Evaluation of Precast Concrete Pavement Systems Webinar

Join the NJDOT Bureau of Research on June 10th for a Lunchtime Tech Talk! Webinar on Evaluation of Precast Concrete Pavement Systems: Identify Existing Precast Concrete Pavement Systems and State Specifications

Faculty and research staff members from the Rowan University CREATEs program, Dr. Yusuf Mehta and Dr. Daniel Offenbacker, will discuss the results of a research study performed for NJDOT.

Rigid pavements play an important role in highway infrastructure, primarily in regions with high traffic density such as New Jersey. NJDOT is continuously exploring innovative pavement rehabilitation strategies, such as Precast Concrete Pavement (PCP), that allow for faster and more durable rehabilitation of rigid pavements. NJDOT initiated a research study with Rowan University CREATEs to identify, evaluate, and compare precast pavement systems, specifications, and practices currently in use. The study included an extensive literature review and surveys with Subject Matter Experts from various state DOTs that have experience with precast pavement rehabilitations.

The presenters will discuss the types of precast pavement systems, past construction experiences, and overall recommendations for precast pavements. Specifically, they will discuss previous studies and experiences using precast pavements, different quality control specifications, and recommendations for future implementation in NJ. They will also speak on the development of an overall approval process for considering the use of newly-developed precast pavements in NJ.

The event is free, but registration is required to receive the URL link to the webinar.  NJ PE credits are available, but you must be registered for the event. Click through the link below to register for this webinar event:

Evaluation of Precast Concrete Pavement Systems: Identify Existing Precast Concrete Pavement Systems and State Specifications
Date: Wednesday, June 10, 2020
Time: 12:00 – 1:15 PM

Lunchtime Tech Talk! WEBINAR: Dredging, Dredged Material Management and the NJ Marine Transportation System

On May 12, 2020, the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a Lunchtime Tech Talk! Webinar on “Dredging, Dredged Material Management and the New Jersey Marine Transportation System.” W. Scott Douglas, Dredging Program Manager in NJDOT’s Office of Maritime Resources (OMR), discussed the dredging process, management of dredged material, OMR’s asset management system, and dredging case studies.

Mr. Douglas discussed the extent of New Jersey’s Marine Transportation System, and its significance to the local, and larger economy.

Mr. Douglas described the New Jersey Marine Transportation System (MTS) that includes all infrastructure and equipment that connects land-based transportation assets to navigable water. The MTS supports a $50 billion industry that encompasses international and domestic freight, commercial fishing, recreational boating, travel and tourism, marine trades and ferries. NJDOT is directly responsible for maintaining some 200 of the 600 nautical miles of engineered waterways that provide safe navigation pathways to and from the shore-based infrastructure, and provides dredged material management services for another 150 nautical miles of Federal waterway. Since Superstorm Sandy, OMR is the State’s lead agency for these responsibilities, providing planning, design, procurement and construction services and coordinating the State’s waterway emergency response.

The system is divided into three regions: the New Jersey/New York Harbor (the third largest port in the country), the Delaware River, and the Atlantic Shore where NJDOT takes a larger role. Much of their work involves managing clean dredge materials in shallow draft areas where there is little land on which to place the dredged material. Mr. Douglas described the various aspects of the dredging process including bathymetric surveys, sediment sampling and analysis, and permitting, and went on to explain uses of dredged material.

As a natural part of the aquatic ecosystem, sediment is a resource. The Office of Maritime Resources works to reuse the material in various ways depending on the nature and composition of the sediment. Mr. Douglas offered several examples of reuse such as construction fill, beach replenishment, landfill capping, and brownfield redevelopment. The OMR is exploring the use of sediment to increase shoreline resiliency through marsh and dune restoration and other shoreline stabilization techniques, island creation, dredged hole replacement, and habitat creation.

The talk highlighted several facets of collecting, tracking, and dispersing dredged materials.

Mr. Douglas discussed his agency’s Maritime Asset Management tools developed to evaluate cost, conditions, and to help prioritize the Office’s work. Their Waterway Linear Segmentation database, comparable to the roadway Straight Line Diagrams, is a first in the nation for maritime asset management. OMR is assembling a dredged material database. Deployment of these tools is anticipated later this year. OMR’s Maritime Asset Management Systems comprises these two tools and produces plans based on current and future conditions, cost, and availability of dredge system management. The output is similar to the asset management reports used by highway and bridge engineers to assist management in decisionmaking.

