U.S. DOT releases draft strategic plan for 2006-2011

News AASHTO Journal September 12, 2006
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The U.S. Department of Transportation recently made public its draft strategic plan for the years 2006-2011, laying out detailed goals in the areas of safety, reduced system congestion, global connectivity, environmental stewardship and security.

The department seeks public comment on the plan, which can be found at the website http://stratplan.dot.gov/docdetail.cfm?documentid=1. A form on which to provide comments can be found at http://stratplan.dot.gov/comments.cfm.

U.S. DOT safety strategies

Under the heading of safety, the U.S. DOT proposes 45 separate strategies under its draft strategic plan to reduce transportation-related deaths and injuries.

In the highways area, "Our ability to work with states to develop and implement data-driven, workable and self-sustaining highway-safety programs is key to the overall success in achieving a reduction in highway safety fatalities," the report states. Grants will continue to be provided to states and local governments to back research, demonstrations and countermeasure programs designed to prevent motor-vehicle crashes and reduce their costs.

To improve safety outcomes on the behavioral front (steps aimed at affecting drivers' behavior), U.S. DOT plans data-driven programs to boost the use of seatbelts and other age-appropriate restraints, cutting drunken driving, curbing motorcycle deaths, reducing speeding, "prolonging older driver mobility as long as medically practicable," getting parents more involved in teen driver education and keeping the driver-licensing process clean.

"As these behavioral programs mature, we are faced with the challenge of reaching audiences that are more resistant to safety messages. Our future behavioral efforts will therefore focus on harder-to-reach and under-served populations," the U.S. DOT stated.

For improved vehicle safety, the U.S. DOT said it will assess the safety benefits of emerging technologies as they enter the vehicle fleet. In FY 2008, the DOT will promulgate a final rule to include New Car Assessment Program ratings on the sales stickers of new vehicles, as mandated by the most recent surface-transportation reauthorization act, so consumers get more information on the safety of new vehicles at the lot.

To improve safety issues involving large trucks on the roads--a challenge because trucks are becoming a larger proportion of the traffic--the DOT plans more action through programs and partnerships with other government agencies, industry and the public.

"Aggressive enforcement is our primary strategy for improving truck-safety levels," according to the DOT. The department will also attempt to expand its focus on the role of motorists in prevention of crashes involving large trucks. "Research shows that there are gains to be had from an increased focus on drivers," including educating the public about how to share the road safely with large trucks.

U.S. DOT congestion-relief strategies

Under the heading of congestion relief, the U.S. DOT proposes 22 strategies for accomplishing that goal.

The department calls for reduction in urban congestion; an increase in the number of states enabling public-private transportation partnerships; increased use of intelligent transportation system technology; and reduction in impediments to freight movement.

Noting that congestion costs the nation an estimated $200 billion a year, department officials call for "Urban Partnership Agreements" with as many cities as are willing to participate to establish new, variable-pricing programs designed to spread traffic flows throughout the day and to get more throughput from existing highways. Such agreements will also provide for efficiency-tailored bus service, speed up the review process for highway projects and seek commitments from major employers to allow flexible scheduling and telecommuting.

The U.S. DOT also plans to encourage states to participate in public-private partnerships. "State budgets are stretched thin and gasoline taxes are becoming untenable as long-term sources of funding. At the same time, major financial institutions and their clients are expressing their willingness to invest billions of dollars in roads and airports ... Our goal will be to expand the list of states that have flexible laws to permit greater private-sector involvement in transportation projects."

The U.S. DOT also plans a competitive process to select three to five "Corridors of the Future" that have the greatest potential to relieve traffic, based on projected growth patterns.

"We intend to create a major federal support structure through which sponsors can work. We will set ambitious permitting schedules for these projects, identify new financing options to fund them and fast-track these projects for federal dollars to get them moving from the drawing board to completion faster than ever before, without sacrificing environmental protections," the U.S. DOT stated.

In the area of intelligent transportation systems, the U.S. DOT plans to invite technology leaders to join a new Transportation Technology Forum.

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