Road to Zero Coalition plans to end traffic fatalities

Federal agencies have partnered with the nonprofit National Safety Council to launch a program with a mission to end traffic fatalities within 30 years. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have created the Road to Zero coalition with $1 million per year in funding from the Department of Transportation.

“Our vision is simple – zero fatalities on our roads,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We know that setting the bar for safety to the highest possible standard requires commitment from everyone to think differently about safety– from drivers to industry, safety organizations and government at all levels.”

Agencies report that 2015 had the largest increase in traffic deaths since 1966 and the estimates for 2016 are already on track to surpass 2015. The coalition will promote proven strategies as well as develop a new vision on how to achieve their mission of zero fatalities.

Improving seat belt use, placing rumble strips and other successful tactics will continue to be priorities. However, it is the deployment of automated vehicles and other technologies that give coalition members hope that the goal of zero fatalities is achievable within the next 30 years.

“The “4Es” – Education, Engineering, Enforcement and Emergency Medical Services provide a reliable roadmap for driving down fatalities. Coupled with new technologies and innovative approaches to mobility, we may now hold the keys that get us to zero,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

The Road to Zero Coalition plans to focus on overall system design, addressing infrastructure design, vehicle technology, enforcement and behavior safety. One of the group’s guiding principles is to find ways to ensure human mistakes do not result in fatalities.

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Aviation trust fund keeps airport construction soaring

To date, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced $1.3 billion in grants to airports nationwide for Fiscal Year 2016 through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). The program provides grants to public agencies – and, in some cases, to private owners and entities – for the planning and development of public-use airports that are included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).

The AIP is paid for by the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, w
hich is primarily supported by excise taxes on passenger tickets as well as cargo and fuel taxes. Congress recently reauthorized spending from the trust fund through the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016.

The Lake Charles Regional Airport in Louisiana will receive a $1.2 million AIP grant announced this week to update its taxiway lighting system. The airport will replace the outdated taxiway lights with LED lights and put wiring that is currently buried into conduit.

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport officials in Montana recently announced a $3.5 million grant to fix one of their airport’s taxiways and upgrade its lighting system. An additional $2.3 million has been allocated to construct a runway.

New York’s Syracuse Hancock International Airport will receive $2.4 million in two grants. The first grant of $1.9 million will be used to replace outdated passenger-boarding bridges in the airport terminal. The second grant of $500,000 will be used for design services to help reconfigure exit taxiways.

The Airport and Airway Trust Fund was established in 1970 to provide a dedicated source of funding for the U.S. aviation system separate from the general fund. The fund carried a balance of $14 billion at the beginning of the fiscal year.

AIP grants can be used for up to 75 percent of eligible costs at large and medium airports and up to 95 percent of eligible costs at small and general aviation airports. Eligible projects include improvements related to airport safety, capacity, security and environmental concerns. AIP funds are available for most airfield capital improvement projects if the FAA determines the projects are justified based on civil aeronautical demand. Qualifying airports must be publicly owned; privately owned, but designated by the FAA as a reliever; or privately owned, but schedules at least 2,500 annual enplanements.

TIGER grants provide $500 million for transportation

Transportation projects across the country were funded last week with nearly $500 million in federal grants. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the winners of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program at the White House.

TIGER grants are highly competitive and support projects that are typically more difficult to fund through traditional federal programs, such as multi-modal or multi-jurisdictional projects. This year’s grants focused on projects that generate economic development as well as improve safety.

“For the eighth year running, TIGER will inject critical infrastructure dollars into communities across the country,” said Secretary Foxx. “This unique program rewards innovative thinking and collaborative solutions to difficult and sometimes dangerous transportation problems. A great TIGER program doesn’t just improve transportation; it expands economic opportunity and transforms a community.”

Among the awarded projects, the I-579 Cap Urban Connector Project in Pennsylvania received $19 million in TIGER funds to help construct a $32 million cap connector structure over crosstown highway in downtown Pittsburgh. The project is meant to promote pedestrian safety in a high crash rate area and will include a new bus stop, bike sharing station, pedestrian signals, improved crosswalks and sidewalks.
The city of Natchez, Miss. was another TIGER grant recipient for its bridge rehabilitation project. A grant of $10 million was awarded to upgrade five structurally deficient railroad truss bridges. The total cost of the project is more than $14 million and it will include replacing a failing culvert and installing safety improvements at about 20 public crossings. The current rail line doesn’t support rail cars loaded at the industry standard weight and restricts speed to 10 miles per hour on the bridges and culvert.

