Along the Road
Policy and Legislation
"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 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let's meet along the road.
Policy and Legislation
DOT Announces Safety Action Plan
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Research and Special Programs Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Federal Transit Administration, and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics have joined together to meet DOT's goal of installing a safety action plan designed to reduce the number of fatalities on the nation's highways associated with commercial vehicles. The plan involves creating new regulations, enforcing laws more strongly, and instituting tougher penalties for those who break those laws.
The plan will accomplish the following:
- Create new rules to shutdown unfit carriers.
- Increase fines for safety violations.
- Double the number of safety investigator's compliance reviews each month.
- Determine hours of service.
- Pursue criminal or civil action, if needed, in the case of fatal crashes.
- Disqualify those drivers who disregard railroad grade crossing warnings while operating commercial vehicles.
Congress has been asked to provide an additional $55.8 million to enact the plan.
New Highway Tax Bill Introduced
Senator Chafee (R-RI) introduced a bill to change how the U.S. Department of Transportation calculates Commercial Vehicle Operations (CVO) taxes. The Highway Tax Equity and Simplification Act of 1999 (S. 1056) is structured so that the taxes being paid are more fairly distributed among those taxpayers. The bill suggests that under current law, there is an imbalance of taxation: some users pay too much into the trust fund relative to the costs they impose on the nation's highway system, while others pay too little. Among the changes outlined in the legislation are eliminating three separate taxes - the 12-percent sales tax on new trucks, the tire tax, and the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax - and replacing them with an axle-weight distance tax. Also, the bill proposes a reduction in the diesel tax from 24.3 cents per gallon to 18.3 cents per gallon in order to lower the tax to match that of regular gasoline.
The Senate Finance Committee has received the bill and is expected to include it in any general tax legislation put forward by that committee.
Management and Administration
DOT Awards Contracts Under AVP
DOT will award contracts valued at more than $12.1 million this year under the Advanced Vehicle Technologies Program (AVP). The program, a public-private partnership designed to support the production of cleaner, quieter, and more fuel-efficient vehicles, is jointly managed and jointly funded by DOT and the U.S. Department of Defense and public and private partners.
For the first year of AVP, the government will contribute $12.1 million and the private sector will chip in $15.7 million for new technologies for advanced buses, trucks, and airport support vehicles, with application to other vehicle types in rail, maritime and surface modes. Projects selected for fiscal year 1999 focus on developing electric and hybrid-electric vehicles.
So far, the first four of 26 projects have been announced. These projects will be coordinated under contract with the Northeast Advanced Vehicle Consortium (NAVC). NAVC represents eight northeastern states and is one of seven regional consortia that was awarded funding under AVP. The four projects are as follows:
- Expansion of a sustainable park system that uses a clean electric transportation system, including solar electric energy, for Spectacle Island in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.
- Development of a set of procedures for testing and issuing heavy-duty hybrid-electric emission test certification.
- Development of a dependable, durable, energy-efficient hybrid-electric school bus.
- Development of a manufacturing process for depositing precious metal, thin film catalysts.
DOT Funds Grade Crossing Programs
DOT granted financial assistance totaling $6.95 million to eight federally-designated high-speed rail corridors. The program will aim to eliminate hazards at public and private highway-rail grade crossings.
All public and private highway-rail grade crossings in designated corridors are eligible for funding, which can be spent on crossing closure; consolidation or grade separation; installation or upgrade of warning devices; improvements to track circuitry, crossing surfaces, crossing sight distances or illumination; installation of advanced train control or traffic control systems; and other related project development, analysis and engineering activities. Under this hazard-elimination program, the federal government may pay up to 100 percent of the total cost of engineering and construction.
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) expanded the program that helps to eliminate hazards at highway-rail grade crossings. It was originally set up under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and is managed jointly by FHWA and the FRA.
Fiscal 1999 apportionments to the eight designated corridors are as follows:
- California Corridor: California, $250,000.
- Pacific Northwest Corridor: Oregon, $400,000; Washington, $500,000.
- Chicago Hub Corridor: Illinois, $350,000; Indiana, $200,000; Michigan, $500,000; Wisconsin, $500,000.
