NJ STIC 2nd Quarter 2022 Meeting

The NJ State Transportation Innovation Council (NJ STIC) held its second Quarterly Meeting of CY 2022 on June 15, 2022. The STIC Meeting Agenda had been distributed to the invitees prior to the meeting. Attendees to the online meeting had opportunities to offer comments or ask questions, or use the chat feature.

Brandee Chapman, NJDOT's Innovation Coordinator, greeted the meeting participants and facilitated the meeting procedings. Michael Russo, NJDOT Assistant Commissioner, provided Welcome and Opening Remarks.

FHWA EDC Innovation. Helene Roberts, FHWA's Innovation Coordinator and Performance Manager, noted that there are six months left in EDC-6 and the EDC-7 cycle will be beginning in January 2023. She does not have information about the specific innovations that will be part of the next cycle. The EDC-7 Summit will probably be held in early December as a virtual event and will be followed by a NJ Caucus where the NJ STIC will discuss the opportunities and barriers of these new innovation initiatives and consider what initiatives New Jersey should pursue.

Ms. Roberts noted that New Jersey was a featured state at the National STIC meeting held on June 1st.   The NJ STIC presentation team highlighted several initiatives including the Let’s Go Workshop, the Communications Plan, and the UAS Program.  A recording of the National STIC meeting and the NJ presentation can be found here.

Core Innovation Area (CIA) Updates. The meeting continued with presentations from Core Innovative Area (CIA) leaders who provided updates of the status of EDC initiatives on the topics of Safety, Infrastructure Preservation, Mobility and Operations, and Organizational Improvement and Support.

The Safety update provided a timely overview of a new federal program, Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A), authorized under the Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Bill.  Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and Local Governments are among the eligible recipients for planning and action implementation grants for safety improvements.  A Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) was recently issued, and the briefing presentation covered, among other topics, eligibility requirements, funding levels, grant types, cost share and match provisions, and key deadline dates for questions and submissions.

The Earn and Learn Program, an innovative partnership of the HCCC and IUOE, draws the upon a state labor grant, NJ PLACE 2.0.

Featured Presentation – Strategic Workforce Development.  The featured presentation(s) explored the potential roles of community college, union and state agencies in establishing workforce training and apprenticeship programs to meet the needs of 21st Century construction jobs in transportation.  The presentations were given by Lori Margolin, Associate Vice President, Continuing Education and Workforce Development, Hudson County Community College (HCCC); Nick Toth, Director, Office of Apprenticeships, NJ Department of Labor & Workforce Development (NJDOL); and Greg Lalevee, Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825.

Feature Presentation #1 - Continuing Education & Workforce Development, Hudson Community College. Ms. Margolin described the mission of the college and her office focusing on student success and diversity, equity and inclusion. She spoke about the Earn & Learn program, an innovative dual education program created with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825 that allows individuals to earn an Associates degree while gaining hands-on instruction and earning a paycheck in the Union’s apprenticeship program. For this initiative, Hudson County Community College (HCCC) developed a new concentration within the Technical Studies degree major tailored to the needs of IUOE Local 825. Participants are supported through funding from Local 825 and a NJ Department of Labor PLACE 2.0 grant. Ms. Margolin’s office works with employers who are having trouble finding eligible workers. HCCC builds training programs which include experiential learning and create career pathways for students, identifies a diverse pool of candidates, and develops short-term solutions while building a talent pipeline. HCCC is the administrative lead for the Construction Center for Workforce Innovation created this year as part of the NJ Pathways to Career Opportunities Program. The Center will focus on expanding career pathways in construction, creating new partnerships with K-12 schools and 4-year colleges and universities, and expanding the dual education program with new partners.

Virtual Reality (VR) is being used by the IUOE to prepare workforce for operating the equipment and technology of the 21st Century.

Feature Presentation #2 - NJ Department of Labor & Workforce Development, Office of Apprenticeships.  Mr. Toth noted that the Murphy administration’s prioritization of apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs resulted in the creation of the Office of Apprenticeship in the NJ Department of Labor (NJDOL) in 2018. The Office partners with US Department of Labor, and is the one-stop shop for NJ employers, nonprofits, and educational institutions that are working with registered apprenticeships, a formal program that advances workforce development. NJDOL is seeking to expand apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship in high-growth fields. The Office of Apprenticeship seeks to be the connection between educational institutions, employers and advocacy organizations. Mr. Toth reviewed several of the specific programs offered including GAINS, NJ PLACE 2.0, and NJ BUILD. These programs ensure that employers get the talent they need and, with an emphasis on equity and inclusion, provide entry points for everyone. All grants have language that helps to remove economic barriers to training and upskilling through targeted investments. He discussed pre-apprenticeship programs that provide classroom training and curriculum, strategies for long-term success, access to support services, hands-on training, facilitated entry, and occupation-specific training.

Mr. Toth noted that a fairly new requirement of Public Works Contractor Registration is participation in a registered apprenticeship program. The program is one means by which the state of New Jersey can maximize benefits to NJ residents when spending state resources. The contractors that NJDOT is working with have to comply with this new law, and the Office of Apprenticeship can work with these contractors, and provide funding to help them comply with the law. The number of registered apprenticeship programs has increased by 77 percent since Gov. Murphy took office and NJDOL has doubled the number of women in registered apprenticeship programs.

The IUOE Training Facility offers "hands-on" opportunities for using milling and pavement equipment in the winter months.

Feature Presentation #3 - International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Mr. Lalevee began by explaining that the IUOE is comprised of heavy equipment operators who build the critical infrastructure that NJ residents use every day. Mr. Lalevee noted that Local 825 assesses market needs in order to create a 21st Century workforce that can work on future transportation, energy, and clean water projects. Local 825 chose to establish a technical college that would upskill union members to gain competence with new technology including artificial intelligence, full robotic controls, GPS controls, among others. The Union sees value in partnering with the county Vo-Tech schools to provide a pipeline of future participants for its apprenticeship program. The Union recently hired an in-house academic to create curricula and build partnership, such as the Earn & Learn program developed with HCCC. Mr. Lalevee described their training facilities and equipment in South Brunswick. He noted that two significant barriers to entry to apprenticeships have been transportation and childcare. Part of the incentive for establishing a technical college was to take advantage of NJDOL programs to fund transportation for program participants. He noted that apprenticeships at IUOE Local 825 are in demand.

Mileage-Based User Fee Pilot Program. Zenobia Fields, NJDOT Director of Government and Community Relations, announced that Eastern Transportation Coalition and NJDOT are launching Phase 4 of the Mileage-Based User Fee Pilot Program. Current funding for transportation infrastructure comes from the gas tax. With a shift to electric and hybrid vehicles, a new funding approach is needed. With an MBUF program, drivers pay for the miles they travel. NJDOT is looking for 400 members of the general public to register for the pilot. Go to the website for more information and to sign up by July 31st to participate.

Reminders and Updates. Ms. Chapman closed the meeting with information and reminders on the online location of several resources that highlight the NJ STIC and other innovation topics funded through research and technology transfer activities, including:

The NJ STIC Innovative Initiatives Survey has been distributed via email. Responses will be shared at a future STIC meeting and innovative initiatives will be featured through the NJDOT Technology Transfer program. Please share the survey with your networks – the target audience is members of local public agencies, MPOs and other transportation professionals. Responses are due by July 15th.  Use this link to the NJ STIC Innovative Initiatives Survey.

The Bureau of Research has prepared a NJ nomination for the 2022 STIC Excellence Award and named several initiatives including the creation of the new CIA Team, the Innovation Coordinator position, and the STIC Communications Plan, piloting of the Let’s Go Workshop, the EDC-6 Caucus, and the NJ highlight at the National STIC meeting, among other accomplishments. The nomination will be circulating soon for signature and endorsement.

Ms. Chapman noted that STIC Incentive Program funding is available. The program provides up to $100,000 per state. Applications are due by August 2022. Local Public Agencies are eligible to apply. The NJDOT Bureau of Research has developed a set of guidelines for project administration for selected projects.

Sal Cowan spoke in recognition of Sue Catlett who is retiring from NJDOT after 39 years of service.

Amanda Gendek, Manager of the NJDOT Bureau of Research, and Mike Russo provided closing remarks.

 

A recording of the NJ STIC June 2022 meeting can be found here.

 

The Meeting Presentations can be found in its entirety here and or in sections below.

