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Public Roads - March/April 2012

March/April 2012
Issue No:
Vol. 75 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 Releases New Guidance For Proprietary Products

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently released new guidance that clarifies its regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (23 CFR 635.411) regarding patented and proprietary products. The guidance details that States may certify that no suitable alternatives exist and describes when a public interest finding by FHWA is required.

The new guidance notes that FHWA will post division office-approved public interest findings at, and that FHWA encourages State departments of transportation (DOTs) to post their certifications on the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' (AASHTO) product evaluation listing Web site at

This guidance will help States to take advantage of breakthroughs in private industry to deliver safer and better highways and bridges. The guidance continues to support the principle of competition in the selection of materials when more than one equally suitable product exists to fulfill project requirements. It also clarifies that additional approvals are not required when proprietary products are evaluated in FHWA-sponsored programs, such as Highways for Life, the Innovative Bridge Research and Deployment Program, and the Innovative Pavement Research and Deployment Program.

Learn more about 23 CFR 635.411 at

Support Available for Implementing LRFR

Since late 2010, all new bridges and ones that are being completely replaced must be load rated using the Load and Resistance Factor Rating (LRFR) method for evaluating the live load carrying capacity of bridges. The new method improves safety by incorporating this state-of-the-art rating methodology. Load and resistance factors are calibrated using statistical data on loads and materials. FHWA recently announced new resources to assist State DOTs in implementing the LRFR method.

States have realized many advantages from using LRFR, including the system's ability to accommodate State-specific legal and permit loads, as well as local live load statistics. The LRFR method offers consistency, uniformity, and reliability, allowing for increased confidence in evaluating bridge safety.

To support use of LRFR, the agency established an LRFR Implementation Working Group. The group includes representatives from FHWA's Office of Bridge Technology, Resource Center, and division offices. The group conducted a national survey of LRFR implementation status, which found that 92 percent of States are using LRFR to rate bridges designed with the Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) method, while 38 percent are using it to rate bridges designed with AASHTO's standard specifications. Thirty-one percent have finalized State-specific policies and procedures to implement LRFR, and 19 percent have developed draft policies and procedures.


LRFR will be used to rate the Kanawha Bridge, shown here, in South Charleston, WV, the longest box girder span in the United States.


FHWA recently launched a free webinar series on LRFR implementation focusing on priority topics for which States have requested more information. The topics include FHWA's expectations on load rating, LRFR fundamentals, load ratings for culverts and segmental bridges, and the experiences of various State DOTs in implementing the method. FHWA's National Highway Institute also offers 2- and 4-day courses on the fundamentals and applications of LRFR.

For more infortmation on FHWA's LRFR webinar series, contact Lubin Gao at 202-366-4604 or

Technical News

TFHRC Laboratory Receives ISO Certification

The Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory (FOIL) at FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) in McLean, VA, recently received ISO:17025 certification. Known as the world's largest developer and publisher of international standards, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) offers rigorous accreditation that is the main standard used by testing and calibration laboratories to show that they can produce consistently valid results and that they have a documented quality management system.

This recognition attests to the quality and consistency of the work of FOIL scientists. An external accrediting agency conducted the assessment, including a review of reference materials to ensure set policies for testing are developed. Reviewers also assessed the laboratory's testing and reporting capabilities while FOIL researchers conducted a full-scale vehicle crash test with a four-door sedan. To collect data on the vehicle's crush characteristics, the laboratory used an unmanned external propulsion system to accelerate the vehicle to 31 miles per hour (50 kilometers per hour) for its impact with a rigid, instrumented pole.


Researchers conduct vehicle crash tests at FOIL, such as this one collecting data on crush characteristics during a vehicle impact with an instrumented pole.


Testing roadside hardware helps improve safety on roadways. The scientists look for better ways to keep drivers safe, striving to eliminate deaths, minimize injuries to drivers, and reduce damages to vehicles and highway infrastructure in the event of a crash. The research is done primarily to establish the set of criteria that roadside hardware must meet. The new accreditation allows users of the FOIL to have confidence in the quality of the lab's data and results.

