Oregon DOT Seeks Applications for Mobility Micro Grants

The Oregon Department of Transportation is seeking applications for its new Innovative Mobility Micro-Grants. The $5,000 grants are the first project to come forward from the $20 million Innovative Mobility Program, a new initiative created by the agency in March at the direction of the Oregon Transportation Commission.

[Above photo by the Oregon DOT]

The Oregon DOT said its Innovative Mobility Program aims to make it easier for state residents to walk, bike, share rides, and take transit. The program has a special focus on equity and helping historically excluded groups get to where they need to go more quickly, cheaply, and safely.

“There’s a major transportation evolution happening across the country, and we have a chance to make sure that communities of color and other marginalized individuals who have been excluded in the past have place, purpose, and priority in Oregon’s future transportation investments,” said Alando Simpson, vice chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission, in a statement.

Cycling Group Holding Bike Route Webinar for State DOTs

The Adventure Cycling Association is hosting a webinar in November entitled “Successful U.S. Bicycle Route System Designation for Transportation Professionals” for state department of transportation executives and managers.

[Above photo by NYSDOT]

In this one-hour webinar, the group plans to dive into efforts to expand the U.S. Bicycle Route System or USBRS into a national network for long-distance bicycle travel. State DOTs create specific bicycle routes, with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials providing oversight and Adventure Cycling providing technical support for that process.

[Editor’s note: In February 2021, AASHTO and Adventure Cycling signed a memorandum of understanding or MOU to formalize their 16-year partnership, which seeks to create a 50,000-mile national bicycle network.]

Webinar presenters include:

  • Jenn Hamelman, Adventure Cycling’s USBRS program manager.
  • Matt Hardy, AASHTO program director for planning and performance management.
  • Kyla Elzinga, AASHTO associate program director for planning and performance management.
  • Meg Fennell, transportation analyst with the New York State Department of Transportation state bicycle and pedestrian unit.
  • Karen Lorf, NYSDOT state bicycle, and pedestrian coordinator.
  • Jerry Scott, multimodal data system coordinator for the Transportation Data & Analytics Office at the Florida Department of Transportation. 
  • Tiffany Gehrke, Florida DOT Roadway Design Office’s Complete Streets coordinator.

To register for this webinar, click here

Adventure Cycling said it would not record the November webinar, which is limited to 40 participants. By contrast, in December, Adventure Cycling plans to hold a second webinar on the USBRS for a wider audience – mainly for any person or group considered a stakeholder in the USBRS designation process – with unlimited audience size.

Connecticut DOT Breaks Ground on Active Transportation Trail

The Connecticut Department of Transportation, along with other state and local officials, recently hosted a groundbreaking ceremony (seen above) for the Putnam Bridge Trail Connections between Wethersfield and Glastonbury across the Connecticut River. 

[Above photo by the Connecticut DOT]

When completed in the fall of 2023, the Putnam Bridge Trail Connections project will provide non-motorized access across the Connecticut River by linking the shared used path on the Putnam Bridge to Great Meadow Road in Wethersfield and Naubuc Avenue in Glastonbury.

The project will also install sidewalks will also be installed on both sides of Naubuc Avenue, with additional connections planned for the Goodwin College trails in East Hartford.  

“Finishing the current gaps to the bridge allows the public to choose an active mode of transportation and safely cross the river. When completed, residents and visitors can enjoy the businesses and recreational activities on both sides of the river,” said Connecticut DOT Commissioner Joe Giulietti in a statement.

“The Putnam Bridge brings vehicles over the Connecticut River between Wethersfield and Glastonbury, and by the end of next year, it will also be accessible to pedestrians and cyclists,” he added. “This is a great project that connects communities and helps keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe.”

[Editor’s note: Connecticut DOT’s Giulietti recently received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Public Transportation Association for his 50-plus years of service in the transportation industry. He is one of nine APTA award recipients in 2022 across various categories.]

The agency noted that construction costs for the Putnam Bridge Trail Connections project are approximately $8.2 million and are 100 percent state funded.

State departments of transportation across the country are involved in similar active transportation trail projects.

For example, the Nevada Department of Transportation recently hosted an opening ceremony for a new multi-use trail at Kershaw-Ryan State Park in Caliente, NV.

That $1.36 million project along SR-317 – which took under four months to complete – received funds from the city of Caliente with matching federal dollars from the Transportation Alternatives Fund administered by the Nevada DOT, which also designed the trail project. Work included a chip seal, restripe, and new signage on Clover St. from SR-317 to Depot Ave. 