NJ STIC June 2022 Meeting Recording

Slide image reading: Welcome, Mike Russo, Assistant Commissioner, NJDOT Planning, Multimodal & Grant AdministrationWelcome Remarks

Slide image reading: FHWA Updates, Helene Roberts, P.E., Innovation Coordinator & Performance Manager, FHWA, NJ Division OfficeFHWA EDC Innovation Updates

Slide image reading: CIA Team Safety NJDOT - Dan LiSanti, FHWA - Keith SkiltonCIA Team Update: Safety

CIA Team Update: Infrastructure Preservation

CIA Team Update: Organizational Improvement and Support

Slide image reading CIA Team Mobility & Ops NJDOT - Sue Catlett, FHWA - Ek PhomsavathCIA Team Update: Mobility and Operations

Feature Presentation: Strategic Workforce Development

Announcement: Mileage-Based User Fee Pilot Program

Reminders, Announcements, and Thank You

Exploring Strategic Workforce Development – Model Programs, Partnerships and Lessons from Oregon

FHWA is promoting Strategic Workforce Development in highway maintenance, construction and operations.

FHWA is promoting Strategic Workforce Development in highway maintenance, construction and operations.

Strategic Workforce Development, an FHWA Every Day Counts (EDC) Round 6 innovative initiative, anticipates collaboration between government agencies, trade organizations, private firms 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. An important element of this initiative is the recruitment and retention of women and minorities in the construction sector. Through on-the-job training and supportive services program, NJDOT is exploring ways to work with contractors, contracting associations, and unions on shaping their future workforces, including programs aimed at increasing representation of women, minorities, and other disadvantaged populations in the construction and operations workforce.

We interviewed representatives from Oregon’s Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Bureau of Labor & Industries (BOLI), including Angela Crain (ODOT Civil Rights Manager), Cye Fink (ODOT Workforce Development and Civil Rights/EE Manager) and Larry Williams (BOLI, Operations and Policy Analyst).  We sought to explore the distinct roles and partnership between the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries (BOLI) in funding, promoting, and providing technical assistance for on-the-job training programs, and pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, to support all workers including women, minorities and other disadvantaged individuals seeking to enter highway construction and other related fields.

Highway Construction Workforce Development Program

Q. Can you please share with us, based on your experience, your thoughts on what seems to be an overall lack of awareness– especially among women and minority persons – of jobs or careers in the highway construction industry?

The ODOT Office of Civil Rights uses FHWA funding to support On the Job Training and Supportive Services.

The ODOT Office of Civil Rights uses FHWA funding to support On the Job Training and Supportive Services.

The lack of awareness primarily stems from the school systems. For years, school guidance counselors have not promoted any path but college to most of their students.  Highway construction is presented as a viable career only to those students who are not going on to college.

We work to raise awareness of careers in highway construction by disseminating information on these opportunities to school counselors and parents, as they are the support system for children. Careers in highway construction offer competitive paying jobs with family- supporting wages. We are trying to reach the students, beginning at the elementary school level because, unless students know someone who works in construction, they are mostly unaware of the career options in the field.

Some of the most successful linkages have been made by teachers who work in construction during the summer months and bring their experience back to the students. For example, they will use construction-related math curricula in the classroom. Shop classes, which were useful in helping students become familiar with tools and various trades, are rarely offered anymore due to budget cuts.

Information about the majority of our DOT programs is spread by word of mouth. We use the testimonials of individuals who have been through our programs, and we do a lot of outreach to communicate personal success stories of program participants. We also work with our partners, Building Trades Councils of Oregon, Akana, Oregon Tradeswomen, and other stakeholders and agencies, to get the word out. And we, of course, participate in career fairs, and high school Career and Technical Education programs to build the career pipeline. As far as encouraging Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and women candidates, our numbers are growing steadily each year with more starting and finishing our programs, but the ratio is still not where we want it to be.

The Oregon Bureaus of Labor & Industries is responsible for pre-pre-apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and apprenticeship programs.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries is responsible for pre-pre-apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and apprenticeship programs.

Q. We understand that 2009 legislation created Oregon’s Highway Construction Workforce Development Program (HCWDP) designed to diversify six heavy construction trades related to highway construction including carpenters and cement masons. This nationally recognized innovative initiative enables registered apprentices and those preparing to enter an apprenticeship in one of these trades to receive support in ten areas, including child care, travel expenses, lodging/meal allowance, tools, and PPE, among others. Are all of these efforts supported through HCWDP?

We use FHWA and state dollars to fund the program and follow federal regulations (23 CFR Part 230) that lay out what these 10 supportive services have to look like. In 2009, the Oregon legislature passed a bill that required ODOT to provide On-the-Job Training and workforce development supportive services, applying language from the federal regulations. Once this law was established there could be no question that the funding would be dedicated to the program rather than other priorities, such as road repair. Since this focus on workforce development is embedded in Oregon statute, ODOT has a pathway for consistent funding.

In 2016 we added hardship assistance to the list of available supports offered by HCWDP. Overall, we are working to support people in getting on a career track by offering supportive services that enable them to stay in the programs and eventually reach journey worker status, which offers meaningful long-term career development. The heavy highway trades are the focus of the program because the workers are mobile. Although there may be layoffs or projects end, as long as they stay in the system, participants will continue to have the opportunity to work on ODOT projects so they can graduate to journey worker status.

Q. ODOT and the BOLI have partnered to meet the goals of adding more diversity in hiring, increasing apprenticeship numbers and providing resources for training. What have been the key benefits of ODOT partnering with BOLI?

Our partnership with BOLI has been vital to our success. In Oregon, BOLI oversees apprenticeships and approves pre-apprenticeship programs. BOLI’s key value to HCWDP comes from their connections with their subcontractors who have experience in promoting and supporting workforce development in the highway construction trades, particularly among women and minorities. BOLI works with the contractors affiliated with the training programs, has authority over the contractors, and maintains a database to track the apprentices. When workers graduate to the journey worker level, they can work anywhere within the state and nationwide. This program offers meaningful, long-term career development.

The ODOT/BOLI collaboration provides needed supports to help people stay in the apprenticeship programs.

The ODOT/BOLI collaboration provides needed supports to help people stay in the apprenticeship programs.

There is no value in ODOT having its own apprenticeship-type programs when BOLI is providing them in alignment with US DOL. We at ODOT are embedding elements in the program including respectful workplaces, Green Dot, Riseup, and third party oversight through Portland State University, who are helping us with planning. Additionally, BOLI receives grants to target particular workforce areas; they leverage our resources at ODOT, while we simultaneously leverage their resources.

From the BOLI perspective, the partnership with ODOT allows BOLI to provide the support side to the apprenticeship programs. If you have the apprentices out there, you need to have the supports in place to help them succeed.

In most cases, BOLI has closed gaps in terms of completion rates for underrepresented demographic groups. For African American men, there has been improvement, but we want to close the gap further. There may be barriers that still need to be addressed. In addition, we have shown that the program works, as it is improving success rates, but it is only available to those apprentices associated with the highway construction trades. For example, we provide child care for a cement mason but not a brick mason. That is an area of concern for BOLI as they seek to determine ways to provide similar supports for other trades moving forward.

Apprenticeships and Pre-apprenticeships

Q. ODOT and BOLI have focused on improving opportunities for individuals who graduate from a pre-apprenticeship program to get more trade-specific training and improved access to registration into a highway trade apprenticeship program. What can you share about this work?

Apprenticeships in Oregon are regulated and supported by BOLI and offer on the job training and classroom training and typically require 2-5 years to complete and may be union-based or open shop. We focus on connecting pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships.

Under the BOLI umbrella, there are apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and pre-pre-apprenticeship programs. Pre-pre-apprenticeships help people overcome basic gaps to complete prerequisites needed for pre-apprenticeships, such as needing a driver’s license, GED or high school diploma. The pre-apprenticeship might provide skills training for those who need hours learning to use tools.

We have worked on direct entry with some of the trades so individuals can join an apprenticeship program without completing the ranking process or interview because the pre-apprenticeship has helped them prepare for the job, with some individuals also bringing work history that enables them to skip one or more levels of training. They have to complete the application and meet minimum qualifications that can be simply being 18 years old and having a high school diploma or GED, and in other cases, may require a minimum level of math proficiency, for example.

Q. Is this effort the same as, or part of, your On-the-Job Training (OJT)? Could you speak about your On-the-Job Training (OJT) program?

Supportive services can increase diversity in apprenticeship programs and the highway construction workforce.

Supportive services can increase diversity in apprenticeship programs and the highway construction workforce.

On-the-Job Training/Supportive Services program funding from FHWA is internally directed to STEM/Engineering outreach, recruitment, and support. OJT is a very small piece of what we at ODOT do; only about two people every year go through this OJT training because most contractors are affiliated with a formal apprenticeship program.

ODOT and FHWA created OJT for candidates with no experience to offer them a chance to begin work with a contractor directly. As part of the federal regulations, OJT is provided through each project. If the contractor awarded the contract has no affiliation as a training agent themselves or they are not Oregon-based, and have no formal apprenticeship program, they can use one of our in-house training programs to fulfill the contractual requirement.

