NJ STIC 2024 1st Triannual Meeting

The NJ State Transportation Innovation Council (NJ STIC) virtually convened for its 1st Triannual Meeting of 2024 on April 17, 2024. The meeting provided an opportunity for attendees to hear from the Core Innovation Area (CIA) Teams about their progress towards Every Day Counts Round 7 (EDC-7) goals and to hear a featured presentation on plans for rolling out a new Construction & Maintenance Technician Apprenticeship Training Program at the New Jersey Department of Transportation. The agenda for the meeting was distributed in advance of the event.

Figure 1. In recognition of National Work Zone Awareness Week, NJDOT placed 41 orange safety cones with black ribbon at the site of the Employee Memorial outside of NJDOT Headquarters. Each cone represents a NJDOT employee who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Welcome Remarks. Amanda Gendek, Manager of the Bureau of Research, Innovation and Information Transfer (BRIIT) greeted those in attendance and opened the first triannual meeting. She reminded participants that she will be acting as host until the innovation coordinator position is filled. Ms. Gendek announced that April 15th-19th is National Work Zone Awareness Week and asked participants to take pause and recognize the NJDOT employees who have lost their lives on the job and encourage participants to recommit themselves to the mission of increasing safety for both workers and motorists. She then gave an overview of the day’s agenda.


FHWA Updates. Christopher Paige, Innovation Coordinator and Community Planner from the FHWA NJ Division Office, provided FHWA updates. Mr. Paige encouraged participants to consider pursuing Accelerated Innovation Demonstration (AID) Grants for FY 2024 and noted the deadline for FY 2024 applications is May 28th, 2024. He also emphasized that EDC-7 progress reports should be submitted by May 10th, 2024. Mr. Paige noted that he recently attended the EDC-7 Greenhouse Gas Initiative Summit in Colorado with an NJDOT employee, Sushant Darji, and reflected on how some takeaways and model practices of peer agencies shared during the event may prove relevant to potential implementation in New Jersey. He reminded participants that past recorded webinars and other resources in support of the EDC-7 innovations are available at the FHWA Center for Accelerating Innovation website. Additionally, he encouraged attendees to subscribe to the EDC Innovator and other newsletters for regular updates on transportation innovation activities.

Figure 2. The Mobility & Operations CIA Team highlighted its installation and planned pilot testing of GroundCast, a new generation of weather sensors which, when installed into highways, can measure road surface temperature and conditions.

Core Innovation Areas (CIA) Updates. The Core Innovation Area (CIA) Team leaders gave updates on their progress toward fulfilling the deployment goals for their respective innovative initiatives. The updates were given by CIA Team leaders from the NJDOT and FHWA, covering EDC-7 initiatives under the auspices of the five CIA Teams that have been formed: Safety; Infrastructure Preservation; Mobility and Operations; Organizational Support & Improvement; Mobility and Operations; and Planning and Environment. Each team’s presentation provided insights into their ongoing projects and highlighted some of the implementation activities, accomplishments and challenges experienced to-date in meeting the deployment goals for the innovations.

Feature Presentation: Construction & Maintenance Technician Apprenticeship Training Program. Kelly Hutchinson, NJDOT’s Assistant Commissioner for Administration, presented on the newly developed two-year apprenticeship training program, aimed at strengthening the construction and maintenance technician workforce. Ms. Hutchinson provided some background on the reasons for establishing a new apprentice program. Previously, the entry point to NJDOT’s Construction Inspector title series required candidates to possess related experience that was difficult to attain outside the transportation construction industry. In addition, this entry level position required that candidates and appointees take and pass a Civil Service exam. These requirements led to significant staffing shortages because there was an apparent lack of truly qualified job applicants responding to NJDOT’s recruitment efforts and those that did qualify did not always pass the Civil Service exam. Some of NJDOT’s entry level employees were not achieving permanent status needed for advancement, which caused retention problems. Employees that NJDOT appointed were sometimes displaced by other individuals who passed the Civil Service exam but may not have necessarily been deemed a desirable candidate from a management perspective.

Additionally, NJDOT found that construction inspection employees accepted into the position did not possess consistent skills, attributable in part to having received varying levels of on-the-job training depending on the supervisor. With varying skills and training, their roles in construction oversight responsibilities varied from region to region and supervisor to supervisor, which led to a greater need to augment staffing with outside resources for inspection work. The development of the apprenticeship training program is a proactive effort by NJDOT to address these issues and challenges for recruitment and retention and increase the labor supply pipeline.

Figure 3. Kelly Hutchinson (NJDOT) presented on the recently developed Construction & Maintenance Technician Apprenticeship Training Program. The two-year training program will help address barriers to entry for applicants without construction experience, among other benefits.

To reduce barriers to entry, the apprenticeship program will no longer require a civil service exam, or relevant construction experience. Instead, over the course of two years, apprentices will complete a 4-segment training program including a review of NJDOT’s specifications, online training modules, in-person inspection courses, and field training exercises. To ensure all information is consistent across departments and projects, apprentices will be exposed to a common curriculum and have a chance to develop their knowledge and skills and demonstrate their field inspection competency. Implementation of the training program is expected to begin in Fall of 2024, with a target group of all non-supervisory construction and management technicians.

Announcements and Reminders

NJDOT Technology Transfer Website Reminder. Attendees were reminded to refer to the NJDOT Technology Transfer website and, in particular, the NJ STIC section. The website is useful for staying up-to-date on NJ STIC activities and developments and for accessing a wide array of NJ STIC content, including an overview of the NJ STIC, the NJ STIC Charter, past meeting summaries, the status of current and past innovative initiatives, NJ STIC Grant Incentive Funding information, and articles and other materials that spotlight innovation and past NJ innovation accomplishments.

NJ Transportation Ideas Portal. Ms. Gendek encouraged attendees to participate in the NJ Transportation Ideas Portal. The portal is open to the public for submissions of future research ideas and implementation studies. The Innovation Advisory Team reviews these proposals for feasibility of future actions. She noted that the portal is always open to new research and innovation idea submissions for consideration for future collaborative efforts and investments.

STIC Incentive Funding. Ms. Gendek reminded participants of the availability of STIC Incentive Grants and that FHWA has announced funding of up to $125,000 annually. This funding is available to support the advancement of innovative initiatives underway – such as those being advanced by the CIA Teams, and other noteworthy innovations. Guidance for applicants can be accessed from the NJ STIC drop-down menu here on the NJDOT Tech Transfer Website. She noted that the staff from NJDOT BRIIT are available to answer questions and assist interested participants with grant applications.

Build a Better Mousetrap. Ms. Gendek mentioned that the New Jersey Build a Better Mousetrap (BABM) competition is currently underway and seeking submissions from state and local governments (e.g., municipalities, counties, and park commissions) who have implemented innovative solutions in transportation. Information on the key judging criteria and the entry forms for entering the competition are available at cait.rutgers.edu/mousetrap/. Attendees were also encouraged to watch the recently produced NJDOT video advertising the 2024 New Jersey BABM Competition. The BABM page on the Technology Transfer website also shares several video examples of past winning entries in recent years.

Next Meeting. Amanda Gendek reminded attendees that STIC meetings have moved to a triannual schedule. She shared the scheduled dates for planning and holding the STIC meetings in 2024. The next meeting will be hosted on August 7th, 2024, at 10 am.

Acknowledgements. The session concluded with expressions of gratitude to the guest speaker, CIA Teams, council members, and implementation teams. Their contributions were recognized as pivotal to the meeting’s success and the council’s ongoing endeavors.

A recording of the NJ STIC April 2024 meeting is available here. The day’s presentations can be found here and, in the sections, below, including the results of the interactive exercise.

Recording of the NJ STIC 2024 1st Triannual Meeting
Welcome Remarks & FHWA Updates
CIA Team Update: Safety
CIA Team Update: Infrastructure Preservation
CIA Team Update: Organizational Support & Improvement
CIA Team Update: Planning & Environment
CIA Team Update: Mobility & Safety
Featured Presentation: Construction & Maintenance Technician Apprenticeship Training Program.
Reminders and Announcements

2-D Hydraulic Modeling User’s Forum Web Series

The FHWA 2-D Hydraulic Modeling User’s Forum webinar series periodically holds webinar events and conveys information about FHWA Resource Center opportunities, training opportunities, current software versions, FEMA guidance and other available resources.  The use of 2-D Hydraulic Modeling tools was promoted through the Every Day Counts Round 4 and 5 innovation Collaborative Hydraulics: Advancing to the Next Generation of Engineering (CHANGE).  For more information, please go to: CHANGE.

All SMS/SRH-2D Hydraulic Modeling Resource Links and Information have been compiled into a single PDF file for download here.  (Updated April 2024) Following is an overview of the resources included:

  • Software download and licensing instructions
  • NHI Training Course information
  • 2D Hydraulic Modeling Reference Document link
  • SMS Wiki Page
  • 2D Modeling Tutorials link
  • YouTube 2D Hydraulic Modeling Videos (new videos added)
  • YouTube demonstration videos for the NHI 135095 2D Hydraulic Modeling Course
  • YouTube 2D Sediment Transport Videos
  • 2D Hydraulic Modeling User’s Forum links to previous web recordings and handouts
  • FHWA Bridge Scour Workshop

This information is updated prior to each 2D Hydraulic Modeling User’s Forum web meeting.

NJ STIC 4th Quarter 2023 Meeting

The NJ State Transportation Innovation Council (NJ STIC) virtually convened its 4th Quarter Meeting on December 13, 2023. This event provided an opportunity for attendees to hear from the CIA Teams about their progress towards EDC-7 goals and to hear several presentations on mobility and operations topics piloting communications technologies. The agenda for the meeting was distributed in advance of the event.

Welcome Remarks. Amanda Gendek, NJDOT Bureau of Research Manager, greeted those in attendance and opened the meeting. She gave an overview of the day’s agenda and its featured speakers on Mobility and Operations topics describing pilot projects. She also took note of two new changes to the NJ STIC leadership team introducing the new Director of Statewide Planning, Megan Fackler, and the new Assistant Commissioner of Statewide Planning, Safety & Capital Investment, Eric Powers.

