NJ STIC 3rd Quarter 2021 Meeting

The NJ State Transportation Innovation Council (NJ STIC) 3rd Quarter Meeting, held on September 15, 2021, featured presentations about the NJDOT Safety Voyager Tool and the NJ STIC Communications Plan,  among other topics. The STIC Meeting Agenda had been distributed to the invitees prior to the meeting. Participants were invited to use the chat feature to offer comments or ask questions of the speakers during the online meeting.

Amanda Gendek, Manager of the NJDOT Bureau of Research greeted the meeting participants, followed by Asst. Commissioner Michael Russo who provided the Welcome and Opening Remarks.

FHWA EDC Innovation. Helene Roberts, Innovation Coordinator and Performance Manager for the FHWA NJ Office, noted that the first six-month progress report for the EDC initiatives and STIC incentive grant update reports were submitted, indicating few changes in the stage of implementation except for E-Ticketing and Digital As Builts.  She shared a graphic of the EDC-6 deployment stage for each initiative illustrating the baseline assessment and goals for the two year period.

Ms. Roberts reported that NJDOT will pilot FHWA’s Let’s Go! Workshop which is designed to help in the formation of cohesive teams and plans to advance the EDC innovative initiatives. The workshops are scheduled for September 21st and 28th with a focus on the Strategic Workforce Development team, and the E-Construction team that will address Digital As-Builts and 3D Project Delivery.  FHWA resource specialists for these subject areas will be present to assist in instruction and coaching for the pilot workshop(s).

Core Innovation Area (CIA) Updates. The meeting continued with presentations from Core Innovative Area (CIA) leaders who provided updates of the status of EDC initiatives on the topics of Safety, Infrastructure Preservation, Mobility and Operations, and Organizational Improvement and Support

Featured Presentations.  

Peter Brzostowski, NJDOT Bureau of Transportation Data & Support shared an instructive video presentation that demonstrated several major features of the Safety Voyager tool which was followed by a questions and answer session. Safety Voyager is based on the NJTR-1 traffic enforcement crash reports. The tool provides information on crash incidents at specific intersections and corridors. Mr. Brzostowski walked through several scenarios to explore the various queries that can be made, for example, by weather-related events, years, type of crashes, and location, among others, and the use of modules that explore topics such as sun glare, weather, and crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists. The tool includes an equity layer based on census data.

In response to a question, Mr. Brzostowski noted that employees of state government agencies, MPOs, and anyone working on a government project at any level can request access to Safety Voyager. Mike Russo added that the team had received input and feedback from various sources, and have been able to customize the tool to respond to primary customer needs. Expansion of the tool’s functionality continues.

David Aimen, Rutgers-Voorhees Transportation Center, presented on the NJ STIC Communications Plan, noting that the development of the Plan was funded in part by a STIC incentive grant and prepared on behalf of the NJDOT Bureau of Research – the administrative lead for the management of NJ STIC. The Plan seeks to improve the NJ STIC’s effectiveness through continuing communications and engagement with STIC stakeholders.  The Plan increases awareness of the FHWA Every Day Counts Program and NJ STIC by identifying a toolbox of communication tools, methods and strategies that will be used to document performance, capture and share information on innovative initiatives, and promote implementation of these initiatives throughout the State. The Plan is posted on the NJ STIC section of the Technology Transfer website here.

Following the presentation, Amanda Gendek and Helene Roberts conducted an interactive exercise with attendees to help identify innovative practices that could be featured at future NJ STIC meetings, in future communications and/or other technology transfer activities. The interactive polling exercise solicited suggestions from attendees on innovations that have been advanced by organizations and provide useful lessons learned for others, innovations that should be more widely shared with the STIC and others, and topics for innovative case study videos.  The exercise also solicited feedback on continuing training needs for specific EDC-6 initiatives.

Reminders and Updates.

Amanda Gendek closed the meeting with reminders about several resources that highlight the NJ STIC and other innovation topics funded through research and technology transfer activities, including:

A recording of the NJ STIC 3rd Quarterly Meeting of 2021 and the Safety Voyager video can be found on this page.

Meeting Presentations can be found in its entirety here and in the sections below.

Screenshots from the interactive exercise in support of the Communications Plan can be found here.

