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Public Roads - Spring 1997

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.

Agreement Means Better Conditions for Asphalt Pavers

In a ceremony at the Department of Labor on Jan. 9, public and industry officials signed an agreement to improve workplace conditions in the asphalt paving industry, incorporating ventilation systems on certain types of paving equipment. In accordance with the agreement, the six domestic manufacturers of highway-class asphalt pavers (Blaw-Knox Construction Equipment Corp., Caterpillar Paving Products Inc., Cedarapids Inc., Champion Road Machinery Inc., Dynapac USA, and Roadtec Inc) will incorporate ventilation systems, also known as engineering controls, on all pavers weighing 7.25 metric tons (16,000 pounds) or more and manufactured after July 1, 1997. The agreement also specifies that the equipment must demonstrate a capture-efficiency of 80 percent under controlled indoor conditions. It also describes the procedures for testing and monitoring the systems and for training workers and inspectors. In 1993, members of the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), a national trade association representing the interests of the hot-mix asphalt paving industry initiated the process that led to this agreement. FHWA provided funds for testing the engineering control systems. "This is a real celebration of partnership," said Byron Lord of FHWA. "This is a case where, by bringing people together, we have succeeded in making the environment better for the people who pave our roads."

NHTSA Issues a Final Rule on Air Bags

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued on Dec. 30, 1996, a final regulation and two proposed regulations in its continuing effort to preserve the benefits of air bags while minimizing the danger to children and at-risk adults. "Air bags have saved more than 1,700 lives, but we can and will do more to minimize their potential hazards," said NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez. The final rule continues the automakers' option of installing cut-off switches in vehicles without a rear seat for children. A cut-off switch enables the driver of a pickup truck, for example, to disable the passenger-side air bag when a child is in the front seat and to turn it back on for an adult passenger. The two proposed regulations include plans for depowering air bags temporarily an average of 20 to 35 percent to reduce the deployment force and for deactivating air bags in certain circumstances. The proposal to depower air bags would be in place until smart air bag technology is phased into new motor vehicles.

DOT Working to Get Second Civil GPS Frequency

The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced on Jan. 13 that it is continuing efforts to determine the frequency assignment of a second civil frequency for the Global Positioning System (GPS). GPS is a satellite-based radio navigation system originally developed by the Department of Defense (DOD) but now used extensively by motor carriers, rail and transit systems, airlines, and commercial shippers worldwide to track vehicles and goods. GPS provides highly accurate, three-dimensional data on position, speed, and time determinations. DOT, working with DOD and other federal agencies, accelerated the effort after a decision was made in December to execute the second development option of the GPS Block IIF contract. A specific frequency must be selected by Feb. 21, according to contract requirements. "A second civil frequency will demonstrate America's dedication to the civilian use of GPS throughout the world," said Frank Kruesi, assistant secretary for transportation policy.

Management and Administration

States Apply for State Infrastructure Banks

In 1996, DOT approved 10 states for pilot state infrastructure banks as authorized by the National Highway System Designation Act. The 1997 DOT Appropriations Act authorized additional states to apply for infrastructure banks. States were required to submit applications by Dec. 20, 1996, and 26 new applications were received affecting 28 states. The applications are being reviewed by FHWA, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Federal Railroad Administration.

Floods/Snow Cause Extensive Damage

Heavy rains in late December and early January caused extensive damage to roadways and bridges throughout the northwestern United States and Hawaii. In California and Nevada, the rain melted snow up to 2.5 meters deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the runoff from the melted snow contributed significantly to the damage in those areas. Early damage estimates exceeded $100 million. Six states (California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) requested quick release of emergency repair funding to fix federal-aid highways.

In mid-January, North Dakota experienced its third major winter storm/blizzard. The governor mobilized the National Guard to assist the North Dakota DOT, four Indian reservations, counties, and small towns in snowplowing and rescue operations. Seven deaths, as well as the loss of approximately 13,000 head of cattle and more than 225 metric tons of milk, are attributed to the storm.

Technical News

Boston Moves Toward ITMS on I-93

The design phase of an integrated transportation management system (ITMS) for I-93 in Boston has been completed. In the next phase, vehicle detectors, video surveillance cameras, and variable message signs will be installed. The I-93 project will monitor travel-time information on three primary routes (state Route 28, and Rutherford Avenue) into downtown Boston. This information will be run through a federally developed traffic simulator to predict the best route for commuters, and then traffic advisories will be displayed on variable message signs. Boston's ITMS will reduce congestion, which costs Boston drivers $1.4 billion a year; improve highway safety and air quality; increase mobility; and enhance productivity.

