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SPECIAL EDITION

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF

FREE

TRANSPORTATION

2019 EDITION

SHIFTING GEARS Keep America moving DRIVERLESS VEHICLES Autonomous trucks set pace

ROCKET RIDES TAKING OFF Stars aligning for spaceports

INTERSECTION OF CHANGE High-speed rail at crossroads


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USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

CONTENTS

3 2019 S PECI A L E D ITI O N

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

TUNNEL VISION The future of transportation may lie underground

WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORATION

A worker disassembles the tunneling machine used on the State Route 99 project in Seattle.


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CONTENTS 60

42 This is a product of

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Jeanette Barrett-Stokes jbstokes@usatoday.com

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Jerald Council jcouncil@usatoday.com

MANAGING EDITOR Michelle Washington mjwashington@usatoday.com

ISSUE EDITOR Harry Lister

CHARLIE LEIGHT/ARIZONA REPUBLIC

EDITORS Amy Sinatra Ayres Tracy Scott Forson Sara Schwartz Debbie Williams ISSUE DESIGNER Debra Moore

OVER THE ROAD

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NEWS

6 12 14

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY GETTY IMAGES

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History informs, inspires innovation at DOT

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PEDALING BACKWARD

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BRIDGE TOO FAR?

Trucks are low-hanging fruit on road to autonomous driving

Despite incentives, bike commuting is declining

Report: It will take 80 years to fix deficient structures

CONSTANT MOTION If it moves, chances are DOT plays a role

AIR OF UNCERTAINTY Tough questions linger in wake of 737 Max crashes

BUILDING THE FUTURE

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SMALL ROCKETS, BIG DREAMS Spaceports are taking off across the U.S.

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CLEAR SKIES

Drone delivery nears liftoff

Some states pumping the brakes on smart highway projects

INTERN Amber Tucker CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Matt Alderton, Brian Barth, Jeremy Ervin, Gina Harkins, Trevor Hughes, Bill Moak, Jorge L. Ortiz, Adam Stone, Chris Woodyard

ADVERTISING VP, ADVERTISING Patrick Burke | (703) 854-5914 pburke@usatoday.com

ACCOUNT DIRECTOR Vanessa Salvo | (703) 854-6499 vsalvo@usatoday.com

FINANCE

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ALL HANDS

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FLAGGING SUPPORT

Training ship gives students onboard experience

BILLING COORDINATOR Julie Marco ISSN#0734-7456

U.S. economic, security interests tested by fleet dearth

RAIL

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FAST TRACK

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PROCEED WITH CARE

FAA forecasts modest airline industry growth

BRING IT ON

REDUCED SPEED AHEAD

MARITIME

BUILD grants help improve transportation systems

AVIATION

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SHIFTING GEARS

BACK TO THE FUTURE

ON THE COVER The Department of Transportation oversees all commercial transportation in the U.S.

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DESIGNERS Hayleigh Corkey Amira Martin Gina Toole Saunders Lisa M. Zilka

Could Green New Deal green-light high-speed rail?

A USA TODAY Network publication, Gannett Co. Inc USA TODAY, its logo and associated graphics are the trademarks of Gannett Co. Inc. or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Copyright 2018, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. Editorial and publication headquarters are at 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22108, and at (703) 854-3400. For accuracy questions, call or send an e-mail to accuracy@usatoday.com.

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NEWS

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Back to the Future History informs, inspires innovation at DOT

M

AY 10 MARKED THE 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad, a seminal moment in U.S. history. It connected the two coasts and established a network of towns and cities in between that led to rapid economic and population expansion. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao

attended a celebratory event at Golden Spike National Historic Park in Promontory Summit, Utah. She drew comparisons between that feat of ingenuity and current transportation challenges the nation faces. In recent months, Chao has delivered remarks highlighting several of those obstacles and Department of Transportation’s prescriptions for addressing them. Here are excerpts:


