Q&A: NEVI Deployment and GHG Reduction Initiatives

New Jersey Department of Transportation, alongside other state and regional agencies, has embarked on ambitious initiatives to revolutionize its transportation fueling infrastructure through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Deployment and through pursuit of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reduction target goals. These initiatives are rooted in the state’s commitment to the 2019 New Jersey Energy Master Plan, the New Jersey Global Warming Response 80x50Act, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, and the 2021 Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, among other state and federal initiatives, to encourage electric vehicle (EV) adoption and cut transportation-related emissions, marking critical steps towards New Jersey’s climate goals.

We recently spoke with Megan Fackler, Director of Statewide Planning and Sudhir Joshi, Manager of Statewide Strategies from the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) to learn more about NJDOT’s activities advancing these two initiatives. Their involvement in the planning for NEVI Deployment and the EDC-7 “Integrating GHG Assessment and Reduction Targets in Transportation Planning” innovation, place them at the heart of the NJDOT’s carbon reduction efforts.  This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

NEVI Deployment Challenges and Strategies:

Q: What has NJDOT been doing to advance NEVI Deployment since Plan acceptance in 2023?

A: The National Electric Vehicle Program is a program from the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, delegated to the Federal Highway Administration. NJDOT is going to deliver this program in New Jersey.

At NJDOT, our approach has focused significantly on federally mandated stakeholder engagement on a statewide basis. Our traditional outreach, utilizing project-specific and countywide approaches, was adapted to address the breadth of the state-led, statewide initiative. This entailed actively involving various community groups, small business leaders, partner agencies, utility providers and other private industries. We have utilized various channels such as public information centers, social media, and weekly emails.

Our team coordinated with every level of our Department to prepare for our larger meetings with external stakeholders. We have had a lot of discussions internally with our subject matter experts, who have helped develop our approach to contract procurement that incorporates the comprehensive criteria outlined in the NEVI guidelines and ensures contractors are complying with state guidelines as well.

We put on a pre-bid conference on October 17, 2023 that explained the range of requirements that the awarded contractor must fulfill.  We have sought to ensure contractors understood that they would need to comply with federal and state standards. For example, chargers must be accessible within 1 mile of New Jersey’s Alternative Fuel Corridors and provide a convenient, reliable charging experience for all users.

In developing our approach, NJDOT has decided to assign a single contractor to manage an EV charging site’s full range of compliance, with priority given to DC fast chargers. A DC Fast Charge operates on a voltage of 208 to 480 volts three phase alternating current — this is not a circuit you would likely have in your home. In 20 to 30 minutes of time, the DC fast charge should deliver 80 percent of a full charge of the vehicle’s battery.

At each of the 19 EV charger stations development zones along New Jersey’s Alternative Fuel Corridors, a 4-charger station will be provided, with each of the EV chargers capable of providing simultaneous charging at 150 kilowatts. Each charger will be equipped with a Combined Charging System and a North American Charging Standard, also known as the Tesla, port.

Contractors were informed about site selection responsibilities, environmental review documentation, and the necessity for agreements with site hosts and utility providers. The contractor will choose the locations of the 19 proposed sites and will provide one comprehensive environmental review applicable to all sites.

The Department also stressed the importance of planning, design, and maintenance to ensure a high-quality user experience, requiring contractors to have the proper reporting mechanisms in place to monitor satisfaction and usage. There were additional discussions on revenue opportunities, and the inclusion of disadvantaged business enterprises.

Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFCs) established as part of New Jersey’s NEVI Deployment Plan to develop charging stations. These were shared within NJDOT’s Virtual Public Information Center sessions to inform stakeholders.

In our pre-bid meetings, we have emphasized several other requirements that an award must encompass, such as the ensuring that traditionally underserved communities are included.  The awarded contractor will need to submit: a Justice40 Plan detailing benefits and impacts on overburdened communities; a workforce development plan geared to this new technology including recruiting efforts toward underrepresented groups; and other documentation that commits to monitoring and upgrading chargers over a period of 5 years of required maintenance.

Additionally, contractors must hire pre-qualified personnel such as a NJ-licensed Professional Engineer who will design the station, before an entity installs the actual chargers. Electricians must be pre-certified by the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP) or complete an apprentice program approved by US Department of Labor.

Following the planning and installation of DC fast chargers, contractors are also required to operate and maintain the station. For example, contractors are required to ensure that their charging stations remain operational and accessible for at least 97 percent of the time over the course of each year. These standards emphasize that trained personnel are crucial to the success of the program.

We are planning to issue and advertise an RFP in 2024 and begin issuing the first awards. Projects on the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway will be handled separately from this Alternative Fuels Corridor procurement.

Q: What are some of the challenges in achieving the goals of the NEVI Deployment Plan?

A: We must ensure that we align our internal schedules to federal timelines, while also ensuring compliance with the program’s equity and environmental goals and requirements. Other challenges include coordinating with utility providers in a timely manner and including them in pre-bid discussions with contractors. In all of this, our team is also prioritizing stakeholder feedback and accounting for their feedback in our analysis.

Electric vehicle chargers by type and level, presented by Union County, NJ. NJDOT will focus on first deploying DC Fast Chargers.

It is important to recognize that FHWA did not define for NJDOT how best to achieve the NEVI plan’s deployment goals. For example, it was unclear when we first started thinking about the project whether it made more sense to hire a single contractor to oversee the project – soup to nuts, or to break the project into contracts for different parts. The Department worked with the FHWA to develop a specific approach that supports EV charger implementation in New Jersey.

Q: What types of in-house technical expertise, knowledge, skills, and/or abilities will NJDOT need to have to aid in successful implementation of EV and larger carbon reduction goals?

A: NJDOT’s in-house capabilities are focused on two main areas of expertise: contracting and environmental compliance. First, the Division of Project Management, in conjunction with our Division of Procurement, specializes in various construction and non-construction contract types. Their policies and procedures guide NJDOT staff to ensure that all contractual aspects are timely managed.

Second, the Environmental Division plays a crucial role in addressing environmental compliance and specific site needs. These internal resources, combined with external consultants, form the backbone of NJDOT’s strategy for advancing its carbon reduction goals, and NEVI in particular.

In addition, NJDOT anticipates and prepares for future aspects of NEVI, such as inspection and maintenance requirements of EV charging stations. It is possible that inspection tasks may be outsourced as a result.

NEVI Stakeholder Engagement:

Q: How are you facilitating community engagement and awareness about the NEVI Program? What are the major challenges in engaging with local government and other affected stakeholders.