“Nevada DOT really went the extra mile, both literally and figuratively,” said Jeff Fontaine, executive director of the Lincoln County Regional Development Authority, said in a statement. “They worked really hard to make sure that this project was something the community of Lincoln County and the city could afford. They capped the cost of the project for the county and the city.”

Meanwhile, a team of Utah State University researchers recently explored how to use the state’s network of historic canal trails as an active transportation solution. That study is poised to help the Utah Department of Transportation and community leaders make decisions about building canal paths and trails.

The Utah DOT funded the university’s research project – entitled “Active Transportation Facilities in Canal Corridors” – that the American Society of Civil Engineers subsequently published in June.

By reviewing case studies of existing canal trails – such as the Murdock Canal Trail in Utah County and the Highline Trail in Cache County – and interviewing stakeholders like canal operators and local planners, the USU team found there are many potential benefits for communities who want to build canal paths and trails.

Utah DOT Poised to Tap into University’s Trail Study

A team of Utah State University researchers recently explored how to use the state’s network of historic canal trails as an active transportation solution. That study is poised to help the Utah Department of Transportation and community leaders make decisions about building canal paths and trails, USU detailed in a blog post.

[Above photo by USU]

The Utah DOT funded the university’s research project – entitled “Active Transportation Facilities in Canal Corridors” – that the American Society of Civil Engineers subsequently published in June.

By reviewing case studies of existing canal trails – such as the Murdock Canal Trail in Utah County and the Highline Trail in Cache County – and interviewing stakeholders like canal operators and local planners, the USU team found there are many potential benefits for communities who want to build canal paths and trails.

“One potential benefit of creating a canal trail formally is to formalize that use,” said Patrick Singleton, an assistant professor of transportation at USU and one of the project’s researchers.

“A lot of people are using canals informally as trails in some cases,” he said. “And by formalizing that use, there can be some protections for the canal or the property owners along the canal.”

Building bicycle/pedestrian trails alongside open canals or atop closed canals can also create a “mutual interest” between community leaders and canal operators to keep the corridor clean. In the case of covered canals, a trail can help preserve the canal easement and make it easier to repair the canal if needed.

The research found that the primary challenges to building canal trails are land ownership, maintenance, safety, liability, funding and privacy. These challenges can be overcome using long-term planning, stakeholder collaboration, iterative design and active public involvement.

The school’s researchers said they hope this study will make community leaders more aware of both the opportunity and the steps required to help trail networks succeed.

Five States Help Expand U.S. Bicycle Route System

Three new U.S. Bicycle Routes in Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Delaware, along with the realignment and extension of additional routes through Indiana and Michigan, have added more than 650 miles to the U.S. Bicycle Route or USBR system. 

[Above photo by the Minnesota DOT]

The new routes in Oklahoma and Delaware are the first U.S. Bicycle Routes in those states, while the new route in Minnesota is its fourth. USBR 66 in Oklahoma boasts the most rideable miles of Historic Route 66, the “Mother Road.” At the same time, USBR 20 in Minnesota offers miles of off-road riding and several of the state’s 10,000 lakes, and USBR 201 through Delaware takes in historic sites and Delaware River views.

Michigan and Indiana realigned and extended existing routes based on feedback from bicyclists and local communities and due to the completion of infrastructure improvements and other projects.

“It’s been 96 years since the iconic Route 66 opened to motor vehicle traffic in the U.S.,” said Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, in a statement.

“Now, cyclists can follow the historic route for more than 400 miles through Oklahoma using the newly designated USBR 66,” he added. “This latest round of U.S. Bicycle Route System designations exemplifies AASHTO’s steadfast commitment to creating active transportation facilities in rural and urban America.”

“We’re excited to coordinate this project to build a better future for bicycle travel across the United States,” said Jennifer O’Dell, executive director of the Adventure Cycling Association. “The latest designations are powerful momentum in this long-term effort.”

The U.S. Bicycle Route System is a developing national network of officially designated, numbered, and signed routes that use existing roads, trails, and other facilities appropriate for bike travel. It will eventually encompass 50,000 miles of routes and open new opportunities for cross-country travel, regional touring, and commuting by bike.

State departments of transportation develop U.S. Bicycle Routes, which AASHTO then officially designates. With the latest designations and realignments noted above, the USBR system now boasts 18,534 miles of routes in 33 states and Washington, D.C. At least 38 states are currently developing additional U.S. bicycle routes, AASHTO noted.

The nonprofit Adventure Cycling Association helps coordinates national development of the USBR system, offering technical assistance, volunteer coordination, and outreach to help states achieve official designation of routes.

