NJ STIC 2020 Spring Meeting

NJ STIC’s first virtual meeting on May 6, 2020

NJ STIC’s first virtual meeting on May 6, 2020

The NJ State Transportation Innovation Council (NJ STIC) Spring 2020 Meeting focused on the EDC-5 Innovative Initiative Virtual Public Involvement. The topic was appropriate to the times as STIC members gathered for the group’s first virtual meeting in response to NJ Executive Order 107 in force during the COVID-19 pandemic. The STIC Meeting Agenda had been distributed to the invitees prior to the May 6, 2020 meeting. Participants could use the chat feature to offer comments or ask questions of the speakers during the meeting.

After his Welcome and Opening Remarks, Asst. Commissioner Michael Russo introduced NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti who emphasized the distinction between virtual meetings, public meetings, and public hearings. She noted that NJDOT’s work continues during the lockdown and the agency will be instrumental in helping the state get back on its feet once re-opening begins. Division Administrator for the FHWA NJ Office, Robert Clark, and Amanda Gendek, Manager of the NJDOT Bureau of Research, rounded out the Welcome and Opening Remarks setting the stage for primary focus of the Spring Quarterly STIC meeting on the implementation of Virtual Public Involvement (VPI) in everyday activities of transportation agencies.

Jill Stark from FHWA reviewed online tools to increase public involvement

Jill Stark from FHWA reviewed online tools to increase public involvement (click for presentation)

The meeting continued with presentations from representatives of FHWA, New Jersey’s three Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Monmouth County, Princeton and industry discussing how they have adapted to the need for virtual public meetings and the benefits and challenges associated with the transition to the online formats.

VPI Tools and Techniques - Jill Stark and Lana Lau from FHWA presented several resources, such as mobile apps, crowdsourcing tools, project visualizations, and online mapping, to enhance public involvement and offered several examples of their use in other state transportation agencies. Ms. Stark noted that virtual public involvement will not replace in-person meetings but can supplement traditional engagement activities.

DVRPC used the chat feature during the board meeting to take public comment (click for presentation)

DVRPC used the chat feature during the board meeting to take public comment (click for presentation)

During their talk, the FHWA identified several resources, including webinars and fact sheets, available on Virtual Public Involvement. The agency is also creating videos that highlight innovative and virtual public engagement strategies in use in state and local transportation agencies. An article on the videos, including the fact that NJDOT and NJTPA activities were featured examples, was the subject of a recent post on the NJDOT Technology Transfer website.

MPO representatives reported on the need for quick technological transitions to remote work, experiences with online platforms, and related lessons learned.

NJTPA’s online survey was available in translation and participants could leave comments (click for presentation)

NJTPA’s online survey was available in translation and participants could leave comments (click for presentation)

DVRPC: Virtual Meeting Best Practices - Barry Seymour and Alison Hastings from DVRPC discussed increased public participation at their recent board meeting and the request for remote access to meetings going forward. Noting that reaching underserved communities just got harder, they emphasized features of their chosen meeting platform that increase accessibility, such as phone and computer audio, an app for cell phones, and closed captioning and audio channels for live translation.

Virtual Public Involvement - Mary Ameen and Melissa Hayes from NJTPA offered tips for online discussions, advocating for gearing the message to the audience, keeping meetings brief, providing multiple feedback options, and making the meeting mobile-friendly. Their Virtual Public Engagement Best Practices guidance is available online. They also offered examples from municipalities using online tools to reach their communities.

SJTPO is looking for alternatives methods of reaching populations lacking internet access (click for presentation)

SJTPO is looking for alternatives methods of reaching populations lacking internet access (click for presentation)

Virtual Outreach During COVID-19 in the SJTPO Region - Jennifer Marandino and Alan Huff from SJTPO spoke about the agency’s dive into the issue of limited access to online public involvement opportunities in low-income and minority communities. They have discovered areas in their region that require focused in-person public involvement. The agency is delaying public involvement on major issues and exploring alternative means for reaching the region’s population.

Monmouth County used a project website to inform the public and gather feedback (click for presentation)

Monmouth County used a project website to inform the public and gather feedback (click for presentation)

Monmouth County Bridge Replacement Projects: Virtual Public Meetings – County Engineer Joseph Ettore and Consultant Martine Culbertson spoke about the limitations of virtual meetings and the impact on project development on two Bridge Replacement Projects in Monmouth County. The speakers discussed design of a project website, the challenges of virtual public meetings, how to proceed when a project faces some local opposition, and the need to keep projects on track to retain funding.

Princeton used various methods to track and display feedback from public involvement activities (click for presentation)

Princeton used various methods to track and display feedback from public involvement activities (click for presentation)

Virtual Public Involvement: A Municipal Perspective - Deanna Stockton, Engineer for Princeton, discussed the challenges related to bid openings, and holding council, zoning board and planning board meetings, and shared some useful resources. She noted the need to meet MLUL requirements and deadlines associated with zoning and planning board project reviews and discussed the creation of permanent digital files.