A: NJDOT has implemented a few initiatives. Our outreach was mainly a success with a few key challenges. We initially encountered some skepticism from stakeholders in terms of the locations for charger sites and EVs in general. We have worked hard to maintain a robust community engagement process statewide that satisfied federally mandated outreach guidelines. This includes our Virtual Public Information Center (VPIC) sessions and online resources, which generated thousands of views and hundreds of comments.

With a focus on equity, we identified broad stakeholders from previous working groups and through our legislative partners. The Department leveraged our partnerships to help raise awareness of our engagement sessions. The goal of the VPIC sessions was to reach representatives of diverse groups, provide NEVI Program information relevant to New Jersey, and allow for individuals to comment back to the Department in ways convenient for them.

Workforce Readiness/Equity and NEVI Deployment:

Q: What steps is NJDOT taking to ensure workforce readiness and environmental justice for the NEVI Program?

A: Our role principally involves conveying expectations and setting specifications for contractors. These specifications, among others, includes abiding by EVITP requirements, or an approved apprenticeship program for hiring skilled staff familiar with EV technologies. The contractor will be responsible for training and ensuring that the workforce is equipped with the necessary skills, particularly for deploying DC Fast chargers. These requirements also apply to the subcontracting process as well, where partnering with Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) is highly encouraged.

FHWA’s framework to ensure equitable recruitment from underserved groups.

In recent years, the Department has been making a huge shift toward workforce development, such as with our investment in the Bordentown Training Center. This is an ever-evolving topic of conversation for us at NJDOT on how we can carry out our “commitment to communities” – whether it is speaking at the community colleges or opening the doors of training facilities for local municipalities. While there is nothing concrete at this time, I definitely could see EV charging maintenance integrated into the training center in the future should such support from NJDOT be needed.

We also have strategies to monitor progress towards our environmental justice goals, such as leveraging various tools and mapping technologies and producing the Community Engagement Outcomes Report (FHWA Approval of NJ NEVI Plan, 2023). The contractor’s role will be pivotal in this regard, as they will be tasked with effectuating Justice 40 initiatives and addressing environmental justice considerations in their operations.

EDC-7 Innovation and Greenhouse Gas Assessment:

Q: How does NJDOT’s Carbon Reduction Strategy align with the NEVI Deployment Plan, and what steps are being taken to work with MPOs on this initiative?

A: NJDOT is taking specific steps that align with the goals of the NEVI Deployment Plan, including expanding the EV infrastructure at interstates, and then branching into more local areas. NJDOT’s Carbon Reduction Strategy directly supports the goals of reducing emissions established by Governor Murphy and President Biden. The strategy aims to meet the Governor’s mandate of 80 percent reductions by 2050, and President Biden’s goal [of carbon neutrality by 2035], through strategies aligned with the NEVI Deployment Plan.

NJDOT is working alongside its MPOs and NJ Transit partners to set and meet the FHWA’s recently issued rules on greenhouse gas emission targets. This includes coordinating regularly with MPOs to set greenhouse gas targets, share data on emissions metrics, and develop standardized methodologies for assessing reductions. This involves sharing data on VMT (vehicle miles traveled) and fuel usage to establish state benchmarks. The MPOs will have six months from the FHWA’s February 1st deadline to determine whether to adopt the state’s GHG targets or their own. We will be meeting with the MPOs in the coming week regarding these details. To that effort, NJDOT may leverage a single consultant funded through federal grants to help unify this process across the MPO regions. The department is poised to submit their final targets to FHWA, with the intention to make these documents public, ensuring transparency and community involvement.

The Carbon Reduction Strategy was in progress since December 2022, when the Carbon Reduction Working Group began the review process. This included developing strategies over the course of Winter and Spring 2023, in addition to resolving concerns brought forth by our leadership. Following our November 15th submission, FHWA will have 90 days to approve or deny the draft plan. (NJDOT CIA Team Planning & Environment Presentation, 2023)

In addition to deploying EV charging stations in line with our NEVI goals, NJDOT is exploring electrifying its own fleet and operations with technologies like electric garbage trucks. However, as we have seen this winter, concerns around reduced EV range and long charging times during cold winter temperatures could affect adoption goals if improvements in technologies do not continue. Regardless, all plans, targets, and strategies, in collaboration with MPOs, will undergo review and approval by FHWA. This process aligns with DOT’s recent guidelines for greenhouse gas reduction.

Resources

Further Information on EV Infrastructure & Policy

New Jersey Department of Transportation. (2023). “NJ Approval Letter for EV Deployment Plan.” Retrieved from https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/nevi/ev_deployment_plans/nj-approval-letter-fy24.pdf.

New Jersey Department of Transportation. (2023). NJDOT Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment along New Jersey Alternative Fuel Corridors: Pre-bid Meeting Presentation. Retrieved from https://www.nj.gov/transportation/contribute/business/procurement/ConstrServ/documents/NJDOTNEVIPreBidMeetingOct172023PresentationRev.10-20-23.pdf

New Jersey Department of Transportation. (2022). “NEVI Program Overview.” Retrieved from https://dep.nj.gov/wp-content/uploads/drivegreen/pdf/nevi.pdf

Federal Highway Administration (u/d). National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program, Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bipartisan-infrastructure-law/nevi_formula_program.cfm

Further Information on Carbon Reduction Efforts

Federal Register (2023). 23 CFR Part 490. National Performance Management Measures; Assessing Performance of the National Highway System, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Measure, Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2023-12-07/pdf/2023-26019.pdf

New Jersey Department of Transportation. (2023). CIA Team – Planning & Environment: Discussions on National Performance Management Measure (GHG). Presentation by Sudhir Joshi. Retrieved from https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/5-Planning.pdf

Argonne National Laboratory. (2022). Using Mapping Tools to Prioritize Electric Vehicle Charger Benefits to Underserved Communities. Retrieved from https://publications.anl.gov/anlpubs/2022/05/175535.pdf

Federal Highway Administration (u/d). Carbon Reduction Program, Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bipartisan-infrastructure-law/crp_fact_sheet.cfm

Further Information on Environmental Justice and Equity

Conley, Shannon. Konisky, David M. Mullin, Megan. (2023). Delivering on Environmental Justice?

U.S. State Implementation of the Justice40 Initiative. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/publius/article-abstract/53/3/349/7174322

U.S. Department of Energy. (2022). Incorporating Equity and Justice40 in NEVI and Beyond. Retrieved from https://www.energy.gov/sites/default/files/2022-10/Incorporating%20Equity%20and%20Justice40%20in%20NEVI%20and%20Beyond.pdf‘.

