Image of backed up traffic and first responder in neon vest standing on highway

NextGen Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Webinar Series

The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) EDC-6 NextGen Traffic Incident Management (TIM) initiative promotes safety, reliability, and the most efficient use of responder resources and supports and expands local agency capacities. To this end, FHWA's Talking TIM webinar series provides best practices, new technological innovations, and successful implementations. The FHWA-sponsored webinars are hosted by the National Operations Center of Excellence (NOCoE).

  • January 2021: The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Role in TIM, Digital Alert Pilots in St Louis and Kansas City, and FHWA Every Day Counts Round Six (EDC-6) NextGen TIM Overview
  • February 2021: Innovative Tools for Responder and Road Worker Safety
  • March 2021: AASHTO's Role in TIM, Nebraska Tow Temporary Traffic Control Program, Fire Truck Attenuators for Temporary Traffic Control, Massachusetts Legislation for Driver and Responder Safety
  • April 2021: Wisconsin's Traffic Incident Management Enhancement (TIME) Program, City of Seattle TIM and Response Team Program, and North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) TIM Innovations
  • May 2021: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Role in TIM, Incident Detours Involving Railroad Crossings, Washington State's TIM Program and Virtual Coordination, and Responder Vehicle to Traffic Management Center Video Sharing
  • June 2021: Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for Traffic Incident Management
  • July 2021: Lubbock Fire and Rescue Helmet Innovation,  RESQUE-1 Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Assistance, Geographically-Tagged Information from Travelers
  • August 2021: CDOT TIM for Localities, Texas Commission on Law Enforcement TIM Training Requirement, Schertz Fire and Rescue TIM Training Institutionalization, Institutionalizing TIM training for EMS Professionals in Georgia
  • September 2021: Rural Roadway Strategies for Incident Management
  • October 2021: Autonomous Truck Mounted Attenuator Testing and Implementation in Colorado, Autonomous and Driverless Pilots for Large Trucks in Arizona, Rural-Focused Towing Programs in Florida
  • November 2021: National Kickoff: Crash Responder Safety Week 2021
  • December 2021: Using the Traffic Incident Management Benefit/Cost (TIM-BC) Tool

General information on this EDC-6 initiative may be found here.

FHWA contacts for NextGen TIM are Paul Jodoin (Paul.Jodoin@dot.gov), and James Austrich (James.Austrich@dot.gov).

From left to right, image of a camera on a traffic pole, AI computer vision vehicle traveling paths, and AI identifying cars on an interstate, using colored boxes

How Automated Video Analytics Can Make NJ’s Transportation Network Safer and More Efficient

Computer vision is an emerging technology in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) reads and interprets images or videos, and then provides that data to decision makers. For the transportation field, computer vision has broad implications, streamlining many tasks that are currently performed by staff. By automating monitoring procedures, transportation agencies can gain access to improved, real-time incident data, as well as new metrics on traffic and “near-misses,” which contribute to making more informed safety decisions.

To learn more about the how computer vision technology is being applied in the transportation sector, three researchers working on related projects were interviewed: Dr. Chengjun Liu, working on Smart Traffic Video Analytics and Edge Computing at the New Jersey Institute of Technology; Dr. Mohammad Jalayer, developing an AI-based Surrogate Safety Measure for intersections at Rowan University, and Asim Zaman, PE, currently researching how computer vision can improve safety for railroads. All researchers expressed that this technology is imminent, effective, and will affect staffing needs and roles at transportation agencies.   

A summary of these interviews is presented below.

 

Smart Traffic Video Analytics (STVA) and Edge Computing (EC) – Dr. Chengjun Liu, Professor, Department of Computer Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Dr. Chengjun Liu is a professor of computer science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he leads the Face Recognition and Video Processing Lab. In 2016, NJDOT and the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded a three and-a-half year research project The project led to the development of several promising tools, including a Smart Traffic Video Analysis (STVA) system that automatically counts traffic volume, and detects crashes, traffic, slowdowns, wrong-way drivers, and pedestrians, and is able to classify different types of vehicles.

“There are a number of core technologies involved in these smart traffic analytics.” Dr. Liu said. “In particular, advanced video analytics. Here we also use edge computing because it can be deployed in the field. We also apply some deep learning methods to analyze the video.”

Video image of interstate highway with bidirectional traffic and AI identifying vehicles using green and red boxes

Figure 1. A video feed shows the AI identifying passing vehicles on I-280 in real-time. Courtesy of Innovative AI Technologies.

To test this technology, Dr. Liu’s team developed prototypes to monitor traffic in a real-world setting. The prototype consists of Video Analytics (VA)  software, and Edge Computing (EC) components. EC is a computing strategy that seeks to reduce data transmission and response times by distributing computational units, often in the field. In this case, VA and EC systems, consisting of a wired camera with a small computer attached, were placed to overlook segments of both Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and I-280 in Newark. Footage shows the device detecting passing cars, counting and classifying vehicles as they enter a designated zone. Existing automated technologies for traffic counting had something in the realm of a 20 to 30 percent error rate, while Dr. Liu reported error rates between 2 and 5 percent.

Additional real-time roadway footage from NJDOT shows several instances of the device flagging aberrant vehicular behavior. On I-280, the system flags a black car stopped on the shoulder with a red box. On another stretch of highway, a car that has turned left on a one-way is identified and demarcated. The same technology, being used for traffic monitoring video in Korea, immediately locates and highlights a white car that careens into a barrier and flips. Similar examples are given for congestion and pedestrians.

“This can be used for accident detection, and traffic vehicle classification, where incidents are detected automatically and in real time. This can be used in various illumination conditions like nighttime, or weather conditions like snowing, raining, and so forth.” Dr. Liu said.

According to Dr. Liu, video monitoring at NJDOT is being outsourced, and it might take days, or even weeks, to review and receive data. Staff monitor operations via video monitors from NJDOT facilities, where, due to human capacity constraints, some incidents and abnormal driving behavior go unnoticed. Like many tools using computer vision, the STVA system can provide live metrics, allowing for more effective monitoring than is humanly possible and accelerating emergency responder dispatch times.

STVA, by automating some manned tasks, would change workplace needs in a transportation agency. Rather than requiring people to closely monitor traffic and then make decisions, use of this new technology would require staff capable of working with the software, troubleshooting its performance, and interpreting the data provided for safety, engineering, and planning decisions.

Dr. Liu was keen to see his technology in use, expressing how the private sector was already deploying it in a variety of contexts. In his view, it was imperative that STVA be implemented to improve traffic monitoring operations. “There is a potential of saving lives,” Dr. Liu said.

 

Safety Analysis Tool - Dr. Mohammad Jalayer, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rowan University

Dr. Mohammad Jalayer, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rowan University, has been researching the application of computer vision to improving safety at intersections. While Dr. Liu’s STVA technology might focus more heavily on real-time applications, Dr. Jalayer’s research looks to use AI-based video analytics to understand and quantify how traffic functions at certain intersections and, based on that analysis, provide data for safety changes.

Traditionally, Dr. Jalayer said, safety assessments are reactive, “meaning that we need to wait for crashes to happen. Usually, we analyze crashes for three years, or five years, and then figure out what’s going on.” Often, these crash records can be inaccurate, or incomplete. Instead, Dr. Jalayer and his team are looking to develop proactive approaches. “Rather than just waiting for a crash, we wanted to do an advanced analysis to make sure that we prevent the crashes.”

Because 40 percent of traffic incidents occur at intersections, many of them high-profile crashes, the researchers chose to focus on intersection safety. For this, they developed the Safety Analysis Tool.

Image of an intersection with overlays of different colors, showing vehicle paths as they drive past, demonstrating different travel paths

Figure 2. The Surrogate Safety Analysis in action, using user behavior to determine recurring hazards at intersections. Courtesy of Dr. Jalayer.

The Surrogate Safety Measure analyzes conflicts and near-misses. The implementation of a tool like the Surrogate Safety Measure will help staff to make more informed safety decisions for the state’s intersections. The AI-based tool uses a deep learning algorithm to look at many different factors: left-turn lanes, traffic direction, traffic count, vehicle type, and can differentiate and count pedestrians and bicycles as well.

The Safety Analysis Tool’s Surrogate Safety Measure contains two important indicators: Time To Collision (TTC), and Post-Encroachment Time (PET). These are measures of how long it would take two road users to collide, unless further action is taken (TTC), and the amount of time between vehicles crossing the same point (PET), which is also an effective indicator of high-conflict areas.

In practice, these metrics would register, for example, a series of red-light violations, or people repeatedly crossing the street when they should not. Over time, particularly hazardous areas of intersections can be identified, even if an incident has not yet occurred. According to Dr. Jalayer, FHWA and other traffic safety stakeholders have already begun to integrate TTC and PET into their safety analysis toolsets.

Additionally, the AI-based tool can log data that is currently unavailable for roadways. For example, it can generate accurate traffic volume reports, which, Dr. Jalayer said, are often difficult to find. As bicycle and pedestrian data is typically not available, data gathered from this tool would significantly improve the level of knowledge about user behavior for an intersection, allowing for more effective treatments..

In practice, after the Safety Analysis Tool is applied, DOT stakeholders can decide which treatment to implement. For example, Jalayer said, if the analysis finds a lot of conflict with left turns at the intersection, then perhaps the road geometry could be changed. In the case of right-turn conflicts, a treatment could look at eliminating right turns on red. Then, Jalayer said, there are longer-term strategies, such as public education campaigns.

Image of Safety Analysis Tool interactive box with parts that read Analysis and Video, with Results, such as Vehicle Red Light Violation

Figure 3. The Safety Analysis tool user interface, which can run various analyses of traffic video, such as vehicle violations, or pedestrian volume. Courtesy of Dr. Jalayer.

For the first phase of the project, the researchers deployed their technology at two intersections in East Rutherford, near the American Dream Mall. For the current second phase, they are collecting data at ten intersections across the state, including locations near Rowan and Rutgers universities.

Currently, this type of traffic safety analysis is handled in a personnel-intensive way, with a human physically present studying an intersection. But with the Surrogate Safety tool, the process will become much more efficient and comprehensive. The data collected  will be less subject to human error, as it is not presently possible for staff to perfectly monitor every camera feed at all times of day.

This technology circumvents the need for additional staff, removing the need for in-person field visits or footage monitoring. Instead of staff with the advanced technical expertise to analyze an intersection’s safety in the field, state agencies will require personnel proficient in maintaining the automated equipment.

Many state traffic intersections are already equipped with cameras, but the data is not currently being analyzed using computer vision methods. With much of the infrastructure already present, Dr. Jalayer said that the next step would be to feed this video data into their software for analysis. There are private companies already using similar computer-vision based tools. “I believe this is a very emerging technology, and you're seeing more and more within the U.S.,” Dr. Jalayer said. He expects the tool to be launched by early 2022. The structure itself is already built, but the user interface is still under development. “We are almost there.” Dr. Jalayer said.

 

AI-Based Video Analytics for Railroad Safety – Asim Zaman, PE, Project Engineer, Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning and Transportation research, Rutgers University

Asim Zaman, a project engineer at Rutgers, shared information on an ongoing research project examining the use of computer analytics for the purpose of improving safety on and around railways. The rail safety research is led by Dr. Xiang Liu, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rutgers Engineering School, and involves training AI to detect  trespassers on the tracks, a persistent problem that often results in loss of life and serious service disruptions. “Ninety percent of all the deaths in the railroad industry come from trespassing or happen at grade crossings,” Zaman said.

