Caltrans joins MassDOT in requiring road projects to serve all modes

Culture change at large agencies like state DOTs is slow but steady. In California’s case, the agency has taken several important steps, prompted partly by SSTI’s 2014 external review. The agency started by updating its mission, vision, and goals—shifting its focus from strictly “mobility” to “a safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient transportation system.” It is now formalizing that mission in its design process through a Complete Streets policy directive.

Small pricing signals can help cut traffic

Transportation agencies historically have sought to cut congestion by adding capacity. Alternatively, modest pricing signals could be more cost effective and efficient at managing demand, saving public agencies much more in the long run. One example is the I-65 bridge spanning the Ohio River between Kentucky and Indiana. The bridge carried close to 140,000 vehicles per day prior to construction. The two states spent about $1 billion to increase the capacity of the crossing from six lanes to twelve, enough to handle up to 250,000 vehicles per day. To recoup some costs, a toll of less than $3 per trip was instituted, discounted for regular commuters. Once tolling began in 2017, daily trips dropped to about 60,000.

States can target key transportation issues with federal infrastructure funds

The much-anticipated Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was finally signed by President Biden on Monday, and state DOTs are preparing for what will amount to around 50 percent more transportation spending than originally planned for over the next five years. The act includes an additional $110 billion for roads and bridges, $11 billion for safety, $39 billion for public transit, and $66 billion for freight and passenger rail (a five-fold increase).

Add Virginia to the list of states testing out “plastic roads”

Engineers at the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) are studying a new type of asphalt mixture, called recycled plastic modified asphalt mixture (RPM), that could replace traditional asphalt mix. While limited research on the technology says it is a win-win for both improving longevity of roads and redirecting plastic waste from landfills, VDOT wants to confirm that the new mixture does not result in microplastic entering the environment through water runoff. 

Bike facilities often follow income gains, not the other way around

By Saumya Jain A new study found little evidence that new bike infrastructure leads to displacement of low-income households or people of color, despite the two sometimes being linked in public discourse. The data reveal some bias toward mostly white neighborhoods in terms of where new facilities are installed, but sharrows, or markings …

How best to get our economy and jobs back: Lessons from ARRA

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 open streets to create more space for walking, biking during pandemic

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.