Debate over Arizona highway signs continues

Metric Signs Arizona_GarcThe debate over road signs on a stretch of highway north of the U.S.-Mexico border continues. Currently signs in the area tell drivers how many kilometers they are from their destination, not how many miles.

The signs from Nogales to Tucson are a relic of a failed Carter administration pilot program that aimed to convince Americans to adopt the system of measure in use across much of the rest of the world.

The approximately 60-mile stretch of highway (or about 100 kilometers) is the only continuous highway in the U.S. with metric signs.

Some people find the signs confusing because they are not able to easily to the translation math between kilometers and miles. However, many people are opposed to changing the signs to miles. Business owners say a change to the road signs would also force them to change their advertisements. Changing from kilometers to miles would change the exit numbers they advertise.

“It had a lot of opposition because people felt it was something that relates to tourism,” Jim DiGiacomo, president of the Green Valley-Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce, said. “The hotels and businesses would have to change all of their info.”

Since Mexico uses the metric system, some people believe changing the signs to miles would hurt tourism in the area.

“Personally, I think it’s neat that my guests ask me why (the signs) are in metric,” said Jim Green, owner of The Inn at San Ignacio in Green Valley. “All of the tourists we’re talking to, there’s never been an instance where they were bothered because they weren’t in miles.”

It’s estimated that 400 signs will need to be replaced, but the state claims it does not have the funds to do so. For now, the signs will stay as they are. However, this is certainly a debate that will be revisited in the future as the current signs need to be replaced overtime due to normal wear and tear.

Kentucky finalizes 20-year transportation plan

KY_Transportation_CabinetThe Kentucky Transportation Department has finalized a 20-year transportation plan that will guide highway and bridge construction projects throughout the state.

The long-term plan will serve as an update to state’s 2006 plan which was designed to address the main transportation opportunities and challenges facing the state of Kentucky.

Kentucky officials relied on input from a survey called “Your Turn” to help develop the long-term plan. The survey received input from more than 16,000 Kentucky residents.

The plan includes several transportation goals including transportation investments that last longer, and therefore cost less per year to operate; the use of emerging technologies that will continue to improve system operation; being responsive to the needs of a growing population that will only get older, more urban and more diverse; safer roadways; and addressing the lack of funding available for road infrastructure projects.

The state also plans to invest more in public transit systems, which are currently only used by approximately one-quarter of Kentucky’s population. That number is expected to grow substantially in the coming years.

Officials learned a lot from the 16,000 Kentucky residents who took the survey. For starters, residents seem to be less worried about road growth, and more concerned about improving the state’s current transportation infrastructure.

We've come a long way: The history of bridge technology


Clapper bridges, beam bridges, truss bridges, arch bridges, and suspension bridges. The industry sure has come a long way hasn’t it?

The above image is an infographic created by Ohio University’s Engineering and Technology program on bridge construction techniques and technologies throughout history, comparing historic bridge designs with contemporary ones.

The infographic was released after OMA and OLIN were selected as the winners of a competition to conceptualize the 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington D.C. OMA and OLIN’s design calls for calls for a plaza, an enclosed café, an environmental center and other elements that could revolutionize the way we see bridges (see below).


OMA and OLIN’s design for D.C.’s 11th Street Bridge Park.

Highway and bridge construction starts climb 27 percent

construction-employeeThe value of new construction starts dipped four percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $589.8 billion. According to Dodge Data & Analytics, the decline followed a 10 percent increase reported in September, which was the strongest month for total construction starts thus far this year.

However, highway and bridge construction starts saw a big boost in October, climbing 27 percent. The boost was was supported by the $598 million Northwest Corridor project in Atlanta GA.

Through the first ten months of 2014, the top five states for highway and bridge construction starts were Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio.  States ranked six through ten were Florida, New York, Georgia, North Carolina, and New Jersey.

Aside from highway and bridge construction, the rest of the industry saw a decline. Both nonresidential building and nonbuilding construction lost momentum in October, while residential building posted a moderate gain given further growth for multifamily housing.  During the first ten months of 2014, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis were $475.8 billion, up five percent from the same period a year ago.

