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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - Summer 2021

Date:
Summer 2021
Issue No:
Vol. 85 No. 2
Publication Number:
FHWA-HRT-21-004
Table of Contents

Along the Road

Along The Road

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 sources unless otherwise indicated. Your suggestions and input are welcome. Let's meet along the road.

Personnel

USDOT Appoints Chief Science Officer

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced that it is appointing a Chief Science Officer for the entire Department for the first time in more than four decades.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has designated the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology as the Department's Chief Science Officer. Robert C. Hampshire, Ph.D. is currently acting in this role. In his role as Chief Science Officer, Dr. Hampshire will serve as the principal advisor to Secretary Buttigieg on science and technology issues. He is charged with ensuring that USDOT's research, development, and technology programs are scientifically and technologically well-founded and conducted with integrity.

Dr. Hampshire was previously an associate professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan (U-M) and at both the U-M's Michigan Institute for Data Science and the Human Factors group of the U-M Transportation Research Institute. He holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University.

"The reintroduction of a Chief Science Officer underscores transportation's key role in addressing the complexity and criticality of our dynamically changing climate. I look forward to working across all modes of transportation to address the immediate concerns, and to ensure our future transportation system is sustainable," said Dr. Hampshire in a press release. "It is important that USDOT incorporate scientific research to advance climate change initiatives that are fair and equitable to all."

Public Information and Information Exchange

FHWA Announces New America's Byways® Designations

In February, Federal Highway Administration officials announced 49 new designations to the America's Byways® collection, including 15 All-American Roads and 34 National Scenic Byways in 28 States. This increases the number of America's Byways to 184 in 48 States. Created in 1991, the program is a collaborative effort to help recognize, preserve, and enhance selected roads throughout the United States. The USDOT recognizes certain roads based on one or more archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities.

A section of the Highway of Legends in Colorado. © Tim Roberts Photography / Shutterstock.com.
Colorado's Highway of Legends is one of 49 additions to America's Byways®.

The Reviving America's Scenic Byways Act of 2019 required the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to solicit nominations for the designation of All-American Roads and National Scenic Byways, resulting in 63 nominations. Each application was reviewed by subject-matter experts on historic preservation, design, cultural resources, visual impacts, tourism and economic development, highway safety, Federal lands, and Native American history and culture. The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Commerce also provided input.

USDOT urges all Americans to follow CDC guidance and local regulations on safe travel during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The public is encouraged to explore these newly designated distinct and diverse roads once it is safe to do so. The full list of 2021 All-American Roads and National Scenic Byways designations is available at https://highways.dot.gov/newsroom/usdot-announces-new-americas-bywaysr-designations.

USDOT Implements Efforts to Promote Scientific Integrity

In addition to appointing a Chief Science Officer, USDOT has taken several additional steps to act on the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to address climate change. The Department announced that it has begun work to reestablish its Climate Change Center and has made significant strides to improve public access to climate-related reports, program information, and other scientific and technical information.

The Department's actions stem from the President's Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis, as well as from the Presidential Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking.

The Climate Change Center will help coordinate the Department's related research, policies, and actions and support the transportation sector in moving toward net-zero carbon emissions. Originally established in 1999 to serve as the multimodal focal point for information and technical expertise on transportation and climate change, coordinating climate-related research, policies, and actions, the center has been dormant since early 2017.

The Department has also assessed public websites and information repositories, including the National Transportation Library, to ensure the public has access to comprehensive climate-related reports, program information, and other scientific and technical information.

The Department will also designate a Scientific Integrity Officer, responsible for research policy implementation, who reports directly to the Chief Science Officer.

The transportation sector is the number one producer of greenhouse gases in the United States, which underscores the ability of the transportation industry and the Department to quickly and meaningfully reduce greenhouse gases and address the environmental concerns. These actions are the first steps in establishing the Department as a leader in addressing climate change and environmental justice.

FHWA Publishes Pedestrian and Bicycle Case Studies

Pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise throughout the United States, and as more Americans are walking and bicycling, many agencies have been working to improve safety for these vulnerable road users.

A new report from FHWA highlights the work of transportation agencies at the Federal, State, and local levels to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. Case Studies for FHWA Pedestrian and Bicycle Focus States and Cities (FHWA-SA-21-021) provides information on agency efforts through FHWA's Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Focused Approach Program. The case studies include the city of Austin, TX, and Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, and New York. The case studies describe the lessons learned from processes related to implementing safety initiatives and countermeasures. The document is available at: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/ped_focus/docs/FHWA_FocusApproach_CaseStudies_508.pdf. For more information, visit https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/ped_focus.

Work Zone Fatalities at Highest Level Since 2006

During April's Work Zone Awareness Week, FHWA joined State departments of transportation and other organizations nationwide to urge drivers to keep highway workers and the traveling public safe as construction activities increase. In 2019, the most recent year for which data are available, 842 people died in highway work-zone crashes, compared to 757 the year before. The 11.2-percent increase is the largest percentage increase of highway work zone fatalities since 2006.

Crashes in highway work zones happen most frequently when drivers are not paying attention to changing road conditions. Distracted driving is a key element of many crashes, leading many drivers to crash into other vehicles, highway equipment, or safety barriers.

Crashes in highway work zones happen most frequently when drivers are not paying attention to changing road conditions. Distracted driving is a key element of many crashes, leading many drivers to crash into other vehicles, highway equipment, or safety barriers.

Though highway workers are often among the victims of work zone crashes, the dangers of reckless driving more often affect those behind the wheel and their passengers. Four out of five work zone fatalities were drivers or passengers, according to FHWA data.

FHWA has supported work zone safety efforts for more than 20 years and, since 2005, has awarded more than $40 million in grants to States for specialized work zone safety training. To date, nearly 4,300 courses have been provided to over 120,000 State and local DOT personnel or other transportation agency staff.

NHTSA Announces New Projects on Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently initiated two new projects focusing on pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

A bicyclist beside a car on a roadway. © connel / Shutterstock.com
NHTSA has initiated two studies on bicycle and pedestrian safety.

A 3-year project will focus on identifying and developing educational materials and products on pedestrian and bicyclist safety for drivers' education and training courses. A second 2-year study will conduct a comparative analysis between States and cities with low percentages of pedestrian fatalities and those that have made improvements yet continue to have higher percentages of pedestrian fatalities. The team will identify common strategies or characteristics that result in better safety outcomes to inform new approaches for places with high pedestrian fatalities.

For more information, contact Ruth Esteban-Muir, the NHTSA project manager, at Mary.Huie@dot.gov.