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Economy and Infrastructure Investment

We are charting a new course for America. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will enable our nation to rebuild, retool and revitalize the vast network of roads, tunnels, bridges, rail systems, airports and waterways that we have long depended on to keep the economy moving and growing. Our transportation infrastructure is critically important to our nation's economic health. We need to protect, preserve and invest in it to make sure it can meet the demands we all place on it now and in the future.

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood
Remarks at the Department of Transportation, March 3, 2009 on the occasion of President Obama and Vice President Biden's visit.

FHWA Long-Term Bridge Performance Program

Visual inspection of bridge using crane
Parsons Brinckerhoff
Long-term bridge performance researchers are conducting detailed bridge inspections using visual inspection as well as nondestructive evaluation techniques.

Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT), Rutgers University, and Utah State University Transportation Center, Utah State University

The U.S. highway system is immense and is aging rapidly, yet it is being used more frequently and heavily every day. Highway bridges are a critical component of our nation's transportation system.

The FHWA Long-Term Bridge Performance (LTBP) program was envisioned as a 20-year comprehensive examination of the nation's highway bridges. Objectives include providing highway authorities with tools to detect problems early and with procedures to address safety issues, extend the lives of current bridges, and build new structures that will carry us well into the future. Funding for the program was included in the highway and surface transportation legislation FHWA and SAFETEA-LU, enacted by Congress in 2005. The LTBP program represents the first time that comprehensive, quantitative bridge-performance data will be collected uniformly on a national basis.

FHWA selected a team to perform the first five-year contract of the LTBP program. Led by CAIT, the team comprises the Utah State University Transportation Center, PB

Van using sensors on bridge damage
Dennis Connors Photography
In addition to detailed visual inspections, LTBP researchers will use proven sensor, testing, and monitoring technologies, such as ground-penetrating radar, a geophysical method that uses radar pulses to image the subsurface. It can detect objects, changes in material, and voids and cracks.

Consulting, Virginia Transportation Research Center, Siemens Corporation, Bridge Diagnostics, Inc., Advitam, and the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

In the context of LTBP, "performance" refers to how bridges behave under myriad daily assaults, such as traffic loads and fatigue, and in relation to environmental factors, such as temperature fluctuations, freeze-thaw cycles, and corrosion. Researchers will conduct detailed inspections and periodic evaluations on a broad sample of bridges nationwide, monitoring and measuring physical and functional variables that affect longevity over the life of the program. The CAIT research team will supplement detailed visual inspections with advanced-condition assessments, using proven nondestructive evaluation and sensor technologies. The data will help bridge owners to make "smarter" decisions regarding maintenance and replacement. 

This approach will lead to the development of quantitative measures that can be used to optimize performance, maximize return on investment, and minimize user impact, and ultimately it should result in increased bridge functionality, longevity, reliability, and safety.

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Evaluation of Highway Bridge Cables Using Acoustic Emission Sensors

Aerial view of the Varina-Enon Bridge
Virginia DOT and Virginia Transportation Research Councils
Varina-Enon Bridge. The structural "health" of this cable-stayed bridge was evaluated using acoustic emission sensors. Corrosion of single-stay cables can be determined by this method.

Eastern Seaboard Intermodal Transportation Applications Center (ESITAC), Hampton University

With 14 to 16 percent of highway bridges falling into the functionally obsolete or structurally deficient categories, there is a need for advanced technologies that structural engineers can use to assess the "health" of these structures and monitor them. ESITAC took the lead in this important research, contracting with the Virginia Transportation Research Council (VTRC) to conduct a study, "Short-Term Evaluation of Bridge Cables Using Acoustic Emission Sensors." This project focuses on the Varina-Enon Bridge, a cable-stayed structure located at the I-295 James River Crossing in Richmond, Virginia, with the goal of determining corrosion on the single-stay cable and evaluating signature sounds. The modern technique of acoustic emission was used to investigate fatigue, corrosion, initiation of cracks, and imperfections. The results of this ongoing project will facilitate maintenance and inspection of similar bridges across the state.

Additional funding for this project was provided by VTRC.

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Innovative Nondestructive Evaluation Technologies for Assessing Bridges

Thermal images of highway bridge
Dr. Glen Washer
Thermal images of highway bridge subsurface targets at various depths, generated by handheld thermography — a nondestructive evaluation technology.

Center for Transportation Infrastructure and Safety (CTIS), Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T)

Researchers at CTIS are developing new technologies for inspecting and assessing the performance of existing and new bridges. These tools will help inspectors to assess the condition of bridges and infrastructure components so that defects and other problems can be identified before serious consequences occur.

Handheld Thermographic Technology
Researchers are developing handheld thermographic technology for the nondestructive evaluation (NDE) of highway bridges. The goal is to provide inspection and maintenance personnel with a tool for improving bridge safety by enabling the detection of subsurface damage in concrete during daily environmental variations. The technology allows for the assessment of concrete wrapped in fiber-reinforced-polymer (FRP) without disruption of traffic.

Infrared Cameras
States participating in this study are also field-testing infrared cameras for the inspection of concrete and FRP-overwrapped structures. The cameras are being used as part of daily inspection and maintenance activities and are helping to identify the advantages and disadvantages of thermographic technology in real-world situations.

Coaxial cable sensor
Dr. Glenda Chen
A prototype, recently patented, coaxial cable crack sensor that can be used for post-disaster assessment of reinforced-concrete structures.