It is the small contractor or the first-time prime who would use this OJT option.  We provide some incentives, including reimbursing $20/hour for every apprenticeship hour. An individual with no prior experience who applies off the street with that contractor must receive training. The contractor is paying journey worker level pay, and OJT does provide a means to recruit candidates from underrepresented groups. It’s a business choice that the contractor makes. The 2,000-hour OJT program trains for labor skills sets, and we also have a 6,000-hour construction project management program. This informal training is not tied to a path to journey worker status but there is the potential for the individual to have direct entry into the apprenticeship system after completing the OJT training.

Q. We know that reliable transportation and childcare are often cited as roadblocks to entry into the construction sector, particularly for women and minority candidates. Can you tell us how supportive services such as childcare and payment of travel costs help sustain apprentices?

Offering incentives and support services for apprentices is critical to their success. Childcare is a big issue. It’s not only single moms who face childcare challenges, but any single parent and/or underemployed families. Awareness of the HCWDP childcare support options has spread through word of mouth.

Work hours for highway construction are long. For example, apprentices may leave their house at 4:00 am to travel 40 miles to the worksite and work 10-hours. The challenges for us in supporting childcare include the costs and finding a provider that has capacity and offers their services in off-peak hours. ODOT/BOLI uses the state childcare provider certification system to identify providers. We give incentives to providers so that they can offer alternative hours to accommodate the long work days. We don’t have enough funds to subsidize all the childcare needed. Childcare is provided using a BOLI-determined sliding scale formula based on economic need and wage rate; the support level declines as the individuals progress through the system and earn higher wages.

The Pre-Apprenticeship Child Care Initiative (PACCI) program began as a pilot to provide childcare supports to pre-apprentices but is now a part of the general operation. Pre-apprenticeship programs, which are often 8-12 week courses in the classroom, may provide on-site child care. We are indirectly supporting these childcare opportunities.

Everything we do helps keep people on the path to journey work. With the regional wildfires displacing workers, we have been distributing hardship funds. Apprentices are eligible for this support. The transition between pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeships is accomplished through Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees (JATCs) and we work with them to connect to the primes and contractors. There is usually a waiting list of apprentices available.

One difficult challenge that we are seeing is that primes are looking for apprentices with three to four years of experience. They have less incentive to pick up the first-year apprentices who will require more supervision and training. We are trying to address this issue and find ways to support these individuals within the system to acquire experience.

BOLI helps individuals find where to start on the path to a journeyworker position and, through its partners, provides support along the way.

BOLI helps individuals find where to start on the path to a journeyworker position and, through its partners, provides support along the way.

Q. What can you share with us about the newer “Build your future. Build Oregon.” initiative and what special efforts are being undertaken to generate interest among underrepresented demographic groups?

ODOT receives federal and state funding for the workforce development program. Through an interagency agreement BOLI provides contract administration and ODOT holds BOLI accountable for the 10 required support areas of the program. BOLI then contracts out all these deliverables through a competitive process. We collaborate with BOLI on the subcontracting deliverables At any one time, BOLI might have six to eight subcontractors. One of the partners, Akana, embraced how to implement all these support services through one of these contracts, and they branded the supportive services piece as “Build your future. Build Oregon.” This effort has helped broadcast information about the workforce development program throughout Oregon and helps make more people aware of various program elements and assistance available.

Q. Are you aware of any model practices currently in use among community-based organizations to support women, minorities, and others looking at the construction trades?

Three Oregon-based organizations that provide support for underrepresented populations are: Oregon Tradeswomen which helps women build economic independence; Constructing Hope which is a pre-apprenticeship program in Portland; and Akana which is a Native American-owned, private sector, for-profit organization.

To increase awareness in careers in construction, Akana presents a podcast occasionally. Oregon Tradeswomen historically runs a women and trades fair with dedicated times for adults and for students. This is an opportunity for individuals to meet with people in the trades and talk about those trades and what careers paths they offer. (The fair has been on hiatus due to Covid-19.)

Q. How do you reach people who are no longer in school?

The average age for apprentices is 29 for males, and a little older for women. Some are seeking a second career, or maybe they have some construction experience, but it was limited to residential construction. To raise awareness of the HCWDP program, we work with various membership groups including: the National Association of Minority Contractors; Portland business development groups; Project Working Groups; Chambers of Commerce; veterans; advisory groups; and Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance programs on and near tribal reservations.

We have found that it is important to help people know where to start. We are working on simplifying the on-ramp to the whole system and providing a flow chart to help describe access to the system. We are looking forward to in-person recruitment events again after the last couple of years of virtual meetings.

Looking Ahead

Q. Do you have any concluding thoughts or advice on what strategies NJDOT can pursue to encourage more New Jerseyans to consider a career in the construction industry?

Seek and access the available FHWA funding, and direct it to your workforce development or OJT/Supportive Services programs. You can accomplish what we have in Oregon without legislative mandates. A lot of states work off their annual FHWA allocation but this would be only about $78,000 for Oregon – definitely not enough to build a workforce development program. Instead, work with your organization and your FHWA division field office to access other federal funding and more recently available Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) dollars.  Without these additional funds, we would not have adequate funding for all our programs and to grow the pipeline and help people move to journey worker status.

In terms of career progression opportunities beyond journey worker, participants could start their own business, maybe becoming a DBE or WBE, and graduate from a DBE program and become a contractor.

It is important to recognize that time is needed to measure success of initiatives like HCWDP, as participants will need two to six years to progress through the system. We have been at this for years and have dedicated partners. You need the sustained funding. There will be no big impact achieved if you can only give out a little bit of money each year to support efforts.

Resources

Akana
http://akana.us/
http://akana.us/odot-boli-main/odot-boli-apprentices/
http://akana.us/odot-boli-main/odot-boli-applicants/

Constructing Hope
https://www.constructinghope.org/

Federal Highway Administration On the Job Training and Supportive Services
https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/civilrights/programs/ojt.cfm

National Association of Minority Contractors
https://namcnational.org/

ODOT/BOLI Highway Construction Workforce Development Program Final Report IAA 30668 July 2015 – June 2017
https://www.oregon.gov/odot/Business/OCR/SiteAssets/Pages/Workforce-Development/ODOT_BOLI_Highway_Construction_Workforce_Development_Program_2017.pdf

Oregon State Building Trades Council
https://www.oregonbuildingtrades.com/

Oregon Tradeswomen
https://oregontradeswomen.org/

Real Help for Working Oregonians – The BOLI_ODOT Workforce Development Program
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sNS5xV9Pa8

What is Innovative in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law? Greater Investment in Safety, Equity, and Climate and Resilience

On November 15, 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), often referred to as the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law” (BIL), was signed into law.  With the BIL’s passage, the United States has committed approximately $550 billion to transportation infrastructure within a wider $1 trillion + federal reinvestment in the nation’s infrastructure [1].

Much of the BIL transportation funding seeks to encourage and prioritize the repair, reconstruction and replacement and maintenance of existing transportation infrastructure with appropriations totaling some $350.8 billion (FY 2022-2026), drawing from the highway trust fund ($303.5 billion) and advance appropriations from the general fund (47.3 billion). Most of the highway funding is apportioned to States based on formulas specified in Federal law.  New Jersey could receive approximately $8.1 billion over five years for highways and bridges, based on the federal highway funding formula, or about 41.6 percent more than the State’s funding under current law [2]. However, the BiL also provides significant funding through various competitive grant programs such as the bridges and megaprojects that can demonstrate substantial economic benefits.  New Jersey’s Portal North Bridge under construction in Secaucus reportedly may meet the requirements for a Capital Investment Grant for transit projects [2].

 

 

All U.S. DOT modes will receive transportation funding from BiL with the greatest amount handled through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
All U.S. DOT modes will receive transportation funding from BiL with the greatest amount handled through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
Most of the highway trust funding is apportioned by formula to the states.
Most of the highway trust funding is apportioned by formula to the states.
A great deal of the BiL funding being directed for HIPs from the General Fund is formula-based.
A great deal of the BiL funding being directed for HIPs from the General Fund is formula-based.

Notably, the BIL takes innovative steps in the realms of safety, equity, and climate change and resilience to increase investment and resources for programs, new and old, that will tackle the challenges of the 21st century in both a national and New Jersey-specific context. Growing awareness of the broad harms of road hazards, inequity and injustice, and climate change will inform not only the purpose of specific program investments but influence transportation planning, project delivery, and research for years to come.

