The 25th Annual New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Research Showcase is an opportunity for New Jersey’s transportation community to experience the broad scope of ongoing academic research initiatives and share technology transfer activities being conducted by institutions of higher education (IHE) partners and their associates. It also serves to highlight the benefits of transportation research, including NJDOT’s own program. As part of the event, the annual implementation award and recognition of outstanding university students studying in a transportation-related field will be presented.
The 25th Annual NJDOT Research Showcase to be held in-person at The Conference Center at Mercer Community College on October 25, 2023. The theme for this year’s event is “Commitment to Safety.“
25th Annual Research Showcase Wednesday, October 25, 2023 8:30 AM-2:45 PM
Proceedings begin at 9:00 AM
The Conference Center at Mercer 1200 Old Trenton Road West Windsor, NJ 08550
Introduction and Housekeeping David Maruca, Program Development Administrator, Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Welcoming Remarks Andrew Swords, Director, New Jersey Department of Transportation Division of Statewide Planning
Opening Remarks Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Transportation
Opening Remarks Robert Clark, Division Administrator, Federal Highway Administration New Jersey Division
Keynote Address New Jersey Safety and Health Outcomes (NJ-SHO) Data Warehouse Dr. Allison E. Curry, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Panel Discussion: How is New Jersey Department of Transportation Addressing Safety? Andrew Swords, Director, New Jersey Department of Transportation Division of Statewide Planning Syed Kazmi, Section Chief, New Jersey Department of Transportation Division of Traffic Engineering Kurt McCoy, Supervising Engineer, New Jersey Department of Transportation Division of Operations Support Sangaran Vijayakumar, Project Management Specialist 3, New Jersey Department of Transportation Division of Project Management Hirenkumar Patel, Principal Engineer, New Jersey Department of Transportation Division of Transportation Mobility
Presentation of 2023 Awards Presented by Dr. Giri Venkiteela, Research Scientist, Bureau of Research, New Jersey Department of Transportation 2023 Outstanding University Student in Transportation Research Award 2023 NJDOT Research Implementation Award 2023 Best Poster Award 2023 Best Research Customer Award 2023 NJDOT Build a Better Mousetrap Award
The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) held its Annual Remembrance Ceremony honoring those who lost their lives on 9/11 as well as the 41 NJDOT employees who lost their lives while on duty. The event pays tribute to their legacies and provides a moment to reflect on their courage which will be remembered forever.
During this year’s Remembrance Ceremony, held on September 11, 2023, NJDOT added the names of five employees to the Department’s Employee Memorial who had given their lives in service as they worked the highways and bridges of the state. These five names were of men who died on the job in the 1940s, while working for the New Jersey State Highway Department, the predecessor of NJDOT. Their names were found as part of an archiving and digitization project by the NJDOT Research Library, part of the Bureau of Research within the Department.
The unveiling of these names occurred during the NJDOT 23rd annual remembrance ceremony and 22nd anniversary of 9/11.
The stories of these five men – Arthur Reinhardt, Walter Eckert, Jeremiah O’Brien, William Kays, and Joseph Platt – were published in an employee newspaper of the Highway Department when they died in the 1940s. However, their names had never been added to the memorial wall. Thirty-six other names of persons who perished on the job (with the most recent being Joe Kealey, who died in 2010) had previously been enshrined on the wall. Research continues to find additional employees of New Jersey’s Highway or Transportation departments who also sacrificed their lives on the job.
Eric Schwarz, NJDOT Research Librarian, gave the keynote speech detailing this archival work and highlighting the lives of the five men.
The NJDOT established its Employee Memorial wall on September 8, 2000, coincidentally about one year before the terrorist attacks on America on 9/11/01. Since 2001, the Employee Memorial has taken on additional meaning, and the ceremony has been held on or about September 11 each year since 2002.
The annual ceremony also honors military personnel and veterans, law enforcement, and emergency responders from NJDOT and the New Jersey State Police. In her welcome remarks, New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti noted the many meanings of the day for NJDOT and the importance of work zone safety.
Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti reported on the launch of two initiatives to safeguard roadway workers, first responders, and motorists in 2023. The first was the launch of NJDOT’s incident management training as an online self-guided course. The second is a work zone safety campaign launched this past summer. Radio ads and written advertorials remind the public to slow down and move over when driving through a work zone or when passing a first responder or a disabled car. She pointed out that “slow down and move over” is not just a catchphrase or act to save lives, but also the law.