AlliedSignal Inc.

Shanghai Receives First Mobile Traffic Analysis System

The Shanghai City Comprehensive Transportation Planning Institute in the People's Republic of China recently took delivery of a $250,000 traffic survey vehicle that was custom designed and built in Australia by ARRB Transport Research. ARRB claims this is the first mobile traffic analysis system. The system integrates two ARRB leading-edge traffic monitoring systems, and it counts and classifies vehicles, monitors traffic flow, and records traffic times and fuel consumption. Traffic can be monitored continuously in two locations, and the data can be analyzed onsite in the vehicle.

ARRB Transport Research

Oregon Trains Drug Recognition Experts

The Oregon State Police, in conjunction with the state Department of Transportation, has developed a very successful Drug Evaluation Classification (DEC) Program, which includes training state and local police officers to be drug recognition experts (DREs). Alarmed by the increasing occurrence of illicit drug involvement by drivers arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI), DEC was initiated in January 1995 as a means of dealing with drug- and alcohol-impaired drivers. The DREs had an immediate impact. During 1995, 318 drug evaluations were conducted, resulting in the arrests of 275 people for DWI; this is in comparison to 27 evaluations in 1994 when the state had only four DREs. And through September 1996, DWI drug arrests were up almost 43 percent over the same period in 1995, and overall DWI arrests have increased by 25 percent.

Oregon has a cooperative agreement with Washington and Idaho to train DREs and DRE instructors. Two DRE instructor schools have been conducted, providing Oregon with 25 qualified instructors. The fourth DRE training course will be conducted from April 28 to May 9. With the graduation of the 26 officers enrolled in this course, Oregon will have 102 trained DREs. Also, two "Prosecuting the Drug-Impaired Driver" courses have been conducted to assist and motivate prosecutors and DREs in going to trial in DWI cases.
Oregon State Police

Vail Valley Residents Happy With Roundabouts

After rejecting proposed traditional alternatives involving traffic signals and the redirection of traffic away from the congested main interchange, Vail, Colo., built North America's first modern roundabout interchange in 1995 at I-70 and Vail Road. Ramp and frontage road intersections, formerly regulated by stop signs, were replaced by two roundabouts. Recently, a survey of residents was taken to measure the acceptance of the modern roundabout interchange. The project received an average rating of 4.4 on a scale of 5, a high approval rating. Both local newspapers initially opposed the project but now support the project. Some of the benefits include: lower construction costs than signalized interchanges, ability to handle higher volumes of traffic with less delay, and fewer accidents with injury. People used to wait in traffic as long as 30 minutes on peak skiing days to enter or leave Vail. Now, most of the time, drivers can enter the roundabout without waiting, and even under the heaviest traffic, queues rarely exceed 10 vehicles. Reduced idling time has reduced air pollution and fuel waste.

Vail's positive experience with roundabouts influenced a neighboring town about 15 kilometers west of Vail in the Vail Valley. In November 1996, the residents of Avon approved by a 2-1 ratio a referendum to raise property taxes to convert the only three signalized intersections in town to roundabouts and to add two roundabouts at the interchange of I-70 and Avon Road. This will result in five roundabouts in a row on Avon Road.

At least 18 new modern roundabout interchanges are in various stages of study and preconstruction in British Columbia, California, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Washington, and Wyoming.

Ourston and Doctors

Older Drivers Are Not a Serious Problem

On Jan. 15, 1997, DOT released a report that finds that older drivers do not currently present a serious safety problem but that safety and mobility concerns could arise as the number of older Americans increases. The report, Improving Transportation for a Maturing Society, is the first step in developing recommendations, relative priorities, and budget estimates that would be part of a definitive, long-term strategic plan to accommodate the growth in the number of Americans over the age of 65. According to census data and projections, the over-65 population will increase from 34 million in 1995 to 54 million by 2020. The report concludes that most older Americans recognize the decrease in their abilities and make appropriate and responsible changes, such as reducing their nighttime driving. Nevertheless, the huge, projected increase in older drivers over the next quarter century raises possible concerns for the future.

Fatigue Studies Discussed at TRB

Speakers at the 76th annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), conducted Jan. 12-16 in Washington, D.C., reported on several ongoing and recently completed research projects that may provide new insights about the effects of fatigue on drivers and operators.

