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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click For Tech Talk Presentation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

Developing Next Generation Traffic Incident Management in the Delaware Valley

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

Regional Integrated Multimodal Information Sharing (RIMIS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interactive Detour Route Mapping (IDRuM)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NextGen TIM

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

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


Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image of a black car with a white electric charger plugged in to the rear left of it, next to the tail light.

VW Mitigation and Emissions Offset Funds Fuel NJ’s Clean Transportation Transformation

Image of Pdf cover reading 2019 New Jersey Energy Master Plan, Pathway to 2050. Behind the text is a wind turbine and a solar panel.
The 2019 Energy Master Plan, a guiding document for New Jersey’s clean transportation transformation. Courtesy State of New Jersey

In February of 2021, Governor Phil Murphy announced a historic $100 million investment in clean energy transportation vehicles and infrastructure, building on work laid out in the 2020 Energy Master Plan, which calls for a transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. In 2019, the State emitted 97 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide (CO2); with the implementation of the Energy Master Plan, annual emissions are projected to be dramatically reduced to 24.1 MMT of CO2. Several NJ State agencies are working to lay the foundation for this monumental transition. The $100 million commitment is only one aspect of a much larger, inter-agency undertaking.

The Energy Master Plan provided a blueprint for New Jersey’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, and the 2020 New Jersey Senate Bill 2252 (S2252), commonly referred to as the electric vehicle law, is the legislative impetus for such work. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the New Jersey Economic Development Agency (NJEDA), the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), and NJ TRANSIT, among others, are now collaborating to achieve the transformation of the transportation sector, responsible for the largest share of the State’s net greenhouse gas emissions, to 100 percent carbon neutral.

Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEVs) from Volkswagen Funds

The clean energy initiative is funded, in part, through a legal settlement negotiated between Volkswagen and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), after a court determined that the automaker had installed defeat devices that hid emissions of nitrogen (NOx) in certain vehicles models. From the resulting $3 billion settlement, New Jersey was allocated $72.2 million, which is now being administered by NJDEP for clean energy transportation projects.

Four men stand smiling in front of a trailer with two small white truck-like vehicles on them, the electric yard tractors that were just delivered to this facility.
Two new electric yard tractors delivered to Red Hook Terminals LLC in Port Newark. Courtesy NJDEP

The first and second rounds of New Jersey’s Volkswagen Mitigation Trust proceeds were awarded to select applicants for the purchase of ZEVs. For example, $1.9 million was given to a company in Trenton for five new electric school buses, and Jersey City received $2.4 million for five new electric garbage trucks. Red Hook Terminals LLC of Port Newark (pictured at right) recently received sufficient funding to purchase ten electric yard tractors.

Without sufficient charging infrastructure, the envisioned shift to EVs will prove impossible to achieve. One oft-cited reason hindering EV adoption is “range anxiety,” a fear of not being able to refuel for lack of nearby facilities. Currently, 95 percent of state residents live within 25 minutes of a DC Fast Charger, a distance that will only decrease as new chargers are built. Stations throughout the State can be located using NJDEP’s Public Electric Vehicle Charging Locator.

For Phase 1 of the Volkswagen Mitigation Fund disbursal, NJDEP allocated $3.2 million to pay for public fast chargers. In 2019, through the It Pay$ to Plug In program, VW funds have financed 827 new charging outlets, ranging from the City of Cape May, to Rutgers—New Brunswick, to the Village of Ridgewood.

Ongoing Initiatives

A screenshot of NJDEP's REGGi Climate Investments Dashboard. The Dashboard shows 19 projects funded, $22.25 million in funds awarded, an estimated 43,786.58 short tons of lifetime CO2 Emissions Avoided, and a map of projects across New Jersey, which shows a concentration in the northeastern section of the state.
The New Jersey RGGI Climate Investments Dashboard shows current clean energy investments from auction proceeds. Courtesy NJDEP

An important source of revenue for supporting Governor Murphy’s $100 million pledge is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is a multistate partnership that has set a regional cap on carbon dioxide emissions. Fossil-fueled power plants exceeding the limit must purchase extra capacity at an RGGI auction. In the first quarter of 2021, New Jersey received $27.1 million that will be invested to fight climate change according to a Strategic Funding Plan. The New Jersey RGGI Climate Investments Dashboard provides up-to-date, visual reports of progress on RGGI grants across the State. The initiative has awarded $22.2 million thus far to several municipalities, including for the purchase of two electric garbage trucks for the City of Trenton, and two electric shuttle buses for West New York.