Nonresidential building dipped 14 percent in October to $195.2 billion (annual rate), following its 13 percent increase in September.

Nonbuilding construction, decreased nine percent to $148.7 billion (annual rate) in October.  The decline was reportedly due to a 67 percent plunge for electric utilities after unusually strong activity in September.

Residential building in October climbed 11 percent to $245.9 billion (annual rate).  After a 20 percent slide September, multifamily housing had a particularly strong month in October, up 40 percent.

The five percent increase for total construction starts on an unadjusted basis during the first ten months of 2014 was the result of mixed behavior by the three main construction sectors.  Nonresidential building advanced 14 percent year-to-date, with commercial building up 14 percent; manufacturing building up 52 percent; and institutional building up five percent.

Residential building improved seven percent year-to-date, with single family housing up only two percent while multifamily housing increased by 25 percent.  Nonbuilding construction has dropped eight percent year-to-date, with public works down seven percent and electric utilities down 14 percent.

Total construction starts during the January-October period of 2014 showed growth in all five regions, the South Central is up 13 percent; the South Atlantic and the West are both up four percent; and the Northeast and the Midwest have both climbed one percent.

Michigan Senate votes to raise gas tax

senate congressThe Michigan Senate has passed a bill to raise the state’s gas tax. The bill would approximately double Michigan’s fuel tax to raise about $1 billion a year more to fix transportation infrastructure.

If the bill passes the House, the gas tax could increase from 19 cents a gallon all the way to 41 cents a gallon in 2018.

Although some may not be in favor of such a big tax increase, the Michigan Department of Transportation says the money is definitely needed in order for the state to improve and maintain the conditions of its roads and bridges.

“We’ve been under funding infrastructure in the state for a long time,” said Dan Weingarten of MDOT. ”We’ve got to start investing in that infrastructure and the longer we put it off, the more expensive it’s going to be.”

The House is not expected to begin reviewing the bill until early December. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll pass the Senate’s bill as-is. However, there is a strong possibility that it will alter the bill slightly before sending it back to the Senate.

Eight students 2014 MAPA scholarships

MAPAThe Minnesota Asphalt Pavement Association (MAPA) has recognized eight students with 2014 MAPA Scholarships. This is the first Annual MAPA Scholarship program for MAPA and its members. MAPA Scholarships will be presented annually to deserving post high school students. Applications were rated based on career goals, essay, employment, extracurricular activities, and scholastic achievement.

The scholarship award winners, hometown and career goals are:

Maddie Duininck, Willmar, MN – Business

Kelsey Behnke, Albert Lea, MN – Business & Political Science

Lisa Kittleson, Young America, MN – Marketing Communications

Samantha Block, Spicer, MN – Political Science

Torey Malerich, St. Michael, MN – Accounting & Management

Aaron Rinta, Aitkin, MN – Mechanical Engineering

Haley Luftman, Duluth, MN – Psychology

Genevieve Bowersox, Stillwater, MN – Nursing

“Recent statistics show that 70 percent of all students graduating from four-year colleges have student loan debt,” said Jill Thomas, P.E., executive director of MAPA. “According to a government data analysis, the class of 2014 graduated with the largest debt in history. These scholarships were created in an effort to help alleviate that burden to the next generation.”

MAPA raised funds for its scholarship program through an annual golf event, which is supported by the 130 member companies of MAPA and raised $22,500. MAPA represents the asphalt pavement industry in Minnesota through active education and research programs, as well as by working with Minnesota Department of Transportation and other stakeholders to ensure that Minnesota’s asphalt roads are among the best in the nation.

What causes the most damage to our nation’s bridges?


