NJLTAP – Proven Safety Countermeasures Workshops – Upcoming Events

New Jersey is currently a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) focus approach state for both Pedestrians and Intersections, with approximately 24% of fatal and serious injury crashes involving Intersections and 27% involving Pedestrians and Bicycles. In New Jersey, approximately 60% of fatal and serious injury crashes are occurring on the local system.

The New Jersey Local Technical Assistance Program (NJLTAP) has partnered with the FHWA Division Office, NJDOT Bureau of Safety, Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs and Local Aid and Economic Development, and our three Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to develop a half-day workshop focused on the FHWA Proven Safety Countermeasures and the funding available for improvements to the local system.

This workshop provides guidance on the FHWA Proven Safety Countermeasures that local public agencies can implement to successfully address roadway departure, intersection, and pedestrian and bicycle crashes. The course will provide emphasis on intersection and pedestrian safety countermeasures, as well as potential funding sources (both federal and state) for implementing such countermeasures. Further, emphasis will be provided to include ways to implement the countermeasures into existing projects as proactive low-cost solutions to safety improvements.

Registration is required to attend any of these workshop events to be in North, South and Central regions of NJ.  AICP and PE credits will be available.  There is no fee for these workshops, but advance registration is required.

Visit the NLTAP Training and Events page for more information and to register for any of the 3 workshops:

The Impact of SJTPO’s Traffic Signal Inventory on Signal Operations

As technology advances, so does the need for data—information that allows engineers, planners, and others to utilize innovative ways to improve transportation and safety. To implement smart traffic systems, whereby centrally controlled traffic signals and sensors regulate the flow of traffic, agencies must know the present state of their traffic signal infrastructure. The South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO), the metropolitan planning organization for four counties in South Jersey, sought to better understand their infrastructure by developing a database of all traffic signals in the region. Completed in 2017, the database provides local agencies with the information needed to target intersections and signals for upgrades and replacements. Replacement with newer integrated traffic signals improves traffic flow, allows for remote signal monitoring and regional signal maintenance, and supports bicycle and pedestrian improvements at intersections.

A traffic signal located in SJTPO’s region. (Source: Tracy, 2017)

In 2016, SJTPO sought to create a database for all traffic signals within Atlantic, Cape May, and Salem Counties. Previously, Cumberland County had developed a traffic signal inventory which SJTPO plans to integrate into the new, comprehensive database. SJTPO and county governments wanted to know the count, age, and types of signals in their jurisdictions. An SJTPO study in Vineland found that many of their signals were very old, with one using circa 1955 electromechanical components to operate. In addition, traffic signal maintenance progressively transferred from municipalities to counties and records of some signals were found to be deficient. The lack of information needed to properly maintain signals was a major impetus for creating the database, according to Andrew Tracy formerly of SJTPO (Source: Tracy, 2017).

Agencies across the country have created similar traffic signal databases. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the regional metropolitan planning organization for Chicago and the surrounding seven counties, undertook development of a signal database in 2013 for the region, with the first version released to the public in 2018. CMAP’s goals for the database reflect those of SJTPO. The agency seeks to use the information for planning, and targeting specific signals and intersections for upgrades and replacement.

For an RFP issued to support its regional signal timing initiative,  SJTPO included a list of specific intersections identified by the counties for possible improvements. Extensive outreach to counties and municipalities to acquire signal data and plans took place prior to the database assembly to minimize the field work needed. For all data acquisition requiring field work, the subcontractor created an application to minimize errors with data input. The participating counties gave data collectors the keys to their controller cabinets along with a permission note in case police questioned them during their field work efforts. The signals were classified by features such as signal location, mast arm, head, sign, and presence of pedestrian push buttons. Additional information collected included intersection features such as ADA ramps, crosswalks, etc.

A look at SJTPO’s map and reviewer application for data input. (Source: Tracy, 2017)

Traffic data was also collected at identified intersections, including turning movement counts, queue lengths, delays, and travel times. This information could be used for traffic simulation modeling, performance measurement of intersections, and  revised signal timing plans. Extensive photography of the signals and intersections complemented the data set and provided visual aids. In total, 431 signals, including 258 traditional traffic signals and 173 beacons, were logged in the database across the 3 counties. The signal inventory was completed in 2017 and each county updates the database when a signal or intersection receives upgrades.

The traffic signal inventory database has created a variety of benefits for SJTPO and the region’s residents. One of the most noticeable benefits for local agencies has been access to data to target specific signals for upgraded technology, such as vehicle detection cameras and GPS clocks for signal coordination, or installation of new signals. The database can help identify intersections for bicycle and pedestrian facility improvements and greater accessibility for individuals with disabilities, such as wheelchair ramps and improved crosswalks. Signal upgrades benefit residents by improving traffic flow, and allowing for implementation of remote signal monitoring and signal maintenance at a regional, rather than local, level. Finally, the database reinforces knowledge preservation to ease any transitions in the event of staff turnover.