NJ STIC 2021 3rd Quarter Meeting Recording

Slide image reading: Welcome, Mike Russo, Assistant Commissioner, NJDOT Planning, Multimodal & Grant AdministrationWelcome Remarks

Slide image reading: FHWA Updates, Helene Roberts, P.E., Innovation Coordinator & Performance Manager, FHWA, NJ Division OfficeFHWA EDC Innovation Updates

Slide image reading: CIA Team Safety NJDOT - Dan LiSanti, FHWA - Keith SkiltonCIA Team Update: Safety

Slide image reading: CIA Team Infrastructure Preservation, NJDOT Bob Signora, FHWA - Nunzio MerlaCIA Team Update: Infrastructure Preservation

Slide image reading CIA Team Mobility & Ops NJDOT - Sue Catlett, FHWA - Ek PhomsavathCIA Team Update: Mobility and Operations

CIA Team Update: Organizational Improvement and Support

Slide image reading Operations Apprenticeship Program, Michele Shapiro, Direcor, NJDOT Human ResourcesFeature Presentation: Safety Voyager (link to video presentation)

Feature Presentation: NJ STIC Communications Plan

Slide image reading: Reminders & Announcements, NJDOT Tech Transfer Website (www.njdottechtransfer.net), NJ STIC Website (www.njdottechtransfer.net/nj-stic/), and all meeting recordings, presentations, and summary are posted: njdottechtransfer.net/nj-stic-meetingsReminders, Announcements, and Thank You

Innovation Spotlight: How DOTs Are Moving Toward Digital As-Builts

The FHWA is promoting the deployment of Digital As-Builts (DABs) in Round 6 of the Every Day Counts (EDC-6) Program.  FHWA defines DABs as an accumulation of the data used during digital project delivery that provides a living record of built infrastructure for agencies’ future business needs.   The latest FHWA Innovator, September/October, Issue 86, features a section on e-Ticketing and Digital As Builts that briefly defines the innovation and its benefits along with a short video of digital delivery efforts at Utah DOT.  

During EDC-6, the NJ STIC has set forward goals for advancing Digital As-Builts, assessing the current stage of innovation as “development” and setting forward some near-term capacity-building actions.

This article reports on a brief Digital As-Builts Literature Scan and provides references to a select bibliography of research reports, strategic plans and other resource documents that may warrant closer inspection for innovation teams. The literature scan identifies some key definitions, benefits, emerging practices, recurring challenges and possible lessons when taking steps toward deployment of DABs.

Digital As-Builts Literature Scan

Introduction

A Digital As-Built (DAB) innovates by transferring what are typically 2D, paper records into digital, three-dimensional (3D) datafiles that can be regularly updated and shared with stakeholders throughout a project’s life cycle. This information becomes invaluable in the asset management and operations phase, in which it is crucial for agencies to have the most current, comprehensive data covering their facility’s construction. DABs can also be referred to as digital twins, intricate computerized copies of a road or bridge that simulate real-time conditions, allowing for predictive maintenance and more cost-effective mitigation projects.

Across the country, state departments of transportation (state DOTs) are beginning to adopt DABs requirements for future road and bridge projects. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), for instance, has established ambitious agency goals that by 2035, all agency projects will be bid upon using 3D models—which will be updated throughout the project’s development through completion, and then stored in a centralized database (PennDOT, 2020).

While industry standard software and practices are still emerging, the research, experiences, and challenges from DOTs nationwide can assist in the identification of promising practices and planning the transition to DABs.

Benefits of Digital As-Builts

Digital As-Builts are digitized, detailed records of completed construction projects. These could encapsulate roadways, bridges, barriers, berms, and any other facilities. What is revolutionary about DABs is their capacity to be used as digital twins, sophisticated mock-ups of the actual structure that enable agencies to streamline maintenance and improvement projects. DABs are simple to store and distribute, reducing the time and material costs from producing traditional 2D as-builts. Created using Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) software, and updated with real-world readings, such as laser-based LiDAR, DABs are versatile and, increasingly, trustworthy records.  

DABs were selected as part of the FHWA’s EDC-6, featured for their advances in safety, time savings, and quality (FHWA, 2021).  In addition to providing high quality records that can optimize maintenance and asset management, DABs can streamline the project development process by easily showing decision makers the location of existing infrastructure. The safety benefits come, in part, from shorter work interruptions of regular traffic flows.  

DABs offer the capability to reliably retain information throughout the project process, as data is handed over from one department agency to another.  A UC-Davis report, conducted on behalf of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), suggests that DABs can reduce the risk of lost information considerably (Advanced Highway Maintenance and Construction Technology Research Center, 2020). Another report, prepared for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) by University of Kentucky researchers, found that digital documentation could significantly build trust in as-built records. In 2018, KYTC spent $217,000 on new forensic investigations because handmade, paper as-builts were deemed untrustworthy (Kentucky Transportation Center, 2019). But DABs, especially when well-updated and held to high standards of detail, can reduce the need for new surveys and ultimately lower costs.

