As part of an ongoing effort to raise the profile of the interaction of transportation infrastructure and health, FHWA recently released a new tool. The Health in Transportation Corridor Planning Framework can be found on FHWA’s Health in Transportation website. The tool offers a step-by-step and scalable framework for transportation professionals seeking to include health considerations into their corridor planning activities.
Researchers at University of Colorado and Colorado State University looked at the suitability of 11 transportation sustainability rating tools for use by the Colorado Department of Transportation based on agency use preferences. They found that the INVEST tool from FHWA was the most suitable at this time. However, the field of TSRTs is fairly new, and no one tool will be best for every department.
Earlier this month the FHWA announced a proposed change to its design standards that are currently applied to all highway projects. The changes are intended to give engineers and planners much more flexibility and autonomy by eliminating outdated standards. For roads with a speed limit below 50 mph, the proposal seeks to remove 11 of the 13 design criteria; for roads over 50 mph, three criteria would be removed. In August, FHWA released a document that addresses some misconceptions about how federal funding can be used and when a design exception must be requested. It emphasizes that federal rules and funding are significantly more flexible than has been portrayed in the past.
On August 20 the Federal Highway Administration posted a new page on its website. The title, Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding, Design, and Environmental Review: Addressing Common Misconceptions, belies the importance of the clarifications FHWA is trying to make. The page addresses more than bicycle and pedestrian matters. It points out that federal funding or rules do not prohibit good road design for all modes, even if it varies from the standards used for decades.
Transportation projects have the potential to stimulate local economies through workforce development, job access, and local economic development. FHWA and FTA are proposing new rules and launching a pilot program to potentially allow use of local hiring programs for these projects.
FHWA has released a guide for designing and building separated bike lanes. The guide includes elements that are not found in other guides in North America, such as recommendations for lane widths based on bicycle traffic volumes, guidance for where separated bike lanes (SBL) are appropriate based on motor vehicle speed and volume, and the horizontal separation of these facilities from motor vehicle lanes at intersections.
The federal government began allowing the construction of digital billboards along interstate highways in 2007. In response to concerns over the potential effects on driver attention, FHWA conducted a study and found that while drivers may look at digital signs slightly more than they look at standard billboards, this was not associated with a decrease in drivers’ attention to the roadway or an increase in unacceptably long glances away from the roadway. However, an extensive, peer-reviewed, January 2015 critique has raised concerns about both the methodology and results of the FHWA study.
After declining every year since 2004, vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita in the U.S. ticked up by 0.9 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, according to figures released on Thursday, March 12, by FHWA. Accounting for the effect of population growth, total miles driven increased by 1.7 percent.
Both per capita and total VMT remain below their peaks, in 2004 and 2007, respectively. From World War II until the 1990s, highway travel grew year after year, but more recently that trend slowed and—in the case of per capita travel—actually reversed.
Monitoring bridges and managing their maintenance can be challenging and costly for transportation agencies. Innovative techniques being used in some states make this task easier, save money, and provide new information about how travelers are using the nation’s bridges.
States with high-occupancy vehicle lanes or high-occupancy toll lanes may also allow certain categories of vehicles to use the lanes without having the required number of occupants. However states are required to show that allowing these vehicles does not degrade the speed and efficiency of the managed lanes. A new report from FHWA shows the impact of these exemptions on managed lane performance.