As we move into late July, the lazy, hazy days of summer have certainly arrived. But we are still right in the middle of the vacation season and that means more highway traffic throughout Ohio. It is the perfect time to remind everyone to Slow Down and Move Over for all roadside workers. Ohio’s Move Over Law requires motorists to cautiously shift over one lane — or slow down if changing lanes is not possible — when passing any vehicle with flashing lights on the side of a road. Its purpose is to protect everyone who works on our roads and everyone who travels on them. This is a very easy rule to remember, but its importance cannot be overstated. Slow Down, Move Over is a lifesaver!
Check out the “Top 10 Reasons to Move Over” video below from the Ohio Department of Transportation. You can also learn more about Ohio’s Move Over law right here.
On June 29, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 which authorized construction of the U.S. Interstate Highway System. Today the Interstate network extends for 47,662 miles, linking communities throughout the United States and providing reliable passage for motorists traveling across town or across the country. This complex highway network is also the backbone of America’s commercial transportation system. Companies in every industry depend on the Interstates for timely shipment of everything from bulk commodities and machinery to thousands of items that line our grocery store shelves.
The Interstates play a very big role in Ohio’s transportation network as well. In fact, we have one of the largest Interstate highway systems in the nation. And because Ohio is a single day’s drive from 60% of the population of the United States and Canada, those highways get lots of use!
As the search for sustainable highway funding continues in both Washington, DC and statehouses throughout the country, it is appropriate to reflect on the history and the future of the nation’s Interstate Highway System. The 60th Anniversary of one of America’s greatest accomplishments is most certainly an occasion worthy of recognition.
You can learn more about the Interstate’s 60th in the June 29th issue of the Washington Post.
AAA predicts that 1.8 million Ohioans will travel this 4th of July weekend! That’s an increase of 2.3% over last year and marks the highest 4th of July travel volume on record. If you’re traveling Ohio’s highways and local roads this weekend, keep the traffic conditions in mind and stay safe. Some new technology from the Ohio Department of Transportation can help you do so.
You can avoid traffic tie-ups during the holiday by using ODOT’s new mobile app – OHGO – for personal traffic alerts, information on road construction and travel delays, and hands-free voice on the go. The app is available on the App Store and Google Play. The OHGO app is definitely worth checking out, not only for the July 4th weekend, but to stay informed about traffic conditions throughout the year. An ODOT news release has more information including a list of current state highway projects that could impact your travel. Thanks to ODOT for creating handy app that will help motorists throughout Ohio.
Happy 4th of July to everyone! Buckle up, don’t drink and drive, enjoy the holiday and stay safe!
The Ohio Department of Transportation announcement of plans for the 2016 construction season generated a lot of media coverage in recent weeks. And rightly so! The numbers are impressive. Overall, ODOT will invest $2.1 billion this year in 1,100 infrastructure projects statewide. ODOT’s news release states that, collectively the projects “are designed to improve the condition of roads and bridges, increase safety, and make the transportation of people and goods more efficient.”
ODOT’s 2016 construction agenda is a diligent, well-planned effort. Approximately 90% of the construction budget is dedicated to improving the condition of 1,167 bridges and 6,485 miles of pavement. Also included are 157 additional projects that focus specifically on safety. The remaining 10% of the construction budget will be used to add capacity to the system where it is most needed, primarily expanding roads to ease current levels of traffic congestion.
The 2016 construction plan and budget allocation remain true to ODOT’s aggressive preservation strategy – to get the longest life possible out of our road and bridge surfaces with the best quality possible. They are doing a tremendous job with the financial resources available. To achieve more would require substantially more funding – and that is not expected in the near future.
The federal government’s 2015 “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” – or FAST Act – will keep highway funding flowing to the states for the time being. But with the federal gas tax stuck at 18.4 cents-per-gallon since 1993, the Highway Trust Fund will face insolvency once again in just a few years. Unfortunately, the FAST Act included no plan for a sustainable, long-term funding mechanism. At the state level, Ohio’s gas tax has remained at 28 cents-per-gallon for ten years or more. And since the Ohio gas tax is not adjusted for inflation, the dollars collected simply don’t buy as much as they did a decade ago.
What can we conclude? In the current funding scenario, ODOT will certainly continue its excellent work and preservation strategy for our roads and bridges. We can count on their pledge of – “Taking Care of What We Have.” However, if Ohioans want the level of expansion needed to create an outstanding transportation system that will carry our state well into the future, a meaningful discussion about sustainable, long-term funding must begin right now. Excellent roads and bridges that help keep transportation safe and power Ohio’s economic engine do not come free. They require a commitment from all of us. The investment is worth it!