DABs feed into an integrated workflow in which completed facility information is readily accessible for asset management and maintenance. This process is an element of Civil Integrated Management (CIM), and involves the entire lifecycle of a facility.

Existing Practices

Though many aspects of life have been affected by increasing digitization, the as-built record-keeping process in state transportation remains rooted in the analog era. It was apparent, from the literature reviewed, that the majority of state transportation departments are still using 2D, paper as-builts for facility specifications.

When DABs were being used, they were as pilot projects to demonstrate their efficacy. Or, when a part of agency practice, as in the case of Caltrans, implementation was inconsistent and without sufficient coordination (AHMCTRC, 2020).  Similarly, in Kentucky, some records were being stored digitally but without a designated central repository, or as hardcopies in a State Library and Archives warehouse for storage (KTC, 2019), offering little use for ongoing maintenance. States like Michigan and North Carolina, while looking to transition to digital records, were still working on their digital strategies and have yet to implement them as practice (FHWA, 2019).

Some states have recently established regulations requiring DABs, such as the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which updated the State Highway Utility Accommodation Code in 2021 calling for 3D subsurface models showing the location of utility lines in CDOT’s Right-of-Way (Colorado Department of Transportation, 2021). New York has established a 3D, 4D, and 5D requirement for certain megaprojects (such as the new Kosciuzko Bridge), that tie contractor payments to a continuously-updated model that is then revised with as-built information (FHWA, 2014). And Nevada, while requiring digital contract documents, has yet to add an as-built component. (Nevada Department of Transportation, 2021).

Many DOTs are being spurred to action by technological innovations and by prior EDC rounds (FHWA, 2015) and by the current FHWA’s EDC-6 e-Ticketing and Digital As-Builts initiative.

Emerging Practices

PennDOT appears at the leading edge in its development of a comprehensive DAB implementation plan, intending to adopt the digital delivery process as a department standard by 2025. For DABs, this involves a 5-year span spent developing standards and workflows for implementation. The planning process includes the functioning of various working groups for determining necessary infrastructure and modeling requirements, workspace needs, and training plans. Though PennDOT’s plan is still in progress, their Digital Delivery 2025 Strategic Plan offers a good example of a comprehensive, implementation document detailing steps the agency must take to make the transition to digital delivery (PennDOT, 2020).

Illusrates PenndDOT roadmap schedule for implementation of DABs

Figure 1: Sample Digital Delivery Roadmap from PennDOT.

Agencies in other states are also piloting new standards. Many DOTs are planning to convert from paper records, and to capitalize on this transition by taking advantage of the new digital records in the asset management process.

The Utah Department of Transportation of Transportation (UDOT) has created a website describing the benefits of digital delivery, including the advantages of the use of Digital Twins (UDOT, 2021). UDOT’s site also contains sample deliverables packages for contractors, with technical specifications for roadways, drainage, and structures viewable in Bentley ProjectWise, and document management software used for DABs by several DOTs (e.g., Virginia, Washington, Kentucky, and others) (Virginia Department of Transportation, 2019).

Virginia is also working to establish new guidelines to support the Civil Integrated Management (CIM) process. The guidelines will set standards for Level of Detail (LOD) for 3D renderings, as some models can be inconsistent. Because they are intended to exist as exact records of the constructed facility, DABs are required to be the highest LOD (Level 400) (Virginia Department of Transportation, 2020).

Michigan and North Carolina are currently transitioning from 2D plan sheets to 3D models of contractual documents (FHWA, 2019). Both states plan to incorporate the records into asset and operations management over the project’s lifecycle.

NYSDOT, for a bridge reconstruction in the Catskill region, developed a 3D model for a contract document using Bentley iTwin Design Review software (CS Engineer Magazine, 2021). After the bridge is completed, the contractor is obligated to upload as-built information to the 3D model. This approach is being piloted in New York, but is not yet adopted practice.

In Minnesota, the state Department of Transportation (MnDOT), adopted special as-built requirements for certain regions in the state, starting in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan area (FHWA, 2019). The agency also has a dedicated website with DAB specifications. For example, a barrier as-built report might include latitudinal and longitudinal X, Y, and Z coordinates, as well as a Plan ID referring back to the plan set.