In a study conducted by the Illinois Institute of Technology, certified locomotive engineers performed normal job duties while operating a realistic locomotive simulator. Engineer work schedules can result in sleep deprivation, loss of alertness, and degraded job performance - even when the engineers conform to federal regulations limiting hours of service.

A new sleep management system uses a wrist watch-sized personal activity monitor that measures sleep unobtrusively under operational conditions and a mathematical model for predicting performance based on sleep measurements. Once validated, the wrist device will make it possible to manage sleep to sustain performance in operational settings in both military and civilian applications.

The Driver Fatigue and Alertness Study, sponsored by FHWA and industry partners, documented mismatches between operators' perceptions of fatigue and their actual levels of performance. It also revealed differences in alertness among individual operators working similar schedules. The study results will be used to develop driving schedules and to select and train drivers.

Another recent FHWA study developed analytical models for estimating the demand for parking spaces at public rest areas and private truck stops throughout the United States, and it documented differences in drivers' use of public rest areas and private truck stops. The study also identified the services needed by commercial truck drivers, and it assessed how well the current system meets those needs.

Also discussed was a field study of drivers of multitrailer combination vehicles to determine whether stress associated with driving triple-trailer combinations contributes to driver fatigue.

Kansas Installs First Composite Vehicular Bridge

On Dec. 4, 1996, Kansas DOT Secretary E. Dean Carlson cut the ribbon to open the nation's first fiber-reinforced polymer composite bridge. About one-third of the composite material used was from recycled plastic. The lightweight, 8-meter, composite bridge over No-Name Creek in Russell County, Kan., was developed under one of the TRB's Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) programs.


Public Information and Information Exchange

TFHRC Video Wins National Awards

A video produced in 1996 to explain the research conducted at FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Va., has won two awards in national competition. The video, "Focusing on Innovation", was a national finalist in the 1996 Vision Award competition, which was open to more than 30,000 advertising agencies, production studios, and television stations in the United States. Entries in 46 categories were judged forcreativity, production quality, copywriting and concept, talent, and overall effectiveness. Being a national finalist means the video was among the best four entries in its category. The video was also awarded an honorable mention in The Communicator Awards, a national awards organization that recognizes outstanding work in the communications field.

FHWA Assists in Air Bag Safety Outreach

To assist NHTSA in its effort to minimize the danger to children and at-risk adults during the deployment of air bags in traffic crashes, more than 30 of FHWA's divisions participated in outreach activities with their state partners from mid-December to mid-January. Creative ways have been found to communicate the message and distribute the Air Bag Safety Alert brochures. Groups such as auto dealers, day care centers, churches, landlords, and the media have supplemented the normal distribution to highway rest stops, the police, and municipalities.

ITS America Develops Identity Campaign for ITS

In a commentary in ITS America News, ITS America president James Costantino announced that ITS America is developing an integrated national identity campaign for the ITS industry to raise the level of public awareness about the benefits of ITS. "We cannot take support for ITS for granted," Costantino wrote. "This campaign will demonstrate that ITS is an inclusive industry whose contributions to American life can be easily understood and appreciated." Costantino noted, "Also coming down the pike in 1997 is the August demonstration in San Diego by the National Automated Highway System Consortium. This technical feasibility demonstration will be the 1997 ITS event in the United States, requiring our full attention and support."

ITS America

National Red-Light-Running Campaign Grows

The city of San Francisco officially launched its red-light-running campaign at a kick-off ceremony in the mayor's office on Jan. 16.

FHWA Has Accurate Inspection Data

FHWA's Office of Motor Carriers recently completed a survey of 89 carriers that had requested their profiles, asking them to report any errors regarding inspections or accidents. FHWA uses the profile data to prioritize carriers for compliance reviews and roadside inspections. Of the 20,665 inspections in the 89 profiles, 99.78 percent were without error. The accuracy rate for the 1,028 accidents reported in the profiles was 99.42 percent. Anyone may call (703) 534-8630 and obtain, for $27.50, a carrier safety profile that includes the data for a specific carrier.

Railroad-Crossing Fatalities Are Lowest Ever in Illinois

In 1996, the number of fatalities at railroad crossings in Illinois was just 35, the fewest ever recorded. The previous low-fatality record was 40, set in 1983. The highestrail-crossing death toll in the state was 183 deaths in 1945. Increased public awareness, following the Fox River Grove school bus-commuter train collision, and a new law that set a minimum penalty of $500 or 50 hours of community service for ignoring a crossing signal were credited with the sharp decline in fatalities.