For other agencies considering a similar database, a Signal Inventory configuration is available via Collector for ArcGIS and performs similar functions as the SJTPO in-house application. Additional information on the process for assembling the SJTPO’s Traffic Signal Inventory Database can be found in a webinar (see below)  hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Geospatial Transportation Users Group.

Sources:

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. “Highway Traffic Signal Inventory: Draft Proposal.” CMAP, October 29, 2015. https://www.cmap.illinois.gov/documents/10180/481346/RegionnalSignals_Proposal_20151029_forRTOC.pdf/3aef6a03-a792-44ed-9515-11496c9c25f8.

South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization. “Request for Proposals: Regional Signal Timing Initiative.” SJTPO, July 13, 2017. https://www.sjtpo.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/SJTPO-RFP-Regional_Signal_Timing_Initiative.pdf.

Tracy, Andrew. October 30, 2017. https://www.sjtpo.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/CAC-10-30-2017-Andrew-Tracy-Signals.pdf.

Tracy, Andrew, Colleen Richwald, David Braig, and Matthew Duffy. October 12, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMO7-NYuXZ0.

NJ STIC 2019 Fall Meeting

The NJ State Transportation Innovation Council (NJ STIC) held its 2019 Fall Meeting on November 19, 2019 in the NJDOT Multi-Purpose Room. The STIC Meeting Agenda was distributed to the attendees along with several handouts that provide examples of NJ STIC innovative initiatives and how STIC incentive funding grants have been used.

After his Welcome and Opening Remarks, Asst. Commissioner Michael Russo and Assistant Division Administrator for the FHWA NJ Office, Valeriya Remezova, informed attendees that the New Jersey STIC was one of three STICs nationwide to receive an AASHTO 2019 STIC Excellence Award. FHWA's Center for Accelerating Innovation and the AASHTO Innovation Initiative partner to promote innovations and recognize excellence within a STIC. The STIC Excellence Award recognized the NJ STIC for:

“…developing a culture of innovation with broad stakeholder participation, shared metrics, and an engaged leadership. The STIC established processes to identify and move new technologies into practice, including an online portal to solicit potential ideas. The STIC also created three teams—Infrastructure Preservation, Safety, and Mobility and Operations—to champion innovations. A new web page features information on the STIC's innovation initiatives and a searchable innovation database. New Jersey's STIC is advancing unmanned aerial systems for bridge inspection and traffic incident monitoring, including developing guidance and specifications. To improve motorist and responder safety, the STIC is promoting the use of crowdsourcing applications to notify the public where NJDOT Safety Service Patrol vehicles are working on roadsides."

Following a brief celebratory award presentation, the FHWA's Helene Roberts provided a recap of the topics discussed during the national STIC meeting held on October 24th, 2019.  The meeting was recorded and pre-meeting presentation slides from the national meeting are available through the FHWA Center for Accelerating Innovation portal for National STIC meeting recordings.

Tom Harman, Director of the FHWA Center for Accelerating Innovation, provided an engaging presentation, Towards a Culture of Innovation, inviting participants to consider seven key attributes of an innovator. His discussion of innovation explored key elements of why and how an innovation may be adopted, or diffused, within an organization or community.  He also highlighted some possible barriers, or challenges, that key opinion leaders and leadership may wittingly or unwittingly place that impede the adoption of innovation within a large-scale organization. He pointed to select state DOTs that are leading the way among STICs nationally in promoting a favorable culture for adopting innovations, noting how agencies and individuals can be differentiated in part by their tolerance for the risk of failure and the time it takes to adopt an innovation.

Mr. Harman’s talk touched upon various Federal program funding vehicles available within the Center for Accelerating Innovation, highlighted select innovations that are being widely adopted throughout the nation, and shed some light on the "innovations of interest" currently being considered for innovation funding in the next round (i.e., EDC-6), or through some other renamed or rebranded program vehicle. He encouraged attendees to share their ideas for possible future innovations.

Mr. Harman was also joined by Karyn Vandevoort, Program Manager Analyst from FHWA’s Pennsylvania Division who helped facilitate discussion among the NJ STIC participants during Mr. Harman's talk as well as offered some remarks on the proceedings of a recent conference on innovation held in Pittsburgh.

Ms. Roberts from the FHWA NJ Division Office also provided a brief update of the status of New Jersey's progress on Every Day Counts (EDC-5) Innovative Initiatives. Short presentations were given by the three Core Innovation Area (CIA) Teams—Safety, Infrastructure Preservation, and Mobility & Operations—reporting on the activities planned and underway. More detail on the innovative initiatives can be accessed here.