Nearby, Iowa DOT has begun using geo-equipped devices from ESRI to capture vector and asset attribute data during the construction process (Iowa DOT Research, 2021). The geolocated data captures the location and geometry of facilities, and is then uploaded to a Microsoft SQL server. As opposed to developing a 3D model in the design process, and then updating it with as-built conditions, an after-the-fact approach captures three-dimensional as-built data outside of the Building Information Modeling (BIM) process.

Other states are exploring how they might apply these concepts to how they manage the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of their facilities. The literature resources reviewed made the benefits of DABs abundantly clear, and showed considerable progress being made, but they also identified challenges in the full-scale deployment of Digital As-Builts as standard practice.

Challenges

Several of the resources reviewed identified barriers for DOTs for implementing DABs. For Developing a Strategic Roadmap for Caltrans Implementation of Virtual Design Construction/Civil Integrated Management (2020), researchers surveyed Caltrans employees from various departments to learn more about the obstacles that the department faced.  Similarly, University of Kentucky researchers surveyed Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) staff, in Redefining Construction As-Built Plans to Meet Current Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Needs (2019).  FHWA has also prepared reports on innovative digital records practices at various states that detail various challenges (FHWA, 2019).  

These reports reveal some recurring themes on the challenges experienced by state DOTs that can be broken into two axes — Workflow and Workforce — as well as some solutions to surmount them.

Table 1: Examples of Workflow and Workforce Challenges and Solutions to DABs Implementation

AxesChallengesSolutionsExamples
WorkflowInconsistent ImplementationDevelop robust, time-tested workflowsPennDOT
Workflow SiloizationFacilitate interdepartmental coordination on projects and data updatesCaltrans
Workflow CompatibilityExtensively test software workflows for technical errors, such as incompatibilityPennDOT
Workflow StandardsCreate file, format, and procedural standards (i.e. designated Levels of Detail). Require compatible software infrastructure to support DABsPennDOT, UDOT, VDOT, NDOT, CDOT
Workforce Digital Competencies Educate employees with ongoing trainings that ease into DAB processPennDOT
WorkforceComplianceEducate for and enforce DAB protocolsUDOT, MnDOT

For example, the Caltrans report made clear that the development of an agency-wide workflow was paramount. Without one, various divisions were inconsistent and ineffective at capturing, maintaining, and communicating about DABs. Caltrans Roadway Design and Structures Design divisions fell short in updating and sharing the existence of updates with one another (AHMCTRC, 2020).  

Regarding particular software, files, and workstations, care must be taken in the workflow design process to ensure compatibility. In Caltrans case, the Roadway Design and Structures Design divisions were using incompatible 3D modeling software. Iowa DOT experienced a similar issue, in which 3D, geolocated models created using ESRI software were then unable to be meaningfully edited in Bentley MicroStation (Iowa DOT Research, 2021).  In addition, Iowa DOT’s 3D models, designed as part of a BIM process for a bridge girder replacement project, could not be edited because of the file type. An audit of Kentucky’s Transportation Cabinet found that, though there was a central repository for digital records (Bentley’s ProjectWise), files were uploaded inconsistently (KTC, 2019). While NYSDOT had planned, during the construction of the new Kosciusko Bridge, to continuously update a 3D model to show newly built components, they experienced severe network capacity constraints that prevented them from doing so (FHWA, 2014). Upfront planning, interdepartmental collaboration and testing ensures that DABs potential is unleashed.

The second tier of challenges arise from issues with workforce adoption. An FHWA case study looking at digital record keeping at MnDOT highlights difficulty with securing buy-in from construction staff to comply with new DAB requirements (FHWA, 2019). The KYTC study singled out a lack of digital competencies from older employees as one barrier towards adopting these new technologies. Change is difficult to implement, but especially when staff have become accustomed to the same practice for decades.

Recommendations

For Workflow design, a considered and deliberative process is required. Agencies must convene working groups of stakeholders and learn about department-specific concerns and established processes. Several years may be required to design new DAB workflows that maximize the potential of the new technology, and ensure that the infrastructure is in place to support and encourage staff to follow these workflows.

PennDOT’s plan for implementing digital delivery is an instructive and thorough model document on the subject (PennDOT, 2020). The agency’s Digital Delivery Strategic Plan breaks tasks down into actionable steps, such as Task 2.3, Post Construction Process and Procedures Development, scheduled from Q2-Q3 of 2021, which will map out new requirements and a plan to realize the new processes. An agency wishing to avoid siloization would do well to consult the UC-Davis study that provides itemized, exact solutions.

Graphic displaying PennDOT roadmap

Figure 2: Another visual representation of PennDOT’s Digital Delivery Roadmap.