- Florida Corridor: Florida, $300,000.
- Southeast Corridor: North Carolina, $1,000,000; South Carolina, $150,000; Georgia,$250,000; Virginia, $500,000.
- Gulf Coast Corridor: Louisiana, $325,000; Alabama, $345,000; Mississippi, $355,000; Texas, $125,000.
- Keystone Corridor: Pennsylvania, $500,000.
- The Empire Corridor: New York, $400,000.
The funds will be used along with other federal and state grants to expedite the implementation of high-speed rail in designated high-speed rail corridors.
FHWA Performs Validation Testing in Ohio
FHWA researchers conducted validation tests on the rolling-wheel deflectometer (RWD) - a device that measures the amount of deflection that occurs when the pavement is strained by a heavy load. Researchers tested the RWD, which is mounted on a vehicle and travels a roadway at traffic speed, on the Ohio Test Road constructed by Ohio DOT. The road contained several instrumented pavement test sections. The deflections measured by RWD can then be compared to those measured by instruments within the pavement.
RWD was constructed under a Small Business Innovative Research program administered through the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Mass.
Kentucky To Be First to Test New Infrared Technology
Kentucky will be the first of four states to test the Infrared Inspection System (IRISystem) during a two-year pilot project. The project is funded by FHWA and a four-state consortium comprised of Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee. This infrared technology imaging device could improve highway safety by helping to inspect commercial trucks for faulty brakes, exhaust leaks, over-inflated tires, hot wheel-bearings, and other mechanical problems.
FHWA provided $270,000 for the IRISystem, and the consortium provided $135,950 for operational, personnel, and training costs.
FHWA's Office of Safety and Motor Carriers cites faulty brakes as being the most frequent inspection violation for motor carriers. This new IRISystem allows inspectors to screen trucks and buses at highway speeds - the vehicles do not even have to slow down, unless they are stopped because an inspector detected a problem.
Public Information and Information Exchange
IPRF's Research Projects Make Debut on the Web
The Innovative Pavement Research Foundation (IPRF), a corporation jointly owned by the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA), Portland Cement Association, and National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, has released new information about IPRF's research policies and agendas on ACPA's Web site, www.pavement.com.
In March 1999, IPRF and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) signed a $12.5 million cooperative agreement that united the public and private sectors' common research interests for improved concrete pavements used on the nation's interstate and highway systems.
IPRF anticipates undertaking seven research projects during 1999. Requests for proposals (RFPs) will be sought from qualified universities, highway research agencies, and individual researchers to conduct the research. For each project, a planned requirement announcement (PRA) has been prepared, describing the desired research, objectives, and expected results. The site contains these PRAs, which will be issued under the IPRF Cooperative Agreement with FHWA. All RFPs will be listed on the site as they are released along with detailed instructions for proposers.
FHWA Distributes CD-ROM on Hot-Mix Asphalt
FHWA's Superpave technology delivery team has developed "Hot-Mix Asphalt for the Undergraduate," a CD-ROM designed for use in colleges and universities to supplement undergraduate programs. Those interested in receiving copies of the CD can contact the FHWA Research and Technology Report Center at (301) 577-0906. The contents of the CD are also available on FHWA's Web site, www.fhwa.dot.gov/asphtech.htm.
U.S. DOT and GM To Conduct Joint Research
U.S. DOT and General Motors Corporation will participate in a joint research effort to develop vehicle crash warning systems. DOT will provide $35 million to fund this Intelligent Vehicle Initiative (IVI) research project - which is the largest of its kind. The project will involve testing of collision warning technology in real-life situations and will run for five years. This is the first IVI operational test under the Intelligent Transportation Systems program, authorized by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).
Collision warning technology helps prevent crashes by detecting and assessing hazardous conditions in a vehicle's forward path, such as a rapidly decelerating or stopped vehicle. The system then alerts the driver by means of audible tones and visual displays.
The research will be conducted at GM facilities in Warren, Mich., along with Delphi Delco facilities in Kokomo, Ind., and Malibu, Calif. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute will manage the field testing. U.S. DOT's Volpe National Transportation System Center in Cambridge, Mass., will analyze the field data.
