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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 - Sept/Oct 2007

Sept/Oct 2007
Issue No:
Vol. 71 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.


Traffic Deaths Decrease on U.S. Highways

USDOT announced that traffic deaths on U.S. roads decreased slightly in 2006 according to preliminary figures, but it cautioned that far too many lives continue to be lost. USDOT projected that the number of road deaths declined nationwide from 43,443 in 2005 to 43,300 in 2006.

The preliminary 2006 fatality numbers released project a 2006 fatality rate of 1.44 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from 1.45 in 2005. During the same period, injuries dropped from 2.7 million in 2005 to 2.54 million in 2006, a decrease of 6 percent. The preliminary figures also show that between 2005 and 2006, overall alcohol-related fatalities increased 2.4 percent from 17,525 to 17,941; pedestrian deaths dropped slightly, from 4,881 to 4,768; and fatalities from large truck crashes dropped from 5,212 to 5,018, a 3.7 percent decline.

USDOT collects the crash statistics from the 50 States and the District of Columbia to produce the annual traffic fatality report. The final 2006 report, pending completion of data collection and analysis, became available in late summer 2007. The preliminary report is available at

Emergency Relief Designated for MacArthur Maze

In May 2007, USDOT announced that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Emergency Relief (ER) program will appropriate an initial $2 million in Federal funds to repair the damaged MacArthur Maze overpass in northern California's East Bay. The MacArthur Maze highway overpass melted and then collapsed on April 29, 2007, due to a gasoline tanker fire, rendering two freeways unusable.

The $2 million is a first installment of funds that will give crews the support they need to begin construction. Additional Federal dollars are expected to follow once the full project cost is determined. USDOT officials pledged that the Federal Government will continue to be a close partner with the State to do everything possible to restore the bridge.

Through its ER program, FHWA reimburses States for expenses associated with transportation emergency situations. Projects paid for by the funds include rebuilding or replacing damaged bridges, highways, lighting, guardrails, and signs; creating detours; and removing debris.

FHWA Presents Awards for Utility Relocation and Accommodation

FHWA recently announced the winners of the 2007 Excellence in Utility Relocation and Accommodation Awards. The FHWA biennial awards program honors State departments of transportation (DOTs), cities, companies, and individuals that excel in improving utility relocation and accommodation practices and demonstrate exemplary implementation on surface transportation improvement projects.

The 2007 awards recognize outstanding innovations that have advanced FHWA policies significantly. This year's winners demonstrate exemplary practices in five categories: Incentives for Utility Relocation, Innovation, Project Management, Leadership, and Outstanding Individual Contributions. The award recipients were honored during the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials/FHWA 2007 Right of Way and Utility Subcommittee Conference in Orlando, FL, from April 29-May 3, 2007.

To read more about innovative programs, procedures, practices, technologies, teamwork, collaborative efforts, and projects from around the country, download the awards brochure at

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) was recognized for innovation in the category Projects Under $100 Million in the 2007 Excellence in Utility Relocation and Accommodation Awards. When replacing the I-96 bridge (shown here) in Kent County, MDOT achieved significant cost savings by using a sensing device and alarm attached to the crane to facilitate construction around active utility lines. Photo: MDOT Grand Rapids Construction Office.

Policy and Legislation

New Freight Program Will Allow U.S. Trucks Into Mexico

During a visit to truck inspection facilities in El Paso, TX, in February 2007, USDOT officials announced that U.S. trucks will, for the first time, be allowed to make deliveries in Mexico under a yearlong pilot program to expand cross-border trucking operations. U.S. trucking companies will be able to make deliveries into Mexico while a select group of Mexican trucking companies will be allowed to make deliveries beyond the 32-40 kilometer (20-25 mile) commercial zones currently in place along the Nation's southwestern border.

It was noted that USDOT has put in place a rigorous inspection program to ensure the safe operation of Mexican trucks crossing the border. U.S. inspectors will conduct inperson safety audits to ensure that participating Mexican companies comply with U.S. safety regulations.