The RGGI purchases coincide with Phase 2 of NJDEP’s Volkswagen settlement disbursal, announced in February, 2021. A further $31.7 million of funding for ZEVs from the settlement will be distributed across the state. As Passaic County receives RGGI funds for an electric shuttle bus, the City of Paterson has been allocated VW money for two electric garbage trucks. With VW funds and RGII auction proceeds, the City of Elizabeth School District purchased seven electric schoolbuses. Gradually, municipalities and companies across the state are beginning to grow their ZEV fleets.

Image of a row of Tesla Superchargers in a parking lot. The chargers are rectangular with plugs resembling gas pumps inside the hollow rectangle.
Tesla agreed to install V3 Superchargers at eight service areas on the New Jersey Turnpike. Courtesy Ank Kumar on Wikimedia Commons

To complement these 2021 ZEV additions, NJDEP has proposed spending an additional $5.4 million of Volkswagen funds for charging grants. For example, the agency selected an ACME grocery store in Woodbury, a Shell station in Wayne, and a hotel in Fort Lee, among others, for DC Fast Charger grants. The DC Chargers are being prioritized in this round because of their high efficiency: a twenty-minute charge can add 60 or 80 miles of driving range.

Emissions Mitigation for Heavy Transportation

In July, 2020, New Jersey and fourteen other states and the District of Columbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) committing to collaborate on policies to convert medium and heavy-duty vehicle fleets, such as school buses and freight trucks, into ZEVS The MOU sets a goal of 30 percent electric share heavy and medium-duty vehicles sold in 2030, with a 100 percent share by 2050. The regional approach reflects an acknowledgement that transportation emissions are an interstate issue, and that interstate collaboration is necessary to meet such goals.

Image of a slide reading Proposed ZEV Sales Requirements, detailing how manufacturers in NJ will have to provide credits each year starting in 2024 to offset the emissions cost of the vehicles they are selling. By 2034, for example, they will have to sell (or purchase credits for) 50% of their vehicles as clean energy vehicles.
NJDEP’s proposed rules would follow California’s emissions credit/deficit system for medium and heavy vehicle sales. Courtesy NJDEP

To begin instituting this shift, NJDEP has started the rulemaking process for N.J.A.C. 7:27-31 and 33, two proposed regulations that would institute a credit/deficit program for manufacturers of trucks of over 8,500 pounds. Beginning in 2025, sellers of medium and heavy-duty vehicles would be required to generate or purchase credits to offset deficits from the sale of greenhouse gas-emitting vehicles. This offset could be accomplished by increasing sales of ZEVs, or by purchasing credits from another manufacturer. Deficits would increase every year through 2035, resulting in an increase in the number of commercial ZEVs sold in the state. This is modeled after the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule that California implemented in 2019.

For public transit, bus fleets must be converted as well. The state’s EV law, S2252, requires that NJ TRANSIT transition its new bus procurements to all-electric. New bus purchases must be 50 percent electric by the end of 2026, and 100 percent zero-emissions by the end of 2032. NJ TRANSIT, which received funds for eight new electric buses in Camden from VW Phase 1, will start testing these vehicles in service in the fall of 2021. One issue affecting the conversion is range; on certain routes, particularly in South Jersey, the required driving distance exceeds single charging capacity. NJ TRANSIT is currently exploring solutions such as building new chargers and making changes to operating routes.

Conclusion

Though $100 million is a significant investment, more resources will be needed to promote the transition from carbon-emitting vehicles. Further investment, as well as interagency and regional cooperation will be crucial to meet the Energy Master Plan’s goal of 330,000 ZEVs on New Jersey Roads by 2025.

