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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 - May/Jun 2009

May/Jun 2009
Issue No:
Vol. 72 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.

USDOT Releases Guidelines for Pandemic Flu Planning

USDOT recently released guidelines to help its modal subsectors and other public and private sector businesses plan for a severe influenza pandemic. The sector- specific guidelines are annexes to the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Guide for Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The highway and motor carrier subsector annex serves as a reference for owner-operators and a practical tool for business planners to augment and tailor existing emergency response plans to the potential challenges posed by an influenza pandemic.

The document addresses the major challenges the highway and motor carrier subsector could face in seven key areas of vulnerability: services, functions, and processes; assets and equipment; raw materials and supplies; workers; interdependencies; regulatory issues; and impacts from community disease mitigation strategies.

USDOT cautions departments of transportation (DOTs) and freight operators that failure to prepare for such an event could leave them without the staff, equipment, or supplies necessary to continue providing essential transportation services for their customers and the Nation.

To download the highway and motor carrier annex, visit For the complete guidelines, visit

RITA Renames Vehicle Infrastructure Integration Initiative

This story has been temporarily removed from this publication.

Technical News

FHWA Offers New Tools for Reviewing Work Zone Processes

In November 2008, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) created the Work Zone Process Review Toolbox, an online collection of tools to help DOTs and FHWA division office personnel conduct reviews of work zone processes. Periodic evaluations of work zone policies and procedures help an agency identify and manage the safety and mobility impacts of work zones. Under the Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule, FHWA requires these reviews every 2 years to assess the effectiveness of current processes and make recommendations for improvement.

Housed on FHWA's "Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program" Web site, the toolbox features an indepth explanation of work zone reviews. For example, the site describes how reviews help answer questions about how work zones are performing with respect to mobility and safety and whether customer expectations are being met. The site provides information to help determine the goals and scope of the reviews, expected outcomes, staff members who should be involved, and possible data sources. Other links include frequently asked questions and a resources section that provides information on training and sample practices and documents.

To access the toolbox, visit

FHWA Develops Resources to Prevent And Mitigate ASR in Concrete

FHWA's Alkali-Silica Reactivity (ASR) Development and Deployment Program has developed several resources related to preventing and mitigating ASR in portland cement concrete pavements and structures. ASR occurs when silica in some aggregates and alkalis in concrete combine with water to form a gel-like substance. As the gel absorbs water and expands, it causes the concrete to crack, leading to premature deterioration and loss in serviceability.

FHWA's ASR program offers field application and demonstration projects, research initiatives, newsletters, publications, and an online reference center. A primary focus of the program is implementing field demonstration projects. FHWA provides technical assistance to States participating in the demonstrations, including installing instrumentation for data collection and evaluating and analyzing the data.

The program offers publications, including a free quarterly newsletter titled Reactive Solutions, which provides information on ASR and updates on the program. Other publications include two reports on ASR: Report on Determining the Reactivity of Concrete Aggregates and Selecting the Appropriate Measures for Preventing Deleterious Expansion in New Concrete Construction (FHWA-HIF-09-001). A second report is under review with anticipated release in 2009.

FHWA also is developing an online reference center to house the research reports; guidance documents; information on State ASR specifications; and details on past, current, and planned field trials. FHWA expects to launch the reference center in 2009.

For more information on the reference center or to download issues of the Reactive Solutions newsletter or publication FHWA-HIF-09-001 at no cost, visit

Public Information and Information Exchange

TRB Launches Climate Change Web site

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) recently created a Web site designed to serve as a gateway to information on the organization's activities and products related to transportation and climate change. The Web site responds to the push to reduce transportation-related emissions of carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change — and adapt industry practices to mitigate the consequences of a changing climate.

Shown here is the TRB "Climate Change" Web site.

The Web site contains information on TRB news and events, projects and activities, and publications. The "Projects and Activities" section highlights research projects, policy studies, and information on TRB committees. The "Publications" section lists all TRB reports and papers on topics related to climate change. The site also links to transportation and climate change information produced by other organizations that have been highlighted in past issues of the TRB E-Newsletter.

Visit the Web site at


FHWA Report Looks at Impact of Planned Special Events

FHWA recently released a study on the influence that large planned special events (PSEs) have on the economy and congestion at the national level. The purpose of the study was to gain a clearer understanding of the scale of PSEs and their economic impacts and to highlight the important role that transportation planning should play in managing the traffic logistics of these events.

This Caltrans magnet-guided bus is precision docking at a bus stop during a demonstration run on State Route 185 in San Leandro, CA.

Transportation planners define PSEs as public activities with a scheduled time and location that affect normal operations of the transportation system as a result of increased travel demand and/or reduced capacity attributed to event staging. According to the report, approximately 24,000 PSEs with more than 10,000 in attendance occur annually or approximately 470 per week at the national level. This translates to about 80 event days per million persons per year.