Industry Presentation: Virtual Consultation Platform - The final presentation, from Orla Pease and Andy Thomas of AECOM, offered a STIC industry partner perspective, and highlighted a new online virtual meeting platform. The meeting closed with a brief question and answer session.

The Spring Quarterly STIC meeting offered an abundance of useful information, tips, and lessons learned related to virtual public involvement tools and strategies.

A recording of the NJ STIC Spring 2020 Meeting can be found here and to the right.  There was insufficient time to answer all questions posed during the session. Answers to these questions can be found here.

The NJ STIC Spring Virtual Meeting Presentation can be found in its entirety and in sections below.

Click for entire presentation (10MB).
Virtual Meeting Best Practices by DVRPC
Monmouth County Bridge Replacement Project Virtual Public Meeting
Q&A and Thank You
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Virtual Public Engagement by NJTPA
Virtual Public Involvement: A Municipal Perspective
Presentation by FHWA
Virtual Outreach During COVID-19 in the SJTPO Region
Industry Presentation, Virtual Consultation Platform

Reducing Rural Road Departures: Upcoming FHWA Webinar and Other Resources Advance EDC-5 Initiative

FHWA Storyboard

On May 12, 2020, the Federal Highway Administration will host FoRRRwD on All Public Roads: Innovative Mechanisms to Deliver Safety Projects, the second of its monthly webinars designed to help reduce rural roadway departures and save lives. Reducing rural roadway departures is one of the ten initiatives addressed by the 5th round of its Every Day Counts program (EDC-5). The EDC program identifies and deploys proven innovations to save state departments of transportation time, money, and resources. This webinar is the latest FHWA offering of technical materials aimed at reducing roadway departures (see below). Other recent materials include:

  • A storyboard on horizontal curve warning signs. The storyboard demonstrates the effectiveness of low-cost solutions such as advance warning signs and curve chevrons to reduce crashes on curves, especially at night.
  • An informational video. Released in late March 2020, this video showcases the benefits of rumble strips in reducing road departures. The video notes that rumbles strips can reduce departure crashes by up to 50 percent. (Embed the video here)
  • An innovation spotlight video. This 2019 video highlights key countermeasures to prevent or reduce severity of crashes, and systemic analysis tools agencies can use to prioritize locations on a network with high risk for future crashes.

New Jersey has also been working to address this issue, using some of the methods listed above on rural roads across the state. This recent NJDOT Tech Transfer article highlights how Cumberland and Somerset Counties are reducing rural road departures along high risk portions of their networks.

FoRRRwD on All Public Roads: Innovative Mechanisms to Deliver Safety Projects

May 12, 2020
1-3 pm

Rural roadway departures make up a third of U.S. traffic fatalities—about 30 people a day. The Every Day Counts round five (EDC-5) initiative, Focus on Reducing Rural Roadway Departures (FoRRRwD), features four pillars: 1. Addressing All Public Roads, 2. Systemic Approach, 3. Safety Action Plans, and 4. Proven Countermeasures.

This webinar focuses on the first pillar. State, local, and tribal agencies come learn unique approaches and methods that you can use to efficiently deliver safety countermeasures and projects to reduce rural roadway departure crashes. Speakers and Topics to be covered include:

  • Steve Landry, Maine DOT, will discuss Maine DOT’s use of safety supply (Curve Warning Signs, RRFBs, Speed Feedback Signs) procurement projects where state procurement procedures are used, and local public agencies or State forces perform installation at their cost.
  • Mark Thomas, Mississippi DOT (MDOT), will discuss how agencies in Mississippi have used agency force account to deliver roadway departure countermeasures, and a program where MDOT provides warning and advisory signage to local governments to install.
  • Patricia Burke, Montana DOT (MDT), will discuss MDT’s use of Job Order Contracting to streamline the delivery of safety projects.

This webinar is free and open to anyone who is interested. Registration is limited to 500 seats.

Registration: Participants must register in advance at https://collaboration.fhwa.dot.gov/dot/fhwa/WC/Lists/Seminars/DispForm.aspx?ID=2260

Please Note: Non-USDOT employees who have never participated in an FHWA webinar must create an account at https://collaboration.fhwa.dot.gov/FBA/MembershipRequest.aspx in order to register for this webinar.

FHWA recommends using Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer for optimal registration experience.

FHWA’s Ray Murphy Presents EDC-5 Weather-Responsive Management Strategies

On April 14, 2020, the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a Lunchtime Tech Talk! webinar on "EDC-5 Weather-Responsive Management Strategies." This event featured a presentation by Ray Murphy, ITS Specialist with the FHWA's Resource Center. Under Round 5 of the Every Day Counts (EDC) program, FHWA promotes Weather-Responsive Management Strategies (WRMS) to manage traffic and road maintenance during inclement weather to improve safety and reliability, and minimize environmental impacts associated with weather events. Weather affects: traffic safety, with 21 percent of the nearly 6 million roadway crashes in the past decade related to weather; mobility, resulting in reduced efficiency and productivity; and environmental impacts on watersheds, air quality, and infrastructure.

Mr. Murphy provided examples of weather responsive practices being tried by state DOTs, including an advanced traveler information notification deployed by Iowa DOT.