NJDOT is working to support the efforts of agency partners to achieve the goals set out by the Energy Master Plan and mandated by the electric vehicle law. NJDOT has continued to invest in alternative mobility, increasing traffic efficiency, and the conversion of its fleet to ZEVs.  In a recent NJDOT newsletter, the Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti noted that the agency has worked with a team from Princeton University to determine an electric charging infrastructure implementation plan, the first step of which will be installation of equipment at the Ewing, New Jersey headquarters.

This infrastructure will be important not just for NJDOT but for the statewide fleet, which, as it transitions to ZEVs, needs centralized charging infrastructure. By law, the statewide fleet must be 25 percent electric by 2025, and 100 percent electric in 2035. NJDOT has already ordered 49 hybrid vehicles, progressing toward the department goal of 88 alternative fuel vehicles in service in the next three years.

Success will require not only committed public policy, but overwhelming public support to make use of the budding charging network, expanded subsidies, and soon-to-be converted fleets.


Resources

Higgs, L. (2021, May 26). NJ Transit Unveils Electric Bus Plan, But it Has to Compensate For Low Battery Range. https://www.nj.com/news/2021/05/nj-transit-unveils-electric-bus-plan-but-it-has-to-compensate-for-low-battery-range.html

Johnson, T. (2019, June 4). Administration Promises Almost $25M to Electrify Transportation Sector. NJ Spotlight News. https://www.njspotlight.com/2019/06/19-06-03-administration-promises-almost-25m-to-electrify-transportation-sector/

Johnson, T. (2021, February 17). NJ to Spend $100M on Green Energy, Environmental Justice. NJ Spotlight News. https://www.njspotlight.com/2021/02/nj-clean-energy-environmental-justice-electric-vehicles-murphy-100m/

NJ Car. (2021, April 26). NJ CAR Hosts Webinar On NJDEP’s It Pay$ To Plug In EV Charging Grant Program. https://njcar.org/latest-news/nj-car-hosts-webinar-on-njdeps-it-pay-to-plug-in-ev-charging-grant-program/

NJDEP. (2019, June 3). Second Round of Volkswagen Settlement Funds to Support Development of Heavy-Duty Electric Vehicles, With Emphasis on Improving Air Quality in Environmental Justice Communities. https://nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2019/19_0045.html

NJDEP (2021, June 1). NJ Public Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Locator. https://njdep.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=e41aa50dd8cd45faba8641b6be6097b1

NJDOT (2021, April). How NJDOT is Working Toward a Cleaner New Jersey. https://www.nj.gov/transportation/about/townhall/doc/ctcnews_vol21.pdf

NJ Office of the Governor. (2020, January 27). Governor Murphy Unveils Energy Master Plan and Signs Executive Order Directing Sweeping Regulatory Reform to Reduce Emissions and Adapt to Climate Change. https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200127as.html

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. (2021, June 1). New Jersey RGGI Climate Investments Dashboard. https://njdep.maps.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/71e62ee3de2d4a6585bf4766881406c6

State of New Jersey. (2020, January 9). NJ S2252. https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/S2500/2252_U2.PDF

Tap Into Camden. (2021, 26 May). NJT Bringing Eight New Electric Buses to Camden This Fall. https://www.tapinto.net/towns/camden/sections/government/articles/njt-bringing-eight-new-electric-buses-to-camden-this-fall

United States Department of Energy. (2020). Electricity Laws and Incentives in New Jersey. https://afdc.energy.gov/fuels/laws/ELEC?state=NJ

Image is of two construction workers in neon vests sitting on a platform above freshly poured concrete, which they are working on treating.

FHWA Issues EDC-5 Final Report and EDC-6 Baseline Report

The FHWA has issued a Final Report for Round 5 of the Every Day Counts Initiative (EDC-5), and a Baseline Report for EDC-6. The reports demonstrate completed and preliminary progress on implementation of selected innovations, such as Crowdsourcing for Advancing Operations and e-Ticketing.

Since the advent of the program in 2009, FHWA has worked to standardize innovation as an industry practice. For EDC-5, which took place from 2019-2020, FHWA reports that state agencies accomplished 98 percent of their implementation goalsthe highest success rate since EDC began. The vast majority of innovative ideas have been demonstrated, assessed (in preparation for deployment), or institutionalized by the state agency.

