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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 submitters 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 must 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, firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 624-5265.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) Bureau of Research invites you to share your research and innovation ideas on the NJ Transportation Ideas Portal.
We seek to fund RESEARCH IDEAS that lead to implementation – to the testing and adoption of new materials and technologies, to better specifications and to greater efficiency. We strive to discover and advance feasible solutions for more durable infrastructure, greater environmental protection and resilience, and improved mobility and safety for residents, workers and visitors.
We encourage you to suggest INNOVATION IDEAS. We seek to find strategies to advance deployment of innovations and knowledge transfer in transportation. We work with the New Jersey State Transportation Innovation Council (NJ STIC) whose mission is to identify, evaluate, and where possible, rapidly deploy new technologies and process improvements that will accelerate project delivery and improve the quality of NJ’s transportation network. Innovation Ideas will be vetted for next steps which might include research or supporting an initiative to deploy a new technology or process improvement to accelerate innovation.
WHO CAN SUBMIT IDEAS? NJDOT’s research customers and other interested transportation practitioners are encouraged to submit a research or innovation idea. The portal should be of interest to NJDOT, MPOs, county and local governments, and other transportation subject matter experts from university, industry and trade organizations and other NGOs. The portal is also open to the public.
WHO ARE RESEARCH CUSTOMERS? Subject matter experts from NJDOT, NJ TRANSIT, or the NJ Motor Vehicles Commission are often our research customers. Research ideas typically must have a champion among our research customers. Ideally, a “champion” is a responsible individual within a division, bureau or unit who is prepared to sponsor or advance a research idea from its inception to study completion.
COLLECTING IDEAS NOW! Our research and innovation teams review submitted ideas for possible funding and other actions throughout the year. The last day to submit research ideas for the next round of funded transportation research is December 31, 2023.
REGISTER TO PARTICIPATE AND SUBMIT AN IDEA. Once you are registered, you may submit ideas at any time. If you registered previously, you should not need to register again. Click on the “+”button at the top of the page to register. Only registered participants may submit a new idea or vote on other ideas to show your support. Register at the NJ Transportation Ideas here: https://njdottechtransfer.ideascale.com/
NJDOT’s Route 71 Shark River Bridge Preservation and Road Diet project has been selected as a regional winner in the 2023 America’s Transportation Awards Competition. The competition is sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Route 71 Shark River Bridge Preservation and Road Diet project received honors in the Operations Excellence, Small category. This year’s regional winners were chosen from a selection of 19 projects nominated by nine states in the Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials (NASTO) region. The NASTO region’s winners will compete for the National Grand Prize, the People’s Choice Award, and $10,000 in cash awards that will be given by the winners to a transportation-related charity or scholarship program of their choosing.
After the Route 71 Drawbridge over Shark River between Belmar and Avon-by-the-Sea in Monmouth County suffered a mechanical failure in September 2021, engineers devised a cost-effective design and implementation solution that would preserve the drawbridge and keep 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.
With the lane configuration reduced to one lane in each direction, NJDOT was able to extend bicycle lanes that previously terminated in Avon-By-The-Sea across the drawbridge into Belmar. Previously, bicyclists needed to dismount and walk their bicycle across the bridge. The extended bicycle lanes were accomplished using an innovative fiber-reinforced-polymer mat on the bascule span. The mat is the first of its kind in New Jersey and provides a safe crossing of a steel-grid deck for bicycles. The extended bicycle lanes provide connectivity between both downtown areas and area heavily utilized by bicycle traffic year-round.
NJDOT was able to improve traffic flow at the Fifth Avenue intersection with the road diet project. Previously, two southbound lanes crossing the drawbridge on Route 71 were a source of traffic backups with left turning vehicles occupying the left lane, compounded by an abrupt merge south of Fifth Avenue. The merge that previously existed on Route 71 south of Fifth Avenue in downtown Belmar was eliminated with the road diet project. The road diet configuration retained one through lane southbound and installed a dedicated left turn lane at the Fifth Avenue intersection. Signal timings were changed, and a protected left turn phase added to further improve traffic flow. Careful monitoring of traffic throughout the year, and especially during bridge openings, have shown that the road diet lane configuration greatly improved traffic flow.
The Route 71 Drawbridge Project over Shark River, completed in May 2022, delivered several benefits, including improved traffic flow, reductions in traffic congestion, increased safety and an enhanced cycling experience for users navigating a busy shore community tourism area.