FHWA Updates. Christopher Paige, Innovation Coordinator and Community Planner from the FHWA NJ Division Office, provided FHWA updates. Mr. Paige noted upcoming deadlines and the availability of resources, stating the first round of progress report for the EDC-7 round were extended to April 2024. He emphasized that recorded webinars and other resources supporting the EDC-7 innovations are available at the FHWA Center for Accelerating Innovation website. Mr. Paige also encouraged participants to consider pursuing Accelerated Innovation Demonstration (AID) Grants for FY 2024 and noted the recent deadline for FY 2023 had just passed. Additionally, he advised subscribing to the EDC newsletter for updates on transportation innovation activities.

Core Innovation Areas (CIA) Updates. The Core Innovation Area (CIA) Team leaders gave updates on their progress toward fulfilling the deployment goals for their respective innovative initiatives under EDC-7. The updates were given by CIA Team leaders from the NJDOT and FHWA, covering EDC-7 initiatives under the auspices of the CIA Teams for: Safety; Infrastructure Preservation; Mobility and Operations; Organizational Support & Improvement; Mobility and Operations; and Planning and Environment. Each team’s presentation provided insights into their ongoing projects and highlighted some of the milestones and challenges to meeting the goals for the innovations.

Vandana Mathur introduced the presenters who gave mobility and operations-themed presentations that highlighted how communications technologies are being piloted to support more informed decision-making by NJDOT and to manage the operations of transportation systems to ensure the safety of state’s transportation users and workers.

Mr. Murphy gave an overview of the types of operations and mobility vehicles deployed with weather savvy instrumentation to achieve statewide coverage in outlining the rationale for expansion of the program.

Feature Presentation, Theme #1 — Expansion of the NJDOT Weather Savvy Pilot Program. Thomas Murphy from NJDOT gave an update of the progress of the Weather Savvy Pilot Program aimed at managing and monitoring road conditions during weather events to ensure safety of motorists. The presentation highlighted how trucks have been outfitted with advanced sensors in partnership with a skilled private sector partner. Currently, the program encompasses 24 trucks, strategically distributed to cover major roads across the state. These equipped vehicles play a crucial role in tracking and communicating roadway conditions, contributing significantly to informed maintenance and safety-preserving decisions by sharing this information with central command centers. Looking ahead, there are goals to significantly increase the number of Weather Savvy-equipped vehicles, aiming to reach into the hundreds.

Mr. Rivera introduced the truck parking web portal, highlighting dashboard display measures – for example, vehicle entries, lot utilization, dwell times, and exits — tracked in real-time at a Harding Area truck rest stop that was piloted.

Feature Presentation, Theme #2 — NJDOT Pilot Tests of Truck Parking Information System (TPIS). Luis Rivera from NJDOT discussed the agency’s truck parking pilot program and its recent advancements. He detailed the installation process of micro radar sensors, a key component in the system, which involves precise measurements, coring, cleaning, and securing the sensors with epoxy. Mr. Rivera also introduced the truck parking web portal, designed to offer real-time occupancy data and analytics for rest areas. Highlighting the program’s expansion, he mentioned that it initially began at the Harding Rest Area and has since extended to the rest area at Carneys Point. Mr. Rivera elaborated on the advanced technologies deployed at these locations, including traffic microwave sensors for non-intrusive vehicle detection, CCTV cameras, and pavement sensors, and underscored the program’s commitment to leveraging technology.

Feature Presentation, Theme #3 — No Trucks in the Left Lane Notifications. Kimberly Ferguson from NJDOT explained how NJDOT uses the DriveWyze notification system to improve roadway safety through communication notifications to truck drivers through a phone application and their mandatory electronic logging devices (ELDs). The notifications, strategically placed approximately every 15 miles on multi-lane (3-plus) roadways, are part of an effort to regulate truck lane usage and enhance traffic flow. To determine the optimal locations of these “No Trucks in Left Lane” alerts, Ms. Ferguson described how the NJDOT team has undertaken practical experiments by driving the roadways themselves, ensuring the notifications were helpful and not overwhelming for the truck drivers. This initiative reflects a targeted approach to improve safety and traffic flow on multi-lane roadways.

Feature Presentation, Theme #4 — Traffic Incident Management Outreach Tracker. Ms. Ferguson also discussed the Traffic Incident Management (TIM) outreach tracker in her presentation at the NJ STIC 4th Quarter 2023 Meeting. This tracker is integral to the TIM program, which focuses on training first responders in traffic incident management. The goal for 2023 was to train 5,000 first responders, and while this target was not fully met, significant progress was made with 62 percent of the goal achieved. The TIM outreach tracker plays a crucial role in monitoring the progress of this training initiative. It helps keep track of the number of trained individuals and the effectiveness of the outreach efforts. Ms. Ferguson highlighted the ongoing efforts to increase the number of trained responders, mentioning regular weekly and biannual meetings that support this aim.

NJ STIC Participants Interactive Exercise. Ms. Gendek facilitated an interactive online session with attendees, who were invited to answer a series of questions using their cell phones. The exercise sought to gauge from attendees their perception of the progress towards reaching the deployment goals for the respective EDC-7 innovative initiatives. The session invited feedback and engagement from the participants and enhanced the collaborative aspect of the meeting. The questions invited respondents to consider the deployment status, current challenges, and forms of assistance still needed to reach deployment goals. The exercise sought to solicit from attendees their suggestions for model “innovative” practices and accomplishments that should be featured at future NJ STIC meetings, in future “innovation case study” videos, and in other technical assistance training materials and communications. The results of the interactive exercise are shared here.

Announcements and Reminders

NJDOT Technology Transfer Website Reminder. Attendees were reminded to refer to the NJDOT Technology Transfer website and, in particular, the NJ STIC section. The website is useful for staying up-to-date on NJ STIC activities and developments and for accessing a wide array of NJ STIC content, including an overview of the NJ STIC, the NJ STIC Charter, past meeting summaries, the status of current and past innovative initiatives, NJ STIC Grant Incentive Funding information, and articles and other materials that spotlight innovation and past NJ innovation accomplishments.

NJ Transportation Ideas Portal. Ms. Gendek encouraged attendees to participate in the NJ Transportation Ideas Portal. Available to public for submissions and comments, the portal is open to ideas for future research and implementation studies, and seeks to review and share proposals for innovation topics with the Innovation Advisory Team to determine feasibility for future actions. The deadline for research idea submissions in time for the current round of solicitations is coming soon, December 31, 2023. However, she noted that the portal is always open to new research and innovation idea submissions for consideration for future collaborative efforts and investments.

Innovation Grant Program Announcement. Dr. Venkiteela gave a “sneak-preview” of an upcoming NJDOT Innovation Grant program that is under development. The focus of this initiative will be to encourage innovations, integrate technologies, and foster public-private collaborations. Set to launch in April 2024, the program represents a significant step towards supporting and advancing innovative practices in transportation.

STIC Incentive Funding. Ms. Gendek reminded participants of the availability of STIC Incentive Grants of up to $100,000 annually. This funding is available to support the advancement of innovative initiatives underway, and other noteworthy innovations.

Meeting Schedule Change for 2024. Ms. Gendek mentioned that the schedule for future meetings will be changed to a triannual schedule in 2024. This change will not affect the NJ STIC’s commitment to participate in the national FHWA efforts to promote and accelerate transportation innovations. The council will participate in National STIC network calls and its participation in the next EDC Summit will continue.

Acknowledgements. The session concluded with expressions of gratitude to the guest speakers, CIA Teams, council members, and implementation teams. Their contributions were recognized as pivotal to the meeting’s success and the council’s ongoing endeavors.

A recording of the NJ STIC December 2023 meeting is available here. The day’s presentations can be found here and, in the sections, below, including the results of the interactive exercise.

Recording of the NJ STIC 4th Quarter 2023 Meeting
Welcome Remarks & FHWA Updates
CIA Team Update: Safety
CIA Team Update: Infrastructure Preservation
CIA Team Update: Organizational Support & Improvement
CIA Team Update: Planning & Environment
CIA Team Update: Mobility & Safety
Featured Presentation: Weather Savvy Pilot
Featured Presentation: Pilot Tests of Truck Parking Information Systems
Featured Presentation: No Trucks in Left Lane Notifications
Featured Presentation: TIM Outreach Tracker
Interactive Exercise
Reminders and Announcements

Research to Implementation: The Use of Porous Concrete in Sidewalks

This Research to Implementation video presents an example of NJDOT-sponsored research and the effect such research has in addressing transportation-related issues within the State.

Pervious (or porous) concrete has been gaining popularity as a potential solution to reduce the amount of impermeable surfaces associated with sidewalks, reduce puddling, and potentially slow storm water surface runoff. As important as these benefits are to surface runoff mitigation, concerns exist as to the ability of pervious concrete to provide sufficient structural support and longevity for the expected service life of the sidewalks as well as its life cycle costs. The composition of pervious concrete can limit its mechanical strength and present challenges in its maintenance to achieve the expected service life.

With support from NJDOT’s Bureau of Research, researchers have looked at the benefits and challenges to utilizing porous concrete for sidewalks, and conducted a follow-up demonstration project. For more information about this research and the demonstration project, see: The Use of Porous Concrete for Sidewalks and Implementation of Porous Concrete for Sidewalks in New Jersey.

The Research to Implementation video series promotes the benefits of funded research to increase the safety of the traveling public, reduce costs, and increase efficiency.

Recap: 25th Annual NJDOT Research Showcase

The 25th Annual NJDOT Research Showcase provided an opportunity for the New Jersey transportation community to learn about the broad scope of academic research initiatives underway and share technology transfer activities being conducted by institutions of higher education partners and their associates. The annual event serves as a showcase to highlight the benefits of transportation research, including NJDOT’s own program. This event was an in-person event with a livestreaming option with sessions held from 9:00am-2:45pm on October 25, 2023.