Successes of the state’s channel dredging program include 54 channels cleared and 45 nautical miles of waterway opened. Mr. Douglas highlighted three dredging case studies including projects in the Port Jersey Channel, Shark River, and Upper Barnegat Bay. In 2020, OMR has four ongoing projects and four planned projects to open a total of 25 channels.

Participants posed questions via the Q&A feature. Mr. Douglas was asked what quality controls are in place before dredged material is moved. He noted that New Jersey has one of the most stringent systems in place in the country. NJDEP has a list of contaminants related to locations. They test both the sediment before it is moved, and the water, and a mixture of sediment water. If the material is stabilized and placed upland, it is exposed to lab testing and leachate tests on site. Another participant asked if dredging stirs up contaminants. Mr. Douglas replied that it can, and that the rigorous testing is designed to address the possibility. He noted the distinction between navigation dredging to clear a channel and environmental dredging conducted to clean contaminants from a waterway.

In response to a question concerning locations of island creation, Mr. Douglas stated that a group led by the US Fish & Wildlife Service is looking into potentially creating islands in Barnegat Bay.

A participant asked if dredged material could be used in new embankments and walls that NJDOT is building throughout the state. Mr. Douglas responded that the biggest barrier is cost. Straight fill is less expensive and easier to schedule; timing of highway projects with maritime projects has been difficult.

A participant wondered how the required dredge depth is verified once it is completed? Dredge depth is determined before dredging begins. Generally, channel depth has been determined for the entire state. Usually the depth changes only if conditions change, such as would be required with the introduction of larger vessels needing access to ports.

In response to a question concerning work continuing during the COVID-19 outbreak, Mr. Douglas noted that work is continuing and inspectors are on site every day following appropriate and requisite protocols.

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

A recording of the webinar is also available (see right).

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)


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.


Tech Talk! Launching Micromobility in NJ and Beyond

Micromobility Tech Talk was held on February 20, 2020.

Micromobility Tech Talk was held on February 20, 2020.

The NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a Tech Talk! Event, Micromobility’s Launch in NJ and Beyond, that explored the current state of micromobility as a shared transport option in the U.S. and highlighted recent research on cities that have begun to develop and/or refine policies for their bike share and e-scooter programs. In New Jersey, Hoboken and Asbury Park have been on the leading edge by piloting micromobility programs. The speakers presented each city’s experiences with bike-share and the introduction of e-scooters, as well as the demographics of usage, user satisfaction, and community receptivity. Discussion of the nuts and bolts and the challenges of ramping up shared mobility options included: needed infrastructure improvements; marketing and education to attract users and promote safety; law enforcement; and staffing, funding and revenue sharing. The event was held in the NJDOT Multipurpose Room on February 20, 2020.

What is micromobility? The presenters agreed that micromobility includes transportation devices such as electric scooters, bikes and e-bikes to travel shorter distances generally in urbanized areas, often to or from another mode (e.g., bus, train or car).  These modes of transport tend to be associated with first-mile/last-mile use (i.e. to and from public transportation).  While not required, users typically rent e-scooters or bikes for a short period of time using an app. The devices are most suitable for operations in well-marked or protected spaces, such as bike lanes, and are operated by a single person at a time.

Charles Brown, MPA, CPD, Senior Researcher, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Mr. Brown discussed findings from two recent studies on bike share and e-scooter programs in the United States recently prepared by the NJ Bicycling and Pedestrian Resource Center.  The first part of his talk was on Evaluating the Spatial Equity in Bike Share Systems.  He began by defining equity, and framed the research as asking the question of whether low-income and minority populations enjoy the same range of transportation options available to other populations.  In this study, the research team examined the equity dimension of docked bike share systems in ten of the largest systems in the U.S.  He described the eight socioeconomic variables used as predictors and two dependent variable measures of bike availability — station density by area or station density by population — used to assess the spatial equity of major bike share systems. His presentation included GIS maps and bar charts to aid in visualizing equity disparities within each system and to compare systems. His talk included a rank order of the relative spatial equity of each of the major bike share systems; this methodology and scoring was also used to benchmark the three NJ-based bike share systems in Jersey City, Hoboken and Asbury Park.

