Traffic Safety

With the debt deal behind them and the Federal Aviation Administration at least temporarily reopened, members of Congress left on their annual month-long summer recess this week. When they return, only 24 days will remain until September 30, the end of the federal fiscal year when both the latest extension of SAFETEA-LU and most of the federal gas tax are due to expire. Some believe renewal of the gas tax could face opposition in Congress. Meanwhile, Senate leaders say the body could act on a successor to SAFETEA-LU after the break, as reports surfaced that Sen. Max Baucus has come up with a way to bridge the $12 billion funding gap between how much is in the Highway Trust Fund and how much the Senate’s two-year reauthorization measure proposes to spend. And state officials are pondering what the debt deal could mean for transportation. Plus, items of note on public-private partnerships, high-speed rail, tolling, motorcycle helmet laws and other issues.

I’ve written before about how many suggest that future funding for transportation could and should be based on performance measures (see here and here). Now the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Transportation Policy Project is just out with a new report that offers their recommendations on how to incorporate them into the decision-making process.

Last week I blogged about a recent forum in which transportation and infrastructure experts came together to discuss how to move the conversation forward on addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs. One of the consistent themes throughout that meeting involved the need to put greater emphasis on performance metrics to assure the public and their representatives in government that investments in infrastructure are being well spent and having the kind of impact they hope in areas like economic development. Well there’s a new report out today from The Rockefeller Foundation and the Pew Center on the States that assesses the capacity of all 50 states to use those kinds of metrics to identify just what they’re getting for their transportation dollars.

Here’s one of those instances in which what I do hits close to home. In the latest issue of Capitol Ideas and a recent blog post, I wrote about how a number of states are following the lead of Missouri in employing a relatively new type of traffic interchange called the diverging diamond or double crossover diamond interchange to improve safety and reduce congestion. The interchanges can be built in less time and at a lower cost than other types of interchanges. Now, it appears I may soon get to see firsthand how the diamond works. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Kentucky transportation officials announced this week that they plan to reconfigure a Lexington intersection that is part of my daily commute using the diamond model.

There is a new issue of the CSG magazine Capitol Ideas out this month that we call our “Best of the States” issue. The magazine contains a wide variety of innovative ideas states are employing to address various problems and needs across numerous areas. Among the innovative ideas in transportation detailed in the issue are a new type of traffic interchange in Missouri, Georgia’s planned regional transportation referenda and Utah’s road condition monitoring cameras that allow the state to determine when to send a snow plow to a remote area. While we tried to pack as much into the issue as we could, there was inevitably plenty of worthwhile stuff that landed on the proverbial “cutting room floor.” Here is a sampling.

This Act enables doctors to report to the state department of motor vehicles patients who have physical or mental conditions which impair the patients‘ driving skills.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, over the past year, state policymakers have focused on the activities and behaviors motorists engage in while operating a motor vehicle, especially with respect to distracted driving. State policy approaches to driver distraction must be driven by well-grounded science.

Next week, I’ll be in Washington, D.C. for the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies Annual Meeting, which brings together thousands of transportation professionals from some 70 countries to discuss all things transportation-related. With as many as 100 sessions going on simultaneously at any one time in three huge conference hotels, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the choices. As I’ve learned from attending the meeting in 2009 and 2010, it helps to map out a plan in advance. Here’s a look at my tentative schedule of sessions and events along with some suggested further reading for those who may be interested. You’ll be able to follow me on Twitter (@CSGTransport) and here on the blog starting Sunday.

Rural highways provide many benefits to the nation's transportation system. But rural areas face numerous transportation challenges including a looming highway capacity crisis. Their challenges are similar to those experienced by urban areas but different enough that they need to be carefully considered as officials in Washington debate a new long-term authorization of federal transportation programs. This brief examines some issues those officials should take into account regarding rural road capacity, congestion, road safety, connectivity and mobility and public transit. It also examines how policies addressing livability and transportation funding may impact rural communities.

The U.S. Department of Transportation defines distracted driving as “Any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.”

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