Two new climate-focused programs, the Carbon Reduction Program and PROTECT, together match the scale of funding set aside for CMAQ—widening the scope of environmental concerns beyond congestion mitigation and air quality.
Two new climate-focused programs, the Carbon Reduction Program and PROTECT, together match the scale of funding set aside for CMAQ—widening the scope of environmental concerns beyond congestion mitigation and air quality.

Safety

A major program that will advance safety innovation and renovations across the country is the $5 billion, FY 2022-2026 Safe Streets for All (SS4A) Program. A “Complete Streets” program, SS4A is a discretionary program which seeks to advance USDOT’s goal of zero deaths and serious injuries on our nation’s roadways by implementing multi-modal improvements and safety treatments. Examples of applicable SS4A modifications include separated bicycle lanes, traffic calming road design changes, rumble strips, wider edge lines, flashing beacons, and better signage. Metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), local, and tribal governments are eligible to apply for this funding. Separate provisions in BIL define Complete Streets standards and policies. Additional information on SS4A can be found here. FHWA provides accessible information on Complete Streets here.

A “complete street” in Washington, D.C. with several community livability features for an urban setting such as wide sidewalks with tree coverage, traffic calming design, and a physically protected middle bike lane.  Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash.
A “complete street” in Washington, D.C. with several community livability features for an urban setting such as wide sidewalks with tree coverage, traffic calming design, and a physically protected middle bike lane.  Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash.

Changes have been made to existing safety programs such as the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) which could prove to more holistically mitigate road hazards. Eligibility for HSIP’s funds (up to 10 percent) can now be used for “specified safety projects (including non-infrastructure safety projects related to education, research, enforcement, emergency services, and safe routes to school)” [1]. Definitions for the program have been modified to recognize as eligible a variety of new types of projects such as traffic control devices for pedestrians and bicyclists and “roadway improvements that separate motor vehicles from bicycles or pedestrians” [1]. State-level assessments of vulnerable road users are rolled into the requirements of the HSIP. More information on these guidance changes can be found here.

Funding for highway safety traffic programs under the BIL are $13 billion more than the levels established for the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. In FY2022-2026, 402 formula funding for highway safety traffic programs is expected to allocate approximately $42 million to New Jersey to help improve driver behavior and reduce deaths and injuries from motor vehicle-related crashes. This funding represents about a 29 percent increase over FAST Act levels [2] when averaged on an annual basis. Such increases in funding for roadway safety improvement provides an opportunity to put forward educational, enforcement and design strategies to counter a recent surge in US and NJ traffic fatalities.

Equity

To promote and implement equity-oriented innovation, the current administration has held itself to a “Justice40 commitment,” the goal of which is to deliver 40 percent of the benefits of the climate and energy related investments to disadvantaged communities [3]. This commitment is reflected in BIL’s transportation funding. One example provided by USDOT is that $5.6 billion in Low- or No-Emission Bus Grants to transition to low- or zero-emission buses will be assessed and likely partially directed to low-income communities to advance environmental justice.

USDOT developed a definition for disadvantaged communities (DACs) to be utilized in connection with certain criteria under Justice40-covered grant programs. The DAC definition draws upon data for 22 indicators collected at the U.S. Census tract level, which are then grouped into six categories of transportation disadvantage to identify places that are disadvantaged.

The Justice40 Disadvantaged Community Interim Definition goes as follows:

  • Transportation access disadvantage identifies communities and places where residents spend more, and take longer, to get where they need to go.
  • Health disadvantage identifies communities based on variables associated with adverse health outcomes, disability, as well as environmental exposures.
  • Environmental disadvantage identifies communities with disproportionately high levels of certain air pollutants and high potential presence of lead-based paint in housing units.
  • Economic disadvantage identifies areas and populations with high poverty, low wealth, lack of local jobs, low homeownership, low educational attainment, and high inequality.
  • Resilience disadvantage identifies communities vulnerable to hazards caused by climate change.
  • Equity disadvantage identifies communities with a high percentile of persons (age 5+) who speak English "less than well."

To assist grant applicants in identifying whether a proposed project is located in a DAC, USDOT provides a list of U.S. Census tracts that meet the DAC definition and a corresponding mapping tool,  Transportation Disadvantaged Census Tracts (Historically Disadvantaged Communities).

Several USDOT programs are using the interim definition of DACs to ask discretionary grant applicants and formula program administrators to identify how their projects benefit DACs. More information on how the Justice40 commitment shapes the equity orientation of BIL’s transportation funding can be found here.

One major new BIL program addressing inequities within America’s transportation infrastructure is the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program. The discretionary program was conceived to provide $1 billion over five years to remedy the negative effects of past transportation investment decisions that divided communities [1], such as highway expansions that cut cities in half. Applicants for Reconnecting Communities funding can seek capital constructions grants (such as for the replacement of an eligible facility with a new facility that restores community connectivity) or as well as planning grants and technical assistance grants. More information about this innovative program to redress the adverse cumulative effects borne by communities from past transportation investments can be found here.

For New Jersey, the Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities Program is another innovative program that holds promise for redressing the environmental health effects attributable to siting and operating regional goods movement facilities. By funding the study of, and competitive grants to reduce, truck idling and emissions at ports (such as promotion of port electrification and possibly hydrogen-fuel technologies), pollutants and adverse health disparities borne by port communities could be reduced. Northern New Jersey, as one of the most important freight hubs in North America, is likely to receive some of the $400 million available in discretionary funding (FY2022-FY2026) as well as a portion of the Port Infrastructure Development Program’s annual budget, recently increased to $450 million. These investments to modernize and reduce the environmental burdens of the nation’s freight infrastructure could reduce unfairly distributed health hazards in New Jersey.

In line with the Justice40 commitment, a number of regulatory changes to existing programs contain equity-oriented provisions. In the continuation of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the Metropolitan Planning Program has a BIL requirement “to consider equitable and proportional representation of population of metropolitan planning area when the MPO designates officials or representatives” [1]. Such requirements, even when non-binding, support a wider culture and consideration of equity in how the nation’s urban and transportation policies are devised and implemented. Many communities today live with the legacy of decisions made without their input, and so this innovative provision in the Metropolitan Planning Program is an appropriate step to discontinue such inequities in institutional processes.

USDOT’s Disadvantaged Communities map of New Jersey Census Tracts illustrates several places (in yellow) that should inform project planning that is aligned with the Justice40 Commitment
USDOT’s Disadvantaged Communities map of New Jersey Census Tracts illustrates several places (in yellow) that should inform project planning that is aligned with the Justice40 Commitment

Climate & Resilience

The climate and resilience orientation of the BIL presents innovation not only in fashioning new programs but in integrating carbon reduction goals into existing infrastructure funding frameworks. The newly established Carbon Reduction Program is a formula-funded $6.4 billion addition to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for the purpose of backing projects that reduce transportation emissions, and support development of broader carbon reduction strategies. Projects as varied as congestion pricing systems, infrastructure for alternative fueled vehicles (electric, hydrogen, propane, and natural gas), port electrification, replacement of street lighting and traffic control devices with energy-efficient alternatives, and public transportation are eligible. Additional information on the Carbon Reduction Program can be found here.

Increased need for disaster resiliency in transportation systems informs the purpose of the newly established Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative Efficient, and Cost-saving Transportation (PROTECT) program. Like the Carbon Reduction Program, PROTECT injects $7.3 billion in the HTF for a formula distribution to the states and also provides $1.4 billion in discretionary funds. This $8.7 billion will help fund resilience improvements in highways, transit systems, intercity passenger rail, and port facilities, as well as support the development of resiliency and evacuation plans. For FY2022 alone, New Jersey is expected to receive roughly $34 million [4] from PROTECT, presenting the opportunity to proactively guard the State’s transportation system from hazards related to climate change. Discussion from the National League of Cities on PROTECT can be found here.

Within the realm of innovative transportation technology, the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program seeks to expand the supply of infrastructure to support the growing presence, if not the transition, of the nation’s fleet to electric and alternative fuel vehicles. Providing approximately $5 billion over five years, NEVI is designed to establish Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations “along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors, particularly along the Interstate Highway System.” Building on existing federal plans such as Alternative Fuel Corridors, NEVI seeks to guarantee interstate travel by electric vehicle nationally.

Given that New Jersey has the highest number of electric cars per charging station of any state in the country, this additional push is well-suited to the state’s needs and climate goals. The NEVI formula is expected to provide New Jersey with $104.4 million; at an estimated cost per station of $173,000, this level of investment would pay for around 600 charging stations [5]. This funding represents 2.5 percent of the total fund which is roughly commensurate with New Jersey’s Census 2020 population share of 2.8 percent. Another $1.4 billion is available through NEVI discretionary funding that New Jersey could compete to receive.