Comparative analysis of Bike Share locations

The E-Scooter Programs: Current State of Practice in US Cities report explores the state of practice for e-scooters in 11 cities in the U.S, taking into consideration applicable state and local regulations, access and equity concerns, and other aspects of managing e-scooters, with an ultimate goal of identifying best practices for incorporating e-scooters as a micromobility option in NJ communities.  Drawing from the report’s major themes, Mr. Brown offered several tips for implementing E-Scooter Share Programs in NJ, touching upon operational regulations and permitting requirements, managing the right-of-way, equitable service standards, public engagement and education, and data reporting.

Ryan Sharp, AICP, PP, Director, Transportation and Parking, City of Hoboken, NJ. Mr. Sharp began his presentation with a discussion of Hoboken’s experience with bike share since the program began in 2013. Hudson Bike Share currently has 40 stations, over 300 bikes, and over 10,000 active users during the peak season. When considering where to locate docking stations, the city solicited public input and mapped areas of public housing, communities of concern, and those residents living the greatest distance from transit. Funding for the program comes from sponsorships for each bike, membership and fare revenue, and advertisement. Bikes are generally used for first and last mile trips.

Mike Manzella, Ryan Sharp, and Charles Brown

Hoboken’s e-scooter pilot program began in May 2019 and ramped up quickly. In the first month, the city’s scooters had the highest usage rate in the world for several days. Mr. Sharp discussed safety issues that arose and the need for regulations and education to address underage riders, where and when to ride, speed limit, and parking. An internal e-scooter task force developed several strategies to address these concerns. The city conducted a survey of shared e-scooter use that showed reduced motor vehicle use among e-scooter riders.

Michael Manzella, AICP, PP, Director of Transportation, City of Asbury Park, NJ. Mr. Manzella noted that in this popular shore destination, bike share and e-scooters alleviate parking problems and provide a transportation option for the one-third of the city’s population who are carless. The city introduced a bike share program in 2017 which now has 8 stations with 40 bikes and consistently increasing usage over time. They have located stations in all four quadrants of the city so that people can access the convention hall, boardwalk, downtown, and rail station. Infrastructure is critical to program success and they have striped over four miles of bike lanes.

The city began a pilot e-scooter program in August of 2019 with 25 scooters, but ramped up quickly to 50 stations and 250 scooters. Through a survey, Asbury Park has found that scooter use is replacing car trips. Some safety issues have spurred a decrease in e-scooter travel speed, age verification requirement before rental, and increased education efforts including the use of social media.

The speakers agreed that bike share and e-scooters have a place in their communities. They will continue to promote and expand the programs while addressing safety concerns and the need for infrastructure.

The presenters made several additional points in response to audience questions and comments.

  • The e-scooter companies hire local residents to collect the scooters, charge them overnight, and rebalance distribution throughout the city. The companies track bike and e-scooter usage, and know when the peaks in use are and where to deploy them. Hundreds of people in Hoboken are earning some money through the program. Hoboken’s Housing Authority subsidized the charging costs so individuals did not pay for the increased electricity use.
  • When there are maintenance issues, the companies are quick to repair them and will refund rides if there is an issue. The 311 system accepts reports of maintenance issues and the cities receive monthly maintenance reports on the systems. Newer e-scooters can self-diagnose problems.
  • Infrastructure to support micromobility is essential, but current street design is not set up for increased bike and e-scooter use; there are challenges with design and right-of-way. Hoboken currently has a few protected bike lanes. Asbury Park has no protected bike lanes yet, but is working on a design for them. The speakers noted that dedicated infrastructure, along with signals and signage, may help with both safety and compliance issues.
  • Neither city has taken on-street motor vehicle parking spaces for use for the e-scooter program. Hoboken has claimed some unused street areas for scooter and bike parking.
  • Businesses and merchants have responded positively to the scooter programs. E-scooter users are able to access parts of the city they could not before and businesses, especially those establishments not on the main street or in the downtown area, are seeing more activity.
  • At this time, a smartphone and app are needed for e-scooters, but not for the bike share program. This creates a barrier for unbanked people than those without a smartphone. Asbury Park is hoping to roll out the SPIN access discount program to enable people to purchase e-scooter rides with cash.
  • Both Hoboken and Asbury Park will be introducing e-bikes.
  • NJ TRANSIT and Port Authority have banned any vehicle with lithium ion batteries; e-scooters cannot be taken on trains or buses.
  • E-scooters are deployed in light rain, but not in snow or heavy rain.
  • There is a 250 lb. weight limit for e-scooter use.