We surveyed all 50 state Departments of Transportation (DOT) and the District of Columbia’s DOT for the Better Roads Annual Bridge Inventory. In doing so, we took a look at what causes the most damage to bridges. Here’s what the DOTs said:

Key: (A)ge (C)orrosion (T)raffic (O)ther

Delaware                       AC
Maryland                       AC
South Carolina            ACT
North Carolina            ACT
Arizona                          ACT
New Mexico                 AO
Alabama                         AT
North Dakota               AT
Montana                        C
New York                      CA
Rhode Island               CA
Utah                                CA
District Of Columbia CA
Missouri                        CAT
Oklahoma                      CAT
Arkansas                        CAT
Hawaii                           CAT
South Dakota             CATO
Virginia                         COTA
West Virginia             COTA
Nebraska                      CTA
Kentucky                       CTAO
Texas                              CTOA
Minnesota                    O
Colorado                      O
Ohio                                OCAT
Washington                 OCTA
Louisiana                      OTCA
California                     TAC
Florida                           TC
Kansas                           TCO

Source: 2014 Better Roads Bridge Inventory


Tensar names Mike Lawrence Executive Vice President of America

226708_Tensar_Logo_RedTensar International, a leader in geosynthetic construction technology, has appointed Mike Lawrence as Executive Vice President of America. Lawrence will spearhead strategic leadership support in the United States, Canada and Latin American regions.

“We are proud to have Mike join our Tensar team in this crucial role,” said Don Meltzer, Tensar President and CEO. “With his vast industry experience and leadership capabilities, we are confident that we will see immediate growth within untapped markets as well as the furthering of our brand across the Americas.”

Lawrence will oversee the sales and marketing teams within Tensar’s Roadway and Grade Separation Solution product lines.

“My goal is to grow our business across these regions, develop and enhance loyal relationships, and introduce Tensar’s brand to new, growing markets,” Lawrence said. “I am extremely excited to work with the second-to-none sales and marketing team behind Tensar’s high standard product offerings.”

Prior to joining Tensar, Lawrence dedicated over 30 years of experience in the building and engineered materials sector. Most recently, he served as Senior Vice President & General Manager of Engineered Products for the Americas region at Johns Manville. Lawrence holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from American University in Washington, D.C., and an MBA in International Business from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

Update: MnDOT mine expansion will result in state's tallest bridge

A billboard on Highway 53 that’s part of a campaign against relocation. Photo: Jeff Wheeler/StarTribune.

A billboard on Highway 53 that’s part of a campaign against relocation. Photo: Jeff Wheeler/StarTribune.


In late October Aggregates Manager reported that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) was facing a tough decision over a mine expansion. MnDOT was being has to act quickly in coming up with a solution to reroute a busy four-lane highway.

At the time, we reported on of MnDOT’s options was to build one of the state’s tallest bridges over some of the hardest rock on the planet. After much consideration, that’s the route MnDOT has decided to go.

The project is expected to cost about $220 million.

Despite the idea of building a 200-foot-high, 1,100-foot-long bridge, MnDOT says the route poses fewer challenges and had the lowest cost of all alternatives.

“From an engineering and cost point-of-view, this route stands out,” MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle said in a statement encouraging public comment. Public meetings are scheduled in Virginia for Dec. 4 and Jan. 1.

VIDEO: CBS’s '60 Minutes' spotlights America's neglected infrastructure

Ray LaHood

Ray LaHood

In case you missed it, CBS’s “60 Minutes” did a feature on America’s neglected transportation infrastructure on Sunday. During the segment, 60 minutes talked to former transportation secretary of transportation Ray LaHood.

“Our infrastructure’s on life supports right now. That’s what we’re on,” LaHood told 60 minutes.

As the 60 minutes report points out, nearly 70,000 roads and bridges in the United States are structurally deficient. Unfortunately, the only way the country’s infrastructure will be improved is if there’s a long-term agreement on a new and improved Highway Trust Fund.

As LaHood says, the current Highway Trust Fund will run out by Spring 2015 if Congress doesn’t come together.

“That’s the pot of money that over 50 years helped us create the best interstate system in the world, which is now falling apart,” LaHood said.

Watch the entire 60 Minutes segment on transportation infrastructure by clicking here.


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