Further Information on Workforce Development and Training

National Governors Association. (2023). Workforce Development in The IIJA, CHIPS, And IRA. Retrieved from https://www.nga.org/publications/workforce-development-in-the-iija-chips-and-ira/.

National Center for Sustainable Transportation. (2022). Workforce Implications of Transitioning to Zero-Emission Buses in Public Transit. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3jb4b73d.

San Jose State University. (2020). Southern California Regional Transit Training Consortium: Skills Gap & Needs Assessment. Retrieved from https://transweb.sjsu.edu/sites/default/files/1932-Reeb-Southern-California-Regional-Transit-Training-Consortium-Needs-Assessment.pdf.

National Center for Sustainable Transportation. (2018). Emerging Clean Transportation Workforce White Paper. https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/media/Emerging-Clean-Transportation-Workforce-White-Paper12202018.pdf.

Argonne National Laboratory. (2022). Using Mapping Tools to Prioritize Electric Vehicle Charger Benefits to Underserved Communities. https://publications.anl.gov/anlpubs/2022/05/175535.pdf

Further Information on NEVI Deployment in Other States

Colorado Department of Transportation & Colorado Energy Office (2023). Colorado National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Plan. https://www.codot.gov/programs/innovativemobility/assets/2023-update-of-colorado-plan-for-the-national-electric-vehicle-infrastructure-nevi-program.pdf.

Michigan Department of Transportation. (2023). Michigan State Plan for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment 2023 Update. https://www.michigan.gov/mdot/-/media/Project/Websites/MDOT/Travel/Mobility/Mobility-Initiatives/NEVI/FY23-MI-Plan-for-EV-Infrastructure-Deployment.pdf?rev=968c7cbcf92c4b2abb08573f2af0f9f5&hash=409ED1B68C1FBEE6E52E334690405162.

New Hampshire Department of Transportation. (2023). State of New Hampshire Plan For Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Update No. 1. https://www.dot.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt811/files/inline-documents/updated-nevi-plan-8-1-2023.pdf.

North Carolina Department of Transportation (2023). North Carolina Plan Update for Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure Deployment Plan. https://www.ncdot.gov/initiatives-policies/environmental/climate-change/Documents/ncdot-electric-vehicle-deployment-plan.pdf.

Washington State Department of Transportation. (2023). Washington State Plan for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment July 2023 Update. https://wsdot.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2023-09/WSDOT-NEVI-Plan-Update.pdf.

Ultra High-Performance Concrete (UHPC) Applications in New Jersey – An Update

UHPC for Bridge Preservation and Repair is a model innovation that was featured in FHWA’s Every Day Counts Program (EDC-6).  UHPC is recognized as an innovative new material that can be used to extend the life of bridges. Its enhanced strength reduces the need for repairs, adding to the service life of a facility.   

This Q&A article has been prepared following an interview with Jess Mendenhall and Samer Rabie of NJDOT, who provided an update on the pilot projects of UHPC around the state. The interview has been edited for clarity. 

Q.  While EDC-6 was underway, we spoke with your unit about the pilot projects being undertaken with UHPC.  Some initial lessons were shared subsequently in a featured presentation given to the NJ STIC.  Can you update us on results of those projects, and did they yield any benefits in the fields of safety or environmental considerations?

For the NJDOT Pilot Project, the thickness of the overlay was limited by the required depth for effectiveness, as well as the cost of the UHPC material and environmental permitting. To mitigate environmental permitting, we avoided any modifications to the existing elevations and geometry of the structure. Essentially, any removal of asphalt and concrete needed to be replaced to its original elevations.

UHPC overlays can significantly extend the service of bridge decks and even increase a structure’s capacity. Although safety improvements were not the primary objective of this application, there were rideability and surface drainage considerations in the design to enhance the conditions for the road users.

The environmental impacts of structural designs must be compared on the cradle-to-grave use cycle of the design at a project scale.  Having a focus on sustainability is imperative; however, it is more meaningful when resiliency is also considered.  While the greenhouse gas emissions of a volume of UHPC are higher than those of the same volume of concrete, UHPC enables the reduction in the amount of material required in structural designs and improves the durability of structures. Its exceptional compressive strength and toughness allow for the reduction of material usage. By minimizing maintenance requirements and extending the lifespan of infrastructure, UHPC reduces the consumption of materials, energy, and resources over time.

For example, we installed this overlay on 4 bridges as a preservation technique. Had we done nothing, they would have lasted approximately 10 more years. During that time they would have needed routine deck patching resulting in further contamination of the decks and in a condition that is no longer preservable and requires total deck replacement, with large volumes of concrete and much more environmental impact.

UHPC allowed us to take these decks that are still in decent shape and preserve them now with a relatively thin layer to make them exceed the service life of the superstructure and substructure.

Q. Has UHPC been incorporated into the design manual?

Figure 1. UHPC being placed by workers

It is not in our current design manual, but we are working on the revised design manual. UHPC is presently being used for all closure pores between prefabricated components, overlays, and link-slabs. I don’t think we are ready to standardize it quite yet. We used it on the 4 bridges and it will continue to be used, but we will not standardize it until the industry is more predictable and we get more experience to develop thorough guidelines and specifications. It is incorporated into projects as a special provision with non-standard items.

Q. Have you been receiving more requests to use this technology from around the state?

It is much more commonly specified by designers or requested for use on many of our projects. We have responded to nationwide inquiries from state transportation agencies and universities seeking our specifications or input on specific testing and procedures.

Q. What efforts do you think can be taken to encourage more adoption amongst local agencies, counties, etc.?

We are keen on inviting the counties to any training or workshop that we are hosting as well as sharing our lessons learned thus far.  I think they are aware of it.

Q. What kind of hurdles do you think exist that may limit widespread adoption?

It is possible that initial cost and industry experience with the material are still major limiting factors in adoption. We have also learned from specialty UHPC contractors that the innovation and availability of construction equipment geared for UHPC implementation are also lacking.  Bringing into focus the life cycle costs and with more implementations, we think many of these hurdles will be overcome. Additionally, once UHPC is used more in routine maintenance the implementation would be more frequent and widespread; we know there is interest specifically in UHPC shotcrete once it is available.

Q. Are you familiar with any training, workshops, or conferences that have been done for staff or their partners on this topic?