Videos of the crash test are available on the FHWA YouTube channel at For more information, contact Eduardo Arispe at 202-493-3291 or

FHWA Updates Interactive Highway Safety Design Model

FHWA recently released version 7.0.0 of its Interactive Highway Safety Design Model (IHSDM), which features a new calibration utility for its Crash Prediction Module, a redesigned intersection editor, and improved software features.

The new calibration utility addresses the fact that crash frequencies can vary substantially from one jurisdiction to another, due to differences such as climate, drivers, animal populations, and crash reporting thresholds and systems. Given greater confidence in the expected crashes predicted by the calibrated models, State DOTs can use IHSDM output in benefit/cost analyses, where the benefit is the savings realized from the reduction in crashes for one alternative versus another.

First released in 2003, IHSDM has six evaluation modules that help provide quantitative measures of safety performance, check designs against applicable guidelines, and diagnose factors contributing to safety.

IHSDM, which is supported by FHWA's Geometric Design Laboratory at TFHRC, covers two-lane and multilane rural highways and urban and suburban arterials. It is an essential resource for supporting AASHTO's Highway Safety Manual, Part C: Predictive Method.

The updated software is available for free download at

Public Information and Information Exchange

New Mexico Launches "Look For Me" Pedestrian Safety Campaign

The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) recently launched an educational campaign called "Look For Me," designed to remind pedestrians and motorists to be alert for each other when on New Mexico's roadways. Bus advertisements and radio messages target both motorists and pedestrians. The new campaign also features pedestrian safety blitzes by NMDOT and law enforcement in Albuquerque, Farmington, Gallup, Las Cruces, and Santa Fe.

New Mexico law requires motorists to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. During the blitzes, police will cite drivers for blocking crosswalks, failing to yield right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks, making improper turns into crosswalks, and failing to obey signs posted "No Turn On Red." The enforcement effort will consist of police officers and observers. All of the blitzes will occur at or near marked intersections, and police will warn or cite a driver only if a pedestrian has entered the crosswalk.

A grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is supporting the "Look For Me" campaign. The effort also has the support of the New Mexico Department of Health. Officials at NMDOT expect the result to be safer streets for all users.

For more information, visit


Report Pinpoints and Analyzes Nation's Most Congested Corridors

The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) recently released the 2011 Congested Corridors Report pinpointing travel reliability challenges along various U.S. highway corridors. The report constitutes the first nationwide effort to identify specific stretches of roadways that are responsible for major traffic jams.


The report focuses on 328 corridors that are significantly congested at various times -- including morning and evening rush hours, midday, and weekends. Factors analyzed include extra travel time, increased fuel consumption and costs, and the extent to which traffic problems changed from one day to the next. To be included in the study, a corridor had to experience traffic congestion a minimum of 10 hours per week and along at least 3 miles (5 kilometers) of a freeway segment.

Researchers found that travel time reliability is more of a challenge at and around bridges, tunnels, and toll facilities due to the few alternate routes at those locations. Another reason is that even minor traffic incidents can have a huge impact on how slowly or quickly drivers make it through.

In addition to identifying congested corridors, the report addresses solutions. Recommendations include adopting traffic management strategies such as aggressive crash removal; improved traffic information for commuters; and implementation of denser regional development patterns with a mix of jobs, stores, and residential areas to encourage more people to walk, bike, or take transit. However, the report notes, "There is no rigid prescription for the 'best way' -- each region must identify the project[s], programs, and policies that achieve goals, solve problems, and capitalize on opportunities."

For more information or to download the report, visit


Virginia Launches Online Crash Database

Recent online access to an interactive traffic crash database for Virginia provides accurate, timely, and detailed highway safety information for analysis and reporting to researchers and the public. Virginia's Traffic Records Electronic Data System (TREDS) is now available through the Department of Motor Vehicles' Web site, enabling improved access to the centralized repository for all of the State's crash data and related information.

