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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 2017

May/June 2017
Issue No:
Vol. 80 No. 6
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Along the Road

Public Information and Information Exchange

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 5-Year RD&T Strategic Plan

dep1_4Following a period of public comment and stakeholder input in 2016, USDOT released its Research, Development, and Technology [RD&T] Strategic Plan,which presents the Department’s research priorities for the next 5 years (fiscal years 2017–2021). The document provides an action plan that responds to the trends affecting the current and future performance of the Nation’s transportation system, as identified in USDOT’s Beyond Traffic 2045 report.

The RD&T Strategic Plan meets the statutory requirements of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which requires the Secretary of Transportation to develop a 5-year strategic plan to guide future Federal transportation research and development (R&D) activities.

The plan defines four critical transportation topic areas: promoting safety, improving mobility, improving infrastructure, and preserving the environment. It describes the current and planned R&D strategies used by USDOT to address the research needs within each area and highlights cross-modal research areas and collaborative initiatives. It also describes four overarching research themes, identified during the stakeholder engagement process, which cut across all of the critical transportation topic areas. The themes are policy research, emerging technology, strengthening research coordination, and big data.

The plan includes a section on technology deployment that describes how the Department’s Technology Transfer Program and each operating administration’s technology deployment strategies address the FAST Act requirement to specify how research findings will be used to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and safety of transportation systems.

For more information, visit

FHWA Is Among the Best Places to Work for a Fifth Consecutive Year

In January, the Federal Highway Administration was named one of the best places to work in the Federal Government by the Partnership for Public Service. FHWA ranked among the top 25 Federal agency subcomponents of 305 surveyed.

The new rankings make it the fifth straight year that FHWA has been listed in the top 10 percent. Federal employees were surveyed about their respective workplaces between April and June 2016. The rankings assess how public servants in the U.S. Government view their jobs and workplaces, providing important employee perspectives about leadership, pay, and other issues.

Published in the Partnership for Public Service’s 2016 Best Places to Work index, the rankings are based on the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewport Survey, which analyzes data collected from more than 421,000 Federal workers to produce a detailed view of employee satisfaction and commitment.

Agency subcomponents are not only measured on overall employee satisfaction but are scored on a wide range of workplace categories, such as effective leadership, employee skills/mission match, support for diversity, and pay. FHWA improved its scores in all 10 categories, with the biggest single-year improvements in training and innovation.

For a complete list of the 2016 rankings, visit

Report Reveals Need for Infrastructure Investment

USDOT recently released a report on the state of U.S. transportation infrastructure, 2015 Status of the Nation’s Highways, Bridges, and Transit: Conditions and Performance (C&P Report). The publication is a biennial report to Congress that provides information on the physical and operating characteristics of the highway, bridge, and transit components of the surface transportation system.

The latest C&P Report identifies an $836 billion backlog of unmet capital investment needs for highways and bridges, or about 3.4 percent more than the estimate made in the previous report. Addressing the growing backlog—while still meeting other needs as they arise over the next two decades—will require $142.5 billion in combined annual capital spending from Federal, State, and local governments. In 2012, the most recent year from which data were available for the report, Federal, State, and local governments combined spent $105.2 billion on this infrastructure—35.5 percent less than what is needed to improve highways and bridges.

The report also indicates that $26.4 billion is needed per year to improve the condition of transit rail and bus systems. In 2012, total spending to preserve and expand transit systems was $17 billion. If transit investment is sustained at those levels, overall transit system conditions are expected to decline over the next 20 years, thus increasing the transit system preservation backlog from an estimated $89.8 billion to $122 billion.

The latest Conditions and Performance Report to Congress indicates that the percentage of structurally deficient bridges decreased between 2002 and 2012, but commuter delays from traffic increased.

Between 2002 and 2012, the report found that the percentage of structurally deficient bridges decreased, road quality improved, delays in traffic cost the average commuter more time than ever, and transit route miles increased, with light rail growing faster than any other transit mode.