We participated in the Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) conference in Miami, Florida, the International Bridge Conference (IBC) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the New York State DOT Peer Exchange. In Delaware, we presented at the Third International Interactive Symposium on UHPC. We also participated in the development of a UHPC course for the AASHTO Technical Training Solutions (TTS formerly TC3) which is now published on the AASHTO TTS portal and available on our LMS internally. 

Q. Do you think there is any special training needed for the construction workforce to start using this technology?

Absolutely, the AASHTO TTS course and the EDC-6 workshops are geared towards the design and construction, TTS is more focused in the Construction. It’s an introduction to what to expect and how to implement it. UHPC is often used for repair projects, and many contractors may not have the experience or comfort with using the material.

Figure 2. UHPC Testing at Rutgers’ CAIT

Q. What are the results of the pilot projects of UHPC?

This Pilot projects program demonstrated that UHPC overlays can be successfully placed on various structures, the work can be completed rapidly to minimize traffic impacts — we estimated roughly four weeks of traffic disruption per stage, and the benefits of UHPC can help preserve the existing infrastructure. Compared to deck replacement, UHPC overlays can rehabilitate a bridge deck at exceptional speeds with unique constructability and traffic patterns, as implemented in all four structures. However, limitations exist, and further research is necessary to investigate the issues identified in the pilot project, but the potential of this material outweighs the existing limitations.

Q. Has there been long-term testing data developed to gather performance data?

To assess the performance of the UHPC overlay, we put together a testing program to include NDT as well as physical sampling and lab testing. This objective will be accomplished by first establishing baseline conditions through an initial survey followed by periodic monitoring of the UHPC-overlaid bridges over succeeding years. This will help NJDOT assess the performance of UHPC as an overlay. Overall, the results show the overlay bond is performing well.

Q. Has the data from the pilot project been used to research further applications?

Further applications for UHPC overlay are on new bridge decks/superstructures, and the data from UHPC overlay research project are being used for these projects. There is an interest in header reconstruction with UHPC. If deck joints need to be replaced, they should be constructed with conventional HPC with UHPC at the surface to provide the same overlay protection over the entire structure. Also, self-consolidating and self-leveling UHPC was preferred for the full-depth UHPC header placement to ensure proper consolidation around tight corners and reinforcement. This will be further explored for maintenance operations as well.

For future projects, in lieu of full-depth header reconstruction in a single lift, a partial depth header removal and reconstruction or alternatively two lifts of header concrete should be evaluated to coincide with the deck overlay, in which case the benefits of the fast cure times from UHPC can still be realized. Two of the four bridges experienced air voids throughout the placement. A UHPC slurry with no

fibers was placed in the identified air voids; since the voids contained exposed fibers, they were considered to create adequate bonding with the UHPC slurry.

Resources

NJDOT Technology Transfer (2021, November). Stronger, More Resilient Bridges: Ultra High-Performance Concrete (UHPC) Applications in New Jersey.  Interview with Pranav Lathia, Retrieved from:  https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2021/11/29/uhpc-stronger-more-resilient-bridges/

Mendenhall, Jess and Rabie, Samer. (2021, October 20). UHPC Overlays for Bridge Preservation—Lessons Learned. New Jersey Department of Transportation. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/NJDOT-UHPC-Overlay-Research-Project-EDC-6-Workshop.pdf

New Jersey Department of Transportation. (2021, October 20). NJDOT Workshop Report. New Jersey Department of Transportation. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/NJDOT-UHPC-Workshop-Final-Report.pdf

Rabie, Samer and Jess Mendenhall (2022, December). Design, Construction, and Evaluation of UHPC Bridge Deck Overlays for NJDOT.  NJ STIC Presentation and Recording.  Retrieved from:  https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2022/12/18/nj-stic-4th-quarter-2022-meeting/

Q&A: What’s EPIC2 about Internally Cured Concrete?

Enhancing Performance with Internally Cured Concrete (EPIC2) is a model innovation in the latest round of the FHWA’s Every Day Counts Program (EDC-7). EPIC2 is recognized as an innovative new technique that can be used to extend the life of concrete bridges and roads. Internal curing increases concrete’s resistance to early cracking, allowing the production of higher-performance concretes that may last more than 75 years.

This Q&A article has been prepared following an interview and follow-up correspondence with Samer Rabie and Jess Mendenhall of the New Jersey Department of Transportation. The Q&A interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.


Q. What is Internally Cured Concrete, and how does it differ from traditional concrete?

A common issue with high performance concrete (HPC) bridge decks is that soon after the curing is done, they develop fine shrinkage cracks spread throughout the deck. Even this fine cracking can reduce the service life. In the past, we have used crack sealing materials as a mitigation effort, but when we learned about internally cured concrete, we shifted our focus to see if we could adopt it in New Jersey.

Figure 1. Illustrating the difference between conventional and internal curing

Autogenous or chemical shrinkage is specific to HPC concrete, where the w/c ratio is less than 0.42. It is due to self-desiccation, which is water consumed by the cementitious materials after setting, and that is one where internal curing can help.

There are multiple methods to implement internal curing. The method that we are considering involves  modifying a conventional concrete mixture to an internally cured concrete mixture by replacing a portion of the fine aggregate (sand) with lightweight fine aggregate. This lightweight fine aggregate (LWFA) is saturated with internal curing water, typically estimated at 7lbs of water for every 100lbs of cementitious materials used in the mixture. Next, the amount of LWA required for this amount of internal curing water is determined based on the mass of the internal curing water and the absorption of the LWFA. Once the total volume and mass of lightweight aggregate are determined, the volume (and mass) of the fine lightweight aggregate are adjusted so that the volume of LWFA and fine aggregate in the internally cured mixture is equal to the volume of the fine aggregate in the original mixture.

The LWFA will provide internal curing water within the concrete mix during curing, and prevent a condition that occurs in low W/CM ratio systems where the capillary water within the concrete matrix pores will be consumed without complete cement hydration, which can lead to cracking of the concrete matrix.

Q. How does Internally Cured Concrete improve performance?

Internal curing improves the performance of concrete by increasing the reaction of the cementitious materials and reducing internal stresses that typically develop in high-cementitious content mixtures if insufficient internal curing water is present. However, in addition to conventional curing which supplies water from the surface of concrete, internal curing provides curing water from the aggregates within the concrete. This provides a source of moisture from inside the concrete mixture, improving its resistance to cracking and overall durability.