E-Scooter Programs: Current State of Practice in US Cities

Evaluating the Spatial Equity in Bike Share Systems

City of Asbury Park Bike Share Program

City of Asbury Park Scooters Program

Hudson Bike Share

City of Hoboken Electric Scooter Program


Tech Talk! Green Infrastructure in Transportation

Welcome to the NJDOT Bureau of Research Tech Talk!

NJDOT Bureau of Research Tech Talk!

The NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a half-day Tech Talk! Event, Green Infrastructure in Transportation, that highlighted examples of transportation-related green infrastructure projects that have been planned and implemented for stormwater management and flood protection. The event included speakers from state DOTs, county and local governments, the consulting engineering sector and the policy advocacy community.  The speakers reflected a multi-disciplinary orientation of engineering, planning and environmental science specializations. Their talks touched upon both planning and project implementation activities at the state and local levels that have been undertaken in response to the increasing intensity and frequency of severe weather events and subsequent flooding. Registration was full for this half-day event held in the NJDOT Multipurpose Room on June 5, 2019.

Representatives of New Jersey, Maine and Pennsylvania Departments of Transportation presented Stormwater Best Management Practices to control and treat highway and parking lot runoff. Local agencies in Passaic County and the City of Hoboken presented their priority strategies and actions for addressing stormwater management through the adoption and implementation of Green Infrastructure Strategic Plans. A representative of New Jersey Future, a statewide non-profit advocacy organization that promotes smart growth policies, discussed opportunities to advance green streets throughout New Jersey.

Sandra Blick, P.E., NJDOT, Bureau of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Solutions

Sandra Blick, P.E., NJDOT, Bureau of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Solutions

Sandra Blick, P.E., NJDOT, Bureau of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Solutions.  Ms. Blick provided key background definitions for green infrastructure, descriptions of the elements of green infrastructure, and a brief history of green infrastructure in New Jersey related to state standards, testing and design criteria, and proposed NJDEP rule changes. She also discussed NJDOT’s implementation of green infrastructure best management practices over the past decade, including bio-retention basins and swales, constructed wetlands, infiltration basins, and porous sidewalks, among others. Ms. Blick noted that green infrastructure for roadways involves complex design and construction and requires intensive maintenance. She emphasized that these strategies only work if the water treatment processes continue to function.

Brian Luce, P.E., Maine Department of Transportation, Pavement Quality and Design

Brian Luce, P.E., Maine Department of Transportation, Pavement Quality and Design

Brian Luce, P.E., Maine Department of Transportation, Pavement Quality and Design. Mr. Luce described MaineDOT’s experience with installation of porous asphalt pavement on Maine Mall Road and at the International Marine Terminal (IMT) in Portland, Maine. He described the initial design and construction in 2009 of porous asphalt on Maine Mall Road, a relatively high-traffic segment of roadway, and current road conditions. His talk touched upon the success and durability of the project along with some lessons learned in select distressed sections due to sub-optimal temperatures during construction and the tracking of sands and salts onto porous sections that require patching. Mr. Luce noted that the success of the Maine Mall installation gave Maine DOT the confidence that a similar porous pavement structure could work for a chassis yard pavement project at the IMT to filter pollutants in stormwater runoff before it entered a nearby waterbody. After installation, a storm event provided evidence of the pavement’s effectiveness.  However, a subsequent review of the IMT revealed some raveling at joints and in isolated areas, most likely due to cold air and base temperatures during construction, as well as cooler mix temperatures due to a long haul to the site. The repair techniques that were subsequently required at the IMT site offered lessons, Mr. Luce observed, potentially applicable to the Maine Mall Road when repair and replacement of porous structures are needed.

