Edmonton Presents Complete Streets Guidelines

Edmonton will be presenting their Complete Streets Design Guidelines to their council on May 13, 2013. In addition to the Complete Streets document, Edmonton is also introducing the final draft of their Designing New Neighborhoods Guidelines. Both policies complement and support each other.

Major cities like Edmonton have developed guidelines like these to help develop roadways and transportation corridors to better serve users of all modes of travel. Sites like Complete Streets for Canada and National Complete Streets Coalition provide resources for agencies interested in developing and implementing their own Complete Streets policies and guidelines. The map below from the National Complete Streets Coalition illustrates how many cities in the United States have adopted some level of Complete Streets initiative.

A map of cities in Canada with Complete Streets initiatives can be found on the Complete Streets Canada website. And for an example of complete streets guidelines for a city outside of North America, check out the Abu Dhabi Urban Street Design Manual



April’s Recommended Reading List for Civil Engineers

Lately quite a few good resources have shown up in my email. So I've compiled a reading list for this month to showcase these new releases. The first publication I'd like to recommend is:

Minimizing Traffic-Related Work Zone Crashes in Illinois by The Illinois Center for Transportation at the University of Illinois 

If you are involved in work zone safety, particularly in Illinois, you'll definitely want to check this out. Although much of the report focuses on Illinois, in one section it also lists some of the statistics about work zone crashes in several different states. Below is a page from the document summarizing the advantages and disadvantages of the different work zone strategies. 

FHWA-ICT-12-017 26 page 9

The next item might not make it to most people's reading lists: Composting Animal Mortality Removed From Roads: A Pilot Study of Rotary Drum and Forced Aeration Compost Vessels by the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research

I'm including this report mainly because it highlights a topic that seems to be rarely discussed: disposal of animals picked up by highway departments. According to the report, "the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) removes an estimated 55,000 deer carcasses from its roadways each year at a cost of more than $4 million per year." That's a lot of money to spend on getting rid of dead animals. It's good to see that Virginia is investigating more efficient ways to handle this and sharing the information with others because every highway maintenance department deals with this issue.

And finally a newly released publication from the City of Chicago Department of Transportation: Complete Streets Chicago Design Guidelines.

This is a nicely laid out publication offering a look at how the Chicago DOT will incorporate a complete streets approach to transportation.

City of Chicago DOT Complete Street Design Guidelines


If you have any favorite publications of your own, we'd love to hear about them!


Computer Tips & Roundabout Resources You’ll Want to Know About

I recently accepted a job offer and made the move to an office where I am able to work with a large number of engineers. Another huge benefit I found after arriving is that for the first time in about 20 years I am working in a job where my supervisor has the same or more advanced computer skills than myself. And while there are most definitely many other pluses, one I am also particularly appreciative of is that with this move I was able to jump ahead at least a decade or more in technology and can again work with current software and hardware. We are even using 3D technology! So, it's definitely been a good month, and I feel very fortunate. But in the end, sometimes it's the little things that make a big impression. Within the first few days, I was able to pick up a couple simple computer tips from my new supervisor that I am ashamed I didn't already know. But they have proved to be so darn useful, I have to pass them along, at the risk of looking stupid, just in case others are like me and use the computer all the time yet somehow these little tips got past them.

Simple yet essential computer tips:

First, I learned how to zoom the display on my computer: Control + mouse wheel. Try it! Now! All these years I've been trying to use the zoom controls in software to see things on the screen better when all I ever had to do was hold down my control key and scroll with the mouse key. How did I not know this!!?

Next is an Excel tip – to get a hard return in a cell that allows you to type two lines of text and have them be on two separate lines in the cell, just hit Alt+Enter. All these years, I was using wrap text and putting in spaces to force it to wrap to the next line within the same cell when I could have just put in Alt+enter after the first line and avoided all those spaces! How did I not know this!!?

alt+enter buttons

Anyway, now I do, and now, you do too! (or possibly you already knew it and are wondering how in the world I did not already know this!!)

Finally, Roundabouts!

Last subject I wanted to touch on for those of you into transportation is roundabouts. If it's a topic you are into, you might want to check out the following two resources I discovered over the last few days:

TRB Webinar: Roundabout Design and Development Review – May 16, 2013, 2:00 p.m.- 3:30 p.m. ET. This is a webinar moderated by Brian Walsh from the Washington State Department of Transportation. If you work for one of the sponsors of the Transportation Research Board, this webinar is free for you. However, even if you don't, the cost is only $99.

FHWA Roundabout Outreach and and Education Toolbox – the Federal Highway Administration has set up an "everything about roundabouts" site. No matter what you are looking for related to roundabouts, I think they must have it here. There are links to brochures, videos, photos, graphics, presentations, etc. The contact person for the site, Jeff Shaw, is a great and very helpful engineer I had the good fortune to meet several years ago. If you need to know anything about roundabouts, Jeff is definitely the guy to help you out.