Q. Are there any limitations on the use of internally cured concrete?

Internal curing is extremely versatile and  can generally be used anywhere traditional concrete is used. Most of the process is the same, and aggregates can be pre-saturated as needed. It follows the norms of industrial concrete production, making it accessible to any producer already familiar with the state of practice. Most of the implementation process is similar to conventional concrete.

Figure 2. Workers applying internally cured concrete to a bridge deck.

Q. What New Jersey sites were picked for use in internally cured concrete, and why?

We started with a list of all of our bridge projects, specifically projects that needed deck replacement and superstructure replacement. We then further targeted projects that allowed us to focus on implementation and quick delivery time rather than constructability and other additional challenges. We looked at projects with straightforward staging and geometry and prioritized projects with twin bridges (for example, northbound and southbound). This would allow us to do one bridge with traditional HPC and the other with internally cured HPC, providing us with an excellent controlled opportunity to study and compare the results.

Various sites have been screened throughout the state. Currently, eight bridges are under consideration, with a project scope of work of deck and superstructure replacement. The rationale included the project scope of work, CIP deck slabs, project schedule, staging constraints, and avoiding heavily skewed bridges.

Q. Have any life cycle cost analyses been performed?

We have not prepared one ourselves, but we do plan on doing so in the future. First, we will need to get these projects out to construction and get actual cost data. We’re expecting higher upfront costs, but if cracking is reduced then the life cycle costs and future maintenance and reconstruction needs can be significantly reduced.

Q. In what ways do you think people can be better educated on the implementation of EPIC2?

We have presented to many of our stakeholders in our capital program to discuss the topic, and now that it is an EDC initiative,  decision makers are acknowledging its value. The Federal Highway Administration is also planning on conducting workshops and peer exchanges between contractors, concrete suppliers, and other agencies like New York State DOT, which have already done this. All of these are extremely valuable.

We first heard about internally cured concrete during a peer exchange in 2021 with the New York State DOT. It was under the banner of EDC-6, and they took us out on several bridges where we noted that they have significantly reduced the typical shrinkage cracking that is common with High Performance Concrete. So that was an eye opening experience for us, and I know it would be valuable to others. The fact that it is now its own initiative in EDC-7 helps facilitate implementation.

Q. Is special training needed for contractors to work with internally cured concrete?

From our research and experience with other agencies, the finishing should not be significantly different from conventional HPC. The process at that point will be almost identical to placing traditional concrete, so there won’t be any learning curve or time spent on getting workers to learn how to deal with a new material. In fact, most contractors say that the mixture is easier to work due to improved pumpability as the material is quite smooth. I think the crucial step will be to coordinate with concrete production plants that are creating the mixes.

Figure 3. States that have implemented EPIC2 on their roads or bridges

Q. Where else has internally cured concrete been implemented?

So far it has been used in bridge decks in many states, including New York, Ohio, and North Carolina, among others. It has also been used in pavement and pavements in Kansas, Texas and Michigan.

Q. What is the future of internally cured concrete in New Jersey?

We hope these projects will be successful, and that our current crop of projects will result in some valuable lessons learned. In the long term, I believe the goal would be that all of the bridge decks would use an internally cured mixture. I can also see this being used for patching and deck repair jobs. But ultimately, the goal would be for this to become the new standard for bridge decks across the state.


Resources

Federal Highway Administration. 2023 Internally Curing Concrete Produces EPIC2 Results. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/innovator/issue98/page_01.html

Federal Highway Administration. 2023. Enhancing Performance with Internally Cured Concrete. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_7/docs/EDC-7FactsheetEPIC2.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. (2018, June). Concrete Clips: Internal Curing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6WREFmacaM

New York State DOT Standard Specifications (2021). Standard Specifications. New York State DOT. https://www.dot.ny.gov/main/business-center/engineering/specifications/busi-e-standards-usc/usc-repository/2021_9_specs_usc_vol2.pdf

National Concrete Pavement Technology Center Internal Curing Resources. (2022). Internal Curing. Iowa State University. https://cptechcenter.org/internal-curing/

Internal Curing. (2020). Oregon State University. https://engineering.oregonstate.edu/CCE/research/asphalt-materials-performance-lab/materials-research-concrete-materials/Internal-Curing

Pacheco, Jose. (2021, October). USDOT Workshop Report, Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Wisconsin Department of Transportation. https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/62607

Weiss, Joseph. (2015, July). Internal Curing Technical Brief. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement/concrete/pubs/hif16006.pdf

Strategic Workforce Development: Preparing Justice-Impacted Individuals for Transportation, Engineering and Construction Careers

Strategic Workforce Development, an innovative initiative of the Every Day Counts Program, suggests the importance of fostering an environment and partnerships favorable to training programs, pre-apprenticeship programs, and support for women and minorities in the construction workforce, among other strategies. The Rutgers Youth Success Program (RYSP), housed in Rutgers’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT), has provided several strategic workforce development programming to vulnerable populations in and around Camden, NJ. While the program supports a variety of individuals, a majority of those served are justice-impacted and from historically underserved or vulnerable populations. With the continued success of these services, RYSP has grown and developed, most recently starting a new program focused on enhancing employment access in the transportation, infrastructure, and construction fields, called PACE (Pre-Apprenticeship in Career Education), sponsored by the Apprenticeship Office of NJDOL. The program has also taken a new name to reflect its expansion into serving adults and focusing more closely on employment: Rutgers Employment Success Program (RESP).

We interviewed Todd Pisani, the Training Director of Rutgers Employment Success Programs. Todd has been working for the past ten years on strategic workforce development programs for justice-impacted individuals in Camden, NJ. His work started with the creation of the Rutgers Youth Success Program and has developed into several Camden, New Brunswick, and South Jersey based programs focused on bridging employment gaps for justice-challenged individuals.

Q. Can you tell us about the Rutgers Employment Success Program?

A. The Rutgers Employment Success Program (previously the Rutgers Youth Success Program) supports up to 120 justice-impacted youth in and around Camden, NJ, with job readiness, career exposure, work experience, education, and legal services. The program addresses some of the challenges many young people face following involvement in the juvenile justice system, especially with employment and accessing education. The program is funded by the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development (NJDOL) and is a collaboration between Rutgers University and the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT).

Participants of the Rutgers Youth Success Program learn from field professionals about automotive repairs

By the end of 2024, we will be serving 400 individuals and hope to increase this number going forward. While the program began with serving young individuals, we have found that expanding into an older age cohort, 18+ years, has been successful. We work directly with vulnerable populations — for example, black and brown people, individuals from historically underserved communities, returning citizens, or otherwise justice impacted people — to address employment barriers. Our approach includes consideration and support for people with mental, behavioral, or psychiatric health challenges. In addition to our on-the-ground work, we advocate for the change of harmful systems that pose barriers to employment by initiating a change in language and policy that have historically slowed progress and support for the populations we serve.

