Ultra-High Performance Concrete for Bridge Preservation and Repair: NJDOT Example Featured

This article first appeared in the FHWA’s EDC News Weekly Newsletter of April 29th, 2021 and featured how NJDOT has applied UHPC for bridge preservation and repair.

In the final week, we’ll highlight the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), which has recently used UHPC in multiple projects for bridge P&R.

NJDOT was familiar with the benefits of UHPC compared to conventional concrete through its use in field cast connections for precast bridge decks for re-decking projects. NJDOT had been looking for a new overlay preservation system for aging bridge decks that would enhance and extend the service life of their existing structures. However, the NJDOT had not used UHPC as a bridge deck overlay. NJDOT decided to install three UHPC bridge deck overlays as part of a research project contract. One of these projects, which was completed on a bridge spanning the Newark Turnpike, included both a UHPC bridge deck overlay and field-cast UHPC joint headers.

This curved 3-span bridge, originally built in 1979, feeds nearly 30,000 vehicles per day from the New Jersey Turnpike onto I–280. The heavy traffic and the impact of de-icing salts resulted in corrosion of the reinforcing steel in the existing bridge deck, as well as the deterioration of all abutment and pier expansion joints.

Prior to installation of the UHPC overlay and field cast UHPC headers, the existing asphalt overlay was removed, as were the deteriorated expansion joints. A new UHPC header expansion joint solution was installed, and after installation the finished UHPC overlay was covered with asphalt. The resulting 340-foot UHPC overlay is currently the longest continuous overlay installation in North America.

The overlay and the other two installations included in the project showed that preserving bridge decks with a UHPC overlay will provide NJDOT with durable, long-lasting bridge decks and will extend the service life of the structures. Additionally, the bridge overlays showed that UHPC overlay construction methods can minimize traffic interruptions and shorten the total construction time.

Post card style image reads: Built a Better Mouse Trap: National Recognition Program for Transportation Innovation

ANNOUNCEMENT: NJLTAP – Innovating at the Local Public Works Level: Can you Build a Better Mousetrap? (Webinar)

The New Jersey Local Technical Assistance Program (NJLTAP) will host a webinar on the FHWA’s Build a Better Mousetrap program’s collaboration with local technical assistance programs across the country.  

The webinar will present examples of new tools and processes that have been developed and celebrated by the program—innovations that reduce cost, increase safety, and contribute to a more efficient transportation system.  

The event will be held on Wednesday, August 25, from 10am to 11am. Those interested in attending may register here.  

ANNOUNCEMENT: FY 2021 AID Demonstration Program Information Session

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced the FY 2021 Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) Demonstration Program and will make up to $10 million in grants will through Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) 693JJ321NF-AIDDP (link). The AID Demonstration program provides funding as an incentive to accelerate the implementation and adoption of innovation in highway transportation. Eligible activities may involve any phase of a highway transportation project between project planning and project delivery, including planning, financing, operation, structures, materials, pavements, environment, and construction. The FHWA will provide AID Demonstration grants to eligible State DOTs, Federal Land Management Agencies, and tribal governments.

Key NOFO Dates

Notice of Intent to Apply Deadline: August 3, 2021: 11:59 pm Eastern Time.
Application Submission Deadline: September 28, 2021; 11:59 pm Eastern Time.

The FHWA will host an AID Demonstration Information Session to provide an overview of the FY 2021 program. Participation is not mandatory in order to submit an application under NOFO 693JJ321NF-AIDDP. However, potential applicants are encouraged to participate. Please join us on July 27, 2021 at 1:00 pm (Eastern Time). There is no registration required to attend the Information Session. To join, simply CLICK HERE to be taken directly to the virtual meeting space. This will be a MS Teams Live Event and will be recorded.

Image of a highway with two cars driving on it, in the distance the erector-set outline of the Pulaski Skyway can be seen.

To Replace Falling Gas Tax Revenues, Eastern States Explore Mileage-Based User Fees

Traditional fuel usage is expected to plummet as the country transitions to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs).  State and Federal gas taxes, traditionally the predominant source of transportation infrastructure funding, will no longer suffice with this vehicular fleet transition.  In New Jersey, for example, the state’s plans for carbon-neutrality by 2050, will eliminate the roughly $2 billion generated from gas taxes each year—funds that are needed to keep our roadways in a state of good repair. One solution, proposed by the Eastern Transportation Coalition, is a mileage-based user fee (MBUF), which generates revenue by miles traveled, instead of gallons of fuel purchased. An MBUF could ensure that electric vehicle (EV) users pay their fair share for the upkeep of New Jersey’s roads.

To solve this looming funding gap, a consortium of states along the Atlantic seaboard, collectively known as the Eastern Transportation Coalition, are working to engage with the public on, and study the possibility of, implementing a Mileage Based User Fee (MBUF).  The organization is currently piloting multiple programs for both freight and passenger vehicles, including a study involving New Jersey drivers that concluded in late 2020.

Document cover, in white and blue, reading The Eastern Transortation Coalition (Formerly the I-95 Corridor Coalition) Mileage-Based User Fee Exploration 2019 Passenger Vehicle Pilot, Final Report, March 01, 2021

The Mileage-Based User Fee Exploration is one of several studies by the Eastern Transportation Coalition examining how to make up a loss of gas tax revenue. Courtesy The Eastern Transportation Coalition

In March, 2021, the Coalition published a detailed report containing findings from a 2019 Passenger Vehicle Pilot in Delaware and Pennsylvania. The study was funded by a grant from the United States Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives (SFSTA) program. While the pilot was based in Delaware and Pennsylvania, the 889 participants represented fourteen member states, including New Jersey, and the District of Columbia.

