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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - May/Jun 2008

May/Jun 2008
Issue No:
Vol. 71 No. 6
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.

Management and Administration

USDOT Gives Go-Ahead for South Carolina’s I–73

In February 2008, USDOT officials announced the Department’s approval of environmental documents for construction of Interstate 73 (I–73) in South Carolina. With all Federal clearances in place, South Carolina now can explore financing options to start building a new section of the interstate.

USDOT officials said this is the first project to receive the green light under the new Interstate System Construction Toll Pilot Program, which gives the State authority for tolling on I–73.

A top USDOT official announced the news while signing the Record of Decision for the project during  a visit to Myrtle Beach, SC, one of the chokepoints that the new I–73 will ease. Once completed, the new interstate will enable drivers to connect more easily  to Interstate 95.

Transportation Budget Will Fund Safety, Congestion Relief, and Air Traffic Improvements

President Bush’s $68 billion transportation budget for fiscal year (FY) 2009 will fund critical safety programs, finance congestion relief programs for roadways and airways, and honor the 6-year transportation funding commitment under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users.

In a February 2008 announcement, USDOT officials said almost one-third of the budget will go toward safety programs focusing on problem areas like runway incursions and near misses in the air, motorcycle crashes, and pedestrian injuries. The budget also provides funding to hire additional safety personnel.

The budget encourages innovation in fighting gridlock by proposing to use $175 million in inactive earmarks and 75 percent of certain discretionary highway and transit program funds to fight congestion, giving priority to projects that combine a mix of pricing, transit, and technology solutions. To supplement these efforts, the budget provides a record $10.1 billion for transit programs.

For more information, visit

Policy and Legislation

Highway Signs to Get Brighter, Safer Under New Federal Requirements

In a continuing effort to reduce roadway fatalities, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced a new rule in December 2007 to make roadway signs more visible. The rule requires States to use higher performing reflective materials on all highway signs and public agencies to adopt sign maintenance methods to ensure visibility from greater distances.

The final rule provides additional requirements, guidance, clarification, and flexibility in maintaining the retroreflectivity of traffic signs, as required by the 2003 edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Retroreflective signs and pavement markings bounce light from vehicle headlights back toward the vehicle and the driver’s eyes, making signs and pavement markings visible to the driver. The minimum retroreflectivity levels and maintenance methods consider changes in the mix of vehicles on the road, vehicle headlamp designs, and the demographics of drivers. FHWA expects that the new retroreflectivity levels and maintenance methods will help promote safety and mobility on the Nation’s streets and highways.

For more information on the new requirements, please see To view the MUTCD, visit

States Advised to Check Gusset Plates  On Steel Bridges

In an effort to ensure bridge safety, USDOT officials recently issued a technical advisory calling on State transportation officials to calculate how changes in weight, capacity, or bridge conditions could affect a steel bridge’s gusset plates.

The advisory, issued on January 15, 2008, follows updates by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) indicating that stress on gusset plates — the metal pieces that hold individual girders together on some bridges — might have been a factor in the August 2007 collapse of the Interstate 35W (I–35W) bridge in Minneapolis, MN. Although NTSB has not yet determined a definitive cause for the collapse, USDOT issued the technical advisory out of caution to ensure that possible design flaws do not exist on similar bridges. The technical advisory clarifies that State highway officials should include gusset plates when calculating the load capacity on the Nation’s 13,000 steel truss bridges.

In the days following the I–35W bridge collapse, USDOT officials issued two technical advisories to States. The first called on State officials to inspect all bridges of a design similar to the Minneapolis structure, and the second cautioned States about putting added weight on bridges during maintenance and construction projects.

To view the technical advisory, please visit

Public Information and  Information Exchange

Eastern Transportation Knowledge Network Formed

Following the launch of the Midwest Transportation Knowledge Network in 2003 and the Western Transportation Knowledge Network in 2006, library and information professionals from the eastern United States met in November 2007 to establish the Eastern Transportation Knowledge Network (ETKN).