Q. How did you get involved in the Rutgers Youth Success Program and what has kept you involved for the past 10 years? 

A. After several years as an employee affiliated with the Cooperative Extension program at Rutgers, Camden, we were successful in putting together a team that included Dr. Clifton Lacy, former Commissioner of Health and head of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that attracted federal funding. That 1.2 million dollar longitudinal research project studied recidivism and violence among justice impacted youth over 3 years, and led me to collaborate with Rutgers CAIT. When a staffing change presented an opportunity, we were able to move the continuation of funding from Cooperative Extension to CAIT. The program remained consistent with its goals and mission and our support for individuals remains the same, but we have been able to expand the program and strengthen our ties to the engineering, transportation, and infrastructure realm.

Q. One of the goals of the Rutgers Employment Success Program is to address some of the barriers under-represented, or justice-challenged individuals face when pursuing a career. What do some of these barriers look like and how is this program targeting these? 

A. The barriers are baked into the system as a whole — and there are many organizations and even political movements that are working to change that trajectory. The most prevalent barriers include:

  • The outrageous and arbitrary time individuals must wait after incarceration to even be considered for some positions. We combat that by pushing for improved hiring policies, advocacy efforts in a variety of environments including discussions with trade unions, partnerships with community colleges and their affiliates, and developing relationships with specific employers and helping them see the value in hiring returning citizens.
  • Trauma and PTSD are common effects of incarceration and experience in the justice system. These conditions may make finding or receiving employment challenging and advocating for oneself even more so. We lead our program from a strengths-based trauma-informed approach, ensuring that everyone is treated with respect, honor, and dignity.
  • Justice-impacted individuals are often restricted from decision-making rooms. We utilize our privilege by inviting in justice-impacted leaders to rooms they often are kept from. We have several justice-impacted individuals on our team, so we lead by example. The resulting interactions with Judges, attorneys and law enforcement encourage human to human interactions and help those in power rethink their language and approaches.
  • Low exposure to higher education. We encourage individuals to dream and follow their professional interests. Our program also provides individuals with tours of colleges and supportive conversations, proving that it is a viable option for them.

Q. How has the Rutgers Employment Success Program been received by justice-challenged individuals? 

A. There are hits and misses, like any group of individuals. We hire people who are reflective culturally of the communities we serve — most of the team are black or brown people, including the team leads. We have several Spanish speakers on the team. And 2 have been justice impacted themselves, one a well-known community leader who spent over 30 years in prison for a crime committed as a teenager. He earned  his degree in Criminal Justice from Rutgers while incarcerated as part of the NJ STEP (Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons) program, and has emerged as an amazing advocate for returning citizens, and has helped us link to the returning citizens  community in an authentic, immersive, and heartfelt way.

Our past participants have been extremely helpful with refining our practices by voicing their own experience and suggestions for improvements. Most recently we changed some of our intake paperwork to make it easier to access and friendlier, as requested. Participants have also identified system challenges, like the selective service status letter requirement which automatically creates a barrier for some. We really appreciate this feedback, and we also look to our sponsors for advice and suggestions.

Q. Are there any populations you are having difficulty reaching?

A. The population we serve is mostly minorities and men. We have promoted and recruited our programs across gender identities and have had female program coordinators. However, our most recent research project was a 90/10 split male to female. This is most likely a result of the gender disparity of justice-impacted youth; there are far less women and girls entangled by the justice-impacted world. We have engaged young women in our apprenticeship projects and have a black female instructor who teaches occupational safety and heavy equipment—she is very active and vocal about bringing women into the trades. Our hope is to encourage more women into the field; however, we don’t necessarily want more females to be impacted by justice. Since the NJDOL has infused the importance of targeting other populations into their grant opportunities by listing the variety of individuals traditionally harder to reach or less likely to consider the trades, we expect that employers and trade unions will follow suit and make diversity and inclusion a priority, if they haven’t already.

Q. Why are transportation and infrastructure important fields for the population you serve to connect to?

A. Many of our individuals we serve or have served identify hands-on work as appealing to them. They tend toward less office-based employment and more toward the trade industries, including transportation. Other fields of interest include construction, heavy equipment, offshore wind and other green energy solutions.

Q. Speaking of participant interest in construction and transportation careers, tell us about the new RYSP program, PACE.

A. The Pre-Apprenticeship in Career Education program, or PACE, is an exciting new apprenticeship program that has recently been added to the suite of Rutgers Youth Success Program services. The program is modeled after past NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development models and will prepare participants with the necessary experience to apply for apprenticeships. Our program began in July 2023 and currently has funding for 30 participants from around the North Brunswick area. PACE goes beyond the foundational support that RYSP provides to disconnected or justice impacted youth, by increasing direct services to emerging adults 17-24 years old who are not immediately interested in or applying to college but would like to explore immediate career options.

Flyer for PACE Program Targeted to Heavy Equipment Operations

This program follows several successful programs through RESP, and in many cases incorporates the lessons learned from previous participants. Individuals not pursuing a degree following high school are often encouraged into service industry fields and healthcare, as preparation programs are more readily available. However, past participants have really expressed interest in hands-on skill training and work. Therefore, PACE is aiming to address this gap by establishing pathways for underserved populations to work in the transportation, infrastructure, or construction fields. In this case, participants will move through the Operating Engineers introductory curriculum, which includes:

  • 10 hours of on-the-job shadowing, with placement support through Hudson County Community College;
  • 30 hours of training to receive OSHA construction industry certification that will be provided by our long-standing partnership with Myers Crossing LLC.
  • Taking the Operating Engineers introductory course at Hudson County community College
  • Exposure and connections to Local 825, the International Union of Operating Engineers, which has a hands-on training facility and a training initiative with Hudson County Community College, its Earn and Learn Program.  

The goal is to expand the possible futures of each participant, allowing them to:

  • Begin an entry-level job in the transportation, infrastructure, or construction field.
  • Participate in a registered apprenticeship program.
  • Enroll in an educational program, like the Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies at Hudson County Community College

We anticipate making employment, apprenticeship, or full-time training or education quality placements   for at least 20 of our pre-apprentices in operating engineering by December 2024.