Mr. Murphy provided examples of weather responsive practices being tried by state DOTs, including an advanced traveler information notification deployed by Iowa DOT.

Mr. Murphy described the prior-round, EDC-4 innovation, Road Weather Management – Weather-Savvy Roads, that formed the basis for this EDC-5 initiative. The innovation promoted data collection including Pathfinder, a collaboration between the National Weather Service, state DOTs, and state support contractors to provide weather information and forecasts, and Integrating Mobile Observations (IMO) that collects weather and road condition data from instruments on agency fleet trucks.

Through WRMS, FHWA promotes the use of mobile data to support decision making. Benefits to agencies include improved safety, system performance and operations, and reduced costs and environmental impacts. Agencies can use Weather Responsive Management Systems to address diverse internal needs such as staffing, material use, and route optimization, and condition and performance reporting. Data sources include transportation agency fleets, private vehicles, third party entities, agency operators, road users and infrastructure. Some data is collected by in-vehicle sensors, video and camera images, and automatic vehicle location. Other data sources include fixed Roadway Information System (RWIS), National Weather Service, reports from road users and operators, mobile observations and connected vehicle data, among others.

The traveling public benefits through safer pre-trip and real-time route decision making based on enhanced traveler information, roadside messaging, variable speed limits, and road lane closures or restrictions. Unified, localized, and more accurate messaging gives the public increased confidence in the messaging and the agency.

Mr. Murphy addressed some common challenges that agencies face in adopting this innovation, such as a lack of connectivity in remote areas, the need for buy-in from agency leadership and from road crews, hesitance to adopt the innovation, and funding.

Mr. Murphy cited some of work that NJ DOT has accomplished in the field of Weather Responsive Management Strategies.

Mr. Murphy highlighted recent initiatives undertaken by NJDOT related to Weather Responsive Management Strategies that have been funded in part through FHWA innovation grants.

He noted that the State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) Incentive Program and STIC Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) grants can help fund implementation of these technologies. NJDOT received a STIC incentive funding grant to support pilot testing of technology used by the Safety Service Patrols. NJDOT was also awarded an AID Grant from FHWA to support a weather savvy roads pilot program, installing video camera dashboards and sensors onto NJDOT maintenance trucks and safety service patrol vehicles to collect streaming video and weather / pavement information to support road weather management throughout the state.

Webinar participants had an opportunity to pose questions of Mr. Murphy. One participant asked about possible resistance to installation of automatic vehicle locators due to privacy concerns. Mr. Murphy noted that agencies must operate openly and inclusively when implementing this technology. Training and education can help users become more accepting of the technology.

A participant asked about the use of IMO data versus information gathered from a public entity such as WAZE. Mr. Murphy responded that the agency receives the IMO data directly and can oversee the accuracy of the data, but that information should come from multiple sources to create a robust dataset.

When asked what agencies consider the biggest challenges, and what arguments can be used to support this innovation, Mr. Murphy responded that funding is always a concern but that buy-in is often the larger issue. He emphasized the need for a champion who can demonstrate the benefits of the strategies through performance measures.

When asked if specific applications of WRMS were being considered for EDC-6, Mr. Murphy responded that various innovative practices were being considered and no decisions had been made yet.

A participant asked if these systems can be adapted to rockfall data. Mr. Murphy noted that visibility apps used with dust storms or fire events could be adapted for other weather events.

Mr. Murphy’s presentation offered several examples of DOTs nationwide employing these strategies. A participant asked if any states are quantifying the benefits of WRMS implementation. Mr. Murphy offered that Caltrans is one agency.

The presentation given by Mr. Murphy can be downloaded here.

More information on this innovation is available on the FHWA Weather Responsive Management Systems resources page.

A recording of the webinar is available here, (also to the right).

Federal Highway Administration Releases Second EDC-5 Progress Report

The second EDC-5 Progress Report summarizes the deployment progress of the 10 innovations in the fifth round of the the Federal Highway Administration’s Every Day Counts program for July through December, 2019. The EDC program coordinates the deployment of new strategies and technologies within State Departments of Transportation. These strategies help transportation stakeholders to shorten the project delivery process, enhance roadway safety, reduce traffic congestion, and integrate automation to better serve the nation.

The national report analyzes each state’s implementation stages for the 10 innovations using charts and maps. The report also presents the number of states that have demonstrated, assessed, or institutionalized innovations, and presents goals for how many states should reach these stages by December 2020. New Jersey Department of Transportation has fully institutionalized Crowdsourcing for Operations, Project Bundling, and Unmanned Aerial Systems. The agency has reached the assessment stage for Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian, and the demonstration (testing and piloting) stage for Advanced Geotechnical Exploration Methods and Collaborative Hydraulics. Two other innovations are in the development phase.

FHWA compiles a progress report every six months regarding the state of practice for the current round of EDC initiatives. An online version of the EDC-5 Progress Report can be found here.

