Enough to Feed a Region?

April 2, 2007

The Utah DOT’s plate looks like it belongs to one of those “one-trip-only” buffet lines. Projects and initiatives are starting to dribble off the sides.

In mid-April the Utah State Legislature approved a measure which would create a seven-member commission to place tolls on future roads; a new 33-mile highway is currently in the environmental review phase; and the Legacy Highway, held up by the courts for over three years now, could receive approval by the FHWA by December.

The Utah DOT’s plate looks like it belongs to one of those “one-trip-only” buffet lines. Projects and initiatives are starting to dribble off the sides.

In mid-April the Utah State Legislature approved a measure which would create a seven-member commission to place tolls on future roads; a new 33-mile highway is currently in the environmental review phase; and the Legacy Highway, held up by the courts for over three years now, could receive approval by the FHWA by December.

All three plate piles are needed for a population which has developed a fierce appetite for transportation. Portions of southwest Salt Lake County are expected to grow a staggering 500% over the next 30 years, and UDOT recently met with its metropolitan planning organizations and determined that the state is facing $16.5 billion in highway needs over the same time period. The first decade could cost $4.5 billion.

The Mountain View Highway, UDOT’s 33-mile answer to the population explosion in the Salt Lake region, would run the entire length of the western side of the county, with the southern end dipping into neighboring Utah County. The corridor also would connect with I-15, which is 10 miles to the east.

“We have a few alternatives right now and most of them have a highway component to them and they also have a transit component to them,” Tom Hudachko, director of communications for UDOT, told Roads & Bridges. “They’re kicking around bus rapid transit and a streetcar.”

Giving the Mountain View Highway project some extra kick is the fact that it may be the first project tagged by the future toll roads program. Aside from a private investment, the state does not charge for expressway use. Hudachko, however, said UDOT is not ready to rush to any conclusions.

“I think our position is we’re not quite at that point. I think we’re at the point right now where all future corridors are candidates,” he said.

But UDOT is taking a hard look at transportation alternatives. The agency wrapped up a study on managed lanes, where toll roads, HOT lanes, car-pool lanes and reversible lanes were the primary topics.

“The study is not necessarily a decision document,” remarked Hudachko. “It’s more or less to provide guidance as we embark on new projects so the project managers can take a look and see what makes sense.”

UDOT was forced to take a second look at the four-lane Legacy Highway project—which will go from north Salt Lake City to the city of Farmington—when the court ruled for a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) in September 2002. Public comment on the new draft closed two months ago, and UDOT hopes to have a record of decision from the FHWA by the end of 2005 so it can restart development the following spring. In the SEIS, UDOT addressed sequencing and integration of the project with mass transit; the impact on wildlife; highway alignment; and footprint reduction.

The last three years, however, have been costly. According to Hudachko, the original cost of the design-build project was $451 million. Delays have increased the total to $685 million.

“The communities that this corridor will provide relief for have continued to grow. Congestion gets worse on a daily basis in northern Utah. I-15 hasn’t reached capacity yet, but it’s getting there,” said Hudachko.

Highway Users say road design crucial to reducing fatalities

The American Highway Users Alliance expressed “grave concern” about the rise in highway fatalities in 2004 to 42,800 from 42,643 in 2003 released in a preliminary report from the U.S. DOT. The American Highway Users Alliance (AHUA) also said the report “focuses only on driver behavior and fails to mention the fact that its own research shows inadequate road design contributes to one-third of the lost lives.”

AHUA President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Cohen commented, “The rising toll of those needlessly lost lives on our nation’s roads and highways is unacceptable. Someone dies every 13 minutes on roads and people don’t realize that it doesn’t have to be that way.”

AHUA urged Congress to pass the highway reauthorization bill now being considered. The highway bill includes a new program that provides more than $6 billion in federal aid for roadway safety projects over five years.

“Elimination of road hazards is a key component to protecting motorists,” Cohen said. “Keeping our roads and highways clear of these hazards can translate literally into thousands of lives saved. The administration’s own highway reauthorization proposal includes a highway safety infrastructure program that will go a long way in helping to make motorists safer while traveling. The DOT statement was remiss in not mentioning this important program when it described the loss of lives in 2004 as a ‘health epidemic.’”

U.S. DOT Secretary Norman Mineta called highway fatalities an epidemic in an April 21 statement that accompanied statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration preliminary report.

“If this many people were to die from any one disease in a single year, Americans would demand a vaccine,” Mineta said. “The irony is we already have the best vaccine available to reduce the death toll on our highways—safety belts.”

NHTSA reported 42,800 deaths on highways in 2004, up slightly from 42,643 in 2003, but the number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled actually dropped to 1.46 in 2004 from 1.48 in 2003.

The final NHTSA report will be available in August. Summaries of the preliminary report are available on the NHTSA website (www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-30/NCSA/PPT/2004EARelease.pdf).