Debbie Myers of Myers Crossing, LLC instructing a PACE participant during an OSHA training session

We also have built a relationship with NJ Transit, NJDOT, and other large infrastructure related employers and are hopeful this will assist with job placements for younger people (18-19 years), which can be more challenging.

Q. In addition to the new PACE program, you are listed as the part of the lead research team for the EDC-7 Pilot Evaluation of Strategic Workforce Development for Justice-Challenged Youth research project. Could you tell us more about this work?

A. This is a very new research project, so I don’t have a lot to share yet. Our team will develop a set of best practices for strategic workforce development in the transportation and infrastructure fields using a nationwide survey of current workforce development programs that assist justice-impacted youth. The research is managed by the National Center for Infrastructure Transformation, led by Prairie View A&M University in Texas, and performed by Rutgers University and the Prairie View A&M. My hope is to strengthen our current efforts and support multiple projects through this project.

Q. What types of agencies will benefit from these best practices for Strategic workforce development? 

A. We are voting members of the Camden Youth Services Commission; each county has a version of this. The biggest benefactor for this research project will be the local youth justice system folks who are always seeking alternative methods for creating positive preventive and diversionary pathways as well as providing alternatives to detention or other punitive responses especially for young, justice-impacted individuals. Partner organizations that include the community colleges, Pathstone, Volunteer’s of America, and others will benefit from having access to a database of models for moving impacted young people into the workforce or training sectors. The transportation employer sectors, and other employers can benefit when presented with supportive data from other areas where these projects have found success. For example, if they are doing something amazing and successful in California that we can replicate and demonstrate its efficacy using data, it can potentially erode resistance and allow for larger organizations to overcome the risk factor and partner with organizations like Rutgers providing the support services to lean toward success for all. 

Q.  Do you have any final thoughts that you would like to share?

Todd Pisani takes group selfie with participants and colleagues from the Youth Success Program.

A. We had an 82 percent benchmark attainment rate at the conclusion of the pilot Bridges program, which we are now in the first year of a 3-year continuation cycle. That project grew from serving 40 during the beginning of the pandemic when no in-person contact was allowed, to 100 served in the Camden area alone in 2022, and we are now on track to serving 120 in Camden and New Brunswick.

We have sought to successfully intertwine research and community-serving initiatives through multiple projects – our four NJDOL projects have been specifically project-based with no research specifically attached to them.  The EDC-7 Pilot Evaluation Study of Strategic Workforce Development for Justice-Challenged Youth, as well as others, can help to attract attention, provide reinforcement for our effort, and place the work itself into a scholarly context. We believe we can use the research to refine our projects, but also improve the design of research about the populations we serve.

Language is an important component of our work; for instance, we started using the term “justice impacted” instead of justice involved, primarily to demonstrate that nobody really wants to be “involved’ in justice world, and to plant the seed that there is an impact here that can shift the whole picture for many folks, especially black and brown individuals who have been disproportionately targeted and treated differently at all levels of the justice system, including in policing, sentencing structure and disciplinary policies in schools. Research helps solidify philosophical or observational notions, and provides an undergirding for the work itself, which for our implementation teams is the most important factor—helping to shift the trajectory for a young person, or an older individual for that matter. 


Resources

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

Federal Highway Administration, Every Day Counts Round 7, Strategic Workforce Development
https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_7/strategic_workforce_development.cfm

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

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

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

Camden Youth Services Commission
Youth Services Commission | Camden County, NJ

National Center for Infrastructure Transformation Prairie View
National Center for Infrastructure Transformation (NCIT) – Led by Prairie View A&M University (pvamu.edu)

Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies at Hudson County Community College
Technical Studies AAS (hccc.edu)

Operating Engineers Local 825 Earn and Learn Program
825 Earn and Learn

For information on current workforce development programs see:

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

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

For information on re-entry support programs in New Jersey visit: Governor’s Reentry Training & Employment Center NJRC (njreentry.org)

For information on re-entry support for women, visit: The_Womens_Project_2023.pdf (njreentry.org)

WEBINAR: 2023 Build a Better Mousetrap Competition National Winners

The Federal Highway Administration’s Local Aid Support team in the Office of Transportation Innovation and Workforce Solutions will be holding a national webinar on October 19, 2023 for those interested in learning more about this year’s winning entries in the 2023 Build a Better Mousetrap National Recognition Program for Transportation Innovation.

Winners were announced at the National Local and Tribal Technical Assistance Program Association’s Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio this summer. New Jersey’s “Route 71 Over Shark River Road Diet” was this year’s Bold Steps Award Winner in the national competition.

Build a Better Mousetrap celebrates innovative solutions for challenges that local and tribal transportation workers encounter. These innovations can range from the development of tools and equipment modifications to the implementation of new processes that increase safety, reduce cost, and improve efficiency of our transportation system.

Gerald Oliveto, P.E., from the New Jersey Department of Transportation will give a presentation about the Route 71 bridge rehabilitation and road diet project. More information about this award-winning project, recipient of this year’s “Bold Steps” Award, can be found here and here.

Mr. Oliveto will be among the presenters during the national webinar. Below is a full list of the 2023 BABM Award recipients during the webinar.

Innovative Project Award“The Mobile Unit Sensing Traffic (MUST) Device” – a device specifically designed to monitor traffic, detect dangerous events, and provide real-time warning messages to users along rural roads. Presenter: HollyAnna Littlebull, formerly Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. Associate Director of the Northwest Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) Center, University of Washington.

Bold Steps Award – “Route 71 Over Shark River Road Diet” – a road diet project that preserves an old historic bridge while improving safety and saving money. Presenter: Gerald Oliveto, New Jersey Department of Transportation

Smart Transformation Award – “Solar-powered Remote Cameras” – providing more accurate and immediate information on road conditions that assists with emergency response while requiring less maintenance. Presenter: Matthew Beyer, St. Louis County, Minnesota, Public Works Department

Pioneer Award – “Safe Sightings of Signs and Signals (SSOSS) Software” – an automated process for identifying and addressing obstructed traffic signals saving time and money while increasing data accuracy. Presenter: Matthew Redmond, City of Walnut Creek, California

Registration – The national webinar is scheduled for Thursday, October 19, 2023, 2.00 PM and 4.00 PM Eastern. The FHWA has provided this link to learn more about the BABM Award winners event and receive a Zoom Government Meeting link to access the event.

NJDOT Traffic Incident Management Training Course – Now Available Online as Self-Guided Course

The New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Traffic Incident Management (NJTIM) training is now available as an online, self-guided course. Bringing first responder training program to an online training platform should make it easier for even more emergency and incident response personnel to access a life-saving training. The new online course can be accessed through the NJTIM website.