New passenger rail service was funded in San Bernardino, Calif., with a TIGER grant of more than $8 million. The Redlands Passenger Rail Project will utilize a total of more than $262 million to build passenger rail connecting cities in San Bernardino County to the San Bernardino Transit Center. In addition to passenger service, the rail corridor enhancements will allow for significantly increased speeds for freight trains using the line.

See the full list of 2016 TIGER awards below or visit for more information.

  • City of Mobile, Ala., $14,465,044
  • Little Rock Port Authority $6,185,400
  • City of Live Oak, Calif., $10,000,000
  • County of San Bernardino, Calif., DBA San Bernardino Associated Government $8,678,312
  • Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority $15,000,000
  • San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District $6,321,688
  • Colorado Department of Transportation $15,000,000
  • City of New Haven, Conn., $20,000,000
  • Delaware Transit Corporation $10,000,000
  • Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization $11,443,371
  • City of Atlanta $10,000,000
  • Port Authority of Guam $10,000,000
  • City of Des Moines $8,000,000
  • Chicago Transit Authority $25,000,000
  • City of Springfield, Ill., $14,000,000
  • Madison County, Ind., $13,500,000
  • Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government $14,095,887
  • Maryland Department of Transportation $10,000,000
  • Montgomery County, Md., $10,000,000
  • Maine Department of Transportation $10,525,000
  • City of Flint, Mich., $20,000,000
  • Scott County, Minn., $17,700,000
  • City of Natchez, Miss., $10,000,000
  • City of Goldsboro, N.C., $5,000,000
  • City of Camden, N.J., $16,200,000
  • Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada $13,324,000
  • Albany Port District Commission $17,629,800
  • City of Akron, Ohio, $5,000,000
  • Cleveland Metropolitan Park District $7,950,000
  • Port of Portland, Ore., $7,329,000
  • Borough of Carlisle, Pa., $5,000,000
  • Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County $19,000,000
  • Rhode Island Department of Transportation $13,100,000
  • Horry County Government, S.C., $9,765,620
  • Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota $14,620,000
  • Tennessee Department of Transportation $10,000,000
  • City of Brownsville, Texas, $10,000,000
  • Utah Transit Authority $20,000,000
  • Virgin Islands Port Authority $10,666,878
  • Port of Everett, Wash., $10,000,000

States using ‘smart signs’ to improve safety, traffic

Photo: California Department of Transportation

Transportation officials nationwide are turning to technology solutions to address both safety issues and highway network congestion mitigation. One of the available solutions is becoming a growing trend among state and local governments – the use of “smart signs.”

Just this week, state departments of transportation (DOTs) in Colorado and California announced the testing and phasing in of the use of smart signs to help with traffic management while also decreasing the number of car crashes.

The Colorado system takes input from both vehicle detectors and cameras to process and share information with motorists regarding real-time traffic conditions. That information is posted on overhead digital signs, advising if lanes are closed, the safest speed in a particular lane – allowing motorists to react in anticipation of traffic problems as a result of motor vehicle accidents, disabled vehicles, etc.

California’s smart sign use is part of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) SMART Corridor on Interstate 80. Caltrans claims phasing in of the program will give the state claim to having the most sophisticated high-tech network of its kind. Smart signs are to be used in conjunction with other state-of-the-art technology elements, and the major goal is to reduce accidents on this stretch of highway that carries up to 270,000 vehicles daily and has traffic congestion of the same magnitude.

Other states using smart signs as part of their traffic management efforts report motor vehicle accidents have been reduced an average of 30 percent, while road capacity has increased about 22 percent, according to Colorado DOT.

Minneapolis was the first American city to implement a system of smart signs. Seattle was two weeks behind Minneapolis but ahead of the rest of the country when it implemented using overhead smart signs in 2010. The Seattle signs were installed on I-5 in Seattle and I-90 and SR 520 between Seattle and Bellevue. The smart signs display variable speed limits, status of traffic lanes and real-time information to alert motorists to roadway conditions ahead of them. An almost immediate decrease in traffic crashes was reported by the Washington DOT.

While traffic management technology is expensive, most transportation experts agree that it is far less expensive than the millions of dollars more that it would cost to build new lanes to increase capacity on major roadways with traffic congestion.

As the nation’s population grows, more vehicles are on the country’s roads and highways and traffic congestion grows exponentially. The use of smart signs and other traffic management technologies is becoming a trend geared toward mitigating traffic backups and improving the motoring public’s safety.