Buffalo on the Loose in South Dakota

As a result of a blizzard in January, more than 1,000 buffalo from the herd used in the movie Dances With Wolves escaped from captivity. Because of the high snow drifts, the buffalo were able to cross over the 2.5-meter-high fences on the Triple U Ranch just west of Pierre. The governor called for volunteers on snowmobiles to round up the buffalo since the animals are under quarantine and carry brucellosis.

Aggressive Driving Is a Serious Problem

According to a study sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, aggressive driving is a serious and escalating problem. The study examined 10,037 incidents of aggressive driving reported between Jan. 1, 1990, and Sept. 1, 1996, drawn from 30 newspapers and 16 police departments. In these reports, 218 people were killed, and 12,610 were injured. The number of reported incidents has increased every year at an average rate of nearly 7 percent. "These are only the most serious cases, the ones that merited a police or newspaper report. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of incidents that are not reported," said foundation president David Willis. Most of the perpetrators of aggressive driving in this study were men between the ages of 18 and 26. Only 4 percent of the perpetrators were women.

A recent study in Virginia by the state police found that three behaviors were most likely to set off an incident of violence: a vehicle traveling too slowly in the left lane, an improper lane change or cutoff, and a vehicle following too closely or tailgating.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Animal Crashes Are Common

Collisions with animals, particularly deer, represent more than 4 percent of all crashes in the United States. In 1995, 111 people died as a result of a vehicle-animal crash. The most dangerous times of the day for deer-related crashes are dawn and dusk; the most dangerous time of the year is during the mating season - November and December. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that there are 500,000 collisions each year with deer. The Wisconsin DOT points out that motorcyclists are especially at risk; 83 percent of collisions in that state between motorcycles and deer resulted in human death or injury, compared to death or injury in only 3 percent of collisions between cars and deer. Recommendations to avoid crashes with deer include: Don't overdrive your headlights at night. Obey speed limits and be alert, particularly in noted deer-crossing areas and at dawn and dusk. If you see a deer, honk your horn; flashing your lights could cause the animal to further fixate on your vehicle.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Smooth Pavement Is Tops

The National Highway Users Survey, conducted August 1995 at the request of the National Quality Initiative (NQI) Steering Committee, showed that pavement conditions are ranked first in importance by drivers and that projects geared toward improving the riding quality of pavement are likely to increase overall driver satisfaction with U.S. highways. NQI is an ongoing public-private partnership, involving FHWA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and various industry organizations.


Slater Confirmed as Transportation Secretary

On Feb. 6, the U.S. Senate voted 98-0 to confirm Rodney E. Slater, formerly the Federal Highway Administrator, as Secretary of Transportation. When President Clinton announced his nomination of Slater, he said, "I can say (Slater) was recommended by more people from more places in more ways for this job than any person for any position I have ever seen." Then he joked, "And, in spite of that, I am confident that he will be a superb and successful secretary of transportation." Slater replaces Federico Peña, who is now serving as secretary of energy.

Beuerlein Is New Chairman of ACPA

Donald E. Beuerlein, president of Koss Construction Co., was named chairman of the American Concrete Pavement Association on Jan. 17, 1997. Beuerlein said he will focus on creating greater recognition for the role and value of concrete pavements in durable highway and airport applications, not only for the benefits in original construction, but also for rehabilitation.


Meyer Is CERF's Director of Research and International Programs

John D. Meyer was recently appointed as director of research and international programs for the Civil Engineering Research Foundation (CERF), the research affiliate of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Meyer was previously the senior staff associate for technology management at the National Science Foundation division of Design, Manufacture, and Industrial Innovation. He has assumed responsibility for CERF's international programs, research-related workshops, surveys, and collaborative programs on technology transfer and benchmarking.

Wiley Becomes Commissioner in Indiana

Curt Wiley was appointed by Indiana Governor O'Bannon in January to become the commissioner of the state department of transportation. Wiley replaces Stanley Smith.

