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AASHTO Journal

AASHTO Announces 2013 Innovation Initiatives; Geospatial Mapping, Watershed Resources and Automated Traffic Signals Among Topics Advanced

Transportation agencies will receive information and technical assistance in 2013 and beyond to advance three proven innovations into routine practice. Each innovation works because it was developed, tested, and successfully adopted by transportation agency peers. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' Technology Implementation Group (TIG) is assembling innovators on teams that will help other agencies deliver the benefits of these technologies and techniques to their customers.

The three innovations chosen for 2013 are:

UPLAN: A remarkably user-friendly platform developed by Utah and Idaho DOTs was adapted for use in 12 additional states in just eight weeks in 2012. Dubbed "UPlan," it allows information already collected and managed by states to become more useful by unlocking assets from 'data silos' and making them readily available to decision-makers in the form of easy-to-comprehend maps and reports. The system can comb dozens of state data banks, both inside and outside transportation agencies, for instance, to populate and present more comprehensive Federal PEL Reports in a matter of minutes. Or it can develop maps displaying resource considerations of proposed roadway alignments in real time at public meetings or other forums. UPLAN allows a wide array of information to be combined and displayed in ways that provide new insights and understanding of our transportation systems as well.

In an earlier TIG initiative, a UPlan-based tool was developed for a western states alliance, bringing data from eight states into consistent formats that inform regional perspectives. In a second TIG initiative three new multi-state alliances will be formed to advance the use of the tool to a projected 30 states in 2013. To date, 14 states (WA, OR, CA, AZ, NM, NV, CO, WY, ID, UT, MT, MN, NC, and PA) have developed their own version of the platform through the program. Minnesota Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and North Carolina Department of Transportation have agreed to lead regional alliances in the new initiative. Each state customizes its own platform. It is also envisioned that a core data set will be chosen by the participating states and maintained for "roll up" to the federal decision-making level. [Go to TIG.transportation.org and click on UPlan; scroll to bottom for an interactive map showing a sample of existing sites.]

Watershed Resources Registry (WRR): WRR was developed by the Maryland State Highway Administration to integrate land-use planning, regulatory, and non-regulatory decision-making via a watershed approach. A GIS-based pilot registry was developed out of the Green Highways Partnership for a project along Route 301 in Prince George's and Charles Counties, Maryland. A goal of the effort was to develop a framework for integrated watershed management that could be transferred nationally. Today, GIS-based WRR opportunity outputs have been compiled for the entire state of Maryland and are available through a web-based user interface. Compiling data from various agencies and organizations, the WRR reveals a comprehensive picture of watershed health and identifies opportunities for aquatic and terrestrial creation, restoration, enhancement, and preservation as transportation projects are planned and carried out. [See sample screen shots​.]

Traffic Signal Automated Performance Measures: Acknowledging that an agency cannot always build its way out of transportation problems, Utah Department of Transportation partnered with Purdue University and Indiana Department of Transportation to develop a management structure that allows agencies to maximize the effectiveness of signal systems and produce real time traffic signal performance measures. The effectiveness of signal progression along a given corridor can be monitored using six metrics currently in the system: Purdue Coordination Diagrams (that work with such detector types as loops, video, and magnetometers), Speeds, Approach Volumes, the Purdue Phase Termination Chart, Split Monitor, and Turning Movement Volume Counts. A Delay metric will be added in late June and other measures will be incorporated in the near future. Performance can be measured wherever a count zone can be set up in advance of queue at an intersection (approximately 400 feet from the stop bar). In submitting its nomination form, the team acknowledged that innovation, creativity, and risk taking must be employed to meet the demands and expectations of a society that continues to grow in size and needs. [See brief​ for metrics and website navigation guidance, then visit the website here.]

Each of the three TIG initiatives receives expertise and funding through voluntary state agency contributions for a comprehensive marketing and implementation plan, technical and communications tools, and expenses involved in providing hands-on assistance to transportation agencies, as appropriate. The AASHTO Technology Implementation Group also identifies promising technologies for streamlined promotion through webinars and other vehicles.

A full list of the active technologies, as well as those advanced over the past several years, is available at TIG.transportation.org.​​​

8/2/2013
Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.