Coaxial Cable Sensors
Researchers developed a distributed coaxial cable crack sensor for the post-disaster assessment of reinforced concrete structures. The sensor was recently patented.

When embedded into a reinforced-concrete girder or column, a sensor that is intercepted by a crack can "sense" the crack formation. A crack interception results in a local separation between two spirals of the cable, generating a reflected wave as an electromagnetic wave travels through the coaxial cable. Cable sensors can memorize the most severe cracks during an earthquake, enabling engineers to retrieve crack data during or after the event and significantly enhancing the reliability of damage detection for post-earthquake assessments of transportation structures.

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Reducing Bumps at Pavement-Bridge Interfaces

Center for Transportation and Materials Engineering (CTME), Youngstown State University

The goal of this research-in-progress is to determine cost-effective solutions for reducing bumps at pavement-bridge interfaces in order to improve ride quality and in turn to reduce safety hazards and maintenance costs. Researchers will develop new specifications and guidelines for the design and construction of approach slabs and adjoining embankments, which will prevent or at least minimize bridge bumps within acceptable limits. Activities will include checking existing codes and specifications of selected state DOTs, conducting field surveys on selected highway bridges with visible bumps, identifying long-term solutions for reducing bumps, and assessing the accuracy and effectiveness of these solutions through structural analysis and design. Solutions determined to be feasible will be used as the basis for new specifications and guidelines, which will be developed and recommended to Ohio DOT.

Additional project funding was received from Youngstown State University.

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Use of Advanced Materials in Infrastructure Systems

Bridge deterioration
Bridge deterioration
Dr. John J. Myers
Signs of deterioration in the aging U.S. transportation infrastructure system.

Center for Transportation Infrastructure and Safety (CTIS), Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T)

Researchers at CTIS are using new, innovative materials and technologies to address the challenge of developing the next generation of durable, long-lasting transportation infrastructure systems and repair techniques that will extend the service life of the existing network as well as that of new bridges.

Deterioration of the Infrastructure
Many bridges in the nation's transportation network were built prior to or soon after World War II and have surpassed their intended service life. The transportation infrastructure is susceptible to deterioration due to corrosion from the application of deicing salts and to environmental conditions. Researchers are extending the service life of new bridges and applying various composite technologies to repair and strengthen existing bridges, many of which are categorized as structurally deficient.

Advanced Materials for New and Existing Construction
CTIS has partnered with regional, state, local, and city officials to upgrade, replace, and repair transportation structures. In Missouri alone, more than 25 bridges have been the subjects of demonstration projects for several new technologies, including the use of noncorrosive materials known as fiber-reinforced polymers. These materials may be used alone as a self-contained bridge material, cast internally within concrete in lieu of traditional steel products that will eventually corrode as the structure decays, or used as a strengthening material to upgrade existing bridges in an effort to remove load postings. These projects validate new materials and technologies that will reduce maintenance costs and extend service life in the next generation of bridge construction.

Fiber-reinforced polymers composite bridge Internal Structural Health Monitoring system Map of demonstration projects in the state of Missouri
Dr. John J. Myers Dr. John J. Myers Dr. John J. Myers
Fiber-reinforced polymers composite bridge. Internal Structural Health Monitoring Schematic showing the sites of demonstration projects in which composite materials are being used to construct new bridges and repair existing structures in Missouri.

Concrete technologies are also being used to extend the service life of new bridges. Researchers at CTIS are investigating the development and implementation of high-strength-, self-consolidated-, and high-performance-concrete technologies. This new generation of concrete materials has many benefits, such as smaller member sizes, reduced construction time and labor, and improved durability and performance, with an extended service life targeted to nearly 100 years. Integrated Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) systems may be integrated with these systems to assess the "health" of the structure in real time.

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Road Condition Maintenance Decision Support System: Benefit-Cost Analysis

Snow plow on highway
Western Transportation Institute, Montana State University
Controlling snow and ice buildup on roadways during winter weather events presents several challenges for winter maintenance personnel. The Maintenance Decision Support System helps transportation personnel to make effective winter maintenance decisions (treatment types, timing, rates, and locations). These decisions have a considerable impact on roadway safety and efficiency. Poor decisions can also have adverse economic and environmental consequences.

Western Transportation Institute (WTI), Montana State University

State and local agencies throughout the United States spend an estimated $2 billion on snow- and ice-control operations every year. These costs, combined with concerns over traffic safety, mobility, corrosion, and environmental impacts, have motivated transportation agencies to explore more efficient strategies for snow and ice control. The strategies work best when agencies have tools to assess road conditions and to make informed decisions regarding treatments.

A Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) is an integrated software application that provides users with realtime road treatment guidance for each maintenance route on the basis of current and forecast road weather conditions, available resources, and local rules of practice. The MDSS pooled-fund study, led by South Dakota and encompassing 13 state DOTs, developed and demonstrated an operational MDSS for winter maintenance. Participants found the system to be useful but wanted its tangible benefits to be identified to enable quantitative investigation of whether it is a good investment.

WTI, working with South Dakota DOT and Iteris, Inc., conducted a study to develop a methodology for a benefit-cost analysis of the pooled-fund MDSS. The methodology included three major activities: identification of winter-maintenance benefits and costs, definition of a base case and alternatives, and development of a benefit-cost model. Researchers applied the methodology to a case study based on the experience of one of the pooled-fund study states. They concluded that MDSS is able to reduce the use of materials, decrease delays, and improve safety. Reduced use of materials is expected to lead to cost-savings in labor and equipment.