NJDOT is committed to supporting this initiative, which is administered on a state-by-state basis. The New Jersey Strategic Innovation Council (NJSTIC), is comprised of various stakeholders, including representatives from NJDOT, universities, municipalities, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and counties. NJ STIC meets quarterly to discuss new innovations and progress on initiatives. More information about NJ STIC can be found here.

To learn more about past projects and progress on current EDC initiatives in the region, please visit our Innovative Initiatives page.

The two reports may be viewed below, or on FHWA's website: EDC-5 Final Report, EDC-6 Baseline Report.

Image Reads: Every Day Counts: Innovation for a Nation on the Move, EDC-5 Final Report, April 2021

Image Reads: Every Day Counts, Innovation for a Nation on the Move, EDC-6 Summit Summary and Baseline Report, May 2021

Highway Crowdsourcing

STIC Incentive Grant Award: Crowdsourcing Traffic Data to Optimize Roadway Monitoring

The Federal Highway Administration recently awarded the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) a $55,000 State Transportation Improvement Council (STIC) incentive grant for the purpose of piloting a crowdsourced data platform to improve roadway monitoring operations.

NJDOT operates two Mobility Operations Centers that monitor conditions on more than 7,500 lane miles throughout the state. In 2017, a New Jersey Institute of Technology study found that the centers were only aware of 6.5 percent of crashes when compared with statewide records from the same time period. NJDOT plans to use this STIC grant to test software that could dramatically improve monitoring performance.

Slide image of a computer depicting a map with vehicles on it, text above it reads: Waycare is a cloud-based platform that provides AI solutions for proactive traffic management. To the left text reads: Automated Incident Detection, Crash Prediction and Forecasting, Irregular Congestion Detection, and Collaborative Tools for Faster Response
The Waycare Platform

The “Enhanced Crowdsourcing for Operations in New Jersey” pilot will fund a test of the Waycare traffic management platform, software that aggregates data points and uses Artificial Intelligence for predictive traffic monitoring. The $55,000 grant from the FHWA will finance the implementation of this technology for a limited section of roadway, and help NJDOT analyze whether the cloud-based data-aggregation platform can significantly assist the agency with predictive and real-time traffic monitoring.

Several states across the country, including California, Texas, Florida, and North Carolina, have successfully deployed the Waycare platform. Waycare takes data such as information about hazardous weather or sudden braking from a variety of sources (Waze, INRIX, Ticketmaster, etc.), aggregates them, and uses artificial intelligence to predict where accidents and congestion are occurring. This granular-level driving data would be sourced from around 1 in 10 vehicles in the state—information which could then be passed on to NJDOT’s Mobility Operations Centers. The platform’s collaborative, shared dashboard would also enable monitoring in the field, and potentially speed up the dispatching of emergency and maintenance vehicles. The promise of the technology is to comprehensively revamp how NJDOT monitors traffic operations, transitioning from a few, human-monitored data points to many, aggregated and prioritized by AI.

Slide reading: Platform ingests data from a vast amount of sources to provide highly accurate insights and predictions. Below this text, there are logos of companies, such as Volvo, Waze, iCone, Siemens, and Ticketmaster.
Data sources used by Waycare

NJDOT applied for funding from the FHWA’s Every Day Counts (EDC) program, which is currently in its sixth round and known as EDC-6. The program provides grants for projects that champion underutilized innovations and promise quick delivery times, and has highlighted Crowdsourcing for Advancing Operations as a key theme for this two-year grant cycle. Once funds are disbursed, the NJDOT Crowdsourcing pilot could begin operations in as little as six months.

Through the program, NJDOT will monitor the performance of the Waycare platform with regards to how it affects roadway monitoring and incident response times, as well as the efficacy of the crowdsourced data when compared to the existing statewide crash records. The overall goal for this two-year project is to find new, more comprehensive means of monitoring traffic for New Jersey.

Sal Cowan, Senior Director of Transportation Mobility in NJDOT’s Transportation and Operation Systems and Support Unit, presented this at the NJ STIC Spring 2021 meeting. The full presentation can be viewed here.

NJ STIC Innovations Featured at EDC-6 Virtual Summit

On December 8-10, 2020 FHWA hosted the Every Day Counts (EDC) 2020 Virtual Summit.