Architects of the new DAB workflow should be careful to promote interdepartmental collaboration, as well as select compatible software that supports such a goal. Bentley Systems design, engineering, and review software—MicroStation, OpenRoads, and ProjectWise, principally—appear to be the most consistently used across the country (AHMCTRC, 2020). For determining a cohesive workflow, it is imperative that varying software have compatibility with one another—and that they are consistently used across the department.

For the issue of designated detail levels, both Minnesota and Virginia have developed tables with standards specifying when and where to make DABs as accurate as possible, such as whether to survey the constructed facility at a detail of one foot or one meter (FHWA, 2019). The overall objective of the department may help to guide the development process: how does the agency aim to utilize BIM technology? A representative DAB could help to dramatically increase the efficiency of future maintenance or upgrade projects, but only if the appropriate standards are first put in place.

The Workforce presents complementary challenges and solutions. A technology is only useful if it is appropriately deployed—part of the workflow design process should include consultation with staff on specific barriers they face in their daily adoption of the technology. What might be preventing them from doing so? What types of trainings are required to achieve core competencies? Interviewing staff stakeholders will also help to determine accountability measures that could be put in place, for both staff and contractors, to help ensure consistent compliance with new workflows (KTC, 2019).

Moving Forward

Digital As-Builts are a promising technological innovation that can reduce inefficiencies in the life cycle of a transportation facility. If appropriately deployed, DABs can maximize the value of a project, eliminating the need for new forensic investigations, and retaining information as it is handed off from one phase to the next. Many of the DOTs surveyed are considering and incorporating innovative practices into their DAB implementation. Both Caltrans and KYTC, for example, are studying the use of laser-based scanning technologies to develop geolocated 3D models post-construction. In the coming years, as DABs are adopted into practice, more case studies will become available for reference.

From the resources reviewed, it was apparent that Digital As-Builts are promising technology that can streamline record-keeping and save transportation agencies both time and money.

Bibliography

Advanced Highway Maintenance and Construction Technology Research Center (2020). Developing a Strategic Roadmap for Caltrans Implementation of Virtual Design Construction/Civil Integrated Management. California Department of Transportation.https://dot.ca.gov/-/media/dot-media/programs/research-innovation-system-information/documents/final-reports/ca20-3178-finalreport-a11y.pdf

Colorado Department of Transportation. (2021). State Highway Utility Accommodation Code. Colorado Department of Transportation. https://www.sos.state.co.us/CCR/GenerateRulePdf.do?ruleVersionId=9244&fileName=2%20CCR%20601-18

CS Engineer Magazine. (2021). NYS DOT Delivers First Model-based Contracting 3D Project in Its History; Delivered the Project Under Budget and Restored a Critical Bridge to the Community. CS Engineer Magazine. https://csengineermag.com/nys-dot-delivers-first-model-based-contracting-3d-project-in-its-history-delivered-the-project-under-budget-and-restored-a-critical-bridge-to-the-community/

Federal Highway Administration. (2014). 4D and 5D Modeling: NYSDOT’s Approach to Optimizing Resources. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/3d/hif16024.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. (2015).  3D Engineered Models: Schedule, Cost and Post-Construction: Fact Sheet. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/pdfs/factsheets/edc/edc-3_factsheet_3d_engineered_models.pdf

Federal Highway Administration (2021). e-Ticketing and Digital As-Builts. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_6/eticketing.cfm

Federal Highway Administration. (2019). Michigan DOT Digital Delivery Working Group. Federal Highway Administration. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/econstruction/edc4/hif19033.pdf

Federal Highway Administration. (2019). Minnesota and Iowa DOT Solutions for Capturing Asset Information During Construction. Federal Highway Administration.https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/econstruction/hif19075.pdf

Iowa DOT Research. (2021). Development of Digital As-Built for Use in Future Asset Management Applications. Iowa Department of Transportation.https://ideas.iowadot.gov/subdomain/stic-incentive-funds/end/node/3410?qmzn=iKFrYf

Kentucky Transportation Center. (2019). Redefining Construction As-Built Plans to Meet Current Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Needs. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.  https://uknowledge.uky.edu/ktc_researchreports/1630/

National Cooperative Highway Research Program. (2015).  Advances in Civil Integrated Management. Scan Team Report. NCHRP Project 20-68A, Scan 13- 02.   http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/docs/NCHRP20-68A_13-02.pdf

Nevada Department of Transportation. (2021). CAD Standards and Information. Nevada Department of Transportation. https://www.dot.nv.gov/doing-business/about-ndot/ndot-divisions/engineering/design/cadd-standards-and-information