For more information, visit

USDOT Offers Leadership Academy Toolkit

dep3_3While transportation agencies at the local, regional, and State levels offer opportunities for public involvement, the process may be confusing and intimidating for members of the public. It is difficult for someone who does not understand the process to become meaningfully involved in transportation decisions. In late 2016, USDOT launched the Leadership Academy to help demystify the transportation decisionmaking process for the traveling public. As part of the initiative, USDOT created a set of tools to help people learn about transportation and to provide the skills necessary for teaching others as well. The tools include an indepth toolkit, quick guide, resource library, facilitator guide, and stories.

The Transportation Toolkit explains the basics using clear design and plain language. The toolkit helps people determine how to participate effectively in the transportation decisionmaking process. For example, it explains how to find quality data to show the need for a transportation project and when may be the best time to contact an agency with an idea. For people who want a high-level overview, the Transportation Toolkit Quick Guide introduces the content of the toolkit in a short, colorful booklet.

For those interested in learning more, an online library provides resources with more details on topics such as the National Environmental Policy Act and civil rights laws. The Facilitator Guide can help emerging community leaders conduct their own Leadership Academy Workshop through a set of activities that help participants learn the content of the toolkit.

USDOT hosted regional workshops in fall 2016 in Kansas City, MO; Seattle, WA; and Washington, DC. The larger goal of the initiative is to enable transportation agencies, local communities, and advocates to host academies of their own. The Leadership Academy initiative aims to help emerging, under-represented community leaders—people who have great ideas but who may not consider themselves experts in transportation—to work with their local and State transportation agencies in a proactive, constructive manner.

For more information, visit

Volpe Hosts Students for STEM Mentoring

In December 2016, the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center hosted 21 high school engineering students from Newton Country Day School, an all-girls college preparatory school in Massachusetts.

During their visit, two groups of students alternated between a “speed mentoring” session and a tour of the center’s simulators. Each student had a hands-on opportunity to try at least one of Volpe’s three simulators, including test driving a car, operating a train, or flying an airplane. Researchers use the simulators for human factors experiments to study how participants handle various new or dangerous scenarios—such as what drivers do when their brakes stop working.

The Boston chapter of WTS, an international organization that promotes the advancement of women in transportation, organized the event and partnered with Volpe to host the Newton Country Day School students. Fifteen volunteers from WTS and Volpe staff spoke to the students about the variety of careers available in transportation and the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

A Volpe staff member demonstrates to a student how eye-tracking technology works

Luisa Paiewonsky, director of Volpe’s Center for Infrastructure Systems and Technology, offered the students advice on the many technical and nontechnical skills they will use throughout their collegiate and professional careers. She also described the breadth and depth of projects managed at Volpe, which include all modes and various topic areas, such as the environmental impacts of transportation, human factors and safety concerns, and infrastructure resilience.


FHWA Products Support the SHSP Process

FHWA’s Office of Safety has created two resources that can help bring new stakeholders up to speed on a Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). The SHSP Quick Reference Guide (FHWA-SA-16-097) and Leading the Way to a Safer Transportation System: SHSP Leadership Briefing Packet (FHWA-SA-16-096) may be particularly useful for transportation leaders and newcomers to the SHSP process.

Two recent products from FHWA help practitioners responsible for their SHSP to understand the process and gain the support of leadership for traffic safety initiatives.

The reference guide provides transportation professionals with quick and easy access to the information they need to successfully understand and manage an SHSP. It provides an overview of the basic elements and requirements of an SHSP and offers helpful resources and links where practitioners can go to learn more. The guide also contains practical tips and noteworthy practices from professionals involved in the daily operations of the SHSP process.

Leaders are critical to the success of all traffic safety efforts and can have an immediate and lasting impact through a State’s SHSP. The leadership briefing packet helps State and local leaders understand the importance of the SHSP, its role as part of the Highway Safety Improvement Program, and why their involvement in this effort is crucial. The packet is particularly useful as part of a larger briefing on safety or as a way to gain more support for the SHSP, such as after passage of major transportation legislation or when there are changes in a State’s administration.

