January 2018 Vol. 6, No. 1

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Addressing citizen requests for traffic safety concerns

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A new guidebook from the Minnesota Local Road Research Board (LRRB) provides local agency staff with a best-practice approach for addressing common citizen requests for traffic safety concerns. The guidebook focuses on the importance of communication with citizens when responding to traffic safety concerns or requests.

The document provides guidance on logging requests, steps for following up on a request, standard responses, and an explanation of why a requested strategy may or may not be the appropriate solution.

Because of the differences between urban and rural environments and city and county agencies, as well as variations in staff availability, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The document provides general guidance that can be modified to meet each agency’s needs.

Topics include:

  • Tips to create an open dialogue with citizens
  • How to address social media
  • Steps to address typical requests
  • Keeping record of requests
  • Case studies
  • Example response template letters/e-mails

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Reduced conflict intersections reduce severe crashes

traffic safety study cover

Compared to their untreated counterparts, reduced conflict intersections (RCIs) showed significantly fewer severe right-angle crashes and severe crashes. These are some of the findings in a new report from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Office of Traffic, Safety and Technology.

The RCI is an at-grade intersection on multilane high-speed expressways. Standard at-grade intersections on multilane high-speed expressways typically allow drivers to turn left or right from the minor roadway onto the expressway or travel straight through the intersection by crossing all four-expressway lanes.

The RCI is a newer treatment where minor road drivers who want to continue through the intersection and along the minor road or who want to turn left, will now take a different path. These drivers will turn right onto the major road, drive to a designated U-turn, turn around, and then turn right onto the minor road. There are no changes for the expressway drivers.

In 2010, MnDOT installed the first RCI in Willmar. Since 2010, seven more were constructed, with more planned. The safety performance evaluation found:

  • A 100% reduction of fatal and serious injury right-angle crashes
  • A 77% reduction of all-severity right-angle crashes
  • A 50% reduction of injury crashes

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Minnesota finds a path for blizzard messaging

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MnDOT hosted a workshop last fall to initiate Pathfinder for blizzards. Pathfinder is a collaborative effort of the National Weather Service (NWS) and state DOTs to share and translate weather forecasts into consistent transportation impact statements for the public.

Workshop attendees from MnDOT, the NWS, Minnesota State Patrol, and MnDOT’s weather service provider discussed how blizzards are managed today and used a 2017 blizzard as a case study to assess challenges and opportunities that could be addressed under Pathfinder implementation. Ideas included establishing a private NWSChat and promoting MnDOT participation in NWS webinar briefings.

Pathfinder is one of the road weather management solutions deployed under round four of Every Day Counts (EDC-4). The Pathfinder Implementation Plan lays out a multi-step process on what information to share when and how before, during, and after high-impact weather events. This provides the public with consistent and actionable messages on potential impacts to the transportation system.

(Adapted from the FHWA Innovator, Nov. 9, 2017, and the EDC website.)

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Autonomous vehicles and traffic safety: promises and challenges

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Photo: iStock

To prepare for autonomous vehicles (AVs), states have complex challenges to address—not the least of which is anticipating a mix of AVs and regular vehicles on their roads for decades. During the Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) statewide conference October 26, Jim Hedlund, principal of Highway Safety North, shared this and other findings from a recent report he authored for the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.

AVs are not necessarily driver-less. Rather, these vehicles are classified on a scale ranging from Level 1, which use established technologies such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance but still give control to the driver, to Level 5, which are completely self-driving at all times.

When all vehicles are autonomous, Hedlund said, transportation will become a service, rather than something people own, and crashes will be greatly reduced, since currently about 94 percent of crashes are caused by human error. But predicting just how quickly AVs will be adopted is complicated.

To prepare for what’s literally coming down the road, Minnesota should aim to “be informed, stay informed,” Hedlund said. One way is to join or start a state AV task force and involve manufacturers who want to start testing. Minnesota should also work with other states to develop consistent laws, policies, and procedures. “And get law enforcement at the table; they’re critical,” he said.

Finally, Hedlund urged states to be flexible. “This is really disruptive technology, and developing very quickly.”

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‘Careers in civil engineering’ video, website

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The LRRB, working with SRF Consulting, has created a new video and website aimed at increasing the future pool of civil engineers and technicians. The engaging video invites middle school students to explore the world of a civil engineer and learn what civil engineers do.

The animated video highlights the subdisciplines within civil engineering such as transportation, structures, and so on. It focuses on what young people are interested in today, such as solving problems, working with the latest technologies, and making the world a cleaner and safer place.

The website provides details about engineering and how to become a civil engineer. It includes a question-and-answer section with the following:

  • Why a career as a civil engineer or technician?
  • How to become a civil engineer
  • How to become a civil engineer technician
  • Student engineering activities
  • Student engineering competitions
  • Student video games

The LRRB is working with STEM educators to show the video at schools and encourages local agency staff to use the video and website for any career-related presentations they may give.

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ADA training: accessible design in the public right-of-way

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The LRRB is sponsoring a series of three training courses on the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (1990). The training, offered through Minnesota LTAP, will help local agencies learn about the ADA, develop transition plans, and plan design and construction. The second course in the series has been scheduled for this spring.

The second course focuses on accessible design in the public right‐of‐way. It covers the basic design requirements of the ADA and how those needs relate to the broader concepts of designing facilities that are usable, constructable, and maintainable.

The full‐day course is designed to provide local agencies and their consultants with a detailed understanding of the design of accessible sidewalks, curb ramps, signals, etc., as well as the relationship to project scope. Using an examples‐based approach, the course will guide participants through a series of case studies to demonstrate the role of effective scoping, outside‐in design, context‐based design approaches, and best practices from MnDOT.

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