North Carolina Department of Transportation. (2020). Perspectives on Anticipated OpenRoads Designer (ORD) Technological Benefits. North Carolina Department of Transportation. https://connect.ncdot.gov/resources/CADD/OpenRoads%20Designer%20Documents/NCDOT%20Research%20and%20Innovation%20Summit_ORD%20Presentation_10-14-20_Final.pdf

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. (2020). Digital Delivery Directive 2025 Final Strategic Plan. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. https://www.penndot.gov/ProjectAndPrograms/3D2025/Documents/Final%20Strategic%20Plan%20V1.0.pdf

Utah Department of Transportation. (2021). Digital Delivery. Utah Department of Transportation. https://digitaldelivery.udot.utah.gov/pages/bdc1336e1ade43d5bac2deca0e3e4837

Virginia Department of Transportation. (2020). 3D Model Development Manual. Virginia Department of Transportation. http://www.virginiadot.org/business/resources/LocDes/3D_Model_Development_Manual.pdf

Virginia Department of Transportation. (2019). Instructional and Informational Memorandum. Virginia Department of Transportation. http://www.virginiadot.org/business/resources/LocDes/IIM/IIM118.pdf Washington State Department of Transportation. (2017). Electronic Engineering Data Standards. Washington State Department of Transportation. https://wsdot.wa.gov/publications/manuals/fulltext/M3028/ElectronicEngDataStandards.pdf

Targeted Overlay Payment Solutions (TOPS): NJDOT Example Featured

This article first appeared in the FHWA’s EDC News Weekly Newsletter of August 26th, 2021 and featured NJDOT’s application of high performance thin overlays (HPTO) as a pavement preservation tool.

Targeted Overlay Pavement Solutions

Last week, we discussed a case study involving bonded concrete overlays, part of the Targeted Overlay Pavement Solutions (TOPS) toolbox. This week, we’ll look at how New Jersey has used high performance thin overlays (HPTO) successfully as a pavement preservation tool.

Since 2015, NJDOT has used HPTO on more than 1,000 lane miles to seal pavement and improve ride quality. Benefits include short road closures reducing impact on traffic, and addition of approximately 10 years of service life. Timing of the application is crucial. A Rutgers University study found applying HPTO to pavements while they are still in “good” condition more than doubles the service life compared to applying the product to pavements in “fair” condition.

Contractors who construct NJDOT projects have not reported constructability issues or complaints about the mix. NJDOT believes including performance requirements for the mixture, understanding treatment selection and application timing, and requiring project engineers to approve specifications are key factors in the success of HPTO as a pavement preservation tool.

Based on this research and evaluation of projects to date, NJDOT considers HPTO a cost-effective solution that provides a safe, smooth, crack and rut resistant surface that extends the life of the pavement and causes minimal impact on the road users and environment during construction.

Research Spotlight: Evaluating the Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s Effectiveness:  A Case Study in New Jersey

A Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (PHB) is a signalized, pedestrian-activated device designed to increase crossing safety. A recent study conducted by the New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center (BPRC), funded by NJDOT, examined the efficacy and public awareness of PHBs in New Jersey. The authors, researchers from Rowan and Rutgers universities, found a persistent need to better educate motorists and pedestrians in New Jersey on the PHB and its phases.

The five phases Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s (PHB) operations

The five phases Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s (PHB) operations

Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons are one of FHWA’s seven Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) countermeasures, proven methods of reducing pedestrian collisions. STEP was promoted through multiple rounds of the FHWA’s Every Day Counts (EDC) Program. A PHB is typically placed to improve pedestrian safety at uncontrolled and mid-block crossings, in locations with high pedestrian demand and wide roadways. The treatment consists of two signal arms on each side, with pedestrian “push buttons” and a crosswalk. The PHB operates in five phases. In the first, the PHB’s signal is off. The second phase begins when a pedestrian activates it by pressing a button, prompting the signal to flash a yellow light. Then, for the third phase, the flashing transitions to a solid yellow light, communicating to drivers that they should prepare to stop. Then the light turns red, and, in the fourth phase, the pedestrian signal changes to “Walk.” After an interval, the fifth phase begins: the pedestrian signal displays a countdown timer, and the traffic signal flashes alternating red lights, telling drivers to stop and that they may proceed if the crosswalk is clear.