Road Diets are a safety-focused alternative to four-lane, undivided roadways that can help reduce vehicle speeds and free space for alternative transportation modes. Road Diets were a recognized model innovation during the 3rd Round of the Every Day Counts Program (EDC-3) Program.
Additional information about the rationale, design and benefits of advancing this innovative bridge safety and road diet project can be found in the video here and in this NJDOT press release.
FHWA recently released its EDC-7 Summit Summary and Baseline Report that can be found here.
EDC-7 Summit Summary and Baseline Report includes information on each states plan to advance the innovations being promoted in Round 7.
The Report highlights the Every Day Counts innovations that FHWA is promoting in the program’s seventh round (EDC-7) and includes the baseline deployment status of the innovations at the beginning of 2023 and the goals for adoption set by each of the states over the two year, 2023-2024 period.
The report also shares highlights from the EDC-7 Virtual Summit held in February 2023, including remarks from transportation leaders given during the summit’s opening sessions on the three focus areas of EDC-7—improving safety for all users, building sustainable infrastructure, and growing an inclusive workforce.
The NJ STIC’s baseline assessment of its deployment status for the innovations being advanced by its Core Innovation Area (CIA) Teams during Round 7 can be found in the FHWA report. Click the “EDC-7” button on our NJ STIC Innovative Initiatives page to learn more about the priority innovations, goals for deployment and planned activities for Round 7.
Every Day Counts (EDC) is the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) program to advance a culture of innovation in the transportation community in partnership with public and private stakeholders. Through this State-based effort, FHWA coordinates rapid deployment of proven strategies and technologies to shorten the project delivery process, enhance roadway safety, reduce traffic congestion, and integrate automation.
NJDOT, like other State departments of transportation (DOTs), has become increasingly conscious of infrastructure’s environmental burdens and are seeking more environmentally sustainable materials in construction. Recently, we spoke with Kimberly Sharp, Manager, Structural Design, Geotechnical Engineering and Geology, and Mohab Hussein, Project Engineer, Deputy Chief Technical, Geotechnical Engineering about NJDOT’s adoption of Foamed Glass Aggregate which serves an example of the deployment of an innovative, sustainable material.
To make foamed glass aggregate, crushed container glass is collected from recycling companies, finely ground into powder and mixed with a foaming agent, and sent through a kiln and softened. Bubbles form within the softened glass. When it cools, the material cracks and forms lightweight, coarse, foam-like aggregate pieces that can be used in various transportation construction projects.
Q. How did you learn of this material?
Aero Aggregates in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, reached out to the Department in 2018 to provide a technical presentation on foamed glass aggregate. An industry presentation is an established step in NJDOT’s process for exploring new technologies. If we are interested in the product, as we were in foamed glass aggregate, we start a pilot project.
Q. When did NJDOT begin using foam glass aggregate?
Our pilot project was the Rt. 7 Wittpenn Bridge in Kearny, NJ in 2019. Use of this material replaced 32,000 cu.yds. of regular fill and saved almost 28 million bottles from the landfill. We used the material for a crossover from one side of the road to the other. We built it and let the contractor use the area for six weeks with heavy equipment traveling over it. We maintained survey equipment at the site and looked for settlement and any lateral spreading and nothing moved.
Q. What have been the most common uses?
For us at NJDOT, the most common uses have been as fill underneath roadways to raise the profile, behind existing abutments where we were putting in a new backwall and new girders and we wanted to lighten the lateral forces on the backwall, as backfill to the approach to a bridge, to resolve sheeting issues on a project, and as backfill behind a temporary wire wall.
We have very soft, compressible soils beneath some of our roadways, and in areas of high tide or frequent flooding, therefore we want to raise the elevation of the roadway. Using heavy, natural fill material beneath the pavement box can lead to pavement that ultimately would ride like a roller coaster due to uneven settling. A less costly approach is to over-excavate the existing soil and place with the foamed glass aggregate. At 22 lbs./cu.ft., the aggregate is buoyant, so regular weight soil is placed over it to weigh it down, and then the pavement box is built on top of the soil. Use of the aggregate lessens the amount of settlement and results in a nice smooth roadway.
Q. Who are suppliers of this material?
Aero Aggregates is the supplier that we work with. They recycle glass from Pennsylvania and from a southern New Jersey recycling center. We appreciate that they are using local materials.