The genesis of the project came from Dr. Liu hypothesizing that, “There's probably events that happen that we don't see, and there's nothing recorded about, but they might tell the full story.” Thus, the research team began to inquire into how computer vision analysis might inform targeted interventions that improve railway safety.

Figure showing three vehicles driving over railroad tracks, with color overlays showing that they are detected by the AI

Figure 4. The color overlay of vehicles trespassing on railways demonstrates that the AI has successfully detected them. Courtesy of Zaman, Ren, and Liu.

Initially, the researchers gathered some sample video, a few days' worth of footage along railroad tracks, and analyzed it using simple artificial intelligence methods to identify “near-miss events,” where people were present on the tracks as a train approached, but managed to avoid being struck. Data on near-misses such as these are not presently recorded, leading to a lack of comprehensive information on trespassing behavior.

After publishing a paper on their research, the team looked into integrating deep learning neural networks into  the analysis, which can identify different types of objects. With this technology, they again looked at trespassers, using two weeks of footage this time. This study was effective, but still computationally-intensive. For their next project, with funding from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), they looked at the efficacy of applying a new algorithm, YOLO (You Only Look Once), to generate a trespassing database.

The algorithm has been fed live video from four locations over the past year, beginning on January 1, 2021, and concluding on December 31. Zaman noted that, with the AI’s analysis and the copious amounts of data, the research can begin to ask more granular questions such as, “How many trespasses can we expect on a Monday in winter? Or, what time of day is the worst for this particular location? Or, do truck drivers trespass more?”

Image of computer vision tool detecting pedestrians on tracks as train is actively using intersection, they are shown highlighted in green

Figure 5. Similar work shows AI identifying and flagging pedestrian trespassers. The researchers are currently working on using unreported “near-miss” data to improve safety. Courtesy of Zaman, Ren, and Liu.

After the year’s research has concluded, the researchers will study the data and look for applications. Without the AI integration, however, such study would be time-consuming and impractical. The applications fall under the “3E” categories: engineering, education, and enforcement. For example, if the analysis finds that trespassing tends to happen at a particular location at 5pm, then that might be when law enforcement are deployed to that area. If many near-misses are happening around high school graduation, then targeted education and enforcement would be warranted during this time. But without this analysis, no measures would be taken, as near-misses are not logged.

Currently, this type of technology is in the research stage. “We're kind of in the transition between the proof of concept and the deployment here,” Zaman said. The researchers are focused on proving its effectiveness, with the goal of enabling railroads and transit agencies to use these technologies to study particularly problematic areas, and determine if treatments are working or if additional measures are warranted. “It's already contributing, in a very small way, to safety decision making.”

Zaman said that the team at Rutgers was very interested in sharing this technology, and its potential applications, with others. In his estimation, these computer analytics are about five years from a more widespread rollout. He notes that this technology would be greatly beneficial as a part of transportation monitoring, as “AI can make use out of all this data that’s just kind of sitting there or getting rinsed every 30 days.”

Applying computer vision to existing video surveillance will help to address significant safety issues that have persistently affected the rail industry. The AI-driven safety analysis will identify key traits of trespassing that have been previously undetected, assisting decision makers in applying an appropriate response. As with other smart video analytics technologies, the benefit, lies in the enhanced ability to make informed decisions that save lives and keep the system moving.

 

Current and Future Research

The Transportation Research Board’s TRID Database provides recent examples of how automated video analytics are being explored in a wider context. For example, in North Dakota, an in-progress project, sponsored by the University of Utah, is studying the use of computer vision to automate the work of assessing rural roadway safety. In Texas, researchers at the University of Texas used existing intersection cameras to analyze pedestrian behavior, publishing two papers on their findings.

The TRID database also contains other recent research contributions to this emerging field. The article, “Assessing Bikeability with Street View Imagery and Computer Vision(2021) presents a hybrid model for assessing safety, applying computer vision to street view imagery, in addition to site visits. The article, "Detection of Motorcycles in Urban Traffic Using Video Analysis: A Review" (2021), considers how automatic video processing algorithms can increase safety for motorcyclists.

Finally, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) has plans to undertake a research project, Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to Enhance Safety Analysis once a contractor has been selected. This study will develop processes for data collection, as well as analysis algorithms, and create guidance for managing data. Ultimately, this work will help to standardize and advance the adoption of AI and machine learning in the transportation industry.

The NCHRP Program has also funded workforce development studies to better prepare transportation agencies for adapting to this rapidly changing landscape for transportation systems operations and management.  In 2012, the NCHRP  publication, Attracting, Recruiting, and Retaining Skilled Staff for Transportation System Operations and Management, identified the growing need for transportation agencies to create pipelines for system operations and management (SOM) staff, develop the existing workforce with revamped trainings, and increase awareness of the field’s importance for  leadership and the public.  In 2019, the Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) Workforce Guidebook further detailed specific job positions required for a robust TSMO program.  The report considered the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for these job positions and tailored recommendations to hiring each position. The report compiled information on training and professional development, including specific training providers and courses nationwide.

 

Conclusion

Following a brief scan of current literature and Interviews with three NJ-based researchers, it is clear that computer vision is a broadly applicable technology for the transportation sector, and that its implementation is imminent. It will transform aspects of both operations monitoring, and safety analysis work, as AI can monitor and analyze traffic video far more efficiently and effectively than human staff. Workplace roles, the researchers said, will shift to supporting the technology’s hardware in the field, as well as managing the software components.  Traffic operations monitoring might transition to interpreting and acting on incidents that the Smart Traffic Video Analytics flags. Engineers, tasked with analyzing traffic safety and determining the most effective treatments, will be informed by more expansive data on aspects such as driver behavior and conflict areas than available using more traditional methods.

The adoption of computer vision in the transportation sector will help to make our roads, intersections, and railways safer. It will help transportation professionals to better understand the conditions of facilities they monitor, providing invaluable insight for how to make them safer, and more efficient for all users. Most importantly, these additional metrics will provide ways of seeing how people behave within our transportation network, often in-real time, enabling data-driven interventions that will save lives.

State, regional and local transportation agencies will need to recruit and retain staff with the right knowledge, skills and abilities to capture the safety and operations benefits and navigate the challenges of adopting new technologies in making this transition.

 


Resources

Center for Transportation Research. (2020). Video Data Analytics for Safer and More Efficient Mobility. Center for Transportation Research. https://ctr.utexas.edu/wp-content/uploads/151.pdf

City of Bellevue, Washington. (2021). Accelerating Vision Zero with Advanced Video Analytics: Video-Based Network-Wide Conflict and Speed Analysis. National Operations Center of Excellence. https://transops.s3.amazonaws.com/uploaded_files/City%20of%20Bellevue%2C%20WA%20-%20Conflict%20and%20Speed%20Analysis%20-%20NOCoE%20Case%20Study.pdf

Espinosa, J., Velastín, S., and Branch, J. (2021). "Detection of Motorcycles in Urban Traffic Using Video Analysis: A Review," in IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, Vol. 22, No. 10, pp. 6115-6130, Oct. 2021. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9112620

Ito, Koichi, and Biljecki, Filip. (2021). “Assessing Bikeability with Street View Imagery and Computer Vision.Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies.  Volume 132, November 2021, 103371. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trc.2021.103371

Jalayer, Mohammad, and Patel, Deep. (2020). Automated Analysis of Surrogate Safety Measures and Non-compliance Behavior of Road Users at Intersections. Rowan University. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Patel-Jalayer-with-video.pdf

Liu, Chengjun (2021). Stopped Vehicle Detection. New Jersey Institute of Technology. https://web.njit.edu/~cliu/NJDOT/DEMOS.html

Liu, X., Baozhang, R., and Zaman, A. (2019). Artificial Intelligence-Aided Automated Detection of Railroad Trespassing. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0361198119846468

Cronin, B., Anderson, L., Fien-Helfman, D., Cronin, C., Cook, A., Lodato, M., & Venner, M. (2012). Attracting, Recruiting, and Retaining Skilled Staff for Transportation System Operations and Management. National Cooperative Research Program (No. Project 20-86). http://nap.edu/14603

Pustokhina, I., Putsokhin, D., Vaiyapuri, T., Gupta, D., Kumar, S., and Shankar, K. (2021). An Automated Deep Learning Based Anomaly Detection in Pedestrian Walkways for Vulnerable Road Users Safety. Safety Science. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssci.2021.105356

Szymkowski, T,. Ivey, S., Lopez, A., Noyes, P., Kehoe, N., Redden, C. (2019). Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) Workforce Guidebook: Final Guidebook. https://transportationops.org/tools/tsmo-workforce-guidebook.

Shi, Hang and Liu, Chengjun. (2020). A New Cast Shadow Detection Method for Traffic Surveillance Video Analysis Using Color and Statistical Modeling. Image and Vision Computing. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imavis.2019.103863

Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute. (2021). Intelligent Safety Assessment of Rural Roadways Using Automated Image and Video Analysis (Active). University of Utah. https://www.mountain-plains.org/research/details.php?id=566

Zhang, Z., Liu, X., and Zaman, A. (2018). Video Analytics for Railroad Safety Research: An Artificial Intelligence Approach. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0361198118792751

Zhang, T. Guo, M., and Jin, P. (2020). Longitudinal-Scanline-Based Arterial Traffic Video Analytics with Coordinate Transformation Assisted by 3D Infrastructure Data. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0361198120971257

23rd Annual NJDOT Research Showcase

The 23rd Annual NJDOT Research Showcase was an opportunity for the New Jersey transportation community to learn about the broad scope of academic research initiatives underway and share technology transfer activities being conducted by institutions of higher education partners and their associates.  The annual event serves as a showcase to present the ongoing initiatives and benefits of the NJDOT Research program. This event was the second Research Showcase conducted by webinar with sessions held from 9:00am-2:45pm on October 27, 2021.

The Research Showcase Program included presentations by university researchers, NJ agency representatives, and engineers offering their perspectives and fielding questions on topics including electrification of vehicles, smart transportation and energy use. These presentations were followed by poster sessions presenting research of students attending New Jersey’s universities and colleges.

 


MORNING

Andrew Swords, Director, Division of Statewide Planning, New Jersey Department of Transportation welcomed attendees to the event.

The NJDOT Commissioner of Transportation, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, provided opening remarks focusing on the need to work collectively to address climate change. Ms. Gutierrez-Scaccetti noted that partnerships among public, private, and academic organizations are essential to reach the state goal of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. She touched on several recent NJDOT initiatives and adoption of technological innovations that support this goal and the agency’s mission to provide a safe, cost-effective transportation network for the traveling public.  In his opening remarks, Robert Clark, Federal Highway Administration's New Jersey Division Administrator, emphasized the need for research and innovation and noted federal funding awarded to, and agency support for, recent NJDOT initiatives.

Jane Cohen, Executive Director, New Jersey Governor’s Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy gave the keynote address on "Confronting Climate Change through Transportation Initiatives." Ms. Cohen discussed the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and explained how temperature increases from climate change can intensify air pollution as well as respiratory and cardiovascular health concerns that are disproportionately borne by overburdened communities. Ms. Cohen emphasized that environmental justice and equity are at the center of the work being done to chart a path forward to a clean energy future.  She highlighted recent landmark NJ state legislation (S-232 - Cumulative Impacts Law) and NJDEP's enforcement responsibilities to protect overburdened communities in permit review processes.

