"Find The Good and Praise It"
This article was adapted from the report "Find The Good And Praise It," Federal Highway Administration Program Accomplishments June 1993 to June 1995,
Publication No. FHWA-PA-96-001, October 1995.
Together with partners at the state and local level and in the private sector, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has accomplished many gains since June 1993. These have included record-level funding in 1993, 1994, and 1995 and innovative financing techniques that have helped create 8 million jobs during this period.
Senior FHWA officials have been "on the road" talking with, listening to, and learning from thousands of people in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. They have had an opportunity to see, to listen, and to learn more about how transportation impacts the lives and economies of Americans. Along the road, it has been easy to find the "good." It is in the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of those who use, construct, maintain, and manage our transportation system.
Responding to Urgent Needs
During the past three years, the nation has faced several natural disasters and an act of terrorism. Especially challenging was the 1993 Midwest flooding that damaged highway facilities in a nine-state area. Federal Highway Administrator Rodney E. Slater helped coordinate the federal response by chairing a multi-agency Transportation, Roads, and Bridges Task Force.
FHWA responded by authorizing more than $170 million in emergency relief (ER) funds. The partnerships established between FHWA and the affected states enabled efficient use of funds through accelerated procedures. Flooding in the Southeast and hurricane and tropical storm damage in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and along the Gulf Coast were approached in the same way.
After the Northridge earthquake in January 1994, FHWA worked with the California Department of Transportation, using innovative approaches to reopen vital roads within 87 days. All repairs were completed in a record 291 days and at a cost of about $400 million.
On Jan. 17, 1995, a major earthquake struck Kobe, Japan, and Administrator Slater joined the U.S. delegation as part of international assistance efforts. Some 18 FHWA engineers also went to Kobe to investigate earthquake-related damage to transportation structures and to evaluate the effects on structures and the adequacy of seismic design codes.
When daunting fiscal challenges in the District of Columbia threatened the viability of the transportation system in the nationfs capital, FHWA and D.C. officials worked together to identify the significant problem areas and develop a plan. Then, working with Congress, they crafted and accelerated the passage of legislation to make more than $175 million in federal-aid funds available.
Already in 1996, FHWA has responded to the urgent needs created by two weather-related disasters - flooding in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states and flooding in the Northwest. In January, rain and melting snow from the Blizzard of f96 caused severe flooding, particularly in the Mid-Atlantic states, and FHWA initially allocated $34 million in ER funds: $21 million to Pennsylvania, $10 million to New York, $2 million to West Virginia, and $1 million to Maryland.
FHWA division offices in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington state are coordinating closely with their respective state highway agencies to assess the impacts and extent of flood-related damage on the federal-aid highways. In February, FHWA made initial allocations of ER funds in the amounts of $6 million to Idaho, $15 million to Oregon, and $14 million to Washington.
A major disaster on the scale of the Northwest flood is not required to qualify for ER funds. In fiscal year (FY) 1995, FHWA responded to 29 separate emergencies and provided $481 million in ER funds to the states. In FY 1994, the ER obligation was $894 million, and in FY 1993, it was $413 million.
When discussing disasters and tragedies, we remember the loss of 11 FHWA employees among the 168 people who perished in the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. "Indeed, we remember," said Administrator Slater, "and we are grateful for the opportunity to have known these 11 people and to have counted them among our colleagues and our friends. They live on in our hearts and our memories."
Ensuring the Nation's Economic Health
On Dec. 9, 1993, Secretary of Transportation Federico Peña and Administrator Slater recommended that Congress designate a system of 256,000 kilometers of the nation's most important roads as the National Highway System (NHS). Reduced congestion, improved travel time, better intermodal connections, lower vehicle operating costs, and improved access to jobs are some of the benefits of focusing limited federal resources on NHS.
Investment is critical to NHS, and FHWA has been actively promoting new strategies to expand it, such as the FHWA Innovative Finance Program - Test and Evaluation Project. To date, 57 projects in 30 states, with an estimated value of more than $3.8 billion, have been accepted as part of this program. Examples include a proposed $85 million project using phased funding to build a second ocean-class ferry boat for use on the Alaska Marine Highway and a $33.7 million project in Kansas City that benefits regional travel while addressing the concerns of the minority community through which it passes.