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NEWS “The Transcontinental Railroad was a tremendous feat of engineering, innovation and manpower that was key to unleashing the economic prosperity of the United States for generations. Within three years of its completion, trains could travel from New York City to San Francisco in just one week. Prior to that, travelers endured up to six months or more of dangerous travel by ship or covered wagon to cross the continent. The ability to move people and goods across the continent, at much reduced time and lower cost, led to explosive economic growth. The benefits were felt not only in the big coastal cities, but in the rural interior, which gained access to new markets. Within 10 years of completion, the intercontinental railroads were shipping $50 million of freight from coast to coast each year. “The act of building the transcontinental railroad was transformational. The government provided land and other resources to encourage private sector investment in the railroads. Innovation and planning guided the project. Building from the East, the Union Pacific Railroad hired Irish immigrants to lay track across the Great Plains. Building from the West, the Central Pacific Railroad hired 15,000 workers, of whom 12,000 or more were Chinese immigrants. The Chinese workers blasted and chiseled their way through the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains. Using manual hammer drills, pick axes and explosives, they dug 15 tunnels through hard granite. Snow fell so deeply in the mountains that they had to build roofs over 37 miles of track so supply trains could make it through. The conditions were merciless, dangerous and harsh. An estimated 500 to 1,000 Chinese workers lost their lives. “As the first U.S. secretary of transportation of Chinese ancestry, I have the unique and moving opportunity to fully acknowledge and recognize the contributions and sacrifices of the laborers of Chinese heritage to the construction of the transcontinental railroad. This great history, which helped transform our country, was made possible by a diverse group of brave and determined workers. The railroad laborers and innovators of 150 years ago who helped unite our country (are) every bit as consequential as the digital revolution that binds the world together today.”

EMERGING TECHNOLOGY “Transportation innovation throughout our history propelled economic growth, increased mobility, built com-

EVA HAMBACH/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Uber Elevate Summit attendees inspect a mockup of an Uber Air cabin developed by Safran Cabin’s Design and Innovation Studio.

munities and raised the quality of life for everyone,” Chao said on March 12 at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas. “Innovation is still driving growth and still gives us hope for a better future. At the U.S. Department of Transportation, that future is defined as one in which travel is, first of all, safer. And in which mobility options expand for the benefit of everyone — especially currently underserved communities. Today, the department consists of 11 operating administrations, each with its own jurisdiction and bureaucracy. One administration is focused on railroads, another on cars, another on trucks and so on. We have a 20th-century organizational structure for 21st-century technologies. When new technologies don’t fit neatly into the existing modal structure, the result can slow down — even stifle —transportation innovation. “Hyperloop is an example of this frustrating and unproductive phenomenon. This technology uses a pressurized vacuum tube and magnetic levitation to transport people and goods at ultrafast speeds through a low-friction

“Transportation innovation throughout our history propelled economic growth, increased mobility, built communities and raised the quality of life for everyone. Innovation is still driving growth and still gives us hope for a better future.” — ELAINE CHAO, U.S. secretary of transportation CHRIS KLEPONIS/EFE-EPA PHOTOS

environment. The department has been approached by multiple entities — including state and local governments and several companies — who are interested in developing this technology. But one look at DOT’s structure, and it is not at all clear which mode governs hyperloop. In fact, more than one mode arguably has jurisdiction. “Tunneling is another example. Seems

simple. Tunnels in and of themselves certainly are not a new concept, but innovation has transformed tunneling for transportation, making it possible on a scale and with a speed and precision previously inconceivable. You have probably heard about some tunneling projects that would dig underneath CONTI NUED


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NEWS

AS OF DECEMBER, THERE WERE NEARLY

1.3

MILLION REGISTERED DRONES IN THE U.S. Source: Department of Transportation

UPS VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

A United Parcel Service medical delivery drone undergoes field testing. Drones are well on their way to mainstream deployment, Chao said.

urban areas and run vehicles or ‘pods’ to key destinations, such as airports. These projects are already underway in a few places. So the question is, who at DOT is in charge of overseeing tunnel safety? Well, first you need to know whether this is a highway tunnel, a rail tunnel or a transit tunnel. The answer affects, for starters, which standards are required for ventilation and emergency egress. And which of DOT’s operating administrations should conduct the environmental review? DOT authorities differ depending on the answers to these questions. “Similar questions pertain to urban air mobility, or air taxis — and autonomous technology used in cars and trucks, and for unmanned aerial vehicles, aka drones