The organization gave participants an option for how their miles would be tracked. Using a device provided by a vendor, Azuga, they had the choice of a sensor with geo-positioning functions, or one without, which would use a predefined estimate to determine mileage allocation. Location services for such a tracker are essential for the East Coast region, where interstate travel is more frequent. Out of the 3.13 million miles pilot program participants drove, 13 percent of miles were outside of their home state.

Both devices included “value-added” features, which collect data on vehicle health, driver performance, trip logs, and battery performance. At the end of the study, a majority of respondents indicated that they appreciated these features.

To estimate charges, the Coalition created a miles-traveled tax rate for each state, multiplying the state and federal gas tax average by monthly mileage, with an additional 20 percent rate multiplier to cover projected administrative costs. For example, a New Jersey driver with an average fuel economy vehicle driving 1,000 miles per month would pay $87.64 under the MBUF—or about a cent more than they currently pay in state and federal gas taxes. However, under the program, a driver with a hybrid car, such as a Toyota Prius, would be required to pay an additional $10.43. For an EV driver, who currently avoids paying the gas tax entirely, the MBUF program would obligate them to pay $18.69 a month toward road maintenance for the same distance. (See figure below). The organization provides a mileage calculator for members of the public to explore how much they would pay under the proposed system.

From Left to Right: Milage calculator tool for MBUF for average vehicle with 23 Miles per gallon, they would pay about one cent more in fees to drive 1000 miles. Second: Hybrid mileage calculation for 1000 miles with 2018 toyota prius, they would pay $10.43 more under MBUF than the $38.76 they currently pay, and third and finally: Mileage calculation for EV driving 1000 miles, they would have to pay an extra $18.69, and are paying $0 now using traditional gas tax.

From left to right, an average vehicle, hybrid vehicle, and electric vehicle and their respective MBUF costs. Courtesy The Eastern Transportation Coalition

During the pilot program, the Coalition conducted surveys before and after, and held focus groups with participants, to gauge changes in perception. One survey found that 70 percent of New Jersey respondents thought that transportation funding is growing or the same, despite falling gas tax revenues. By the end of the test period, 85 percent of participants said that the MBUF device was helpful and easy to use, and concerns about privacy dropped by nearly half.

From 2018-2019, the organization conducted a study with freight vehicles, forming a Motor Carrier Working Group (MCWG) with industry partners. The pilot included 55 tractor-trailers that traveled a total of 1.43 million miles over the six-month period. The overall conclusion was that trucks themselves are varied, and, as a class, entirely dissimilar to cars. Trucks typically include trackers as part of the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA), a tax redistribution system, and the International Registration Plan (IRP), which calculates registration fees according to fleet distance through various jurisdictions. However, such a system would be incompatible with MBUF because it lacks revenue collection tools, location services, and consistent implementation. This study found that the MBUF must be adjusted to the type of vehicle and service it provides, or else it unintentionally privileges certain carriers. To further gauge the intricacies of MBUF for commercial trucking, the Coalition began another freight truck pilot in the fall of 2020 with 200 vehicles.

The Eastern Transportation Coalition summarizes six key takeaways from their last four years of studies as follows:

  • More outreach is necessary to increase public awareness of the funding gap.
  • The transition to any new funding mechanism will be difficult.
  • Privacy concerns were dispelled after testing the new technology.
  • MBUF would relieve the disproportionate share of maintenance costs borne by rural drivers with inefficient vehicles.
  • Freight trucks require a program tailored to them, and cannot be considered the same as cars.
  • People were generally in favor of the MBUF model, but more education about its importance and functionality is needed.

image of a blue eighteen wheeler with a long white trailer driving on a highway with trees losing their leaves on an overcast day.

The Coalition's studies have demonstrated that MBUF for freight must be tailored to type and service. Joseph Paul | Unsplash

Dr. Patricia Hendren, Executive Director of the Eastern Transportation Coalition, shared these findings with the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in April, 2021. Dr. Hendren stressed that a federally-led, national education campaign about dwindling transportation funding was necessary, to boost public awareness about this growing concern. In addition, the executive director advocated for further studies at state and regional levels of both passenger and commercial vehicles, to ensure that that such a transition will be equitable, efficient, and have strong public support.

It is certain that a switch from the traditional gas tax funding system is necessary to maintain America’s road infrastructure, and mileage-based user fees are a promising mechanism for doing so—one way to ensure that everyone pays their fair share.