The results of this project have immediate significance for the pooled-fund states, demonstrating that MDSS has more benefits than costs and thus is a valuable investment. The benefit-cost model will also help agencies in other states that are exploring the use of MDSS to improve winter-maintenance practices.

Additional project funding was provided by South Dakota DOT.

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Efficient Movement of Goods in Large Metropolitan Areas

National Center for Metropolitan Transportation Research (METRANS), University of Southern California and California State University-Long Beach

METRANS conducts research that addresses transportation issues within large metropolitan areas. One of its major thematic research areas is goods movement and international trade, which concerns how crowded cities can efficiently move goods and provide transportation infrastructure to support economic growth. Examples of research that METRANS is conducting in this area are as follows:

  • A major source of inefficiency in truck drayage is the handling of empty containers. One proposed solution is to establish depots closer to receiver destinations rather than to transport empty containers back to the shipper before reuse. Researchers found that container reuse would result in large reductions in truck travel time and cost.
  • Another source of inefficiency in urban truck transport is the unpredictability of congestion. Because truck routing is based on optimization and does not take uncertainty into account, building in slack time for unforeseen events reduces the effects of even a big delay, increasing efficiency overall. This does not add time when everything goes as planned, but it minimizes costs when the unexpected arises.
  • Efficiency can also be shaped by public policy. Researchers estimated the optimal toll for reducing the congestion generated by drayage trucks and found that tolls would be sufficient to cover the additional costs of off-peak dock operations. They also analyzed the impacts of the PierPASS program, which charges $100 per eligible container moved into or out of ports during daytime hours, and concluded that congestion reductions were approximately equivalent to two years of port growth.

Collaboration with trucking companies, railroads, ports, and local public agencies ensured that this research has real-world application, and some findings have already been adopted.

Additional funding for these projects was provided by Caltrans, the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, Union Pacific Railroad, South Coast Air Quality Management District, and the Southern California Association of Governments.

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Capital Cost Elements for Light-Rail Transit

Light-rail trains
FTA incorporated recommendations from City University's UTC study of capital cost elements for light-rail transit into its capital construction application guidelines.

University Transportation Research Center (UTRC2), City College of City University New York

The apparent increase in capital costs for light-rail transit is a significant concern. While unit costs have not changed, individual agencies are experiencing unexpectedly high project costs and could use guidance in reducing present costs and anticipating future ones. This project examines three distinct types of cost growth: cost overruns, unit cost escalation, and project escalation.

During the study period, a time of generally stable prices economy-wide, U.S. transit properties experienced no statistically significant increase in prices for capital investment in light rail projects, either overall or in any individual asset category. However, there were significant differences in unit costs among projects in all three types of cost growth. Ongoing problems with cost containment affect the ability of FTA and its partner agencies to keep up with demand for funding light-rail transit capital projects.

Researchers noted that, while prices had been stable over the preceding decade, there was anecdotal evidence of rising commodity prices driving up the cost of newly bid contracts, and that the overall picture of cost escalation could change. They identified several areas in which guidance or policy development would help agencies to better contain costs over the long term, including technical and institutional capacity, regulatory reform, competition, accounting for lifecycle costs, and broader use of standards. FTA incorporated these recommendations into its capital construction application guidelines.

Additional funding for this project was provided by FTA.

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Impacts of Employer-Based Transportation Demand Management Programs on Traffic Delays

Evaluating TDM website
University of South Florida
Employer-based TDM can help alleviate congestion by reducing or redistributing automobile travel demand. This website provides transportation professionals with a tool to evaluate the effect of TDMs on their traffic networks.

National Center for Transit Research (NCTR), University of South Florida

Transportation demand management (TDM) is the application of strategies and policies to reduce automobile travel demand or to redistribute this demand in space or in time. In transport as in any network, managing demand can be a cost-effective alternative to increasing capacity. Employer-based programs include opportunities for employees to escape congested commutes through options such as alternative work schedules or telecommuting. Employers can also provide incentives such as subsidized bus passes or removing/ reducing subsidies that encourage drive-alone commutes.

The goal of this project was to find a methodology for estimating the impact of employer-based TDM programs on the performance of a traffic network, using measures universal to traffic operations staff, transportation planners, and decision-makers. Researchers analyzed a case study of the Washington State Commute Trip Reduction program, implemented by 189 employers in an 8.6-mile segment of Interstate-5 in downtown Seattle. Performance measures that were analyzed included the spatial and temporal extent of congestion, recurring delay, speed, and travel time.

Results showed a significant reduction in morning and evening peak delays and in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT), as well as significant fuel saved. Overall, TDM reduced congestion, but not in all areas or at all times of day. This indicates that TDM, like every other solution, is not a panacea for every congested segment or period.

Transportation and traffic professionals can estimate the impacts of employer-based TDM programs on their traffic networks. A web-based course provides guidance on the methodology developed by this project. This self-guided training is available at

Additional funding for this project was provided by Florida DOT and NCTR.