Noting that transportation makes up a larger percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, she stressed the need for coordination among state agencies to shift light duty, medium and heavy duty trucks, transit vehicles, and the state fleet to electric vehicles. NJ’s Partnership to Plug-In is a statewide initiative involving state agencies and private sector partners to build out the infrastructure needed to support electric vehicle ownership.  Ms. Cohen mentioned various funding sources for projects, including the regional cap and trade system as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, from the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund, the NJ Zero Emission Incentive Program for the purchase of EVs, and an e-mobility program in Trenton through ISLES.  She highlighted several other essential transportation initiatives that are aligned with climate planning. including the adoption of Complete Streets policies, Transit Villages, and efforts to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). She promoted the value of integrating green infrastructure such as wetlands and rain gardens in transportation for greater resilience to stormwater and flooding.

In her closing remarks, she made an appeal to those in attendance to recognize the urgency of the moment and reflect on how they might contribute innovative solutions and how they might partner to work collectively toward addressing the challenges of climate change.  She recognized the Build the Better Mousetrap Competition as an example of adopting an orientation favorable to innovation. She stressed that her office welcomes new ideas such as pilot projects and programs and partnerships.

A panel of presenters from representing state agencies, academia, and industry followed:

  • Peg Hanna, Assistant Director, Air Monitoring and Mobile Sources, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, spoke about the need to use various approaches to reach goals, such as the Electric Shared Mobility Program grants and the DEP-funded ISLES program in Trenton, and the value of working with local residents to understand transportation needs and gaps, working with the private sector, and considering the sustainability of any program.
  • Andrew Tunnard, Assistant Commissioner, Transportation Operations Systems and Support, New Jersey Department of Transportation, introduced a study, New Jersey Fleet Electrification: Statewide Charging Facilities Design Recommendations, undertaken to determine locations for the state build-out of EV infrastructure and to create a framework for state agencies to move toward their goals of fleet transition.
  • Alain Kornhauser, PhD, Professor of Operations Research & Financial Engineering, Princeton University, discussed details of the study, including the cost/benefit analysis comparing EV charging infrastructure favorably to internal combustion fueling locations, and the equitable distribution of the burden for creating EV infrastructure among state agencies.
  • Spencer Reeder, Director of Government Affairs and Sustainability, Audi of America, spoke about the emerging market for electric vehicles and the expansion of options for buyers.
  • Julia Rege, Vice President for Energy and Environment, Alliance for Automotive Innovation, spoke about the need for purchase incentives for electric vehicles, for more infrastructure including more charging capacity, and to switch manufacturing and supply that is still geared to the internal combustion fleet.

Presenters responded to attendee questions. The audience was informed that research ideas can be submitted to the Transportation Research Ideas Portal through the NJDOT Technology Transfer website.

Plenary Session Recording

Keynote Address: Confronting Climate Change Through Transportation Initiative

Panel Presentation: Innovation in Transportation Electrification: Getting to 2050

Panel Presentation: New Jersey Fleet Electrification

The program continued as Amanda Gendek, Manager, NJDOT Bureau of Research, announced several awards given in recognition of research, innovation and implementation efforts.  Below is a listing of the award winners presented at this year's showcase:

  • 2021 Outstanding University Student in Transportation Research Award – Wei Huang, Rutgers University (Implementation of Porous Concrete for Sidewalks in New Jersey)
  • 2021 Best Poster Award – Xiao Chen, Rutgers University (Hot in-Place Recycling of Asphalt Pavement: Current Practice and New Technology)
  • 2021 NJDOT Research Implementation Award – Husam Najm, Hao Wang, Rutgers University (Implementation of Pervious (Porous) Concrete for Sidewalks)
  • 2021 NJDOT Build a Better Mousetrap Award (State Agency) – Marc Franco, NJ TRANSIT, Tire Centerline Bracket
  • 2021 NJDOT Build a Better Mousetrap Award (Local Agency) – Art Villano, Montgomery Township, Inlet Repair Trailer

The Build a Better a Mousetrap Award for an entry from a state agency was given to Marc Franco from NJ TRANSIT. His Tire Centerline bracket provides a simple means for finding the centerline of the tire when installing the air-operated snow chain systems on the fleet of buses. The process, critical to the proper operation of these systems, increases safety and efficiency, and reduces costs.

The Build a Better a Mousetrap Award for an entry from a local agency was given to Art Villano from Montgomery Township who found a more efficient means to transport all needed equipment and materials to work sites to conduct inlet repairs. The use of a low deck trailer and the availability of an electric crane increased safety for workers.  


AFTERNOON

In the afternoon, concurrent break-out sessions for research presentations focused on the topics of Energy/Electrification, Infrastructure, and Smart Transportation, and for the presentation of posters from students and researchers at New Jersey’s colleges and universities describing their methods and findings on ongoing and recently completed research and responding to questions by attendees.

Energy/Electrification Session Recording

Smart Transportation Session Recording

Infrastructure Session Recording

Poster Session Recording

 


Energy/Electrification Presentations

Laura Soares, Rutgers University, Energy Harvesting Evaluation of Photovoltaic Noise Barriers on Highways  LINK

Chris Lamm, Cambridge Systematics, Al Beatty, CALSTART, and Leslie Fordjour, New York Multi-State Regional Clean Freight Corridors Study  LINK

 


Infrastructure Presentations

Xiao Tan, Stevens Institute of Technology, Achieving Resilient and Smart Concrete Bridges by Mapping Strains and Cracks Using Distributed Fiber Optic Sensors LINK

Sougata Roy, Rutgers University, Innovative Metal Deck for Efficient Infrastructure  LINK

Kaan Ozbay and Jingqin Gao, New York University, Bridge Management System with Life Cycle Cost Optimization as a Decision Support Tool: A Case Study in New Jersey  LINK

 


Smart Transportation Presentations

Mohammad Jalayer, Rowan University, A Novel Approach to Identify Distracted Drivers in New Jersey LINK

Anjiang Chen, Rutgers University, Integrated Pandemic Travel Demand and Epidemiology Modeling for COVID-19 Case Prediction and Impact on Regional Travel Behavior in 2020  LINK

Abdullah Shabarek, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Predicting Traffic Speed for New Jersey Freeway Work Zones - A Deep Learning Approach  LINK

 


Poster Presentations

Hot In-Place Recycling of Asphalt Pavement: Current Practice and New Technology - Xiao Chen, Rutgers University

An Innovative Green Pervious Concrete Made with Modified Geopolymer Materials - Wei Huang, Rutgers University

Modelling and Mitigating of Thermal-Induced Reflective Cracking in Asphalt Concrete Overlay - Pengyu Xie, Rutgers University

Understanding the Interconnectivity between Intersection Traffic Congestion, and Outdoor Air Quality for Smart Cities - Kourtney Arena, Rowan University

Estimating Roadway Horizontal Alignment Information Using Machine Learning - Bekir Bartin, New York University

Influence of Cracking and Brine Concentration on Corrosion and Chloride Content - Aaron Strand, New Jersey Institute of Technology

Supporting Bridge Deck Condition Assessment Through the Use of TLS - Issa Al-Shaini, Rowan University

New Brunswick Innovation Hub Smart Mobility Testing Ground, Data City: A Smart and Autonomous Initiative - Peter J. Jin, Rutgers University


The 23rd Annual NJDOT Research Showcase was organized and sponsored by the NJDOT Bureau of Research in partnership with the New Jersey Local Technical Assistance Program (NJLTAP) at Rutgers Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) and co-sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration.

 

NJDOT’s “Weather Savvy Roads” System Receives 2021 Outstanding Project Award from ITS-NJ

The Intelligent Transportation Society of New Jersey (ITS-NJ) recognizes outstanding projects or programs that employ or advance ITS technologies. This year NJDOT’s “Weather Savvy Roads” system, also known as the Mobile RWIS effort, received its 2021 Outstanding Project Award.

NJDOT’s Weather Savvy Roads Program was recently recognized by the Intelligent Transportation Society of New Jersey

NJDOT’s Weather Savvy Roads (WSR) program started with NJDOT’s Mobility Division applying for and receiving NJ’s first federal Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) grant.  The concept was to procure and install mobile RWIS devices and dash cameras in 23 DOT snow-fighting vehicles statewide to view real time conditions and guide decisions for allocation of resources during a winter event.

The team is comprised of staff from NJDOT Mobility, NJDOT Operations, the NJIT ITS Resource Center, and technical partners from Vaisala and EAI.  NJIT created a web-based platform where users could view a statewide map and data from the RWIS devices and video from the CCTV6 in real time.

The WSR project was also designed to continue NJDOT’s investigation into cellular strength along NJDOT’s road network. This effort was first evaluated during NJ STIC Incentive grant funded program using iCone devices on SSP trucks. Utilizing a cellular router carrying FIRSTNET cellular capability, the technical team at NJIT is evaluating the strength of this first responder-only focused cellular system to see the various levels of signal strength. The project has shown tremendous benefits after just one winter season with staff across multiple levels of the Department utilizing the web platform to make better informed decisions about staffing and contractor use.

To learn more about the project, click on the NJ Innovative Initiatives, Weather Responsive Management Strategies page, or watch a presentation to the NJ STIC by Sal Cowan, Senior Director of Mobility at NJDOT about the equipment installation and web interface efforts taken for the pilot project.

See the FHWA’s Innovation Spotlight video on Road Weather Management: Weather Savvy Roads.

Rising to the Challenge Part II: How State DOTs Are Building Resiliency

Figure 1. The Hanging Lake Tunnels on I-70 in Colorado were targeted in the state DOT’s resiliency planning. ThreadedThoughts | Flickr
Figure 1. The Hanging Lake Tunnels on I-70 in Colorado were targeted in the state DOT’s resiliency planning. ThreadedThoughts | Flickr

The previous article in this two-part series addressed the ways that state DOTs have been innovating to reduce Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as a means of slowing climate change. However, an already changing climate is bringing more severe and unprecedented weather, challenging the durability of the nation’s infrastructure.

Resiliency is defined by the State of New Jersey as “as the ability of social and ecological systems to absorb and adapt to shocks and stresses resulting from a changing climate, while becoming better positioned to respond in the future.” Many state DOTS are rising to this challenge, innovating through adoption of planning, technological, and engineering methods to protect roads, bridges and the people that use them.

In Colorado, an example of climate change-exacerbated weather affecting a vital interstate link illustrates both the growing threat and the potential for action. Between the municipalities of Dotsero and Glenwood Springs, Interstate 70 travels through the Rocky Mountains (Fig. 1), following a narrow canyon bed alongside the Colorado River. In early fall 2020, the Grizzly Creek Fire burned through 32,631 acres, including the elevated terrain above I-70. Then, in summer 2021, an atypically high rainfall event created a large mudslide that poured onto the highway, bringing traffic to a halt and trapping some motorists in the nearby Hanging Lake Tunnels. But, had thorough resiliency planning not been conducted after a devastating 2013 rockslide in the same vicinity, further destruction would have been assured. Instead, a berm built in 2020 diverted 100,000 cubic yards of debris away from the tunnels (and a Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Command Center), saving lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. According to CDOT’s director of maintenance and operations, the berm improvement cost less than $50,000.