Edwina Lam, P.E., AECOM

Edwina Lam, P.E., AECOM

Elaine Elbich, P.E., Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Edwina Lam, P.E., AECOM. In their presentation, “21st Century Stormwater Management: Designing and Building Gray and Green Infrastructure on I-95,” Ms. Elbich and Ms. Lam discussed this highway reconstruction project that slices through Philadelphia along the Delaware River. In addition to designing for stormwater best management practices, they sought to improve waterfront access, lighting, and access to usable green spaces, and described solutions in response to challenges in this urban environment, such as right-of-way, contaminated soils, historic properties, underground utilities, and maintenance. The presenters described the Sustainable Action Committee, formed to coordinate decision-making among agencies and ensure integration of stakeholder and community needs in the design and planning process. Their talk also highlighted the value of an ongoing and productive partnership with Villanova University in providing critical research on the performance of green infrastructure solutions such as rain gardens off an elevated highway as part of their stormwater management solutions. Ms. Lam described the primary stormwater management elements, and the materials and extensive planting involved.

Kandyce Perry, New Jersey Future, Jersey Water Works

Kandyce Perry, New Jersey Future, Jersey Water Works

Kandyce Perry, New Jersey Future, Jersey Water Works. Ms. Perry presented on “GREEN and Complete Streets: Designing Streets for People, Cars, AND Stormwater.” She introduced the New Jersey Future’s New Jersey Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit and presented several examples of green infrastructure implementation in New Jersey communities, and potential sites for implementation. She noted that the publication, Complete & Green Streets for All, currently being circulated in draft form, provides a model policy and guide for local agencies for planning and implementing Complete Streets that incorporate green street features. Ms. Perry suggested that NJDOT could support green infrastructure by adding green streets into the state’s Complete Streets policies and programs, prioritizing green streets through the Local Aid grant program, partnering with local agencies on demonstration projects, and integrating green streets into the NJDOT Roadway Design Manual.

Jason Miranda, Passaic County Department of Planning & Economic Development

Jason Miranda, Passaic County Department of Planning & Economic Development

Jason Miranda, Passaic County Department of Planning & Economic Development.  After highlighting the benefits of green infrastructure, Mr. Miranda spoke about the County’s recently undertaken planning process that preceded the adoption of the green stormwater infrastructure element of the Passaic County Master Plan. He discussed the County’s Stormwater Management Guidance Manual and Green Streets Guidelines as key parts of this Master Plan element. Mr. Miranda provided an example of a green streets initiative, the Haledon Avenue Green Streets Pilot Project in the City of Paterson. The County is working on a monitoring plan to evaluate the project and is working with community groups to ensure maintenance. The County has formed a Green Stormwater Infrastructure Committee to identify future projects.

Caleb Stratton, AICP, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Hoboken

Caleb Stratton, AICP, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Hoboken

Caleb Stratton, AICP, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Hoboken.  In his presentation, “Infrastructure as Adaptation,” Mr. Stratton discussed the storm events that resulted in extensive flooding in Hoboken and propelled the development of a citywide Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan to manage stormwater. He emphasized the importance of leveraging funding for road resurfacing and lighting projects to acquire funding to implement green infrastructure projects and mentioned how Hoboken has effectively worked with the state’s infrastructure bank. Hoboken’s green infrastructure strategy defines green infrastructure techniques that address retention, detention, and infiltration in specific areas of the city. He showed examples of rain gardens, pervious pavement, bio-swales, cisterns, and other infrastructure that have been implemented in the city.  This included visualization and photos of green street elements incorporated into street design improvements on First Street and Washington Street to address stormwater. He also referred to the city’s ongoing development of the Hoboken Street Design Guide to guide design and construction of Complete Streets and green streets.

The presenters made several additional points in response to audience questions and comments.

  • The market is driving public/private partnerships that support green infrastructure. In Philadelphia, a development corporation is working with PennDOT to make it easier for people to access the waterfront. The agency is also working with various entities in communities along the project corridor.
  • It is often difficult to determine which green infrastructure alternatives to use but industry is learning. Speakers agreed that green infrastructure will not be the solution in all situations; these projects must pass the benefit/cost test.
  • Green infrastructure installations make extensive use of plant material, at times unsuccessfully due to the effects of contaminants. Research is continuing in order to determine which plants will stand up to the absorption of contaminants, in particular road salts.
  • Planners need to be aware of where water is going once it is collected via stormwater management techniques. Speakers cautioned that water cleaned through such a system may migrate to a contaminated zone.
  • The speakers noted that green infrastructure is increasingly discussed, but implementation varies depending on the capabilities of the transportation agency or engineering firm. The proposed NJDEP rule changes that require inclusion of green infrastructure in future development projects will lead to broader awareness and implementation through the state.

Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit

Green Infrastructure Element of the Passaic County Master Plan

Hoboken Green Infrastructure Strategic Plan

New Jersey Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual

New Jersey Developers’ Green Infrastructure Guide

Philadelphia Innovates on Green Infrastructure (Click here to watch video)

Sandra Blick described elements in NJDOT”s green infrastructure toolbox and emphasized that successful Green Infrastructure requires that treatment processes function after implementation.

Maine DOT’s Brian Luce described the design, performance and lessons learned from installation of porous pavements on Maine Mall Road and at intermodal terminal facility.

Kandyce Perry of NJ Future, a statewide advocacy organization, offered recommendations on how NJDOT could advance green streets into its policies, programs and projects.

Edwina Lam and Elaine Elbich highlighted many of the lessons learned from the integration of green infrastructure design elements into the reconstruction of I-95 in an urban section of Philadelphia.

Caleb Stratton, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Hoboken, recounted how the commuity is using a City-Wide Green Infrastructure Strategy to prepare for future weather events like Hurricane Irene.

Jason Miranda, Senior Planner for Passaic County, NJ, detailed the process and results of their Green Stormwater Infrastructure Element & Green Streets Pilot Project

Tech Talk! Data Visualization in Transportation: Communicating Transportation Findings and Plans

Communicating Transportation Findings and Plans: Charts, Renderings, and Interactive Visualizations

In November 2018, the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a half-day Tech Talk event, Data Visualization in Transportation, that highlighted recent research and examples of innovative data visualization methods used by state DOTs and MPOs.

The NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a half-day Tech Talk event that highlighted research and featured innovative examples of data visualization methods in use by transportation agencies.  Five speakers discussed tools and resources that they use to create visualizations to connect with target audiences, and to provide information to their constituencies.  Select visualization tools in use by New Jersey's MPOs and innovative best practices being deployed at other State DOTs were featured.  Registration was full for the event which was held in the NJDOT Multipurpose Room on November 29, 2018.

Data visualization includes such applications as modeling, animation, simulation, and virtual reality. In 2006, through draft guidance for implementing provisions in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETY-LU), FHWA required states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to use visualization techniques in the development of transportation plans and programs to promote improved understanding on the part of the public, elected and appointed officials, and other stakeholders. Visualization applications allow planners, designers and engineers to communicate complex multidimensional information in a way that is comprehensible to a general audience in order to facilitate collaboration, resulting in more informed decisions, fewer delays, and more buy-in at each step of the design and project implementation processes. Visualizations can also improve understanding of the project among planners, designers, and engineers, improving cost effectiveness.

The first speaker, Nathan Higgins, is the author of Data Visualization Methods for Transportation Agencies, the summary document from his research conducted for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP). Mr. Higgins’ presentation, “Data Visualization in Transportation: NJDOT,” discussed that written report and the associated website that provides guidance for the visualization process. He navigated the website to show examples of visualizations for transportation applications, chart types and software tools available, and data and style resources. He emphasized the importance of each visualization as a critical opportunity to communicate information, and noted that, although intensive work with data requires a specific skill set, visualizations are possible to create without elaborate tools and software.

Nathan Higgins, author of the NCHRP Report, Data Visualization Methods for Transportation Agencies, shared examples of effective visualizations used by state DOTs and other transportation agencies. The project website is an informative resource for transportation professionals interested in honing their skills in communicating ideas to an audience through illustrations and visualizations.

Attendees learned how such tools and best practices can be used to foster more effective involvement with the public and an agency's various customers. In his presentation, “Visualizing Your Project,” Matt Taylor, PE, Alabama DOT described various visualization methods, with an emphasis on reality mesh, renderings, photomatching, and animation to create 3D environments that bring transportation projects to life. He noted that 80 percent of Alabama DOT’s data visualizations are used at public hearings to help stakeholders understand projects and how they will fit into the community. He provided several examples, including one of a Divergent Diamond Interchange which creates a traffic pattern that is unfamiliar to most drivers. He developed a visualization that helped to explain the new traffic flow. He noted that visualizations can provide models for contractors to use in planning, and can be useful for catching design problems. In response to a question, he noted that there are often multiple conceptualizations over the design life of a project, for example, to present all the alternatives for a transportation project, and the details needed to support a preferred alternative, or to model the construction stages.