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Memphis Regional Intermodal Infrastructure Assessment

Center for Intermodal Freight Transportation Studies (CIFTS), University of Memphis and Vanderbilt University

This study focused on Memphis, Tennessee, one of the primary logistics and distribution centers in the United States and an important hub of regional transportation and telecommunications infrastructure. With five Class 1 railroads, several interstate highways, the world's largest air-cargo facility, and the nation's fourth-busiest inland waterway port, it is also a major intermodal center.

The overall strategic goal of the project was to position the 16-county region for future economic development, taking into account the evolving changes in the global supply chain. Center researchers have developed an inventory of regional transportation and telecommunications assets and needs and have catalogued transportation facilities for all major modes (air, highway, rail, and water) and generated descriptions of locations, facilities, and capacities. GIS-based maps of all facilities were developed; commodity-flow maps of these modal networks will follow. Future scenarios will be analyzed and recommendations made for needed improvements.

Additional funding for this project was provided by Global Insight, Wilbur Smith and Associates, Design Nine, and the Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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Assessing the Socioeconomic Effects of Vehicle Mileage Fees

Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC), Oregon State University

It has become evident that a gasoline tax may not be able to generate all of the funds necessary to build and maintain the nation's highway system. An alternative financing option would assess fees on the basis of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) instead of gallons of gas purchased. There are concerns, however, about the possibility of shifting the tax burden from higher- to lower-income groups or from urban to rural areas, and about discouraging people from driving alternative-fuel vehicles.

Researchers at OTREC developed analytical techniques to examine the distributional impacts of alternative-fee structures. The results indicated that a VMT fee would amount to an increased cost of less than 1 percent of income for the lowest-income group, whereas the increase in total gasoline expenditures from 2001 to 2006, caused by price increases, was more than 5 percent of income. The impact on rural areas was far less than expected. On average, rural households would pay less under the VMT-fee option while those in urban areas would pay slightly more due to the lower overall fuel efficiency of the rural vehicle fleet and the greater number of miles driven by rural households. Because the change in fee structure had such a small impact on the cost of driving relative to the price of gasoline, it was considered unlikely to create a significant disincentive to purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles.

The study concluded that, since a single policy such as a flat VMT fee is unlikely to achieve multiple objectives, different policy goals, such as reductions in highway financing, vehicle emissions, or insurance rates, may require different policy alternatives, such as congestion pricing, tolling, parking fees, or hybrid subsidies.

The report is available at

Additional funding for this project was provided by the Oregon DOT.

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Systematic Monitoring of Arterial Road Traffic and Signals (SMART-SIGNAL)

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Institute, University of Minnesota

Despite recent developments in the real-time measurement of freeway performance with use of routinely available loop-detector data, similar approaches are lacking for the performance monitoring of urban arterial street networks. Building on advances in data-collection technologies, SMART-SIGNAL aims to bridge this gap, improving the ability to manage traffic flows and mitigate congestion on these urban thoroughfares. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a holistic framework that systematically measures, automatically fine tunes, and realistically and practically models traffic flow on signalized urban arterials.

In Phase I of the project, researchers, using existing installed instrumentation, developed a system capable of simultaneously collecting and archiving event-based traffic-signal data and of automatically generating real-time performance measures, such as travel time and number of stops along an arterial and delay, queue length, and level of service for intersections. Phase II, now underway, focuses on enhancing the system's capabilities for the automatic diagnosis of operational problems and on fine tuning signal-control parameters through the integration of additional field instrumentation. The system has been deployed for testing along an 11-intersection arterial corridor known for problematic congestion and on a six-intersection segment of suburban trunk highway, both of which are key commuter routes.

Additional funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board, the University of Minnesota's Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute, and Minnesota DOT.

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Vehicle-Infrastructure Integration System for Real-Time Traffic Management Prototype

National Transportation Center (NTC), Research and Development, Morgan State University

Researchers from Morgan State University's National Transportation Center and Clemson University developed a new traffic surveillance system that detects accidents and traffic problems faster and more accurately than California Algorithm #7, an incident-detection system widely used by traffic control centers across the United States.

The proposed system, a vehicle-infrastructure integration system, assesses and predicts traffic conditions via wireless communication among roadside sensors, the increasing number of cars that have GPS technology, and traffic control centers. The data that are gathered can help in estimating the speed of traffic, the location of incidents (events that impede the flow of traffic), and the likely number of lanes blocked.

The system was tested in a microscopic traffic simulation of freeway networks, with Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Baltimore, Maryland, serving as the study sites. As traffic volume increased in the simulated environment, the Morgan-Clemson model continuously outperformed the existing traffic surveillance system. In real-world use, the prototype would translate into faster response to emergency situations on highways, reducing congestion and increasing safety and mobility. Student research assistants contributed to the project and gained valuable technical exposure.

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Increasing the Traffic-Management Knowledge Base in Portland, Oregon

Highway automated sign
Oregon DOT
Confidence in real-time travel estimates increased as a result of OTREC traffic management research projects.

Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC), Portland State University

Oregon DOT understood the value of intelligent transportation systems and other technologies to better manage freeways, but it did not have the ability to quantify and use data to show the impacts. Two distinct OTREC projects with different goals have collectively made a substantial contribution to increasing the traffic-management knowledge base in Portland and have had a positive effect on Oregon DOT's operational strategies. These projects are summarized below.