EDC is a State-based model that promotes the identification and rapid deployment of proven, yet underutilized innovations to shorten the project delivery process, enhance roadway safety, reduce traffic congestion, and integrate automation. FHWA works with State transportation departments, local governments, tribes, private industry and other stakeholders to identify a new collection of innovations to champion every two years that merit accelerated deployment.

The Summit is an integral component of the EDC model, bringing together transportation leaders and front-line professionals responsible for the development and delivery of highway projects to learn more about the innovations. Following the Summit, the States finalize their selection of innovations, establish performance goals for implementation over the upcoming two-year cycle, and begin to implement the innovations with the support and assistance of the technical teams established for each innovation.

The EDC-6 Summit was conducted virtually and included over 3,000 attendees from state Departments of Transportation, local agencies, federal land management agencies, tribes and industry. In the EDC-6 two-year cycle, seven innovations were featured that promote strategies to increase engagement with people, new applications of products to preserve and repair infrastructure, and improved processes that can save time on project delivery and incident management.

The EDC-6 Virtual summit included an exhibit pavilion to showcase home-grown innovations that State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) members developed and implemented. The purpose of the pavilion was to celebrate and share examples of innovations that save lives, time and resources with a wider audience to expand their potential use and impact. Highlighted innovations did not need to be EDC-related, or previously funded through the STIC Incentive or AID Demonstration grant programs. Rather, exhibitors were asked to share those innovations that could benefit other state and local agencies.

The NJ STIC selected the ten innovations shown here for the pavilion.

NJDOT Real-Time Signal Performance Measurement
Bridge Fender Navigation Lighting Reflective Backup System
NJDOT BABM 2020 Anti-Jackknife Device
BABM-NJDOT Roncovitz Post Pusher and Post Puller​
DDSA NJDOT Data Driven Safety Analysis – Burlington County Roundabout
NJDOT Local Safety Peer Exchange
NJDOT Pavement Preservation Video
NJDOT Safety Service Patrol – iCone Technology
NJDOT UAS and A-GaME​
NJDOT UAS High Mast Light Pole Inspection​

NJ Safe Routes Academy at the NJ Bike & Walk Summit

From June 1 through June 4, 2021 the NJ Safe Routes Resource Center will be offering Safe Routes Academy sessions in conjunction with the virtual NJ Bike & Walk Summit. The Academy enables and encourages safe routes to parks, transit, shops, restaurants, employment, schools and recreation through free, interactive sessions. The Safe Routes Resource Center works with New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) Bureau of Safety, Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs to help make New Jersey’s communities more walk- and bike-friendly for all users. The Safe Routes Academy is sponsored by NJDOT.

This year’s Safe Routes Academy sessions will discuss the New Jersey 2020 Strategic Highway Safety Plan that will guide safety programs and investments over the next five years to help reduce highway fatalities and serious injuries on public roads throughout the State. In particular, the presentation will feature the goals, objectives, and tasks of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Emphasis Area. Other sessions will feature the Transportation Management Association Safe Routes Coordinators who can help communities improve their walking and bicycling environment, tips for developing successful Safe Routes grant proposals for funding through the NJDOT Division of Local Aid, and steps that advocates can take to build local support for pedestrian and bicycle safety projects.

Find more information and a link to register here.

NJDOT Tech Talk! Webinar – Research Showcase: Lunchtime Edition

On April 22, 2021, the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a Lunchtime Tech Talk! webinar, “Research Showcase: Lunchtime Edition!”. The event featured three important research studies that NJDOT was not able to include in the NJDOT Research Showcase virtual event held last October. The Showcase serves as an opportunity for the New Jersey transportation community to learn about the broad scope of academic research initiatives underway in New Jersey.

The three projects examined various issues in transportation from surface transportation vulnerability to climate change, to the impacts of lighting on work zone safety, to policies that regulate overweight trucks in New Jersey. After each presentation, webinar participants had an opportunity to pose questions of the presenter.