In 2022, 49 law enforcement officers, emergency responders, tow truck operators, roadside technicians and DOT crew members were struck and killed on the job in the United States. Since September 2022, 24 New Jersey crew members were injured in work zones or while assisting motorists. While none of those New Jersey crew members died, “those are unacceptable numbers,” Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. “Work zone safety is a priority at NJDOT and baked into everything we do. She repeated her motto, “Everyone goes home every night.”
Speaking of the names added to the memorial in 2023, Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti said: “The deaths of these five men are a reminder that distracted and impaired driving is a deep-rooted issue in this country, a danger that has existed for over a century.”
The Remembrance Ceremony Program for this year’s event can be found here and many photos of this year’s event are shared in an image slider below.
TRID Search on Work Zone Safety. The TRID Database provides access to 1.4 million records of transportation research worldwide. Here is a saved search of research and ongoing projects in the last year on that use “Work Zone Safety” as a search term.
FHWA Website on Work Zone Safety Management. The FHWA Work Zone Management program develops and deploys solutions and strategies that enable agencies to incrementally and continuously improve work zone management to minimize traffic delays and maintain the safety of all road users and workers. This website provides facts and statistics, best practices, regulations and guidance, training materials, webinars and links to resources on related topics.
National Workzone Safety Information Clearinghouse. A project of the Transportation Development Foundation of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). It is operated in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Topics of interest include: Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety, Smart Work Zones, Transportation Management Plans, Accommodating Pedestrians, and Project Coordination in Work Zones.
The NJDOT Research Library maintains a “Did You Know” page to share basic facts about the research library, transportation research resources, and newly issued publications available through AASHTO and the ASTM COMPASS Portal.
Hot Topic Searches are available on the TRID Searches page
The Research Library maintains a "TRID Searches" page that contains a list of recent publications indexed in the TRID database organized by 37 subject areas. NJDOT’s Library also maintains "Hot Topic" searches that contain the projects and publications issued in the last five years on several topics, including: Transformational Technologies; Planning & Safety; Resilience; Sustainability; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and Workforce Recruitment and Retention.
TRID (Transport Research International Documentation) is the world's largest and most comprehensive bibliographic resource on transportation research information. It combines the records from the Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) database of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and the Joint Transport Research Centre’s International Transport Research Documentation (ITRD) database of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
TRID helps researchers locate solutions to problems, avoid duplication of work, and save resources. It includes records of AASHTO publications, federal and state DOT reports, University Transportation Center (UTC) reports, and commercial journal literature, among other sources. It also satisfies the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requirements to consult TRB's TRIS databases to identify ongoing or previously completed research on a given topic.
Recent NJ Publications in TRID
Recent publications with New Jersey identifiers and/or prepared by NJ research institutions can be identified through TRID. A quick search in TRID uncovered these recently added records in the TRID database of recently completed research publications:
Please contact the NJDOT research librarian, Eric Schwarz, MSLIS, at (609) 963-1898, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance on how to expand your search to projects, or retrieve these or other publications.
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 New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Bureau of Research is seeking presentations for the 25th Annual NJDOT Research Showcase to be held in-person at The Conference Center at Mercer Community College! Presentations related to transportation research will be considered for in-person presentation during the 25th Annual Research Showcase, to be held October 25, 2023. The theme for this year’s event is “Commitment to Safety."
We welcome your submission of an abstract on completed or nearly completed transportation-related research studies. While priority may be given to projects that align with the Showcase theme of "Commitment to Safety," all submissions will be considered. If selected, you will present your work in-person on the afternoon of October 25. Presentations will be in 20-minute increments and will be selected by NJDOT Research Bureau personnel.
To be considered, please email your proposed presentation topic(s) with accompanying abstract(s) to Janet Leli (email@example.com), Director of the New Jersey Local Technical Assistance Program, no later than September 18, 2023.
Be sure to include:
■ Title and abstract of the presentation ■ Name and email address of the person who will be presenting
■ Which category your project most closely aligns with:
Infrastructure • Safety • Equity / Mobility
■ Any additional information you feel necessary
All submitters will receive a confirmation regarding the selection committee’s final decisions.
Further information is available on the Research Showcase event website, including a call for abstracts, a call for posters, and nomination forms for awards for research implementation and outstanding university student. The day's agenda and details about the respective deadlines for each of these submissions can be found on the event website.
Thank you for your interest and participation in the NJDOT Transportation Research Program.