This year’s Showcase theme, “Commitment to Safety,” served as the organizing framework for the speakers and panelists during the morning plenary session. Throughout the day the Research Showcase featured presentations on infrastructure, safety, mobility, and equity topics being performed by research faculty, staff, students, and NJ agencies. Several awards were presented in recognition of research and implemented innovations.

The Research Showcase Program Agenda provides more information on the day’s proceedings, including presented topics and invited speakers. Recordings of the plenary and breakout sessions, and the presentations and posters shared during the event can be found below.

MORNING

WELCOMING AND INTRODUCTORY REMARKS

David Maruca, Program Development Administrator, Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation, served as the moderator for the morning session, offering some housekeeping remarks and walked through the morning’s agenda.

Morning Plenary and Keynote

Andrew Swords, Director, New Jersey Department of Transportation Division of Statewide Planning, welcomed attendees to the 25th Annual NJDOT Research Showcase, explaining the purpose and theme of the event, “Commitment to Safety,” and acknowledging several parties, including NJDOT Bureau of Research staff, Rutgers-CAIT, and the leadership of NJDOT and FHWA for their planning and participation in the day’s event along with the research partners whose work was being showcased.

Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Transportation, thanked several partners for their involvement in the event and reflected on the history of the Research Showcase Event on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary. In framing the day’s activities, Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti recognized the event’s “Commitment to Safety” theme and the foundational importance of transportation for affecting positive change, improving the quality of life, and the shape of New Jersey’s transportation system. In her remarks, she appealed to attendees to advance community-centered transportation and to commit to considering the needs of ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) persons when devising research questions and in carrying out their day-to-day activities with the goal of planning, building and maintaining a more safe, equitable and sustainable transportation system.

Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Transportation. Photo by Steve Goodman.

Robert Clark, Division Administrator, Federal Highway Administration New Jersey Division acknowledged the importance of the NJDOT Research Showcase’s “Commitment to Safety” theme. He described several policy and research commitments at U.S. DOT, FHWA Turner-Fairbanks Research Center and the Volpe Center that are intended to “double-down” on improving safety, reducing fatalities and strengthening the culture of safety in transportation. In closing out, Mr. Clark shared the USDOT Commissioner’s message that roadway deaths is a crisis that is urgent, unacceptable and preventable; those in attendance should see that their work and research into safety can prove that roadway fatalities need not be inevitable.

KEYNOTE ADDRESS

Dr. Allison E. Curry, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia delivered the keynote address on the New Jersey Safety and Health Outcomes (NJ-SHO) Data Warehouse. In organizing her talk, she explained the vision behind the development of the data warehouse over the last 15 years, the data sources that have been employed, its innovative features that can support meaningful research, and her vision for future research and collaborations drawing upon the data warehouse platform.

Dr. Curry described how crash data can be linked to other data sets to extend the period of study about crashes. She explained the data warehouse has been built through an array of administrative data partnerships with NJ agencies (e.g, public health, hospital, motor vehicle, police, medicare and medicaid, etc.) that have been linked alongside rich community-level indicators available at the census tract level to create a robust data tool for traffic safety research.

Dr. Allison E. Curry, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Photo by Steve Goodman.
New Jersey Safety and Health Outcomes (NJ-SHO) Data Warehouse. Dr. Allison E. Curry, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Her talk highlighted some of the limitations of crash reports that explain the need for data integration with other administrative record sources. She emphasized the longitudinal features of the data warehouse and explained how its linkages to health and motor vehicle records makes it possible to study specific populations segments — for example, teens on the autism spectrum. In her example, she described her research demonstrating how the data sets could be used to investigate the percentage of teens with autism who acquired driver licenses to increase their travel independence. She also could compare whether crash rates were comparable between this group and other teens in their age cohort at 12 months and 48 months from receipt of a license.

Dr. Curry also highlighted data limitations on reporting of race and ethnicity on NJ crash and licensing data and how other data sources (e.g., hospital discharge, electronic health records, birth and death data, etc. ) can be used to look at race and ethnic differences in non-fatal crash outcomes.  In doing so, she highlighted how a probability-based algorithm, Bayesian Surname Geocoding (Sartin 2021), developed by the RAND Corporation, has been applied to estimate the race and ethnicity of driver licenses and address a source of race and ethnic bias in hospital record reporting due to varying levels of hospital usage.

Dr. Curry touched upon several of NJ SHO’s innovative features that can enable research.  Among other points, she contrasted the “urban planning lens” which considers the place in which an accident occurred with the “public health lens” which seeks information about persons who are crash victims and where they live.

She also offered illustrative examples of how the NJ-SHO can be linked to vehicles to examine types of crashes, vehicle types and the injuries incurred which can reveal differences among more vulnerable populations (e.g, youth, elderly, poor) from other populations.

Dr. Curry closed her talk with a sneak preview of a new interactive data dashboard, NJ-SHO Center for Integrated Data, currently in development in association with the NJ Division of Traffic and Highway Safety. She noted how the dashboard tool will help practitioners efficiently use available data sets in ways that will mirror the metrics of the NJ Strategic Highway Safety Plan with a focus on persons as well as community resilience and social vulnerability equity-oriented measures.

Dr. Curry responded to questions in a Q&A session that followed her keynote remarks.

MORNING SESSION PANEL DISCUSSION

An interactive panel discussion, “How is New Jersey Department of Transportation Addressing Safety?” followed the keynote session with state NJDOT staff representatives who presented examples of the safety initiatives underway at NJDOT and reflected on persistent challenges and opportunities for addressing transportation safety in New Jersey.

The panelists included:

  • Andrew Swords, Director, New Jersey Department of Transportation Division of Statewide Planning.
  • Syed Kazmi, Section Chief, New Jersey Department of Transportation Division of Traffic Engineering
  • Kurt McCoy, Supervising Engineer, New Jersey Department of Transportation Division of Operations Support
  • Sangaran Vijayakumar, Project Management Specialist 3, New Jersey Department of Transportation Division of Project Management
  • Hirenkumar Patel, Principal Engineer, New Jersey Department of Transportation Division of Transportation Mobility
Safety Panel
How is New Jersey Department of Transportation Addressing Safety?

Participants responded to a series of questions posed by the moderator and by the audience members.

Panelists shared their views on how the New Jersey Department of Transportation addresses safety. Photo by Steve Goodman.

AWARDS

The program continued as Dr. Giri Venkiteela Research Scientist, Bureau of Research, New Jersey Department of Transportation announced several awards given in recognition of research, innovation and implementation efforts. Below is a listing of the award winners presented at this year’s showcase:

  • 2023 Outstanding University Student in Transportation Research Award – Alissa Persad, Rutgers University, Ms. Persad was being recognized in part for her valued contributions to the Innovative Materials for Quick Patching and Repair of Concrete project.
  • 2023 NJDOT Research Implementation Award – Dr. Hao Wang, Rutgers University Energy Harvesting on New Jersey Roadways. This project identified potential energy harvesting technology for applications on roadways and bridges and conducted feasibility analysis and performance evaluation of the selected technologies for large-scale and micro-scale energy generation.
  • 2023 Best Poster Award – Alyssa Yvette Sunga, Rowan University, Properties of Cementitious Materials with Reclaimed Cement. This poster described research activities that obtained recycled concrete; determined the chemical composition of reclaimed cement; partially replaced ordinary Portland cement with reclaimed cement in cement paste and mortar; and determined the fresh and hardened properties of cement paste and mortar through tests measuring flowability, initial setting time, heat of hydration, and compressive strength.
  • 2023 Research Champion Excellence Award – Thomas Bushar, New Jersey Department of Transportation, Materials. This award recognizes Mr. Busher’s dedication while serving as a Technical Advisory Panel member for The Evaluation of Different Paint Systems for Over-Coating Existing Structural Steel project. The award notes that his commitment greatly contributed to the success and implementation of this research project.
  • 2023 NJDOT Build a Better Mousetrap Award – Gerald Oliveto, P.E. New Jersey Department of Transportation, Moveable Bridge Unit. The “Route 71 Over Shark River Road Diet” is a road diet project that preserves an old historic drawbridge while improving safety and saving money.  When the Route 71 Drawbridge over Shark River between Belmar and Avon-by-the-Sea in Monmouth County suffered a mechanical failure in September 2021, engineers worked quickly to design and implement a solution that would both preserve the drawbridge and keep it in safe operation. The traffic load needed to be redistributed and balanced properly across the span to keep the bridge opened. NJDOT implemented a road diet across the bridge, which allowed the Department to address several safety issues. Traffic over the bridge was reduced from one northbound lane and two southbound lanes to one lane in each direction. Signal timings were adjusted, safety improvements at surrounding intersections were installed, and highway signage was enhanced. In addition, bike lanes that had previously ended abruptly were carried across the drawbridge utilizing an innovative bicycle-safe grid, a first-of-its-kind achievement in New Jersey. Through this $150,000 project completed in May 2022, the Route 71 over Shark River Road Diet project improved traffic flow, increased safety, and reduced congestion in a busy tourist area.
Awards Ceremony

Presentation of 2023 Awards

PRESENTATION OF AWARDS

2023 Outstanding University Student in Transportation Research Award, Alissa Persad, Rutgers University, Innovative Materials for Quick Patching and Repair of Concrete. Photo by Steve Goodman.
2023 NJDOT Research Implementation Award, Dr. Hao Wang, Rutgers University Energy Harvesting on New Jersey Roadways. Photo by Steve Goodman.
2023 Best Poster Award, Alyssa Yvette Sunga, Rowan University, Properties of Cementitious Materials with Reclaimed Cement. Photo by
Steve Goodman.
2023 Research Champion Excellence Award, Thomas Bushar, New Jersey Department of Transportation, Materials. Rajesh Kabaria accepted award on his behalf. Photo by Steve Goodman.
2023 NJDOT Build a Better Mousetrap Award, Gerald Oliveto, P.E. New Jersey Department of Transportation, Moveable Bridge Unit. The “Route 71 Over Shark River Road Diet.” Photo by Steve Goodman.