Amanda Gendek, Manager of the NJDOT Bureau of Research, described recent communications and technology transfer efforts to raise awareness of the NJ STIC and its mission, including several recent Lunchtime Tech Talks, webinars and a video product.  The recently completed video, Drone Technology at NJDOT, was also shown to the attendees.   The video highlights some of the accomplishments of the UAS Program and how the adoption of the technology delivers benefits that are changing how DOT performs various operations.

The meeting closed with a Roundtable discussion that highlighted how the NJ STIC is evolving and using its outreach and communications tools (e.g., website, videos, trainings and workshops, and Tech Talk events) to further disseminate innovative practices among its diverse set of stakeholders.

The schedule of STIC meetings for 2020 was presented.  The Winter Meeting is scheduled for February 5, 2020.

The NJ STIC Fall Meeting Presentations can be found in sections below.

Welcome; Award; FHWA Update; Roundtable Recap

CIA Team Update: Mobility and Operations

Outreach & Coordination Efforts; Roundtable

CIA Team Update: Safety

Guest Speaker Tom Harman: Towards a Culture of Innovation

CIA Team Update: Infrastructure Preservation

Video: Drone Technology at NJDOT

Tech Talk! Webinar: The Connected Job Site

On November 14, 2019, FHWA sponsored an innovation exchange webinar, "The Connected Job Site," that was live broadcast by the NJDOT Bureau of Research as part of its Tech Talk! series, for NJDOT staff at NJDOT Headquarters in the Foran Building Training Room.

With the recent influx of new technologies such as smartphones, tablets, and drones, and their growing and widespread availability, many ingenious applications have been developed for their effective deployment in construction and operations and maintenance activities in transportation. These technologies have allowed for real-time project monitoring, improved communication among team members, documentation stored on the cloud, and more efficient online scheduling. During this webinar, attendees learned about what exactly connected job sites are, and how various local agencies from around the country have started to utilize these technologies in innovative ways.

FHWA launched the webinar with a short presentation, Ten Examples of Connected Technologies, that highlighted examples of tools and technologies found on the connected job site. The primary objective behind the adoption of these connected technologies is to save time and money and improve safety in operations.  Hardware like smartphones, tablets, laptops, wearable technology and various vehicles and equipment have streamlined communications and planning in performing field work, while software solutions like 3D Modeling and Building Information Modeling (BIM) have improved the accuracy and efficiency of digital representation for physical facilities and infrastructure design. Virtual reality (VR) technologies have also started to find applications in the field, allowing professionals to safely experiment and test ideas in an artificial environment and bring products and concepts to life through visualizations.  Using VR in conjunction with drone technology, for example, has allowed maintenance crews to safely examine parts of bridges that were previously hazardous to inspect. The advent of unmanned aerial vehicle systems, in general, has provided the ability to garner visual information at a lower cost than traditional methods, while keeping workers out of harm’s way.

Connected job sites do not always have to deploy new technologies; sometimes they just re-purpose applications of older technologies in conjunction with new ideas. GPS systems have been around for decades, but when used with new software they are immensely effective in improving efficiency.  Two case examples of this were provided by the local public agencies who participated in the webinar.

Township staff can review actual snow plow routes to improve cost-effective coverage and verify citizen complaints

The Township of Edison’s presentation, Improve Fleet Operations Through the Use of GPS and Telematics, provided by the New Jersey municipality’s Information Technology Manager, described some benefits and challenges of the installation of GPS tracking devices on its vehicle maintenance fleet.  During snow events, the Township was able to monitor the entire routes taken by its snow plow trucks and the specific segments where the plows were used.  Once the monitoring systems were in place, the Township found that it had the capability to more effectively evaluate individual citizen complaints of streets not being plowed adequately.  For example, the Township could check its mapped records of fleet route deployment during storm events, and see if the complaints were "true" and then determine whether a specific snow removal job needed to be repeated.  More broadly, the tool allowed the agency to ascertain whether designated routes were being followed by operators and whether the priority routes themselves were efficient and effective in both design and operation.

This capability had the added benefit of reducing the Township’s liability for alleged property damage. In fact, the Township found that some 50 percent of the claims that asserted that snow plows were hitting parked vehicles could not be substantiated after checking the GPS location of the snowplow trucks and their route history. Insurance claims and payouts were reduced by some 60 percent due to this capacity to technically validate the potential merits of a claim. The Township also found that it was able to improve efficiency in route designs, leading to less wear and tear on equipment, less use of salt and brine, and a reduction in person-hours and overtime costs.

The Township touched upon tool features that improved the monitoring of vehicles for preventative maintenance. As vehicles systems were now connected to a central hub, needed repairs were identified more quickly and systematically, and less dependent on individual driver reports of faults in a vehicle's operation.  Eventually, low use and high maintenance cost vehicles were better identified and retired, allowing for an overall fleet reduction of 35 percent which, in turn, has reduced costs for fuel, insurance, parts and labor.

