The NJ State Transportation Innovation Council (NJ STIC) convened its 3rd Quarter Meeting on September 27, 2023 at the NJDOT Bordentown Training Center for Excellence. This in-person event provided an opportunity for attendees to tour the newly opened state-of-the-art training center. An agenda for the meeting was distributed in advance of the event.
Welcome Remarks and Tour of Training Facility. Brandee Sullivan, NJDOT Innovation Coordinator, greeted those in attendance and opened the meeting. Assistant Commissioner Michael Russo gave welcoming remarks, noting that the STIC meeting was the first held “in-person” since the outset of the pandemic. He gave an overview of the day’s agenda and its featured speaker. He noted that Sudhir Joshi, from the Bureau of Statewide Strategies, would assume CIA Team Lead for the Planning and Environment Team.
Ms. Melissa Boyer from the Bordentown Training Center for Excellence spoke briefly about NJDOT’s acquisition of the former property of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in 2016 and the substantial rehabilitation investments made to convert three buildings and the surrounding land into the transportation-focused training complex. Those in attendance were then divided into separate teams for guided tours that were provided by Ms. Boyer and Eric Walters that included an opportunity for a “hands-on” sampling of the facility’s truck driving simulators.
FHWA Updates. After the tour, Christopher Paige, Innovation and Community Planner in the FHWA NJ Division Office, gave a brief update. He noted that the FHWA had issued its EDC-7 Baseline Report in July 2023 which conveys the innovations and goals for deployment being set by the various states. He highlighted that several FHWA Innovation Exchange Webinars have been delivered since the EDC-7 launch to introduce select topics such as Nighttime Safety and Strategic Workforce Development and available resources. As with prior rounds, EDC-7 will have a two-year cycle, but the period of performance was adjusted to run through May 2025. The first progress report cycle will be due in April 2024. He provided an overview of several resources available through the FHWA’s Center for Accelerating Innovation (CAI) website which leads the national STIC program.
Core Innovation Area (CIA) Updates. The meeting continued with short presentations from Core Innovative Area (CIA) leaders who provided updates on the status of the various innovative initiative topics being advanced during EDC-7. Update reports were given by the various CIA Teams on Safety, Infrastructure Preservation, Mobility and Operations, Organizational Improvement and Support, and Planning and Environment.
Featured Presentation – SJTPO Innovative Approaches to Traffic Safety Education. The South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO) has developed a series of traffic safety education programs to teach the public about traffic safety. The programs are designed to bring awareness to the many traffic safety risks presented to drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians on area roadways and teach simple ways to improve safety. Robert Clarke, SJTPO Traffic Safety Specialist, described the various traffic safety education programs, highlighting the length of each program and typical audience. In describing the several trainings, he explained how they were designed to appeal to unique needs, interests and specific age groups such as high school, elementary, and middle school students, adults, and vulnerable older drivers. For example, a driving simulator program was targeted to teens in a probationary period, or the basic physics of driving were emphasized in a training targeted to high school math and physics students. During his talk, Mr. Clark also touched upon the various federal and state funding sources and resource commitments made to sustain SJTPO’s Safety Education and Outreach Program.
Announcements and Reminders
NJDOT Safety Resource Center. Jeevanjot Singh, Section Chief, gave an overview of the NJDOT Safety Resource Center (SRC) and its activities. Ms. Singh explained that NJDOT’s most important mission is ensuring safety – the safety of our customers and the assets that the agency builds. Ms. Singh noted that the SRC is envisioned as a one-stop destination for roadway safety-related information, noting that the SRC seeks to connect safety stakeholders with information about safety projects and programs, funding and grant opportunities, trainings from industry experts, safety campaign materials, technical assistance and other resources.
The SRC has launched a training program and, to-date, nine “Lunch & Learn” sessions have been held with more planned for the future. The SRC is also looking to develop longer in-depth trainings on select topics such as the “safe systems” approach. The SRC is expected to launch a website and a SRC LinkedIn page shortly and develop public campaigns to promote a positive safety culture for all road users.
Ms. Singh spoke about the role that the SRC plays in the implementation of the Strategic Highway Safety Plan, among other topics. She encouraged those in attendance to register for the NJDOT Safety Summit event planned for October 24th at the College of New Jersey.
2023 National Build a Better Mousetrap Award “Bold Steps” Winner: NJ’s Route 71 Over Shark River Road Diet Project. This NJDOT bridge rehabilitation and road project was recognized as the year’s “Bold Steps” Award winner in the 2023 National Build a Better Mousetrap Award Competition. Each year, the FHWA honors state, local, and Tribal agencies for devising innovative solutions to improve transportation programs. Mrs. Sullivan congratulated Gerald Oliveto, P.E. and his team for receiving the national award which developed a breakthrough solution to preserve an old bridge while improving safety and saving taxpayer dollars.
In announcing this year’s award winners, FHWA produced a video explaining the Bold Steps Award and offering a description of the Route 71 Over Shark River Road Diet project which can be accessed here. The FHWA noted that the innovation not only improves transportation performance, but offers a model and transferable solution for other agencies.
Presentation: Route 71 Over Shark River: Road Diet & Safety Improvements Project. Gerald Oliveto, P.E. then gave an in-depth presentation about the award-winning project, explaining the history and location of the bridge and the challenges that NJDOT had to quickly confront after a span-lock failure in September 2021 disrupted the drawbridge’s operation, affecting roadway usage and maritime traffic patterns. Mr. Oliveto explained how the Route 71 drawbridge safety features – opening and closing sequences – were designed to operate to further help set the stage for understanding the challenges and urgency of the project.