Figure 2: A map of large-scale weather and climate disasters in the first half of 2021. Such occurrences have been increasing in frequency since the 1980s. Courtesy of National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Administration.
Figure 2. A map of large-scale weather and climate disasters in the first half of 2021. Such occurrences have been increasing in frequency since the 1980s. Courtesy of NOAA

This dramatic case study demonstrates the value of risk and resilience planning for a state roadway network. But Colorado, of course, is not on its own. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), billion-dollar climate-borne disasters have been steadily increasing since the agency began tracking them in 1980 (Fig. 2). In particular, our transportation infrastructure, vital for so many economic and societal functions, is challenged by increasingly frequent and severe weather events. While different geographies present different threats, there is a common need for threat assessment and decision-making frameworks to strategically build infrastructure resilience. There is much opportunity to innovate with new technologies, engineering methods, and planning frameworks for the purpose of strengthening our transportation network.



Table 1. A Brief Scan of Resiliency Planning Initiatives

StateThemeAction
CaliforniaAssessment - ComprehensiveFive-tier adaptation report for each district
CaliforniaAssessment - Sea Level RisePilot sea-level rise assessment in San Francisco Bay Area
ColoradoAssessment - ComprehensiveRisk and Resilience Analysis Procedure
FHWAAssessment - ComprehensiveVulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Framework, 3rd Edition
FloridaAssessment - Sea Level RiseSea Level Scenario Sketch Planning Tool
HawaiiAssessment - ComprehensiveAction plan that identifies risky areas and strategies for incorporating resilience
IllinoisAssessment - ComprehensiveRisk analysis, now developing processes to implement resilience
IowaAssessment - FloodingResiliency and vulnerability assessment for I-380
New JerseyAssessment - FloodingFlood Risk Mapping Project
TexasAssessment - ComprehensiveClimate Change/Extreme Weather Vulnerability and Risk Assessment for
Transportation Infrastructure in Dallas and Tarrant Counties
VermontAssessment - FloodingTool for identifying risk levels for roads, bridges and culverts
WashingtonAssessment - ComprehensiveStatewide climate analysis of vulnerable agency-owned infrastructure
WashingtonAssessment - FloodingSkagit County targeted assessment of flood risk

FHWA & NCHRP Research Frameworks

In 2012, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) called for each state to create “a risk-based asset management plan for the National Highway System to improve or preserve the condition of the assets and the performance of the system” (MAP-21, 2012). The FHWA resource, Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Framework, 3rd Edition (2017), seeks to combine the legislatively-mandated work of risk assessment with the rising threat of climate change upon the system.

The Framework shares examples of approaches for each step in the vulnerability assessment and adaptation framework (see Fig. 3). For example, for the first step, “Articulate objectives and define study scope,” the report gives instances of the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ vulnerability assessment work, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC) ongoing efforts to model and react to sea level rise and storm surge, as well as the Iowa Department of Transportation’s and Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s respective inquiries into how increased flooding would affect critical infrastructure. For state DOTs looking for a rich bibliography of vulnerability assessment resources and case studies, the FHWA Framework’s Appendix A includes resources for selecting climate variables, projecting temperature and precipitation, obtaining sea level rise information, and determining how to incorporate results of assessments into the transportation planning process, among others.

Figure 3. FHWA’s Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Framework is a primer for DOTs looking to integrate a changing climate with their risk assessments. Courtesy of FHWA.
Figure 3. FHWA’s Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Framework is a primer for DOTs looking to integrate a changing climate with their risk assessments. Courtesy of FHWA

The National Highway Cooperative Research Program (NCHRP), an initiative supported by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), working in cooperation with FHWA, has been researching resilience planning for state DOTs, with several ongoing projects. A brief scan of recent work finds a variety of other resiliency initiatives undertaken by state DOTs in roadway engineering, planning, and operations, with several reports reiterating that there remains work to be done.

The program’s 2019 Applying Climate Change Information to Hydrologic and Coastal Design of Transportation Infrastructure addresses how to plan and engineer hydrologic and coastal infrastructure for a changing climate. Typically, engineers use historical assumptions to predict future conditions, but, in a changing climate, this approach is problematic. The guide provides two different decision-making frameworks, Top-Down and Threshold (Bottom-Up), as well as probabilistic risk assessments to best understand the appropriate course of action, such as whether to significantly invest in making a facility more resilient.

A report published by NCHRP the previous year, Resilience in Transportation, Planning, Engineering, Management, Policy, and Administration (2018), works to synthesize the state of the practice. The survey of 40 state DOTs revealed a pressing need for resilience metrics and assessment methods. According to the study, “Currently there is no standard measurement for resilience within highway analysis.” However, in the intervening years, many state DOTs have begun the work of developing risk assessments and resiliency plans.

NCHRP’s Incorporating the Costs and Benefits of Adaptation Measures in Preparation for Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change Guidebook (2020) describes technical steps to assist agencies in conducting CBAs (Cost-Benefit Analyses) for climate resilience. With sample scenarios and problems, the resource explains the necessity for CBAs as a resilience decision-making tool, and the various considerations that must be taken into account. Later, this article will touch upon how CDOT used CBAs for its risk assessments and resiliency planning.

Finally, NCHRP’s Transportation System Resilience: Research Roadmap and White Papers (2021) identifies several pressing research needs for the current five-year period. After synthesizing reports, and conducting workshops and outreach, consultants created a ranked list of projects; notably, the first two of these projects were Integrating Resilience into Transportation Project Development and Economic Benefits from Making Investments in Resilient Transportation Assets. The report calls for continued, balanced research into many topics to build the most system resilience, cautioning that: “Disruptive forces have no end point but continue and may, in fact, worsen over time. Recovery is not an option – the best that can be hoped for is continuous adaptation.”

Analyzing and Prioritizing Vulnerable Assets

Figure 4: The Golden Gate Bridge was one of the Priority 1 assets targeted in Caltrans’ resiliency assessment. FrankBrueck | Wikimedia Commons
Figure 4. The Golden Gate Bridge was one of the Priority 1 assets targeted in Caltrans’ resiliency assessment. FrankBrueck | Wikimedia Commons

A handful of geographically diverse state DOTs provide insightful examples of the present state of resiliency planning. Due to federal requirements, DOTs have conducted in-depth inventories of state roadway networks, categorizing them by vulnerability and level of risk. The handful of examples that follow show how different jurisdictions and geographies have approached this work to understand how environmental shifts are anticipated to affect infrastructure, and to prioritize facilities by their significance to the overall transportation network.

In California, Caltrans has compiled adaptation priority reports for each district. For District 4, which encompasses the Bay Area region, Caltrans and consultants assigned an Average Cross-Hazard Prioritization Score to each exposed bridge, culvert, and roadway asset. A score for each asset was calculated using context-sensitive criteria—for instance, temperature affects the integrity of asphalt binders more significantly than it would a culvert. On the Priority 1 Tier are major, threatened pieces of infrastructure, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, a large culvert over the Transmission Canal, and many segments of coastal roadway around the San Francisco Bay. According to the document, the next steps will be to prepare more detailed adaptation assessments for these assets, as well as to integrate these prioritization measures into the district’s asset management system.

Figure 5. A segment of VT-107 damaged by Tropical Storm Irene, which motivated the development of the Transportation Resilience Planning Tool (TRPT). Courtesy Vermont Agency of Transportation.
Figure 5. A segment of VT-107 damaged by Tropical Storm Irene, which motivated the development of the Transportation Resilience Planning Tool (TRPT). Courtesy of the Vermont Agency of Transportation

This work has been conducted in East Coast states as well. The Vermont Agency of Transportation (Vtrans) developed an in-house tool for identifying risk levels for roads, bridges, and culverts. The Transportation Resilience Planning Tool (TRPT) takes into account measures of Vulnerability, Criticality, Risk, and Mitigation for its four areas of analysis. Additionally, Vtrans has made the Tool available as a web-based application for ease of use. For example, an examination of the roadway network near East Dorset, Vermont, shows a stretch of the Ethan Allen Highway with a 9/10 Vulnerability score, and 7/10 Criticality score. Because this segment’s right-of-way overlaps with that of an adjacent river, it is particularly vulnerable to erosion. The Tool also contains suggested countermeasures, which in this case include strategies such as planting more vegetation, armoring the riverbank and road, and more costly measures, like adjusting the road’s alignment. Cost estimates for these actions are also given.

Nearby, in Maine, the state department of transportation (MaineDOT) recently completed and published a survey of undersized culverts in the state. The purpose of this work was to identify locations where flooding on the state roadway network might most likely occur, and, in a granular fashion, identify necessary improvements. On the interactive ArcGIS application, one randomly selected culvert on Interstate 395 in Bangor (Fig. 6), was listed as needing an additional one to ten feet expansion, while another, on a nearby clover leaf, needed none. State agencies in Illinois and Delaware have been compiling similar inventories to those in California and Vermont.

Figure 6. MaineDOT’s Cross Culvert’s GIS layer shows culverts slated for upgrades. Courtesy of MaineDOT
Figure 6. MaineDOT’s Cross Culvert’s GIS layer shows culverts slated for upgrades. Courtesy of MaineDOT

The purpose of such work, in the context of a changing climate, is to understand, on a granular level, the weaknesses and strengths of the state’s system, and then to develop a systematic plan of action. Hawaii, after doing so, found that 58 percent of the state’s highway network was vulnerable to climate-borne stresses. Hawaii’s plan then called for including these considerations in the department’s technical and process guidance, so that, infrastructure could be adapted to face assessed threats in the future.

Mapping Coastal Resilience

In New Jersey, work to expand the NJDOT Flood Risk Visualization Tool is underway. At the 2020 NJDOT Research Showcase, Jon Carnegie, Executive Director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, presented on work from a research team tasked with assisting NJDOT in assessing growing flood risk for the road network by developing the GIS-based Flood Risk Visualization Tool. The first phase of the tool was released in December, 2020, allowing NJDOT to use coastal data from NJFloodMapper and inland flooding data from FEMA to flag areas that may be adversely affected by climate change. The second phase will involve modeling flooding scenarios from specific storm events, thereby enabling NJDOT engineers and planners to effectively assess vulnerability and integrate it into the decision-making process. When finished, this internal tool will allow staff to “zoom-to” particular segments or mile-posts of the state highway network, and view the climate-borne challenges that a particular asset might face.

Figure 7. A mapping tool shows sea level rise (SLR) scenarios and affected transportation infrastructure in Miami Beach. Courtesy of University of Florida
Figure 7. A mapping tool shows sea level rise (SLR) scenarios and affected transportation infrastructure in Miami Beach. Courtesy of University of Florida

For instance, in the event of a 1-ft sea-level rise (which Rutgers scientists predict is likely to occur by 2070), the current mapping application shows the devastating effects of a Category 2 hurricane on Atlantic City, dramatically worsening the storm’s flooding impacts. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), in association with the University of Florida GeoPlan Center, have developed something similar, the Sea Level Scenario Sketch Planning Tool. This application specifically focuses on transportation infrastructure, showing, for example, a 2070 scenario in Miami Beach (Fig. 7) that illustrates sea-level rise (SLR) affecting a majority of roads on the barrier island. The NJFloodMapper also models SLR, with projections for rising seas to begin consuming the Jersey Shore.

Resiliency at NJDOT

Here in New Jersey, NJDOT is currently engaged in an enterprise-wide effort to integrate resiliency into major functions. The department’s intention is to establish resilience as an adoptive policy for the agency, in a manner similar to that of Complete Streets.