For Lauderdale uses available individual vehicle operations measures to improve safety and support preventative maintenance progam for its fleet.

The City of Fort Lauderdale’s presentation, How to Improve Fleet Sustainability, jointly given by the City’s Program Manager for Fleet Services and their Automotive and Equipment Specialist, described several features and benefits of their fleet management program, including the use of geofencing. A geofence is a virtual perimeter dynamically generated for a real-world geographic area around a point location, or a predefined set of boundaries. It is typically used for security purposes and to better track people and equipment. Fort Lauderdale used geofencing to help preserve its infrastructure, as it was able to monitor overweight trucks using historic bridges; with this real time technology, they were able to reduce over-weight vehicles crossing the bridge by nearly 90 percent.

Vehicle tracking had the side benefit of making their drivers operate more safely.  The City found that its personnel were less likely to go over the speed limit if they were monitored, and “harsh events” such as braking and sharp turns were also reduced.  Examples of some of the specific and aggregate dashboard performance measures that can be monitored for equipment usage were highlighted.

In the dialogue following both presentations, it was clear that the adoption of the connected technologies changed the way business is being performed. Notably, the tools and performance measures permit increased tracking of the workforce on-the-job.  The presenters acknowledged that it can raise concerns about the level of monitoring available to the local public agency's management team.  However, according to the presenters, the implementation of the systems has generally improved the safety and efficiency of daily operations and contributed to improved maintenance and longevity of their fleets.

While the webinar shared just a couple of case examples primarily focused on fleet management, the FHWA hosts stressed that the future of connected job sites will only grow as the “internet of things” becomes more complex. Everything from automated vehicles, intelligent compaction, drones, and RFID scanners will continue to find new applications, and new ways to save money and enhance safety.

The Connected Job Site webinar is one in a series of Innovation Exchange webinars sponsored by the Center for Local Aid Support (CLAS) in the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Innovative Program Delivery. Through Innovative Exchange webinars, CLAS seeks to bring cutting-edge transportation leaders to the table to share ideas and out of the box innovative practices that have proven results.  More information about this webinar, upcoming webinars, and webinars available on demand can be found here.

How SJTPO Refined Their Congestion Management Process with Crowdsourced Data

Through the Everyday Counts (EDC) program, FHWA identifies and deploys established but underutilized innovations through a state-based model, with the goals of streamlining project delivery, improving roadway safety, decreasing traffic congestion, and incorporating automation. The fifth round of EDC kicked off in 2019 and included Crowdsourcing for Operations as one of ten initiatives.

As described by FHWA, "When combined with traditional data, crowdsourcing helps agencies efficiently implement proactive strategies that improve incident detection, traffic signal retiming, road weather management, traveler information, and other operational programs" (EDC-5). Crowdsourced operations data can include traffic, transit, bicycle, pedestrian, construction, and weather information collected in real-time by intelligent transportation systems (ITS) infrastructure and archived for planning use. One example of this traffic data is time and vehicle location collected via GPS probe-based sources, such as vehicles and smartphones. Through NJDOT and the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), New Jersey has institutionalized the practice by incorporating crowdsourced data into multiple operational programs since 2008.

Congestion Management Process

An example of PDA Suite's Performance Chart tool displaying archived operations data for speed. Photo source: Tracy, 2019.

The South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO), the MPO that represents Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem Counties, revised its Congestion Management Process (CMP) last year, with formal adoption in November 2018. A CMP is defined by FHWA as “a systematic and regionally-accepted approach for managing congestion that provides accurate, up-to-date information on transportation system performance and assesses alternative strategies for congestion management that meet State and local needs.” Metropolitan areas larger than 200,000 people are required to develop and implement a CMP as part of their overall transportation planning process for their region.

An effective CMP will help a region pinpoint congested roadways, determine multimodal performance measures, develop congestion management strategies and implementation methods, and assess the efficacy of the implemented strategies. While FHWA does not strictly define how to implement a CMP, they do provide a CMP Guidebook with an eight-step Process Model which SJTPO followed:

  1. Develop Regional Objectives for Congestion Management
  2. Define CMP Network
  3. Develop Multimodal Performance Measures
  4. Collect Data/Monitor System Performance
  5. Analyze Congestion Problems and Needs
  6. Identify and Assess Strategies
  7. Program and Implement Strategies
  8. Evaluate Strategy Effectiveness.

Along with the 2020 Regional Transportation Plan update, two important pieces of legislation drove SJTPO’s motivation to overhaul their CMP: Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) of 2012 and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. Both of these laws established requirements for performance-based planning and programming by MPOs. Performance-based planning and programming consists of the following steps: identifying a transportation system’s needs and problems, prioritizing projects and programs for investment, and monitoring impacts of the projects. SJTPO revised the CMP methodology using recently acquired real-time and archived travel time data to establish performance measures for the extent and severity of congestion throughout the region. The archived operations data provides a more holistic picture of system performance, creates more relatable and user-friendly measures, and enables more sophisticated modelling.