Quantifying Impacts of Disruptive Precipitation to Surface Transportation: A Data-Driven Mitigation Approach. Raif Bucar is a third-year Engineering Management Ph.D. student at Stevens Institute of Technology, currently conducting research on surface transportation vulnerability to flood events. The study adopts a multidisciplinary approach to look at the effects of not only 100 and 500 year floods, but also more frequent events that cause local flooding to assess the impact on mobility and accessibility in Hoboken, NJ. The resulting study explores flooding impacts on the transportation system in terms of mobility and accessibility metrics and can inform the flood mitigation measures and measures to improve resilience.

The study used a traffic simulation model to look at storm magnitude and high and low tide in relation to Vehicle Miles Traveled, Vehicle Hours Traveled, and Trips Completed. Mr. Bucar described analysis of data to predict flood risk and determine areas of higher probability of flooding by year-storm and tide to determine why some areas flood more often than others. The study explored urban characteristics including land cover and topography, elevation, slope, impervious coverage, and drainage system features, and looked at the correlation of these features with flooding.

Mr. Bucar described the application of this information to determine routing information for drivers by applying machine learning to develop a “most valuable path” that adjusts travel time based on each link in the route and diverts drivers in response to changing conditions during flood events. The study findings can also be applied to guide flood resilience transportation planning. Future work will look at other models to validate this study’s assumptions, and will investigate driver behavior during flood events and how drivers respond to new information.

Following the presentation, Mr. Bucar responded to questions asked through the chat feature:

Q. There is not as much research on rainfall-induced flooding. Why not?
A. There may be resistance to using interdisciplinary approaches to exploring this problem. This is an area that needs more research as the disruptive effects of flooding on transportation mobility is increasingly apparent.

Q. How translatable is this approach to other cities or locations?
A. Thus far, we have not applied the framework to other areas, but should be able to apply it to other controlled study areas. A study of larger areas, such as a state, will not show local differences. There is a limit to how much we can scale this model.

Q. How do you plan on factoring in driver behavior and driver knowledge of flood events in future studies?
A. We anticipate using surveys and controlled experiments.

Lighting, Visual Guidance and Age: Importance to Safety in Roadway Work Zones. Dr. John Bullough is the Director of Transportation and Safety Lighting Programs and a Course Instructor in the graduate program in lighting at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Work zones are complex visual environments, and particularly so at night when illumination is needed for workers to complete tasks and for drivers to see the work area and understand how to navigate around it. Roadway delineators, and steady and flashing lights used in work zones can cause glare and visual chaos that affect drivers’ ability to see well. These challenges are exacerbated for older drivers due to physical changes in the eye over time.

Dr. Bullough described the Relative Visual Performance (RVP) model used to look at the speed and accuracy of visual processing in relationship to light level, the contrast between an object and the background, the size of an object, and the age of the observer. The research compared the effects of: steady lighting; flashing lights at night and during the day; sign retroreflectivity, color, and lettering; and road delineators on younger and older drivers.

Dr. Bullough noted that, with an aging driving population, the needs of older drivers should be considered to improve road safety around work zones. Study conclusions emphasize that older drivers need higher light levels than younger adults, but warns that higher light levels can create more glare. There is a need for flashing warning light intensity specifications that reflect the needs of drivers of all ages. It was noted that higher reflectivity in sign sheeting can extend legibility distances and so assist older drivers. Dr. Bullough noted that monitoring of light levels is needed throughout their use to keep levels of glare low.

Several questions were posed to Dr. Bullough after his presentation:

Q. Was the information broken down for age groups over 60 years?
A. Optical changes continue to ages 70 and 80. However, there are other potential visual problems among individuals in these age groups – for example, cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma which make generalizations more difficult.

Q. Does the color of light affect glare and visibility?
A. It depends on what we mean by “glare”. Red and blue lights – which we might find on police and flashing lights of highway maintenance trucks – have the same contrast-reducing characteristics regardless of color. However, people tend to be more sensitive to bluer colors; they find them much brighter, more glaring, more annoying and distracting even if they do not affect visibility any more than red or yellow lights of the same intensity. So, depending on what we mean by glare – if it’s that sensation of pain or annoyance – color matters a lot; if it is just visibility than it really comes down to candle-power, or candelas.

Q. What were the overall differences between urban and rural environments?
A. Urban environments tend to be more difficult for all drivers to find key information in the visual clutter. However, the effect is still much harder for older people than young people.