  • System-Wide Adaptive Ramp Metering System (SWARM): Measuring Operational Benefits. The SWARM system uses detectors to feed algorithms that forecast when and where congestion will occur. SWARM forecasts the traffic state at predetermined problem points (bottlenecks) and adjusts metering rates accordingly. This research project provided Oregon DOT with a better understanding of efficiencies gained by comparing use of the SWARM system for the operation of freeway and ramp meters with that of a pre-timed method. Archived ITS data were used to measure the operational benefits of the system. Contrary to initial expectations, the project validated that SWARM let more vehicles onto the freeway than did the pre-timed system.
  • Real-Time Travel-Time Algorithms: Assessment and Refinement. A methodology was developed to assess the impact of additional detection that would help Oregon DOT determine where placement of new detectors would help to improve travel-time estimates. The assessment provided statistical confidence in travel-time estimates and helped identify the best travel-time-estimation approach for Oregon DOT.

Both studies revealed the importance of reliable communications and the need for installation of detectors to improve operations beyond current data limitations. The studies relied on the Portland Transportation Archive Listing (PORTAL), a system that archives the Portland metropolitan region's freeway loop detector data at the most detailed level and also archives area weather data. The system has proved to be a valuable tool for researchers and transportation practitioners. More significantly, the projects forged a stronger relationship between researchers and practitioners, bridging the gap between the two communities.

Additional project funding was received from Oregon DOT.

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Warehousing Regionally Archived Data from Transportation Management Centers: The STEWARD Project

Center for Multimodal Solutions for Congestion Mitigation (CMS), University of Florida

The potential benefits of maintaining data produced by traffic management systems are well recognized. With this in mind, STEWARD (Statewide Transportation Engineering Warehouse for Archived Regional Data) was developed to provide a central traffic-data archive that supports the development of transportation-system-related performance measures and promotes further transportation research as well as the generation of reports and queries. The project demonstrated that ITS data can be archived in a practical manner and that products from the archive are useful.

This project's aim was to expand the operation of STEWARD to provide a wide range of stakeholders with services related to detector-system calibration and maintenance, periodic performance-measure reporting, decision support, and data for research on congestion modeling. Florida DOT intends to implement STEWARD as a statewide resource.

Additional funding for the project was provided by the Center for Multimodal Solutions for Congestion Mitigation and by Florida DOT.

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Improving Dual-Loop Truck Data

Dual-loop detector system
Transportation Northwest, University of Washington
Graphical depiction of a dual-loop detector system consisting of two single loops separated by several feet. The system measures vehicle speeds and lengths to obtain data for use in transportation planning.

Transportation Northwest (TransNow), University of Washington

Washington DOT has installed more than 1,000 dual-loop detectors on state freeways to measure vehicle speeds and lengths. These systems, which classify vehicles into four categories on the basis of length, are a potential real-time data source for freight movement studies involving trucks. The data are used for transportation applications such as planning, infrastructure management, model calibration, and traffic simulation and operations.

A 2001 study found errors in vehicle classification in some dual-loop detectors and identified inappropriate sensitivity-level settings as the cause. Research sponsored by TransNow and Washington DOT produced an algorithm for identifying and correcting dual-loop sensitivity problems, enhanced the reliability of the detection system, and improved the accuracy of truck-volume data.

As part of the project, a software application, Advanced Loop Event Data Analyzer (ALEDA), which allows convenient use of the new algorithm, was developed. The difference between vehicle counts from single loops and dual-loop detectors dropped from 95 percent to nearly zero with use of ALEDA. The researchers were recently awarded a patent for ALEDA.

Additional project funding was received from Youngstown State University.

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Handbook of Scour Countermeasures Designs

Peckman's River Bridge in New Jersey
Dr. M. Ali Khan; from Handbook of Scour Countermeasures Designs Final Report
Peckman's River Bridge in New Jersey showing scour damage to approach following Hurricane Floyd.

University Transportation Research Center (UTRC2), City College of City University New York

Scour is the term used for the hole left behind when sediment (sand and rocks) is washed away from the bottom of a river. Scour action may occur at any time, but it is especially strong during floods. If sediment or rock on which bridge supports rest is scoured by a river, the bridge could become unsafe for travel.

The literature contains numerous tidal flow and nontidal scour countermeasure designs that can be used on scour-critical bridges to control channel instability and to mitigate scour at foundations of abutments and piers. However, the Handbook of Scour Countermeasures Design, prepared by UTRC2, responds to a need to identify the most appropriate technologies and solutions for bridges in New Jersey. Scour-critical bridges across the state are retrofitted with use of different standards for countermeasures, depending on bridge ownership. The goal was to provide unified guidelines for the design of scour countermeasures for both new and old bridges.

The handbook presents concise, practical solutions for bridge-design engineers. Guidelines are recommended for application, design, and construction of selected, permanent scour countermeasures for identified scour-critical bridges, along with cost-effective technologies to match New Jersey's resources for existing structures and new bridge construction. Factors such as structural type, stream geometry, stream soil conditions, and environmental constraints are taken into account.

The handbook also examines new technologies and innovative concepts, such as the Gabion wire basket anchor block and Gabion mat, flexible channel liner, geo-textile containers, delta-wing-like fin in front of bridge piers, slot through piers, submerged vanes, and training walls, for their potential for scour mitigation and their cost-effectiveness. Guidelines for these additional countermeasures were developed on the basis of existing theoretical and experimental knowledge.

Additional funding for this project was provided by New Jersey DOT.