FHWA's findings suggest that a large number of these events recur at permanent venues, and the vast majority of these permanent venues are located near interstate highways and are well served by transit. As a result, a significant opportunity exists to employ various mitigation techniques, such as timing events to avoid peak travel times, to minimize travel interruptions associated with these events.

To view the report, visit

Caltrans Tests Magnet-Guided Buses

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is testing technology that guides buses by magnets, just as trolleys are guided by rails. The pilot program includes conducting the first-ever test of this magnetic system in revenue service on public bus lines.

The technology, known as Vehicle Assist and Automation, keeps a bus centered in its lane via magnets embedded in the roadway and enables the bus to travel safely in narrow spaces at a higher rate of speed. Buses can pick up more passengers and complete their routes in less time. Caltrans officials believe the technology would make travel times more comparable to that of personal vehicles, therefore persuading more people to switch from their cars to buses, reducing congestion.

Caltrans will conduct tests on Alameda-Contra Costa Transit's Transbay Express on a 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) stretch of State Route 92 from Hesperian Boulevard to the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge toll plaza. The other test will be performed with the Lane Transit District in Eugene, OR, on its EmX Bus Rapid Transit system.


Signs Identify Bridges To Be Repaired, Replaced in Missouri

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) installed signs bearing the department's Safe & Sound logo on more than 800 bridges to indicate which ones will be improved over the next 5 years. The signs are part of MoDOT's Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program, which will begin construction on at least 100 bridges in early 2009. The signs indicate that the bridges need attention and will be repaired or replaced by October 2014.

More than 800 bridges in Missouri have been identified with Safe & Sound signs, such as the one shown here, indicating they will be repaired or replaced within 5 years.

According to MoDOT officials, the purpose of the signs is to alert drivers that these bridges will likely be closed during construction and to plan accordingly. There is at least one bridge that needs repair or replacement in every Missouri county. Information on construction schedules, alternate routes, and closures is available at A list of the bridges in the program and maps of their locations are posted on the project Web site at


NPHQ Awards Highlight Highway Achievements

In November 2008, the National Partnership for Highway Quality (NPHQ) recognized highway projects and organizational teams that successfully improved quality or customer service related to highway planning, project delivery, maintenance, safety, congestion management, workforce training, environmental stewardship, or operations. A group of transportation experts selected the winners under the auspices of NPHQ, which is a coalition of highway stakeholders from Federal and State government, private industry, and academia.

Awards were given in four categories, each recognizing a particular strength. The following organizations received awards for partnering: Michigan Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Kansas Department of Transportation, and New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT).

In the category "Breaking the Mold," the following DOTs earned awards: Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), Virginia Department of Transportation, and Maryland State Highway Administration.

For public communications, NPHQ honored Washington State Department of Transportation, PennDOT, and NMDOT. Two DOTs received awards for risk taking: PennDOT and NMDOT. Other winners included UDOT for workforce training and the Calhoun County (AL) Highway Department for its innovative vegetation management program.

For more project information, visit


Policy and Legislation

USDOT Signs Agreement to Relieve Congestion on I-95

In December 2008, USDOT and the I-95 Corridor Coalition signed an agreement to deploy cutting-edge technology to relieve congestion and improve safety on I-95. The agreement commits the coalition to evaluate innovative approaches for project delivery and to educate States on the use of alternative financing and operation mechanisms.

The agreement calls for doubling the fuel efficiency of the region's vehicle fleet and diversifying fuel use. Further, it supports a seamless, integrated, multimodal passenger and freight network to link the major metropolitan regions.

The coalition estimates that by 2040 travel along I-95 will increase by 70 percent. Congestion will jump by 84 percent, fuel consumption will increase 34 percent, and the amount of trucking will double. The agreement aims to curb these projections by working across State boundaries to improve mobility along this critical travel corridor.

For more information on the I-95 Corridor Coalition, visit

Laws Expected to Improve Work Zone Safety in Michigan

In October 2008, Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm signed two new laws that impose stiffer penalties for motorists who kill or injure someone in a Michigan road construction work zone. The legislation (Public Acts 296 and 297 of 2008) will levy fines up to $7,500 and 15 years in jail.

State transportation officials hope the potential for such stiff penalties will help motorists focus more closely on their responsibility to drive safely through construction zones, creating a safer environment for everyone. According to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the vast majority (95 percent) of the fatalities that occurred in work zones in 2007 involved motorists and their passengers.

House Bill 4468 (2008 PA 296) extends the penalties to motorists who hit anyone — not just workers — in a work zone, and House Bill 4469 (2008 PA 297) provides sentencing guidelines for motorists who cause injury or death to another person in a work zone.