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Public Roads - May/June 2012

May/June 2012
Issue No:
Vol. 75 No. 6
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

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.

Hand-Held Phone Use Banned For Truck and Bus Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration recently issued a final rule banning interstate truck and bus drivers from using hand-held phones while operating their vehicles. This latest move to end distracted driving follows regulations that the agencies previously issued banning text messaging while operating a commercial truck or bus, or transporting hazardous materials.

Drivers who violate the restriction face Federal civil penalties up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle for multiple offenses. In addition, States will suspend a driver's commercial license after two or more serious traffic violations. Commercial truck and bus companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving face a maximum penalty of $11,000. This final rule affects approximately 4 million commercial drivers.

FMCSA research shows that using a hand-held cell phone while driving requires a commercial driver to take several risky steps beyond those required for using a hands-free mobile phone, including searching and reaching for the phone. Commercial drivers reaching for an object such as a cell phone are three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event. Dialing a hand-held cell phone makes it six times more likely that commercial drivers will be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event.

Nearly 5,500 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009. Distraction-related fatalities represented 16 percent of overall traffic fatalities in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Management and Administration

NHTSA Announces New Distraction Measure and 2010 Crash Data

NHTSA recently unveiled a new measure of fatalities related to distracted driving, called "distraction-affected crashes." The new measure focuses on crashes in which a driver was most likely distracted. NHTSA also released updated 2010 fatality and injury data showing that highway deaths fell to 32,885 for the year, the lowest level since 1949. The record-breaking decline in traffic fatalities occurred even as U.S. drivers traveled nearly 46 billion more miles during the year, an increase of 1.6 percent from 2009.

The distraction-affected crashes measure was introduced as part of a broader effort to collect more accurate information about the potential role of driver distraction in crashes. NHTSA previously recorded a range of potential distractions, such as careless driving and cell phone present in the vehicle. The new measure aims to capture information on distractions that are most likely to affect crash involvement, such as dialing a cell phone. Using this refined methodology, NHTSA estimates that 3,092 fatalities occurred due to distraction-affected crashes in 2010.

The recently updated data indicates that 2010 also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2010, down from 1.15 deaths per 100 million VMT in 2009. Fatalities declined in most categories in 2010, including for crashes involving drunk drivers (down 4.9 percent), but rose among pedestrians, motorcycle riders, and large truck occupants.

For more information and to access the full reports, visit

USDOT Centralizes "Buy America" Resources on Web

USDOT recently launched a "Buy America" Web page to consolidate information on each modal administration's provisions, requirements, and waiver processes related to sourcing U.S.-made products for transportation infrastructure projects.

Investments in the Nation's infrastructure lay the foundation for long-term economic health and provide jobs for American workers. Through Buy America, USDOT supports a supply chain of U.S. companies and their employees, maximizing the economic benefit of infrastructure investments. Through the Web site, companies can subscribe to receive alerts when new information is posted.

For more information and to access the site, visit

Technical News

Concrete Pavement Blend Might Reduce Vehicle Pollution

Extensive research is underway on the environmental benefits of using concrete made with a new cement product. Marketed under the trade name "TX Active," the cement is blended with photochemically active titanium dioxide (TiO2), which is capable of reducing the environmental pollutants from vehicle exhausts. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is conducting an experimental study in collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), two manufacturers, the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and the National Concrete Pavement Technology Center at Iowa State University's Institute for Transportation.

Using a slipform paving machine, these MoDOT workers are applying the upper lift of a two-lift roadway with concrete containing a TX Active cement blend.

The researchers are conducting the study in com-bination with a two-lift paving demonstration project with MoDOT on Route 141 in the St. Louis area. The study will include a photocatalytic concrete mainline pavement and a photocatalytic pervious concrete shoulder pavement.

One anticipated outcome is that the TX Active cement will improve the quality of stormwater runoff by decomposing pollutants, primarily hydrocarbons, carried off by the water. Following the paving, environmental scientists at Iowa State University and the University of Missouri at Kansas City will monitor air and water impacts for 1 year.

Iowa State University

NCDOT Uses Laser Technology to Improve Environmental Assessments

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) teamed with the North Carolina Division of Water Quality to create two geographic information system (GIS)-based predictive models using light detection and ranging (LIDAR)-derived topographic data. These models enable transportation officials to identify wetland and stream locations more reliably, while expediting the environmental assessment process.

NCDOT's use of LIDAR technology helps to predict the locations of streams and wetlands, like those drawn here within the corridor alternatives for the Carthage Bypass.

