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Public Roads - September/October 2016

September/October 2016
Issue No:
Vol. 80 No. 2
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.

Transportation Leaders Sign Historic U.S.–Puerto Rico MOU

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau recently joined Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla and Puerto Rico Secretary of Transportation and Public Works Miguel Torres Díaz to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU aims to reduce Puerto Rico’s project delivery time, restructure the Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Administration with the Federal Highway Administration’s support, and improve Puerto Rico’s ability to use Federal funds in future highway projects. The agreement provides tools and resources to help Puerto Rico put many crucial projects on track, creating jobs and spurring much needed economic development on the island.

The MOU provides Federal technical assistance to ensure that Puerto Rican transportation officials are able to expeditiously access about $400 million in previously obligated Federal funds for infrastructure projects. The agreement also represents an important step in Puerto Rico’s plan to improve its billing procedures by increasing capacity for developing and sustaining best practices, such as using electronic funds transfer and reducing the time it takes to pay contractors.

The agreement requires the territory to hire a management consultant to assist with streamlining project delivery, bolstering construction management, and improving engineers’ estimates--which are key to ensuring that bid prices for Federal-aid road projects are reasonable.

USDOT Earns Top Grade for Small Business Support

Small businesses are a critical part of the national economy and support local residents and communities. USDOT recently earned an A+ rating on the Federal Government’s annual Small Business Procurement Scorecard--one of only three Federal agencies to receive the highest grade for meeting its small business contracting goals in fiscal year 2015. This is the seventh consecutive year in which USDOT has received an A or higher rating for continued commitment to the Nation’s small businesses.

The annual scorecard measures how well Federal agencies reach their small business and socioeconomic prime contracting and subcontracting goals. The goals measured include targets for small businesses, women-owned small businesses, small disadvantaged businesses, service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, and small businesses located in Historically Underutilized Business Zones (as designated by the U.S. Small Business Administration).

In May, USDOT joined the White House and other Federal agencies in celebrating National Small Business Week with the theme of “Dream Big, Start Small.” The Department’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization helps to ensure these businesses receive fair access to Federal contracting opportunities.




Technical News

USDOT Announces Updates to Connected Vehicle Resources

USDOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office recently updated two Web-based resources for connected vehicle activities. The Connected Vehicle Reference Implementation Architecture (CVRIA) and the Systems Engineering Tool for Intelligent Transportation (SET-IT)have been updated to version 2.2 and are available on the CVRIA Web site at

CVRIA provides the basis for identifying key interfaces between connected vehicle systems and components, and supports analyses to identify and prioritize USDOT support for the development of standards. CVRIA also supports policy considerations for certification, core system implementation, and other elements of the connected vehicle environment. This new version of CVRIA provides physical, functional, enterprise, and communication enhancements, and includes international applications. Among other updates, the separate Signal Phase and Timing application has been removed, and the Connected Vehicle Map Management application is now simply called Map Management.

The SET-IT software provides a single application that integrates drawing and database tools with CVRIA so that users can develop project architectures for pilots, test beds, and early deployments. The SET-IT 2.2 update aligns with CVRIA Version 2.2 and addresses issues reported by SET-IT users, including input from USDOT-funded connected vehicle pilot sites. The update also provides performance enhancements and improved consistency among the diagrams and tables.

The SET-IT software tool is available for download from the CVRIA Web site at

FHWA Studying Use of Geospatial Drones In Highway Construction

Unmanned aerial systems, commonly called drones, have received significant attention recently as a technology that has many potential applications in transportation, including highway construction and maintenance. However, the lack of formal documentation presents a barrier to transportation agencies adopting their use. Agencies need guidelines for determining practical implementation and evidence to support the business case for adoption. To address these challenges, FHWA researchers are studying the state of the industry regarding the market penetration and use of geospatial technologies.


Highway agencies use unmanned aerial systems—or drones—like this one for surveying, inspection, and monitoring.


Unmanned aerial systems are part of a larger set of geospatial tools available to transportation agencies for accomplishing a range of surveying, design, and construction activities. The tools include global navigation satellite systems, light detection and ranging (LiDAR), and structure from motion systems. As with other digital technology, developers have been able to miniaturize these tools and decrease the unit costs. As a result, these technologies readily lend themselves to integration with the smaller, lighter weight payload requirements of commercial unmanned aerial systems.

Today, both the public and private sectors are using unmanned aerial systems for topographic surveying and mapping, inspection of structural and roadside conditions, and a variety of monitoring tasks including construction progress, traffic, and unstable slope conditions. The systems can help to estimate earthwork volumes and identify potential avalanches.

FHWA’s research project will formally document the benefits and challenges, and identify future opportunities for these technologies to support highway construction. The findings will provide guidance as well as the framework for determining the return on investment for the technology’s implementation.

For more information, contact Morgan Kessler at

Public Information and Information Exchange

FAST Act Web Site Tracks FHWA Progress

In spring 2016, FHWA launched a Web site about the latest transportation funding law, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The site provides a summary of the legislation, which was the first in more than a decade to provide long-term funding certainty for planning and investment in surface transportation infrastructure.



The site outlines FHWA’s implementation priorities and updates the milestones the agency achieves each month. It also offers a Looking Ahead section with upcoming deadlines and anticipated publications. The funding page provides links to Excel® and PDF versions of funding tables, highway apportionments, and notices of funding opportunities. Additional resources include links to the full text of the legislation, presentations of key highway provisions in the FAST Act, and almost three dozen factsheets about the various programs and provisions addressed (such as the new Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects and FASTLANE grants).

The site’s guidance and regulations page provides dozens of reference links in six categories: (1) chief financial officer; (2) environment, planning, and realty; (3) infrastructure; (4) operations; (5) safety; and (6) research, development, deployment, and training.