The TIM training program focuses on a response effort that protects motorists and first responders during a roadside emergency, while minimizing impact on traffic flow. Since its inception in 2009, NJDOT and its partner agencies have trained more than 24,000 emergency and incident response personnel, including police, firefighters, EMS personnel, DOT crews, towing/recovery companies and other responders.

Training efforts, like these, are crucial in coordinating response efforts that keep all first responders and transportation professionals safe.

The new online training course can be found at NJ TIM Website: njtim.org

Providing easier access to TIM training for busy first responders and transportation professionals should prove more cost effective than traditional, in-person meetings for organizations with limited budgets. The online training program is asynchronous, offering greater flexibility in taking the training for personnel whose work schedules may not align with in-person training dates.

Online programs can also be easily updated and revised, ensuring that participants receive the most current and relevant information.

The online training is designed to engage training participants with videos, simulations, knowledge checks, and interactive scenarios that mimic real-world situations. The online TIM training utilizes assessments and certifications to evaluate the trainees’ understanding of the material and practice decision-making in high-stress scenarios without real world consequences.

The online TIM training program seeks to improve safely and coordination in responding to incidents on New Jersey’s roadways. The target audience for this training is county and municipal law enforcement and emergency personnel, including volunteer firefighters and EMTs.


FHWA’s Every Day Counts Program has recognized the importance of TIM as model safety and mobility innovation. In Round 6, Next-Generation TIM: Integrating Technology, Data, and Training, the importance of training of local agencies was encouraged.

The FHWA’s Talking TIM webinar series provides best practices, new technological innovations, and successful implementations. The webinar series provides a forum where TIM champions with any level of experience can exchange information about current practices, programs, and technologies.

More information on the rationale and benefits of the new course can be found in the video and the NJDOT press release.

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

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

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

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

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

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


The other Build a Better Mousetrap 2023 winners include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

WEBINAR: Traveler Information and Traffic Incident Management: Crowdsourcing Course

Since 2019, the FHWA Every Day Counts (EDC) Innovation, Crowdsourcing for Advancing Operations, has been supporting the adoption of crowdsourced data and tools to advance transportation operations across 35+ States and their local agencies to improve traffic incident, road weather, work zone, traffic signal, traveler information, and emergency management, along with a host of other ITS and TSMO practices.

The Crowdsourcing Innovation Team in collaboration with the ITS Joint Program Office (JPO) Professional Capacity Building (PCB) Program delivered this introductory Crowdsourcing course, one in series of webinars, featuring State and local practitioner perspectives.

On July 18, 2023, Sal Cowan, NJDOT’s Senior Director of Mobility served as one of the course instructors for Traveler Information and Traffic Incident Management, the third session in a webinar series targeted to transportation professionals with an interest in or responsibility for the management and operations of roadway systems. Mr. Cowan delivered instruction on how crowdsourcing can be used to enhance traveler information. He shared examples of how some leading state transportation agencies (e.g., Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky, Pennsylvania) are using various crowdsourcing platforms for communicating traveler information. Mr. Cowan then spoke at greater length about New Jersey’s Travel Information Systems, highlighting the state’s initiatives for Commercial Vehicle Notifications, 511 Platforms and Voice Assistant Systems, and Crowdsourced Data, among other topics.

Mr. Cowan was joined by two other featured speakers and the event’s host, Ralph Volpe, EDC-6 Crowdsourcing Program Co-Lead, who moderated the capacity-building webinar.

Vaishali Shah, AEM Corporation, Support Lead for the FHWA EDC-5/6 Crowdsourcing Innovation, gave an introduction to the Traffic Incident Management topic and described the components and challenges of State and local TIM systems. She shared several examples of how crowdsourced data is being used to enhance Traffic Incident Management (TIM) around the U.S..

Mr. Cowan explained the rationale for crowdsourcing to improve traveler information and shared examples of how its being used in select states, including New Jersey.
Ms. Shah explained how crowdsourcing applications were being used to enhance TIM and shared some examples of innovative state and local deployments nationally.

John Parker, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC), Senior Traffic Operations Project Manager, then described the PTC’s Traffic Incident Management and Traveler Information initiatives. In his talk, he described various examples of data-sharing providers and partnerships, touching upon technology platforms, dashboard features, operating challenges, and new partnering opportunities being considered by the PTC and the state of Pennsylvania to enhance crowdsourcing for TIM and Traveler Information.

More information on this webinar training event can be found here, including a recording of the webinar, the presentation, transcript, and the question and answers that closed out the training event.

AASHTO Innovation Management Wants to Accelerate Adoption of Your Innovation Nationwide!

The 2023 AASHTO Innovation Management (AIM), formerly A.I.I., has issued a call for nominations for ready-to-share examples of innovation implementation or deployment of select proven technologies, products or processes that are likely to yield significant economic or qualitative benefits. Submissions are due by October 6th.

NJDOT’s Saw Cut Vertical Curb was recognized as AASHTO Innovation Initiative in 2022.

Last year, the AASHTO program recognized NJDOT’s Sawcut Vertical Curb as one of seven Focus Technologies. More information about this winning entry can be found here and here.

BACKGROUND

Many new and emerging technologies, offering improved performance or effectiveness, are continually becoming ready for operational implementation. Some of these technologies have been developed through rigorous research and may have been demonstrated in “real world” applications. Some may have been gleaned from international technology scanning tours. Others evolved within practice but are not shared.

The purpose of the AIM is to identify and champion the implementation or deployment of a select few proven technologies, products or processes that are likely to yield significant economic or qualitative benefits to the users.

AASHTO’s Innovation Management encourages the sharing innovation practices nationwide.

WHO: The AASHTO Innovation Initiative accepts innovations for consideration from State and local Departments of Transportation, and organizational units of AASHTO. (AASHTO members include member departments and associate members). Additionally, private industry representatives may work with eligible subm​itters who have successfully used these innovative practices to nominate technologies. Applications may be developed by DOT partners (academia, industry, other associations, etc.); however, actual submissions mu​st be proposed by one of the agencies listed above.

HOW:  Learn more and complete the NOMINATION form that can be found here. All nominations must be submitted electronically. If you have any difficulty with your submission, please contact Glenn Page, gpage@aashto.org​ or (202) 624-5265.

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

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

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

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

Earn & Learn Program Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Construction-Focused Career Initiatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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