The reference guide is available as a Web-based document and as a printable publication at The leadership briefing packet is available at

For more information, contact Chimai Ngo at

Indiana and Kentucky Complete East End Crossing

In December, then Deputy Federal Highway Administrator David Kim joined Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, Indiana’s then Governor-elect Eric Holcomb, and other State and local officials to mark the completion of the federally funded East End Crossing. The project is the second half of the $2.3 billion Ohio River Bridges project. Combined with the Downtown Crossing, which connects Louisville, KY, with nearby Jeffersonville, IN, the Ohio River Bridges project is among the Nation’s largest infrastructure improvement projects, relying on more than $1 billion in Federal loans, bonds, and other funds. Planning for the project began in 1969, and construction began in 2013.

The new East End Crossing, shown here, increases the number of driving lanes in each direction and adds a protected path for bicyclists and pedestrians, improving the travel experience for all road users.

A joint effort between Kentucky and Indiana, the East End Crossing is the area’s first new bridge in more than 50 years. It will improve travel for an estimated 35,000 drivers each day. Connecting Utica, IN, and Prospect, KY, the bridge’s Kentucky approach will extend I–265 (Gene Snyder Freeway) from U.S. 42 to the bridge, adding two new lanes in both directions for 1.4 miles (2.3 kilometers). The Indiana approach will also be a four-lane section, extending State Route (SR) 265/Lee Hamilton Highway 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from SR–62 to the bridge. In addition, the project included a scenic multiuse path along the northern side of the Ohio River for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The East End Crossing improves access for area residents commuting between eastern Jefferson County and southern Indiana. For commercial freight and other travelers passing through the Louisville area from the north or south, the East End Crossing is an alternate route that bypasses Louisville’s downtown traffic.

Pilot Program Offers Adaptive Bicycles in Portland

Oregon’s Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is developing a pilot project to increase access to adaptive bicycling. The organization solicited input from community stakeholders and future customers, and plans to launch the program in June 2017.

A pilot program is exploring how to increase access to adaptive bicycles, such as this hand-cranked cycle, for Portlanders with disabilities.

PBOT previously has received requests for physical accommodation in its BIKETOWN bike share system. As part of the pilot development, PBOT staff interviewed staff from bike share systems in other cities, city program staff, companies and organizations serving people with disabilities, and Portlanders with disabilities. In summer 2016, PBOT attended a series of events related to adaptive cycling and interviewed attendees with disabilities about an adaptive bicycling rental service.

The individuals with disabilities who PBOT interviewed almost universally expressed a desire or need for a staffed service. Individuals explained their needs for personal wheelchair storage, assistance with fitting, and possible assistance to move between their mobility device and the adaptive bicycle.

In part because of safety concerns regarding riding in motor vehicle traffic and a primary interest in exercise and recreation, people wanted to use adaptive bicycles to ride on trails or paths without motor vehicles. The pilot focuses on adaptive cycle rentals through existing bike rental businesses located on or in close proximity to nonmotorized trails. PBOT is considering providing both hand-cranked bicycles and three-wheel bicycles.

This pilot expands PBOT’s work to increase access to adaptive bicycling. Other projects include providing adaptive bikes for the Safe Routes to School in-school bike safety education program, offering scholarships to Bike First (a camp that teaches riding skills to students with disabilities, including those with cerebral palsy and vision impairments), and donating senior trikes to Portland Parks & Recreation’s Senior Recreation program.

City of Portland


USDOT Welcomes Secretary Elaine Chao

Secretary Elaine L. Chao is the 18th U.S. Secretary of Transportation and comes to the Department with extensive experience in the transportation sector. She was a transportation financial officer with two major banks, worked on transportation and trade issues at the White House Office of Policy Development, and served as Deputy Maritime Administrator, Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, and Deputy Secretary of USDOT.

In addition, as the 24th U.S. Secretary of Labor (2001–2009), Secretary Chao was the first Asian-American woman to be appointed to the President’s Cabinet in U.S. history. She also has served as the president and chief executive officer of United Way of America (now United Way Worldwide) and director of the Peace Corps.

Secretary Chao understands the critical role of the Department in ensuring the safety of the Nation’s roads, rails, and skies. She is also aware of the key role that infrastructure plays in the country’s economic competitiveness, and in strengthening economic growth in both urban and rural areas.