Managed by the Virginia Highway Safety Office, TREDS supports Virginia's efforts to reduce crashes, injuries, fatalities, and associated costs. Through TREDS, the State has an effective and innovative tool to identify and address its highway safety concerns. With the state-of-the-art, automated data system, law enforcement and State transportation professionals can submit crash reports electronically, scan hardcopy crash data, map and diagram crashes electronically, and integrate with other data systems for enhanced data mining, analysis, and reporting at various levels.

TREDS is paving the way for Virginia's effort to develop and implement effective safety programs. For example, researchers and State highway officials can use TREDS data to identify problem areas and develop resolutions for safety programs; create and implement integrated safety programs and initiatives; conduct education and awareness initiatives; make key legislative decisions that affect safety; and work with partnering organizations to develop coordinated approaches to improve highway safety.

To access TREDS, visit

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles

Colorado Tests Rolling Speed Harmonization

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), in conjunction with the Colorado State Patrol and the Silverthorne Police Department, recently conducted two rolling tests of speed harmonization on I-70 over two weekends. When rolling speed harmonization is underway, a law enforcement vehicle drives with its emergency lights on and merges ahead of traffic to pace vehicles. This practice creates speed uniformity, which the Colorado tests indicate produces more uniform speeds and leads to increased safety, crash reductions, and improved traffic flow.

The first test occurred on an 8-mile (13-kilometer) stretch of eastbound I-70 between Silverthorne and the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel. The second test involved a 27-mile (43-kilometer) eastbound segment of the interstate between Silverthorne and Empire Junction. For each test, a police car merged ahead of traffic starting every 10 minutes over a 4-hour timeframe, decreasing to increments of 5-7 minutes as traffic increased.

In the first test, the average vehicle speed was 55 miles per hour, mi/h (89 kilometers per hour, km/h). After the test, speeds ranged from 30 mi/h (48 km/h) in the right lane to 80 mi/h (129 km/h) in the left. This type of speed variation within the traffic flow can contribute to crashes. In the second test, the average vehicle speed was also 55 mi/h (89 km/h), compared to the average speed between 10 and 30 mi/h (16 and 48 km/h) when congestion occurs along this segment. Immediately after the test concluded, average speeds dropped to 30 mi/h (48 km/h), and vehicles began "clumping," which slows traffic and increases the possibility of crashes.


A law enforcement vehicle participates in rolling speed harmonization, creating speed uniformity and leading to increased safety and improved traffic flow.


CDOT officials began to implement rolling speed harmonization primarily on I-70 on Sunday afternoons in December 2011, when ski traffic started to reach its highest volume.


National Summit Held on Teen Distracted Driving

The National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) held the first National Teen Distracted Driving Summit in the fall of 2011 in Washington, DC. In a competitive process, applicants from more than 70 high schools described their leadership experience and interest in the prevention of distracted driving. The 52 students selected and their advisers joined 200 traffic safety leaders attending the conference.

NOYS' belief that effective prevention programs for teens should be teen-led and teen-informed drives its efforts in convening, training, and empowering youth leaders to address the issue of distracted driving. Peer-to-peer communication is especially relevant to the issue: In 2009, the highest proportion of distracted drivers in fatal crashes were under the age of 20.

The NOYS teams spent 2 days participating in training sessions and workshops provided by traffic safety organizations and companies. At the summit, the teams presented the student participants with a simulator demonstration of distracted driving and discussed current research. They also described how to use a wide range of communication tools to persuade drivers to hang up their phones when they get behind the wheel.

After the summit, participants were encouraged to implement and support prevention efforts in their communities by putting into action what they had learned. The teens will culminate this effort by hosting Teen Distracted Driving Summits in their own States.

For more information, visit


These NOYS team members attended the first National Teen Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, DC.