Legislation would rename I-74 stretch in Illinois after LaHood
Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-IL) has introduced legislation to rename a stretch of Interstate 74 in Springfield, Illinois, after outgoing Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who has also served as an Illinois congressman, PJ Star reported.
The proposed legislation, House Joint Resolution 35, would rename the 6-mile stretch of I-74 from the Murray Baker Bridge to the Sterling Avenue exit as the Ray LaHood Highway. LaHood played a major role in the reconstruction of the roads along the stretch during the Upgrade 74 project that ran from 2002 until 2006.
The measure is in the House Rules Committee. It must be considered by both chambers.
FHWA deploys bridge-inspecting robots
The robotic tool, created in partnership with Rutgers University as part of the Long-Term Bridge Performance (LTBP) Program, is expected to save time and money during inspections. The robot uses imaging technologies similar to x-ray technlogies to scan the infrastructure and see the interior without damaging the deck.
FHWA is launching to technology on 24 bridges in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. The agency plans to implement the robot on up to 1,000 bridges in the U.S. within the next five years.
NHTSA considers auto-brake mandate
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator David Strickland said at a congressional meeting Wednesday that the agency is considering automatic braking as a requirement in vehicles, Automotive News reported.
Automatic braking systems use cameras or radars to detect surrounding objects such as pedestrians or oncoming traffic and apply brakes as needed when the driver fails to do so.
NHTSA already requires cars with electronic stability control to be outfitted with the technology. The new mandate would likely require or suggest all cars include the systems.
A Jalopnik report suggests requiring systems for use in slow-moving traffic, like Volvo’s “City Safety” system, that can be turned off when necessary.
The video below offers a demonstration of Volvo’s City Safety system.
[youtube 8DBf8GBVmME nolink]
Strickland said NHTSA will do more research on the systems before making a decision about a mandate. The agency is expected to work on a decision later this year.
Florida’s Red Light Camera Game: G R E E N orange R E D
A lot of orange traffic lights in Florida don’t last as long as they used to.
And that has stirred up a hornet’s nest. Are shorter orange light times just there to make money via red light cameras (RLC)? Do they risk intersection safety to make that money? Do they punish safe drivers unfairly? Or, is it a non-issue as the light-shorteners argue.
As Florida Today reports, “A subtle, but significant tweak to Florida’s rules regarding traffic signals has allowed local cities and counties to shorten yellow light intervals, resulting in millions of dollars in additional red light camera fines.”
The change was made at key intersections, “specifically those with red light cameras (RLCs),” says the report.
The National Motorists Association (NMA) points out that RLCs are a for-profit business between cities, camera companies and the state. James Walker, executive director of the nonprofit NMA says, “The (FDOT rule-change) was done, I believe, deliberately in order that more tickets would be given with yellows set deliberately too short.”
Federal guidelines, state and local best practices and a host of calculations specific to a given intersection are involved here; orange light times are not just made up by a guy with a laptop watching cars go by.
There seems to be no definitive right or wrong case made yet in Florida about the shorter orange light times. RLCs are a divisive issue, probably splitting communities roughly down the middle when it comes to arguing their pros and cons. This just adds a little more mud to the already muddy water surrounding the use of RLCs. But leaving it that way would seem to be a bad idea.
This is the Sunshine State, and we could use a little more sunshine on the use of shorter orange light times and the role of RLCs.
U.S. DOT to collect public input on upcoming Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will hold its Public Input Session for its upcoming Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study (CTSW) on May 29 from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time at the U.S. DOT Headquarters.
It is the first of four Public Outreach Sessions to be held over the next 18 months.
The DOT is required by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act Section 32801 to complete the study, which will compare trucks operating within current Federal truck size and weight limits with those operating in excess of those limits.
This Public Outreach Session will allow participants to share feedback on the DOT’s intended approach for completing the study and share comments on alternative truck configurations to be evaluated in the Study.
The event is free and open to the public. It will be held as an in-person workshop, but a webinar will also be available for participants who cannot attend in person.
To view a copy of the transcript and summary of the discussions after the session has ended, click here.
Sydney uses water curtains to alert drivers to stop (VIDEO)
What’s the best way to catch the attention of drivers and alert them to stop? Use a giant water curtain with a projection of a stop sign.
According to Jalopnik, Sydney, Australia, began installing the water curtains six years ago in response to costly damages and delays caused by oversized trucks crashing into low overhead tunnels.
News 10 reported that truck drivers ignored previous warning signs, including flashing lights. However, the water curtains seem to catch their attention.
Laservision, a light show company in Australia, worked with the city to install the water curtains in 2007.
Check out the video below to see the water curtain in action.
Transportation Committee to hold confirmation hearing for Foxx nomination
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a confirmation meeting on May 23 for President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation nominee, Anthony Foxx, The Hill reported.
Obama nominated Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor Foxx last month. Foxx would replace outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
If the Transportation Committee approves Foxx, the full Senate will need to approve him as well before he can take office.
Fifty cents on the dollar for Illinois roads
At a time when funding for roads and bridges–what there is of it–is squeezed to the maximum (a situation that isn’t likely to change any time soon) comes an unsettling new report.
Check out this lead paragraph from a story the Chicago Tribune published this week:
“Less than half of the money that the state [of Illinois] has spent from its road fund in the last two years actually went to pay for direct construction costs, according to a report issued Tuesday.”
The Trib also points out that in eight of the last 10 fiscal years, less than half of road fund expenditures went for direct road construction costs, which mainly consist of highway construction and improvements, architectural and engineering fees and repair and maintenance. The rest, in this case and those other cases, went to cover salaries at the Illinois DOT, bond debt payments and other non-direct costs.
Shouldn’t we expect some more efficiency in the use of tax dollars? It has to be conceded that “non-direct” costs are a fact of life and are as essential to transportation infrastructure construction and maintenance as direct costs. But is fifty cents on the dollar the best we can do? Yes, this is Illinois and that state’s situation won’t be mirrored anywhere else.
As we push harder and harder for more funding, as reauthorization comes racing down the road at us, the need to put as much funding as possible to work creating jobs and working on construction projects is paramount.
As a kick starter, why not put a little pressure, maybe through your local news outlets, on your transportation authority and have them tell the public what percentage of their funding goes to direct costs and where the rest of it goes. This should all be public information.
Accountability in government agencies (such as DOTs) is not just telling us what they are doing; it includes a responsibility to do the most with every tax dollar collected. If something like fifty cents on the dollar going to direct costs in our industry is the best we can expect, so be it. But is it really the best we can do?
Senate approves water infrastructure bill
In an 83-14 vote, the Senate passed a bill Wednesday that will authorize several water infrastructure projects throughout the nation, McClatchy reported.
The $12.5 billion bill, the Water Resources Development Act, would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with “flood control efforts, port improvements, wetlands restoration and coastal storm protection.”
In addition to the authorization of the water infrastructure projects, the bill includes provisions to speed up the environmental review process.
Critics of the current environmental review process have said it creates delays and increased costs in some water infrastructure projects. The language in the bill may remove those extra costs and delays.
However, the bill is receiving disapproval from some environmental groups and government leaders arguing that the environmental review language “would undercut longstanding environmental laws.”
The bill now moves to the House, where it faces uncertain odds.
Ervin Equipment opens division in Mexico
Five staff members handle operations, management, billing, accounting and sales at Ervin Mexicana.
In addition to its equipment sales, Ervin also plans to expand its used truck sales to Mexico with a goal of delivering trucks to customers in those regions within 36 hours.
Ervin has also announced its intention to provide localized service in Central and South America. The company is developing plans for those areas.
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