Cal Professor Wins Crum Award

The 1996 recipient of the Roy W. Crum Award is Adolf D. May Jr., professor emeritus of engineering and former vice chairman of the department of civil engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. The award was presented Jan. 15 at the 76th annual meeting of TRB in Washington, D.C. The award, named for TRB's executive director from 1928 to 1951, recognizes outstanding achievement in transportation research. May was honored for his contributions in the field of traffic flow theory and operations. Since his retirement from the University of California in 1991, he has conducted research projects at the university and pursued consulting activities. May has been active in TRB activities for more than 40 years.


Wormley to Chair TRB Executive Committee

David N. Wormley, dean of the College of Engineering at Pennsylvania State University, is the new chairman of the TRB Executive Committee. He officially took office Jan. 15 during the TRB annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Wormley has been dean at Penn State since 1992. Previously, he served on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Wormley's research work has focused on advanced control systems, transportation systems, and fossil fuel energy systems. He is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.


NHI's Bill Brown Died on Feb. 2

William Frederick (Bill) Brown, chief of the University, Industry, and International Division at the National Highway Institute (NHI), died suddenly from a heart attack on Feb. 2. He was 60 years old.

During his six-year tenure at the NHI, Brown played a pivotal role in the development and strengthening of NHI's grant and fellowship programs to attract some of the nation's best talent to careers in transportation. Under his leadership, NHI also expanded its training and technology transfer activities throughout the Americas and in the former Soviet Union, China, and South Africa.

From 1972 to 1991, Brown was director of University Research and Education in the Office of the Secretary. He started his career in government in the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. Brown also had a distinguished military career, serving four years on active duty with the U.S. Air Force and 26 years in the Air National Guard. He retired from the military with the rank of colonel in 1990.

He was also active in his church, and he served in numerous volunteer and charitable organizations. In 1991, he received the Point of Light Award from President George Bush. He is survived by his wife Juanita, three children, and seven grandchildren.


Engineers to Share Ideas About Fixing Bridges

The Second Symposium on Practical Solutions for Bridge Strengthening and Rehabilitation will be held at the Westin Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City, Mo., March 25-27, 1997. The purpose of the symposium is to present the latest ideas and research on practical ways to resolve the various problems of the country's many deficient bridges. The symposium is organized by Iowa State University under grants from the National Science Foundation and FHWA in cooperation with HNTB (a Kansas City consulting firm) and the Missouri Department of Transportation. Papers will be presented by engineers from consulting firms, government, and academia. The emphasis is on practical solutions for practicing engineers in industry and government highway agencies. Theme areas are: Seismic Retrofit in Moderately and Marginally Seismic Areas, Rehabilitation of Long-Span Bridges, Rehabilitation/Strengthening of Short- and Medium-Span Bridges, New Materials for Repair and Rehabilitation, New Strengthening/Rehabilitation Techniques for Railway Bridges, and New Strengthening/Rehabilitation Procedures. Additional information can be obtained from Prof. F.W. Klaiber, Department of Civil and Construction Engineering, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, or via fax: (515) 294-8216, telephone: (515) 294-8763, or e-mail:

Highway Engineers Meet in Philadelphia

The American Society of Highway Engineers (ASHE) will hold its annual conference at the Valley Forge Sheraton Hotel in King of Prussia, Pa., May 15-18. The program includes technical seminars on Intelligent Transportation Systems, construction techniques, and environmental issues. The I-95 Corridor Coalition will be the topic of one session. More than 40 exhibitors will show the latest design and construction materials, including computer-aided design applications. ASHE is a national organization of engineers, contractors, suppliers, and government officials involved in the planning, design, construction, and operation of our nation's highway system. For further information, contact Stephen B. Lester, P.E., at (215) 922-8080. ASHE

Bridge Seminar Calls for Papers

The Western Bridge Engineers' Seminar is seeking papers from owners, researchers, producers, designers, contractors, and suppliers on 25 topics. Abstracts must be received by April 15, 1997. The seminar will be conducted Oct. 6-8, 1997, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The theme for the 1997 technical program is "Progress and Innovation in Bridge Engineering"; The seminar is a biennial cooperative effort of FHWA and DOTs of Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. To submit papers, please send two copies of the 200- to 500-word abstract to Thomas J. Pfister, Technical Program Chairman, Idaho Transportation Department, P.O. Box 7129, Boise, ID 83707-1129. After a review by the technical program committee, notification of acceptance will be made to authors by June 1. Final abstracts, which will be published and distributed at the seminar, must be submitted by Aug. 16. For more information about the required style and topics of the papers, call conference manager Jean Canfield at (360) 943-7732.