 

Resources

The Eastern Transportation Coalition. (June, 2020). Findings from the Nation’s First Multi-State Truck Mileage-Based User Fee Pilot The Eastern Transportation Coalition. https://tetcoalitionmbuf.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/2018_2019-Coalition-Truck-Pilot-Factsheet_FINAL.pdf

The Eastern Transportation Coalition (March, 2021). Mileage Based User Fee Exploration: 2019 Passenger Vehicle Pilot. The Eastern Transportation Coalition. https://tetcoalitionmbuf.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/TETC-2019-Passenger-Vehicle-Pilot-Report-1.pdf

The Eastern Transportation Coalition. (March, 2021). Six Things to Know About Mileage-Based User Fees. The Eastern Transportation Coalition. https://tetcoalitionmbuf.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/TETC-March-2021-Fact-Sheet.pdf

The Eastern Transportation Coalition. (April, 2021). Testimony of Patricia Hendren, Ph.D., Executive Director, the Eastern Transportation Coalition. The Eastern Transportation Coalition. https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/3/b/3b09198c-a0b3-4d41-b7ad-f21ae38c9579/C45ABD53D65A339B09EDF69FC3A367A0.04-14-2021-hendren-testimony.pdf

The Eastern Transportation Coalition. What Could it Cost? The Eastern Transportation Coalition. https://tetcoalitionmbuf.org/mbuf-cost/

Image of a street iwth four lanes for traffic, three parked cars, and a series of shops, such as center city deli, hi five, Ocean Therapy, and casino city barber and salon

ATLANTIC AVENUE, ATLANTIC CITY: Planning for Safer Conditions for All Roadway Users

Image of a bus with passengers boarding, reading Atlantic Avenue Road Safety Audit Atlantic City, New Jersey, Report, December 2014

The Atlantic Avenue Road Safety Audit was performed by a multidisciplinary team that analyzed high incident areas along the route, courtesy NJDOT

Atlantic City, well known for its resorts, casinos, and boardwalk, has a large share of residents who use alternative transportation modes daily: about 30 percent of its residents use public transit and 17 percent walk to work. On centrally-located Atlantic Avenue, high pedestrian volumes and a disproportionate number of traffic incidents have prompted several studies to determine the scope of needed infrastructure improvements to support pedestrian and bicycle safety and address deficiencies for vehicular travel.  New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), and the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO), the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, in partnership with the City, supported these studies to analyze conditions along the route and to make recommendations for a safer corridor.  The decade-long planning process for the Atlantic Avenue corridor provides an example of collaboration between the municipality, SJTPO and NJDOT to implement safety improvements for all roadway users.

The planning process used strategies such as Data-Driven Safety Analysis and Road Safety Audits that are supported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Many of the study recommendations include safety countermeasures that FHWA has promoted through its Every Day Counts (EDC)-4 and EDC-5 Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian, or STEP, Innovative Initiative. These strategies include Leading Pedestrian Intervals, Crosswalk Visibility Enhancements, Pedestrian Crossing/Refuge Islands, and Road Diets. The EDC program identifies proven and underutilized innovations and promotes rapid deployment.

About the Corridor

Atlantic Avenue is a major thoroughfare through the center of Atlantic City. The street is 69 feet wide, with four travel lanes and a fifth lane at some intersections for turning. Along the corridor, there are retail and commercial centers, a bus terminal, healthcare facilities, and a public library. Eleven bus stops, each accommodating up to ten different bus routes, provide frequent transit service and contribute to high pedestrian volume. The Atlantic City Rail Terminal is situated several blocks to the Northeast, adding to pedestrian trips.

Due to high foot traffic, and the nature of the roadway, this segment of Atlantic Avenue saw 829 crashes in a five-year period, from 2013 to 2017. Compared to the rest of the municipality, three times as many incidents involving pedestrians, and twice as many involving cyclists occurred along this 2.65 mile stretch. Recognizing the ongoing challenges, leaders and transportation planners at both the City and the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO) initiated the process to study safety improvements for this important corridor.

2011 – A Policy Framework

Following NJDOT’s adoption of a Complete Streets policy in 2009, Atlantic City passed its 2011 Complete Streets policy to promote consideration of the safety of all roadway users in infrastructure planning. The resolution mentions the need to improve safety for cyclists and all users of a street, such as the elderly, non-drivers, and the mobility impaired. It acknowledges, too, that incorporating pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure can simultaneously reduce traffic congestion and fossil fuel emissions. The 2011 resolution and policy supports the City Planning Department’s goals of improving bicycle and pedestrian safety and accessibility, enhancing economic development, and developing initiatives to increase residents’ knowledge of safe bicycle and pedestrian travel (Atlantic City Resolution No. 917).

2013  – Atlantic City Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan

Image of plan cover page, the first reads Atlantic City, always turned on, Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, Local Planning Assistance Program, Final May 2013, an dbelow four square images, clockwise of people crossing a street, a man in a wheelchair waiting to cross, a young girl feeding gulls on the boardwalk, and people biking along the boardwalk. Below it reads Prepared for: The New Jersey Department of Transportation and the City of Atlantic City.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan helped to first identify problem areas along Atlantic City's Atlantic Avenue, courtesy NJDOT

NJDOT funded the 2013 Atlantic City Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan through the agency’s Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), which helps New Jersey municipalities improve active transportation infrastructure.

Consultants analyzed the City’s bicycle and pedestrian network, and made suggestions for improvements in areas of concern. Among the City’s streets, the Atlantic Avenue corridor ranked first for both pedestrian and bicycle crashes. Analysts also identified the corridor as the location of 8 of the top 10 intersections for pedestrian or bicycle crashes.

According to the Plan, “Pedestrian safety is imperative not only because each of us becomes a pedestrian as part of every trip, but also because creating safe walkable streets is critical to the success of the City redevelopment and tourist efforts.” However, the document notes that, at the date of publication, there were no dedicated bicycling facilities in Atlantic City. (Atlantic City Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan).