To increase income to the Highway Trust Fund, FHWA has continued a strong commitment to ending fuel-tax evasion. Already this has resulted in a diesel fuel tax revenue increase of $1 billion in 1994 compared with 1993.
FHWA has also found ways to improve the contracting process and cut costs. This effort to encourage states and industry to practice innovative contracting techniques - such as cost-plus-time bidding, design/build contracting, and the use of warranty clauses - has gained the participation of 65 percent of the states. At the reopening ceremony of the Santa Monica Freeway after the repair of damage caused by the Northridge earthquake, Administrator Slater noted that the use of innovative contracting techniques led to project completion well ahead of expectations.
Working with partners in state and local government, FHWA employees administer one of the most extensive and most successful federal programs - the Federal-Aid Highway Program. This partnership successfully obligated more than $20 billion in highway and bridge projects in each of the last three years. The number of deficient bridges decreased about 6 percent between 1993 and 1995.
Recognizing how transportation affects the economy, FHWA has sought out partners in private industry to improve the way business is conducted in many areas:
- The National Freight Partnership is a collaborative effort with other Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies and more than 170 executives from all carrier modes to consider improvements for freight movement.
- The National Quality Initiative (NQI) is a partnership of the FHWA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Public Works Association, and seven other national associations representing the highway design and construction industry.
- In May 1995, the FHWA Office of Motor Carriers responded swiftly to concerns about regulations implementing the Intermodal Safe Container Transportation Act of 1992. They delayed implementation and are working with shippers, carriers, and others to develop alternatives.
Forging Global Partnerships
Always looking for broad, long-range implications, FHWA's International Outreach program is responding to both needs and opportunities around the world. FHWA has established an International Technology Scanning Program, seeking new ideas and technologies developed abroad.
Also, FHWA works closely with other government agencies and U.S. industry to help U.S. firms capture more of the estimated $9.5 trillion world highway market over the next 20 years. The following activities are some highlights:
- In December 1994, after participating in a congressional delegation to Moscow, Administrator Slater signed a multi-year project agreement to establish a federal-aid highway program in Russia and to help administer a $300 million World Bank loan.
- With FHWA assistance in developing their proposals, several American enterprises received grants to set up construction equipment leasing centers in Russia.
- The United States and South Africa entered into a technical assistance program, establishing technology transfer centers and providing training, education, and private-sector development in South Africa.
- As a result of participating in the Central and Eastern Europe Highway Market Development Conference in 1994, FHWA is advising on toll road proposals in Hungary, Poland, and Romania.
- At the invitation of the World Bank and the Indian Ministry of Surface Transport, FHWA participated in a review of institutional reform issues in the context of highway loans to India.
- FHWA entered into cooperative agreements with Japan, Canada, and France to increase the knowledge of U.S. practitioners in areas such as building earthquake-resistant structures, intelligent transportation systems, and analysis of long-term pavement performance data.
- Technology transfer is being encouraged through the Pan American Institute of Highways and its network of 64 technology transfer centers in 20 countries.
- Transport Initiative for discussion with the transport ministers of Latin America, addressing the highway-related needs and innovative financing options.
Reinventing and Advancing Program Stewardship
On Sept. 7, 1993, President Clinton launched the National Performance Review (NPR), calling for an examination of all federal programs and processes. In response, Secretary Peña proposed streamlining the existing DOT program structure and increasing decision-making authority for state and local governments.
NPR also stressed the need to ease the federal regulatory burden, and senior FHWA managers have listened to stakeholders' ideas on improving program delivery and service. After review of 83 FHWA-related regulatory sections, six have been eliminated and 25 were revised.
FHWA is taking a leading role in implementing the Government Performance and Results Act, which requires that all federal agencies develop strategic plans and performance goals. On Jan. 31, 1994, the Office of Management and Budget approved the FHWA Federal Lands Highway Program Office as a pilot agency for performance plans and performance budget reports.