AFTERNOON 

In the afternoon, concurrent break-out sessions were held and research presentations were given on the topics of Equity & Mobility, Infrastructure, and Safety in transportation. Students and researchers at New Jersey’s colleges and universities also presented their research objectives, methods and findings in a concurrent poster session offering those in attendance an opportunity to learn more about ongoing and recently completed research and interact with the researchers.

INFRASTRUCTURE BREAKOUT

Infrastructure Sessions
Development and Analysis of Low Embodied Carbon Concrete Mixtures for Use in Transportation Applications. Matthew P. Adams, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Asphalt Pavement Pothole Repair with Recycled Material and Preheating. Xiao Chen and Hao Wang, Rutgers University
Rapid Assessment of Infrastructure Using NDT Methods. Manuel Celaya, Advanced Infrastructure Design, Inc.

EQUITY & MOBILITY BREAKOUT

Equity & Mobility Sessions
Comparative Analysis of Arterial Characteristics to Evaluate Road Diet Lane Reduction Potential. Thomas Brennan, The College of New Jersey
A Vehicle Trajectory Stitching and Reconstruction Method for Digital Twin Applications with High-Resolution Roadside LiDAR Data. Anjiang Chen, Rutgers University
Developing Indicators for Comprehensive Evaluation of Equity in Transportation System. Catherine Abacan and Ruqaya Alfaris, Rowan University

SAFETY IN TRANSPORTATION BREAKOUT

Safety in Transportation Sessions
Unveiling Perceived Travel Safety for Micromobility Users: A Rider-Centered Exploration. Wenwen Zhang, Rutgers University
Determining Key Factors Linked to Injury Severity in Intersection-Related Crashes in NJ. Deep Patel, Rowan University
Understanding Crash Factors in Disadvantaged Communities: An Examination of Socioeconomic Disparities and Road Safety. Ruqaya Alfaris, Rowan University

2023 POSTER PRESENTATIONS

Optimizing Road Infrastructure: A Conceptual Simulation-Based Study of Dynamic Transit Lanes for Connected Private Vehicles
 Connected Vehicles Data: A New Horizon for Estimating Traffic Counts
Properties of Cementitious Materials with Reclaimed Cement
Investigating Performance of Cold In-Place Recycled Asphalt Sections in Accelerated Pavement Testing Using Finite Element Modeling
Investigating the Severity of Curve-Related Roadway Departure Crashes: The Role of Driver Distraction, Automation Levels, and Environmental Conditions
Development of High-Frequency Electromagnetic Induction Technology for Nonintrusive Geophysical Ground Investigation in Cold Regions
Study of the Failure Mechanisms for Inducing Rockfall Hazard in New Jersey Area
Machine Learning Based Structural Health Monitoring of Rocking Bridge System under Seismic Excitation
Truck Parking Availability Prediction Model for Harding Truck Rest Area
Prediction of Critical Strains of Flexible Pavement from Traffic Speed Deflectometer Measurements
Design Study and Potential Implementation of Photovoltaic Noise Barrier for Sustainable Highway
Computer Vision Based Near Miss Detection Among Mixed Traffic Flows Within Intersections
Segment Anything Model for Pedestrian Infrastructure Inventory: Assess Zero-Shot Segmentation on Multi-Mode Geospatial Data


The 25th Annual Research Showcase was organized and sponsored by the NJDOT Bureau of Research in partnership with the New Jersey Local Technical Assistance Program (NJ LTAP) at the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) and co-sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration.

NJ STIC 3rd Quarter 2023 Meeting

The NJ State Transportation Innovation Council (NJ STIC) convened its 3rd Quarter Meeting on September 27, 2023 at the NJDOT Bordentown Training Center for Excellence. This in-person event provided an opportunity for attendees to tour the newly opened state-of-the-art training center. An agenda for the meeting was distributed in advance of the event.

Welcome Remarks and Tour of Training Facility. Brandee Sullivan, NJDOT Innovation Coordinator, greeted those in attendance and opened the meeting. Assistant Commissioner Michael Russo gave welcoming remarks, noting that the STIC meeting was the first held “in-person” since the outset of the pandemic. He gave an overview of the day’s agenda and its featured speaker. He noted that Sudhir Joshi, from the Bureau of Statewide Strategies, would assume CIA Team Lead for the Planning and Environment Team.

Ms. Melissa Boyer from the Bordentown Training Center for Excellence spoke briefly about NJDOT’s acquisition of the former property of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in 2016 and the substantial rehabilitation investments made to convert three buildings and the surrounding land into the transportation-focused training complex. Those in attendance were then divided into separate teams for guided tours that were provided by Ms. Boyer and Eric Walters that included an opportunity for a “hands-on” sampling of the facility’s truck driving simulators.

After touring the Bordentown Training Center, NJ STIC participants came together for group photo before returning to the afternoon meeting session inside the facility.

FHWA Updates. After the tour, Christopher Paige, Innovation and Community Planner in the FHWA NJ Division Office, gave a brief update. He noted that the FHWA had issued its EDC-7 Baseline Report in July 2023 which conveys the innovations and goals for deployment being set by the various states. He highlighted that several FHWA Innovation Exchange Webinars have been delivered since the EDC-7 launch to introduce select topics such as Nighttime Safety and Strategic Workforce Development and available resources. As with prior rounds, EDC-7 will have a two-year cycle, but the period of performance was adjusted to run through May 2025. The first progress report cycle will be due in April 2024. He provided an overview of several resources available through the FHWA’s Center for Accelerating Innovation (CAI) website which leads the national STIC program.

Core Innovation Area (CIA) Updates. The meeting continued with short presentations from Core Innovative Area (CIA) leaders who provided updates on the status of the various innovative initiative topics being advanced during EDC-7. Update reports were given by the various CIA Teams on Safety, Infrastructure Preservation, Mobility and Operations, Organizational Improvement and Support, and Planning and Environment.

Featured Presentation – SJTPO Innovative Approaches to Traffic Safety Education. The South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO) has developed a series of traffic safety education programs to teach the public about traffic safety. The programs are designed to bring awareness to the many traffic safety risks presented to drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians on area roadways and teach simple ways to improve safety. Robert Clarke, SJTPO Traffic Safety Specialist, described the various traffic safety education programs, highlighting the length of each program and typical audience. In describing the several trainings, he explained how they were designed to appeal to unique needs, interests and specific age groups such as high school, elementary, and middle school students, adults, and vulnerable older drivers. For example, a driving simulator program was targeted to teens in a probationary period, or the basic physics of driving were emphasized in a training targeted to high school math and physics students. During his talk, Mr. Clark also touched upon the various federal and state funding sources and resource commitments made to sustain SJTPO’s Safety Education and Outreach Program.

Announcements and Reminders

NJDOT Safety Resource Center. Jeevanjot Singh, Section Chief, gave an overview of the NJDOT Safety Resource Center (SRC) and its activities. Ms. Singh explained that NJDOT’s most important mission is ensuring safety – the safety of our customers and the assets that the agency builds. Ms. Singh noted that the SRC is envisioned as a one-stop destination for roadway safety-related information, noting that the SRC seeks to connect safety stakeholders with information about safety projects and programs, funding and grant opportunities, trainings from industry experts, safety campaign materials, technical assistance and other resources.

The SRC has launched a training program and, to-date, nine “Lunch & Learn” sessions have been held with more planned for the future. The SRC is also looking to develop longer in-depth trainings on select topics such as the “safe systems” approach. The SRC is expected to launch a website and a SRC LinkedIn page shortly and develop public campaigns to promote a positive safety culture for all road users.

Ms. Singh spoke about the role that the SRC plays in the implementation of the Strategic Highway Safety Plan, among other topics. She encouraged those in attendance to register for the NJDOT Safety Summit event planned for October 24th at the College of New Jersey.

2023 National Build a Better Mousetrap Award “Bold Steps” Winner: NJ’s Route 71 Over Shark River Road Diet Project. This NJDOT bridge rehabilitation and road project was recognized as the year’s “Bold Steps” Award winner in the 2023 National Build a Better Mousetrap Award Competition. Each year, the FHWA honors state, local, and Tribal agencies for devising innovative solutions to improve transportation programs. Mrs. Sullivan congratulated Gerald Oliveto, P.E. and his team for receiving the national award which developed a breakthrough solution to preserve an old bridge while improving safety and saving taxpayer dollars.

In announcing this year’s award winners, FHWA produced a video explaining the Bold Steps Award and offering a description of the Route 71 Over Shark River Road Diet project which can be accessed here. The FHWA noted that the innovation not only improves transportation performance, but offers a model and transferable solution for other agencies.

Presentation: Route 71 Over Shark River: Road Diet & Safety Improvements Project. Gerald Oliveto, P.E. then gave an in-depth presentation about the award-winning project, explaining the history and location of the bridge and the challenges that NJDOT had to quickly confront after a span-lock failure in September 2021 disrupted the drawbridge’s operation, affecting roadway usage and maritime traffic patterns. Mr. Oliveto explained how the Route 71 drawbridge safety features – opening and closing sequences – were designed to operate to further help set the stage for understanding the challenges and urgency of the project.

He described several interim repair options that were examined for their cost and benefits before the preferred road diet option was selected as a near-term solution. He emphasized that design and implementation of the preferred solution was the product of effective teamwork and extensive internal coordination (e.g., regional operations, structural engineering, traffic engineering, signage, office of government and community relations, etc.).

Mr. Oliveto described how NJDOT implemented a road diet across the bridge, which allowed the Department to address safety issues. Traffic over the bridge was reduced from one northbound lane and two southbound lanes to one lane in each direction. With the lane configuration reduced to one lane in each direction, NJDOT was able to extend bicycle lanes that previously terminated in Avon-By-The-Sea across the drawbridge into Belmar.