NJ Transportation Agencies Featured for Their Innovative and Virtual Public Involvement Approaches

FHWA promotes virtual public involvement and other innovative public involvement tools through its Every Day Counts-5 innovations. FHWA notes several benefits of a robust public involvement process that employs technology to bring public involvement opportunities to people. These techniques tend to be more efficient and cost-effective, help to accelerate the project delivery process by identifying issues early in the process, ensure that the needs and desires of community members are heard in a collaborative process, and improve project quality by reaching individuals who might otherwise not be engaged.

FHWA is developing a series of short videos highlighting virtual public involvement tools, as well as other innovative strategies, in use at state and local transportation agencies. Approaches in use by New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) feature in several of these videos.

NJTPA used Set the Table, a meeting-in-a-box, to gather input from millennials for the agency’s long-range regional plan (Plan 2045). Individuals hosted small dinner parties for their peers (aged 18-30). Boxes, similar to pizza boxes, held snacks, and conversation cards on seven focus areas related to transportation. Twenty events were held, reaching over 200 individuals. Participants voiced an interest in staying involved in the planning process.

To supplement print and other media advertisement to gather public input for Plan 2045, NJTPA used online ads geo-targeted to the region. These ads invited people to participate in an online survey covering the Plan’s seven focus areas. The campaign reached 1.6 million people over six weeks and received a robust response. The agency found that this virtual engagement strategy not only reached people where they were, but helped to inform a large number of people about the transportation planning process and the agency.

In delivering these examples, FHWA emphasizes the need for transportation agencies to expand their outreach efforts to engage people in their everyday lives.

STEP-Aligned HAWK Signal Installed in Bergen County

Every Day Counts (EDC) is an initiative developed by the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Center for Accelerating Innovation to improve safety along our roadways. Every two years, EDC identifies a number of highway safety innovations that are then supported for rapid deployment. A set of innovations targeted at pedestrian safety was identified within the 2019–2020 EDC cycle. Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) provides a set of pedestrian improvements ranging from small scale signage installation to fully revamped roadway layout through road diets. STEP-aligned projects have been successfully deployed in locations across New Jersey, including a recent pedestrian improvement project along Washington Avenue in the Borough of Carlstadt in Bergen County, New Jersey.

Washington Avenue is a four-lane, bidirectional road with a speed limit of 40 miles per hour. The corridor hosts a number of industrial businesses and therefore witnesses a great deal of truck traffic. Many employees working at these sites arrive by bus and dash across the four lane roadway to avoid walking 700 feet to the nearest lighted intersection at Veterans Boulevard.

In early 2013, a pedestrian fatality occurred along the corridor. According to Christine Mittman, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, concerned county officials submitted an application to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) through the Local Safety Program which utilizes Highway Safety Improvement Program funds. In order to develop comprehensive and effective solutions for the corridor, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and NJTPA recommended a road safety audit for a 1.6-mile section of Washington Avenue from Moonachie Avenue to Road A, just north of the Paterson Plank Road.

Figure 1. At this location along Washington Avenue, pedestrians were forced to walk in the travel lane (photo credit: Christine Mittman, NJTPA).

Figure 1. At this location along Washington Avenue, pedestrians were forced to walk in the travel lane (photo credit: Christine Mittman, NJTPA).

A road safety audit is a tool promoted by FHWA to identify safety issues for all users along a designated area of roadway. An independent multidisciplinary team walks the corridor observing and taking notes related to safety concerns, user conflicts, and roadway performance issues. Often the auditors use a standardized form to take notes about each section of the corridor being studied. Some issues that may arise include missing street lights, uneven sidewalks, areas where turning conflicts are common, and high volumes of pedestrians crossing the roadway outside of crosswalks. Additional guidance from FHWA can be found here.

During the Washington Avenue road safety audit, it became obvious that the pedestrian infrastructure along the corridor was insufficient. Paths were worn into the grass along either side of the roadway where sidewalks were missing. Workers crossed the road all along the corridor as trucks flew by. In some areas of the corridor, pedestrians were forced to walk within the vehicular travel lane as the pedestrian right of way was blocked and there was no shoulder along Washington Avenue (see Figure 1). The situation was clearly dangerous.

Once the recommendations were made through the road audit report, the project was advanced through the Local Safety program which included funding for both design and construction. A number of recommendations from the report made it into the final designs, including several pedestrian safety improvements at Barrell Avenue. These recommendations included completing the sidewalk network, relocating the bus stops for safer pedestrian crossings, and extending the Jersey barrier median with fencing along the top. The most innovative part of the design was the installation of a high-intensity activated crosswalk beacon (HAWK) signal, the first of its kind in Bergen County.

A HAWK signal, or Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon, is a traffic control signal that assists pedestrians in locations where a traffic intersection is not signalized.  When pedestrians are not present, the HAWK signal is unlit. But, as its name implies, when the HAWK is activated by the push of a button it proceeds through a light sequence that stops traffic while the pedestrian safely crosses the roadway with a countdown. A video of the HAWK signal control process can be found here.

