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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/June 2013

May/June 2013
Issue No:
Vol. 76 No. 6
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Along the Road

Technical News

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.

Caltrans Streamlines Electronic Bidding Process

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has begun a pilot program to accept contractor bids through an online electronic bidding system. For contractors, the electronic system simplifies bidding on projects. Previously, contractor bids had to be delivered by hand to Caltrans district offices across the State, depending on where the job was to be built.

Caltrans awards more than 600 contracts annually and receives as many as 5,000 bids for these projects. With the new pilot program, contractors now have the option of submitting their bids online at At present, departments of transportation in 37 States accept bids through the site.

Caltrans expects a gradual transition from the existing system to the electronic bidding pilot program, with both methods of bid submittal available as contractors decide which works best for them. Recently, Caltrans trained approximately 100 contractors across the State on how to use the Web-based interface to submit electronic bids.


Public Information and Information Exchange

Administrator Mendez Visits Missouri for Redesignation of U.S. 71 as I–49

Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez joined Federal, State, and local officials for the redesignation of 180 miles (290 kilometers) of U.S. 71, now known as I–49, near Joplin, MO. Over the last two decades, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) rebuilt the highway to interstate standards to increase traffic capacity in the region and improve Missouri's economic competitiveness.

Construction on the first segment of the new I–49 from I–44 south to Pineville, near the Arkansas State line, began in 1993. Work on the second segment -- from I–44 north to Kansas City -- began in 2009. Improvements included upgrades to numerous interchanges and overpasses and the elimination of at-grade rail crossings along the route, which will improve safety for the thousands of motorists who use the route daily. MoDOT estimates that 16,000 drivers use the highway each day, a figure the agency expects will nearly double over the next 20 years.

Once a 5-mile (8-kilometer)-long segment of the old U.S. 71 known as the Bella Vista bypass is rebuilt to interstate standards, Missouri's stretch of I–49 will be complete. Arkansas and Louisiana currently are working to rebuild key segments of the route through their States. Once completed, I–49 will stretch more than 1,600 miles (2,575 kilometers) and significantly improve freight movement through the central United States from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Administrator Mendez greets Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, Jr., at the redesignation of U.S. 71 as I–49.

USDOT Ranks #9 in Best Places to Work

USDOT moved into the top 10 in the 2012 Best Places to Work rankings for large government agencies, according to the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. The department also was the most improved large agency based on the change in performance between 2011 and 2012. Within USDOT, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Railroad Administration achieved rankings in the top 10 and top 20, respectively, for agency subcomponents.

Since 2009, USDOT has climbed 11 percentage points in the Best Places to Work rankings.

For more information about the Partnership for Public Service and the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings, visit

AASHTO Offers Strategies to Communicate Funding Issues

Transportation agencies sometimes face an uphill battle gaining broad public support for increased investment in infrastructure projects. To help, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) released a peer exchange report titled Communicating Transportation Funding Issues that offers practical approaches to making the case for transportation investments to the public and key decisionmakers.

Twenty four senior executives from State departments of transportation (DOTs) participated in the peer exchange in Irvine, CA, in June 2012. The report focuses on four key elements of communication: audience identification, market research, message design, and message delivery. The AASHTO Center for Excellence in Project Finance and FHWA sponsored the peer exchange and the resulting report.

The report includes best practices from almost a dozen State DOTs that have communicated effectively about complex issues associated with finance, funding, planning, and project selection. Case studies highlight successful communication techniques that improved the public's understanding of transportation investment needs, funding options, and program management and implementation.

The final report is available at


Iowa Releases Study on School Bus Safety

The Iowa Departments of Transportation and Education recently released a report, School Bus Safety Study -- Kadyn's Law, to the Iowa General Assembly. Researchers at Iowa State University and the University of Iowa have evaluated school bus safety measures and found that buses are one of the safest forms of transportation available. However, vehicles illegally passing stopped school buses remain a significant concern.

The study explored three specific safety elements. First, researchers considered the use of cameras mounted on school buses to aid in enforcement of stop-arm violations. Second, they examined the feasibility of requiring children to be picked up and dropped off on the side of the road on which their home is located. Third, the report discussed the inclusion of school bus safety as a priority in driver training.

The Iowa DOT and FHWA cosponsored the study. The Iowa Department of Public Safety also played a key role by sharing valuable insights into enforcement and educational aspects.