Q. What are the environmental benefits of using this material? What is it replacing?
Foamed glass aggregate is saving millions of bottles from landfills. This material is made of 100 percent recycled material. In addition, the material replaces traditional backfill that would be quarried, and so minimizes depletion of natural resources. It also minimizes use of other material such as rebar, concrete and other foundation elements. In addition, it is lightweight, about half the weight of regular lightweight fill material, and so reduces transportation emissions. There are associated cost savings to its use.
Q. Is there an ongoing assessment process for use of this material, or is it an established process?
We had questions in the beginning. The material was so light that we worried about its durability. The manufacturer provided results from testing and we tested the material in the field. Use of foamed glass aggregate is an established process at NJDOT. The material was first used in Germany in the 1980s, and in Norway in the 1990s to prevent rutting of pavements because it has good insulating qualities. It is useful in cold regions.
Q. Are there limits to the transportation construction applications where this material can be used?
Foamed glass aggregate has its own compaction requirements; it is lightly compacted or graded out with lightweight equipment to avoid crushing of the aggregate. As mentioned above, it requires capping to weigh it down. Pavement design engineers want several inches of regular weight soil between the lightweight aggregate and the pavement box.
Q. What is the state of industry knowledge and acceptance of the use of this material?
It is still early in the process of nationwide adoption. New Jersey is one of the first states to implement use of the material on our projects. We have received calls from many state DOTs asking how we began using it, and about our experience of using it in lieu of other lightweight material, so word is getting around. Aero Aggregates used it in Philadelphia around I-95. The industry is working on starting up new plants. Word is spreading through the contracting community. The first contractor that used it with us liked it so much they eliminated all other lightweight types of materials in the contract bid items. Through word of mouth, other design consultants and Contractors have picked up on use of the material.
Q. Do you have current projects where this is being used and do you anticipate continued use of the material in the future?
Yes, and we have some in design, and we will include foamed glass aggregate in the contract for future projects for consideration.
For future projects, we have not used foamed glass aggregate behind structural walls as yet, although we know it has been used in Philadelphia, and we are considering that application.
The Department is also considering applications related to temporary water storage in flood areas. Our current and past projects are using closed cell foamed glass aggregate, but an open cell aggregate is available. Its porosity might be beneficial in flood mitigation and other resiliency projects.
We really like the product and look forward to expanding its use. We are always looking for new technologies and this is one that will continue to be of great benefit.
Q. What do you consider to be the keys to the successful adoption of the material?
Agency willingness has been the key to successful adoption of this innovative material.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Innovative Initiative (AII) program recognized NJDOT’s Sawcut Vertical Curb as one of seven Focus Technologies in 2022. AASHTO held a webinar on Wednesday, April 12, 2023 during which NJDOT practitioners and contractors offered their first-hand experience with implementing the saw-cutting method on their projects successfully. The innovation was also recognized as the NJ’s Build a Better Mousetrap Winner in 2022 and a video description of the innovation can be found here.
Below is a reprint of the AASHTO Innovation Initiative Page that features the Saw Cut Vertical Curb and can be accessed here.
The AASHTO Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) establishes uniform standards for the installation of roadway safety features, including longitudinal barriers. In accordance with the recent MASH standards, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) has updated the installation requirements for guide rails. Per this new requirement, curbs in front of and along guide rail end terminal treatments should be limited to a maximum 2-inch exposure. The typical exposure of existing curbs is four inches. To make guide rail installation MASH compliant, the conventional practice is to remove existing curbs and replace them with 2-inch curbs. The practice typically requires seven days of field operations for the removal, replacement, and curing of concrete. Not only does this timeframe add to labor costs, but also exposes work crews and motorists to work zone traffic for longer periods of time.
NJDOT has developed an innovative method in which the existing curbs can be saw cut to two inches in lieu of removal and replacement. The existing guide rail can remain in place during saw-cutting, while the construction crew can return at a later time to remove and upgrade the guide rail. The saw-cutting approach requires only two days of labor. The process uses a power-driven vertical curb saw fitted with horizontally-oriented, diamond-edge blades or abrasive wheels that are capable of sawing to the required dimensions without causing uncontrolled cracking. The saw is water-cooled, circular, and has alignment guides. The saw is also capable of immediately collecting the slurry produced from cutting the concrete. Traffic control in work areas requires a moving operation set up that includes channelizer barrels and drums, construction signs based on the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and DOT standard details, and a truck with a mounted crash cushion.