A HAWK signal was installed just north of the intersection of Barrell Avenue and Washington Avenue for a number of reasons (see Figure 2). The first consideration was the high volume of pedestrian traffic coupled with a lack of traffic control at the T-intersection. Secondly, the area is situated about midway between the two nearest signal controlled intersections with pedestrian crosswalks.  Additionally, the overhead nature of the HAWK plays a much stronger role in capturing drivers’ attention as compared to placing rectangular rapid flashing beacons on either side of the roadway. Bus stops were relocated on either side of Washington Avenue near the HAWK signal to ensure the stops are safely accessible to patrons from both sides of the roadway.

Figure 2. HAWK signal located north of the intersection of Barrell Avenue and Washington Avenue.

Figure 2. HAWK signal located north of the intersection of Barrell Avenue and Washington Avenue.

According to Nancy Dargis from the Bergen County Division of Planning and Engineering, local officials were concerned that drivers would not understand how to respond to the new signal. However, since the project’s completion in late 2018, driver compliance rates have been high according to the Carlstadt Police Department. A post-implementation crash data analysis will be performed once three years of data is available, at which time more details will be available regarding the HAWK signal’s effectiveness on Washington Avenue.

Additional research related to the general effectiveness of HAWK signals is currently being undertaken by an NJDOT-funded study out of Rutgers University’s Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center and Rowan University. The study seeks to measure both the public’s understanding of the HAWK signal and its effectiveness in increasing driver yielding at pedestrian crossings.  The study will be completed this year.

The Washington Avenue HAWK signal was part of a $4.2 million project improving the safety of a 1.6-mile corridor of Washington Avenue. The project costs included sidewalk installations, drainage, new and upgraded signals, ADA compliance improvements throughout the corridor, guardrail upgrades, and an extended Jersey barrier median with six feet of fencing along the top.

Officials learned during implementation that the fencing along the median barrier would create sight line issues for drivers approaching the crosswalk when pedestrians were in the crosswalk on the opposite side of the road. After some research, they determined the safest course of action would be to take down the fencing for the 100 feet approaching the crosswalk in both directions. Additionally, officials pointed out the importance of installing the HAWK signal at an appropriate location. Specifically, the HAWK signal should not be placed at an intersection in place of a full traffic signal. The Washington Avenue HAWK signal is installed near, but not at, the Barrell Avenue intersection which is a T-intersection with a minimally trafficked side street.

The Washington Avenue HAWK signal was the first HAWK signal installed in Bergen County, and so far it has been a success. The signal has been seamlessly incorporated into the traffic movements in the area and local officials are happy with the results.  Several more HAWK signals are in the works in locations throughout the NJTPA region as officials work to implement safety improvements aligned with the EDC STEP initiatives.

 

RESOURCES

Every Day Counts Initiative: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/about-edc.cfm

Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP): https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_5/step2.cfm

FHWA Road Safety Audit information and resources: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/rsa/

NJDOT videos describing FHWA’s Pedestrian Safety Countermeasures: https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/2019/09/27/njdot-safety-countermeasures-videos/

FHWA HAWK information and statistics: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/ped_hybrid_beacon/


This article is cross-posted on the NJ Bike & Pedestrian Resource Center blog.

 

A UAS flown during the TRB visit to New Jersey DOT captured an aerial image of the Wittpenn Bridge.

Collaboration Demonstration: New Jersey Hosts State Partnership Visit

By Stefanie Potapa, Amanda Gendek, and Glenn Stott

Above: A UAS flown during the TRB visit to New Jersey DOT captured an aerial image of the Wittpenn Bridge.

Each year, representatives from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) visit with state departments of transportation (DOTs) to strengthen the partnership between TRB and state DOTs, identify current issues, collect and generate information, and disseminate that information throughout the transportation community.

In late February, Christine L. Gerencher and Andrew C. Lemer of TRB traveled through inclement weather from Washington, D.C., to New Jersey to visit with staff from various New Jersey DOT units. They were met by hosts Mike Russo, Assistant DOT Commissioner, and Amanda Gendek, Manager, Bureau of Research (BOR), as well as more than 40 staff members.

Knowledge-Sharing Opportunity

The annual TRB state visit allowed New Jersey DOT and TRB staff to share knowledge and information on initiatives, issues, and research directions.

The annual TRB state visit allowed New Jersey DOT and TRB staff to share knowledge and information on initiatives, issues, and research directions. Photo courtesy Stefanie Potapa

The annual TRB field visit is an important part of BOR’s program because it provides a forum for New Jersey DOT staff to share such information as research initiatives, new technologies, best practices, lessons learned, or specific problems they are currently facing. The TRB representatives then can transmit that information back to TRB so that other states, industry members, or educational institutions can benefit from it or use it to help solve the identified problem. The TRB visitors also highlight the Board’s range of services to the DOT and help identify potential candidates from New Jersey DOT staff for TRB committees.

Gerencher is a senior program officer at TRB, managing nine committees within the Aviation group and eight committees within the Environmental and Energy Section as well as chairing the editorial board of TR News. Lemer is a senior program officer in TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), managing a diverse portfolio of NCHRP-sponsored research projects with a focus on transportation asset management, system performance measurement and management, regional development, and agency information and knowledge management.