Nicholas Johnson from Nevada DOT explained how visualizations, including virtual reality simulations, are being used to build awareness and foster support by illustrating how completed projects may function and be experienced by affected communities.

Nick Johnson, PE, PMP, CPM, Nevada DOT presented on “Interactive Visualization,” which he described as an emerging, virtual-reality-based mode for visualizing transportation projects. The Interactive Visualization innovation is a peer-selected focus innovation for the AASHTO Innovation Initiative, which seeks out proven advancements in transportation technology to accelerate adoption by agencies nationwide. Mr. Johnson discussed the value of this technology for assisting interested parties in understanding a transportation project during the public engagement process. His agency’s outreach events have featured simulations and virtual reality. Mr. Johnson gave an example of a Native American community that was concerned that a noise wall would block the rising sun from their view, preventing them from knowing the time for worship. The visualization alleviated the community’s objections by demonstrating that the sunrise would not be blocked by the wall. He emphasized the importance of visual communication to Millennials and GenXers.

In response to questions about the cost of creating visualizations, the speakers responded that cost depends on the project location, complexity, and the detail required to communicate needed information to the target audience. Speakers noted that their agencies have two to three full-time employees to work intensively with data to create databases and visualizations. A small Complete Streets project that is not very complex may take two weeks to finish and larger transportation projects may require multiple visualizations over the course of the planning and construction stages. Mr. Johnson’s public involvement events have offered an opportunity to use a driving simulator and Virtual Reality goggles, available through a contractor, to help immerse stakeholders in the experience of a proposed project.

Representatives from two of New Jersey’s Metropolitan Planning Organizations spoke about the data visualization tools that they have created and made available to local agencies to assist in planning. In his presentation “Web Maps, Open Data, and more!,” Christopher Pollard, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Council, described the data that the MPO has compiled for use in making regional planning decisions. He underscored the importance of accurate and reliable geospatial data as the basis for visualizations, and the MPO’s use of ESRI GIS mapping software to communicate this data. He discussed the datasets and interactive maps available to all the agency’s constituents, and provided detail on Travel Monitoring and Philly Freight Finder. He mentioned that the initial development of the data required a significant investment of time in order to make the data accessible. He added that the MPO will take on a limited number of data visualization projects needed by their constituents.

Gabrielle Fausel, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority presented on “Data Visualization in Transportation: GIS and Planning Tools at NJTPA,” and discussed NJTPA’s use of five visualization tools: ViZtools illustrates the various factors that support the Regional Transportation Plan; NOTIS shows how state and federal tax dollars are being invested in the transportation system in the NJTPA region; Freight Activity Locator provides an overview of goods movement activity in the region; County Profile Application, a mapping tool, provides county-level demographic data for the region; and Open Data Portal, which supplies publically available geospatial data. Ms. Fausel emphasized that the MPO made use of ESRI software that they had already purchased for other applications.

These speakers noted that they are always working to make the visualization process more efficient and enjoyable for the user. In response to an audience member’s question about how they deal with a tool that has incomplete or fuzzy data, they noted the need to: constantly update the data to look for the most complete information and to identify gaps; assess the data for reasonableness; request user feedback and provide references and disclaimers; and create visualizations of uncertainty in data. Before a tool is released to the public, there is internal testing, and a pilot test with a small external group. This is an iterative process, with trying and testing to develop useful tools.

Please see below for the presentations, as well as several simulation videos and links to data products that were presented during the event.


AASHTO Innovation Initiative, Interactive Visualization.

Alabama Department of Transportation Visualization Group.

Cambridge Systematics, Inc. Data Visualization Methods for Transportation Agencies.


Nathan Higgins, AICP, Cambridge Systematics, Inc., Data Visualization in Transportation

Matt Taylor, PE, Alabama DOT, Visualizing Your Project

Nick Johnson, PE, PMP, CPM, AASHTO, Interactive Visualization

Christopher Pollard, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Council, Web maps, Open Data, and More!

Gabrielle Fausel, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, Data Visualization in Transportation: GIS and Planning Tools at NJTPA