PDA Suite's Bottleneck Ranking tool displays here all bottlenecks found on a specific date range by time of day, visualized by maximum queue length in miles. Photo source: Tracy, 2019.

Under a contract with NJDOT, the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory (CATT Lab) provided all three New Jersey MPOs with access to real-time and archived data via the Probe Data Analytics Suite (PDA Suite). The PDA Suite is a web-based platform that consists of a range of data visualization and retrieval tools for real-time and archived probe data. The vehicle probe data is provided by multiple third-party vendors, including INRIX, HERE, and TomTom, that collect it via smart phone navigation apps. These companies anonymously aggregate the data which is then used by the PDA Suite tools to calculate metrics such as real-time speed data, travel time index, travel time reliability, queue measurements, statewide bottleneck ranking, and corridor congestion charts, among others.

An overview of the tools available in the PDA Suite. Photo source: Tracy, 2019.

Agencies can use the tool to download reports, create interactive maps and graphics, and download raw data for external analysis. The performance measurement data is available at both the corridor and regional level, with 1,556 roadway segments covered in the SJTPO region. SJTPO has used PDA Suite’s Bottleneck Ranking Tool to create congestion screening lists for all of their counties; the lists are then screened for outliers and confirmed with independent data sources. SJTPO will then meet with county and municipal stakeholders to gather their input to prioritize locations and develop a problem statement. So far, SJTPO has found PDA suite valuable for quantifying seasonal congestion, which traditionally is difficult to define. Compared to traffic counts, operations data has wider spatial and temporal coverage.

Lessons Learned

While this data has been incredibly valuable to SJTPO, the agency has learned there are several drawbacks when it comes to working with crowdsourced big data. False positives may occur that identify congested areas when a roadway segment has a low sample size of probe vehicles, or there is a typical traffic signal delay or an inaccurate calculation of historical reference speed. Additionally, there are many ways to parse and analyze a dataset, which can lead to different results. To accurately represent the travel experience, organizations need to develop and use consistent methodology.

Looking forward, SJTPO plans to continually update their CMP. The document will evolve with additional insight from internal documents and studies (including the 2020 Regional Transportation Plan), changes to planning guidelines, and shifts in regional demographic and fiscal resources. In 2020, a Congestion Management Process Activity Report will be issued to summarize findings to be incorporated in the 2045 Regional Transportation Plan Update.

Sources:

CATT Lab. “Probe Data Analytics Suite.” CATT Lab. University of Maryland, 2019. https://www.cattlab.umd.edu/?portfolio=vehicle-probe-project-suite.

FHWA. “Crowdsourcing for Operations.” Center for Accelerating Innovation. U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, October 22, 2019. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_5/crowdsourcing.cfm.

FHWA. “Congestion Management Process (CMP).” Organizing and Planning Operations. U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, February 11, 2019. https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/plan4ops/focus_areas/cmp.htm.

SJTPO. “Congestion Management Process.” Congestion Management Process (CMP). South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization, 2019. https://www.sjtpo.org/CMP/.

SJTPO. “Congestion Management Process: Methodology Report.” Congestion Management Process (CMP). South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization, 2018. https://www.sjtpo.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/CMP-Report-2017.pdf.

Tracy, Andrew. “The Use of Real-Time and Archived Operations Data for Congestion Planning and Incident Management.” TransAction 2019. April 17, 2019. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/SJTPO-TransAction-2019-Operations-Data-slides.pdf.

Drone Technology at NJDOT

NJDOT’s Unmanned Aerial Systems program in the Bureau of Aeronautics is demonstrating how the adoption of drone technology can serve NJDOT’s goals to increase safety, increase efficiency, save time, and save money. Drones are replacing boots on the ground, increasing accuracy, speeding up data collection, and providing access to hard-to-reach locations for divisions throughout the Department.

Click on the link below to see how drones are being used within NJDOT to drive innovation in the way our agency and workforce operate and what lies ahead for this technology.

EDC-5 STEP – Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian

On October 30th the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted the Lunchtime Tech Talk! Event on “EDC-5 STEP: Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian.” This event featured Peter Eun, a Transportation Safety Engineer with the Federal Highway Administration’s Resource Center’s Safety & Design Technical Service Team in Olympia, Washington. Mr. Eun discussed recent initiatives from FHWA regarding improvements in pedestrian safety and accessibility.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, while 2018 featured a decline in overall fatalities on our roads, there was an increase of pedestrian fatalities, highlighting the increased need for action. Considering that over 72% of pedestrian fatalities occur at non-intersection locations, Mr. Eun focused much  of his presentation on cost-effective countermeasures that can be systemically applied to reduce these crashes and save lives.

