One out of every five miles of road in the U.S. is in poor condition and less than half are rated as “good,” and their condition is just getting worse. Transportation agencies in some states have committed to turning things around by prioritizing maintenance in their spending plans.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has created unique transportation challenges for cities and states. This includes everything from maintaining transit with plummeting ridership to facing a needed economic recovery with major decreases in the taxes that pay for transportation maintenance and improvements. With the CARES Act passed and more stimulus and recovery funding being considered, the national experience with the ARRA funding from the last recession might hold lessons for how to jump-start the economy and job creation.
Cities across the country are restricting motor vehicle use on some streets and reallocating road space to give residents more space to move by foot and bicycle while still maintaining appropriate distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many cities are finding that residents using active transportation face two problems: drivers speeding on the empty streets and insufficient space to stay six feet apart on sidewalks, paths, and trails.
Polling data collected in November and released in March show voters want better transportation options across geographic and party lines. The results indicate that a majority of voters wish they had alternatives to driving, support improving public transit, and want government to fix existing roads before building new ones. While COVID-19 has upended daily life, the results help paint a picture of the transportation system Americans want to see.
NCHRP has released a new guidebook to help state DOTs systematically integrate a right-sizing approach into their decision-making. The practice of “right-sizing” involves modifying the size, extent, function, and composition of existing or planned infrastructure and services to better reflect current needs, goals, and economic realities. While right-sizing has gained popularity, few agencies are doing right-sizing routinely. NCHRP’s new guidebook may help bridge that gap.
Can the rise of new personal mobility options lure drivers out of their cars for short trips? Several recent reports say, “yes,” but only if cities resolve both infrastructure and legal issues surrounding their use. At the same time, examination of walking and biking rates from 2001 to 2017 show that better infrastructure and policies are needed to help them supplant driving for short trips. However, cities that have invested in infrastructure have seen a dramatic rise in active transportation.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation, along with a list of partners, has developed a planning tool to identify and prioritize parts of the transportation network most at risk of flooding, fluvial erosion, landslides, or other natural disasters. The need for a forward-looking approach to avoid or protect against roadway destruction, and keep people connected to needed resources, was illustrated in 2011 by the effects of Tropical Storm Irene. The Transportation Resilience Planning Tool was exhibited in a presentation at the 2019 SSTI State DOT Community of Practice meeting in Denver.
An investigation of the “persistence of pedestrianism,” written by Peter Norton, explores the history of both the rise of the dominance of automobiles as personal transportation and the continuing pushback by pedestrian advocates against this dominance from the 1920s to the 1960s. It is a fascinating look at how our perception of the urban landscape and mobility has been shaped by social and commercial forces as well as a rejection of the idea that most Americans drive because they prefer auto travel over walking. Norton instead contends that the cause and effect have been confused in most transportation analyses; people don’t walk, not because driving is their preferred method of travel, but because walking has been made so difficult.
Since 2010, a new design for accommodating active transportation has been slowly growing in popularity in North America. The “advisory bike lane” or “advisory shoulder” design, also known as “edge lane roads,” provides bike and/or pedestrian space on each side of the roadway. Unlike roads with standard bike lanes, ABLs direct motorists to a single lane in the center. When they need to pass an oncoming motorist, both move to the edge temporarily, occupying the bike lanes.
A study from Ohio University evaluating the impacts of a new bypass on Eastern Box Turtles found unexpected results: turtles living next to the bypass did not exhibit heightened stress levels, but not one of them crossed the road over a two year period, including via a culvert.