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Public Roads - Winter 2022

Date:
Winter 2022
Issue No:
Vol. 85 No. 4
Publication Number:
FHWA-HRT-22-002
Table of Contents

Along the Road

Along the Road

Public Information and Information Exchange 

ADOT Innovation Provides Maintenance Savings 

"A metal screw stands upright on a road about to be run over by a vehicle tire. Photo Source: © Boris Bondarchuk / AdobeStock.com."
Metallic roadway litter can cause flat tires for maintenance vehicles.

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) fosters an environment of continuous improvement and waste reduction. One idea has created savings in trips to equipment shops and the cost of tire repairs: the pokey picker upper. It is a magnet attached to the front of an ADOT maintenance truck. This device hovers just above the ground, collecting metal pieces and shards along the highway shoulders.

During regular litter removal, ADOT found that their vehicles were getting a high number of flat tires. To reduce the waste and cost associated with flat tires, Timothy Mitchell, a highway operations supervisor at ADOT, brainstormed the idea to use a magnet to grab metal before it could puncture any tires. He affixed a 3-foot bar to the front of a maintenance truck and hung a magnetic bar from it. The device is also interchangeable, so it is easily moved to either the passenger or driver side of the vehicle, depending on where it is needed.

"A truck on the side of a roadway with the pokey picker upper attached to its lower front bumper. Photo Source: © Arizona Department of Transportation."
ADOT’s pokey picker upper helps protect maintenance vehicles from flat tires caused by metallic roadway litter, saving the agency time and money.

Crews began using the new tool in August 2020 to great effect. Since then, ADOT’s welder has improved upon the prototype. While the maintenance crew is still compiling data on the number of hours and costs saved by avoiding flat tires, they have noted that trips to the shop have dropped considerably. Previously, crews were trekking to the shop two to four times a week for repairs, and now it’s only about two to three times a month—a substantial improvement.

NHTSA Launches Spanish-Language Website 

In September 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration unveiled a new Spanish-language website, NHTSA en Español (NHTSA.gov/es), to provide safety information to more than 62 million Spanish speakers living in the United States. NHTSA’s first priority is safety; a large portion of the agency’s work includes education and raising awareness of critical safety issues to reduce the number of injuries and deaths on American roadways.

NHTSA en Español is designed for the general Spanish-speaking public, providing information to make informed decisions about road safety. The website replicates all the English-language website’s consumer-facing topics, including recalls, vehicle safety ratings, impaired driving prevention, seat belt safety, child passenger safety, technology, and tires and other equipment.

"A screenshot of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration en Español website main page. Photo Source: NHTSA."

The Spanish-language website also makes NHTSA’s multilingual Vehicle Safety Hotline number more prominent and incorporates the agency’s existing live chat function, also now available in Spanish.

Additionally, NHTSA will increase its outreach to Spanish-speaking media to help highlight behavioral and vehicle safety programs. After Mexico, the United States is the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in the United States, which includes people of every race, was 62.1 million in 2020, a 23-percent increase since 2010.

NHTSA has long-standing practice of providing translations of its safety campaigns to stakeholders and safety partners through its TrafficSafetyMarketing.gov website and will continue this practice by providing customizable templates and media material.

USDOT Celebrates the Build America Bureau’s 5th Anniversary 

In September 2020, Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg and former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx celebrated the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau (the Bureau), marking 5 years of offering innovative finance programs and technical assistance to State and local partners across the country.

"Logo labeled United States Department of Transportation Build America Bureau with a picture of three squares with an arc. Photo Source: USDOT."

The anniversary event was highlighted by two major announcements—the Bureau’s selection of five recipients for the new Regional Infrastructure Accelerators (RIA)Demonstration Program, and its first-ever INFRA Extra project designations.

Since its creation, the Bureau has closed more than 50 loans totaling over $20 billion to projects in eight States and is accelerating the number of loans being awarded. In fiscal year 2021, the Bureau set records with both the number of loans and the dollar value, closing just under $10 billion in loans.

The Bureau leverages the full resources of all the modes within USDOT and continues to promote a culture of innovation and customer service. The Bureau also serves as a single entity in charge of USDOT credit, large scale and intermodal project development, and provides a single point of contact for working with USDOT on infrastructure finance and development.

The virtual event is available to watch at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6hOTL2WkY8.

Virtual Public Involvement Conversations Video Series 

The tools and practices associated with public involvement have expanded and shifted over the past decade due to changes in communications, technologies, and lifestyles. To help practitioners navigate this changing environment, the Federal Highway Administration developed video case studies to highlight how transportation agencies are using virtual public involvement (VPI) tools and techniques.