Each year the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) conducts a review of state bridge data compiled in the Federal Highway Administration’s “National Bridge Inventory” database. ARTBA’s analysis of the 2015 federal data found that nearly 59,000 or 9.5% of the nation’s bridges are considered “structurally deficient.” While these bridges may not be imminently unsafe, the purpose of the report is to help educate the public and policymakers that they have structural deficiencies that need repair. Unfortunately, the funding made available to state and local transportation departments for bridge work is not keeping pace with needs.
Let’s take a look at how the numbers stack up for bridges in Ohio. Highlights from ARTBA’s 2016 Annual Bridge Report include:
Overall, Ohio has the 2nd largest inventory of bridges in the nation. Based on the ARTBA data, Ohio ranks #12 based on the number of Structurally Deficient bridges and #33 based on the percentage of Structurally Deficient Bridges. But regardless of how you look at it, we want to do better. After all, Ohio is also one of the most heavily traveled states for both passenger vehicles and commercial freight. Consider these statistics from the Ohio Department of Transportation Annual Fact Book for 2015:
With numbers like that, Ohio must continue to strive for excellence in its transportation infrastructure. A safe, well-maintained and uncongested system of highways and bridges is something that every resident and visitor traveling through Ohio should be able to count on.
The Transportation Investment Advocacy Center (TIAC) recently updated its website with a new look and expanded content. The redesigned website is a handy reference source that helps private citizens, legislators, businesses and organizations advocate for more transportation infrastructure resources at the state and local levels.
The TIAC website features an interactive U.S. map allowing visitors to easily review transportation funding developments state-by-state. The site is loaded with dozens of reports and case studies covering state and local funding initiatives that have occurred over the past several years. Visitors can also sign up for a free e-mail subscription to TranspoAdvocate News, which provides updates on transportation issues and funding initiatives several times a week. Additionally, the site includes a digital library of presentations given at the “National Workshop for State and Local Transportation Advocates” in 2014 and 2015.
The TIAC site was originally launched in 2014 by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). Check it out when you have a few minutes. A brief visit will be time well-spent.
Ohio Contractors Association President Chris Runyan comments on the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” (FAST Act)
On Dec. 3, 2015, the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approved legislation – the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” (FAST Act) – that reauthorized funding for the federal surface transportation programs through FY 2020. President Obama signed the bill into law the next day. Enactment of this legislation follows years of hard advocacy work by OCA and its members, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and countless other organizations and individuals from across the country who understand that transportation is the backbone of this nation’s economic and social prosperity. Everyone in the transportation construction industry across America is deeply indebted to those that have consistently promoted passage of a long-term transportation bill over many years and many Congressional visits and discussions.
Under the FAST Act, Ohio will receive $7.1 billion in federal funding over the next five years to invest in its highway improvement program. In FY 2015, Ohio received nearly $1.29 billion in federal funds. The federal highway apportionments to Ohio will increase, growing from $1.36 billion in FY 2016 to $1.48 billion in FY 2020.
Disappointingly, the FAST Act fails to address the major challenge facing the federal highway and public transportation program – the Highway Trust Fund’s (HTF’s) permanent structural revenue deficit. Instead of enacting a long-term funding plan to provide states and the private sector with certainty about highway and transit investment post-FY 2020, President Obama and the members of Congress defaulted to the path of least resistance by providing a large, one-time transfer of General Fund resources, produced largely by accounting chicanery, to the HTF.
As a result, certainty provided by the FAST Act will be short-lived. Absent remedial congressional action, another revenue shortfall will impact Ohio’s state construction program as early as 2019 when the federal funding cycle begins to wane and the Ohio Turnpike bonding program has been tapped out. A permanent solution for the trust fund remains the key focus of transportation funding efforts moving forward.
ARTBA President & CEO Pete Ruane’s comments on the 2017 Federal transportation budget are clear, direct and right on point. Here is the full text of his statement:
(WASHINGTON) – American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President & CEO Pete Ruane issued the following statement regarding President Barack Obama’s FY 2017 budget:
“The President’s FY 2017 transportation budget proposal is an explicit admission that he and the Congress did not provide long-term sustainability for Highway Trust Fund programs when they enacted the FAST Act in December.
“The President’s proposal to levy a $10 fee on a barrel of oil to stabilize and grow Highway Trust Fund investments through user funding is exactly the type of solution that is necessary going forward. Unfortunately, the game was played last year and the President was AWOL.
“Speaker Ryan’s knee-jerk, dismissive reaction to the President’s proposal is similarly not helpful. Where is his long-term funding solution for the nation’s highway and transit programs?
“Congress and the White House have an obvious choice: more budget gimmicks that defy common sense and constrain state transportation plans, or a permanent revenue fix like the per barrel fee or some other user-based mechanism.
“Any tax reform package that moves forward this year or next must address the Highway Trust Fund solvency problem head-on.”