Kimbrali Davis and Stefanie Potapa of BOR worked diligently to produce the two-day event, collaborating with members of the following New Jersey DOT units and subject areas: Environmental Resources, Capital Investment and Development, Aeronautics, the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program, Local Aid and Economic Development, and Asset Management. The first day of the field visit allowed Gerencher and Lemer to hear presentations from each invited New Jersey DOT unit, followed by a roundtable discussion. These discussions covered challenges, accomplishments, research needs, and New Jersey DOT participation in various TRB committees and subcommittees.

Field Observations

When using a UAS for inspection, the resident engineer closely follows protocol to operate the camera controls. Photo courtesy Stefanie Potapa

When using a UAS for inspection, the resident engineer closely follows protocol to operate the camera controls. Photo courtesy Stefanie Potapa

The next day, Shukri Abuhuzeima, Executive Regional Manager, Capital Program Management, presented an overview of the Route 7 Wittpenn Bridge construction project, complete with project-related statistics and background. Glenn Stott, UAS Coordinator, then spoke about the agency’s UAS program and briefed the participants on what to expect when they would arrive at the construction site later that morning.

The group then traveled to the construction site, where all individuals were briefed on safety. Stott, UAS pilot Koree Dusenbury, and visual observer Ashley Davis began a UAS flight demonstration to highlight the capabilities of these vehicles in construction project management and bridge inspection applications. For example, using a drone to inspect projects like the Wittpenn Bridge allows inspection personnel to remain safely on the ground rather than being suspended high over a busy waterway. The drone also can move quickly from one area to another, allowing each inspector to view more structure in less time.

Flight Demonstration

The flight began with Davis and Dusenbury conducting a full systems check followed by a detailed briefing of the mission. In his briefing, Dusenbury—a new Federal Aviation Administration–certified UAS pilot in the Bureau of Aeronautics—included current weather conditions, potential hazards, obstructions such as overhead wires, the flight profile, and actions to be taken in the event of an emergency.

TRB senior program officer Christine Gerencher (left) and New Jersey DOT UAS pilot Koree Dusenbury (right) prepare for the flight demonstration.

TRB senior program officer Christine
Gerencher (left) and New Jersey DOT UAS pilot Koree Dusenbury (right) prepare for the flight demonstration. Photo courtesy Stefanie Potapa

The visual observer is the crew’s safety person, who keeps a close eye on potential hazards to the mission. The resident engineer is tasked with ensuring the quality of work; traditionally, this person uses tools such as a bucket truck to inspect the bridge. When using a UAS, however, the resident engineer operates the camera controls and can pan, tilt, zoom, and take photos. The strict and professional communication phrases and safety procedures among the remote pilot, visual observer, and resident engineer during the flight demonstrated impressive coordination and commitment to safety. The remote pilot first communicated each movement of the drone—which then was acknowledged by the crew—before making an input into the UAS controller.

Thanks to a large flat-screen television behind the rear seats of the New Jersey DOT Bureau of Aeronautics drone SUV, visitors and staff were able to observe everything on the control screens of the UAS operators and inspectors during the flight, in real time. This arrangement minimizes crew distractions and maximizes the level of detail available for resident engineers and other observers to evaluate. The large screen also displays flight telemetry, such as battery levels, altitude, speed, and camera settings. The inspection camera’s optical zoom is capable of 30x magnification, so the drone can safely fly 20 feet away from a bridge and can still zoom in to magnify critical areas needing closer inspection.

Gerencher commented that the format of the visit could be used as a model for other states on how to prepare for annual TRB state partnership visits.

Potapa is Research Project Manager, Bureau of Research; Gendek is Manager, Bureau of Research; and Stott is Unmanned Aircraft Systems Coordinator, Bureau of Aeronautics, New Jersey Department of Transportation, Trenton.

Click here for a PDF of this article.


This article originally appeared in TR News, January-February 2020 issue. TR News is copyright, National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; posted with permission of the Transportation Research Board.

DVRPC’s Sidewalk Inventory and Crowdsourcing Platform

Improved walkability and accessibility help to create vibrant and healthy communities. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), the metropolitan planning organization for Greater Philadelphia and Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties in New Jersey, is seeking to understand the region’s pedestrian infrastructure through the development of an online inventory, map, and platform for public participation and crowdsourcing. According to DVRPC, the goal of the project is, “to assist with planning efforts to help communities in the region become more pedestrian-friendly and accessible.”

Options from the DVRPC Pedestrian Portal homepage

DVRPC hopes that these new tools will assist the agency and its partners to more efficiently identify and prioritize walkability improvements across the region. The online platform is expected to improve asset management and support various regional planning and place-specific initiatives such as Safe Routes to School, pedestrian safety audits, plans for healthy communities, and strategies for providing safe and equitable access to public transportation.

The need for better sidewalk data was suggested by DVRPC staff during a data roundtable meeting and became the impetus for the Sidewalk Inventory Project, according to DVRPC’s Kim Korejko. The MPO had already conducted work on bicycle infrastructure in the region, but lacked data on pedestrian infrastructure. The absence of a good inventory of sidewalk data was also felt by agency staff who had previously worked on transit station area walkability studies. To address this gap, DVRPC resolved to assemble a seamless and standardized GIS dataset of sidewalks in the region.

