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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 - September/October 2004

Along the Road

Management and Administration

FHWA Administrator Urges Drivers To Make Work Zones Safer

Likening roads to the "offices" of highway workers, Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters recently had her desk set up in the middle of an interchange on Interstate 95 in Springfield, VA, to demonstrate the dangers of unsafe driving habits in highway work zones. The event kicked off this year's National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week.

FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters recently set up an "outdoor office" in the median of an interchange on I-95 in Springfield, VA, to kick off National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week.

Fatalities in work zones increased nationwide by 53 percent between 1998 and 2002, according to data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Four out of five people killed were either drivers or passengers. Peters, however, notes that a combination of government safety programs and safe driving habits can significantly reduce the more than 52,000 injuries and fatalities that occur each year in highway work zones.

Solutions for creating safer work zones include using more durable pavements and "defensive" work zones- ones that provide better protection from motorists-and providing real-time information that enables travelers to plan alternative routes. Peters offered a number of tips for driving safely in work zones, reminding motorists to slow down, avoid tailgating, stay alert, and obey road crew flaggers and signs.

For more information, visit

Public Information and Information Exchange

USDOT 2003 Performance Report Rated Best in Government

USDOT's Performance and Accountability Report for fiscal year 2003 tied for first place as the best in government, according to an independent assessment by The Mercatus Center-an education, research, and outreach organization based at George Mason University in Arlington, VA. The organization rated USDOT's report, along with the U.S. Department of Labor's, as the Federal reports most effective in measuring the level of success in attaining major strategic goals.

Mercatus gave the report a rating of 16 out of a possible 20 points for "Transparency" because of its direct link on FHWA's home page and because of its overall readability. In the "Public Benefits" category, the report received a 15/20 for presenting results-oriented strategic goals and outcomes, and for demonstrating USDOT's impact on the public in spite of significant external factors impacting the agency's performance. The report attained its highest of the three category ratings-17/20-for "Leadership" by citing specific measures to remedy performance shortfalls and by extensively analyzing opportunities for improvement, even in areas where targets were met. Mercatus ranked USDOT's annual performance plan either first or second in every fiscal year since FY1999.

For more information, view USDOT's 2003 Performance and Accountability Report at /perfacc2003/index.html or the Mercatus report at

Discovery Science Channel Films at TFHRC

The Discovery Science Channel recently visited FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) in McLean, VA, to film a show for its television series called Techknowledge. A segment called "Safe Highways," featured in the show "Driven by Design," showcases both the center's field research vehicle and its highway driving simulator.

The show, which aired on March 10 at 8:30 p.m., also featured segments of interviews with Joey Hartmann, a research structural engineer with TFHRC. Filmed at the facility's curved girder bridge, the interviews highlighted new developments in high-performance concrete. TFHRC's main part in the show, however, was an uninterrupted 5-minute segment featuring the Human Factors Field Research Vehicle. Joe Moyer, an engineering research psychologist at TFHRC, introduced the many functions of the vehicle. A self-contained research laboratory, the vehicle supports highway safety and ITS research and has the capability of collecting driver performance measures, like acceleration/deceleration and eye movement. It also displays navigation, route guidance, and in-vehicle warnings.

Techknowledge is a new series that introduces groundbreaking research with the potential to alter day-to-day life significantly. The series is slated to showcase innovative technological advances, including an underwater airplane and a zero-energy home.

For more information, contact Nancy Singer at 202-366-4650.

Transportation Libraries Catalog Now Available Online

Coordinated by the National Transportation Library, the Transportation Libraries Catalog (TLCat) is now available online at TLCat enables users to search simultaneously the collections from multiple transportation libraries held in the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC). The catalog incorporates the collections of more than 20 significant libraries, including those in the Midwest Transportation Knowledge Network, Transportation Research Board, Northwestern University Transportation Library, and Harmer E. Davis Transportation Library at the University of California, Berkeley. Participation in TLCat is open to institutions that have transportation-specific libraries, the holdings of which must be cataloged in OCLC under a unique identifier.

TLCat users can query all available transportation libraries or limit their searches to government, university, or Midwest transportation libraries, searching by keyword, author, title, publication number, year of publication, or any combination of these criteria. Guest access is available at

For more information, contact Nelda Bravo at

Technical News

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Helps Make "Smart Vehicles" Even Smarter

Today's "smart vehicles" may be getting a little smarter as a result of research currently underway at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. Led by Dr. George List, professor and department chair of civil and environmental engineering, and Dr. William Wallace, professor of information systems and decision sciences, a research team is developing a system that collects real-time traffic data and uses the information to alert drivers about congested roadways, offering alternative routes to avoid problem areas.

The dynamic routing system, called Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS), consists of a personal digital assistant device and a global positioning system (GPS) that work in tandem with a wireless computer network. The network collects and processes traffic data from the device and feeds the results to the driver through an electronic voice mechanism. The researchers feel that this innovative combination of data-gathering technology, GPS technology, and navigational routing software ultimately will make travel safer and more efficient.

The researchers began testing the system with a group of 200 volunteers during the summer of 2004. The drivers commute each weekday morning to a location within a specified suburban test bed area in Rensselaer County, NY. The researchers chose the area because traffic volume varies significantly due to a combination of freeways and rural roads.

The ATIS project is funded by a $1.6 million grant from USDOT and the New York State DOT. The ATIS team is led by Rensselaer researchers but also includes representatives of other academic research institutions and other public and private organizations.

For more information, contact Mary Cimo at 518-276-6098 or Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute soon will begin selecting a test group of volunteers to use the Advanced Traveler Information System (ATIS) in their cars late this summer. Researchers used microscopic simulation modeling tools, like the one shown here, to study traffic patterns and model traffic flow for the test bed network.


FHWA's Jerry DiMaggio Contributes to Major Civil Engineering Textbook

The Office of Bridge Technology's Senior Geotechnical Engineer Jerry DiMaggio had the distinguished honor of coauthoring a major section in the 5th edition of the internationally recognized Standard Handbook for Civil Engineers, recently published by McGraw-Hill. DiMaggio worked on Section 7, "Geotechnical Engineering," with Mohamad H. Hussein, from GRL Engineers, Inc. The handbook is used widely by practicing engineers and in engineering curricula at colleges and universities.

According to the publisher, the book covers systems design, community and regional planning, and the latest design methods for buildings, airports, highways, tunnels, and bridges. It also includes sections on construction equipment, construction management, materials, specifications, structural theory, geotechnical engineering, wood, concrete, steel design, and construction.

For more information, contact Jerry DiMaggio at 202-366-1569 or