MnDOT Video Among Best Documents in State for 1998
The Minneapolis Department of Transportation's video, "Transportation Librarians: Partners in Technology Transfer," was chosen as one of the 16 Best Minnesota State Documents of 1998. The chosen documents are compiled annually to recognize exceptional reports.
The Minnesota Legislative Reference Library received and reviewed more than 50 formal submissions and some 1,000 documents. A panel of four judges from the Minnesota Library Association Government Library Documents Roundtable chose documents to be included on the list.
MnDOT produced the video with funding from the Minnesota Local Road Research Board, which focuses on technology transfer services provided by transportation librarians.
For more information on the best document list, visit www.leg.state.mn.us/lrl/mndocs/best.htm.
DOT, EPA Launch National Transportation Air Quality Campaign
FHWA, FTA, and the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Mobile Sources launched a national public education and partnership-building initiative called "It All Adds Up to Cleaner Air." The campaign is designed to teach the driving public how to make decisions that have a positive impact on traffic congestion and air quality. (See related article, "Involving the Public in Improving Air Quality," Public Roads, January/February 1999, pp. 42-44.)
Fourteen communities around the country will receive $25,000 in federal funds to create and place public service announcements (PSAs) in local print and broadcast media and to develop community-based partnership programs to inform the public about the connections between their transportation choices and traffic congestion. The 14 communities were selected because the areas had documented air quality and traffic congestion problems, made a committed effort to inform the public about transportation and air quality issues, and had the personnel and financial resources to participate. The following communities will receive funding to participate in the campaign:
- Dayton, Ohio: Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission.
- Northwestern Indiana/Chicago: Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.
- Anaheim, Calif.: City of Anaheim.
- Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas: North Central Texas Council of Governments.
- Orlando, Fla.: Central Florida Transportation Authority.
- Atlanta: Georgia Department of Transportation, Georgia Environmental Protection Division, and the Clean Air Campaign.
- Sacramento, Calif: Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.
- Southeastern Wisconsin: Wisconsin partners for Clean Air/Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
- Phoenix, Ariz.: Maricopa Association of Governments.
- Portland, Ore.: City of Portland Office of Transportation.
- New York and surrounding areas: New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, New York State DOT, and New York City DOT.
- Philadelphia and surrounding areas: Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
- Washington, D.C.: District of Columbia Department of Health.
- Louisville, Ky.: Air Pollution Control District of Jefferson County.
NHTSA Crash Test Results Available on Web
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Web site - www.nhtsa.dot.gov/ncap - now provides frontal-impact safety information on a total of 102 model year 1999 vehicles. The site also lists side-impact safety information for 90 model year 1999 vehicles. Users can search the site for a specific vehicle.
The most recent results are for frontal-impact crashes for the model year 1999 Acura RL and the Chevrolet Impala (early entry model year 2000). The Web site includes the results of side-impact crash tests involving the model year 1999 Mazda ProtÃ©gÃ© and Toyota Camry with side air bags.
For both frontal- and side-impact crash tests, the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) reports crash test results in a range of one to five stars, with five stars showing the best crash protection for vehicles. Copies of crash test results with information and tables showing NCAP crash test results so far for model year 1999 vehicles are available by calling NHTSA's Office of Public and Consumer Affairs, (202) 366-9550; the Auto Safety Hotline, (800) 327-4236; or by writing to NHTSA Public Affairs, Room 5232, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590.
Weight Restrictions Apply to Agricultural Vehicles in Iowa
An Iowa law now requires that heavy vehicles used in agricultural operations must comply with the weight restrictions that are posted on bridges in that state. Iowa DOT places these restrictions, called embargoes, on bridges that are not able to support heavy loads. In the past, farm vehicles that traveled on roadways were exempt from the weight limits that apply to other types of heavy vehicles.
Not only is the law requiring that farm vehicles observe bridge embargoes, but the new law also established a phase-in schedule for certain large farm vehicles to comply with legal weight limits when traveling on Iowa's public roads. The law allows a vehicle traveling on a public road to carry 20,000 pounds on a single axle and 34,000 pounds on a tandem axle - generally up to a total weight of 80,000 pounds.