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Mississippi Valley Freight Coalition Conducts Collaborative Freight Research

National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE), University of Wisconsin-Madison

In 2006, CFIRE organized the ten states of the Mississippi Valley Conference to form the Mississippi Valley Freight Coalition to protect and support the economic well-being of the region by keeping products flowing to markets reliably, safely, and efficiently. CFIRE facilitates the coalition and conducts research with direction from chief executives of the ten state DOTs. A technical committee of freight and operations professionals from across the region advises CFIRE. The Coalition already has several achievements:

  • A series of policy positions which served as testimony to the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.
  • An online training program to help public-sector professionals learn the fundamental of logistics.
  • A handbook on freight planning for small- and medium-size jurisdictions with important advice on the availability and use of data.
  • An innovative Google Maps application to analyze locations of regional truck parking needs and multimodal freight bottlenecks.
  • Low-cost strategies to address truck parking and freight bottlenecks.

CFIRE also facilitates a traffic operations coalition to guide researchers in building the requisite frameworks for a Regional Truckers' Traffic Information Clearinghouse.

Ten States of the Mississippi Valley Freight Coalition
Ten States of the Mississippi Valley Freight Coalition

The coalition was reauthorized by all 10 states in 2008, and CFIRE is now working with them to define and support national transportation policies on freight movement. Additional new activities will include developing regional freight performance measures, analyzing resiliency of the freight network, characterizing the transportation profiles of major commodities, and preparing materials to explain the importance of freight to the general public and decision-makers.
Perhaps as important as the specific projects has been facilitating dialogue among states, allowing them to share ideas, information, and experiences. Also important is the information-sharing between agencies, private-sector shippers and carriers, and the research community. CFIRE's facilitation of this effort continues to be a good example of multistate cooperation.

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Mapping Freight Bottlenecks and Parking Data

Interactive Google map
CFIRE researchers inventoried public and private parking facilities and developed an interactive map strategy to pinpoint and define locations where parking is a challenge.

National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE), University of Wisconsin-Madison

Adequate truck parking at public rest areas, commercial truck stops, and travel plazas is a nationwide concern for the freight transportation industry. Most of the nation's freight moves by truck, and experts project that this traffic will increase significantly in coming years. A shortage of safe, affordable truck parking facilities increases congestion, decreases overall road safety, hinders compliance with hours-of- service rules designed to reduce fatigue-related accidents, and impedes national commerce. Information about freight movement across the nation is difficult to collect due to time commitments, proprietary restrictions, and the large number of independent carriers.

Two CFIRE projects, Solutions to Short-Term Truck Parking Needs on Freight Corridors in the (Mississippi Valley) Region and Strategies for Addressing Multimodal Freight Bottlenecks, were the impetus for CFIRE researchers and students to develop an innovative geo-information tool. Many routing and map information tools have been developed since the release of Google Maps, application programming interface (API) in 2006. CFIRE is using that technology to gather information on specific trucking issues over a large area from a wide cross-section of motor carriers. The main differences between CFIRE's tool and ones already available are that it captures information and promotes interaction between public and private-sector stakeholders.

The parking project is collecting valuable information on truck-parking practices and where improvements are needed. The bottlenecks project is identifying constraints on regionally significant routes. Using maps familiar to carriers, state patrols, and freight planners, the research team is pinpointing key areas where parking issues arise and where bottlenecks choke freight movements. This assessment can lead to better performance measures and multistate project planning.

Another unique component of the project is the data collection process itself. Rather than relying on an e-mail survey to be completed voluntarily, researchers are aggressively collecting information with a hands-on approach, attending regional trucking jamborees and shows, including the annual event at the nation's largest truck stop on Interstate-80. Hundreds of truckers completed the surveys. The anecdotal evidence collected has been used to further refine the tool.

Additional funding for this project was provided by the 10 states of the Mississippi Valley Conference of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Kansas.

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Intermodal Freight GIS Network Development

Center for Intermodal Freight Transportation Studies (CIFTS), University of Memphis and Vanderbilt University

The high cost of petroleum during 2008 heightened public awareness of transportation's impact on the cost of consumer products. It has become imperative that shippers use economical and efficient means to transport goods to market, availing themselves of intermodal solutions instead of relying solely on trucks.

The goal of this project was to develop an intermodal freight transportation geographic information system (GIS) network that will simulate intermodal movements throughout the southeastern United States so that local transportation planning professionals can test scenarios, have a comprehensive view of freight operations, and take advantage of all modes of transportation.

Intermodal freight transportation poses unique challenges, including the conditions of terminal access roads and congestion in and around the terminal. Starting with the National Transportation Atlas Database (NTAD) highway, rail, and waterway networks, researchers needed to identify the locations of containerized intermodal terminals; however, it was often unclear where the connections actually took place. By creating a Google Earth layer of terminals and using the underlying satellite imagery to verify terminal locations, they were able to eliminate non-containerized terminals from consideration and to adjust the remaining terminals to represent locations where containers actually changed modes.

The network was recently completed, with precise locations identified for modal connections, and the first set of shipments was routed successfully from origin to destination. The network is being modified so that link attributes, such as speed, congestion, and impedance, accurately represent current conditions. In the project's second year, the focus will be on creating a more detailed means of representing terminal capacity.

Additional funding for this project was provided by the Memphis Transportation Institute.