DVRPC sought state funding from both Pennsylvania and New Jersey to start the project in 2018. The planned platform for crowdsourcing and community involvement was well-aligned with “PennDOT Connects,” a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation initiative that supports collaboration with communities to sustain and expand mobility in the state. This alignment was a principal reason that the project received funding from Pennsylvania. The crowdsourcing platform also aligns well with the Federal Highway Administration EDC-5 initiative to advance crowdsourcing for operations.

Chester and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania had previously developed sidewalk databases, but the counties did not follow a standardized methodology for data visualization. As a result, DVRPC needed to rework the data for integration into the new dataset. Philadelphia County was also assembling sidewalk data at the time, but differences in data methodology along with the county’s scale have led to delays in assembling and publishing their inventory.

A visualization of Chester and Montgomery counties original sidewalk databases

The DVRPC sidewalk inventory is not the first of its kind in the country. TriMet, Portland, Oregon’s transit operator, undertook a pedestrian network analysis in 2011 with the goal of improving pedestrian access to transit stops, especially in the suburbs surrounding the city. Once compiled, TriMet was able to put forth 10 pedestrian access projects to improve pedestrian access to transit stops, the majority of which were bus stops, but also to light rail and commuter rail stations. TriMet is continuing its pedestrian network analysis, and is seeking public comment on transit stops with low pedestrian accessibility. DVRPC also cited Denver and Seattle’s sidewalk inventories as inspiration for the Philadelphia project.

The TriMet Pedestrian Network Analysis can be found here.

DVRPC staff were surveyed prior to the assembly of the database to explore how they would use the tool and what features they would want:

  • Sidewalk mileage and gaps — 60 percent said they would use the database to calculate sidewalk mileage and gaps to set goals and measure progress for improved network walkability.
  • Pedestrian routing and modeling — 57 percent sought to use the database for pedestrian network routing and modeling
  • Visualization — 51 percent would use it to help visualize the sidewalk data.

In terms of the data features captured by the inventory and mapping, 83 percent of staff said that they wanted to know sidewalk presence, 70 percent wanted to know the sidewalk conditions, and 59 percent wanted to know of the presence of curb ramps.

A look at the sidewalk inventory in Camden, New Jersey

Out of 30 responses, 29 staff members stated that they wanted to know the presence of crosswalks, 24 wanted to see what pedestrian signalization types are present at intersections, and 15 wanted to know the characteristics of crosswalks in the network.

DVRPC has published a sidewalk inventory, including curb ramps and crosswalks for Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties on the Pennsylvania side of their region. A sidewalk inventory for the New Jersey portion of the region was added in February 2020. Release of the Philadelphia County inventory is expected in fall 2020.

To leverage its limited capacity to maintain the database, DVRPC is seeking to crowdsource sidewalk conditions by engaging the public to help keep the map up-to-date and accurate. Community members will be able to create an account to access the editing platform to add new infrastructure and attributes to the database.

In addition, DVRPC hopes to identify and maintain a list of potential pedestrian facility projects through its Pedestrian Facilities and Planning Portal. The portal will provide a space for collaboration between local and regional planning partners working on pedestrian improvements. The secure online interface will (1) provide access to and accommodate maintenance of the regional sidewalk inventory by local entities and (2) allow local and regional planning partners to share their pedestrian facility priorities (such as those identified in their comprehensive/ master plans or those for which they seek grant funding) on an interactive map.

While the planning and editing portals are not yet active, the sidewalk, crosswalk, and curb ramp shapefiles can be downloaded through the DVRPC GIS portal for those wishing to use the inventory for analysis. Once the data has been fully assembled, DVRPC plans to undertake further analyses of pedestrian access to transit and bus stations.

The Greater Philadelphia Pedestrian Portal, which includes the currently available New Jersey and Pennsylvania inventories, can be found here.

A view of the attributes for a sidewalk in Glassboro, New Jersey

Resources:

City of Seattle. “Access Map, Walkability.” https://www.accessmap.io/.

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. “The Greater Philadelphia Pedestrian Portal.” https://walk.dvrpc.org/.

Korejko, Kim. March 2018. DVRPC’s Sidewalk Inventory Project. Presentation. https://www.dvrpc.org/Walk/pdf/DVRPCSidewalkInventory_websiteMar2018.pdf.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. “PennDOT Connects.” https://www.penndot.gov/ProjectAndPrograms/Planning/Pages/PennDOT-Connects.aspx.

TriMet. “Improving Pedestrian Access to Transit.” https://trimet.org/walk/.

Walk Denver. June 2016. “Congratulations to the WALKscope Data Challenge Winners!” http://www.walkdenver.org/congratulations-to-the-walkscope-data-challenge-winners/

TECH TALK! Webinar: EDC Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian

UPDATE: This live webinar has been postponed and will be rescheduled for a later date.

Those who are registered will remain registered.

 

Please join the NJDOT Bureau of Research on April 2nd for an Innovation Exchange Webinar, “EDC Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP)”, that we are convening in Training Room A in the E&O Building at NJDOT Headquarters.

Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP), an Every Day Counts (EDC) innovation, is about a new type of “STEP” to keep pedestrians safe at uncontrolled road crossing locations. This webinar will outline five cost-effective countermeasures available to local agencies, and identify resources to guide in their selection and installation. Stories from local agencies will tell of county, city, and Tribal deployment leadership, with details on site and countermeasure selection, installation, monitoring, and improved safety measures of success.

AICP and NJ PE credits are available. This “live” webinar event is free to attend, but you must register ahead of time to guarantee a seat as there is limited space in the training room:

WEBINAR: EDC Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP)

POSTPONE AND WILL BE RESCHEDULED.

Time: 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM; Sign-in: 12:50 pm
Location:  NJDOT E&O Building, Training Room A
1035 Parkway Avenue, Trenton, NJ 08625

This Innovation Exchange webinar is one in a series 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 is bringing cutting-edge transportation leaders to the table to share ideas and out of the box innovative practices that have proven results.

 

Final Report Released for the Connected Vehicles Program Pilot Testing of Technology for Distributing Road Service Safety Messages from Safety Service Patrols

NJDOT’s top priority is to improve highway safety. To support this goal, in September 2018, New Jersey began a pilot study of the effectiveness of using connected vehicle technology to alert the motoring public to the presence of safety service patrol (SSP) workers at incident sites.  With the support of the NJ State Innovation Council (NJ STIC) and a STIC Incentive Funding grant of $39,600 awarded by FHWA, NJDOT piloted the use of Beacon Hazard Lights technology on 32 safety service vehicles to alert drivers to the presence of workers via the mobile navigation app Waze. The device, which is produced by iCone, uses GPS location and wireless communication technology to transmit the location of the SSP vehicles to the iCone Data Server in the cloud where it can be picked up by Waze. Together with the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s (NJIT) ITS Resource Center, NJDOT published a final report of their findings from the pilot project in December 2019, available here.

The SSP location and message shown on the Waze.com website. Photo Source: Cowan et al., 2019.

The primary goal of the study was to test the feasibility of the iCone technology on SSP vehicles by analyzing the time elapsed between device activation and Waze notification, to examine the Verizon 4G cellular network strength for potential coverage loss that could result in service disruption in communication, and to analyze the effectiveness of the equipment through several testing means. The methods of evaluation to complete these objectives were field and remote testing of the technology and documentation of the equipment installation and repairs. Field testing was conducted from January to October 2019 by activating the iCone-enabled SSP truck hazard lights and Dynamic Message Board (DMS) at 2-mile intervals along the entire 280-mile SSP coverage area. An analyst conducted remote testing through monitoring of the iCone and Waze web-based interfaces.

The results of field testing showed that, on average, communication with Waze was successful 76 percent of the time, 20 percent of the time the device communicated with the iCone Data Server but not Waze, and the remaining 4 percent of the time the device did not transmit its location to the iCone Data Server or Waze. The average time elapsed from the iCone device activation to its appearance in Waze was 2 minutes and 41 seconds. On two days of testing along the SSP coverage area, there was no communication between the iCone device and iCone Data Server or Waze.

In addition to field testing, analysts conducted remote testing of 85 active instances of the iCone device by observing the iCone and Waze web portals. In 59 percent of these 85 instances, the active iCone device was detected in Waze, with 29 percent of these successful detections showing the exact timestamp in both Waze and iCone. These results were shared with Waze so that the company could address the issues related to missing and delayed data transmission. For equipment evaluation, results showed that by April 2019, 12 of the units had technical problems that were attributed to the winter weather conditions in New Jersey including snow, road salt, and extreme cold. The iCone engineering team was responsive to the issues and re-evaluated the device design so that replaced units could withstand the weather conditions. A prototype of the newly-designed replacement devices was delivered to NJDOT in December 2019 and has been installed in five of the vehicles.

The installation of the device on an SSP vehicle by an iCone technician. Photo Source: Cowan et al., 2019.

The researchers believe that this technology evaluation pilot project was the first of any state DOT to seek to inform the public of SSP patrol vehicle locations with the sole objective of increasing safety.  The pilot project provided valuable analysis and lessons learned to inform next steps for NJDOT. Testing and analysis of installed devices and their replacements will continue until the end of the product warranty period on September 1, 2021. Additionally, researchers recommended further investigation of the disruptions and delays in the communication path from the iCone device to Waze.  Additional coordination with each technical partner during the steps of the testing process could help to identify the cause of service disruptions.

During the study, NJIT and iCone were unable to obtain Waze data showing how many people clicked the “thumbs up” to the message on the app. Future analysis should investigate how to gather reactions of the motoring public to Waze notifications. The researchers recommended exploring partnerships with crowdsourcing GPS navigation providers to further learn how drivers are reacting, which should include a data transfer process and strategies for reducing latency between iCone data server and Waze.

The Final Report contains additional information on the purpose of the research, the role of various stakeholder organizations in the research, a description of the technology devices and tools procured and used in the research, and the evaluation results.  The Final Report was submitted to the FHWA and is available to review here.

Featured Image Source: NJDOT, 2019.