The 2013 Plan suggested several alternatives for street design interventions in Atlantic City. On Atlantic Avenue, Alternative 1 involved removing a lane of travel in each direction, widening the median, installing buffered bike lanes between Ohio and Maine Avenues on the corridor. In the same stretch, Alternative 2 proposed using parking as a buffer for bike lanes abutting the curb on each stretch. The report concluded by calling for the formation of a task force of stakeholders to discuss the implementation of such road diets.

2014 – Atlantic Avenue Road Safety Audit (RSA)

Graphic with a depiction of a magnifying glass covering a road with people walking on it, reading "Road Safety Audits: a Road Safety Audit is a proactive formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an independent and multi disciplinary team. Safety Benefit: 10 to 60 percent reduction in total crashes.

RSA's were one of the safety countermeasures FHWA promoted through EDC-4 and EDC-5, courtesy FHWA

The following year, the Transportation Safety Research Center (TSRC) at the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT), in collaboration with the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO) and the City of Atlantic City, conducted a road safety audit of the most heavily trafficked portion of Atlantic Avenue, between South Carolina and Michigan Avenues. This study analyzed dangerous intersections in depth along the Atlantic Avenue corridor.

Road Safety Audits (RSA) are one of FHWA’s proven safety countermeasures. An RSA, conducted by a multi-disciplinary team that is independent of the design team, considers all road users and their capabilities and limitations. Findings are documented in a formal report and, while they do not constitute engineering studies, require a response from the road owner. RSAs can result in a 10-60 percent reduction in crashes.

According to FHWA, advantages of an RSA include:

  • Reduced number and severity of crashes due to safer designs.
  • Reduced costs resulting from early identification and mitigation of safety issues before projects are built.
  • Improved awareness of safe design practices.
  • Increased opportunities to integrate multimodal safety strategies and proven safety countermeasures.
  • Expanded ability to consider human factors in all facets of design.

Based on crash data, the RSA identified pedestrian “hot spot” and corridor locations along Atlantic Avenue, between Mississippi Avenue and Virginia Avenue. The study looked at crashes according to time of year, week, and day; lighting conditions; collision type and severity; and intersection.

Bar graph reading Crash Type and Severity, the tallest bars (by a wide margin) are same direction, rear end, and same direction, side swipe. Pedalcyclist and pedestrian collisions rank very high as well.

Many of the incidents involved vehicles striking each other in the same direction, one motivation for the road diet, courtesy SJTPO.

NJDOT provides network screening lists to the three Metropolitan Planning Organizations which identify hot spot and corridor locations based on crash data. The RSA analysts took this data for the SJTPO region and then worked to identify the source of the crashes by examining geometric and physical characteristics of the location. The process involved looking at types of crashes and other details to establish patterns, and then suggesting countermeasures to address those problems. These hot spot lists are crucial to securing federal funding for infrastructure improvements such as the proposed road diet.

The Road Safety Audit identified issues, such as signal phasing, roadway maintenance, and lack of bicycle facilities, and made recommendations. Like the 2013 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, the 2014 Road Safety Audit provided two road diet alternatives, suggesting the removal of one lane to accommodate bike lanes and a median with a turning lane. Road diets are promoted by FHWA as a safety countermeasure that improves speed limit compliance, reduces crashes, and provides a space for enhanced bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

2020 – Atlantic Avenue Road Safety Assessment

PDF cover, reading January 2020, Road Safety Assessment, Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City, Atlantic County, NJ, then there are three images of the route, rather car-oriented in design, followed by text: Road Safety Assessment, Atlantic Avenue from Boston Avenue to Maine Avenue

A final Road Safety Assessment was performed in 2020, recommending a road diet, with a median and protected bike lanes, courtesy City of Atlantic City

Building on the findings of the 2014 report, consultants in 2019 conducted a data-driven analysis of the conditions along Atlantic Avenue from Boston Avenue to New Hampshire Avenue, and recommended safety countermeasures to improve pedestrian safety, reduce the frequency of vehicular collisions, and improve traffic flow.

The 2020 Atlantic Avenue Road Safety Assessment looked at all crashes along the entire corridor, by crash type (pedestrian, bicycle, parked vehicle), and by intersection. Consultants also conducted travel time runs during each of the corridor’s scheduled signal timing schedules. They engaged in site visits to look for causes of crashes and to observe the condition of the roadway infrastructure, and then developed statistical observations and recommendations from their findings.

Overall, they found a lack of consistency on the roadway that resulted in unpredictable driving conditions. In one example, poorly timed signals caused drivers to try to “beat” the light, which, in combination with poor pedestrian visibility and infrastructure, led to collisions.

For a recommendation, the consultants cite NJDOT guidance for bikeway selection. At the current vehicle traffic figures (Annual Average Daily Traffic 15,000) and an 85th percentile speed of 35 mph, NJDOT recommends a Buffered Bicycle Lane, Separated Bicycle Lane or Shared Use Path. The report presented two preferred options, Alternatives #5 and #6, each of which involve removing a driving lane and adding a median; Alternative #6 would place the bikeway between the curb and parked cars, to decrease the chance of “dooring.” These alternatives recall those suggested by the 2013 Master Plan.