Driven by goals set out in the 2021 State of New Jersey Climate Change Resiliency Strategy, NJDOT and agency partners are collaborating to integrate resiliency in a variety of ways. For example, NJDOT is working with the Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to effectively predict shifting rainfall patterns’ effects on flooding, which will be used to update stormwater management guidance. Another initiative in the strategy calls for coordinated, cross-agency regional sediment management plans, for the purpose of properly re-using dredged material for resiliency improvements, such as elevating marshes or potentially creating new near-shore islands. To mitigate the complex threats of climate change, such multidisciplinary collaboration is required.

Figure 8. NJDOT is looking to integrate resilience into workflows department-wide, and developing new tools to support staff in their efforts. Hydropeek | Wikimedia Commons
Figure 8. NJDOT is looking to integrate resilience into workflows department-wide, and developing new tools to support staff in their efforts. Hydropeek | Wikimedia Commons

At NJDOT, several technical tools are being developed to support these efforts. The Flood Risk Visualization Tool, mentioned above, is one example. Another is a Criticality Tool, which analyzes data on infrastructure assets, and will assist staff in discerning the most essential pieces of the transportation system. The Climate Hazard Visualization Tool will help staff to “red flag” potential points of exposure, particularly regarding storm surge and flooding.

With these tools in place, resiliency will be integrated into workflows, for instance, becoming a component under consideration in the concept development process, impacting the outcome of preliminary engineering or design work.

Assessment-Informed Decisionmaking

The Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan, in its climate adaptation section for built infrastructure, makes the financial case for resilience investments: “for every $1 invested by the public sector in disaster mitigations, $6 is saved in recovery costs.” This figure, culled from a cost-benefit analysis from the National Institute of Building Sciences, makes a powerful argument for making necessary but expensive resilience investments.

Figure 9. The seven-step Risk and Resilience Analysis Procedure from CDOT guides risk calculation and resilience prioritization. Courtesy of CDOT.
Figure 9. The seven-step Risk and Resilience Analysis Procedure from CDOT guides risk calculation and resilience prioritization. Courtesy of CDOT

CDOT’s Risk and Resilience Analysis Procedure (2020) stands out for the economic considerations and educational tools that the manual provides to build the capabilities of agency staff to conduct analyses and calculate costs. With sample problems, the resource walks through how to conduct such an assessment, including components such as user consequence (such as lost time or damage), and owner risk (such as cleanup and restoration costs), which are summed and presented as an annual figure, in dollars.

Consultants created a criticality score (including elements such as traffic, freight value, tourism, etc.), to gauge a particular state highway network asset’s importance to the overall vitality of the state’s economy. In the agency’s example, a Level of Resilience (LOR) index was created for 1-mile roadway segments across the I-70 Corridor. The Index takes into account each segment’s criticality for systems operations, as well as cumulative annual risk, and assigns each a letter grade. After sections of a corridor are graded according to the LOR Index, certain segments can be strategically targeted. In these areas, an economic analysis, to study the efficacy of making resilience improvements, is to be performed. The Risk and Resilience Procedure provides sample cases of such analyses.

Figure 10. CDOT’s Level of Resilience (LOR) Index for the I-70 Corridor, identifying critical, vulnerable segments to be studied. Courtesy of CDOT
Figure 10. CDOT’s Level of Resilience (LOR) Index for the I-70 Corridor, identifying critical, vulnerable segments to be studied. Courtesy of CDOT

For example, risk management for a minor culvert is performed as follows: total annual risk, which would continue without a mitigation, is calculated as $260,424. For the next step, a proposed mitigation, in this case replacing the existing culvert with a 72-inch RCP pipe, is said to cost $500,000. Now, a risk assessment is calculated as if the new pipe were in place—total annual risk drops to $51,114. On the fourth and final step, the economic analysis is performed, to see if this intervention is worthwhile. First, the mitigation benefit is calculated as the total annual risk from the mitigation ($51,114) subtracted from the baseline total annual risk ($260,424), leading to a positive mitigation benefit of $209,310. Then, the ultimate Benefit-Cost (BC) ratio is assigned. In this case, the $500,000 pipe mitigation is given a $17,168 annual cost, which serves as the denominator in the ultimate calculation: Annual mitigation benefit divided by annual mitigation cost (B/C), or $209,310 divided by $17,168. Here, B/C = 12.2, well over the value of 1 needed to prove that the mitigation is economically viable. Thus, the new pipe in the culvert will be a worthwhile investment.

Figure 11. A sample framework for performing Economic Analysis for Risk Management, from CDOT’s Risk and Resilience Analysis Procedure. Courtesy of CDOT
Figure 11. A sample framework for performing Economic Analysis for Risk Management, from CDOT’s Risk and Resilience Analysis Procedure. Courtesy of CDOT

Using the formulas and steps laid out in the resource, CDOT staff may calculate the risk of flooding in a major culvert, or a post-fire debris flow in a tunnel, such as what occurred in Glenwood Canyon on I-70 in July 2021. With this framework in place, the agency is able to make informed decisions about how to prioritize resiliency investments, and strategically mitigate future disasters.

In Washington State, a 2015 FHWA-sponsored pilot study looked to transition from risk assessment to developing a scenario-planning and decision-making framework. Creating a Resilient Transportation Network in Skagit County: Using Flood Studies to Inform Transportation Asset Management examines adaptation options for state transportation facilities in the vulnerable Skagit River Basin. The pilot combines information from WSDOT’s previous comprehensive risk assessment with the results of a flood study from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However, had the planners been unaware of a plan to improve and extend levees in the region, their suggested alternatives would have been misinformed, leading to what is termed maladaptation. “There is a synergy that comes from combining our efforts.” the report concludes. “When we work together, we can find solutions that might not be possible, and avoid problems that might occur.”

Conclusion

The methods outlined in this article, while by no means encompassing the scope of resiliency efforts underway at state DOTs in the Unites States, provide a glimpse into how some transportation agencies are approaching the threat of climate change. Broadly speaking, there is a need to comprehensively inventory infrastructure, grading it based on levels of criticality and vulnerability, and then to develop a phased plan detailing how resiliency measures will be taken.

Because there are many DOTs considering this issue, it is beneficial to examine their various approaches, especially in states with weather and infrastructure networks similar to New Jersey’s. While Colorado, with its mountains, wildfires, and mudslides, varies wildly with the East Coast, CDOT can be seen as a leading model for the process of climate resiliency planning. The preponderance of threats motivated the agency to develop a response plan early on, which now provides a toolkit and road map for its statewide resiliency work. The threat of climate change is great, but it brings with it an opportunity to innovate, to develop new processes and technologies that make a stronger, safer network for the traveling public.


Bibliography

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EDC-6 Progress Report #1

The Every Day Counts Round 6 Progress Report is now available.

Every Day Counts: Innovation for a Nation on the Move

Every Day Counts (EDC) is the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) program to advance a culture of innovation in the transportation community in partnership with public and private stakeholders. Through this State-based effort, FHWA coordinates rapid deployment of proven strategies and technologies to shorten the project delivery process, enhance roadway safety, reduce traffic congestion, and integrate automation.

This report summarizes the June 2021 status of deployment for the seven innovations in the sixth round of EDC. The report is intended to be a resource for transportation stakeholders as they develop their deployment plans and to encourage innovation in managing highway project delivery to better serve the Nation.

NJDOT Tech Talk! Webinar – What Happens Now? Virtual Public Engagement During and Beyond Covid-19

The New Jersey Department of Transportation Bureau of Research convened a Lunchtime Tech Talk! Webinar on What Happens Now? Virtual Public Involvement During and Beyond COVID-19 on October 6, 2021. Amanda Gendek, Manager of the NJDOT Bureau of Research, welcomed everyone to the event which included presentations by five representatives of public sector transportation agencies who discussed the immediate transition and ongoing adaptation to virtual platforms to engage with the public for transportation plans, projects, and other activities, and the benefits and challenges associated with this shift. Of particular emphasis was outreach to underserved and vulnerable populations.

Facilitators for the Tech Talk, Andrea Lubin and Trish Sanchez, from the Rutgers University-Voorhees Transportation Center, Public Outreach and Engagement Team (POET), opened the session with reference to their work on NCHRP Synthesis 538: Practices for Online Public Involvement, and the next phase of work, NCHRP 08-142 Virtual Public Involvement (VPI) – A Manual for Effective, Equitable, and Efficient Practices for Transportation Agencies. During the pandemic, Rutgers POET has conducted public engagement which transitioned to virtual for the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization, Somerset County, and Middlesex County’s Destination 2040 projects. Ms. Sanchez noted the need to experiment with different engagement practices to find what works for each community, and the benefits of building partnerships with local organizations to reach a broad audience. She also noted challenges with VPI such as the digital divide, internet access, and staffing. Ms. Lubin discussed a 2020 study conducted for the Kessler Foundation and interviews with social service agencies and community organizations that offered lessons learned when conducting virtual outreach with vulnerable populations. Despite challenges, Ms. Lubin emphasized that VPI has expanded engagement opportunities in many instances to those who had previously been unable to participate in-person due to obstacles including transportation and childcare.

Rickie Clark, Transportation Specialist with FHWA, noted that Virtual Public Involvement (VPI) is one of the innovative initiatives supported in the fifth and sixth rounds of the agency’s Every Day Counts Initiative. He reviewed the legislation and regulations that requires early and continuous public involvement in the transportation planning and project development process. To meet those requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, FHWA issued VPI Temporary Guidance that will remain in effect until the pandemic has ended. Mr. Clark encouraged the use of a wide array of VPI tools that can be customized to the needs of particular projects and audiences. VPI extends outreach to the public and enables the public to engage with transportation officials efficiently and effectively. For those who have limited access to the internet, he emphasized that transportation agencies must provide alternatives to ensure full, fair, and meaningful participation for all. Mr. Clark noted that New Jersey is using many VPI innovations.

Jamille Robbins, Public Involvement, Community Studies & Visualization Group, Leader, North Carolina DOT, spoke on how his agency has reached underserved communities with VPI. He discussed the importance of pursuing thoughtful marketing to support the success of VPI and other outreach efforts designed to educate and inform the public and other stakeholders in the transportation project development process. He explained that broadening outreach and increasing engagement contributes to transparency and builds trust. He noted that social media is an effective tool for reaching rural, lower-income, Black, Hispanic, and less-educated populations, and that mobile phone friendly communication is essential.  However, agencies should not be solely relying upon VPI. Traditional media, webpages, partner agency and organization networks, newsletters, postcards, door hangers and local access television and radio remain effective tools for reaching traditionally underrepresented groups. Similarly, integrating the use of phones to collect public comments can augment traditional methods for collecting input, such as paper surveys. Mr. Robbins shared experiences with utilizing a variety of VPI tools and platforms including public engagement software such as publicinput.com and the social networking service Nextdoor. He also described pre-recorded project information videos as a highly effective tool for controlling messaging and highlighted the agency’s use of online engagement platforms for live meetings, with the recordings placed on the web, so that constituents can access them and provide feedback at any time. Mr. Robbins also promoted the use of project visualizations, including 3D renderings and interactive animation that can be easily dispersed across online communication channels and improve understanding of proposed projects. While sharing many tools creatively being used by NCDOT, Mr. Robbins balanced his remarks with several takeaways and lessons learned observations about the limitations of VPI for reaching underrepresented communities.