ConExpo traveling to Asia to follow construction market

ConExpo and World of Concrete, two successful American trade shows, are getting Asian cousins, called ConExpo Asia and World of Concrete Asia, created by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and Hanley Wood LLC. The first co-located event is scheduled for Beijing in May 2006.

AEM will own and produce ConExpo Asia, while Hanley Wood will own and produce World of Concrete Asia. E.J. Krause & Associates, one of China’s leading organizers, will provide exhibition management to the co-located shows and will hold an equity interest in both shows.

AEM and Hanley Wood plan to hold the Asian trade shows on a triennial basis beginning with the 2006 expositions.

Show organizers intend the co-located expositions to be part of a three-year cycle of global construction-industry shows alternating with ConExpo-Con/Agg in North America and BAUMA in Germany.

AEM and Hanley Wood also will collaborate to develop and hold a combined education program featuring separate tracks for ConExpo Asia and World of Concrete Asia, based on the products represented in each show.

Signal timing another reason to finish reauthorization

The deficiencies of the nation’s traffic-signal timing, pointed out in an April report from the National Transportation Operations Coalition, is a good reason for Congress to act on the surface-transportation reauthorization bill, according to the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

The U.S. scored an overall grade of D- in The National Traffic Signal Report Card.

The coalition study concluded that poor traffic-signal operation results in traffic congestion, frustrated commuters and polluted air. Not enough money is invested in traffic-signal timing, according to the study, so local traffic agencies cannot keep up with demand.

“AASHTO and its member states have been on a drive to strengthen operations at all levels for at least four years,” Tony Kane, director of engineering and technical services for AASHTO, said, “but we’ve been waiting for Congress to reauthorize the surface transportation law since it expired in September of 2003. This area, worthy of significant investment, is one more reason we’re asking Congress to get it done.”

“Improved signalization is a key factor in what transportation engineers call ‘operations,’ which deals with getting the maximum utility from our existing system,” said Kane.

“It’s not just about signals turning green, yellow and red,” said Shelley Row, associate executive director for technical programs at the Institute of Transportation Engineers. “Just because the signals change color doesn’t mean they are operating efficiently.

“The problem runs much deeper and can be fixed. With as little as a $4 investment per car each year, or 1% of funds spent annually on transportation, agencies can reduce delays—your commute time—and improve their grade to an A.”

AASHTO is a member of the National Transportation Operations Coalition. Other members include the Institute of Transportation Engineers, the American Public Works Association, ITS America and the Federal Highway Administration.

ARRA announces new president, recycling award winners

Stephen Damp was chosen for the 2005-06 term as president of the Asphalt Recycling & Reclaiming Association (ARRA) at its recent annual meeting. Damp is managing partner of Miller Paving Co., Markham, Ont., where he is involved in full-depth reclamation, cold in-place recycling, cold milling and soil stabilization and modification.

ARRA also announced the recipients of its Annual Awards for Excellence: William J. Monstrola, district manager, PennDOT, Excellence in Full-Depth Reclamation; and Kaye M. Bieniek, project design engineer, Olmsted County, Minn., Charles R. Valentine Award for Excellence in Cold In-Place Recycling.

AGC moving to new HQ

The Associated General Contractors of America is moving its headquarters into the Navy League Building in Arlington, Va.

The building exemplifies “green construction” advances and is on track to receive a silver rating from the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System upon the project’s completion in October.

AGC’s new headquarters, located at 2300 Wilson Blvd., will be one of only four LEED-certified buildings in Virginia and fewer than 200 nationwide.

“Improving the environment and the image of the industry starts at home,” said AGC Chief Executive Officer Stephen E. Sandherr. “AGC encourages its members to meet the nation’s growing demand for environmentally responsible buildings and is leading by example in choosing to reside in a green building.”

Green transportation projects recognized by FHWA

An innovative acoustics system protected fish during construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. A transit project in Minnesota reduced carbon monoxide emissions by reducing vehicle trips.

These are two of the 11 initiatives chosen by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for excellence in environmental preservation and protection.

The FHWA’s Environmental Excellence Awards highlight federally funded transportation projects, programs and processes that surpass environmental compliance guidelines to achieve noteworthy natural-resource preservation goals. Winners of the 2005 awards, presented during an Earth Day ceremony on April 22, were selected from among 238 nominations from 38 states and the District of Columbia.

“These winners serve as models of environmental stewardship,” said FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters.

“The award winners have provided fresh and innovative ideas that can lead to greater environmental excellence in the future,” said Deputy FHWA Administrator J. Richard Capka, who presented the awards.

Additional information is on the FHWA’s website (www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/eea.htm).


In the December 2004 Roads & Bridges, we wrote an article about leaks in a tunnel section of the Central Artery/Tunnel project in Boston (Waiting to seal the deal, p 10). To clarify, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff is the program manager, not the contractor, on the project and did not pour the slurry wall that collapsed.

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