2021 – Atlantic Avenue Road Diet Implementation

Twelve years after Atlantic City passed its Complete Streets policy, a road diet will be built, extending the length of Atlantic Avenue. The four-lane road will be reduced to two travel lanes with a center median. Protected bicycle lanes will be located between the travel lane and curbside parking, in both directions. Other countermeasures to be implemented echoed those called for in the 2013 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, including leading pedestrian intervals, traffic signal heads with backplates, and targeted left turn restrictions. According to City Engineer Uzo Ahiarakwe, improvements to some intersections will include bump-outs to decrease the distance that pedestrians need to cross Atlantic Avenue, synchronization of traffic lights, higher visibility crosswalk striping, and ADA-compliant curb cuts.

Atlantic Avenue’s road diet conversion and additional infrastructure improvements will cost between $8 and $10 million. The City expects to cover 10 percent of the project cost and to receive federal funding for the remaining 90 percent. The project is set to go out to bid in Fall 2021 with construction due to be complete in Summer 2022 (Brunetti).

 

Resources

Brunetti, Michelle. Atlantic City putting Atlantic Avenue on a ‘diet’. March 5, 2021. Press of Atlantic City. https://pressofatlanticcity.com/news/local/atlantic-city-putting-atlantic-avenue-on-a-diet/article_f9b1e44f-43f0-5cf2-9b8a-91e4c1d3fb0e.html

City of Atlantic City. (2011). Resolution Establishing and Adopting a City of Atlantic City Complete Streets Policy. City of Atlantic City. http://njbikeped.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Atlantic-City-Complete-Streets-Resolution.pdf

City of Atlantic City. (2013). Atlantic City Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. Local Planning Assistance Program. City of Atlantic City. https://njcrda.com/wp-content/uploads/Atlantic-City-LTA-Final-Report.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. Road Safety Audits. Federal Highway Administration. https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/rsa/

Federal Highway Administration. Proven Safety Countermeasures: Road Safety Audits. Federal Highway Administration. https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/road_safety_audit/

Federal Highway Administration. Proven Safety Countermeasures: Road Diets. Federal Highway Administration. https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/road_diets/

JMT. (2020, January). Road Safety Assessment: Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City, Atlantic County, NJ. City of Atlantic City. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/19-01474_Road_Safety_Assessment_Report.pdf

South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization. Atlantic Avenue Road Safety Audit. South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization. https://www.sjtpo.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2014_AC_Atlantic-Avenue-RSA-Report.pdf

 

Four images, a drainage pipe, an overpass, a parking space, and a curb, with text in the center that reads Capitalizes on Economies of Scale

Project Bundling Webinar Series

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has provided webinar recordings as part of ongoing support for the EDC-5 Project Bundling Initiative. While project bundling is not an entirely new concept, these trainings share best practices and advanced methods for the most efficient and effective project bundling applications. Several more trainings are scheduled through March 2022. 

 FHWA contacts for the Project Bundling initiative are Romeo Garcia (Romeo.Garcia@dot.gov) and David Unkefer (David.Unkefer@dot.gov).  

Image of an intersection at night, a long exposure has made the cars driving by appear as lines of light

Adventures in Crowdsourcing Webinar Series 

Crowdsourcing for Advancing Operations is one of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Every Day Counts (EDC) initiatives for the 2021-2022 round. The program is looking for innovative solutions to integrating low-cost data, such as information from smartphones or connected vehicles, into transportation systems management and operations (TSMO). To support this effort, FHWA is offering “Adventures in Crowdsourcing”, a series of virtual events with industry leaders sharing their knowledge and solutions.  More information on this EDC-6 Initiative, including case studies is available here.  

Visit the Adventures in Crowdsourcing webinar page to view past webinars, or click on one of the links below to view a specific webinar.

FHWA contacts for Crowdsourcing for Advancing Operations are James Colyar (james.colyar@dot.gov), Greg Jones (GregM.Jones@dot.gov), and Ralph Volpe (Ralph.Volpe@dot.gov).  

Image reading WEBINAR Lunch Time Tech Automating the Traffic Signal Performance Measures for NJDOT Adaptive Traffic Signal Control Systems

Lunchtime Tech Talk! WEBINAR: Automating Traffic Signal Performance Measures for NJDOT Adaptive Traffic Signal Control Systems

Slide Cover Reading Lunchtime Tech Talk! Automating the Traffic Signal Performance Measures for NJDOT Adaptive Traffic Signal Control Systems - Real-Time Signal Performance Measurement (RT-SPM)

Click For Tech Talk Presentation

The New Jersey Department of Transportation Bureau of Research convened a Lunchtime Tech Talk! Webinar on Automating the Traffic Signal Performance Measures for NJDOT Adaptive Traffic Signal Control Systems on June 29, 2021. The presentation was led by Dr. Peter Jin, of Rutgers-CAIT, Dr. Thomas Brennan, from the College of New Jersey, and Kelly McVeigh from NJDOT’s Mobility Engineering Unit. The three touched upon Phase I research on Real-Time Traffic Signal Performance Measurement and continuing research underway in Phase II  to adapt NJDOT’s existing signaling technology to take advantage of innovative methods in optimizing traffic controls.

