Tuesday, April 17, 2018

EDC 4: Road Weather Management

The FHWA’s Every Day Counts initiative identifies and deploys proven, yet underutilized, innovations to shorten the project delivery process, enhance roadway safety, reduce traffic congestion, and improve environmental sustainability. Read on to learn more about one of the EDC 4 (2017 – 2018) initiatives:  Road Weather Management and Weather-Savvy Roads.
Integrating mobile observations and Pathfinder strategies can help agencies manage road systems and inform travelers ahead of, and during, adverse road weather conditions.
Heavy rain, snow, and other storms can have significant impacts on the safety, mobility, and productivity of road users. Over the last 10 years, 22 percent of all vehicle crashes were weather related. On average, these crashes resulted in nearly 6,000 deaths and more than 445,000 injuries each year. Likewise, the delays associated with adverse weather can be profound and have significant economic impacts.
Through round 4 of Every Day Counts (EDC-4), this effort deploys two distinct road weather management solutions that allow state and local agencies to be proactive in managing the surface transportation system ahead of and during adverse weather events.

PATHFINDER IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

Pathfinder is a collaborative effort between the National Weather Service (NWS), state departments of transportation (DOTs), and state DOT support contractors who provide road weather information to share and translate weather forecasts into consistent transportation impact statements for the public.
The Pathfinder Implementation Plan lays out a multi-step process on what information to share when and how before, during, and after high-impact weather events. This provides the public with consistent and actionable messages on potential impacts to the transportation system.

INTEGRATING MOBILE OBSERVATIONS

Integrating mobile observations (IMO) involves collecting weather and road condition data from government fleet vehicles, such as snowplows. The focus is on supplemental data from ancillary sensors installed on the vehicles, such as pavement temperature sensors, and it also includes native vehicle data such as windshield wiper status and anti-lock brake or traction control system activation.
The data provides maintenance managers with an extremely detailed view of the weather and road conditions along the road network. This information supports a number of road weather management strategies, such as a winter maintenance decision support system that enables agencies to use only the necessary amounts of labor and equipment to pre-treat roads with salt and other materials. It also supports traveler advisories and warnings, ultimately resulting in improvements in safety and mobility.

PATHFINDER BENEFITS

  • Enhanced Collaboration. Working together to execute the Pathfinder Implementation Plan strengthens the relationships between the NWS and DOTs.
  • Informed Travelers. Cohesive weather impact statements enable drivers to make better decisions regarding whether, when, and where to travel.
  • Improved Safety, Mobility, and Economy. Consistent impact messages can reduce traffic demand, with the ultimate goal of saving lives and property and minimizing the impact of weather events.

IMO BENEFITS

  • Cost-Efficient Operation. Employing sensors on existing fleets is a relatively low-cost method of gathering road weather observations that can support numerous maintenance, traffic, and performance management strategies.
  • Proactive Management. Vehicle-based technologies provide agencies with the information needed to proactively manage roadway systems before the negative impacts of road weather occur.
  • Improved Safety, Mobility, and Economy. Connected vehicles technologies, advanced weather prediction and targeted decision support enable operators to more effectively maintain a high level of service on roads, which decreases crashes and keeps traffic moving smoothly.

STATE OF THE PRACTICE

Pathfinder was born out of the success surrounding the coordination between the Utah DOT and the NWS local forecast office during the 2002 Winter Olympics. The FHWA and NWS worked with the Utah DOT to document the processes, and then expanded it to be applicable across the country. The document was next used by the Nevada and Wyoming DOTs and then refined to become the Pathfinder Implementation Plan.
Most state DOTs have implemented some form of vehicle-based technology, usually for automatic vehicle location and real-time communication. IMO builds on these capabilities by adding ancillary sensors to collect road weather data, while also tapping into the engine’s “black box” to collect and disseminate resident data. The Minnesota, Michigan, and Nevada DOTs are deploying such systems, and FHWA is working with them to document the lessons learned from the implementation process as well as the management strategies (such as traveler information systems and road weather performance management systems) that these data improve.
Find more road weather management resources at the FHWA’s EDC website.
https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_4/roadweather.cfm