The study’s literature review found multiple examples of prior research demonstrating the efficacy of PHBs. In the case of Tucson, Arizona, where one of the first PHBs was deployed in the United States, one study found a 69 percent decrease in pedestrian-related crashes in the signal area. Another analysis in Tucson found a 97 percent yielding rate from drivers at PHB-equipped crossings. One of the chief findings from the literature review was that PHB signal evaluations were lacking in New Jersey. Thus, researchers aimed to more systematically analyze PHBs in the state.

The authors found ten implemented examples of PHBs throughout the state, from Bergen County to Atlantic County. For more in-depth research, they selected signals in three different community types (urban, suburban, and campus area), in Morristown, Medford, and New Brunswick, New Jersey, to undergo video analysis.

The five phases Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s (PHB) operations

The five phases Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s (PHB) operations

One commonality observed in all three locations was an apparent confusion for motorists concerning the fifth phase, in which the signal flashes red, indicating that drivers should stop and then proceed with caution. In New Brunswick, 100 percent of observed motorists remained stopped, even after the intersection had been cleared. In Morristown, the vast majority of pedestrians (91.3%) failed to use the PHB during the morning period, and also failed to do so in the evening (83%). The authors attribute such behavior to the PHB timing being linked to two nearby traffic signals, contributing to extra delay after the crossing button has been pressed. When inconvenient, it seems, pedestrians may opt to cross on their own.

To better understand the familiarity of pedestrians and motorists in New Jersey with PHBs, the researchers designed an online survey that was sent to 79,567 randomly selected email addresses from 30 communities across the state. While respondents indicated some confusion as to how PHBs functioned, a plurality indicated that they would be very likely or somewhat likely to support  implementation in their own community. A majority of respondents (85.9%) reported that they had never heard of PHBs, and later indicated that completing the short survey had increased their knowledge of the safety treatment, showing the potential benefit of more public education about their functionality.

The report concludes by stating that while PHBs are proven to be effective at increasing pedestrian crossing safety, a lack of public awareness on the part of both drivers and pedestrians currently limits the effectiveness of these devices. The researchers suggest updating the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s Driver’s Handbook to include the PHB, and to differentiate the flashing red signals at a PHB where the driver must yield and then proceed if the crosswalk is clear, from the flashing red signals at railroad crossings where the driver is required to stop and remain stopped. This addition could be complemented with a public education campaign to teach pedestrians and drivers about the intricacies of Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons.

The New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center (BPRC) works to promote a safer and more accessible walking and bicycling environment in the state. The Center, located at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers, is supported by NJDOT through funding from FHWA. Further information technical assistance, resources for Complete Streets, and current research is available on the BPRC’s website.


Resources

Federal Highway Administration. Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons. Federal Highway Administration. https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/ped_hybrid_beacon/

New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center. (2020). Evaluating the Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon’s Effectiveness: A Case Study in New Jersey. New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center. http://njbikeped.org/portfolio/evaluating-pedestrian-hybrid-beacons-effectiveness/

NJDOT Tech Transfer. (2019). What is a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon? NJDOT Tech Transfer. Video. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2019/09/27/njdot-safety-countermeasures-videos/

NJDOT Tech Transfer. (2020). STEP-Aligned HAWK Signal Installed in Bergen County. NJDOT Tech Transfer. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2020/03/20/step-aligned-hawk-signal-installed-in-bergen-county/

 

From left to right: a woman in a hardhat working with a crowbar, then two men helping place a bridge component, finally three men on a paving device

Strategic Workforce Development Online Recordings & Presentations

Strategic Workforce Development is one of FHWA's seven initiatives promoted through the sixth round of the Every Day Counts (EDC) program. Key emphasis is made on developing new, innovative strategies to support qualified workers for highway construction projects. By strengthening this workforce, through applying lessons learned, new training tools, customizable marketing materials, state transportation agencies can help to foster the next generation of transportation workers.

FHWA's Center for Workforce Development has hosted several webinars about the Highway Construction Workforce Partnership (HCWP highlighting success stories and best practices. Recordings and select presentations are available here and future webinar announcements will be located on the HCWP website.  Some examples of recent webinars and presentations are listed below.

Recordings

Presentations

FHWA contacts for Strategic Workforce Development are Karen Bobo (Karen.Bobo@dot.gov) and Joe Conway (Joe.Conway@dot.gov).

Lunchtime Tech Talk! WEBINAR: What Happens Now? Virtual Public Engagement During and Beyond Covid-19

Join the NJDOT Bureau of Research for the Lunchtime Tech Talk! WEBINAR: What Happens Now? Virtual Public Engagement During and Beyond Covid-19 on October 6th, 2021.