Kelly McVeigh, of NJDOT, began the event by introducing the Automated Traffic Signal Performance Measures (ATSPM) and Adaptive Traffic Signal Control Systems (ATSC) concepts. According to McVeigh, Automated Traffic Signal Performance Measures are a suite of measures that help transit agencies to make use of data in optimizing signal timings. ATSPM consists of a dataset of time-stamped events—visually represented through charts—that demonstrate the signal’s performance. For example, how much time the signal is set to green when vehicles are present. The technology, McVeigh said, was “a powerful tool in the toolbox for traffic engineers to monitor performance and even make changes, if agency procedures allow.” ATSPM was first introduced by FHWA as part of the fourth round of the Every Day Counts Initiative (EDC-4).

Slide Reads Challenges with Standard ATSPM Deployment, Standard ATSPm Deployment: High-resolution controllers, data probe and FTP configuration at Signal Boxes. Challenges: Upgrading to high-resolution controllers requires significant investment, $4,000 to $5,000 dollars per intersection. Opportunities: Centralized event logs of Adaptive Signal Control Technology systems. Rapid expansion of ASCT systems. Objectives: Integrate ATSPMs and Adaptive Signal Control Technology )ASCT) systems to produce ATSPM performance metrics. Policies: Dynamically adjust the signal timing in real time in practice. Timing changes (long-term) versus ASCT (real-time/short-term).

In order to avoid costly infrastructure costs of replacing ASCT systems for ATSPM equipment, the researchers devised a method to make use of existing, deployed intersection systems.

McVeigh explained that, while there is already a well-documented system in place to support ASTPM implementation, NJDOT is focusing on adapting existing systems that are already equipped to capture data. Adaptive Traffic Control Systems (ATSC) are installed in nearly 20 percent of NJDOT’s roughly 2,500 signals statewide, and collect data on both traffic controllers and detectors, such as signal performance and vehicle queuing. However, as Dr. Jin then detailed, ATSC data is presently incompatible with ATSPM. In addition, some signals are connected to the centralized network, while others remain isolated. The solution was to develop a means of converting the data, rather than installing new infrastructure.

A team of students from Rutgers, The College of New Jersey, and Rowan University worked with Dr. Jin to bridge data from ATSC to ASTPM. The proposed solution is a program that automatically retrieves traffic controller event logs and then translates them into ASTPM event code, a method that is agnostic to controller type. This allows for a wide variety of data to be collected, and then viewed and optimized using standard ASTPM methods.

Slide image of proposed farmework with a new add on of existign ASCT Sytems going ot get event logs, to ASCT event translator to push ATSPM events, to Database server. The two bullet points read The Newly developed program can automatically retrieve the controller's logfiles and translate records ito standard ATSPM event code. This method is agnostic to the controller type.

The proposed framework would add direct conversion of ASCT events to ATSPM.

Data translation works by taking ATSC logs, such as “Phase Begin Green” stamped with a timecode, and converting that to a numeric code, in this case, “1.” A computer program reads through the SCATS log and assigns certain datapoints to traffic events, such as a gap, which would be coded as “4.” At the conclusion of Phase 1, the team has been able to convert all major events to ASTPM metrics. Going forward, they are working on using geolocated video data to reconstruct stopping data, allowing for more refined information that enables real-time traffic signal adjustments.

Many locations on NJDOT’s network are not properly equipped to convey upstream information on vehicles, particularly during the red phase. The ingenious solution is to locate a “Stop-Bar” within the signal detector that registers when vehicles have begun queuing. This data is then correlated with spatial Google Maps data that precisely locates the vehicles’ position. Information from the Autoscope video-based tracking technology is then used to calculate the vehicle’s trajectory, using the Shockwave Theory of traffic flow. The benefit of such a method is better data on how vehicles approach a red signal, which can then be optimized through ASTPM.

Reads event Translator method, converted signal events will be imported into this ATSPM database. Following this, the ATSPM software can generate performance metrics and produce visualization to suppport maintenance and operations. Table shows signal timing and phase-related event and code used by ATSPMs.

ASTC events are translated using a computer program that can recognize various events and code them as such.

Dr. Brennan then demonstrated the technology in action, sharing his screen to show the ATSPM Server and its variety of tools. He selected a sample intersection, US-1 and Harrison Street near the Millstone River, and brought up a chart showing the Purdue Phase Diagram (PCD). The PCD is a means of graphically representing the number of vehicles passing through an intersection with respect to phase time. In an ideal situation, vehicles should arrive on green, instead of red, when they will have to wait. Another chart represented the traffic split by time of day and duration of the phase. When the technology is fully implemented, such data should be uploaded every 15 minutes, allowing for near real-time monitoring.

From the ATSPM data, Dr. Brennan showed that one signal had an 82 percent Arrive on Green (AoG) score. Metrics such as this could be used for the development of data-driven policy. The dashboard charts also showed vehicle density for when the signal was about to turn red—the timing of which could be adjusted to lighten the number of vehicles queuing.

Screenshot image of a white website with a blue graph, showing dark blue and red squiggles, which are traffic flow data at the intersection throughout the dat. Above, Dr. Tom Brennan can be seen explaining.

A live demo of the converted ATSPM dashboard demonstrated how useful the technology will be for making intersections more efficient.

It was clear that the conversion of ATSC data to ATSPM dramatically expanded the potential of every intersection in which it is equipped. The dashboard could be used to model changes in traffic flow, such as if a road diet were implemented, or if traffic from a major highway was diverted through the intersection. Safety benefits include data on red light violations that can be tabulated and used as justification for future improvements. One day data from connected vehicles could be integrated, too.