Monday, April 16, 2018

Safety Circuit Rider Coming to Virginia


Hey everybody!  You’ve seen me around the state the last few years talking about LTAP, workshops and safety but now I’ve got some really big news!  We’re close to hiring a new Safety Circuit Rider!
What’s a Safety Circuit Rider (SCR)? This professionally-trained engineer will travel around the state, visiting local agencies to help identify roadway safety issues and develop treatment options.
I had the chance to talk about the new Virginia SCR program with Steven Yob, Director of Henrico County Public Works. Here’s what he had to say:
“I am very happy to see these new opportunities to provide cost effective, timely and convenient training for our transportation professionals.  The VA LTAP is a respected training resource that always does an excellent job. I am very supportive of this new program to provide leadership and excellent work in this necessary area.”
Steven’s correct – the SCR program is a great addition to the kinds of services we already deliver to our clients in local government.  We’ll be providing even more in-classroom safety classes. And our Safety Circuit Rider will come out and conduct a safety audit to help you assess unsafe roadways in your community so we can work hand in hand to help make your city safer.
The Safety Circuit Rider will also help with technical assistance.  Need some advice on installing signs?  Have a question about safety device options? Drop me a line at scr@virginia.edu and we’ll figure out an SCR game plan. We’re here to help!
By the way, do you know an engineer who might be a great fit for this full-time position? Please pass on this application information (https:/jobs.virginia.edu/applicants/Central?quickFind=84092).
Be safe out there and I’ll see you on the TTA Highway!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Christopher G. Hall Named Hampton Roads District Engineer

Christopher G. Hall

VDOT Hampton Roads District Engineeer
Christopher G. Hall
RICHMOND, Virginia — Following a nationwide search, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Commissioner Stephen C. Brich announces that Christopher G. Hall has been selected as the new Hampton Roads district engineer.
“Chris brings extensive leadership, strategic planning, technical expertise, project and resource management skills and experience, all vital to this critical role,” said Brich. “The Hampton Roads region is one with many unique transportation opportunities, all of which Chris is equipped to manage.”
Hall will oversee roadway construction, maintenance and operations for nearly 10,000 lane miles in VDOT’s Hampton Roads District, which includes the counties of Accomack, Greensville, Isle of Wight, James City, Northampton, Southampton, Surry, Sussex and York.
A licensed professional engineer in Virginia and Ohio, Hall has nearly 30 years of experience in leadership roles with the United States Army and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Hall recently served as the USACE District Commander for the St. Louis District, overseeing the maintenance and operations of strategic inland and navigation and water control infrastructure worth approximately $15 billion, as well as leading the execution of a $300 million construction program.
“As a resident of this region, I am looking forward to serving the community and representing VDOT in this role,” said Hall. “I plan to continue the momentum forward that the Hampton Roads region has taken over the past few years in transportation.”
Hall earned a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from the Virginia Military Institute, a master’s degree in civil engineering from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s in strategic studies from the United States Army War College.
Hall joins VDOT on April 18 following Jim Utterback’s selection as project director for the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion Project.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Governor Designates April As Highway Safety Month

RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam today designated April in Virginia as Highway Safety Month. With highway fatalities alarmingly on the rise in the commonwealth and nationwide, Gov. Northam called on his public safety and transportation agencies to coordinate efforts to elevate awareness to save lives.   
In 2017, 843 people died on Virginia’s roadways, a 20 percent increase over the commonwealth’s low of 700 highway deaths in 2014.
"The month of April is our opportunity as a commonwealth to recommit ourselves to making sure that every one who uses our roads gets where they’re going safely," said Gov. Northam. "We can all work to decrease deaths on our roadways by making conscious decisions to obey traffic laws and being mindful of the consequences of dangerous decisions. The only acceptable number of highway deaths is zero.”
During each week in April, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and Virginia State Police will work with the commonwealth’s vast network of safety partners to call the public’s attention to behaviors that lead to crashes, injuries, and fatalities. The coordinated, high-visibility effort will remind all Virginians how to stay safe while in vehicles, on motorcycles and bicycles, and when walking or running.
“Last year, 114 pedestrians were killed in Virginia. As motorists and pedestrians, we need to be mindful and respectful of each other by sharing the road,” said Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran. “These are tragedies that are completely preventable. During the first week in April, through radio, television, social media, and scheduled programs, we will focus attention on road users that state data indicates are particularly vulnerable – pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.”
In 2017, Virginia recorded 26,000 crashes resulting in 208 deaths stemming from some sort of driver inattention behind the wheel. 
“Texting while driving, although against Virginia law, continues to be one of the leading factors in distracted driving crashes, and is one of the most visible unsafe motorist behaviors,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “While a driver is distracted, he or she may not be able to react to a changing environment on the road.”
April 9 through 14 is Work Zone Safety Awareness Week. VDOT has planned a series of activities to remind motorists to slow down in work zones and that safety is everyone’s responsibility. April is also national Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Virginia will announce the winner of DMV’s Take Action Against Distraction license plate design contest for high school students. Distracted driving is an increasing threat to road users. The Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance and Drive Smart Virginia are partnering on statewide radio commercials to raise awareness of distracted driving.
The final week of the month will focus on the critical importance of seatbelt usage, maintaining safe speeds, and driving sober.