Opportunities to participate in federal highway programs have been actively advanced for all segments of American society. In December 1994, FHWA established a Civil Rights Task Force, whose recommendations are now being implemented. Federal-aid contracts and subcontracts awarded to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises rose more than $2 billion over the previous year's totals in both fiscal years 1993 and 1994. Opportunities for women in skilled highway construction trades are being energetically and effectively promoted with particular success in some states; North Carolina has dramatically increased the percentage of women entering and succeeding in training for highway construction careers.
Partnership agreements with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have resulted in FHWA awards of more than $16 million to these institutions, and an additional $500,000 to Hispanic-serving institutions.
Looking to the future, an Urban Youth Corps (UYC) was established in DOT in 1993 to expose young people to public service and to improve public works and transportation projects in urban areas. This is only one of many youth-oriented educational and career opportunity programs in which FHWA is an active participant and funding organization.
Advancing Goals Through Advanced Technology
Since 1993, FHWA has led efforts in advancing technology focused on Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). In May 1994, the ITS Joint Program Office was established to coordinate ITS development and implementation. Five major accomplishments form the foundation for the future of ITS:
- A joint public-private national program plan has been developed for ITS deployment.
- A national ITS architecture - a description of how the many elements, or subsystems, work together to perform the system's intended functions or to provide user services - is being produced to reduce deployment risk and to spur the marketplace.
- A long-term ITS research program has been launched, including Automated Highway System (AHS) research.
- The results of 70 operational tests are being used to determine low-risk technologies ready for immediate deployment.
- Some 75 early deployment plans are being developed for use in states and metropolitan areas.
- In October 1994, Administrator Slater signed the National AHS Consortium Agreement. Private and public partners will share in the risk of developing an AHS, as well as an advanced crash avoidance program. Atlanta is the site of one of the most comprehensive ITS initiatives as it prepares to handle millions of visitors during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games this summer.
The state-of-the-art freeway incident response technology at the Chicago Emergency Traffic Patrol Headquarters illustrates the potential for an ITS application. Assistance personnel, dubbed "minutemen," are directed by the headquarters emergency management team to aid motorists and quickly clear roadways of obstructions.
FHWA is working to ensure that state and local governments and the private sector have access to the latest technology through the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) and the Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP). The products of SHRP research assist state highway departments in delivering a roadway system that is safer, more durable, and more cost-effective. Six LTAP technology transfer centers serve Native American tribal governments, and all 50 states and Puerto Rico have an LTAP technology transfer center.
On Jan. 8, 1996, Secretary Peña announced that the building of the Intelligent Transportation Infrastructure (ITI) is a national goal. ITI consists of traffic detection and monitoring, communications, and control systems required to support a variety of ITS products and services in metropolitan and rural areas. ITI provides the building blocks needed to effectively deploy and operate, as locally appropriate: traffic signal control systems, freeway management systems, transit management systems, incident management systems, electronic fare payment systems, electronic toll collection systems, and multimodal traveler information systems.
The first initiative of ITI is Operation Timesaver. Operation Timesaver encourages state and local transportation officials to invest in ITI with the objective of shaving 15 percent from the daily travel time of most Americans by 2005.
Ensuring the Safety of Our Nation's Highways
In April 1994, FHWA kicked off its first nationwide multimedia campaign aimed at teaching motorists to share the road safely with commercial vehicles. Sharing the Road: "No Zone" included a television commercial that has been shown about 1,500 times by more than 100 stations across the country.
FHWA has also developed a first-of-its-kind print guide focusing on those elements of highway safety directly related to highway engineering, such as signs, signals, and markings. This National Highway Users Guide - entitled "Read Your Road!" - was completed in 1995.
Other critical areas of FHWA highway safety activity include:
- Child Safety - FHWA participated in Secretary Peña's Child Transportation Safety Conference, held from May 31 to June 2, 1995.