The NJDOT Research Showcase is an event of the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Research and organized by the Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT).
25th Annual Research Showcase
Wednesday, October 25, 2023
8:30 AM–2:45 PM
Proceedings begin at 9:00 AM
The Conference Center at Mercer
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windsor, NJ 08550
Registration is complimentary, but required.
Registration will open soon.
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.
The Justice40 Initiative, referenced in Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crises at Home and Abroad, is a key element in the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) efforts to recognize and address long-standing patterns of under-investment in disadvantaged communities. The Initiative seeks to deliver resources to communities that have been disproportionately burdened by the adverse effects of climate change, pollution, and environmental hazards.
The Justice40 Initiative seeks to understand persistent gaps in infrastructure investment and public services and remedy disparities by working toward the goal that at least 40 percent of the benefits from many grants, programs, and initiatives will flow to disadvantaged communities. Through this Initiative, the USDOT will encourage the nation’s transportation agencies to plan and prioritize projects that will benefit rural, suburban, tribal, and urban communities facing barriers to affordable, equitable, reliable, and safe transportation.
USDOT has developed tools that practitioners and decision makers can use to become better informed on how their state or region’s communities may experience persistent disadvantages. With this information at-hand, agencies are called upon to advance projects to address or mitigate the causes of these disadvantages and improve the conditions within these overlooked communities to promote livability and economic prosperity.
Equitable Transportation Community Explorer
The USDOT’s Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, an interactive web application, explores the spatial patterns of cumulative burden experienced by communities. The ETC Explorer examines five components: Transportation Insecurity, Climate and Disaster Risk Burden, Environmental Burden, Health Vulnerability, and Social Vulnerability. See Table 1 for definitions of each of the underlying components.
Table 1. Definitions for the Disadvantage Components of ETC Explorer
Transportation Insecurity occurs when people are unable to get to where they need to go to meet the needs of their daily life regularly, reliably, and safely.
The Environmental Burden component of the index includes variables measuring factors such as pollution, hazardous facility exposure, water pollution and the built environment.
Social Vulnerability is a measure of socioeconomic indicators that have a direct impact on quality of life.
The Health Vulnerability category assesses the increased frequency of health conditions that may result from exposure to air, noise, and water pollution, as well as lifestyle factors such as poor walkability, car dependency, and long commute times.
Climate and Disaster Risk Burden
Climate and Disaster Risk Burden reflects sea level rise, changes in precipitation, extreme weather, and heat which pose risks to the transportation system.
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation (2023). Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, ETC Explorer Technical Documentation.
These five components inform the development of a composite measure, the Disadvantaged Community Index, that defines census tracts as disadvantaged communities in the U.S. based on multiple dimensions of disadvantage. A score for each disadvantage component comprises several variables and information from several datasets. The index calculates cumulative disadvantage by normalizing the indicators associated with disadvantage, summing the percentile ranks of these indicators into components, and then summing the percentile ranks of the sums of each component to determine an overall score.
Figure 1 provides a graphical representation, including a list of the indicators for each component. The graphic shows how the indicators are used to inform each components score and how standardization techniques and percentile rankings are applied to derive a composite disadvantage score. USDOT considers census tracts to be “disadvantaged” if the overall index score places it in the 65th percentile (or higher) of all US census tracts.
The ETC Explorer Technical Documentation provides greater detail about how the data sources and methods were applied to create the individual indicators and standardize measures of disadvantage. The ETC Explorer relies upon an ArcGIS platform tool to observe spatial patterns and make comparisons at national, state, regional, and sub-state levels. Additional information is provided on the methodological assumptions and limitations of developing a tool with these capabilities.
The ETC Explorer was designed to complement the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Climate & Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST). USDOT’s tool looks more deeply at the “Transportation Disadvantage” component of the CEJST, and the ETC Explorer’s Transportation Insecurity component. Both tools were developed to inform analyses and decision making to foster consideration of the transportation-related causes of disadvantage and how they can be remedied, in part, through future USDOT investments.
Past USDOT guidance noted that applicants for discretionary program funding have had the option of using CEJST or ETC Explorer when developing funding applications. State DOTs and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) can use the ETC Explorer in developing their Statewide Transportation Improvement Programs (STIPs) and Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs). USDOT also expects to use ETC Explorer as a consideration in setting policy and making funding decisions. Reference to the tool and how it can be used to consider equity in grant application criteria can be found in recently issued NOFOs.