At the end of the presentation, Dr. Jin summarized their work: the team had innovated in converting raw data to ASTPM protocols that could then be used to boost signal performance and traffic flow optimization. This translation method avoids the intensive infrastructure cost of upgrading signals to ASTPM standards, saving money. An in-development model using Stop-Bar data will soon allow for real-time signal adjustment, letting traffic engineers tweak signal timings for optimal flow. At NJDOT, they are in the final stage of deploying this technology permanently on an agency server for future widespread use.

At the end of the event, several attendees asked questions through the platform’s chat feature.

Q. Inrix data does not provide individual probe data, how is it accounted for in the results?
Dr. Brennan: We’re not able to get individual vehicles, but it aggregates vehicle speed within one-minute increments. This then feeds that into ASTPM as if it were a single detector. Everything is within a confidence interval of 85 percent. The beauty of this software is that as long as you convert your information into the right format, you can put it in there.

Q. How do you control and change the cycle length tool?
Mr. McVeigh: Part of the adaptive system algorithm is to update cycle lengths in real time, based on the data being received. We can also provide guidance to the system on thresholds, on minimum and maximum lengths for cycles throughout the day. This is all for adaptive systems—coordinated systems use modeling to update their lengths. The tool used primarily at NJDOT is Synchro.

Q. How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the data collection on Route 1?
Dr. Brennan: Because the researchers were working to calibrate a tool, the volume of traffic on the roadway did not affect their work.

Q. What are the biggest obstacles that you are facing in advancing this innovation around the state?
Mr. McVeigh: The first obstacle is ensuring that various datasets can be interfaced properly, because the ATSC system is providing data that is not necessarily compatible with ASTPM functions.
Dr. Brennan: There are also issues with code syntax, such as when SCATS is updated and logs data differently. Thanks to the graphical nature of the project, it is easy to see when this is happening.

Q. Did you face any issues in reconciling the Google Maps data with the CCTV data?
Dr. Jin: I think it was more with the video conversion. Google Maps provided good distance information that was then converted to become compatible with the video data. The critical step was coordinating these pixel coordinates to actual coordinates.

Q. What percentage of the adaptive signals are implemented on state highways?
Mr. McVeigh: Right now we have 118 adaptive signals in operation. Out of almost 2,600 signals in the state, a little under 20 percent of signals in the state are equipped with this technology.

Q. With multiple data sets fed into the system, how does it filter to avoid repetitions or duplicates?
Dr. Jin: We do have to filter the data that is fed in, and also have developed the logic that shows which line confirms the event occurred, and which line shows the starting point of the event. This is part of the translator work. In terms of different data sources, we were able to coordinate pretty well.

Q. Do you have any suggestions based on your research to help county and local governments advance the implementation of ASTPMs?
Mr. McVeigh: It’s a very powerful tool, make sure you have the practice to enable it to be used properly. From a technical standpoint it’s relatively straightforward, but the big thing is knowing how you want to use it—could be really effectively used as an empirical optimization tool. It all depends on the agency’s ability to do that.
Dr Jin: It is important to start knowing what is currently available, whether there is new construction or existing controllers, to see whether can deploy original ASTPM or these adaptive measures.
Dr. Brennan: It’s important to have strong IT support for these conversion activities. It’s not impossible, but necessary to have the support in place.

A recording of the webinar is available here, (or see right).

Resources

Federal Highway Administration. Automated Traffic Signal Performance Measures. https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/arterial_mgmt/performance_measures.html

NJDOT Tech Transfer. (2018, December). What is an Automated Traffic Signal Performance Measure (ATSPM)? https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/automated-traffic-signal-performance-measures/

NJDOT Tech Transfer. (2020, June 12). Development of Real-Time Traffic Signal Performance Measurement System. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2020/06/12/development-of-rttspms/

Developing Next Generation Traffic Incident Management in the Delaware Valley

Traffic Incident Management (TIM) programs help first responders and traffic operators to better understand and coordinate roadway incidents. As part of the sixth round of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative, the agency is promoting innovative practice in this area through NextGen TIM. These practices and procedures can advance safety, increase travel reliability, and improve agency operations by engaging with new technologies and trainings. For example, sensors and crowdsourced data can help traffic agencies better detect incidents and decrease response times. Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) can help transportation agencies and first responders better understand the incident scene and speed the resumption of traffic flow. The NextGen TIM initiative is an effort to improve traffic incident management through technological innovation and standardized operating procedures. NextGen TIM technologies and practices are currently being used in the Delaware Valley to increase real-time situational awareness and ensure maximum safety at the scene of an incident.

Regional Integrated Multimodal Information Sharing (RIMIS)

Image of RIMIS Operational Tool, which is a map of the DVRPC region, with Philadelphia at the center, and portions of New Jersey to the east, and Pennsylvania to the West, highway routes are marked in green and yellow, yellow denoting slower than usual operations, orange construction worker signals denote construction along the corridor, many of them are clustered aroudn Philadelphia.