In his talk, he described how roadway configuration, traffic volumes, and posted speed limits inform the selection of appropriate countermeasures. By way of example, he referred to the Crosswalk Markings section of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD Section 3B.18):

Crosswalk Visibility Enhancements

Crosswalk Visibility Enhancements

“new marked crosswalks alone, without other measures designed to reduce traffic speeds, shorten crossing distances, enhance driver awareness of the crossing, and/or provide active warning of pedestrian presence, should not be installed across uncontrolled roadways where the speed limit exceeds 40 mph and /or either has 4 or more lanes without a raised median or island and ADT of 12,000 or more, or 4 or more lanes with raised median island and ADT of 15,000 or more”.

Setting the foundation for countermeasures,  Mr. Eun cited grave statistics from research on how increasing speeds lead to greater serious injuries or fatalities for pedestrians and warned of a diminishing “cone of vision” at higher speeds as visual field and peripheral vision narrows. He shared a provocative safety video to convey how even small differences of speed can affect the ability of drivers to react and avoid crashes to the detriment of pedestrians.

Describing them as the “Spectacular Seven”, Mr. Eun highlighted the following countermeasures:

  • Rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs) are active (user-actuated) or passive (automated detection) amber LEDs that use an irregular flash pattern at mid-block or uncontrolled crossing locations. They significantly increase driver yielding behavior.
  • Leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs) at signalized intersections allow pedestrians to walk, usually 3 to 4 seconds, before vehicles get a green signal to turn left or right. The LPI increases visibility, reduces conflicts, and improves yielding.
  • Crosswalk visibility enhancements, such as crosswalk lighting and enhanced signage and markings, help drivers detect pedestrians–particularly at night.

    Pedestrian Refuge Islands

    Pedestrian Refuge Islands

  • Raised crosswalks can serve as a traffic calming measure and reduce vehicle speeds.
  • Pedestrian crossing/refuge islands allow pedestrians a safer place to stop at the midpoint of the roadway before crossing the remaining distance. This is particularly helpful for pedestrians with limited mobility.
  • Pedestrian hybrid beacons (PHBs) provide positive stop control for higher-speed, multilane roadways with high vehicular volumes. The PHB is an intermediate option between a flashing beacon and a full pedestrian signal.
  • Road Diets can reduce vehicle speeds and the number of lanes pedestrians cross, and they can create space to add new pedestrian facilities such as pedestrian crossing/refuge islands.

Using case examples from all over the country, Mr. Eun discussed several example situations where these countermeasures could be used, as well as the benefits to implementing them and the difficulties that may be encountered during implementation. Since expecting pedestrians to travel significantly out of their way to cross a roadway is unrealistic and counterproductive, improvements must be made to make crossings more accessible and more safe. By focusing on uncontrolled locations, agencies can address a significant national safety problem and improve quality of life for pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

Mr. Eun then addressed a systemic approach to identifying safety issues and appropriate STEP countermeasures. Using this systemic approach, agencies can focus on countermeasures that address risk rather than specific locations. Once a risk factor characteristic of a number of crashes has been identified, agencies can be proactive and address that risk wherever it appears within the system. A system-based approach acknowledges crashes alone are not always sufficient to determine what countermeasures to implement, particularly on low-volume local and rural roadways where crash densities are lower, and in many urban areas where there are conflicts between vehicles and vulnerable road users (pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists). As such, systemic safety analysis does not require extensive data or complex analysis methods to be effective, just the desire to make the biggest safety impact with limited resources.

Resources

View the presentation: Eun Peter (2019). Every Day Counts so STEP up (Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian).

View the Australian Safety PSA Video:

Tech Talk! Webinar: Crowdsourcing for Local Operations

As the technology and portability of communications have become more widespread and instantaneous, "crowdsourcing" has become an increasingly popular method for identifying and addressing problems quickly. Crowdsourcing enables an organization to distribute workloads across a large group of people, utilizing their collective wisdom and amplifying the reach of the organization. Long popular for applications such as customer reviews for shoppers and critical takes from moviegoers, crowdsourcing tools are spreading in transportation and transforming the way operating agencies work with the public.  Most often we have seen crowdsourcing used on apps like Waze for up-to-date traveler information or incident management, as these apps allow for every driver on the road to serve as the eyes and ears of the larger community.

On October 17, 2019, FHWA sponsored an innovation exchange webinar, "Crowdsourcing for Local Operations" that was “live” broadcasted by the Bureau of Research as part of its Tech Talk! series, for NJDOT staff who convened in the E&O Building, Training Room A.  The webinar illustrated how local agencies are working, often with state partners, to expand the use of crowdsourcing across a wider set of application areas.