After July 1, 2001, certain newly manufactured farm vehicles (fence-line feeders, tank wagons, and single-axle grain carts) must comply with Iowa weight laws when operating on Iowa's roads. However, these vehicles will be able to legally exceed the existing weight limits by 20 percent. Equipment made before that date is exempt from restrictions until July 1, 2005.
- Iowa DOT
Slater Selects Regional University Transportation Centers
Ten regional university transportation centers (UTC) were selected as part of the UTC program provided under TEA-21. These selections are in addition to the 23 other UTCs that were specifically designated in the legislation.
The UTC program provides educational opportunities for students conducting research on topics that cover all modes of transportation and supports and encourages technology transfer. FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration each provide half of the federal funds for the program, while the Research and Special Projects Administration administers the program.
Twenty-two universities applied for the competition with some regions having as many as five applicants. FHWA was part of an intermodal panel that developed the selection criteria and ranked the candidates.
TEA-21 authorized $158.8 million in transportation research funds, plus an additional $36 million in transit funds, for fiscal years 1998-2003 for grants to establish and operate these 10 regional UTCs and up to 23 other centers.
The winners of the UTC regional competition are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the City University of New York/CCNY; Pennsylvania State University; University of Tennessee; University of Wisconsin; Texas A&M University; Iowa State; North Dakota State University; University of California - Berkeley; and the University of Washington.
"Asphalt Project" Receives Recognition
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) presented the first National Occupational Research Agenda Partnership Award for Worker Health and Safety to a team comprised of FHWA and industry and labor organizations who developed and implemented the Asphalt Project.
The Asphalt Project, led by the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) and NIOSH, with research funding provided by FHWA, resulted in the development of engineering controls for highway-class asphalt pavers.
The award was created by NORA to honor those organizations that participated in a NORA-related research partnership and achieved the goal of protecting and enhancing worker health and safety.
NAPA, FHWA, the six U.S. manufacturers of asphalt pavers, the Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America, the Laborers' International Union of North America, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) signed a voluntary agreement requiring that engineering controls - which vent asphalt fumes away from workers while laying asphalt pavement - become standard equipment on all highway-class pavers manufactured in the United States since July 1, 1997. This equipment will reduce a worker's exposure to fumes by 80 percent.
The Asphalt Project was also a finalist for an Innovations in American Government Award sponsored by the Ford Foundation in 1998 and has been nominated for a Civil Engineering Research Foundation's Charles Pankow Award for Innovation.
Call for Entry in Transportation Design Awards Competition
The Design for Transportation National Awards 2000 Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, honors the facilities and activities that exemplify the highest standards of design and service. The deadline for entries is Nov. 1, 1999. No entry fee is required.
Entries may be either design products or activities. Design products include structures, equipment, landscaping, and artworks. Design activities include administrative or management programs, processes, and policies, including research and educational activities, master plans, and design guidelines.
Any U.S. transportation-related project that was completed and in use between March 1, 1995, and June 1, 1999, may be entered. Funding for the project may be from any source.
For more information about entry guidelines, award criteria, submission requirements, and judging, please contact Robert Stein - telephone: (202) 366-4846 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org - or Ken Reinertson - telephone: (202) 366-0582 or e-mail: email@example.com. Information on the awards program is also available at http://ostpxweb.dot.gov.
Molaski Named DOT Chief Information Officer
DOT Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater appointed George R. Molaski as the first Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the U.S. DOT. Molaski will advise the secretary on matters involving information resources and information services management. Molaski will work to make sure DOT's computer systems are compliant with year 2000 (Y2K) requirements.
Molaski has more than 20 years of executive management experience in computer sciences. Most recently, he was president of WritersClub.com, an Internet electronic commerce site. Prior to that position, he held a number of senior management positions in information technology-based businesses, including executive vice president and chief operating officer of Advanced Paradigms Inc., a subsidiary of Wang that specializes in the implementation of computer networking products.
He holds a bachelor's degree in computer science and a master's degree in business administration, both from the University of Dayton.