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Google Earth map
Intermodal freight transportation network superimposed on a Google Earth map to assist transportation planners in making informed decisions.
Map of Memphis, Tennessee
Center for Intermodal Freight Transportation Studies, University of Memphis and Vanderbilt University
TransCAD, a transportation-related GIS package, is used to show the intermodal transportation network in Memphis, Tennessee.

Geospatial Intermodal Freight Transportation Model

Delaware Center for Transportation (DCT), University of Delaware

Sustainable-goods movement is a critical component of a healthy economy, a safe environment, and a secure nation. Freight transport is the fastest-growing energy sector and a major contributor to environmental problems.

The Geospatial Intermodal Freight Transportation (GIFT) model is the latest tool developed under the Sustainable Intermodal Freight Transportation Research program, a collaborative effort aimed at improving freight decisions through innovative, data-driven, transformative research in four key areas: energy and environmental analysis; economic, congestion, and modal analysis; safety, security, and infrastructure resiliency; and data acquisition, storage, and access.

GIFT integrates three freight transport modes - road, rail, and water - into a single GIS network. The model allows users to conduct route analyses on the basis of network attributes such as cost, time, distance, energy use, and emissions. GIFT can be used to evaluate economic, energy, and environmental impacts associated with freight movement; decisions related to various highway and intermodal facility infrastructure factors; and decisions aimed at improving highway-use efficiency.

In two Delaware Center for Transportation projects, researchers developed data inputs for GIFT and for evaluation of how infrastructure renewal options may impact freight service capacity. One of the projects, an analysis of multimodal freight activity for the I-95 corridor, the Northeast Rail corridor, and the Port of Wilmington, involved characterizing freight transportation data and conducting a validation/case analysis to improve the quality of the waterway network model. In addition to generating regionally important insights, this project provided transportation agencies and researchers with a springboard for a high-end, web-enabled modeling system.

The second project involved the application of a decision analytical framework in terms of cargo transportation performance to evaluate landside and waterside infrastructure-investment alternatives in a freight-focused context as provided by GIFT.

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Intermodal Container Security Monitoring Systems

RFID Research Center's laboratory
Roy McCann
The RFID Research Center's laboratory provides the technology and expertise to test products for RFID compatibility. The laboratory primarily conducts research into the most efficient use of radiofrequency identification and other wireless and sensor technologies throughout the supply chain.

Mack-Blackwell Rural Transportation Center (MBTC), University of Arkansas

There are continuing security concerns associated with the approximately nine million intermodal shipping containers that pass through the nation's ports every year en route to warehouses and retail centers. Existing security-monitoring systems for the transport of freight use technologies such as video cameras and infrared/ultrasonic proximity detectors in a line-of-sight configuration. However, these devices are costly and susceptible to failure due to harsh operating conditions such as vibration, temperature, and variability of materials and configurations.

MBTC is one of seven institutions within the Department of Homeland Security's National Transportation Security Center of Excellence. Researchers developed an intermodal container security monitoring system incorporating recent advances in radio frequency-identification (RFID) technology and acoustical signature monitoring (ASM). Their findings demonstrated that recent advances in sensors and microelectronics can be used to create an effective security monitoring system for intermodal containers and trailers despite the variable and unpredictable conditions that are often encountered in practice. The report, "Development of an Intermodal Container Load Status and Security Monitoring System," is available at PROJECTS/2000s/2084/MBTC%20-%202084.pdf.

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Sensor Network Design for Multimodal Freight Transportation Systems

Computer program screen capture
NEXTRANS, Purdue University
Computerized tool to determine the optimal location of railroad wayside sensors

NEXTRANS, Purdue University

Since the growth of freight movement has far outpaced that of the transportation infrastructure, ensuring efficiency and sustainability has become a major challenge. Recent developments in sensor technology will enable more efficient monitoring and management of complex transportation systems, improving the visibility of freight movement and allowing the identification of congestion chokepoints. However, the investment associated with new sensor networks requires careful analysis.

The benefits and costs of deploying sensors for freight transportation modes were calculated by drawing connections among sensor locations, the granularity of collected data, and the quality of information about the entire system, such as the percentage of traffic monitored and travel-time estimates. Network optimization models were developed to select optimal sensor locations, taking into consideration factors such as freight-traffic and transportation-network characteristics and operational uncertainty.

The purpose of this ongoing project is to establish principles for sensor network design, which can be used to create an integrated framework for enhancing the efficiency of multimodal freight transportation systems. Partnerships with the public and private sectors will improve management at regional, state, and local levels and contribute to addressing critical needs such as reduced congestion. Preliminary efforts have been undertaken at the University of Illinois, where deployment of railroad wayside sensors is optimized to monitor freight train operations. The project extends the research to a broader multimodal context and establishes a more comprehensive sensor network design framework.
Additional funding for this project was provided by the Illinois Center for Transportation, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, and CSX Transportation.

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Regional Freight Information Resources for Identifying Market Opportunities in the Great Lakes Maritime Transportation System

Intermodal Transportation Institute (ITI) and University Transportation Center (UTC), University of Toledo

The Great Lakes Maritime Information Delivery System (GL MTS) is a comprehensive, diversified, web-based data-repository and information clearinghouse for the maritime industry in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Its main objective is to promote sustainable maritime transportation by serving as an information resource for public-policy decision-making and for identifying links among maritime freight movements, economic viability, and environmental quality throughout the region. The system houses detailed information on vessel movements and commodity flows, port and dock functions, regional economic activity, population and socioeconomic patterns, and environmental impacts. Early work emphasized the regional economic impact of GL MTS, linking it to the wider regional intermodal freight system, safety, environmental impacts and benefits, shipper savings, rate comparisons, and congestion effects compared with those of other modes.