Similarly, the discretionary Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Program is a competitive funding program with $2.5 billion available to implement innovative fueling infrastructure. At least fifty percent of this funding must be used for a community grant program that prioritizes projects in rural areas, low- and moderate-income communities, and communities with a low ratio of private parking spaces. New Jersey governments’ ability to compete for this funding could shape the built environment and advance the state’s carbon reduction goals for years to come.

Additional information on the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program can be found here. Additional information on how NEVI and the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure program connect within new federal funding programs for EV Charging can found here.  An article of NEVI’s role in New Jersey can found here.

Charging Station sign: Increased investments in EV charging technology will promote changes in built environment and the energy mix of transportation.  Photo by Michael Marais on Unsplash.
Charging Station sign: Increased investments in EV charging technology will promote changes in built environment and the energy mix of transportation.  Photo by Michael Marais on Unsplash.

Conclusion

These new and innovative programs and provisions of the BiL focus on safety, equity, climate change and resilience topics.  However, the BiL’s highway provisions establish funding and make changes to numerous other programs focused on the nation’s continuing infrastructure, congestion, safety, community, environmental and project delivery challenges. The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program, the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) Program, the National Highway Freight Program (NHFP), the Highway System Improvement Program, and the National Highway Performance Program (NHPP) are just some of the existing Federal-aid apportioned programs for which changes in funding, eligible projects, eligible entities and federal shares, among other provisions, are being made.

Other new discretionary programs are established for significant infrastructure programs and freight, equity, planning and project delivery. Research, development, technology and education (RDT&E) program funding levels are authorized with various highway research set-asides established to support deployment and operation of innovative technologies to pilot road usage fees, accelerate digital construction management systems, and advance mobility programs.

The BiL has been characterized as a “once in a generation investment in infrastructure.”  As with prior Federal transportation spending bills, the BiL contains provisions that can be expected to influence the nation’s economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability and development priorities. In this case, the BiL offers new opportunities for planning, building, and maintaining a transportation system that is more reliable and safe, equitable, and resilient to economic and energy security challenges and climate change. 

FHWA has prepared a table to illustrate how various programs are available to a range of recipients . Interestingly, Safe Streets and Roads for All is the only program that states are not eligible for, conveying a truly neighborhood scale approach.
FHWA has prepared a table to illustrate how various programs are available to a range of recipients. Interestingly, Safe Streets and Roads for All is the only program that states are not eligible for, conveying a truly neighborhood scale approach.

 

 


RESOURCES

Referenced Resources:

[1] Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) * Overview of Highway Provisions file
[2] The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Will Deliver for New Jersey https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/bipartisan-infrastructure-law-will-deliver-new-jersey
[3] Justice40 Initiative https://www.transportation.gov/equity-Justice40
[4] Distribution of Promoting Resilient Operations for the Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Program Funds Apportioned for Fiscal Year 2022 https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/legsregs/directives/notices/n4510864/n4510864_t20.cfm
[5] NJ will receive $15.4 million to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure this year https://dailytargum.com/article/2022/02/nj-will-receive-usd15-4-million-to-expand-electric-vehicle-charging

Other Resources Highlighted:

NJDOT Wins Best TSMO Project from National Operation Center for Excellence

In March 2022, the National Operations Center of Excellence presented New Jersey Department of Transportation with the Best Transportation Systems Management and Operations Project award for the agency’s work on the US Route 1 Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Improvement Project. Route 1 is a very active highway that runs through New Jersey, spanning the east Atlantic Coast and connecting Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida. The route serves as a major arterial road for much of New Jersey, offering many points of commerce, utility access, and vehicular connectivity to the municipalities it traverses and for nearby communities. In South Brunswick, at the intersection of Route 1 and Ridge Road, the highway narrows from three to two lanes and saw queuing as a result of this lane reduction.  This queuing caused travel time delays and could theoretically result in crashes.

At the request of South Brunswick Township, NJDOT studied low-cost TSMO solutions to relieve this congestion. NJDOT worked with the community to implement Hard Shoulder Running while utilizing ITS technology including digital messaging, overhead lane use control signs, and CCTV to manage the implementation. Permanently deployed within a year at low cost to the taxpayer, this project resulted in a 45 percent decrease in travel time along the corridor during the PM rush hour and a reduction in congestion of about 29 percent at the bottleneck. Congratulations to all those who worked on this project and for this recognition of the project’s success.

More detailed information on the planning and deployment and the benefits of this TSMO award winning project is described in this NOCoE Case Study.

TRB Publications (March-April, 2022)

The following is a list of research published by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) between March 1, 2022 and April 30, 2022. Current articles from the TRB may be accessed here. 











Image reads: Research



Image reads: work zones 

 

 

 

ASTM Standards Updates (January – April, 2022)

The following is a list of recently proposed and revised standards from ASTM from January 1, 2022 to April 30, 2022. Standard revisions have been sorted by their placement in the ASTM Book of Standards.

The ASTM Book of Standards is available through the ASTM COMPASS Portal for NJDOT employees. To learn how to access NJDOT's Research Library's standards materials, including the Book of Standards, please contact the librarian.

New updates for standards from ASTM may be viewed here.






Road Weather Spotlight: a new monthly webinar series

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Road Weather Management Program (RWMP) has launched the Road Weather Spotlight, a monthly webinar series discussing challenges of various road weather events, lessons learned, and practical solutions. The series will run the first Wednesday of each month from May to October, 2022. Tune in to learn more as speakers turn the Spotlight on specific topics within the following road weather themes:

  • Severe Road Weather Impacts
  • Road Weather Maintenance and Operational Challenges
  • Road Weather Data Sources and Applications
  • Road Weather Research and Innovations

The series will follow an informal, conversational format, where all are encouraged to participate and collaborate. Registration is free, although required, and the webinars will be recorded and available through the National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE). Register for a NOCoE account to sign up for invitations and watch the NOCoE calendar for details.

 

May 4: Road Weather Spotlight: Hurricane Ida
June 1: Road Weather Spotlight: June 2022
July 6: Road Weather Spotlight: July 2022
August 3: Road Weather Spotlight: August 2022
September 7: Road Weather Spotlight: September 2022
October 5: Road Weather Spotlight: October 2022

 

For more information, contact David Johnson at david.johnson@dot.gov or Tony Coventry at tony.coventry@dot.gov.

Exploring Strategic Workforce Development: An Interview with NJDOT’s Human Resources

FHWA is promoting Strategic Workforce Development in highway maintenance, construction and operations.

FHWA is promoting Strategic Workforce Development in highway maintenance, construction and operations.

Strategic Workforce Development, an FHWA Every Day Counts (EDC) Round 6 innovative initiative, 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. An important element of this initiative is the recruitment and retention of women and minorities in the construction sector.  Through on-the-job training and supportive services program, NJDOT is exploring ways to work with contractors, contracting associations, and unions on shaping their future workforces, including programs aimed at increasing representation of women, minorities, and other disadvantaged populations in the construction and operations workforce.

We spoke with Kelly Hutchinson, Director, Human Resources at NJDOT about ongoing and planned workforce development initiatives at NJDOT.

Workforce Development at NJDOT

Q. We know that NJDOT engages in a variety of innovative programs to attract and retain your workforce. Could you update us on the status of some of these programs?

Operations Apprenticeship Program

NJDOT’s Operations Apprentice Program offers a structured path to advancement

NJDOT’s Operations Apprentice Program offers a structured path to advancement.

This program began in 2015 to provide consistent training and skills for workers in Highway Operations and to establish a path to advancement and has focused on developing a job title structure and staffing profile for participants as well as both on-the-job and classroom training. We are still promoting the program and trying to get our numbers where we want them to be. We will be testing our third of four groups of mid-level individuals at the end of April 2022.

NJ Supervisory Training Empowering Performance (STEP) Training

This program is focused on teaching management skills and several hundred NJDOT employees have completed this very beneficial initiative. The Civil Service Commission provides this training, which has been on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic as instructors prefer in-person classes. We offer a two-day, in-house training on DOT-specific supervisory issues like the supervisor’s role in promoting staff, leaves of absence, working test periods, performance assessment reviews (PARS) and discipline to build on what participants learn in STEP, but we may opt to offer this in-house training first if there is an ongoing delay in STEP availability. We have a lot of new staff advancing to supervisory and managerial roles who could benefit from this training. We would also bring in small groups from this supervisory cohort to participate in and benefit from a few Lunch & Learn sessions. In the past, these smaller group sessions have been very helpful for sharing experiences.

Leadership Academy

This is a Transportation specific Leadership Academy that focuses on the importance of soft skills related to management. In April, the NJ Turnpike Authority will be hosting this program locally with instruction from Dr. Tom DeCoster. Many of our manager-level and future directors will be attending, along with staff from NJ TRANSIT and the Turnpike Authority.