Alison Hastings, Associate Director, Communications, Delaware Valley Regional Plan Commission (DVRPC) spoke about the agency’s use of VPI in the Long Range Plan 2050 Visioning process, and for the Ben Franklin Bridge Eastbound Access project, and the regional MPO’s anticipated integration of VPI for public involvement in the post-pandemic era. When pivoting from in-person public engagement to virtual events, Ms. Hastings listed several themes that required consideration:  accessibility and accommodations, recreating the in-person experience, setting ground rules and ensuring security. She also described her team’s considerations in determining the specific staffing roles needed for their virtual events, such as lead facilitator, technical assistance leader, and comment response facilitator, among other roles. She noted identifying these positions has helped to ensure smoother virtual events.

DVRPC has used many VPI platforms and tools, both old and new, such as videos, targeted social media campaigns, live transcription and captioning in meetings, web maps, and postcard mailings and noted that public participation has increased with their VPI efforts. Ms. Hastings discussed the advantages of meeting platforms that run well on browsers and smart phones and enable participation in underserved communities that lack internet access. In the future, DVRPC’s equity checklist will include using American Community Survey data to understand the demographics of the project area, communicating why the meeting is important, using Google forms to build contact lists, preparing the team for the challenges of online meetings, experimenting with different outreach, and evaluating the VPI process.  She anticipates that hybrid meetings – in person and virtual – will continue and may require additional staff to run efficiently to achieve desired outcomes.

Vanessa Holman, Deputy Chief of Staff and Megan Fackler, Director of Government and Community Relations at NJDOT explained that their Public Information Centers (PICs) and other outreach must be compliant with Title VI requirements. Due to the pandemic, they needed to find ways to bridge the digital divide which is economic, generational, and geographic. NJDOT has combined established methods of engagement with virtual methods, and in particular, collaborated with stakeholders through social media, websites, and digital news sources. They noted that virtual meetings have helped to remove some barriers to participation, such as the need for transportation and childcare. Ms. Holman shared that they have lost some of the interaction typical of an in-person meeting, and noted the different staff demands of online meetings such as prepared scripts. The Department has also expanded communication in other ways, including through 1-2 page project update memos, written in plain language, for public officials. They now tend to over-communicate and continue to use a range of tools. These efforts are resulting in more public participation and comment in general.

Public involvement tools are available to engage underserved and vulnerable populations and expand outreach so every community member can participate in transportation decision making. Click for Andrea Lubin and Trish Sanchez's presentation

Mr. Clark noted that there is no one-size-fits-all public involvement process and promoted the use of an array of public involvement tools to communicate with the public and receive input. Click for Rickie Clark's presentation

North Carolina JDOT uses 3D visualizations and interactive animation, among other tools, to help public involvement participants understand proposed projects and impacts.

North Carolina DOT uses 3D visualizations and interactive animation, among other tools, to help public involvement participants understand proposed projects and impacts. Click for Jamille Robbins' presentation

DVRPC used both old and new methods of communication for the Ben Franklin Bridge Outreach Plan. Click for Alison Hastings' presentation

NJDOT was successful with their two-week, on-line PIC for the Rt. 80 and Rt. 15 Interchange project. They received large volumes of survey responses and discovered key times for public participation that will inform future efforts. Click for Vanessa Holman and Megan Fackler's presentation

At the end of the event, the speakers responded to questions posed by attendees through the platform’s chat feature.

Q. How expensive is NextDoor?

Jamille Robbins: I don’t believe there’s a huge cost associated but I would have to check with our social media coordinator.

Q. What program did North Carolina use to do 3D presentations?

Jamille Robbins: We use 3D Studio Max for a lot of the presentations.

Q. How do you provide for two-way communications and conversations in an online environment that would occur at in-person events?

Alison Hastings: The platforms, such as Zoom, help. The chat box becomes a primary source of input since you can save it. Conversations can happen in breakout rooms with small groups and a facilitator sharing a screen while using Google docs to record notes. Platforms push updates that provide these tools to emulate the in-person experience.

Trish Sanchez: Break-out groups allow people to feel more comfortable speaking openly.

Andrea Lubin: Especially if they are intimidated by large groups.

Q. What are typical costs for publicinput.com?

Jamille Robbins:  North Carolina uses it on all projects and it is cost-effective, but I do not know specific costs.

Q. For NJDOT: Have you received feedback, either positive or negative, on the VPI process or the platforms used and has that encouraged you to change anything in your VPI strategies?

Megan Fackler: Not thus far. We have received questions on the platform, and requests for technical assistance. It is important to provide a phone number for people to reach out prior to a meeting if they are having difficulties accessing the meeting.

Q. For Rickie Clark: If a municipality requested an in-person event, would FHWA provide guidelines for conducting such a meeting?

Rickie Clark: The possibility for in-person meetings would depend on state and municipal guidance for in-person engagement, as well as the guidance of local health officials. During the pandemic, the VPI Temporary Guidance is in effect.

Q. If you could offer one piece of advice for VPI for underserved or vulnerable populations, what would it be?

Andrea Lubin: What I heard from Jamille was the power of radio advertising to target outreach, based on the number of people who are regular radio listeners.

Rickie Clark: From the federal perspective, agencies must have a public involvement plan in place to begin with. Agencies should evaluate the effectiveness of VPI tools. DOTs have become more nimble in modifying their approach. Imagine a time after COVID-19 when a hybrid model can be used and start planning now. It will be a win-win.

Jamille Robbins: Look at the demographics of the area and population characteristics. If there are EJ or LEP communities, reach out to the local planning office or someone familiar with the area. This is the most effective way to get into those communities.

Q. How do you handle data protection in the VPI process?

Alison Hastings: Don’t ask the question if you can’t protect the information you gather. Also, sunset dates determine how long a survey remains open. Set a date for expunging contact information after gathering that information. Use the same process for focus groups.

Jamille Robbins: We are simplifying the demographic information we are requesting. Asking for a name, email, and address may pass a threshold. Keep in mind that information gathered at a public meeting is a matter of public record.

A recording of the webinar is available here.

KM Interview: Cross-Training in Construction Services

The NJDOT Knowledge Management Toolbox offers examples of several knowledge sharing practices that have been, or could be, adopted by agency units to retain knowledge in a unit in the face of illness, retirements or transfers to other units at NJDOT.

In early 2020, a survey was distributed to New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) subject matter experts (SMEs) to identify current technology transfer needs, including potential topics for research. The survey also explored the insights and experience of the SMEs related to the challenges of implementing research findings and addressing knowledge gaps within the organization to advance understanding of job responsibilities, policies and procedures.

Subsequently, we followed up with Keith Daniels, Manager, NJDOT Bureau of Construction Services in the Division of Procurement, and Gary Vetro, a Contract Administrator in that unit, to learn about how the unit uses cross-training in practice. 

For both of them, cross-training played a role in their introduction to the unit. Mr. Daniels offered that his earlier experience with cross-training led to his current position as Manager. While working in Equipment Materials and Supplies in Procurement, he had the opportunity to work, and be cross-trained, in several jobs in Construction Services. For several years, and in the absence of a Bureau Manager, he assisted the Director of Procurement in various tasks and functions in the Bureau. Prior to that, he had no experience in the procurement process for construction contracts. The Bureau staff were dedicated to getting the construction contracts out. As a result, he became familiar with every aspect of the unit and learning all the requirements of the Bureau.

Mr. Vetro came to the unit from another area in DOT and was cross-trained to cover for the individual who supervises the contract award process in the event that the individual took an extended leave. He brought his broader experience to the unit.

We interviewed Mr. Daniels and Mr. Vetro to explore any lessons learned, benefits and challenges of cross-training as a knowledge sharing practice.

Q. Can you describe cross-training for us?

Cross-training involves teaching an employee hired for one job responsibility, to perform the functions and skills of other job responsibilities within an organization. Cross-training is not tied to a specific skill set or educational background, but rather requires the desire to learn a new skill and the willingness to participate in new challenges.

Q. What prompted your unit to start cross-training?

There were already some elements of cross-training within the Division of Procurement as the Division Director supported cross-training over the years. Thus, previous experience with this concept has benefited the Division greatly.

In my [Daniels] present role, I inherited an office that formerly had over 25 staff members, and currently has nine (9) individuals, including myself, to perform the same basic functions. We are responsibly for awarding construction contracts for the state at an average of 100 contracts each year totaling $1.0 billion. The awarding of contracts is labor intensive and involves multiple administrative and technical steps. We are also responsible for reviewing and approving the pre-qualification applications of over 300 construction firms applying for renewal or new work type classifications to bid on our construction projects each year.

Although automation has improved the unit’s functioning over time, the staff members are required to learn other jobs and operate out of their sphere in order to provide coverage.  This is not mandatory, but a willingness by the staff to engage in “teamwork”. The staff consists of two (2) financial auditors, three (3) engineers, and four (4) administrative personnel. A new hire who has a background in business administration is assisting everyone in the unit and learning all functions in the Bureau.

Because of this willingness by staff to participate as a team, Construction Services has significantly reduced the need for overtime to the Unit.

Q. Do employees cross-train for a number of positions or just one other position? Are all employees cross-trained to other positions?
There are limitations when there are highly technical skill sets involved. The unit has engineers, and people with administrative and financial backgrounds. Someone with an engineering background could do some of the financial tasks, but would not be signing off on financial documents. Someone in data entry cannot train to do a job that requires engineering expertise. Still, they are able to learn some aspects of any job to assist when needed.

In small units, teamwork is essential and cross-training is a necessity. At times, everyone in our unit has to pull together to get the job done and staff has almost invariably been required to do work outside of their assigned job responsibilities.

Q. What schedule is followed for cross-training? How do people meet and learn? How much of an investment are they making?

The cross-training has been an informal process in the unit and is conducted as needed. At times, the Manager will introduce the idea, but also some staff members will initiate the training. We work as a team to get a big job done and everyone is contributing where they can.

Most training occurs during downtimes for the unit in July and December. Almost every unit has a seasonal cycle, so there is some downtime or slow times available for cross-training. Training involves a combination of direct instruction by the person who does the job, review of written procedures, and perhaps a practice exercise.

The time it takes for training is dependent on the employee, their abilities, how quickly they learn, and the task to be learned. The individual may learn the role in a couple of hours, a couple of days, or it may take longer. In one case, an employee was cross-training for data entry. The person whose position he was to train for was out so he was given the materials and he wrote the outline of job responsibilities and protocols so he can fill in if necessary. One is not training to be a master, just enough to get the job done while someone is out. Refresher training may take a couple of days. We might use a contract that has been completed and have the person training do it again as if they were responsible for it.

Frequency of retraining should be based on how often a backup might need to perform the function and the employee’s long term memory skills. If a person trained as a backup does not have to perform that function more than once or twice in a year, retraining will be more important than for a backup function performed once or twice a month.

Q. How do you prioritize roles for cross-training?

In our unit, every function should have some back-up. In general, you would look at which functions have time constraints or are important for other functions. These functions should be the first on the list for cross-training. You should have enough back-up personnel to keep the function running properly in case of unexpected staff shortfalls.

Consider which functions have only one person designated to perform them. Even if these are not primary functions, they may become a problem if the sole employee is out for an extended time.

