communities about changing their systems and procedures to take into account the needs of people walking, bicycling, and taking public transportation for all future transportation projects. Finally, when the policies and systems are in place, they are expected to lead to systemwide environmental changes such as routinely incorporating sidewalks, bike lanes, safer crossings, and other features that make nonmotorized travel safer and more convenient.
The program’s ultimate goal is to reduce chronic diseases related to obesity and tobacco use by making changes to policies and the built environment to encourage healthier choices such as walking and bicycling.
National Complete Streets Coalition