Danger built in

Aug. 14, 2009

Deficient roadway conditions contribute to more than half of U.S. highway fatalities and 38% of nonfatal injuries, according to a recent study. The roadway environment is a substantially more lethal factor in highway fatalities than drunken driving, speeding or failing to use safety belts.

Deficient roadway conditions contribute to more than half of U.S. highway fatalities and 38% of nonfatal injuries, according to a recent study. The roadway environment is a substantially more lethal factor in highway fatalities than drunken driving, speeding or failing to use safety belts.

In revealing that deficiencies in the roadway environment contribute to more than 22,000 fatalities and cost the nation more than $217 billion annually, the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) concluded that making the roadway environment more protective and forgiving is essential to reducing highway fatalities and costs. The study was sponsored by the Transportation Construction Coalition.

The driving environment is very unforgiving, principal study author Ted Miller, Ph.D., said in a conference call to announce the report. Miller is an internationally recognized safety economist in the areas of injury incidence, costs and consequences.

“Drivers often make minor errors. They speed. They get distracted. They drive drowsy,” Miller said. “When the roadway is deficient, those errors are more likely to cause a crash, and crashes that occur are more likely to result in serious injury or in death.

“The next surface transportation bill needs a strong focus on improving the safety built into the roads and bridges. That bill should be funded now, not 18 months from now. Every day we wait, people die.”

Titled “On a Crash Course: The Dangers and Health Costs of Deficient Roadways,” the study found the $217 billion cost of deficient roadway conditions dwarfs the costs of other safety factors, including $130 billion for alcohol, $97 billion for speeding or $60 billion for failing to wear a safety belt.

Jared Goldberg, M.D., an emergency-room doctor at Inova Alexandria Hospital in Alexandria, Va., described motor-vehicle crashes as an epidemic that does not get the same attention as other public health problems.

“Improving our existing roadways could help prevent many drivers from ever having to become my patients,” Goldberg said during the conference call. “For the victims who do end up in my emergency room, roadway improvements could help determine whether my colleagues and I can help to save that person’s life or merely save their organs.”

Dr. Miller said the top three causes of death and injury in the road environment are large trees, poles that do not break away and bridges, and he said often these are components of old roads that were built to outdated designs and have not been updated.

“Those three events alone are involved in 43% of all road deaths and more than 35% of all moderate and serious injuries,” Miller said.

Replacing unforgiving poles with breakaway poles was one of the report’s recommended solutions to road deficiencies, along with using brighter and more durable pavement markings, adding rumble strips to shoulders, mounting more guardrails or safety barriers and installing better signs with easier-to-read legends.

The report also recommended more significant road improvements, including adding or widening shoulders, improving road alignments, replacing or widening narrow bridges, reducing pavement edges and abrupt drop-offs and clearing more space alongside roads.

The report also analyzed crash costs on a state-by-state basis. The 10 states with the highest total cost from crashes involving deficient road conditions are (alphabetically) Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.

The states with the highest road-related crash costs per million vehicle-miles of travel are Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The highest road-related crash costs per mile of road are in the states of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and South Carolina.

The PIRE study analyzed several crash databases, including the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, compiled by the federal government.

Traffic Management TTI: Congestion dipped in 2007, but it won’t last

Even before the U.S. economy officially entered the current recession in December 2007, drivers had started cutting back slightly on their driving, presumably because of the increase in the price of gasoline. The dip in mileage showed up in the data from the 2009 “Urban Mobility Report,” released on July 8 by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI).

The report compiles figures on traffic congestion in 2007 in 439 U.S. urban areas. Congestion caused urban Americans to waste 4.16 billion hours of their time and 2.81 billion gallons of fuel at a total cost of $87.2 billion. There was a decrease of 40 million wasted hours and 40 million wasted gallons but an increase of over $100 million in delay cost from 2006 because of an increase in the cost of fuel and truck delay.

“Small traffic-volume declines brought on by increases in fuel prices in the last half of 2007,” TTI said, “caused a small reduction in congestion compared with 2006.”

In fact, 2007 was the only year in which wasted time and fuel decreased in the 25 years that TTI has been compiling data. In that 25-year period, annual delay time for the average peak-period traveler has gone from 13.8 hours in 1982 to 27.4 hours in 1992, 35 hours in 2002 and finally 36.1 hours in 2007, the equivalent of almost a full week of vacation. The average peak-period traveler wasted 24 gal of fuel in 2007, up from 9 gal in 1982 and 21 gal in 1997.

TTI looked at past regional recessions to see if there were any lessons: “In every case, when the economy rebounded, so did the congestion problem.”

If the economy and congestion continue their upward trend after the current recession is over, trips will take longer; congestion will stretch into more of the day; congestion will creep into weekend travel; and travel times will be more unreliable. Congestion keeps expanding from its traditional home in the big cities into the surrounding regions and even rural areas. By 2020, cities with 500,000 to 1 million people will be as congested as cities of 1 million to 3 million people are today, said TTI.

The cities with the worst congestion, in terms of annual delay per traveler, are Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Houston and San Francisco-Oakland.

TTI lists a variety of measures to reduce congestion and recommends a strategy of “more of everything. It is clear that our current investment levels have not kept pace with the problems. Population growth will require more systems, better operations and an increased number of travel alternatives.”