Justice40 Covered Programs
In August 2022, the White House issued guidance on the breadth of the Federal programs that would be covered by Justice40 Initiative including seven areas of Federal investments covered by the Initiative: climate change, clean energy and energy efficiency, clean transit, affordable and sustainable housing, training and workforce development, remediation and reduction of legacy pollution, and clean water and wastewater infrastructure. In this guidance, USDOT noted that 39 programs, across five modes, totaling more than $204 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, are covered by the Initiative. USDOT indicated that other programs might be added or removed from coverage under Justice40. Table 2 provides a list of USDOT programs covered by Justice40.
Table 2. Justice40 Covered Program List
The Justice40 Covered Program list included 39 covered programs within the U.S. Department of Transportation in August 2022.
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
Carbon Reduction Program *
Charging & Fueling Infrastructure Grants*
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program *
Congestion Relief Program *
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Supportive Services*
National Electric Vehicle Competitive Program*
National Electric Vehicle Formula Program*
Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects *
On the Job Supportive Services*
Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-saving Transportation (PROTECT) (23 USC 176) *
Protect Grants (23 USC 176(d))*
Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities*
Transportation Alternatives (Surface Transportation Block Grant set-aside) *
Tribal High Priority Projects Program *
Tribal Transportation Facility Bridges (Bridge Investment Program set-aside) *
Tribal Transportation Facility Bridges (Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection and Construction set-aside) *
Tribal Transportation Program *
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements *
Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail *
Railroad Crossing Elimination Program *
Federal Transportation Administration (FTA)
All Station Accessibility Program (ASAP) *
Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Program*
Buses and Bus Facilities Program Formula *
Electric or Low-Emitting Ferry Program *
Fixed Guideway Capital Investment Grants (CIG) *
Low or No Emission Vehicle Program *
Passenger Ferry Grant Program*
Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility Pilot Program *
Rural Transit Funding Programs (Public Transportation on Indian Reservations Competitive) *
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning Program*
Maritime Administration (MARAD)
America’s Marine Highway Program *
Port Infrastructure Development Program *
Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST)
National Infrastructure Project Assistance (MEGA) *
Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highway Projects (INFRA) *
Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) *
Reconnecting Communities Grant Program *
Safe Streets & Roads for All *
SMART (Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation)*
Thriving Communities Program
NJ Example Maps
The ETC Explorer offers an interactive dashboard to help users understand how a community or project area experiences transportation disadvantage compared to all other census tracts nationally or statewide across the various disadvantage components and forty indicators. Popup databoxes provide more information on Transportation Insecurity for a selected census tract.
Below are examples of the statewide and local area outputs that can be quickly generated.
ETC Explorer Statewide Dashboard for New Jersey. The dashboard highlights that “Disadvantaged Census Tracts” comprise 17 percent of all the Census Tracts statewide and that 1.3 million persons live in these census tracts. In this example, Environmental Burdens are displayed and indicate that they are more prevalent in NJ than other components of disadvantage. Among the individual indicators of environmental burden that rank relatively highly and exceed the threshold for “disadvantage” are Diesel PM Levels, Hazardous Sites Proximity, and Impaired Surface Waters (see Figure 2A).
DOT Disadvantaged Census Tracts – National and State Results. The ETC Explorer can be used to display the DOT Disadvantaged Census Tracts based on a nationwide comparison (see Figure 2B) or on a statewide basis (see Figure 2C). The state results map shows additional areas that meet a disadvantaged threshold than are identified in the national results map. This is particularly useful for identifying the locations and spatial distribution of these highly-disadvantaged tracts in New Jersey.
Overall Disadvantage Percentile Ranked State Results. This statewide map shows percentile rankings of disadvantage by census tract for the three MPO regions (see Figure 2D). The gradient mapping display offers more information than the simpler binary designations.
Disadvantage Components, Percentile Ranked State Results. Data on the individual underlying components of disadvantage can be mapped to show the percentile rankings within the state. Examples of statewide maps displaying the census tracts that are more and less affected by Environmental Burden (Figure 2E) and Climate and Disaster Risk Burden (Figure 2F) are shown.
Overall Disadvantage Percentile Ranked, State Results, Community Analysis Example. The ETC Explorer on the online ArcGIS platform permits analysis of sub-areas of the state. In Figure 2G, the City of Trenton and environs are examined for Overall Disadvantage in a percentile ranking map.