In February 2021, AASHTO and Adventure Cycling signed a memorandum of understanding or MOU to formalize their 16-year partnership, which seeks to create a national bike route network that “mirrors that of the national interstate system.”

WSDOT Unveils Final Statewide Active Transportation Plan

The Washington State Department of Transportation recently unveiled its complete statewide active transportation plan to address what Governor Jay Inslee (D) called “multiple challenges” facing the state.

[Above photo by the WSDOT]

“We need a greener future for our children and grandchildren and walking and cycling represent the cleanest and greenest modes of travel,” said the governor said in a statement.

“We also need to make our system accessible for those people who can’t drive and who rely on walking or rolling to transit to get where they need to go,” Gov. Inslee added. “These multimodal journeys also contribute to our climate goals. I’m proud of our state for creating a bold plan to create safer and more accessible active transportation connections for all Washingtonians.”

WSDOT completed its plan with a two-part process, collecting public comment on part one in May 2021 and on its two final chapters in late fall 2021. The plan serves as a compass for charting the way toward a truly multimodal transportation system, the agency said

“Active transportation plays an essential role in a fully multimodal transportation system,” noted Roger Millar, WSDOT’s secretary. “Almost 30 percent of the trips we take each day are less than a mile in length, yet we often drive because there is no safe alternative. We need to make it safer for people who are just trying to cross the street or ride their bike to school or work or to the store.”

Millar – who also serves as the 2021-2022 vice president for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – added that with this plan, his state is “pointing the way to where and how we could invest in the system that works for everyone, no matter how they get around.”

Key parts of the plan include:

  • Assessment of the needs for accessible pedestrian and bicyclist facilities, highlighting safety concerns and providing the first-ever examination of state right-of-way and its suitability for active transportation.
  • New metrics for tracking and reporting progress that emphasize the importance of complete and accessible walk/bike facilities and connections to transit and other modes.
  • Calculations regarding the environmental, health and economic benefits to society when people shift trips from driving to walking or cycling.
  • Construction of a “rational approach” to prioritizing safety and operational performance needs on state highways as part of the overall networks people use to reach their destinations to help guide future transportation investment plans.
  • Incorporation of a “Safe System Approach,” which emphasizes using engineering approaches that acknowledge humans make mistakes and that crashes with greater impact force are more deadly, especially for vulnerable road users.

WSDOT said the plan notes that improvements for people walking, rolling, or cycling provide more information to drivers as well. It provides examples such as pedestrian-scale lighting and crossing visibility so drivers can see and stop in time.

It also includes designs that provide a “self-enforcing road” to help people drive at the appropriate speed for a place with a mix of destinations and people walking or cycling.

AASHTO Issues Revised Pedestrian Facilities Guide

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently released the second edition of the Guide for the Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities.

This new and completely revised edition – which supersedes the guide’s first edition, published in 2004 – provides guidance on the planning, design, and operation of pedestrian facilities along streets and highways.

The new guide focuses on identifying effective measures for accommodating pedestrians on public rights-of-way as well as appropriate methods for accommodating pedestrians, which vary among roadway and facility types.

The primary audiences for this guide include planners, roadway designers, and transportation engineers – whether at the state or local level – the majority of whom make decisions on a daily basis that affect pedestrians. This guide also recognizes the impact of land-use planning and site design on pedestrian mobility.

The new guide is available to purchase in hardcopy, as a PDF Download (either single-user, five-user, or ten-user), or in a set that includes both the hardcopy and single-user PDF Download at a discounted rate. For more information on the new pedestrian guide, visit the online AASHTO Store and search by the Item Code GPF-2 or go directly to new publication by clicking here.

State DOTs Issue Grants to Support Active Transportation Projects

The Georgia Department of Transportation and North Carolina Department of Transportation recently issued millions in grants to support a variety of alternative transportation projects across their respective states.

[Above photo by the Georgia DOT]

In partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, the Georgia DOT awarded nine Transportation Alternatives Program or TAP grants totaling over $4.5 million to support the development and/or improvement of multi-use trails, sidewalks, bicycle, pedestrian, and streetscapes in nine counties statewide.

Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell McMurry said TAP grants provide an opportunity for local governments to pursue “non-traditional” transportation related activities, with those awards comprised of 80 percent federal funds with a 20 percent local match.

“One of our most important initiatives is ensuring the safety of the public and these projects, while not traditional road improvement projects, certainly lend themselves to enhancing the safety of the pedestrians of Georgia,” he noted in a statement.

Meanwhile, NCDOT said in a statement that it is providing grants to 13 municipalities statewide with bicycle and pedestrian planning efforts.

The NCDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant program, now in its 19th year, helps North Carolina communities develop a comprehensive strategy for expanding bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and improving the safety of our transportation network for all users.