The purpose of this project was to expand the Great Lakes Maritime Information Delivery System to include market-opportunity data for shippers and carriers for diverting freight to GL MTS. With a new deepwater port under development in Nova Scotia, this data repository will be invaluable in realizing the promise of expansion of Great Lakes shipping as containers from the Far East arrive via the Atlantic Ocean and enter the United States via the St. Lawrence Seaway. The project will enable the retrieval of data on factors such as tonnages, cargo value, scheduled service, ship technologies, dock and port facilities, intermodal connections, and transshipment costs.

The project involved participants from organizations including the Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute, American Great Lakes Ports Association, Canadian Chamber of Maritime Commerce, Detroit Port Authority, Great Lakes Commission, Lake Carriers' Association, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Port of Duluth, St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, Transport Canada, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Maritime Administration.

Additional project funding was provided by the University of Toledo College of Arts and Sciences.

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A Nationwide High-Speed Rail Network for Freight Distribution

French TGV bullet train windowseat
French TGV bullet train speeding past highway trucks

Mack-Blackwell Rural Transportation Center (MBTC), University of Arkansas

Highway congestion is a major problem in the United States, causing an estimated $7.8 billion per year in lost productivity. To alleviate congestion, it is often recommended that the nation build additional high-speed passenger rail and encourage increased use of this form of transit. However, since passenger traffic shares the highways with freight traffic, one alternative is to remove freight traffic from highways through the development of a national high-speed network for freight distribution.

The objective of this MBTC project was to explore the maximum impact of instituting such a rail network. Researchers used the results of technology feasibility tests, which indicated that freight in a rail-network system would move approximately two to three times faster than freight distributed by way of the nation's highways.

As a case-study application of their model, researchers evaluated the impact of a high-speed freight network on the nation's highways with data from the federal government's Commodity Flow Survey as well as from a major truckload carrier. For example, a 20,000-mile network (equivalent to approximately half the length of the present U.S. interstate highway system) that utilizes current Maglev technology would be advantageous to a majority of freight traffic. Although a significant investment of $760 billion to $2.8 trillion would be required, the result would be an estimated 38 percent reduction in overall freight transit times and, perhaps more importantly, a net 78 percent decrease in annual total truck highway miles driven.

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Potential for Increased Use of Titanium in Civil Structures

Ohio Transportation Consortium (OTC), University of Akron

On April 22, 2008, the Ohio Transportation Consortium held a conference, "Enhancing the Use of Titanium for Novel Areas Spanning the Domains of Structural, Performance Critical and Innovative Applications in Engineering." The conference addressed past, present, and potential future uses of titanium in civil and mechanical structures. The goal was to advance discussion between titanium industry leaders and titanium researchers with regard to the production and use of titanium in place of other, more commonly used metals, and to highlight the need for research on the potential applications of titanium alloys in the transportation infrastructure sector.

Corrosion is a major problem in steel-reinforced concrete and in steel bridge girders and deck slabs. The aging U.S. transportation infrastructure is deteriorating at a fast rate; of the nation's 590,000 highway bridges, 152,220 were recently rated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and 73,160 were rated as structurally deficient. New materials and techniques are constantly being developed to repair and/or strengthen existing structures. Titanium has grown to be recognized both in stature and strength as a high-performance metal for use in a spectrum of critical and noncritical applications spanning the diverse field of engineering. The newer generation of titanium alloys are recognized as being much stronger and lighter than the most widely chosen and used steels. The emerging titanium alloys are expected to have a tremendous influence in reducing corrosion-related deterioration of bridges and other structural elements, particularly those exposed to deicing salts and seawater

Future research will focus on applications of the titanium alloys that are being developed and proposed for the construction and transportation-infrastructure sector. Replacement of steel with titanium-alloy hardware for critical elements, such as gusset plates, bridge girder bearings, and inserts in precast concrete structural members, is a viable solution that does not significantly increase overall project cost.

More information can be found at

This project was funded in part by the Defense Metals Technology Center.

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National Urban Freight Conference

National Center for Metropolitan Transportation Research (METRANS), University of Southern California and California State University-Long Beach

In 2007, METRANS sponsored the 2nd National Urban Freight (NUF) Conference in Long Beach, California. The conference has become a signature METRANS outreach event.

The NUF Conference fulfills a particular need for the research community. Most freight research addresses goods movement between regions. The economic distribution of international trade activity across metropolitan areas is less understood. This conference provides a unique opportunity to discuss these issues in the context of large urban agglomerations.

The conference is also important because it provides a forum for researchers to present their findings to government officials and real-world practitioners. NUF 2007 concluded with a plenary session discussion among panelists representing academia, government, and the trucking industry. Panelists provide viewpoints from their respective sectors on current research and the direction that this research should take.

NUF attracts participants from all parts of the world where maritime ports, airports, and rail hubs are located. In addition to university-based research, NUF has featured papers from representatives of ports, city transportation agencies, research institutes, private engineering firms, and USDOT. International participants have come from countries as diverse as Australia, China, and the Netherlands.

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