On March 16, 2012, the Iowa legislature passed a bill that required a study of school bus safety. Referred to as "Kadyn’s Law,” the bill honors the memory of Kadyn Halverson, a 7-year-old killed by a driver who failed to stop for a stopped school bus with its lights flashing and stop arm extended.

The report is available at

Iowa DOT

PBIC Launches Series of White Papers

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) recently announced the creation of a series of white papers to expand access to the latest pedestrian- and bicycle-related research, resources, and tools.

The white papers will provide a broad array of information about some of the most commonly requested topics of interest among engineers, public health officials, planners, and advocates. PBIC already has completed the first two papers: "An Overview of Automated Enforcement Systems and Their Potential for Improving Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety" and "Using Health Impact Assessments to Evaluate Bicycle and Pedestrian Plans." Future topics include high-visibility crosswalks, road diets, and cycle tracks.

To read the white papers and other PBIC publications, visit


VDOT Report Focuses on Active Traffic Management

The Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research recently released a report that presents guidelines for incorporating active traffic management into the planning process for investments in highway capacity. Tactics for active traffic management include use of variable speed limits, queue warning systems, and dynamic ramp metering.

Sponsored by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the report, Planning for Active Traffic Management in Virginia: International Best Practices and Implementation Strategies (VCTIR 13-R1), offers four sets of guidelines. The first identifies infrastructure and operational conditions, such as sensor placement and queuing behavior, required for active traffic management at a given site. The second set of guidelines relates to methods for sketch planning analysis, which is used to estimate the operational and safety benefits of applying a particular technique at a site. The third set covers detailed simulation analyses, while the fourth concerns continued monitoring of sites where strategies for active traffic management have been deployed.

The report also provides a framework for incorporating these strategies into the regional planning process. The framework is illustrated with a hypothetical case study of variable speed limits implemented on I–66 in Virginia.

In addition, the report compares active traffic management with other techniques to manage capacity. For example, the appendix illustrates how to compute a benefit-cost ratio in which costs might include capital and operations expenditures for active traffic management, and benefits might include monetized values of avoided crash costs and vehicle-hours of delay.

For more information or to download the report, visit


NYC Highlights Benefits of Pedestrian-Friendly Projects

Every year the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) produces an annual progress report known as the Sustainable Streets Index that takes stock of transportation trends and evaluates the city's various transportation initiatives. In addition to recording overall trends, the most recent Sustainable Streets Index, released in August 2012, assesses projects to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, enhance transit mobility and public spaces, and reduce congestion. All of the projects highlighted were implemented in 2010.

The report suggests that relatively inexpensive projects to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety can have a range of benefits, such as lowering injury crashes for pedestrians and motor vehicle occupants, decreasing speeding, and increasing the availability of public and green spaces. Others include increasing bicycle usage and providing economic benefits for merchants located in the vicinity of the improvements.

For the "Broadway: Union Square" project, for example, NYCDOT made various pedestrian-friendly improvements including installing pedestrian safety islands, a protected bicycle lane (separated from vehicle traffic by on-street parking), and a pedestrian plaza. Some of the project's results include a 65-percent reduction in crashes involving motor vehicles and a 26-percent reduction in crashes involving injuries, as well as a 16-percent decrease in the number of vehicles traveling over the speed limit on Broadway. The project also increased bicycle ridership on Broadway, up 18 percent on weekdays and 49 percent on weekends. Many storeowners reported that the new public spaces helped their businesses.

For more information or to download the report, visit


USPS Stamp Set Celebrates Lady Bird Johnson

The United States Postal Service (USPS) recently released a set of six stamps honoring Lady Bird Johnson and her dedication to beautifying the Nation's streets, highways, parks, and cities. As First Lady, Mrs. Johnson championed the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, often referred to as "Lady Bird's Bill." She was a powerful voice in the movement to protect native plants and maintain a sustainable and beautiful environment.

Mrs. Johnson remained committed to highway beautification after leaving the White House, supporting legislation allocating Federal funds for landscaping projects using native vegetation along the Nation's highways. The six stamps include a reproduction of the official White House portrait of the First Lady and adaptations of five stamps originally released in the 1960s for President and Mrs. Johnson's beautification campaign.

A new series of commemorative stamps honors Lady Bird Johnson’s efforts to beautify highway rights-of-way.

For more information, visit