This webinar will focus on virtual public involvement (VPI) both during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, when DOTs, MPOs and other local public agencies were confronted with the need to adapt to virtual platforms to engage with the public for transportation plans, projects and other activities. VPI has flourished during the pandemic and will likely continue post pandemic, offering several benefits including increased participation from some members of the public. However, implementing effective VPI can pose some challenges, such as ensuring involvement from underserved communities.

Panelists from within and outside New Jersey will discuss their experiences engaging the public virtually during the pandemic; share challenges encountered and solutions; offer benefits of using VPI; detail strategies to reach underserved and underrepresented communities through VPI; and outline plans for continuing use of VPI post-pandemic.

INVITED SPEAKERS

  • Andrea Lubin & Trish Sanchez, Rutgers-Voorhees Transportation Center, Public Outreach and Engagement Team
  • Rickie Clark, Transportation Specialist, FHWA
  • Jamille Robbins, Community Studies & Visualization Group, Leader, North Carolina DOT Public Involvement
  • Alison Hastings, Associate Director, Communications, Delaware Valley Regional Plan Commission
  • Vanessa Holman, Deputy Chief of Staff, NJDOT
  • Megan Fackler, Director of Government and Community Relations, NJDOT

REGISTRATION INFO

The event is free, but registration is required to receive the URL link to the webinar. AICP Maintenance Credits and Professional Engineering PDH credits are available, but you must be registered for the event. Click through the link below to register for this webinar event:

What Happens Now? Virtual Public Engagement During and Beyond Covid-19
Date:  Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Time: 12:00-1:30 PM

REGISTER HERE

Launching the UAS Program: STIC Incentive Funding Grant – Final Report

Click for report

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or drones, were promoted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as one of the Every Day Counts Round 5 (EDC-5) innovations. In 2017, the NJDOT Bureau of Aeronautics applied for and received a NJ State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) Incentive Program Funding grant to purchase equipment and provide training to evaluate the use of UAS for applications within NJDOT. Prior research had determined that this innovative technology could improve safety and efficiency and reduce costs.

The final report, Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS): Purchase and Training, describes the use of the STIC funding to assist in establishing the UAS program within the Bureau of Aeronautics.  The report describes the training curriculum and two use cases — high mast inspection and traffic incident management — and offers lessons learned and best practices.

The STIC grant, in combination with two other grants, enabled the Bureau to advance UAS within NJDOT. The innovation is now considered institutionalized within the agency.  A video, Drone Technology at NJDOT, highlights the efforts to launch and integrate UAS in NJDOT operations.

FHWA offers up to $100,000 to each STIC each year. You can find out more about the STIC Incentive Program here.

Virtual Public Involvement Peer Exchanges and Video Case Studies

Early, effective, and continuous public involvement brings diverse viewpoints and values into the decision-making process. Transportation agencies can increase meaningful public involvement in planning and project development by integrating virtual tools into their overall public involvement approach.  Public involvement tools and practices have expanded and shifted dramatically over the past decade due to changes in communications, technology, and lifestyles.  Transportation professionals cannot expect the public to come to the transportation agency's events; practitioners must reach them in their everyday lives–online, at home, and in chosen gathering spaces.

CASE STUDIES.  FHWA has developed video case studies that highlight how transportation agencies are using virtual public involvement tools and techniques.  This video series features short conversations with professionals involved in virtual public involvement efforts at their respective agencies.  Agencies and topics featured in the first batch of videos are listed below. A second batch of videos is expected to be released later.

PEER EXCHANGE WORKSHOPS. FHWA has been hosting in-person and online peer exchange workshops to provide a forum for sharing VPI strategies and practices. These peer exchanges bring experienced and less-experienced peers together to present and discuss their approaches to using specific VPI strategies.  Various topics have touched upon project visualizations, online meetings, engaging traditionally underserved populations, and crowdsourcing approaches. The FHWA typically provides workshop summary reports, recordings, and other resources for each event.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three images: left, a pedestrian crossing, middle, a road with a turning lane in the middle, and right, a construction worker measures the edge of a roadway

EDC Safety Summit Webinar Series

Safety has been a key aspect of FHWA's Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative since its inception in 2011. FHWA's Safety Summit Series will cover seven topics and technologies throughout September, 2021, sharing case studies and allowing for peer engagement discussion. The webinars will occur over a continuous, five-week period, providing an in-depth exploration of EDC safety initiatives from the past decade. To register for the Safety Summit Series, please visit the link here.

Karen King (karen.king@dot.gov) may be contacted for more information.