The VPI Conversations Video Series (available at www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/public_involvement/vpi/case_studies) features short conversations with professionals involved in virtual public involvement efforts at State and local transportation agencies. The conversations cover such topics as institutionalizing VPI, virtual open houses, bilingual resources, engaging with diverse communities, and strategies for planning, project development, and environmental review. FHWA’s VPI website (www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/public_involvement/vpi) also includes a variety of resources to assist State DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations with implementing the VPI initiative. These resources include fact sheets, peer exchanges, and the video case studies.

"A logo labeled “Virtual Public Involvement Conversations” with a comment bubble icon. Photo Source: FHWA."

Technical News 

Accounting for Uncertainty in Travel Forecasting 

Traditionally, travel forecasting models have been used to provide single-point predictions—that is, a single future scenario is developed, and the model is applied to that scenario. However, this approach ignores the deep uncertainty inherent in forecasting. This uncertainty comes from other uncertainties, including how systems work, how inputs to a system will change in the future, and which features of a system to focus on. Furthermore, emerging connected and autonomous vehicle technology, new mobility services, and changing travel patterns will potentially have significant unpredictable impacts on future surface transportation operations and travel demand. To help address these uncertainties, the Federal Highway Administration published Uncertainty in Travel Forecasting: Exploratory Modeling and Analysis – TMIP-EMAT: A Desk Reference (FHWA-HEP-21-032) in July 2021. This report demonstrates and motivates the use of travel forecasting models in an exploratory manner that accounts for the inherent uncertainties of the future.

"The cover of the report, Uncertainty in Travel Forecasting: Exploratory Modeling and Analysis – TMIP-EMAT: A Desk Reference. Photo Source: FHWA."

 

This improved approach to travel forecasting is supported by a new planning and modeling tool: the Travel Model Improvement Program Exploratory Modeling and Analysis Tool (TMIP-EMAT). The TMIP-EMAT was developed to facilitate the use of exploratory techniques with travel forecasting models and is one outcome of FHWA’s Exploratory Modeling and Simulation Study. This tool is available at https://tmip-emat.github.io/index.html.

The full report is available at www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/tmip/publications/other_reports/uncertainty_travel_forecasting/index.cfm.

FHWA Releases Air Quality and Noise Analysis Tools 

In 2021, the Federal Highway Administration developed the Database for Air Quality and Noise Analysis (DANA) tool. The DANA tool combines traffic data from existing data sources into a single database and processes the combined data into properly formatted inputs to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator model and FHWA’s Traffic Noise Model Aide (TNMAide). TNMAide—for use in the FHWA’s Traffic Noise Model (TNM)—is a spreadsheet tool that aids in the determination of the worst noise hour of the day, as required by 23 CFR 772. TNMAide is also a method to estimate noise impacts by using hour by hour data.

DANA provides real-world measurements of traffic conditions for use in environmental analyses, replacing inputs from transportation models that only generate base-year traffic data. DANA helps ensure that environmental analyses use a consistent set of traffic data and processing methods across the entire country. FHWA provides the DANA tool as a resource to stakeholders. Use of the tool is voluntary and its use may not satisfy all regulatory requirements.

The DANA tool, along with user guides and video training resources, is available on FHWA’s Air Quality website at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/air_quality/methodologies/dana/index.cfm. TNMAide is available on FHWA’s Noise Website at: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/noise/traffic_noise_model/. For more information, contact DANAhelp@dot.gov or David Kall at David.Kall@dot.gov.

Policy and Legislations 

USDOT Announces First Ever INFRA Extra Project Designations

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently designated 44 infrastructure projects around the country as Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Extra—a designation that makes project sponsors eligible to apply for credit assistance for up to 49 percent of project costs. These projects made it to the final round for INFRA funding under the competitive grant program but were not awarded grants due to overwhelming demand and limited funds. Like the projects that received INFRA grants, the projects receiving the INFRA Extra designation will help rebuild the Nation’s infrastructure and create jobs.

The INFRA Extra initiative provides certain INFRA applicants the opportunity to apply for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, which provides Federal credit assistance for up to 49 percent of eligible project costs if the project advanced for funding but was not awarded INFRA grant due to resource constraints. This will potentially provide project sponsors with more funding than they would qualify for under a traditional TIFIA loan—which normally funds up to 33 percent of a project’s cost, subject to satisfaction of underwriting requirements.

This year, USDOT received a total of 157 eligible INFRA applications from 42 States, as well as Guam. And this year’s applicants collectively requested approximately $6.8 billion in grant funds—nearly seven times more than the $1 billion available for the program. The full list of INFRA Extra designated projects is available at www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-announces-first-ever-infra-extra-project-designations.