His presentation highlighted a key design feature that was used to extend the bike lanes over the bridge. The extended bicycle lanes were accomplished using an innovative fiber-reinforced-polymer mat on the bascule span. The mat is the first of its kind in New Jersey and provided a safe crossing of a steel-grid deck for bicycles. Previously, bicyclists had needed to dismount and walk their bicycle across the bridge. The extended bicycle lanes provided connectivity between both downtown areas and an area heavily utilized by bicycle traffic year-round.

Mr. Oliveto’s talk described several design and community coordination features that were integrated into the project to build needed municipal and community support. His talk made clear the importance of communications, early and often, and working with the affected communities throughout the process to explain the logic behind the selection of the road diet option and identifying other design features (e.g., painted crosswalks, signage) that would be welcomed by the local communities. His talk touched upon various communications and coordination activities that were put into place, including the NJDOT’s Office of Communications use of social media and videos to keep the public informed about the road diet project, and the NJDOT’s Office of Mobility working with GPS companies about routing changes to avoid adverse routing of vehicles onto residential streets, among others.

Assistant Commissioner Russo presented Shivani Patel with the NJ STIC Exemplary Council Member Award, its first-ever recipient, in recognition of her valued contributions.

NJ STIC Exemplary Council Member Award. Assistant Commissioner Russo presented Shivani Patel, CIA Team Lead for Infrastructure Preservation, with the NJ STIC Exemplary Council Member Award as its first-ever recipient. The award recognizes her strong leadership as CIA Team Lead since assuming responsibility and her instrumental role in championing the Environmental Products Declaration initiative by developing an SME team and hosting coordination meetings

Reminders and Updates. Mrs. Sullivan closed the meeting with several reminders and updates.

NJ STIC Online. She reminded attendees of the online location of several resources that highlight the NJ STIC and other innovation topics funded through research and technology transfer activities, including:

NJ Transportation Ideas Portal. Mrs. Sullivan noted that the NJDOT Bureau of Research has combined the innovative ideas portal with the research portal to gather high quality ideas from the transportation community. She pointed to the business cards and a poster with a QR code that were available in the front of the room as a handy means to access the NJ Transportation Ideas Portal. She encouraged attendees to take a few business cards to share with colleagues. For more information and to how register for an account and submit ideas on the NJ Transportation Ideas Portal, go to: https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/got-ideas

Local Technical Assistance and STIC. Mrs. Sullivan added that there are free trainings on EDC-7 topics delivered through the Local Technical Assistance Program at Rutgers-CAIT. She shared links to an upcoming schedule of trainings. She also noted that new opportunities are added frequently at the website: https://cait.rutgers.edu/events.

Upcoming Events. Mrs. Sullivan noted in brief some important upcoming events on research and innovation:

  • Safety Summit – October 24th
  • 25th Anniversary of the Research Showcase – Oct 25th
  • Complete Streets Summit – Nov 1st

STIC Incentive Program Funding. Mrs. Sullivan noted that STIC Incentive Program funds are available. The FHWA offers these funds, as well as technical assistance, to support the standardization and advancement of innovative practices in a state transportation agency or other public sector STIC stakeholder. NJ STIC receives $100,000 each year. Mrs. Sullivan asked that the STIC network members communicate these grant opportunities through their networks. She noted that local public agencies are eligible to apply. Find more information, including examples of allowable activities and prior recipients, here.

Closing the Business Portion and Final Remarks. Ms. Sullivan concluded the business portion of the STIC meeting, noting that this would be the final STIC Meeting for Assistant Commissioner Russo with his imminent retirement. In recognition of this milestone and his long-standing leadership role with the NJ STIC, Mrs. Sullivan invited Vanessa Holman, Deputy Chief of Staff in the NJDOT Commissioner’s Office, to say a few words about Assistant Commissioner’s instrumental role in advancing the NJ STIC’s mission over the years and strengthening the team going forward.

About the Bordentown Training Facility. The training facility includes specialized classrooms and adjoining labs outfitted with real roadway structures, traffic control components, and vehicle maintenance equipment, including:

  • Lecture hall, multi-use classrooms, computer training labs, offices, conference and breakout rooms, and locker room facilities.
  • Two full-motion Commercial Drivers’ License (CDL) Truck Simulators.
  • Construction, Landscape and Roadway Training Lab with in-ground model of drainage inlets connected by a culvert.
  • Electrical and Sign Training Lab with real traffic signal control cabinets and in-ground pull boxes.
  • Automotive Training Lab with working model of truck brake system.
  • Equipment Training Bay with welding area and space to work on large vehicles Radio Shop.
  • A mock roadway features a signalized intersection, crosswalks, overhead signs, and a railroad grade crossing that presents trainees with the traffic infrastructure and conditions encountered on the job.

A recording of the NJ STIC September 2023 meeting is under production and will be shared when it is available. The day’s presentations can be found here and in the sections below.

Photos from the Bordentown Training Facility tour are presented at the bottom.

NJ STIC Meeting – 3rd Quarter 2023, Recording
Welcome Remarks & FHWA Updates
CIA Team Update: Safety
CIA Team Update: Infrastructure Preservation
CIA Team Update: Organizational Support & Improvement
CIA Team Update: Mobility & Safety
CIA Team Update: Planning & Environment
Feature Presentation: SJTPO Innovative Approaches to Traffic Safety Education
Announcement: Safety Resource Center
Announcement: Build a Better Mousetrap Award 2023 Bold Steps Award
Presentation: Route 71 over Shark River – Road Diet & Safety Improvements
NJ STIC – 10+Years of Innovating and 2023 Exemplary NJSTIC Member
Reminders and Announcements
      • Bordentown Training Facility Tour Photos
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      NJDOT Annual Remembrance Ceremony

      The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) held its Annual Remembrance Ceremony honoring those who lost their lives on 9/11 as well as the 41 NJDOT employees who lost their lives while on duty. The event pays tribute to their legacies and provides a moment to reflect on their courage which will be remembered forever.

      During this year’s Remembrance Ceremony, held on September 11, 2023, NJDOT added the names of five employees to the Department’s Employee Memorial who had given their lives in service as they worked the highways and bridges of the state. These five names were of men who died on the job in the 1940s, while working for the New Jersey State Highway Department, the predecessor of NJDOT. Their names were found as part of an archiving and digitization project by the NJDOT Research Library, part of the Bureau of Research within the Department.

      The unveiling of these names occurred during the NJDOT 23rd annual remembrance ceremony and 22nd anniversary of 9/11.

      The stories of these five men – Arthur Reinhardt, Walter Eckert, Jeremiah O’Brien, William Kays, and Joseph Platt – were published in an employee newspaper of the Highway Department when they died in the 1940s. However, their names had never been added to the memorial wall. Thirty-six other names of persons who perished on the job (with the most recent being Joe Kealey, who died in 2010) had previously been enshrined on the wall. Research continues to find additional employees of New Jersey’s Highway or Transportation departments who also sacrificed their lives on the job.

      Eric Schwarz, NJDOT Research Librarian, gave the keynote speech detailing this archival work and highlighting the lives of the five men.

      The NJDOT established its Employee Memorial wall on September 8, 2000, coincidentally about one year before the terrorist attacks on America on 9/11/01. Since 2001, the Employee Memorial has taken on additional meaning, and the ceremony has been held on or about September 11 each year since 2002.

      The annual ceremony also honors military personnel and veterans, law enforcement, and emergency responders from NJDOT and the New Jersey State Police. In her welcome remarks, New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti noted the many meanings of the day for NJDOT and the importance of work zone safety.

      Employee Memorial Wall at NJDOT HQ.
      Employee Memorial Wall on 9/11 Remembrance Day.
      NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti speaking at NJDOT’s 23rd Annual Remembrance Ceremony.

      Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti reported on the launch of two initiatives to safeguard roadway workers, first responders, and motorists in 2023. The first was the launch of NJDOT’s incident management training as an online self-guided course. The second is a work zone safety campaign launched this past summer. Radio ads and written advertorials remind the public to slow down and move over when driving through a work zone or when passing a first responder or a disabled car. She pointed out that “slow down and move over” is not just a catchphrase or act to save lives, but also the law.

      In 2022, 49 law enforcement officers, emergency responders, tow truck operators, roadside technicians and DOT crew members were struck and killed on the job in the United States. Since September 2022, 24 New Jersey crew members were injured in work zones or while assisting motorists. While none of those New Jersey crew members died, “those are unacceptable numbers,” Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. “Work zone safety is a priority at NJDOT and baked into everything we do. She repeated her motto, “Everyone goes home every night.”

      Speaking of the names added to the memorial in 2023, Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti said: “The deaths of these five men are a reminder that distracted and impaired driving is a deep-rooted issue in this country, a danger that has existed for over a century.”

      The Remembrance Ceremony Program for this year’s event can be found here and many photos of this year’s event are shared in an image slider below.

      Eric Schwarz, NJDOT Research Librarian, unveiling plaque at NJDOT Employee Memorial Wall.

      INTERNET ARCHIVAL PROJECT

      Schwarz, NJDOT Research Librarian, found the names of the five men as part of a digitization project that the NJDOT is conducting as part of a transportation pooled fund, with the documents being housed on the website of the Internet Archive. Highlights of the initial documents posted to the NJDOT collection include: monthly reports of the Highway Department published from 1956 to 1966; annual reports from the 1940s to 1991; The First Five Years of the Garden State Parkway, 1954-1959; and NJDOT’s 50th anniversary commemorative book from 2016.  

      The issues of The Highway, an in-house newsletter, reporting the deaths of the five men from the 1940s who gave their lives are also available (Arthur Reinhardt, Walter Eckert, Jeremiah O’Brien, William Kays, and Joseph Platt).  