Q. How has cross-training been valuable to the unit?

We are a small unit. It is critical for us to be able to continue work when staff is out of work, and especially during prolonged absences. As an example, we must ensure that there is adequate coverage for the contract award process, which accounts for 60 percent of our work.  We must ensure that there is adequate coverage to meet the contract schedules and adhere to state and federal regulations regarding the Department’s contracts.

Furthermore, most of the Bureau staff, both professional and administrative/technical, work out of title just to get the job done.  As a result, they have become proficient in other skills, engineering, financial, etc. that could mean job opportunities in other areas of the Department.

Cross-training can improve morale, increase productivity, and may lead to promotional opportunities. Sharing knowledge of other functions can help staff with attempts to advance and will lead to a greater willingness to cross-train. If someone can cross-train in another role, they may be able to apply for a higher position as they will have more knowledge and could possibly score higher on Civil Service Exams.  As long as there are possibilities, and opportunities for advancement, employees will find cross-training attractive.

It is essential that employees get the necessary tools to go beyond what they do on a day-to-day basis.

Q. What have been some of the challenges to implementing cross-training?

Employees may feel that they are being asked to do extra work without compensation, and some, particularly those coming from the private sector, may believe that they are training their replacement.  There needs to be communication to all employees about the benefits of cross-training to the unit, and the need to have someone who can fill in to meet the work requirements of the Unit.

Employees must be assured that the training is used only to cover for temporary staff shortages.  Staff will be more likely to accept the idea of cross-training if they can trust that their participation will not increase their workload. There may be some people who have a “not my job” attitude and might introduce Civil Service and union constraints. The nature of this program is to have individuals perform tasks beyond their usual work on a temporary basis which should not raise concerns. A more formalized program could address these issues.

Q. Do you think this strategy would be valuable to other units?

Yes. In the case of smaller units, there may be only one person (or if you are lucky, two persons) who know and can perform their job, so cross-training is essential. If the unit is large enough, there may be multiple people doing the same job. However, cross-training would still be of value to improve morale and increase possible promotional opportunities.

Q. Any other observations that you can offer?

Certainly, specific and detailed training procedures must be developed to encourage knowledge sharing within individual units so jobs can be performed successfully when there are worker shortages.  Each bureau or unit’s approach will be different; there is no “one-size-fits-all” way for getting cross-training done.

We recommend some best practices when using cross-training:

  • Ensure an employee’s regular job function is protected in some form
  • Provide clear communication about cross-training opportunities
  • Create a feedback mechanism to let employees know where they stand, obtain employee buy-in, and promote a willingness to participate.
  • Make clear that cross-training is voluntary
  • Work with what may be a select group of those employees willing to learn other tasks
    • Ensure that employee skill sets are commensurate with required skills
    • Establish a performance mechanism. This should be tied to the feedback procedure.
    • Ensure that cross-training is appropriate for the individual’s personal abilities.
  • Incorporate some aspect of mentoring, not necessarily formalized
  • If possible, ensure that whatever the employee is doing, they can do it in another unit. Promotional opportunities may lie elsewhere, so acquired skills should be generalized.

We are required to abide by specific state and federal regulations. We also have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the health and safety of the public on the state’s roadways. The unit’s relationship with construction firms and awarding and executing contracts is critical to fulfilling that responsibility. We need to ensure that we are doing our job and cross-training has helped us with that mission.


RESOURCES

Several state DOTs are employing cross-training as a tool to improve performance, respond to workforce transitions, and support a culture of innovation. Information about how cross-training and related knowledge management tools are being implemented at other DOTs can be found in the Appendix to National Cooperative Highway Research Project Scan 13-01: Advances in Developing a Cross-Trained Workforce.

Knowledge Management Toolbox, Cross-Training.  NJDOT Technology Transfer. Website. Retrieved at: https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/km-cross-training/

 

Rising to the Challenge: How State DOTs are Innovating to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), transportation accounts for 29 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) annually in the United States. To address climate change, state departments of transportation (DOTs) will need to innovate to help meet emissions reduction goals. Some agencies across the country are leading the way through the development of prevention and mitigation strategies to establish a more resilient and sustainable transportation system.

This article, the first in a two-part series, will highlight select innovations in transportation technology being deployed to reduce GHG emissions. The second, focusing on the broad topic of resiliency, will detail how state DOTs are redesigning transportation infrastructure to protect the health and safety of travelers and affected communities in the face of climate change impacts.

While by no means exhaustive, this brief scan of state actions and current research highlights noteworthy current practices and innovations to prevent and mitigate climate change impacts as well as shares examples of new and emerging emissions reduction methods being studied and deployed.

Table 1. An Overview of State DOT GHG Reduction Practices

StateThemeAction
ColoradoActive TransportationSafer Main Street and Revitalizing Main Streets
OregonDemand ManagementMileage-Based User Fees (Limiting Demand)
CaliforniaDemand ManagementCongestion Corridors Program (CCP). Multimodal options along corridor
CaliforniaDemand ManagementRoadway Pricing, such as managed lanes
CaliforniaDemand ManagementMitigation Banks. "Cap and Trade" style bank for VMT
ColoradoDemand ManagementFlexible Work Arrangement Policy Directive — 2 -3 day WFH
MarylandEfficiencyTSMO Integrated Corridor Management. (Higher Throughput)
MassachusettsEnergySolar facilities on MassDOT property
CaliforniaEnergySolar facilities
New MexicoEVsEV infrastructure implementation
CaliforniaEVsFleet conversion
ColoradoEVsExpanding charging infrastructure
ColoradoEVsElectrifying transit fleets through VW funds
ColoradoEVsFleet conversion — VW funds
New JerseyEVsStatewide Charging Infrastructure Mapping
New JerseyEVsTransit electrification
New JerseyEVsNJDOT Fleet Conversion
ColoradoEVsClean Trucking MOU-30% ZEV by 2030
MarylandLand UseEncouraging Transit-Oriented Development
ColoradoLand UsePromote land use changes along state highway
CaliforniaMaterialsWarm Mix Asphalt (WMA) instead of Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA)
CaliforniaMaterialsCold in Place Recycling (CiR)
New JerseyMaterialsCAIT Pavement Recycling
NationwideMaterialsStiffer roadways to cut emissions and increase fuel economy
OregonPlanningEmissions considered in planning process.
ColoradoPlanningAdd GHG emissions to decision making, and treat similarly to the existing criteria air pollutants
ColoradoPlanningActivity-Based Mode (ABM) considers land use, better model GHG emissions
FloridaTransitBus On Shoulder. (Mode shifting)
Rhode IslandTransitAutonomous Electric Shuttle
ColoradoTransitInterregional Express Bus Service — transit emissions dashboard

Innovative Practices for Reducing GHGs

GHG reduction strategies are being instituted throughout the transportation sector, demonstrating how highway, transit and other agencies can contribute to reducing the overall carbon footprint. This article will highlight examples of technological and operational innovations being instituted by state DOTs.  These efforts can be broadly assigned to four categories: Materials, Energy, Electric Vehicles (EVs), and Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Reduction.

Materials

The prospect of reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions from transportation seems daunting, but examples in research and practice offer several noteworthy strategies in use in this endeavor.  Pavement mixtures and materials, for example, provide a promising area for research and implementation in both California and New Jersey for making their processes greener.

In California, a report found that strategic application of pavement treatments across the state’s highway network could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between .57 and .82 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MMT). A switch to Warm Mix Asphalt (WMA) from Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) could reduce fuel and asphalt binder use emissions by 44 percent. Additionally, using cold in-place recycling (CiR) for repaving could reduce emissions by 52 percent.

Warm Mix Asphalt is promoted by FHWA as a greener paving alternative. Source: FHWA

Warm Mix Asphalt is promoted by FHWA as a greener paving alternative. Source: FHWA

In New Jersey, the Pavement Support Program (PSP), a partnership between NJDOT and Rutgers-CAIT, is currently researching pavement material recycling. Led by Dr. Thomas Bennert, researchers are testing and developing various methods for making paving materials more efficient, including studying the efficacy of recycling both pavement and pavement materials, such as disused asphalt shingles.

While such changes could seem minor, in aggregate, new materials and engineering methods could make a considerable difference. The 2020 article Potential Contribution of Deflection-Induced Fuel Consumption to U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions, published in the Transportation Research Record, explains how altering the composition of pavement could increase the operational efficiency of vehicles, lowering their overall emissions. According to the authors, increasing the elastic modulus of the entire U.S. pavement network could offset 0.5 percent of GHG emissions in the entire transportation sector.

Pavement is just one example of how the material aspects of roadway construction and operation can be leveraged to become more efficient and sustainable. There remain many opportunities in the materials sector for research and innovation, to build greener transportation corridors.

Energy

Highway departments—with a host of lighting, signage, and operational energy needs from administrative centers to vehicle fleets—have the potential to alter how their systems are powered. Already, Massachusetts and California provide examples of how highway departments can invest in greener energy usage.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), through its Highway Renewable Energy Program, has installed photovoltaic (PV) systems, more commonly known as solar panels, at five sites along its highway network.

Through a public private partnership, MassDOT leases land to a private company, which constructs and operates the renewable energy facility, in this case PV systems. The private company is able to take advantage of federal and state incentives, allowing MassDOT to purchase energy at lower rates (AASHTO 2021). The agency estimates that the amount of electricity generated by these highway right-of-way solar farms is enough to power 875 homes annually, translating into 2.3 tons of carbon dioxide saved each year (MassDOT 2021). The agency plans to expand the solar concept to parking facilities soon. Massachusetts is by no means the only state to explore this strategy; DOTs in Oregon, Ohio, and Colorado have led the way on using Right of Way (ROW) to install renewable energy sources.

An itemized list of Caltrans roadway fixtures, and corresponding GHG reductions. Source: Caltrans Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Mitigation Report.

An itemized list of Caltrans roadway fixtures, and corresponding GHG reductions. Source: Caltrans Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Mitigation Report

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), through investments in clean energy generation over the past two decades, generates more electricity than the agency needs. This surplus can be attributed, in part, to longstanding participation in the federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREB) program, which has helped to finance the construction of over 70 solar facilities that collectively generate 2.38 megawatts (MW) of electricity, capable of powering over 500 homes annually. Caltrans has also been able to reduce its energy usage by converting lighting infrastructure to more efficient bulbs, changing the majority to LED. By replacing these fixtures, the agency has reduced the amount it would otherwise have emitted by 32,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Electric Vehicles (EV)

Fleet conversion is seen by state and federal lawmakers as a priority for achieving carbon emissions reductions. Many state transportation agencies are already planning for, and supporting, electric vehicle usage across their networks. From statewide fleet conversions, to fast charging networks, to using the tools of policy to incentivize the transition for consumers, state DOTS are adapting to take advantage of this new technology.

One aspect of NJ’s EV conversion plan is to develop a robust network of fast chargers, which is already underway. Source: NJDEP.

One aspect of NJ’s EV conversion plan is to develop a robust network of fast chargers, which is already underway. Source: NJDEP

In New Jersey, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and NJDOT are playing a pivotal role in the Statewide Energy Plan, which aims to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050. The rollout of EVs and related support infrastructure are integral to achieving this net zero emissions goal. This effort includes mapping out a statewide charging network and investing in the transition of the NJDOT fleet to all-electric vehicles, as other states are doing.