How Can We Protect Critical Infrastructure When We Can’t Even Prevent Message Board Hacking?

Lately we've had some experiences in our area with hacking of construction message boards. At first, I figured it must have been some programmers who figured out how to get into the computer system. But after seeing another report of it today, I searched for "how to hack a highway message board" and found there are numerous sites with the instructions telling people how to do this. And it seems fairly simple – I didn't want to promote how here, but you certainly can search for yourself to see what I mean. It also seems like it has been going on for years. So I have to question why our industry has not addressed this. We are so concerned over traffic safety and reducing injuries and deaths, but we must have no provisions or penalties for not ensuring these boards are secure. If our industry cannot even manage to secure a simple message board, how can we possibly hope to ensure critical infrastructure systems like water, electric, and sewer plants are protected?

Graffiti on Electronic Road Sign, Cnr Abbotsford Rd and Montpelier Rd, Bowen Hills, 070114-1

Photo from David Jackmanson




Asphalt Infographic

The next infographic up for your viewing pleasure comes from the National Asphalt Pavement Association – definitely a site you'll want to check out for everything asphalt. Thanks to T. Carter Ross, vice president for communications, for sharing their infographic "7 Keys to Highly Successful Parking Lots."  This infographic is based upon an informative and helpful brochure: "Seven Steps to to a Highly Successful Parking Lot" published by PAIKY – Plantmix Asphalt Industry of Kentucky. (You can click on it to get a larger image.)

7 Keys to Highly Successful Parking Lots





Street Bump – useful but not ready for prime time engineering

Today I tried out Street Bump – a mobile application designed and developed by Connected Bits, LLC and produced by the Mayor's office of Boston. This application, available for the iPhone, picks up bumps in the road as people drive along a street with their phone. Because smoothness or "the ride" is one component we assess when we rate roadway condition, I thought it would be worthwhile test driving the application, literally.

Street Bump MapSo far, I only tested it on two trips, and here's what I observed. My phone measured one bump on my first trip along 3.44 miles of mainly country roads and three bumps along 3.10 miles of the same route, but traveling in the opposite direction. The first bump on the first trip seemed to occur as we crossed the centerline to turn into a driveway and was plotted in an accurate location. On the second trip, I did not catch where the first bump showed up. The second seemed to occur when I switched the sound on while recording my trip, and it accurately plotted the location where I was when I did this. (I also want to mention I was a passenger on both trips.) The third bump occurred when we moved across a rough transition from a recent paving job onto the older pavement, but this one did not accurately plot. The bump had been in the westbound lane of a road we had turned left onto, but the map plotted it in the northbound lane of the road we had been traveling along before turning.

One feature I thought of right away that would be helpful is an indication showing me the roads where I have already driven. Right now, only bumps appear to be plotted. So if no bumps are recorded along a street, there is no documentation that I have checked that route and it is clear of bumps. It would also be helpful if I could delete specific bumps like the one that seemed to be caused by me turning my sound on. Currently the application only allows you to delete an entire trip.

Steet Bump MeasurementI did notice there seems to be a type of measurement of the roughness of the bump which is interesting. And while this could be useful in indicating the severity of the road condition, smoothness is only one factor engineers look at when rating a road. At work, we've been using the Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating Asphalt PASER Manual to rate our roads. The method used in this manual considers cracking including the type of cracks, rutting, flushing, raveling, and weathering for example. Then a rating is assigned from one to ten with ten being the best based on the severity of these factors. Of course after establishing the rating, there are other elements to look at when choosing roads for repair such as traffic counts and funding.

To be fair to the developer, I don't think they intended for the application to be used by engineers for rating roads. But since it was produced by a city, I was trying to figure out how a map showing bumps picked up by people driving through our town could be used by our city staff. One of the concerns I would have is if actions such as crossing a centerline, turning into a driveway, and changing the volume or sound settings on the phone causes a bump to be recorded, we could be wasting staff time sending people out to check out each bump. And I would be worried that people, or in some cities elected officials, might look at those maps online and contact us wondering what is wrong and why we are not doing something about the bump when perhaps the bump is not a true reflection of the road condition. But I could see how it would be useful to consult while we are out rating roads as one more piece of data to consider. And there is a lot of potential as it becomes more widely used and other features added.

So if you're a transportation professional, what are your thoughts of apps like this and the expectations people have of their transportation agencies based on the output from these type of applications? As an example of how the data is presented publicly, here's the map for Boston showing what has been recorded so far in the area shown.

Street Bump Map in Boston