      RESOURCES ON WORK ZONE SAFETY

      For those researching or seeking to ensure work zone safety, here are several useful resources:

      • Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Training, NJ Information Resources Portal. This website provides technical assistance resources to support TIM Responder Trainings that bring police, firefighters, DOT, towing, medical personnel, and other incident responders together to engage in interactive, hands-on incident resolution exercises.
      • TRID Search on Work Zone Safety. The TRID Database provides access to 1.4 million records of transportation research worldwide.  Here is a saved search of research and ongoing projects in the last year on that use “Work Zone Safety” as a search term.
      • FHWA Website on Work Zone Safety Management. The FHWA Work Zone Management program develops and deploys solutions and strategies that enable agencies to incrementally and continuously improve work zone management to minimize traffic delays and maintain the safety of all road users and workers.  This website provides facts and statistics, best practices, regulations and guidance, training materials, webinars and links to resources on related topics.
      • National Workzone Safety Information Clearinghouse. A project of the Transportation Development Foundation of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). It is operated in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Topics of interest include: Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety, Smart Work Zones, Transportation Management Plans, Accommodating Pedestrians, and Project Coordination in Work Zones.
      • National Work Zone Awareness Week. The next Work Zone Awareness Week is set for April 15-19, 2024.
      • NJ LTAP Work Zone Safety Trainings. The New Jersey Local Technical Assistance Program periodically offers training course on work zone safety.  Please check calendar for upcoming events.

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      Photos courtesy of Glenn Catana, Office of Communications, New Jersey Department of Transportation.

      NJ’s Route 71 Over Shark River Road Diet Project Receives Bold Steps Award in National Build a Better Mousetrap Award Competition

      The Federal Highway Administration’s Local Aid Support team in the Office of Transportation Innovation and Workforce Solutions has announced the 2023 recipients of the Build a Better Mousetrap National Recognition Program for Transportation Innovation. Each year, FHWA recognizes and celebrates local government and tribal agencies who pioneer innovations that improve transportation performance. Winners are recognized for a range of innovations that save time and money while improving safety and customer service in their communities.

      This year the FHWA again received a record number of nominations from 20 state, local and Tribal agencies. The FHWA recognized national winners for their innovations in four categories: Innovative Project, Smart Transformation, Bold Steps, and Pioneer. Winners were announced during the National Local and Tribal Technical Assistance Program Association’s Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio (see the video). 

      This year’s Bold Steps Award honors the NJ Department of Transportation for its work on the Route 71 Drawbridge over Shark River between Belmar and Avon-by-the-Sea in Monmouth County, which suffered a mechanical failure in September 2021. Engineers devised a cost-effective design and implementation solution that preserved the drawbridge and kept it in safe operation. NJDOT implemented a road diet across the bridge, which allowed the Department to address safety issues. Traffic over the bridge was reduced from one northbound lane and two southbound lanes to one lane in each direction.

      The Bold Steps Award recognizes locally relevant high-risk projects or processes showing a break-through solution with demonstrated high-reward.

      NJDOT’s Route 71 Shark River Bridge Preservation and Road Diet project was also recently selected as a regional winner in the 2023 America’s Transportation Awards.  The competition is sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  More information about the project can be found here.


      The other Build a Better Mousetrap 2023 winners include:

      Innovative Project Award: Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation | The Mobile Unit Sensing Traffic (MUST) Device

      Specifically designed and implemented for use along rural roads to monitor traffic, detect dangerous events, and provide real-time warning messages to users.

      The Innovation Project Award honors solutions that address any or all phases of the “project”’ lifecycle, such as Planning, Design/Engineering, Construction, Operations and Maintenance. This project introduces new ideas, is locally relevant, original, and creative in thinking.

      Smart Transformation Award: St. Louis County Public Works Department, Minnesota | Solar-powered Remote Cameras

      The cameras provide more accurate and immediate access to information on road conditions that assists with emergency response while requiring less maintenance.

      The Smart Transformation Award recognizes a locally relevant significant change in any transportation activity or process that is SMART “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound” in nature that results in improved efficiencies.

      Pioneer Award: City of Walnut Creek, California | Safe Sightings of Signs and Signals (SSOSS) Software

      An automated process for identifying and addressing obstructed traffic signals saving time and money while increasing data accuracy.

      The Pioneer Award honors a locally relevant product/tool that is among the first to solve a maintenance problem with a home-grown solution.


      The Federal Highway Administration Local Aid Support team supports the use of innovative solutions to improve transportation performance by working through the local and Tribal Technical Assistance Centers to provide training and access to subject matter experts.

      For more information on Build a Better Mousetrap and other national initiatives visit, https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/clas/babm/.

      Justice40 and the Equitable Transportation Community Explorer

      The Justice40 Initiative, referenced in Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crises at Home and Abroad, is a key element in the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) efforts to recognize and address long-standing patterns of under-investment in disadvantaged communities. The Initiative seeks to deliver resources to communities that have been disproportionately burdened by the adverse effects of climate change, pollution, and environmental hazards.

      The Justice40 Initiative seeks to understand persistent gaps in infrastructure investment and public services and remedy disparities by working toward the goal that at least 40 percent of the benefits from many grants, programs, and initiatives will flow to disadvantaged communities. Through this Initiative, the USDOT will encourage the nation’s transportation agencies to plan and prioritize projects that will benefit rural, suburban, tribal, and urban communities facing barriers to affordable, equitable, reliable, and safe transportation.

      USDOT has developed tools that practitioners and decision makers can use to become better informed on how their state or region’s communities may experience persistent disadvantages.  With this information at-hand, agencies are called upon to advance projects to address or mitigate the causes of these disadvantages and improve the conditions within these overlooked communities to promote livability and economic prosperity.

      Equitable Transportation Community Explorer

      The USDOT’s Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, an interactive web application, explores the spatial patterns of cumulative burden experienced by communities. The ETC Explorer examines five components: Transportation Insecurity, Climate and Disaster Risk Burden, Environmental Burden, Health Vulnerability, and Social Vulnerability. See Table 1 for definitions of each of the underlying components.

      Table 1. Definitions for the Disadvantage Components of ETC Explorer
      ComponentsDefinitions
      Transportation InsecurityTransportation Insecurity occurs when people are unable to get to where they need to go to meet the needs of their daily life regularly, reliably, and safely.
      Environmental BurdenThe Environmental Burden component of the index includes variables measuring factors such as pollution, hazardous facility exposure, water pollution and the built environment.
      Social VulnerabilitySocial Vulnerability is a measure of socioeconomic indicators that have a direct impact on quality of life.
      Health VulnerabilityThe Health Vulnerability category assesses the increased frequency of health conditions that may result from exposure to air, noise, and water pollution, as well as lifestyle factors such as poor walkability, car dependency, and long commute times.
      Climate and Disaster Risk BurdenClimate and Disaster Risk Burden reflects sea level rise, changes in precipitation, extreme weather, and heat which pose risks to the transportation system.
      Source: U.S. Department of Transportation (2023).  Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, ETC Explorer Technical Documentation.

      These five components inform the development of a composite measure, the Disadvantaged Community Index, that defines census tracts as disadvantaged communities in the U.S. based on multiple dimensions of disadvantage. A score for each disadvantage component comprises several variables and information from several datasets. The index calculates cumulative disadvantage by normalizing the indicators associated with disadvantage, summing the percentile ranks of these indicators into components, and then summing the percentile ranks of the sums of each component to determine an overall score.

      Figure 1 provides a graphical representation, including a list of the indicators for each component. The graphic shows how the indicators are used to inform each components score and how standardization techniques and percentile rankings are applied to derive a composite disadvantage score. USDOT considers census tracts to be “disadvantaged” if the overall index score places it in the 65th percentile (or higher) of all US census tracts.

      Figure 1

      The ETC Explorer Technical Documentation provides greater detail about how the data sources and methods were applied to create the individual indicators and standardize measures of disadvantage. The ETC Explorer relies upon an ArcGIS platform tool to observe spatial patterns and make comparisons at national, state, regional, and sub-state levels.  Additional information is provided on the methodological assumptions and limitations of developing a tool with these capabilities.

      The ETC Explorer was designed to complement the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Climate & Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST). USDOT’s tool looks more deeply at the “Transportation Disadvantage” component of the CEJST, and the ETC Explorer’s Transportation Insecurity component.  Both tools were developed to inform analyses and decision making to foster consideration of the transportation-related causes of disadvantage and how they can be remedied, in part, through future USDOT investments.

      Past USDOT guidance noted that applicants for discretionary program funding have had the option of using CEJST or ETC Explorer when developing funding applications. State DOTs and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) can use the ETC Explorer in developing their Statewide Transportation Improvement Programs (STIPs) and Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs). USDOT also expects to use ETC Explorer as a consideration in setting policy and making funding decisions. Reference to the tool and how it can be used to consider equity in grant application criteria can be found in recently issued NOFOs.

      Justice40 Covered Programs

      In August 2022, the White House issued guidance on the breadth of the Federal programs that would be covered by Justice40 Initiative including seven areas of Federal investments covered by the Initiative: climate change, clean energy and energy efficiency, clean transit, affordable and sustainable housing, training and workforce development, remediation and reduction of legacy pollution, and clean water and wastewater infrastructure. In this guidance, USDOT noted that 39 programs, across five modes, totaling more than $204 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, are covered by the Initiative. USDOT indicated that other programs might be added or removed from coverage under Justice40. Table 2 provides a list of USDOT programs covered by Justice40.

      Table 2. Justice40 Covered Program List

      The Justice40 Covered Program list included 39 covered programs within the U.S. Department of Transportation in August 2022.

      Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
      • Carbon Reduction Program *
      • Charging & Fueling Infrastructure Grants*
      • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program *
      • Congestion Relief Program *
      • Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Supportive Services*
      • National Electric Vehicle Competitive Program*
      • National Electric Vehicle Formula Program*
      • Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects *
      • On the Job Supportive Services*
      • Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-saving Transportation (PROTECT) (23 USC 176) *
      • Protect Grants (23 USC 176(d))*
      • Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities*
      • Transportation Alternatives (Surface Transportation Block Grant set-aside) *
      • Tribal High Priority Projects Program *
      • Tribal Transportation Facility Bridges (Bridge Investment Program set-aside) *
      • Tribal Transportation Facility Bridges (Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection and Construction set-aside) *
      • Tribal Transportation Program *
      Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
      • Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements *
      • Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail *
      • Railroad Crossing Elimination Program *
      Federal Transportation Administration (FTA)
      • All Station Accessibility Program (ASAP) *
      • Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Program*
      • Buses and Bus Facilities Program Formula *
      • Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry Program *
      • Fixed Guideway Capital Investment Grants (CIG) *
      • Low or No Emission Vehicle Program *
      • Passenger Ferry Grant Program*
      • Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility Pilot Program *
      • Rural Transit Funding Programs (Public Transportation on Indian Reservations Competitive) *
      • Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning Program*
      Maritime Administration (MARAD)
      • America’s Marine Highway Program *
      • Port Infrastructure Development Program *
      Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST)
      • National Infrastructure Project Assistance (MEGA) *
      • Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highway Projects (INFRA) *
      • Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) *
      • Reconnecting Communities Grant Program *
      • Safe Streets & Roads for All *
      • SMART (Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation)*
      • Thriving Communities Program

      NJ Example Maps

      The ETC Explorer offers an interactive dashboard to help users understand how a community or project area experiences transportation disadvantage compared to all other census tracts nationally or statewide across the various disadvantage components and forty indicators.   Popup databoxes provide more information on Transportation Insecurity for a selected census tract.

      Below are examples of the statewide and local area outputs that can be quickly generated.

      ETC Explorer Statewide Dashboard for New Jersey. The dashboard highlights that “Disadvantaged Census Tracts” comprise 17 percent of all the Census Tracts statewide and that 1.3 million persons live in these census tracts. In this example, Environmental Burdens are displayed and indicate that they are more prevalent in NJ than other components of disadvantage. Among the individual indicators of environmental burden that rank relatively highly and exceed the threshold for “disadvantage” are Diesel PM Levels, Hazardous Sites Proximity, and Impaired Surface Waters (see Figure 2A).

      Figure 2A. ETC Explorer Dashboard for NJ
      Figure 2C. DOT Disadvantage Census Tracts – State Results
      Figure 2B. DOT Disadvantage Census Tracts – National Results

      DOT Disadvantaged Census Tracts – National and State Results. The ETC Explorer can be used to display the DOT Disadvantaged Census Tracts based on a nationwide comparison (see Figure 2B) or on a statewide basis (see Figure 2C). The state results map shows additional areas that meet a disadvantaged threshold than are identified in the national results map. This is particularly useful for identifying the locations and spatial distribution of these highly-disadvantaged tracts in New Jersey.

      Figure 2D. DOT Disadvantage Census Tracts, Percentile Ranked – State Results

      Overall Disadvantage Percentile Ranked State Results. This statewide map shows percentile rankings of disadvantage by census tract for the three MPO regions (see Figure 2D). The gradient mapping display offers more information than the simpler binary designations.

      Figure 2F. Climate & Disaster Risk Burden Percentile Ranked State Results
      Figure 2E. Environmental Burden Percentile Ranked – State Results

      Disadvantage Components, Percentile Ranked State Results. Data on the individual underlying components of disadvantage can be mapped to show the percentile rankings within the state. Examples of statewide maps displaying the census tracts that are more and less affected by Environmental Burden (Figure 2E) and Climate and Disaster Risk Burden (Figure 2F) are shown.

      Figure 2G. DOT Disadvantage Census Tracts, Trenton Area, Percentile Ranked – State Results

      Overall Disadvantage Percentile Ranked, State Results, Community Analysis Example. The ETC Explorer on the online ArcGIS platform permits analysis of sub-areas of the state. In Figure 2G, the City of Trenton and environs are examined for Overall Disadvantage in a percentile ranking map.

      Figure 2H. Selected Census Tract, Trenton Area, Popup Databox

      Transportation Insecurity Features. The ETC Explorer tool permits closer inspection of its various data elements. In Figure 2H, a small portion of a popup databox is shown for a selected census tract in Trenton that provides a snapshot of Transportation Insecurity indicators. When fully displayed, the popup databox displays summary and the underlying insecurity feature indicators for “Cost Burden,”  “Access Burden,” and “Safety.”

      Justice40 is More than a Desktop Exercise

      The ETC Explorer is an important tool for identifying the underlying components of disadvantage, but achieving the objectives of Justice40 will require more than desktop exercise. USDOT emphasizes that agencies and practitioners should be cognizant of the Three Major Components of DOT’s Justice40 Initiative as they work to plan, design, program, and deliver projects.  They include understanding:

      • The needs of a community through meaningful public engagement
      • How a community is affected by lack of transportation investments and options
      • What benefits a project may create, who will receive these benefits, and how these benefits will lessen the effects of the disadvantage of the community in question

      Ongoing challenges exist in building capacity and preparing transportation agencies, eligible nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and affected communities for applying for and utilizing the project funding offered by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. In a recent research brief, the Urban Institute distilled observations from interviews with representatives from agencies and NGOs on their pressing needs and how to address the varying capacities of applicants to secure discretionary grant infrastructure funding. Among the topics covered, the interviews shared insights on the challenges of facilitating meaningful community engagement, contending within the application cycle, and managing relationships within the local ecosystem.

      Recognizing the capacity challenges and moving toward a more equity-centric vision for project funding, USDOT established the Thriving Communities Program to provide planning, technical assistance, and capacity building support. The first round of funding awards, announced in April 2023, included funding for teams of Capacity Builders.

      The City of East Orange, in partnership with the City of Orange Township and Housing and Neighborhood Development Services, Inc. (HANDS), was among the communities awarded project funding for capacity building support. They hope to address key challenges and needs disproportionately borne by low-income and minority populations in both cities due to the construction of Interstate 280 and Freeway Drive in the 1960s that led to detrimental safety, economic development, livability, housing, connectivity, and mobility effects for the affected communities. They would like to enlist the capacity builders to “assist the cities in working with state and regional transportation partners to advance a set of improvements to bridges, roadways, and other transportation infrastructure.”

      Similarly, USDOT established a Reconnecting Communities Institute (RCI) to deliver training and technical assistance to build organizational or community capacity in transportation planning and formulate innovative strategies for communities previously divided by transportation infrastructure. The BiL created a new $1 billion Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program (RCP), and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) created a similar $3.15 billion Neighborhood Access and Equity Program (NAEP) to fund projects that will retrofit, remove or remediate infrastructure that cause barriers and other harmful impacts that isolate and separate neighborhoods and communities. Both programs offer planning grants, capital grants, and technical assistance, and a combined Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods (RCN) notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) was recently issued. USDOT has indicated that enrollment into the RCI will be open to States, local and tribal governments, MPOs, and NGOs.  Disadvantaged communities are expected to be prioritized for enrollment in the RCI.


      RESOURCES

      Axelrod, A., Boyd, C., Fu, S., Ramos, K., and Balakrishnan, C. (2022). Lessons from Local Leaders: How Federal Agencies Can Help Ensure Data-Driven and Equity-Centric Infrastructure Investments. Urban Institute. Accessed here: Link

      Boutros, A., Resler, K., and Field, S. (2023). Integrating Equity into Transportation Funding and Project Prioritization. Public Roads – Spring 2023. Vol. 87 No. 1. Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-23-003. Accessed here: Link

      U.S. Department of Transportation (2023). Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, Website. Accessed here: Link

      U.S. Department of Transportation. (2023). Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, User Guide. Accessed here: Link

      U.S. Department of Transportation. (2023). Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, ETC Explorer Technical Documentation. Accessed here: Link

      U.S. Department of Transportation. (2023). Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer National Results Dashboard. [Video], Accessed here: Equitable Transportation Community Explorer Video

      U.S. Department of Transportation. (2023). Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, User Guide. Accessed here: Link

      U.S. Department of Transportation. (2023). FY 2022 Thriving Communities Program: Selected Capacity Builder Profiles. Access here: Link

      U.S. Department of Transportation. (2023). Calculating Percentage of Population in Underserved Communities for SS4A. Access here: Link

      Executive Office of the President. (January, 2021). Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Accessed here: Link

      Executive Office of the President. (August, 2022). Justice40 Initiative Covered Programs List. Accessed here: Link

      Zhao, L., Huynh, N., and Hawkins, J. Framework for Quantifying Benefits to Disadvantaged Communities: Application to Nebraska’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Plan. Funded Project. Accessed here: Link.

      Strategic Workforce Development: A Follow-Up Conversation with Hudson County Community College and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825

      The Earn & Learn program was funded by a NJ PLACE 2.0 grant through the NJ Department of Labor.
      The IUOE has named the hybrid apprentice program “Earn and Learn.” The first student cohort began class in January 2022.

      Strategic Workforce Development, an FHWA Every Day Counts (EDC) Round 6 and 7 innovation, anticipates collaboration between government agencies, trade organizations, private agencies, and communities to prepare individuals for the construction workforce. The demand for workers in highway maintenance, construction, and operations is growing, as is the demand for new skill sets required for work with emerging technologies. The recruitment and retention of women and minorities in the construction sector is integral to the initiative. Through on-the-job training and supportive services program, NJDOT is exploring ways to work with contractors, contracting associations, and unions on shaping the future workforce, including programs aimed at increasing representation of women, minorities, and other disadvantaged populations in the construction and operations workforce.

      We spoke with Lori Margolin, the Associate Vice President for Continuing Education and Workforce Development at Hudson County Community College (HCCC) and Greg LaLevee, Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825 for an update on their apprenticeship program entitled Earn & Learn.

      Earn & Learn Program Background

      The IUOE Earn & Learn program is an advanced manufacturing initiative supported by a NJ PLACE 2.0 grant. HCCC and IUOE Local 825 established the program in November 2021 through an articulation agreement. The program gives students the opportunity to be dually enrolled in the union apprenticeship program and HCCC, where they will earn an Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies degree after they complete 60 credits.