LIDAR, a remote sensing technology that uses laser pulses, can help enhance existing geospatial databases and create new features for GIS maps, such as potential wetlands or wildlife habitats. Remote sensing, applied over an extensive geographic area, takes substantially less time and costs less than ground-based field surveys, making it an efficient means of screening for potential environmental impacts in early analyses of project alternatives.

NCDOT staff previously attempted to substitute field delineations of wetlands and streams with GIS-based delineations, but they quickly discovered that existing data were insufficient. After teaming with the State's Division of Water Quality, they developed predictive models that generated spatial datasets for projects at the North Carolina Carthage Bypass and Kinston Bypass that combined field-verified and model-predicted wetlands and streams. These models enable them to identify wetland and stream locations using GIS, reducing the time and cost of field delineations and improving awareness of the likely locations of wetland areas during the initial project planning process. NCDOT also can use models like these to educate citizens about the environmental assessment process.

NCDOT and the North Carolina Division of Water Quality shared a 2011 Environmental Excellence Award from FHWA for the project. North Carolina is now incorporating the results of the Carthage and Kinston Bypass models into a larger State-sponsored effort to provide up-to-date GIS data layers for public and private use.

Now Available: A Performance-Related Specification for Hot-Mixed Asphalt

Cover of NCHRP Report 704: A Performance-Related Specification for Hot-Mixed Asphalt. In 2000 the Transportation Research Board's National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 9-22 set out to develop software to calculate a performance-related specification for hot-mix asphalt (HMA). When the capabilities of the initial software proved too limited, the project then switched gears to base the HMA performance-related specification on presolved solutions derived from the Mechanistic-Empirical Pavement Design Guide. NCHRP Report 704: A Performance-Related Specification for Hot-Mixed Asphalt describes the final version of the tool, called the Quality-Related Specification Software (QRSS).

The QRSS is a stand-alone program that calculates the predicted performance of an HMA pavement from the volumetric and materials properties of the as-designed HMA and compares it with that of the as-built pavement calculated from quality control data from the contractor's lot or sublot. The calculated differences for the permanent deformation, fatigue cracking, low-temperature cracking, and international roughness index determine pay factors for each lot or sublot. The performance predictions are project specific; the QRSS accounts for the climate, traffic, pavement structure, and desired or expected service life. Further, the predictions are probabilistic, calculated through a procedure that uses historical standard deviations of the input properties to account for construction and testing variability when assigning risk between the owner agency and the contractor.

For more information and to download the report, visit To download the software, visit

Transportation Research Board

Video Demonstrates Geosynthetic Approach to Bridge Construction

FHWA recently released a video that demonstrates how to build a bridge using a technology known as the Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil Integrated Bridge System (GRS-IBS). Developed under FHWA's Bridge of the Future initiative in 2002, GRS-IBS can be used to build single-span bridges on all types of roads. The technology offers the advantages of being faster, more economical, and easier to build than standard bridge construction. It is extremely durable and can be built with readily available materials, using common construction equipment, and without the need for highly skilled labor.

The video explains the development of GRS technology pioneered by researchers at the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Department of Transportation, and refined by FHWA for load-bearing applications. Created to educate designers, engineers, contractors, and inspectors on the fundamentals of GRS-IBS, the video demonstrates the construction process and illustrates best practices. The content is based on guidance outlined in FHWA's Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil Integrated Bridge System Interim Implementation Guide (FHWA-HRT-11-026).

FHWA's new video demonstrates how to build using GRS-IBS technology.

GRS-IBS consists of three main components: the reinforced soil foundation, abutment, and integrated approach. The video includes footage from projects in Defiance County, OH, and St. Lawrence County, NY, and interviews with designers, owners, and construction personnel. Time-lapse photography illustrates the speed of construction made possible by the technology.

In 2010, FHWA's Every Day Counts initiative selected GRS-IBS as a technology innovation for accelerated deployment. (For more information, see "Every Day Counts" in the January/February 2012 issue of Public Roads.)

To view the GRS-IBS construction video, visit FHWA's YouTube channel at

Public Information and Information Exchange

Award Winners Demonstrate Commitment To Safer Roadways

Cover of the 2011 National Roadway Safety Awards Noteworthy Practices Guide In late 2011, FHWA and the Roadway Safety Foundation recognized nine exemplary highway projects and programs as winners of the 2011 National Roadway Safety Awards. The biennial awards recognize projects and programs that reduce fatalities and injuries on the Nation's roadways through excellence and innovation in operations, planning, and design.

Each of the National Roadway Safety Award recipients was evaluated on innovation, effectiveness, and efficient use of resources. Project categories included infrastructure improvements; operational improvements; and program planning, development, and evaluation. Recipients included State and local departments of transportation, a State department of public safety, a local technical assistance program, and a private firm.