Transportation Insecurity Features. The ETC Explorer tool permits closer inspection of its various data elements. In Figure 2H, a small portion of a popup databox is shown for a selected census tract in Trenton that provides a snapshot of Transportation Insecurity indicators. When fully displayed, the popup databox displays summary and the underlying insecurity feature indicators for “Cost Burden,” “Access Burden,” and “Safety.”
Justice40 is More than a Desktop Exercise
The ETC Explorer is an important tool for identifying the underlying components of disadvantage, but achieving the objectives of Justice40 will require more than desktop exercise. USDOT emphasizes that agencies and practitioners should be cognizant of the Three Major Components of DOT’s Justice40 Initiative as they work to plan, design, program, and deliver projects. They include understanding:
The needs of a community through meaningful public engagement
How a community is affected by lack of transportation investments and options
What benefits a project may create, who will receive these benefits, and how these benefits will lessen the effects of the disadvantage of the community in question
Ongoing challenges exist in building capacity and preparing transportation agencies, eligible nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and affected communities for applying for and utilizing the project funding offered by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. In a recent research brief, the Urban Institute distilled observations from interviews with representatives from agencies and NGOs on their pressing needs and how to address the varying capacities of applicants to secure discretionary grant infrastructure funding. Among the topics covered, the interviews shared insights on the challenges of facilitating meaningful community engagement, contending within the application cycle, and managing relationships within the local ecosystem.
Recognizing the capacity challenges and moving toward a more equity-centric vision for project funding, USDOT established the Thriving Communities Program to provide planning, technical assistance, and capacity building support. The first round of funding awards, announced in April 2023, included funding for teams of Capacity Builders.
The City of East Orange, in partnership with the City of Orange Township and Housing and Neighborhood Development Services, Inc. (HANDS), was among the communities awarded project funding for capacity building support. They hope to address key challenges and needs disproportionately borne by low-income and minority populations in both cities due to the construction of Interstate 280 and Freeway Drive in the 1960s that led to detrimental safety, economic development, livability, housing, connectivity, and mobility effects for the affected communities. They would like to enlist the capacity builders to “assist the cities in working with state and regional transportation partners to advance a set of improvements to bridges, roadways, and other transportation infrastructure.”
Similarly, USDOT established a Reconnecting Communities Institute (RCI) to deliver training and technical assistance to build organizational or community capacity in transportation planning and formulate innovative strategies for communities previously divided by transportation infrastructure. The BiL created a new $1 billion Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program (RCP), and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) created a similar $3.15 billion Neighborhood Access and Equity Program (NAEP) to fund projects that will retrofit, remove or remediate infrastructure that cause barriers and other harmful impacts that isolate and separate neighborhoods and communities. Both programs offer planning grants, capital grants, and technical assistance, and a combined Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods (RCN) notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) was recently issued. USDOT has indicated that enrollment into the RCI will be open to States, local and tribal governments, MPOs, and NGOs. Disadvantaged communities are expected to be prioritized for enrollment in the RCI.
Axelrod, A., Boyd, C., Fu, S., Ramos, K., and Balakrishnan, C. (2022). Lessons from Local Leaders: How Federal Agencies Can Help Ensure Data-Driven and Equity-Centric Infrastructure Investments. Urban Institute. Accessed here: Link
Boutros, A., Resler, K., and Field, S. (2023). Integrating Equity into Transportation Funding and Project Prioritization. Public Roads – Spring 2023. Vol. 87 No. 1. Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-23-003. Accessed here: Link
U.S. Department of Transportation (2023). Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, Website. Accessed here: Link
U.S. Department of Transportation. (2023). Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, User Guide. Accessed here: Link
U.S. Department of Transportation. (2023). Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, ETC Explorer Technical Documentation. Accessed here: Link
U.S. Department of Transportation. (2023). Equitable Transportation Community (ETC) Explorer, User Guide. Accessed here: Link
U.S. Department of Transportation. (2023). FY 2022 Thriving Communities Program: Selected Capacity Builder Profiles. Access here: Link
U.S. Department of Transportation. (2023). Calculating Percentage of Population in Underserved Communities for SS4A. Access here: Link
Executive Office of the President. (January, 2021). Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Accessed here: Link
Executive Office of the President. (August, 2022). Justice40 Initiative Covered Programs List. Accessed here: Link
Zhao, L., Huynh, N., and Hawkins, J. Framework for Quantifying Benefits to Disadvantaged Communities: Application to Nebraska’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Plan. Funded Project. Accessed here: Link.
Strategic Workforce Development, 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.