The RIMIS Operational Tool gives a system-wide overview of traffic operations, such as incidents, traffic flow, and construction alerts, courtesy DVRPC

Currently, transportation departments in the region use the TRANSCOM traffic monitoring platform to supervise incidents. The Delaware Valley Planning Commission (DVRPC)’s version of this platform is called RIMIS, or Regional Integrated Multimodal Information Sharing. Because DVRPC is a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) that spans both sides of the Delaware River, its reach includes sections of New Jersey and Pennsylvania—broadly, the greater Philadelphia area. In this region, with overlapping municipal, state, and regional jurisdictions, communication and coordination could be difficult. According to Christopher King, Manager of DVRPC’s Office of Transportation Operations Management, before RIMIS, incident notifications were commonly communicated through phone calls.

Area transportation officials recognized the need for a coordinated platform where information could be shared back and forth. Instead of slow, one-to-one incident notifications, this new, decentralized platform would present a “big picture” perspective of a traffic incident’s impacts on the regional transportation network. The concept was to create a regional centralized information location for traffic operators and first responders to view the traffic status on area roads, and understand, quickly and reliably, where an incident has occurred. Local agencies could access the platform to better understand incident conditions.

Image of 16 video feeds, each of a different stretch of highway, a video wall for traffic operations monitoring.

The RIMIS Video Wall allows for real-time roadway monitoring for first responders and traffic operations personnel, courtesy DVRPC

RIMIS was first developed nearly 20 years ago, and has proved to be invaluable as a resource. Participants supply data, such as video feeds and traffic updates, which is then aggregated to update other members. These agencies include PennDOT, NJDOT, SEPTA, and NJ TRANSIT. Member agencies and municipalities, such as Bedminster Township, PA, can take advantage of the operations database, with live and historical traffic flow and incident data, a situational map which geographically represents traffic levels and incidents across the region, and a video wall of roads in the DVRPC area with live camera feeds.

As an example, Mr. King showed a municipal fire department participating in RIMIS, that, once alerted that a collision has occurred, can access the platform’s interactive map, live video feeds, and information on planned interruptions, to better understand the scene before arriving there. The RIMIS platform gives context to first responders on route to an incident, provides a broader view for traffic operations dispatchers managing a disruption, and also assists transportation planners looking for data on how to improve a high-collision roadway.

Interactive Detour Route Mapping (IDRuM)

Image of a map of Philadelphia, with highway routes in orange, delineated into sections. Each section, when clicked on, shows two detour routes in the event of a serious incident.

IDRuM is a detour resource for rerouting traffic after major incidents, courtesy DVRPC

Another TIM tool DVRPC provides is the Interactive Detour Route Mapping (IDRuM) feature, a web application that consolidates established Emergency Detour Routes as a resource for traffic operations personnel, first responders, and transportation planners and engineers.

If, for example, an incident has occurred on a certain segment of I-295 in Bucks County, then the Primary Detour Route would involve taking Taylorsville Road south and turning right on State Route 322 to rejoin the highway, while the Secondary Detour Route would take a similar maneuver going north. This information can be easily accessed in both interactive and PDF formats on the IDRuM mapping site.

Image of two detour routes from I-295, one goes on a road to the north and then southeast to rejoin the highway, the other to the south and then northwest.

DVRPC is currently beta testing detour routes from NJDOT for the IDRuM platform, courtesy DVRPC

DVRPC is currently working to integrate NJDOT’s designated Detour Routes into the GIS map for the area east of the Delaware. The data has been uploaded, but is still in beta testing.

NextGen TIM

Mr. King says that a chief focus of NextGen TIM is to expand services such as RIMIS and IDRuM to more localities and arterial routes, as well as to ensure that all first responders are trained in the most up-to-date TIM techniques, such as how to position their vehicles for maximum safety on an active roadway.

During the second round of the Every Day Counts Initiative (EDC-2, 2013-2014),  a TIM process and training program was established under the  SHRP2, or the second Strategic Highway Research Program. This laid the groundwork for the current TIM training and organizational infrastructure, which is NJTIM in the Garden State. This consortium, spearheaded by NJDOT, provides resources and trainings to teach best practices to first responders across the state. NJDOT and the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) partner together to promote trainings and coordinate highway emergency response. To learn more about NJDOT’s efforts with regards to partnering with NJSP on crash data consolidation, using Unmanned Aerial Systems for incident analysis, and other aspects of the initiative, please visit NJDOT Tech Transfer’s NextGen TIM page.


Resources

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Interactive Detour Route Mapping (IDRuM). https://www.dvrpc.org/transportation/tsmo/idrum

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Regional Integrated Multimodal Information Sharing (RIMIS). https://www.dvrpc.org/Transportation/TSMO/RIMIS/

New Jersey Department of Transportation. Statewide Traffic Incident Management Program. https://www.nj.gov/transportation/commuter/motoristassistance/stimp.shtm

New Jersey Traffic Incident Management. Traffic Incident Management Resource Portal. http://www.njtim.org/NJTIM/

Research to Implementation: Design and Evaluation of Scour for Bridges Using HEC-18

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

Bridge scour is the removal of sediment such as sand and gravel from around non-tidal bridge substructures and supports caused by swiftly moving water. This water can scoop out ​scour holes​, compromising the integrity of a structure. Understanding the extent of bridge damage and prioritizing the order of repair is critical to maintaining safe bridges.

With the support of NJDOT's Bureau of Research, researchers developed the NJ-specific Scour Evaluation Model (SEM) to prioritize bridges for repair. The SEM model was determined to be effective and is now approved by FHWA and NJDOT to evaluate scour risk. The project included training of consultants to encourage the expanded use of the SEM model in NJ.

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