Skill Enhancement for Clerical and Administrative Professionals (SECAP)

This program was originally focused on skill enhancement for staff in clerical positions. Now, more individuals are being hired to fill administrative professional roles, rather than the traditional clerical roles. Persons with technical capabilities, such as policy writing and budget preparation, are filling these roles. In response, we are considering revamping this program to best support the needed skill sets related to these positions.

Administrative College

This program is ongoing and focuses on offering courses on topics such as financial wellness, mental and physical health, and technical skills that can be mastered in a couple of hours. We conducted a survey pre-pandemic to identify what our employees wanted in Administrative College courses.

Promotion of Asst. Engineers to Senior Engineers

NJDOT engineers participate in on-site training as part of a program that moves individuals from journey level to mid-level positions.

NJDOT engineers participate in on-site training as part of a program that moves individuals from journey level to mid-level positions.

This effort was initiated about seven years ago and we have continued the practice, adding programs for most journey level professional titles in Human Resources, Budget, Planning, Accounting, and Information Technology. When participants have completed one year past their initial training and have been in their journeyman title for two years, management determines whether they are performing higher level work and have mastered the technical skills to be considered a technical expert in the particular area. After three years, they may be considered for reclassification.  Management makes recommendations and provides written justifications to advance persons based on established criteria and must describe why they are recommending an individual, or why they are not. HR ensures that each individual has completed enough time in the title and gives a provisional appointment, but the candidate needs to pass the Civil Service exam to confirm their promotion.

This effort reflects both a retention strategy and a strategy to help bridge the supervisory gap resulting from retirements.

Succession Planning

Promoting continual skill development among NJDOT staff is a priority.

Promoting continual skill development among NJDOT staff is a priority.

Moving forward, NJDOT succession planning training and development will likely be less formalized than the previous NJDOT program. In this former program, participants were selected through an application process, which, in my opinion, may not have been ideal for all employees. Training and development should happen daily, at all levels, and should not be programmed by Human Resources. We are looking to promote parity, transparency and equity through the training programs we just spoke about. Our Leadership Academy and STEP program help workers to advance and instruct supervisors on how to support training and development of all employees. We are depending on management and senior leadership to work on a smaller scale. We want to provide the same level of opportunity to everyone and see who rises to the occasion.

Q. In a presentation to NJ STIC last June, former NJDOT Human Resources Director Michele Shapiro noted that you would be working on trainings for both the Construction Inspectors Apprenticeship program and the Engineering Technician Apprenticeship program. What is the status of these new programs? Do you anticipate developing similar programs for other job titles?

We have the new titles in place, but we do not have the formalized training program developed yet. I have spoken with Asst. Commissioner Snehal Patel and we will be collaborating with the Construction Director to start building the program this summer. Our plan is to update the existing 10-module program for the Resident Engineer Construction Inspectors to adapt to the Apprenticeship program.

Q. We had heard of the possible expansion of experience-based hiring. Are there any updates to this initiative?

Automotive and Electrical Mechanics would be the titles we are considering for a possible formalized program. There are trainees now but we don’t have a formal program. With all the advances in technology, we would like to find a community college partner to provide training and build a title structure based on the new technologies and see if it would increase the salary determination. We have trouble competing with private industries for candidates from these two trades. We are continuing efforts to receive approval for the program from Civil Service but effort was halted with the pandemic.

Q. Does NJDOT have plans to offer internships or similar positions?

We have a Summer Student program called Temporary Employment Services primarily targeted to professional titles. We do not refer to the program as an internship because participants are paid but do not earn academic credit. Typically, we accept rising college seniors, but if applications are light in a given cycle, we sometimes accept sophomores and freshmen as well. Pre-pandemic, it was a great pipeline for permanent positions with the department. In 2019, we had 55 students in the program, paid $20/hour, and 20 percent were hired for full-time positions with NJDOT. With our late start this year, we will have 20 participants. Some may stay with us into the school year, working part-time up to 944 hours per year as permitted by Civil Service.

NJDOT Human Resources staff attend career fairs to raise awareness of rewarding jobs in transportation.

NJDOT Human Resources staff attend career fairs to raise awareness of rewarding jobs in transportation.

The program is beneficial to participants as they receive work experience while earning wages. We recruit candidates via virtual and in-person career fairs, partnerships with alumni of the program and community organizations, campus organizations and using Handshake (an app that connects students on college campuses with open positions, mainly internships and entry level jobs). When we meet with students and other prospective hires, we focus on communicating how NJDOT offers dynamic, interesting, rewarding, and purposeful career opportunities.

Our talent acquisition team facilitates recruitment efforts and includes a diverse group of DOT subject matter experts in addition to our Human Resource representatives. Specifically, members of the team reflect a diversity of ages, genders, races/ethnicities, and career stages. Some are alumni of the Temporary Employment Services program. Also important, team member subject matter expertise varies (e.g., structural, environmental). We have found success with the talent acquisition team as members make personal connections with candidates as they discuss their roles at DOT and opportunities with the department.

Developing the Highway Construction Workforce

Q. There seems to be a lack of awareness – especially among women and minority persons – about jobs/careers in the highway construction industry. Do you know of programs that have been effective at building awareness of job opportunities in transportation in New Jersey?

To recruit a diverse workforce, NJDOT Human Resources focuses on forging relationships with community organizations such as the Society for Hispanic Engineers, Society for African American engineers, Asian American engineers, LGBTQ+, and STEM programs.  We use LinkedIn a great deal to target engineers and collaborate with New Jersey Youth Corps to spread the word on career opportunities at NJDOT.

We also successfully partnered with the Trenton Soup Kitchen, working with job specialists to inform those accessing the kitchen about construction apprenticeships and Highway Operations Tech positions. We have partnered with the National High School Guidance Counselors Association for New Jersey and were able to post in their newsletter about job opportunities that do not require experience via our highway operations tech program.

NJDOT’s programs for career are effective recruitment and retention tools.

NJDOT’s programs for career are effective recruitment and retention tools.

In 2019, we increased representation of African American male applicants by 93 percent for Highway Operations Tech positions. We achieved this goal by reaching out to our many community partners, with 100 African American applicants from the Trenton Soup Kitchen. Finally, we partner with the NJ Department of Labor, One-Stop offices, and attend county and other virtual and in-person job fairs.

Q. Reliable transportation and child care are often cited as roadblocks to entry into the construction sector, particularly for women and minority candidates. What strategies could help to address these issues? Are you aware of any model practices or programs to support women and minority populations looking at the highway construction trades?

We had a program for parolees several years ago that focused on identifying job opportunities for them in locations with good transportation networks, such as Jersey City and Newark.

NJDOT does offer an employee subscription van pool (pre-COVID-19) that accesses various public transit stops near DOT headquarters.

The newly announced Trenton MOVES project seeks to deploy 100 on-demand Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) throughout the state capital; when deployed, it could prove to be great service for helping people access employment opportunities.

Q. Have you worked with the NJ Council of County Colleges to look at possible programs that might advance NJDOT’s goals for workforce development? Do you work with the NJDOL Office of Apprenticeship?

We do collaborate with NJ DOL and with the One-Stops and Career Centers. However, our apprenticeships are not true apprenticeships by federal labor standards, but have similar components. Because we work with Civil Service titles, it is much more difficult for us to be recognized as an official apprenticeship program.

We also have a tuition aid and reimbursement program, at the public college rate, for employees as long as their course of study relates to transportation.

"Yes, we can work with them and are very interested in building these relationships."

Looking Ahead

Q. What strategies should be pursued to encourage more New Jerseyans to consider a career in the construction industry? Who should be leading or involved in those efforts?

Creation and implementation of an awareness campaign to highlight construction career opportunities would be helpful, as such an effort could amplify the message that you don’t have to look a certain way to work in construction. The campaign should highlight the diversity of workers and work options in the construction industry. A team of “ambassadors” comprised of local union representatives, NJDOT staff, and others can describe the different kinds of work available within construction and showcase opportunities to increase interest in the profession.

Q. There have been a number of grant funding opportunities through the Department of Labor for pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs. Is NJDOT able to work with other organizations or academic institutions to build programs using these funds?

Yes, we can work with them and are very interested in building these relationships.

Resources

NJ STEP. Civil Service Commission | NJ Supervisory Training Empowering Performance (NJ STEP).

NJDOT Division of Human Resources. Current Openings & Application Process.

NJDOT Division of Human Resources. KM Toolbox: Last Lecture on Operations Apprenticeship Program.  Presentation to NJ STIC, 2nd Quarter Meeting, 2021

NJDOT Tech Talk! Webinar – Research Showcase: Lunchtime Edition 2022

On April 21, 2022, the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a Lunchtime Tech Talk! webinar, “Research Showcase: Lunchtime Edition!”. The event featured three important research studies that NJDOT was not able to include in the NJDOT Research Showcase virtual event held last October. The Showcase serves as an opportunity for the New Jersey transportation community to learn about the broad scope of academic research initiatives underway in New Jersey.