FHWA and the Roadway Safety Foundation presented the nine awards and two honorable mentions at a luncheon ceremony in November 2011 in Washington, DC. The foundation's Executive Director Greg Cohen served as master of ceremonies, and USDOT Deputy Secretary of Transportation John D. Porcari delivered the keynote address, which highlighted the importance of the award winners' efforts in saving lives on U.S. roadways. The award-winning projects are highlighted in the 2011 National Roadway Safety Awards Noteworthy Practices Guide.

For more information or to download the guide, including a list of the 2011 award winners and project descriptions, visit

Guidelines Released for Localized Congestion Relief

Cover of An Agency Guide on Overcoming Unique Challenges to Localized Congestion Reduction Projects. A new FHWA report provides guidance to State and local transportation personnel on how to overcome barriers and challenges to implementing localized congestion relief projects. A product of FHWA's Localized Bottleneck Reduction (LBR) initiative, the document focuses on mitigating the operational causes of recurring spot-congestion and traffic bottlenecks at ramps, merges, lane drops, intersections, and weaves. The LBR program encourages agencies to adopt a defined, annualized spot-congestion program in much the same manner that they target high-crash locations.

FHWA's An Agency Guide on Overcoming Unique Challenges to Localized Congestion Reduction Projects (FHWA- HOP-11-03) describes the institutional, design, funding, and safety challenges agencies face when trying to develop solutions to these problems. Further, the guide presents nine detailed case studies of projects and programs that illustrate how to overcome these barriers and challenges.

For more information, visit To download the full report, visit

Electronic message boards like the one shown here provide travel time estimates for drivers on I-195 in Rhode Island.

RIDOT Expands Real-Time Travel

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) recently announced the expansion of a program designed to give motorists real-time travel information on the State's highways. The expanded service area includes all of I-195 from the Massachusetts line to the I-95 interchange.

With the program expansion, RIDOT is using existing electronic message boards on I-195 to provide travel time estimates to the I-95 interchange and T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, RI. The department displays travel times on fixed overhead and portable electronic message signs from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. This information complements other travel planning services available to motorists, including 511, Highway Advisory Radio, and live traffic cameras. RIDOT also recently added real-time travel estimates to its Web site at

RIDOT calculates travel times using sensors installed to measure traffic volumes. The equipment measures the speed of traffic in real time as vehicles travel from one sensor to another, and determines an approximate travel time for each segment of road along the route.


Georgia Announces Partnership to Improve Highway Maintenance

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) recently announced its participation in an innovative, sponsorship-based program for maintaining designated road segments throughout the Atlanta area and eventually statewide. Georgia will be the first State in the Southeast to partner with local businesses and a national firm to remove litter from State highways, and the program comes at no cost to GDOT or State taxpayers.

Each year, GDOT and local municipalities together spend approximately $11 million on various efforts to remove litter and maintain the roadsides in Georgia. In addition, more than 4,000 citizens volunteer with 173 active Adopt-A-Highway groups to maintain about 200 miles (322 kilometers) of roadway. Despite these efforts and the funds invested, litter control along the roads continues to be an issue. The new Sponsor-A-Highway program, called Clean Georgia, provides the opportunity to complement current volunteer efforts with the use of professional crews on a consistent schedule.

Currently at least 20 States are using the Sponsor-A-Highway program to provide litter removal, mowing, and general maintenance of roadsides. While Adopt-A-Highway programs rely on volunteer labor, the sponsorship program enables local businesses to financially support the maintenance of small segments of roadway through the use of private crews. Signage posted at the start of each designated segment acknowledges the participating business by displaying its logo.


Forest Service Releases New Accessibility DVD

The U.S. Forest Service recently released a DVD collection of the most requested reports and technical tips on accessibility and recreation published by the Technology and Development Centers of Missoula, MT, and San Dimas, CA. The DVD, "Accessibility and Recreation Projects" (1123-2M07-MTDC), provides these materials in hypertext markup language (HTML) files and in Portable Document File (PDF) formats that can be viewed electronically or printed. More than 40 documents, such as the "Accessibility Guidebook for Outdoor Recreation and Trails," are included to assist field employees in complying with accessibility requirements at recreational areas. Many of these publications were developed under an interagency agreement through FHWA's Recreational Trails Program.

To order this DVD and other trail-related publications, visit _trails/publications/trailpub.cfm.

GDOT Commissioner Keith Golden speaks at a press event introducing the first sponsorship-based highway maintenance program in the Southeast.