      During an 18-month period, participants earn 30 credits from on-the-job training and education provided by the union and are scheduled to earn the other 30 credits from HCCC over five semesters. They attend HCCC part-time, taking two classes per semester and earning six credits per semester on average.  All classes are offered in a virtual modality.

      Q. The Earn & Learn program has been operating for a little over one year. How is program implementation going so far?

      IUOE 825 will continue to look for opportunities to collaborate with HCCC and other higher education institutions.
      HCCC Continuing Education and Workforce Development works with employers to provide training to meet a diversity of needs.

      A. Implementing the program with this first cohort of students has been a learning experience for both the HCCC and IUOE Local 825, as this initiative is the first of its kind. Program implementation is going well overall, with challenges noted below. Twenty-four of the 30 students initially accepted into the program remain enrolled. Factors influencing departures included health issues and struggles for some with the academic or other program requirements. The program is on-track to initiate a second round of applications later this year for the spring 2024 semester.

      Q. Are you making modifications to either the academic component or the hands-on training based on your experience in the first year of implementation?

      A.  As initially planned, students would earn an Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies degree after they complete 60 credits. However, we have reconfigured the degree to more closely align with the construction industry; students will earn a degree in Technical Studies with a construction concentration.

      The course work has been altered to be more directly relevant to the construction industry and to what students are learning at IUOE Local 825. For example, we have replaced some of the math and science courses more directly aligned with the HCCC construction management course work.

      While all participants take the same coursework, some modifications are available to accommodate students on different pathways. For example, a student seeking to continue their studies at a four-year university should likely take a Calculus course, whereas those not wishing to continue their education beyond an Associate Degree may opt for other available math courses.

      Q. What have been the key challenges you have encountered so far in the program implementation? How have you addressed those challenges?

      The IUOE Training Center offers simulations to prepare for operating in-field equipment.

      A. One of the main challenges can be scheduling as students must meet the demands of their on-the-job training, as well as their classroom instruction requirements. Construction jobs may be located far from one’s residence and/or require off-peak work hours, which compounds this scheduling challenge.

      Many of the participants have not had recent experience with balancing academic demands with on-the-job training. Many of the students are 25 years of age or older and have not been enrolled in school for several years. For such students, re-entering the classroom can be a “culture shock,” and requires them to learn how to prioritize academic studies.

      This is often an issue in adult learning so both a HCCC Student Success Coach and the IUOE Local 825 chief academic officer are vital partners in the program. Many HCCC initiatives include a Student Success Coach as a best practice to provide adult students with additional supports with navigating the college in terms of scheduling, instruction, and identifying resources to address other demands so they can attain success. The Student Success Coach often functions as a student advocate and navigator. The value of the Student Success Coach to the Earn & Learn program must be emphasized.

      Q. What have been some key takeaways and lessons learned so far with the program?

      HCCC and the IUOE are training workers for the construction industry, including highway construction.

      A. Creating connections among the student cohort has been an important and contributing factor to students’ ongoing success. Students have been able to develop relationships virtually through class, as well as through the Earn & Learn in-person orientation. We also convened an in-person meeting with students after the first semester to discuss issues and challenges with the Earn & Learn program. The students receive both academic and emotional support and camaraderie from one another and benefit from cohort learning.

      Also vital to identifying and addressing program challenges has been the open and clear communication channels established and nurtured between the HCCC Student Success Coach and the IUOE Local 825 chief academic officer.

      We have learned that overall program flexibility is key as well. For example, to give students the greatest scheduling flexibility and to accommodate diverse comfort levels, they are given some choice with how their HCCC academic instruction is delivered. Specifically, for some classes student can take asynchronous online classes, or opt for synchronous instruction with a live instructor.

      Q. What benefits have been achieved so far from the Earn & Learn program?

      A. Many students are surpassing their own expectations for their performance in the program, which is wonderful to experience. As one student shared, “I didn’t think I could do school again.” Most are maintaining high GPAs. I feel that the personal growth experienced by these students will also translate into them becoming better members in the IUOE union and better employees.

      Q. Are you aware of any other similar programs generating interest in the construction trade?

      Students get “hands-on” time for operating heavy equipment at the IUOE Training Facility.

      A. The Earn & Learn program is a bit unique. However, I believe the Carpenter’s Union is working on something with the state Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development and they are referring to their training centers as technical colleges. Some of the other construction trades also have arrangements with higher education institutions, such as with Thomas Edison State University.

      Other Construction-Focused Career Initiatives

      Q. During our interview last year, the goal of bridging the gap between student age when graduating Vo-Tech (17 years) and entry into an apprenticeship (age 18 required) was discussed. You were trying to arrange for a direct entry from Middlesex County Vo-Tech to a union apprenticeship with IUOE Local 825. Have you gotten any traction on that effort? Are there other construction-focused career initiatives you want to bring to our attention?

      A. Opportunities are never lost! We continue to work on advancing this goal with Middlesex County Vo-Tech of bridging student age when graduating Vo-Tech and apprenticeship entry with us. The Vo-Tech’s East Brunswick campus is located 2.5 miles from the IUOE Local 825 training center, so there is a genuine opportunity here for those students.

      Ocean County has a heavy equipment program in their Vo-Tech and we [IUOE Local 825] had an initial meeting to learn more about that effort. We also had some of their students come to our training center for a site visit.

      There are other exciting education-focused initiatives happening as well. For example, Local 825’s sister organization located in the Midwest has developed a mathematics curriculum for high school students that local districts can use. The curriculum speaks to how the student would resolve math questions as an operating engineer. IUOE Local 825’s academic officer is working to bring that curriculum to New Jersey, perhaps in collaboration with the non-profit Junior Achievement organization, which is focused on developing youth skills to promote economic success.

      An innovative Rutgers initiative led by the Rutgers Youth Success Program (RYSP) in partnership with Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) recently received new funding through a PACE grant. The RYSP program will seek to place under-represented and justice-challenged young people in transportation and infrastructure careers. The grant will support development of a pre-apprenticeship program for Operating Engineers. HCCC will be the training partner for this 18-month program.

      Middlesex County is home not only to Rutgers and IUOE Local 825, but also to many of the construction equipment dealers such as John Deere, Caterpillar, and Komatsu. However, there remains limited interaction between all these potential partners to discuss opportunities to diversify and strengthen the construction workforce.

      Q. HCCC is a co-leader with Rowan College in the Construction Center of Workforce Innovation. Can you give us a brief update on that work? Do you collaborate directly with Rowan on these initiatives and, if yes, in what way?

      A. This Construction Center of Workforce is part of the New Jersey Pathways to Career Opportunities (NJ Pathways), a collaborative program between the NJ Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) and the New Jersey Council of County Colleges. Year one work has been completed. There are ten centers for workforce innovation, including one focused on construction. HCCC is the administrative lead along with Rowan College of South Jersey for the construction innovation.

      The Construction Center of Workforce is one of ten workforce centers partnering with the state’s community colleges.

      HCCC’s efforts related to the Construction Center of Workforce Innovation, as well as through several other initiatives including the Earn & Learn Program, helped focus our successful work to expand the offerings in our construction management program. We have had an Associate Degree in construction management for a while, and now we also offer a one-year academic certificate requiring 34 credits and 2 proficiency certificates in either construction administration or construction technology requiring 13 or 14 credits. We also offer seven-to-nine individual courses that offer certification in specific areas of construction management. Students can opt to take one or two courses or all the offerings. If students opt to take these offerings as a noncredit course, they can transfer or articulate for credit in the HCCC Construction Management academic certificate or degree program.

      HCCC also offers the opportunity to earn a National Institute of Certified Engineers and Technicians (NICET) certificate for the field of Asphalt Testing and other similar offerings, all of which have been very popular. In all, by offering these different degree and non-degree options, students are afforded flexibility to acquire skills that best meets their career advancement goals. This work also helps us advance equity goals as well, as students can learn at their own pace and effectively build their own career pathway beginning where they wish to start.

      Q. Do you see any ways that NJDOT’s Civil Rights, Human Resources, or other units could engage with you to advance programs in NJ?

      A. The State and NJDOT are seeking greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the construction field and on job sites. To achieve this goal, we need to operationalize strategies that will encourage greater diversity among persons who are considering construction as a viable career path and who may apply for construction jobs. Incremental progress in this regard is possible if we work together. We must look beyond meeting a requirement for a specific number of diverse workers on a job site – instead we should focus attention on developing a plan to generate overall interest in the field and set mid-point goals toward achieving that plan.

      On another note, generating interest for a career in heavy equipment operations among youth, especially among youth living in urban areas, is challenging as these individuals often have little exposure to our trade compared to those who reside in more rural areas and who may have experience or familiarity with farm and other heavy equipment. Working with the Junior Achievement organization may provide another pathway for us to identify a new generation of prospective heavy equipment operators and other construction workers.

      We would welcome opportunities to sit at the table with NJDOT to advance careers in construction and are open to developing and refining training and education programs to meet the diverse needs of the workforce.


      Resources

      Federal Highway Administration, Every Day Counts Round 7, Strategic Workforce Development
      https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/swd/

      Hudson County Community College, Workforce Development
      https://www.hccc.edu/programs-courses/workforce-development/index.html

      Hudson County Community College Center for Construction Management
      https://www.hccc.edu/programs-courses/academic-pathways/stem/center-for-construction-management.html

      International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 825
      http://www.iuoe825.org/

      NJ Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development
      https://njworkforce.org

      NJ Department of Labor, NJ PLACE 2.0 Grants
      https://www.nj.gov/labor/lwdhome/press/2020/20200131_njplace.shtml

      NJ Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeships
      https://www.nj.gov/labor/career-services/apprenticeship/

      NJ Pathways to Career Opportunities
      https://njpathways.org/centers-of-workforce-innovation/

      Rutgers Youth Success Program (RYSP)
      https://cait.rutgers.edu/facilities-equipment/rutgers-youth-success-program/