- International Vehicles - FHWA has been working with Canada and Mexico to harmonize motor carrier safety standards to ensure that Canadian and Mexican commercial vehicles operating in the United States will have to meet the same requirements and be subject to the same inspection standards as domestic carriers.
- Rail-Highway - Following meetings in late 1993, Secretary Pñea released the Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Safety Action Plan in June 1994. Of the 55 individual elements, 22 are assigned to FHWA, including the elimination of more than 2,200 crossings where NHS routes intersect principal rail lines.
- Work Zones - To provide national leadership in the improvement of work-zone safety operations, Administrator Slater issued a proposed National Work Zone Safety Program in December 1994, including a national conference.
- Red-Light Running - In the spring of 1995, the Red-Light-Running(RLR) Campaign was launched with 32 communities designated to receive more than $600,000 in RLR grants over the next two years. Examples include the Grade-Crossing Safety Campaign and, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Safe and Sober Campaign.
- Truck Safety - The FHWA's Motor Carrier Office participated in studies aimed at dealing with truck driver fatigue. FHWA also turned to state highway departments, motor carriers, drivers, and safety interest groups for input at the first-ever Truck and Bus Safety Summit in March 1995.
Enhancing the Environment
The FHWA Office of Program Development has taken a proactive position in environmental relations. In August 1993, FHWA, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency released a joint report, Clean Air Through Transportation: Challenges in Meeting National Air Quality Standards, which received praise from both transportation and environmental professionals. FHWA completed a major challenge with the November 1993 publication of the Transportation Conformity Rule.
Extensive review of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program prompted substantial changes in CMAQ eligibility and more flexibility in the use of CMAQ funds. The Congestion Pricing Pilot Program has focused on the role of market pricing in reducing congestion and improving air quality.
FHWA is supporting President Clinton's Global Climate Change Action Plan by leading an interagency working group charged with developing a commuter-choice initiative to transform the current tax exemption for employer-provided parking into a positive incentive to use modes of transportation other than single-occupancy vehicles.
Other noteworthy FHWA environmental initiatives include:
- FHWA has aggressively implemented the National Scenic Byways Program, providing funding for many projects and initiating a process for recognizing national scenic byways and All-American roads.
- Helping to promote bicycles and walking as alternative modes of transportation, the National Bicycle and Walking Study was completed in April 1993, and action items are now being implemented.
- Issued in November 1994, the FHWA Environmental Policy Statement emphasized and consolidated recent programs and procedures mandated by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), the Clean Air Act Amendments, and other environmental laws.
- At the celebration of the 25th annual Earth Day on April 21, 1995, the first-ever FHWA Environmental Excellence Awards were presented to eight exemplary activities of state and local governments and the private sector.
Since ISTEA was enacted, $1.6 billion in transportation enhancement (TE) funds have been made available, and $723 million have been obligated. Taking a proactive role, Administrator Slater initiated a review of the TE program, and on April 11, 1995, he signed a memorandum allowing states to adjust the federal share on enhancement projects up to 100 percent.
Across the country, projects have been implemented that exemplify FHWAfs commitment to fostering a positive relationship between transportation and the environment. For example:
- In Coconino County, Ariz., a $15.8 million project preserved the historic Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River.
- In Denver, a $200 million project will provide high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on I-25 from downtown, lessening congestion and improving air quality.
- In Atlanta, high-occupancy-vehicle lanes will be created by resurfacing 34 kilometers of I-75 and I-85. This $31 million project will expedite high-occupancy traffic as well as improve overall ambient air quality.
Find the Good and Praise It
During the initial road tour by Administrator Slater from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, a poignant stop in Henning, Tenn., provided a phrase that captures the essence of all FHWA has accomplished in the past three years. It was a simple statement on the grave marker of the noted author Alex Haley: "Find the Good and Praise It."
Finding the good has been easy. There is much good work to find, and there are many dedicated individuals at FHWA and its partner organizations to praise for that work. On local, state, regional, national, and international levels, much has been accomplished to make highways better and safer conduits for highway users. This has also made highways more of an asset to businesses, communities, and millions of individuals who derive economic and personal quality-of-life benefits from our nation's highway system.