The new demonstration program was designed to simplify a process that currently requires Mexican truckers to stop and wait for U.S. trucks to arrive at the border and transfer cargo. This process wastes money, increases the cost of goods, and leaves trucks loaded with cargo idling inside U.S. borders. Additionally, under current rules, U.S. trucks are not allowed into Mexico because the United States did not implement the safe cross-border trucking provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Following the February visit, USDOT published additional details about the safety standards and inspection program in the Federal Register on June 8, 2007. The notice includes comprehensive information about the program, including pre-authorization safety audits of Mexican trucking companies conducted by U.S. auditors in Mexico. The notice also details specific measures already in place to protect public health and safety — including roadside inspections, safety ratings, compliance reviews, hours-of-service rules, and civil penalties — as well as English-language proficiency requirements and a review of U.S. motor carrier safety laws and corresponding Mexican regulations.

Technical News

USDOT Announces New Life-Saving Technology for Vehicles

In a move that could ultimately save up to 10,000 lives each year on U.S. roadways, the Nation's top transportation official announced plans to make new crash prevention technology standard equipment on every new passenger vehicle sold in America by 2012. On April 5, 2007, during a tour with automakers at the New York International Automobile Show, USDOT officials announced the final rule to require Electronic Stability Control (ESC) on all new passenger vehicles. ESC uses automatic computer-controlled braking to keep drivers from losing control on slippery roads or in emergency maneuvers, with the potential in many cases to prevent deadly rollovers.

USDOT officials likened the ESC technology to airbags and seatbelts in its capacity to save lives.

The final rule will require all manufacturers to begin equipping passenger vehicles with ESC starting with model year 2009 (September 2008) and to have the feature available as standard equipment on all new passenger vehicles by the 2012 model year (September 2011). The agency estimates ESC will save between 5,300 and 9,600 lives annually and prevent between 156,000 and 238,000 injuries. The estimated average cost of ESC is approximately $111 per vehicle, assuming the model already features antilock brakes.

For more information on ESC technology, visit

The ROBOFlagger, shown here, enables WSDOT flaggers to direct traffic from a safe distance away from the direct line of traffic.

ROBOFlaggerTM Takes a Stand for Work Zone Safety in Washington State

A new kind of worker recently joined the ranks of the Washington State Department of Transportation's (WSDOT) construction crews: the ROBOFlaggerTM. Remotely controlled by a human flagger behind traffic safety barriers, ROBOFlagger is an automated flagging device that features red and yellow lights and a gate arm that lifts and lowers. The device is WSDOT's latest tool to make work zones safer for both drivers and crews by removing human flaggers from the direct line of traffic.

In March 2007, WSDOT tested the ROBOFlagger for the first time on a construction project where crews installed 1.9 kilometers (1.2 miles) of guardrail on U.S. 2 just west of Monroe, WA. Workers closed one lane of U.S. 2 each night while a pair of ROBOFlaggers helped alternate traffic through the work zone.

"This is a great project for us to test out the ROBOFlagger," says Carl Barker, assistant project engineer. "We're working at night, when visibility is low, and we're alternating traffic on a two-lane highway. We'll be able to see how the ROBOFlagger works in these conditions, and how drivers and our crews respond to it."

As they are for other States, work zones are a real concern for WSDOT. Between 1999 and 2005, there were 47 work zone deaths in Washington State and 4,444 work zone injuries. Speeding and inattentive driving are two major reasons for work zone collisions, and flaggers are the most at-risk workers.

For more information on the U.S. 2 project and the ROBOFlagger, visit the WSDOT Web site at


Public Information and Information Exchange

TRB Offers State DOT Research Projects Online

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) recently created a new Web site as part of its Research in Progress (RiP) database. The site, found at, enables users to easily find trans—portation research projects initiated by individual States.

The RiP database is populated, in part, by authorized users from each State DOT. The database now contains more than 9,500 current or recently completed national and international transportation research projects. In addition to the new State-specific information, the RiP Web site enables users to search the entire database by various fields, browse project records by subject, use a directory to search for individuals and organizations, and subscribe to receive e-mail notification of new RiP records in specific subject areas.