The three research studies focused on evaluation and testing of the performance and durability of materials and pavement for use in transportation infrastructure. After each presentation, webinar participants had an opportunity to pose questions to the presenter.

Evaluating the Potential of Using Foamed Concrete as the Insulation Layer for Pavements in Cold Regions. Cheng Zhu, PhD, PE, Assistant Professor, Rowan University, Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering Systems (CREATES)

In cold-weather areas, water freezes and thaws in the subgrade layer of the soil and causes weak zones in the subgrade that affect surface layer performance. These weaknesses appear as pavement surface distress and cracking. To protect the subgrade, insulating material is used.

Click for PDF

Extruded polystyrene (XPS) boards are commonly used as insulation but face deterioration over time with water infiltration, and installation is time-consuming and labor-intensive. This study looked at the potential for using foamed concrete as an alternative material. The study also looked at the methodology of selecting optimum parameters that balance mechanical strength and insulating effect. When density is low, more air bubbles provide more insulation, but more density gives higher mechanical strength.

Some of the results found through laboratory testing and large-scale testing using a soil box, include: foamed concrete with higher density has a higher compressive strength, thermal conductivity, and a lower porosity; to ensure the subgrade layer remains unfrozen, there is a minimum insulation thickness needed for a foamed concrete layer; increasing the depth of the insulation layer will achieve a better mechanical performance, while also increasing the frozen depth; and using a foamed concrete with a higher density results in a better mechanical performance.

Several questions were posed to Dr. Cheng after his presentation:

Q. What is the estimated design life with foamed concrete?
A. We did not check the timeframe of the pavement structure. We are currently working on lab tests to study the real traffic load on the pavement structure. A simulation could also be used.  This is something that we are currently working on.

Q. Were you able to find an optimal thickness and depth combination in this research?
A. We have some recommendations for the specific material used in this study. We have a design table that we can share for the foam concrete material but was not included in this presentation. We did a comparison among several insulation materials including foamed concrete, tire chips, foamed glass aggregates, and XPS board.

Q. Was the insulation box used to create the sample box replicated in the real life soil scenario?
A. We used XPS board around the sides to minimize heat transfer and to ensure heat transfer process in this test is vertical. In reality, the heat transfer in pavement is in the vertical direction.

Development of High Friction Surface Treatment Pre-screening Protocols and an Alternative Friction Application. Thomas Bennert, PhD, Rutgers University, Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) Associate Research Professor

The use of HFST can improve surface friction in road pavements around curves to reduce lane departure crashes or on steep declines to improve braking. With HFST, hard angular stone is glued to the pavement surface in less than a ½ inch application. The aggregate of choice, calcined bauxite, is applied using epoxy. HFST must be applied to pavements in “good” or better condition (i.e. with no cracking or rutting).

Click for PDF

There can be situations where pavement appears to be in good condition, but is not a good candidate for HFST. In 2018, in studies on two county roads, overlays showed signs of premature deterioration, probably due to previously undetected issues. It was determined that a prescreening protocol was needed to determine substrate conditions before HFST is applied. The study developed an effective prescreening tool that assesses the compatibility of asphalt and epoxy. Field core samples would be used to evaluate pull-off strength and relative asphalt binder properties.

The study also explored High Friction Chip Seal as an alternative to HFST. In a case study, an asphalt-based binding system was shown to be more compatible with the pavement than epoxy resin. Aggregate from local sources proved to be an acceptable substitute and less expensive than bauxite.

Following the presentation, Dr. Bennert responded to questions asked through the chat feature:

Q. What is the life expectancy of HFST? Is it suitable for places with higher traffic volumes?
A. If a road carries high traffic volumes, it is probably designed without horizontal curves and steep declines that might require quick braking. Some areas in Pennsylvania and lower volume highways have used this application. Pavement life expectancy is debatable but generally depends more on the level of traffic volume than years in place. At around a million passes, pavement starts to show raveling, in part due to the effects of UV on epoxy, but aggregate also debonds. Applications can lose friction quickly, an aspect that we are concerned with for its safety implications as well.

Q. Is there any difference in the noise with HFST?
A. In applications using aggregates that point upwards, there is a slight increase in noise at the tire-pavement interface, similar to noise resulting from other microsurface applications in place around the state.

Q. Anything similar to high friction chip seal in use elsewhere in the country?
A. No. We were one of the first to consider this particular application. We worked with the asphalt binder supplier and did some laboratory work and looked at durability. Chip seals have been used in other areas of the country in areas where friction is an issue, but chip seals have not been specifically designed as a friction treatment as this one is.

Influence of Cracking and Brine Concentration on Corrosion and Chloride Content. Aaron Strand is a Ph.D. Candidate in the John A. Reif, Jr. Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology and recently defended his Ph.D. Dissertation successfully.

Throughout the U.S., agencies are using increasing amounts of salt and brine to counter road icing. Corrosion is an expensive problem for highway bridges. In reinforced concrete bridges, the primary cause of deterioration is chloride-induced corrosion. The focus of this study was the effect of surface-applied chlorides through road salting, typically using rock salt or brine. The research showed that the effect varies dependent on the condition of the bridge deck.

Click for PDF

The research explored whether current testing takes into consideration the amount of salt placed on the roads, salt placement cycles, and the current condition of the bridge deck. Chlorides can affect the bridge steel reinforcement through diffusion from the surface, and through cracks in the bridge deck. The variables explored were salt brine concentration and degree of cracking and their effect on the corrosion time of bridge decks. Testing was undertaken in the lab and from core samples from a large-scale bridge deck specimen.

Ongoing work based on this preliminary study includes testing of other concrete mixture designs, testing other rebar types, and developing a model for the amount of chloride content and corrosion current process. Looking at other concrete designs.

Mr. Strand answered several questions following his presentation:

Q. Among the cracked samples, did the higher brine solution show faster corrosion? What was the rate?
A. They all really showed corrosion immediately, at least in the macrocell test, but the rate was not shown. Going back to the total corrosion, six percent showed a quicker rate, but the other three passed the threshold at the half-year mark. There might be a decrease in the time to corrosion as the brine is increased, but it’s maybe not as much as would be expected from such an increase.

Q. Did you introduce temperature as a variable or do you see this as part of a future study?
A. This would be part of a future study. We did look at doing some type of freeze-thaw work on the concrete itself, but not as part of the brine cycling. As part of research into different mixture design, we would look into temperature’s role into the rate of ingress.

Q. How would you like to see your research findings used to inform bridge design, operations or maintenance in the future?
A. The testing we do shows how mixtures might perform together. For actual application-based work, we need to be more careful about the testing of the materials. For example, we know very little about how incorporating changes is in brine concentration might impact corrosion.

A recording of the webinar is available here.

Lunchtime Tech Talk! WEBINAR: Goodluck Point Beneficial Use of Dredged Material via Nearshore Placement and Shark River Sediment Transport Model

On March 24, 2022, the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a Lunchtime Tech Talk! Webinar on “Goodluck Point Beneficial Use of Dredged Material via Nearshore Placement and Shark River Sediment Transport Model.” Welcoming remarks were given by Amanda Gendek, Manager of the Bureau of Research, who turned over the session to its moderator, Omid Sarmad, a member of the NJDOT Technology Transfer Project Team.

Dr. Miskewitiz described the coastal Marine Transportation System.

In his introductory remarks, Mr. Sarmad noted that nearshore placement of dredged sediment is a natural and nature-based features strategy that offers the dual benefits of providing ecosystem enhancement and reduction of coastal flooding while providing a viable, cost-effective long-term beneficial use option for disposal of dredge materials.  However, Mr. Sarmad noted that improper placement of dredged materials can damage habitat or wash away, providing little or no benefit. Strategic placement requires knowledge of site conditions and sediment transport behavior to provide ecosystem enhancement and resiliency.

Mr. Sarmad then introduced Dr.  Robert Miskewitz, Associate Research Professor within the Rutgers Department of Environmental Sciences and the Center for Advance Infrastructure and Transportation (Rutgers-CAIT), and Dr. Daniel Barone, Associate Research Professor within the Rutgers University Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences (DMCS), the Department of Geography and Rutgers-CAIT who, respectively, presented their research on the development of a Delft3D morphological model to improve estimation of channel shoaling along the Shark River waterway, and the lessons being learned from a nearshore sediment placement project at Goodluck Point in Berkeley Township, NJ.

Dr. Miskewitz described how the computer model domain was informed by tidal conditions, bathymetric surveys and design depths.