FHWA kicked off the webinar with a brief presentation, Introduction to Crowdsourcing and Improved Transportation Operations, that provided a definition and historical context for crowdsourcing, and a summary of typical sources of crowdsourcing data and applications in transportation.  The presentation included an overview of the Every Day Counts (EDC) Program and technical assistance resources available at FHWA to support deployment of crowdsourcing.  However, the primary purpose of the event was to showcase examples from around the country where Local Public Agencies and partnering stakeholders have deployed crowdsourcing solutions for emergency management, roadway and other  maintenance, and wildlife protection.

City of Myrtle Beach uses Facebook comments, direct messages, emails, phone calls, and other tools to receive citizen input.

Crowdsourcing Using Social Media for Emergency Roadway Management, City of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Mark Kruea, Public Information Director, described how the City of Myrtle Beach uses social media to help engage with residents quickly and effectively. The city takes phone calls, e-mails, and even messages and comments on Facebook on every topic, including trimming trees, fixing potholes, broken street lights, and other maintenance and needed capital improvements. The city tries to address requests within the same day which, in turn, encourages residents to use the system more frequently as they realize the city is listening and acting on suggestions. Mr. Kruea said that there was no reporting "threshold" for when a city would act on a specific comment or request, and even a single report of an issue can trigger a response.  His talk made clear the potential benefits of fostering a strong trust between the community and the municipality, particularly in planning for and managing emergency situations.  For example, during Hurricane Dorian, residents were able to send pictures of downed trees for clean-up crews to address, and adjustments were made to the storm level capacity of a regional detention pond prior to the storm event in response to community requests.

City of Richmond’s 311 portal makes it easy for citizens to report and track non-emergency service requests.

Crowdsourcing for Road Maintenance, City of Richmond, Virginia. Peter Briel, Director, Citizen Service & Response, spoke about the City of Richmond’s establishment of a 311 portal – phone, public internet portal, smartphone app -- for intake of most citizen requests for non-emergency services.  The 311 program includes a call center, a request platform, and performance reporting.  Once received, citizen requests are categorized by type and automatically routed to appropriate teams within the City’s various departments. Citizens can report a range of road issues through RVA311, including requests for new road infrastructure to report issues with maintenance, signage, traffic signals, and storm drain cleaning, among others. Citizens are able to upload photos through the app or the internet, check the status their requests, and receive push notifications when updates have been made by the city.  Mr. Briel’s presentation highlighted some of the mapping and performance management measures available in using the 311 system along with some of the organizational, technical and cultural changes required for deploying the tool for the city residents and workforce. He noted that the most challenging part of implementation of the innovation was initiating the culture change between the citizens and the city so the 311 system would not become simply an app for complaints, but instead, for citizen empowerment.

While the first few presentations dealt with infrastructure maintenance and emergency response, the next two presenters showed how crowdsourcing could be used to avoid wildlife collisions and protect their habitats.

 

Maine Audubon uses an online tool, Wildlife Road Watch, to identify roadkill “hot spots”.

Crowdsourcing for Wildlife Road, Maine Audubon Sarah Haggerty, a Conservation Biologist with Maine Audubon, described how her organization in association with Maine Department of Transportation and other environmental protection organizations, have worked to identify the worst areas for animal fatalities in order to prevent future accidents. Using an online tool created by the University of California-Davis Road Ecology Center, residents are able to upload photos and locations where they encounter roadkill, allowing the tool to identify hotspots around the state. In turn, municipalities can construct road-stream crossings that make it safe for wildlife passage as well as vehicular traffic, a strategy that was incentivized through extra points in state grants.

 

MassDOT has used historic roadway mortality data reported by citizen scientists and its maintenance personnel to prioritize and design signage, fencing, and crossings to protect wildlife endangered by traffic.

Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. David Paulson, a Senior Endangered Species Environmental Specialist, described how his agency is working to incorporate habitat conservation into transportation planning and project development.  Through the use of volunteers and MassDOT maintenance personnel, historic data on wildlife roadway mortality on particular road segments have been compiled.  Citizens and workers have been asked to report locations where multiple turtles experience roadway mortality on a yearly basis, typically on roads which bisect wetlands. Concurrently, they also enlisted volunteers to help research amphibian migrations across roadways to establish documented migration routes that could be engineered around. The online tool collected data on location and roadkill numbers, giving Massachusetts a good idea of where countermeasures could be implemented.

Throughout the webinar, presentations highlighted different ways in which transportation system users and citizens can be turned into real-time sensors on system performance, providing low-cost, high-quality data on traffic operations, roadway conditions, wildlife mortality, and maintenance issues.  Using crowdsourcing as a tool to garner information met with success in each of these cases, and the resulting actions taken by state and local governments have promoted trust between users and governing agencies.  Given its wide-ranging impact and low costs to implement, FHWA surmised in closing that these and similar tools leveraging engagement would become industry standards in the future.

