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Public Roads - November/December 2013

November/December 2013
Issue No:
Vol. 77 No. 3
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.

FHWA Celebrates Groundbreaking Of Devore Interchange

Deputy Administrator Greg Nadeau of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) joined State and local officials for the groundbreaking of the Devore Interchange Project, which will improve safety and relieve congestion on a critical trade route in San Bernardino County, CA. FHWA is funding $245 million of the $324 million project.

Located at the intersection of I–15 and I–215, the interchange is a valuable freight link that serves 21,000 trucks each day, while providing critical connectivity to Las Vegas, NV, and the Colorado River. More than one million drivers in San Bernardino County use the interchange on a weekly basis, and traffic backups can stretch as far as 5 miles (8 kilometers).

The project will improve the efficiency of freight delivery, make travel safer, and relieve congestion in the corridor. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will reconfigure the I–15/I–215 interchange and adjacent interchanges with an additional lane in each direction for a total of 5.3 miles (8.3 kilometers) throughout the project area. Truck bypass lanes in each direction will eliminate the need for slower moving trucks to weave through heavy passenger car traffic moving at higher speeds.

Caltrans officials estimate that the work will be completed in 2016. For more information, visit

Policy and Legislation

NHTSA Releases Policy on Development Of Automated Vehicles

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced a policy concerning vehicle automation, including plans for research on related safety issues. The policy includes recommendations for States related to the testing, licensing, and regulation of autonomous or “self-driving” vehicles. Operation of such vehicles does not require direct driver input to control the steering, acceleration, or braking. Nor are drivers expected to constantly monitor the roadway while the vehicles are operating in self-driving mode.

NHTSA’s policy provides an explanation of the many areas of vehicle innovation and types of automation that offer significant potential to reduce highway crashes and deaths. The policy offers recommendations to States that have authorized operation of self-driving vehicles for test purposes on how best to ensure safe operation while testing occurs on highways. The policy also includes a summary of three key research areas: human factors, system performance requirements, and electronic control systems safety. NHTSA is conducting this research to help ensure that the industry evaluates critical safety aspects of highly automated vehicles and that the agency has the necessary findings to support future technical requirements in these areas. NHTSA expects the initial research to be completed within 4 years.

Several States, including California, Florida, and Nevada, have enacted legislation that expressly permits operating self-driving vehicles under certain conditions. These experimental vehicles contain a range of emerging automation technologies that operate steering, throttle, and braking control systems. NHTSA’s policy can assist States interested in passing similar laws to ensure that their legislation does not inadvertently affect current vehicle technologies.

For more information, visit


Public Information and Information Exchange

FHWA Announces 2013 Grants For Highways for LIFE

FHWA recently awarded more than $16 million in grants through its Highways for LIFE program for 14 innovative highway and bridge projects in 13 States and the District of Columbia. The grants will help States improve safety, create jobs, and enhance the quality of the Nation’s transportation infrastructure.

The grants encourage the use of innovative technologies and practices such as accelerated bridge construction, cutting-edge building materials, and advanced methods for project management during construction of roads and bridges in the United States. In 2013, FHWA received 29 applications requesting more than $43 million.

Awarded projects include a bridge replacement in Colorado that will be the first in the Nation to use a geosynthetic reinforced soil system for a multispan bridge on an interstate. The complete list of the 2013 grant recipients is available at

The Utah Department of Transportation received a Highways for LIFE grant in 2009 to hold a workshop and demonstration to showcase the use of precast concrete panels like this one, which can provide fast and durable repairs.

INDOT Project Is First to Benefit From MAP-21 Provision

Prior to his departure from USDOT in July 2013, then Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood approved increasing the federally funded share for the U.S. 31 Hamilton County improvement project in Indiana to 90 percent, from the original 80-percent match. The project is the first to benefit from a provision of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) that gives the Secretary discretion to raise the allowable Federal match on eligible critical freight projects.

The U.S. 31 project is part of the corridor from Indianapolis to South Bend that the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) is rebuilding to handle increasing traffic, including more than 6,600 trucks using the corridor each day. The increased Federal share will enable INDOT to use $207 million in Federal dollars toward the total project cost of $230 million.

INDOT will upgrade U.S. 31 to interstate standards and convert it to a limited-access freeway with entry and exit points only at certain interchanges to improve traffic flow. The project involves 13 miles (21 kilometers) of new alignment, widening from 4 to 6 lanes, and building 9 new interchanges.

Now Available: Tools for Fuel Usage Factors

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) has released a report providing fuel usage factors and a calculation tool for construction projects. In highway construction contracts, State and local agencies commonly apply fuel usage factors to calculate price adjustments for fuel costs.

The Highway Research Board (now TRB) established the factors in 1974 for a number of heavy construction activities, including excavation and asphalt and concrete production and hauling. The 1974 publication also included fuel usage factors for structures and miscellaneous construction in gallons per $1,000 of construction cost, with no provision for any adjustment for inflation. FHWA adopted the factors in a 1980 technical advisory, and the factors have remained unchanged for more than three decades, despite the continuous effects of price inflation and changes in the purchasing power of construction dollars and methods, industry processes, equipment efficiency, and fuel type.

TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 10-81 is the first research effort to revisit these factors at the Federal level. The project aimed to account for more than 30 years of inflation, commodity cost increases, and changes in construction practices by identifying present contract activities for highway construction that are major consumers of fuel. Researchers prepared updated fuel usage factors for these activities for base year 2012. They then developed recommended practices for State departments of transportation (DOTs) to implement the fuel adjustment factors and modify them for both State-specific conditions and changes in construction costs, methods, and equipment.

NCHRP Report 744: Fuel Usage Factors in Highway and Bridge Construction represents the culmination of that work. The report includes a Microsoft® Excel®-based tool designed to assist in calculating payment adjustments for construction projects using fuel prices or fuel price indices.

For more information, visit

The spreadsheet-based calculator tool shown here enables transportation agencies to modify contract payments based on adjustable fuel prices.


NHTSA Releases Guidelines to Minimize Driver Distraction

NHTSA recently released guidelines for automobile manufacturers designed to help limit the risk of distraction associated with electronic devices built into vehicles, such as communications, entertainment, and navigation devices. The voluntary guidelines establish specific criteria for electronic devices installed in vehicles during manufacturing that require drivers to take their hands off the wheel or eyes off the road to use them.

Included are recommendations to limit the time a driver must take his or her eyes off the road to perform any task to 2 seconds at a time and 12 seconds total. The guidelines recommend disabling several operations, such as manual text entry for text messaging and Internet browsing, unless the vehicle is stopped and in park. NHTSA recommends that functions including video-based entertainment and communications, such as video conferencing and displaying certain types of text messages, Web pages, and social media content, also be disabled when the car is not in park.

NHTSA’s recommendations are consistent with the findings of its recent driving study, The Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety-Critical Event Risk. The study showed that visual-manual tasks associated with hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times. The study did not find a direct increased crash risk from talking on a cell phone specifically (versus texting or completing other tasks on a hand-held phone). However, the manual-visual interactions involved with using a hand-held phone made its overall use 1.73 times more risky because it requires visual-manual tasks 100 percent of the time. The study found that even portable hands-free and in-vehicle hands-free cell phone use involves visual-manual tasks at least 50 percent of the time, which are associated with higher risk.

For more information and to download the report, visit


States Can Monitor Highway Reliability with TRIC

The Illinois Center for Transportation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign released a report detailing how State and city DOTs can document and monitor the performance reliability of their highway networks using a software tool called the Travel Reliability Inventory for Chicago (TRIC).

Travel reliability is a critical performance metric for transportation systems and services. It enables users of the transportation system--from freight carriers to emergency responders--to make better use of available resources, including time, through effective scheduling of personal and business activities. However, urban transportation systems in particular can be affected by uncertainties, ranging from weather and crashes to special events and traveler behaviors.

Currently, State and local agencies neither archive data on travel reliability nor have access to modeling tools that properly account for unreliability of travel times for planning purposes. A prerequisite for the development and application of such tools is the availability of data on travel reliability.

The inventory created by TRIC consists of various reliability measures on two types of facilities: (1) individual road segments and (2) key routes between selected origin-destination pairs. The four reliability measures recommended by FHWA and considered in this research were 90th or 95th percentile travel time, buffer index, planning time index, and frequency that congestion exceeds some expected threshold. To validate the tool and provide guidelines for its application, researchers conducted case studies for road segments in the Chicago area. The case studies demonstrate how to export and use the travel reliability inventory.

To download the full report, visit


Oregon Campaigns for Pickup Truck Safety

According to NHTSA, Oregon has the second highest safety belt use in the United States--only after Washington State--with almost 97 percent of the motoring public using safety belts routinely in 2012. However, in that year almost 50 people in the State were killed in crashes in which they were not wearing a safety belt in a pickup truck. Therefore, during Oregon’s Traffic Safety Month in May 2013, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) stepped up enforcement efforts focused on safety belt usage in pickup trucks, particularly at night.

NHTSA encouraged States to conduct nighttime, as well as daytime, enforcement of safety belt laws during the nationwide Click It or Ticket campaign from May 20 to June 2, 2013. The Oregon State Police, the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, and the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association participated in joint efforts sponsored by ODOT and USDOT.

Proper belt use is the single most effective way to protect motor vehicle occupants from crash injury or death. In 2012, 61 vehicle occupants who died in crashes in Oregon were completely unbelted. The majority of these (49) were occupants in pickup trucks, and two-thirds of these unbuckled fatalities occurred in nighttime crashes.

For more information, visit

ODOT created ads like this one to encourage pickup truck occupants to wear their safety belts.

AASHTO Web Resource Details Funding Proposals

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Center for Excellence in Project Finance has compiled a comprehensive listing of proposals for State transportation funding and posted this information on its Web site under Featured Resources at From Arizona to Wyoming, more than 30 States and the District of Columbia have proposed funding initiatives since December 2012 to repair, replace, or build a wide range of transportation projects including roads, bridges, railways, and bicycle and pedestrian trails.

The collated data, available under the header “Examination of Recent State Transportation Revenue Initiatives,” includes a variety of funding mechanisms such as Maryland’s recently approved gasoline tax increase and Missouri’s proposed reduction to the State gas tax coupled with an increase in the average wholesale price of motor fuels. Where available, the report also includes information on State transportation funding needs and gives estimates of how much revenue may be generated by the proposed plan. AASHTO officials plan to update the site biweekly to provide timely information on States’ transportation funding activities.