Dr. Miskewitz’s presentation, Morphological Sedimentation Model Development and Integration within Maritime Transportation System (MTS) Applications, described an approximately two-year research project underway in association with Dr. Barone on the Shark River waterway. The research seeks to establish a model framework for assessing sediment transport in the NJ Maritime Transportation Systems.

He outlined the challenge of maintaining a coastal maritime transportation system in NJ, a system of 300 nautical miles of state and federal channels, that continuously fills with sediment.  Dredging is required to keeps channels usable for marine ports and smaller recreational boating channels, which are all essential to New Jersey’s economy. However, maintaining navigable channels is expensive, meaning the amount that can be dredged is limited based on the existing fiscal resources despite the overall need for dredging based on the amount of sediment being accumulated each year.  Recognizing that sediment deposition rates are not uniform among areas, tools are needed for the informed setting of priorities for the allocation of resources.

Dr. Miskewitz shared a visual simulation of how flow rates vary by locations and depth in the model

Dr. Miskewitz shared a visual simulation of how flow rates vary by locations and depth in the model.

Their research seeks to inform and supplement the multiple systems offered by NJDOT’s Office of Maritime Resources (OMR) – the Dredged Material Management System (DMMS), Waterway Linear Referencing System (WLS), and Maritime Asset Management System (MAMS) – that are being used to assess the state of the marine transportation system, what is required to get it to a “state of good repair”, and then keep it in a “state of good repair”. Then, as part of the dredging process, the questions turn to what to do with the dredge materials – how best to dispose of them or reuse them to put to a beneficial use.

Dr. Miskewitz explained that historically the estimation of sediment shoaling in the NJMTS has been accomplished via a highly simplified empirical sedimentation model. Dr. Miskewitz explained that channel depths are measured every few years, with data predicting infill rates and shoaling based on simple equilibrium depths between two points. In contrast, Dr. Miskewitz described their efforts to develop a more complex process-based hydrodynamic model, offered by the Delft3D model, which allows for more detailed prediction of sediment transport up to 2 years out.

Dr. Miskewitz explained his estimates of the rate of sediment accretion over time.

Dr. Miskewitz explained his estimates of the rate of sediment accretion over time.

To pilot this process-based hydrodynamic model, Shark River’s small network of maintained state channels was selected as ideal for small-scale testing. Sediment can vary by grain size and source, behaving differently based on these factors. This is crucial for modeling, as the muddy sediment in the Shark River does not move discretely like grains of sand. Rather, it breaks in chunks after a critical shear force is met, allowing currents to flow into the holes created, further undermining its cohesion.

The Delft 3D model allows for multiple parameters to be set, including bulk settling velocities for certain sediment types, measured from samples which had been collected.   The model that has been developed includes a fine fraction (silts and clays) and a coarse fraction (sand). Samples were analyzed to determine the fine content versus the coarse content and to inform the model’s characterization of the erodible layer.

The modeling process itself is very resource-intensive and, thus far, has only been run for a limited 3-day period, but allowed for extrapolation to estimate sediment accretion over time. The predictive model showed that shoals near channels are being destabilized, despite small changes in overall sediment levels. Dr. Miskewitz pointed to a ridge of shoal pushing outward and away from the channel, explaining that this means sediment is being suspended and other channels are shallowing.

Dr. Miskewitz shared examples of the model's visualizations of accretion and changes in shoals over time.

Dr. Miskewitz shared examples of the model’s visualizations of accretion and changes in shoals over time.

As the current project continues, Dr. Miskewitz described the research team’s tasks to calibrate the hydrodynamics against observation, eventually running long-term (2 to 3 years) model simulations, and investigating the impact of extreme episodic events (like Hurricane Sandy) compared to normal accretion rates.

Ultimately, the long-term goal is to develop the capacity to run the model in real-time for the entire NJ Maritime Transportation System and incorporate the model into NJDOT’s OMR’s MAM model to better manage the sediment transport predictions and better manage the resources for dredging.  He noted their current plans to integrate new computer server capacity to perform the requisite sediment transport modelng in a timely fashion and at the scale envisioned for aligning with these goals.

Dr. Barone’s presentation, Goodluck Point Monitoring and Modeling Nearshore Placement of Dredged Materials, described ongoing research of a nearshore placement project in Berkeley Township. Owned by the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, the subject lands are a narrow sandy estuarine beach and dune system fronting a tidal marsh. His research involved a pre-dredging assessment of marine conditions (e.g., turbidity, current, wave conditions, etc.) and tracked the extents of sediment plumes from the filling operation. Then he assessed conditions at 3, 6, and 12 months after placement to see how beach morphology was affected, with an 18-month post-placement survey forthcoming.

Dr. Barone shared several images and video captured by UAS, including of a barge used in pumping dredged materials.

Dr. Barone gave an overview of the several data collection methods used for monitoring and modeling the results of the beneficial use project before, during and after dredging.  He shared video taken by an unmanned aerial system (UAS) of a barge pumping roughly 6000 cubic yards of suitable dredged material (more than 70 percent sand) in a 1700ft linear bar near the shore.

Preliminary results showed that turbidity was relatively high, but not significantly higher during the project. (Ironically, turbidity was far higher prior to the project starting due to a storm event, then falling much lower just before the project commenced.)

Dr. Barone illustrated how UAS aerial surveys illustrated visible plumed before, during and after dredging.

Dr. Barone illustrated how UAS aerial surveys were able to display visible plumes before, during and after dredging.

Dr. Barone shared images of the visible plumes, which were largely confined to the placement area. A major storm event occurred during the first month post-placement, moving most settlement onshore and into the southern area, where there is a small cape. After 12 months, only 42 percent of the placed sediment remained in the placement zone at Goodluck Point, with dominant alongshore sediment transported to the south.

Across the entire mapped project area (including beach, berm and offshore), a total volume loss of 7,100 cubic yards was observed between the Before-Dredge survey and 12 months post-fill. Similar losses across the entire mapped areas were observed between Before-Dredge and After Dredge.  Seaward shoreline movement – that is, accretion, occurred in the southern 715 feet of the project area over the survey period.

In future projects, he suggested consideration of alternative placements, such as feeder beaches. By experimenting with placement and validating against the hydrodynamic morphological model, he hopes that the better modeled flows will inform and improve placement strategies.

Dr. Barone highlighted volume loss and geographical shifts of nearshore berm placement of dredge materials placement over time based on surveys.

Dr. Barone highlighted volume loss and geographical shifts of nearshore berm placement of dredge materials placement over time based on surveys.

Following the presentations, Mr. Sarmad moderated questions posed by participants via the chat feature.

Q. Did freezing the cores of sediment samples impact the shear measurements?

Dr. Miskewitz: That they may have. We froze them because we had to wait months before students were available to process and we did not want anything to grow, as these samples are pretty much alive.

Q. Regarding the bridge at Highland Avenue: Does the model measure the changes in elevation and speed?

Dr. Barone:  This is a depth average model, not a 3D model.

Q. How well can you simulate Hurricane Sandy?

Dr. Miskewitz: That type of simulation will be done based on adjusting boundary conditions. Some affect from wind, but probably not as much as water level going up. The release of everything being inundated and then washed out, carrying stuff with it, is the dominant factor in erosion.

Dr. Barone shared several visualizations and explained how the hydrodynamic /morphological model can be used to optimize locations, configurations, and timing of dredge materials placement

Dr. Barone shared several visualizations and explained how the hydrodynamic /morphological model can be used to optimize locations, configurations, and timing of dredge materials placement.

Q. Does the popularity of the channel affect the frequency or priority of dredging? (e.g., compared to residential areas)

Dr. Miskewitz: That is a question best directed to NJDOT’s OMR, not for us, but it is based on many things that would drive decisionmaking at which I’m not qualified to comment.

Q. Was the project permitted as a pilot project, or did it not have that designation?

Dr. Barone: It did not have that designation. OMR partnered with the Forsythe Wildlife Center, who controlled the project and NJDOT partnered with them to provide technical resources.

Q. How do you test the accuracy of your preliminary model?

Dr. Barone: We compared our survey data with model output such as time-varying bed levels, but also ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) data, so we can validate velocity and water level and tide gauge.

Q. Were there any other locations identified as potential areas for similar observation?

Dr. Barone: The plan is to do this for the entire state’s navigation channels. Regarding Goodluck Point specifically, marshes are not getting bigger and beaches continually need sediment since there is an absence of sediment supply, so there are lots of places that will need this kind of work.

Dr. Miskewitz: We have a couple of projects in the area and further south that will get similar treatment.

The presentations described several technical analytical considerations in handling data and defining modeling parameters and contained several visual simulations that can best be appreciated by viewing the webinar recording, which is available here, (or see right).