The Crowdsourcing for Local Operations webinar was one in a series of Innovation Exchange webinars sponsored by the Center for Local Aid Support (CLAS) in the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Innovative Program Delivery. Through Innovative Exchange webinars, CLAS seeks to bring cutting-edge transportation leaders to the table to share ideas and out of the box innovative practices that have proven results.  More information about this webinar, upcoming webinars, and webinars available on demand can be found here.

Focusing on Reducing Rural Road Departures (Video)

The Federal Highway Administration recently released a video highlighting analytical and highway design efforts being used to prevent traffic deaths on rural roads by reducing roadway departures. The FHWA video introduces several relatively low-cost safety countermeasures to help drivers stay in their travel lanes and reduce the potential for, and minimize the severity of, rural roadway crashes, including rumble strips, enhanced signage, the Safety EdgeSM, and high-friction surface treatments.

While traffic crash locations can change from year-to-year, the FHWA recommends using a data-driven systemic analysis to assess types and patterns of rural crashes, roadway design where crashes occur, and specific areas with high concentrations of crashes or risk of crashes. Analysis of these data can also focus on when certain types of crashes occur. This information can help determine priority locations and design solutions that can be used to address needs in specific locations.

To learn more about the program and solutions designed to prevent traffic deaths on rural roads by reducing roadway departures, see the Federal Highway Administration' EDC-5 Innovation Reducing Rural Roadway Departures.  More information on what New Jersey is doing during this round on the topic, can be found at: What is Reducing Rural Roadway Departures.

Paving the Way to Better Roads at Lower Costs

Pavement Preservation Projects Benefit New Jersey Taxpayers and Commuters

Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, Commission of the NJ Department of Transportation

The last Commitment to Communities newsletter (Volume 7) highlighted some of the wonderful volunteerism of New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) employees. In this volume, I will share how the NJDOT achieves consistent progress through focused investments that keep our infrastructure in a state of good repair. Not only does the NJDOT prioritize improving the quality of life for our residents, but we also take great pride in the preservation and maintenance of our transportation system for the benefit of all New Jerseyans.

Within the last decade, NJDOT has significantly increased our use of pavement preservation treatments and preventive maintenance. Instead of waiting until pavements deteriorate to poor conditions requiring conventional, more costly resurfacing or rehabilitation treatments, preventive maintenance treatments are being applied at a fraction of the cost to sections of roadway in good or fair condition.

Slurry Seal treatment being applied to the Route 33, CR 527 to Howell Road Pavement Preservation Project in Monmouth County.

The purpose of these treatments is to renew and seal the pavement surface and extend the functional life of the pavement by six to twelve years depending on the preservation method. Sealing the roadway prior to deterioration reduces the chances for water to infiltrate the pavement and therefore prevents the opportunity for potholes to form. Since preservation treatments are less expensive than traditional resurfacing (one third to one half of the cost) preservation becomes a more cost effective life cycle treatment strategy while also minimizing the opportunity for potholes to develop throughout the life of the pavement.

In addition to providing cost savings to the state (and in turn, the tax payer), these methods can be implemented without major traffic disruptions and with minimal lane closures—saving commuters time and frustration. Furthermore, these projects have an accelerated design and construction phase, with most projects completed in one year.

Completed Route 33, CR 527 to Howell Road Pavement Preservation Project in Monmouth County.

The method of pavement preservation is not an idea unique to NJDOT. This method is nationally accepted as a cost effective treatment in pavement life cycle strategy. As a Department, we participate in the North East Pavement Preservation Partnership (NEPPP), a regional component of the national pavement preservation initiative facilitated by the National Center for Pavement Preservation.

System preservation is a requirement under federal legislation MAP-21, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. MAP-21 offers much needed funds in transportation investment.

Because these preventive techniques are so beneficial, we have substantially increased our annual investment in pavement preservation projects from $3 million in 2013 to $50 million in the 2020 program. Over the last two years, we have successfully designed or delivered 22 projects. They reflect our commitment to be responsible stewards of the 27-cent gas tax increase.

We look forward to increasing our investment levels in future years.

Pavement preservation is just one example among many of how NJDOT is committed to keeping New Jersey’s roadways in a state of good repair and by doing so, improving the lives of our residents. I strongly believe that any opportunity where we can take a proactive approach and in turn save the state and taxpayer time, money and disruption is an opportunity worth investing in.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to read this and please feel free to share it with your colleagues. If you have any questions about any of the information in the newsletter, please feel free to contact NJDOT’s Office of Constituent Relations at 609-963-1982.

Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti
Commissioner

This article first appeared in the Fall 2019 NJDOT Commitment to Communities Newsletter.