Q. How does eye recovery after glare differ between younger and older people?
A. Eyes in older people take twice as long to recover (3-4 seconds) after exposure to glare than in younger people.

Analysis of Overweight Truck Permit Policy in New Jersey. Dr. Hani Nassif is a professor at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where he has established the Bridge Engineering Program.   Dr. Nassif introduced the study and acknowledged the contribution of the research team that worked on this study and a prior study focused on the impact of freight on pavement and bridge infrastructure.

This research study explored whether New Jersey’s scheduled permit fees for overweight trucks allow NJDOT to recover all or part of the costs of the damage imposed by these vehicles traveling on NJ roads and bridges.

In a previous study, researchers had correlated truck overweight data with damage to bridges and pavements which showed higher rate of deterioration with higher rates of use by overweight trucks. The main question for this study considered whether the permit fees were sufficient to recover the costs incurred on the infrastructure. Then, in light of these findings, what policy recommendations could be made to change permit policies.

Dr. Nassif described various data sources and methods that were used to estimate the costs of damage to roads and bridges caused by overweight vehicles, including six years of data from the NJ Overweight Permit Database, Straight Line Diagrams of the NJ roadway network, GIS and the National Bridge Inventory including bridge location and conditions.

Dr. Nassif also provided an overview of NJ Overweight Permits, explaining the various types, validity, fee schedule and weight rules.  He highlighted the challenges of effectively collecting fees for overweight trucks and use categories for which fees are not adequately collected.   If a truck weighs more than 80,000 lbs., a permit should be obtained. Although, the State issues 100,000 permits each year, 96 percent of overweight trucks are estimated to be running without permits. These are not short hauls; the trip length is, on average, 50 miles.

The study also looked at fee permitting across the country. Each state uses one of three different permit fee structures: a flat fee; an oversize, overweight fee; and a new model which combines oversize, overweight, and mileage. The study included an effort to benchmark New Jersey against other states in terms of its fee structure. NJ is fourth highest in terms of overweight fee structure.  Any revised policy must take into account these higher fees in relation to neighboring states.

Dr. Nassif noted that the study findings can inform discussion of alternative policies on trucking fees.  The State can maintain the same fee schedule, add mileage to the fee calculation, or charge a flat fee. Dr. Nassif noted that it is not the objective of the state to recoup all the damage costs but perhaps to try to have all sectors of the economy pay their share in terms of the damage to the infrastructure. He suggested that, because trucks using more than six axles cause less damage, the use of more axles could be incentivized. Fees in NJ are already high, so an increase may not be feasible. All sectors of the trucking industry should pay their fair share.  There may be greater efficiency and equity in imposing a permit fee structure that collects a greater fee for longer mileage trips.

Dr. Nassif answered several questions following his presentation: 

Q. What would be your recommendation for regulating overweight trucks- to change to a flat fee or a mileage-based fee?
A. A combination of overweight and mileage fees might be most appropriate in NJ for a fair distribution of permit fees. This is similar to neighboring states. The average trip length is 50 miles for a permit. If a truck travels more, the State could add $1 for each additional mile would recoup 80 percent of the damage cost.

Q. Have you considered the cost of compliance in payment of fees for overweight vehicles?
We have been trying to work with the trucking association – we had a couple of workshops with stakeholders from agencies and trucking association – with the overall goal of enhancing the movement of goods. For example, the state could incentivize the use of a larger number of axles by lowering fees for these trucks. Truck weight enforcement is currently inefficient – it’s like chasing “cat and mouse”. Permits are not obtained for most overweight vehicles. Autonomous enforcement using accurate sensors along the road could result in citations and force drivers to get overweight permits. Weigh-in-Motion stations could be used as enforcement stations.

The enforcement needs to be more effective and we need more legislation; this legislation is under consideration in NY. NJ should consider this legislation to generate more revenue, and provide an equal footing for all parts of the trucking industry.

Q. With regional partners working together would we see more compliance?
A. There have been some regional efforts, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey calling for harmonizing the permitting process across state lines. New Jersey and New York could take the lead in advancing legislation to create a unified approach from Connecticut to Delaware and Maryland.

A recording of the webinar is available here.