For more information, visit


Measuring Pedestrian and Bicycle Efforts


FHWA recently released the Guidebook for Developing Pedestrian & Bicycle Performance Measures (FHWA-HEP-16-037). The guide outlines performance measures, such as accessibility and reliability, which can help communities integrate their pedestrian and bicycle activities into the larger process of transportation planning and performance management.

The publication describes a broad range of ways that transportation agencies and communities can measure pedestrian and bicycling investments, activities, and impacts. It also offers insight on how to best track and document those measures to meet goals (for example, livability and safety) identified in a community’s planning process. These performance measures can be used to plan, fund, and implement projects that offer the most benefits. The guidebook includes examples from communities that are currently using the suggested performance measures in their planning processes.

For more information, visit

USDOT Hosts “Last Mile” Hackathon

In February 2016,more than 50 app developers, data experts, and civic hackers came together in Washington, DC, to help address the mobility and economic opportunity challenges facing lower income residents in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area. During the Celebrating the Cities – Hack the Last Mile hackathon, participants used the Uber Developer Platform to build apps, Web sites, and data visualizations that shed light on barriers to opportunity in the region.


The hackathon’s winning team, Project Happy Home, from left to right: Martin Folkoff, Shaq Katikala, Kevin Hawkins, Savanna Rovira, and Naudy Martinez.


USDOT’s Acting Under Secretary for Policy Carlos Monje welcomed participants to the event and shared with them the Department’s vision of the critical role that transportation plays in connecting communities and individuals to economic opportunity. Other leaders from USDOT and Uber judged the competition. Nine teams worked for 12 hours on Saturday and 6 hours on Sunday before presenting their projects to the judging panel.

The winning team, Project Happy Home, developed a tool to help DC and Baltimore area residents find affordable rental housing. The team combined housing costs with apartment occupancy, and then they added travel times, the distance between home and destination, and travel costs to help people find housing that truly meets their needs and budgets.

For more information, visit

Bike-Share Stations Becoming More Popular

Bike sharing has had a transformative impact on urban transportation. According to Bike-Share Stations in the United States, a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, a growing number of people are using bike-share programs in cities across the country. As of April 2016, 70 bike-share systems were operating in the United States, offering a total of almost 3,400 bike-share stations, with most in close proximity to transit stops.


Bike-share stations, such as this one that is part of the Capital Bikeshare network in Washington, DC, are gaining in popularity nationwide.


According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, approximately 2,600 stations are located within one block of a scheduled public transportation mode such as intercity bus stations, ferry terminals, and passenger rail stations. The bike-share stations provide connections that extend the reach of the Nation’s transportation network and improve access to scheduled public transit. In 2015, the National Association of City Transportation Officials released a study revealing that since 2010, riders have taken more than 36 million bike-share trips.

For more information, visit

Assessing Bridge Vulnerability to Climate Change

FHWA and the Iowa Department of Transportation have released Iowa’s Bridge and Highway Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Pilot: Final Report (HEPN-707). The report presents a methodology to evaluate the vulnerability of bridges to climate change and extreme weather. Researchers at Iowa State University developed and then tested the methodology in a pilot study of six bridges in two Iowa river basins--the Cedar River Basin and the South Skunk River Basin.


A pilot study involving six bridges in Iowa found that improvements will be required for many locations to withstand projected increases in streamflow from severe weather events.


The Iowa DOT is responsible for approximately 4,100 bridges that are a part of the State’s primary highway system. The six bridges in the pilot study had been either closed or severely stressed by record streamflow within the past 7 years. Researchers developed an innovative methodology to generate streamflow scenarios based on climate change projections. The methodology selected appropriate data on rainfall projections to feed into a streamflow model that generated continuous peak annual streamflow series for 1960 through 2100. Researchers then used these data to estimate flood elevations for various return intervals.

The results combined historical and scenario-based design metrics for use in the analysis of bridge vulnerability and engineering design. The study found that the annual peak streamflow response to climate change was greater for the larger basin. Bridge and highway resilience would need to be improved in four of the six pilot bridge locations in order to withstand the projected increase in frequency of extreme streamflow conditions. The report recommends that Iowa DOT review its policies on bridge design to consider incorporating information on climate change.

For more information, visit

Caltrans Launches Campaign on Prevention of Stormwater Pollution

Earlier this year, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) unveiled a public education campaign about stormwater, titled Protect Every Drop. The campaign aims to educate Californians about the sources and pathways of stormwater pollution. The main message encourages motorists to reduce the pollutants that affect water quality in California’s streams, rivers, lakes, and coastal waters, keeping them drinkable, swimmable, and fishable.



The campaign addresses several actions the public can take, including performing routine vehicle and tire maintenance, which reduces pollution from vehicles; properly disposing of trash and recycling; and covering truck loads that may fall or blow off during travel.

The 3-year campaign includes integrated public relations, advertising, and community outreach programs to help change residents’ behavior and improve water quality. It builds on a previous, successful public awareness campaign, Don’t Trash California, but broadens the focus beyond litter and trash to address other stormwater pollutants, such as sediment, metals from tire and brake wear, fluid leaks, and contents from unsecured vehicle loads. The campaign also addresses other pollutants found in highway stormwater that may originate from nonhighway sources such as pesticides from agriculture and bacteria from natural sources.

Caltrans owns and operates storm drain systems along more than 15,000 centerline miles (24,140 kilometers) of the State’s highway system, which discharge into every major watershed. Stormwater picks up pollution washed off vehicles and roadways when it rains, and that pollution then makes its way through the storm drain systems and eventually empties into waterways.

For more information, visit