Some of New Jersey’s EV efforts, such as new charging infrastructure, are funded by Volkswagen settlement funds, which were disbursed to each of the fifty states. Colorado, for example, is using some of its share of the funds to convert the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) fleet to more sustainable vehicles. To learn more about NJDOT and its partner agencies EV conversion work, see NJDOT Tech Transfer’s account of the state’s Energy Master Plan and use of Volkswagen funds, such as for the purchase of electric school buses.

Similar work is going on elsewhere. Colorado’s CDOT issued a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to convert 30 percent of all freight trucks in the state to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2030. In California, a ruling by the state Air Resources Board (CARB) mandates that half of all freight vehicles sold in 2035 are to be zero-emission. In New Jersey, where emissions rules are enforced by the NJDEP, the agency proposed a rule directly modeled on the California model in 2021. This type of regulation uses a credit/deficit system to incentivize truck makers to sell ZEVs.  Thus, under this phased system program,  “the deficits incurred each year that must be offset by credits will begin in 2025, and increase every year through 2035, thereby increasing the total number of ZEV sales in the State.” (NJDEP 2021).

Through multiple mechanisms, state DOTs and partner agencies are working to convert both their own fleets, and those of users of the transportation systems they maintain. Here, too, there is room for innovation, for funding mechanisms, new policies, and technologies to support a wholesale EV transition.

VMT

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) refers to the total number of miles traveled along a roadway network. As VMT is reduced, so too are emissions, including both GHGs and harmful pollutants (such as nitrous oxide) that cause a myriad of health issues.  Several VMT reduction strategies are being implemented by transportation and other agencies, including demand management pricing, land use planning, transit investments, and Work from Home (WFH) programs.

Annual Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) have been steadily rising over the last five decades. Source: St. Louis Fed

Annual Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) have been rising over the last five decades. Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Using pricing strategies  to manage roadway demand is increasingly being recognized as a means to alleviate traffic congestion.  Using dynamic pricing, a managed “express” lane’s toll is priced based on demand, becoming more expensive as more motorists choose to use it.  Depending on overall toll pricing levels, the strategy can induce price-sensitive users to change their time of travel, increase their vehicle-occupancy level, and/or change modal preference (e.g., switch to transit), potentially reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled.

Another pricing policy currently being explored is the Mileage Based User Fee (MBUF), in which drivers pay a per mile fee for roadway use, rather than funding roadway maintenance through the gas tax. This strategy is of particular interest since, as EV use increases, gas tax revenues will continue to fall, creating a deficit in the traditional funding structure for transportation. A flat MBUF, which would restore funding, can also serve to reduce total VMT by more directly conveying to drivers the cost of making a trip. The OReGO program, administered by the Oregon Department of Transportation is the only implemented example of this type of funding to date, though it is being studied in the Northeast. NJDOT Tech Transfer has written previously about ongoing research by the Eastern Transportation Coalition exploring the feasibility of implementing an MBUF program.

The promotion of land uses changes, such as transit-oriented development, is another proven way of reducing VMT.  David Wilson | Wikimedia Commons

The promotion of land uses changes, such as transit-oriented development, is another proven way of reducing VMT.  David Wilson | Wikimedia Commons

Several DOT climate plans promote more sustainable land uses along their networks as a means to achieve their goals. The Maryland Department of Transportation, for example, supports Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in their Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act plan and predicts that the buildout of TOD in 20 zones across the state could remove 0.033 MMT of carbon dioxide by 2030. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which mentions in its Transportation GHG Roadmap Briefing Update a multi-pronged strategy for reducing VMT, has hired a land use expert “to focus on partnering with local communities to more fully contemplate land use implications when designing infrastructure projects across the state.”

Related to land use planning is investment in multimodal transportation options. These strategies expand public transit, improve pedestrian safety, and support active transportation corridors, all efforts aimed to reduce VMT. For example, Caltrans released a detailed report on its Interstate 5 project in San Diego in which the agency states its plans to encourage a shift from single occupancy vehicle (SOV) trips to other modes by investing in expanded service on a parallel commuter rail route, and the construction of 23 miles of bicycle and pedestrian facilities along the same corridor. In New Jersey, NJDOT promotes smarter land use and expanded active transportation through the Transit Village Initiative, and the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside program, which fund a variety of improvements and expansions of transit and active transportation infrastructure which may serve the purpose of lowering VMT by fostering more active, transit-connected communities.  CDOT, through its Safer Main Street and Revitalizing Main Streets programs, makes similar investments to increase safety for all users and encourage alternate transportation modes.

Another method of reducing VMT is to invest in transit. CDOT has developed its “Bustang” service, offering intercity connections across the state on eight lines. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is piloting an approach in the St. Petersburg area, where buses on I-275 are permitted to drive on the shoulder under certain conditions. If the flow of traffic falls below 35 mph along the route, the bus may bypass the congestion by using the shoulder. FDOT also installed special red signals on on-ramps along this stretch of road to prevent collisions from merging vehicles. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) piloted “Little Roady,” an autonomous electric shuttle service that circulated through Providence along a congested roadway. RIDOT’s 2020 Transit Forward RI Master Plan 2040 recommends further study of such services, as well as investing in transit connections to further curb vehicle usage.

Finally, as was demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, a viable solution to bring down emissions is to reduce total VMT (see chart above). Moving forward, CDOT is looking to promote working from home — on a two or three day a week basis — as a climate strategy and department-wide practice. In 2021, the agency awarded $213,000 in telework grants through its CanDo Telework Grant program to local governments and non-profits to support remote work.

There is still much research and experimentation in the pilot testing, evaluation and deployment of innovation practices in materials, energy, fleet transition, and VMT reduction to meet overall GHG targets.  Transportation agencies and the transportation workforce are being called upon to confront an extraordinary and perhaps existential challenge that will require an ongoing commitment to advancing innovations in policies, processes, and procedures.

Ongoing Research

The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), a research program led by the Transportation Research Board (TRB), funded by AASHTO member states and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), works to develop implementable research addressing critical issues in the transportation sector. This collaborative initiative recently published Incorporating the Costs and Benefits of Adaptation Measures in Preparation for Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change as a guide for incorporating the Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) process for adaptation planning and asset management. While resilience research and resources will be more thoroughly covered in the second part of this series, the TRB’s Resilience Research page provides an excellent overview for resilience planning.

Several upcoming NCHRP research projects will further inform planning for the GHG reduction process for transportation agencies. Research for the forthcoming Methods for State DOTs to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Transportation Sector was completed in March 2021, and investigative work for Assessment of Regulatory Air Pollution Dispersion Models to Quantify the Impacts of Transportation Sector Emissions was completed in June 2021.  Another study, Considering Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change in Environmental Reviews: Resources for State DOTs, was awarded in July 2021, with research expected to conclude by October 2023. Succinct summaries of current and upcoming research, sorted by topic can be viewed on TRB’s Research Snap Searches page.

Conclusion

Over the past century, the predominant impetus for transportation has been that of expansion and maintenance of the nation’s Federal, state and local roadway networks. However, as suggested by the initiatives underway by the many state DOTs highlighted in this literature scan, the role of the state DOT is changing. As has been shown, the state transportation agency, with its vast resources and footprint, has many avenues by which it can promote necessary innovations to help reduce GHG emissions, and so limit the impending threat of climate change.

The necessity of reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Vehicle Miles Traveled, and building resilient infrastructure that can withstand increasingly severe weather requires innovations in both process and technology in the transportation sector.

There is, of course, work to be done beyond GHG reduction. The second installment on this theme will cover how state DOTs are currently rising to the challenge of resilience, innovating through planning, engineering, and research, to strategically strengthen our transportation infrastructure to weather a more intense, and unpredictable, climate.


Resources

AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence. (2021).  MassDOT Public-Private Partnership Generates Solar Energy on Highway Rights of Way. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. https://environment.transportation.org/case_study/massdot-public-private-partnership-generates-solar-energy-on-highway-rights-of-way/

Azari Jafari, H., Gregory, J., and Kirchain, R. (2020). Potential Contribution of Deflection-Induced Fuel Consumption to U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Transportation Research Record. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0361198120926169

California State Transportation Agency. (2021). Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure. California State Transportation Agency. https://calsta.ca.gov/-/media/calsta-media/documents/capti-2021-calsta.pdf

Caltrans. (2021). Caltrans Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Mitigation Report. Caltrans. https://dot.ca.gov/-/media/dot-media/programs/transportation-planning/documents/office-of-smart-mobility-and-climate-change/ghg-emissions-and-mitigation-report-final-august-2-2020-revision9-9-2020-a11y.pdf

Caltrans. (2016). I-5 North Coast Corridor Public Works Plan/Transportation and Resource Enhancement Program. Caltrans. https://dot.ca.gov/caltrans-near-me/district-11/programs/district-11-environmental/i-5pwp-toc/s5-1

Colorado Department of Transportation Multimodal Planning Branch. (2021, July). Transportation GHG Roadmap Briefing Update. Colorado Department of Transportation. https://www.codot.gov/programs/environmental/greenhouse-gas/ghg-briefing-memo-july-2021.pdf

Environmental Protection Agency. (2019). Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global Warming of 1.5° C. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

Maryland Department of Transportation. (2020). Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act. https://www.mdot.maryland.gov/OPCP/MDOT_GGRA_Plan.pdf

Massachusetts Department of Transportation. (2021). MassDOT Renewable Energy Projects. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massdot-renewable-energy-projects

National Cooperative Highway Research Program. (2021). Incorporating the Costs and Benefits of Adaptation Measures in Preparation for Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change—Guidebook. Transportation Research Board. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25744/incorporating-the-costs-and-benefits-of-adaptation-measures-in-preparation-for-extreme-weather-events-and-climate-change-guidebook

National Cooperative Highway Research Program. (2021). Methods for State DOTs to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Transportation Sector. Transportation Research Board. https://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=4384

Oregon Department of Transportation. (2021). Climate Actions Under Consideration. https://www.oregon.gov/odot/Programs/Documents/Climate%20Office/Climate_Actions_Under_Consideration-ODOT_5-Year_Climate_Action_Plan.pdf

Oregon Department of Transportation. (2021). ODOT Climate Action Plan. https://www.oregon.gov/odot/Programs/Documents/Climate%20Office/Climate_Action_Plan_Overview.pdf

Oregon Department of Transportation. OReGO. https://www.myorego.org/

Rhode Island Division of Statewide Planning. (2020). Transit Forward RI 2040. https://transitforwardri.com/pdf/TFRI%20Recs%20Briefing%20Book-Final%20201230.pdf

Sachs, S. (2021). Pinellas Buses to Drive on I-275 Shoulder in New FDOT Pilot Program Set to Start in June. News Channel 8. https://www.wfla.com/news/pinellas-county/pinellas-buses-shouldering-onto-interstate-in-new-fdot-pilot-program-set-to-start-in-june/

State of New Mexico. (2019). New Mexico Climate Strategy. https://www.climateaction.state.nm.us/documents/reports/NMClimateChange_2019.pdf

State of Rhode Island. (2020). Clean Transportation and Mobility Innovation Report. http://climatechange.ri.gov/documents/mwg-clean-trans-innovation-report.pdf

Transportation Research Board. (2021). TRB Snap Searches. http://www.trb.org/InformationServices/Snap.aspx

Transit Cooperative Research Program. (2021). An Update on Public Transportation’s Impacts on Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Transportation Research Board. https://www.nap.edu/download/26103