The ETKN meeting, held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) Highway Safety Research Center, drew participants from the Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin departments of transportation; Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization; National Transportation Library; Transportation Research Board (TRB); UNC; American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO); and Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

The ETKN’s mission is to increase access to transportation research and information, reduce the operating costs of its member libraries, offer new and improved services and tools to benefit the transportation community, and ensure access to and preservation of transportation information resources. The ETKN will accomplish these goals through collaboration and resource sharing.

Attendees discussed the needs and assets of the member libraries in the areas of facilities, equipment, collections, services, programs, and staff. They also brainstormed collaborative ways for the ETKN to make the best use of member assets to address specific needs. They proposed and prioritized 12 project areas, including collaborative cataloging of AASHTO e-content, a union list of serials (a list of all serial publications held by participating libraries), and joint staff development through training and mentoring.

The new network’s first project for calendar year 2008 is the ETKN Digital Collaboratory (EDC), a collaborative digitization effort to make more transportation content available online through TRB’s TRIS Online database and the National Transportation Library’s Digital Repository. The EDC project is targeting high-use, high-request, or high-value documents that are not readily accessible. ETKN members were asked to identify and contribute five such documents from their respective institutions. The network’s goal is that within 2 weeks of receipt of digitized content from ETKN libraries, the electronic documents will be available online.

In January 2008, the ETKN began hosting conference calls on the fourth Thursday of every other month. The network is open to any library or organization that maintains a collection of transportation resources staffed by personnel who assist users in locating and accessing information.

For more information about ETKN membership, contact membership chair pro tem Carol Paszamant  at 609–530–5289 or For more information about ETKN, contact chair pro tem Ken Winter at 434–293–1959 or

New Primer Provides Guidance on Planning Highway Evacuations

FHWA recently released the latest primer in its series  on evacuation planning: Using Highways for No-Notice Evacuations: Routes to Effective Evacuation Planning Primer Series (FHWA-HOP-08-003). The document provides transportation officials, first responders, and emergency managers with guidance on how to plan for evacuations resulting from no-notice events. The purpose of the primer series is to aid State and local planners in maximizing use of the highway network in developing and executing evacuation plans for their States, regions, or communities.

No-notice incidents occur for a number of reasons, such as forest fires, major storms, chemical spills, or terrorist acts. Their common denominator is that they occur with little or no warning, which presents unique challenges for moving people and goods safely and securely. With limited time and information available to make decisions during an emergency, planning ahead is essential.

This document discusses the planning process used to develop an evacuation plan; explains no-notice incidents and their likely scale and consequences; and considers the need for different transportation strategies and tactics. Further, the primer describes evacuation planning issues and how the planning process needs to account for the no-notice factor. The document also provides a checklist that planners can use in preparing a plan for a no-notice evacuation, whether the emergency is natural or manmade.

This document is available online at For hardcopies, please send an e-mail to


FHWA Administrator Capka Resigns,  Ray to Act as New Administrator

In January 2008, J. Richard Capka resigned as FHWA administrator after holding the position since May 2006. Prior to that, Capka served as acting administrator from August 2005 to May 2006 and deputy administrator from August 2002 to August 2005. During his time at FHWA, Capka helped prepare the Bush administration’s transportation reauthorization proposal and shaped the management of highway megaprojects across the country. He made significant progress in improving the Nation’s mobility and keeping roadways safe and played a large role in leading recovery efforts after the I–35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, MN, and Hurricane Katrina.

Before becoming FHWA administrator, Capka served as chief executive officer/executive director of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, where he directed oversight of the $14.6 billion Central Artery/Tunnel Project in Boston, MA. A retired U.S. Army brigadier general and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Capka holds master’s degrees  in engineering and business administration.

USDOT named Jim Ray acting FHWA administrator. Ray has served as acting deputy administrator since February 2006, in addition to his position as chief counsel. Ray will continue to act as chief counsel until USDOT appoints a successor.