Jointly sponsored by the agency’s Integrated Mobility Division and Transportation Planning Division, that program has to date issued more than $7.5 million to support for 244 plans in 238 municipalities and 6 counties.

Active Transportation Council Building “Research Roadmap”

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Council on Active Transportation is planning to implement a “research roadmap” finalized in July to “prioritize and categorize” state DOT pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure investments in the near future.

[Council Chair Toks Omishakin, director of the California Department of Transportation, is second from left in the above photo with Vice-Chair Melissa Batula, deputy secretary for highway administration for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, at far left.]

That roadmap – developed via the National Cooperative Highway Research Program or NCHRP – seeks to focus on six specific areas:

  • Applying and integrating active transportation data into planning and operations
  • Using minimum accommodations versus alternative approaches to increase active transportation
  • Determining context-driven optimal spacing between marked crosswalks
  • Addressing barriers to integrating active transportation throughout planning and engineering practice
  • Racial and economic disparities in pedestrian and bicyclist safety
  • Speed management solutions and strategies to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety on arterial roadways

“As you know, the Active Transportation Council was created as part of the AASHTO restructuring a few years ago, born from the institutional desire to make active transportation more prominent within the association,” explained Omishakin during a panel discussion during AASHTO’s annual meeting in San Diego.

“The Active Transportation Council has also successfully collaborated with various AASHTO committees in 2021,” he added. “For example, earlier this year, we worked with the Committee on Safety to hold a peer exchange on active transportation safety, with the discussion including data collection, asset management, plus project planning and delivery.”

Omishakin emphasized that, in terms of active transportation external engagement, AASHTO entered into a memorandum of understanding or MOU in February with the Adventure Cycling Association in terms of expanding their joint efforts to expand the U.S. Bicycle Route System or USBRS. That helped spur the designation of 18 new bicycle routes in five states in August, adding 2,903 miles to the USBRS – representing the largest addition to the USBRS to date in terms of both the number of designations and their total mileage.

“We have identified a lot of ways to help one another and work together,” Omishakin stressed during the council’s session at the AASHTO annual meeting. “We will keep both the internal and external conversations and coordination going.”

Oregon DOT Installing More Pedestrian Activated Beacons

Over the next two years, the Oregon Department of Transportation plans to install more than two dozen new rectangular rapid flashing beacons – known as pedestrian-activated beacons – to help improve safety for pedestrians along major traffic corridors in the Portland area and statewide.

[Above photo by the Oregon DOT]

Those rectangular rapid flashing beacons give people walking, rolling, or biking an additional level of control over the traffic they face, the agency explained – activating flashing lights that alert oncoming motorists to people crossing the road.

The Oregon DOT said it started using such beacons on Portland area roads a decade ago and found them to be an effective tool for improving pedestrian safety on busy traffic corridors – especially in areas with long distances between traffic signals.

They provide an additional layer of safety and assurance for anyone crossing a busy road and play an especially important role in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, areas with higher rates of pedestrian injuries, the agency noted in a statement

In the past two years, the Oregon DOT installed 18 pedestrian-activated beacons around the region, including on Southwest Barbur Boulevard (OR 99W), Tualatin Valley Highway (OR 8), Southeast Powell Boulevard (U.S. 26), and OR 211 in Molalla. In the next few years, the agency expects to install 25 more in all three Portland-area counties, including 10 on Southeast Powell Boulevard.

Many other state departments of transportation are deploying similar technology to improve pedestrian safety as well.

For example, the Georgia Department of Transportation is using what are known as “hybrid beacons” to improve crosswalk safety for pedestrians.

Also known as the High intensity Activated crossWalK or HAWK, these beacons are pedestrian-activated warning devices located on the roadside or mounted on “mast arms” over mid-block pedestrian crossings signal both drivers and pedestrians attempting to cross a street.

Such devices are also part of a sweeping set of changes proposed by the Federal Highway Administration in late 2020 to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices or MUTCD – changes the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is urging the agency to keep moving forward on.

“It has been over 10 years since the last update and, during this time, numerous advancements have been made in transportation research, technology, and practice that are not yet reflected in the manual,” AASHTO noted in a May 14 letter to FHWA. [To view AASHTO’s full comments regarding the FHWA’s proposed MUTCD revisions, click here.]

“These advancements have the potential to save lives and prevent serious injuries on the nation’s transportation system,” the group said. “Rescinding the NPA [notice of proposed amendment] and starting over, as some have suggested, would negate years of important work by FHWA and countless volunteers, and would miss the opportunity to save lives now.”