Since 1902, ARTBA has been the “consensus voice” of the U.S. transportation design and construction industry before Congress, the White House, federal agencies, news media and the general public.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is responsible for 43,000 miles of Ohio roads and 14,000 of the state’s bridges. In fact, ODOT spends 93% of its time and resources maintaining Ohio’s roadways. But while the cost of road repair increased with inflation over the past ten years, funding did not. Each $1.00 spent on repair in 2006 would require an expenditure of $1.56 today. In comparison, the state gas tax, which provides the primary source of highway funding, has remained flat since 2006. In a bold effort to make each dollar go further, ODOT recently launched “Taking Care of What We Have” an innovative program designed to preserve Ohio’s roadways and stave off the high cost of replacement.
“Taking Care of What We Have” focuses on extending the service life of existing roads and bridges through a powerful combination of Technology, Aggressive Preservation and Collaboration. ODOT now uses state-of-the-art pavement management software technology to analyze road conditions and determine road resurfacing priorities. Their preservation strategy follows an aggressive schedule of cleaning, sealing, painting and resurfacing roads and bridges statewide. And to ensure the preservation strategy works, the program requires ongoing collaboration between ODOT planning engineers, highway technicians and contractors.
“Taking Care of What We Have” is a bold initiative for sure, but what does it mean to the citizens of Ohio? Consider these benefits, taken directly from the FAQ section of ODOT’s Preservation web site:
First, it results in better roadway conditions, improving safety and traffic flow for motorists, truck drivers, motorcyclists, and bicyclists – all road users across the state.
Second, it’s important to our economy because the roads under ODOT’s care move 67% of the state’s freight traffic. Plus, better road conditions help you get to work on time, products to the store when you need them, and your latest online order to your door.
Third, it’s a smarter use of Ohio’s taxpayer dollars – paying smaller amounts on the work we do now so we don’t pay a lot more to fix problems later.
Kudos to ODOT for developing this proactive program! Be sure to check out the Maintaining Roads and Bridges section and the “Taking Care of What We Have” video on the ODOT website. They are chock full of great information that all Ohioans should know.
The “Look Twice Save a Life” campaign has reminded motorists that they are sharing the road with motorcyclists. Recent statistics, however, are showing that the campaign should be expanded so motorists also are on an increased lookout for pedestrians.
Just as distracted driving habits (Figure 1) injure more than 420,000 people annually and kill more than nine people every day, pedestrians are doing more and more distractive things that are putting them at risk. Research is showing that the number of distracted pedestrians is increasing.
In the February 2015 release of the U.S. DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Traffic Safety Facts from 2013:
In 2013, Ohio recorded 85 pedestrian traffic fatalities, which was the 14th-highest of any state in the nation. California led the U.S. with 701 pedestrian fatalities.
The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that distracted walking injuries involving cellphones accounted for an average of 1,000 injuries a year from 2000-2011, notoriously earning a spot for the first time on the NSC’s statistical report, Injury Facts® – which tracks data on the leading causes of unintentional injuries and deaths.
“Whether we are in the car or on foot, it is important to be aware of our surroundings, even if they are familiar,” said NSC President/CEO Deborah Hersman. “… No call, text or update is worth an injury.”
More than six out of 10 pedestrian mishaps are caused by phone use, which result most commonly dislocations or fractures, sprains or strains and concussions. According to the Pew Research Center, 53 percent of all adult cellphone users have bumped into something or someone – or been on the receiving end of a bump – because of distracted walking. The increased use of cellphones by pedestrians – which are defined as any person on foot that is walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting or lying down –has created the moniker of “petextrian.” The Urban Dictionary defines a petextrian as “one who texts while walking, usually unaware of their surroundings.”
According to the NSC, “The rise in cellphone distracted walking injuries parallels the eight-fold increase in cellphone use in the last 15 years. It is just as important to walk cell free as it is to drive cell free. Pedestrians and drivers using cellphones are both impaired and mentally distracted to focus on their surroundings. For pedestrians, this distraction can cause them to trip, cross roads unsafely or walk into motionless objects such as street signs, doors or walls.”
A study by Australia’s University of Queensland shows that petextrians reading or writing are physiologically impacted. The study showed that pedestrians walk at a slower rate when handling a cellphone – especially when texting – and are unable to walk in a straight line. Also, a pedestrian who is using a cellphone keeps his head down and neck immobile.
Cellphone use is just one of several activities distracting pedestrians. In a study conducted by the University of Georgia, distracted pedestrians were observed talking to other people, wearing headphones, texting, talking on their phones or engaged in multiple activities such as texting and listening to music. (Figure 2)
According to ABC News, distracted walkers take one to two seconds longer to cross the street and are more likely to ignore traffic lights or neglect to look both ways. Ironically, researchers found that distracted walkers are more likely to use crosswalks – perhaps trying to offset their risky behavior.”
Distracted pedestrians, just another reason motorists need to look twice to save a life.