Congestion mitigation measures include:

  • Improve efficiency, such as quick clearance of incidents, timing of traffic signals so more vehicles see green lights, imposing road and intersection designs or adding a short section of roadway;
  • Increase capacity, such as more road lanes, new streets and highways, new or expanded public-transportation facilities and larger bus and rail fleets;
  • Change usage patterns to avoid traveling in the traditional rush hours, such as flexible work hours;
  • Provide more choices of routes, travel modes or lanes that involve a toll for high-speed and reliable service;
  • Diversify development patterns, typically involving denser developments with a mix of jobs, shops and homes, so that more people can walk, bike or take transit to more, and closer, destinations; and
  • Have realistic expectations. Large urban areas will be congested. Some locations near key activity centers in smaller urban areas also will be congested. But congestion does not have to be an all-day event. Identifying solutions and funding sources that meet a variety of community goals is challenging enough without attempting to eliminate congestion in all locations at all times.

The full report is available at http://mobility.tamu.edu.

Cement Consumption dips despite global stimulus

World cement consumption is expected to decline 1.7% in 2009, a modest drop that is cushioned by a roughly 4% growth in utilization by China and India, according to a recent report by the Portland Cement Association (PCA), Skokie, Ill.

Gains in China and India, which together account for 58% of the world’s cement consumption, will mask the harsh downturns predicted for many of the world’s cement markets. Among developing economies, consumption is expected to decline nearly 16% during 2009.

Although world governments are engaged in massive stimulus programs, early projects most likely will be low in cement intensities. Jobs such as bridge work, which has higher cement intensities but longer design times, will materialize full force in 2010, when worldwide cement consumption will yield a 3.7% gain.

“The magnitude of the global economic stimulus programs currently under way is unprecedented,” Ed Sullivan, PCA chief economist, said. “This is concentrated, however, in developed countries. Emerging economies, with the exception of China and India, are expected to lag one year behind.”

Sullivan predicts continued worldwide growth rates of 7.7% and 6.9% in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Air Quality MoDOT to install units to cut diesel emissions

The Missouri departments of Transportation and Natural Resources are joining forces to improve air quality and public health in the state’s metropolitan areas.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has received a $726,227 grant through the Diesel Emission Reduction Act. The grant will help pay for MoDOT to retrofit a portion of its fleet with new technologies that will reduce the pollutants that lead to air-quality compliance issues.

These efforts will reduce diesel emissions from MoDOT fleets in St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield by approximately 288 tons per year, or about enough to fill 427 Goodyear blimps.

The upgrades also will have an added bonus of increasing the fleet’s fuel efficiency.

“Our agency is pleased to work with MoDOT in this important endeavor,” said Department of Natural Resources Director Mark Templeton. “It is our hope this project sets an example nationwide and promotes the development of much larger-scale projects in the future. Improving air quality is an important mission of this agency, and we diligently work to achieve air-quality standards that are protective of public health and the environment.”

The DNR will administer the grant over the next two years by reimbursing MoDOT for some of the costs to install emission-control devices or idle-reduction technology in dozens of fleet equipment, upgrade engines in 17 dump trucks and replace five dump trucks earlier than scheduled with models that meet current Environmental Protection Agency standards. In all, this grant will involve 135 pieces of diesel equipment in the St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield districts.

“As we manage our transportation system, we are very conscientious about how our diesel engines affect air quality,” said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn. “That’s why MoDOT researches and adopts new technologies that will allow us to better protect the environment and improve the air we breathe.”

Awards Nominations wanted

The Portland Cement Association (PCA) is seeking nominations for its 12th biennial Bridge Awards Competition. The program, co-sponsored by Roads & Bridges magazine, recognizes excellence in design and construction of concrete bridges.

All types of bridges—highway, railway, pedestrian—in which the basic structural system is concrete are eligible. Entries are encouraged for cast-in-place or precast concrete bridges with short, medium or long spans. Newly constructed, reconstructed or widened structures qualify for the competition.

Submitted bridges will be judged by a jury of distinguished professionals, including representatives from the Federal Highway Administration and a state department of transportation. The winning projects will be announced at the 2010 Concrete Bridge Conference, Feb. 24-26, in Phoenix.

Public and private organizations may submit as many bridges as desired. Eligible structures for the 2010 competition must have been essentially completed between April 2008 and September 2009 and must be located within the U.S. or Canada.

Entries are due Sept. 4, 2009.

Entry forms are available at www.cement.org/bridges. For more information, contact Sue Lane at PCA, 202/408-9494; e-mail: [email protected].

Military Paving Camp Lejeune roads to reduce congestion

Mactec Engineering and Consulting Inc., Alpharetta, Ga., has been awarded a $13 million firm fixed-price architect and engineering contract for design of a new base entry point at the Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The project is a joint venture with Raleigh, N.C.-based Rummel, Klepper & Kahl LLP. The proposed entry point will help mitigate traffic congestion resulting from the recent “Grow the Force Initiatives” at Camp Lejeune. The design includes 6.5 miles of new four-lane roadway, three major interchanges and three major bridges.


In the Product & Equipment Market last month, we misstated one of the features of the Precision Solar Controls Speed Awareness Monitor II (“Speed monitor,” July 2009, p 55). It should have read, “A 4D deep-cycle battery provides more than 18 days of continuous operation.”

We regret the error and apologize for any confusion it caused.

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