He described several interim repair options that were examined for their cost and benefits before the preferred road diet option was selected as a near-term solution. He emphasized that design and implementation of the preferred solution was the product of effective teamwork and extensive internal coordination (e.g., regional operations, structural engineering, traffic engineering, signage, office of government and community relations, etc.).
Mr. Oliveto described how NJDOT implemented a road diet across the bridge, which allowed the Department to address safety issues. Traffic over the bridge was reduced from one northbound lane and two southbound lanes to one lane in each direction. With the lane configuration reduced to one lane in each direction, NJDOT was able to extend bicycle lanes that previously terminated in Avon-By-The-Sea across the drawbridge into Belmar.
His presentation highlighted a key design feature that was used to extend the bike lanes over the bridge. The extended bicycle lanes were accomplished using an innovative fiber-reinforced-polymer mat on the bascule span. The mat is the first of its kind in New Jersey and provided a safe crossing of a steel-grid deck for bicycles. Previously, bicyclists had needed to dismount and walk their bicycle across the bridge. The extended bicycle lanes provided connectivity between both downtown areas and an area heavily utilized by bicycle traffic year-round.
Mr. Oliveto’s talk described several design and community coordination features that were integrated into the project to build needed municipal and community support. His talk made clear the importance of communications, early and often, and working with the affected communities throughout the process to explain the logic behind the selection of the road diet option and identifying other design features (e.g., painted crosswalks, signage) that would be welcomed by the local communities. His talk touched upon various communications and coordination activities that were put into place, including the NJDOT’s Office of Communications use of social media and videos to keep the public informed about the road diet project, and the NJDOT’s Office of Mobility working with GPS companies about routing changes to avoid adverse routing of vehicles onto residential streets, among others.
NJ STIC Exemplary Council Member Award. Assistant Commissioner Russo presented Shivani Patel, CIA Team Lead for Infrastructure Preservation, with the NJ STIC Exemplary Council Member Award as its first-ever recipient. The award recognizes her strong leadership as CIA Team Lead since assuming responsibility and her instrumental role in championing the Environmental Products Declaration initiative by developing an SME team and hosting coordination meetings
Reminders and Updates. Mrs. Sullivan closed the meeting with several reminders and updates.
NJ STIC Online. She reminded attendees of the online location of several resources that highlight the NJ STIC and other innovation topics funded through research and technology transfer activities, including:
- NJDOT Tech Transfer Website – http://www.njdottechtransfer.net/
- NJ STIC Website – https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/nj-stic/
- NJ STIC Meeting Notes – presentations and recordings can be found in the NJ STIC section (https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/nj-stic-meetings/)
NJ Transportation Ideas Portal. Mrs. Sullivan noted that the NJDOT Bureau of Research has combined the innovative ideas portal with the research portal to gather high quality ideas from the transportation community. She pointed to the business cards and a poster with a QR code that were available in the front of the room as a handy means to access the NJ Transportation Ideas Portal. She encouraged attendees to take a few business cards to share with colleagues. For more information and to how register for an account and submit ideas on the NJ Transportation Ideas Portal, go to: https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/got-ideas
Local Technical Assistance and STIC. Mrs. Sullivan added that there are free trainings on EDC-7 topics delivered through the Local Technical Assistance Program at Rutgers-CAIT. She shared links to an upcoming schedule of trainings. She also noted that new opportunities are added frequently at the website: https://cait.rutgers.edu/events.
Upcoming Events. Mrs. Sullivan noted in brief some important upcoming events on research and innovation:
- Safety Summit – October 24th
- 25th Anniversary of the Research Showcase – Oct 25th
- Complete Streets Summit – Nov 1st
STIC Incentive Program Funding. Mrs. Sullivan noted that STIC Incentive Program funds are available. The FHWA offers these funds, as well as technical assistance, to support the standardization and advancement of innovative practices in a state transportation agency or other public sector STIC stakeholder. NJ STIC receives $100,000 each year. Mrs. Sullivan asked that the STIC network members communicate these grant opportunities through their networks. She noted that local public agencies are eligible to apply. Find more information, including examples of allowable activities and prior recipients, here.
Closing the Business Portion and Final Remarks. Ms. Sullivan concluded the business portion of the STIC meeting, noting that this would be the final STIC Meeting for Assistant Commissioner Russo with his imminent retirement. In recognition of this milestone and his long-standing leadership role with the NJ STIC, Mrs. Sullivan invited Vanessa Holman, Deputy Chief of Staff in the NJDOT Commissioner’s Office, to say a few words about Assistant Commissioner’s instrumental role in advancing the NJ STIC’s mission over the years and strengthening the team going forward.
About the Bordentown Training Facility. The training facility includes specialized classrooms and adjoining labs outfitted with real roadway structures, traffic control components, and vehicle maintenance equipment, including:
- Lecture hall, multi-use classrooms, computer training labs, offices, conference and breakout rooms, and locker room facilities.
- Two full-motion Commercial Drivers’ License (CDL) Truck Simulators.
- Construction, Landscape and Roadway Training Lab with in-ground model of drainage inlets connected by a culvert.
- Electrical and Sign Training Lab with real traffic signal control cabinets and in-ground pull boxes.
- Automotive Training Lab with working model of truck brake system.
- Equipment Training Bay with welding area and space to work on large vehicles Radio Shop.
- A mock roadway features a signalized intersection, crosswalks, overhead signs, and a railroad grade crossing that presents trainees with the traffic infrastructure and conditions encountered on the job.
A recording of the NJ STIC September 2023 meeting is under production and will be shared when it is available. The day’s presentations can be found here and in the sections below.
Photos from the Bordentown Training Facility tour are presented at the bottom.
- Bordentown Training Facility Tour Photos