— that increasingly have intermodal applications. These questions aren’t theoretical. Maybe 10 years ago, even five years ago, they were. But no longer. People are asking the department for answers, and the department needs a process to figure it out. “And so I am pleased today to announce a new way forward. I have signed an order creating a new crossmodal body of senior DOT leaders who will be charged with swiftly addressing and resolving these complicated questions. This innovation leadership team will be officially known as the Nontraditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council. As crossmodal technology develops and stakeholders look to start building projects,

DOT’s NETT Council will find ways to ensure that the traditional modal silos at DOT do not impede the deployment of new technology. In addition to answering some of the threshold questions, the new council is empowered to establish individual working groups for each new cross-modal project. “The Council will address and resolve internal matters of jurisdiction and policy. Externally, it will ensure that project sponsors have a single point of access to discuss plans and proposals. Going forward, there will now be one place — a one-stop shop — for innovators and stakeholders to work with USDOT to implement new cross-modal technologies, just as traditional technologies can do.”

DRONES “There is no doubt that this is one of the most exciting eras in transportation history. New technologies are being developed that have the potential to save lives, revolutionize travel and commerce and provide new mobility options for underserved communities,” Chao said in remarks delivered at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting on Jan. 14 in Washington, D.C. “Some of these technologies are still in the early phases of development. Drones, however, are well on their way to mainstream deployment. They are widely used by hobbyists, by first responders, in rescue and recovery efforts and to inspect CONTI NUED


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NEWS infrastructure. In fact, as of Dec. 14, 2018, there were nearly 1.3 million registered drones in this country and more than 116,000 registered drone operators. “In this administration, the department’s approach to new transportation technologies is performance-based, rather than highly prescriptive. We are not in the business of picking technology winners and losers. Our philosophy is to encourage the widest possible development of safe new transportation technologies, so consumers and communities can choose the mix of options that suits them best. To implement this philosophy, today we’d like to share with you a sneak preview of three new department initiatives to encourage the safe testing and deployment of drones. This will help communities reap the considerable economic benefits of this growing industry, and help our country remain a global technology leader. “First, at long last, the department is ready to issue for comment a proposed new rule that would allow drones to fly overnight and over people without waivers … if the operator has received appropriate training, completed approved testing and if the drone is equipped with anti-collision lighting. The proposed rule would (also) allow drones to make routine flights over people without a waiver or an exemption under certain conditions. These conditions depend upon the level of risk to people on the ground and are spelled out clearly in the proposal. The second proposal is the UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) Safe and Secure ANPRM (advance notice of proposed rulemaking). This new proposal identifies major drone safety and security issues that may pose a threat to other aircraft, to people on the ground or to national security. It solicits for consideration recommendations to reduce these risks as drones are integrated into our national airspace. “Today’s third announcement is the selection of commercial service entities that will develop technology to manage the airspace for the drone pilot projects announced in 2018. As you may recall, the department selected 10 pilot projects from around the country to test the safe operation of drones in a variety of conditions currently prohibited by law. Today, we are announcing three contracts that have been awarded to commercial service entities to develop technology to provide flight planning, communications, separation and weather services for these drones, which will operate under 400 feet. This unmanned aircraft traffic management system will

MEG MARUYAMA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

DOT works to reduce pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and focuses extra resources on the cities and states with the most deaths.

“The department’s approach to new transporation technologies is performance-based, rather than highly prescriptive ... to encourage the widest possible development of safe new transportation technologies, so consumers and communities can choose the mix of options that suits them best. ” — ELAINE CHAO be separate from, but complementary to, the traditional FAA air traffic management system. It will create a shared information network and gather data that can be used for future rulemaking. Together, these three initiatives will be a major step forward in enabling the safe development, testing and deployment of drones in our country.”

BIKEWAY SELECTION GUIDE “One of the initiatives that my DOT colleagues have been working on, and which I am pleased to announce today, is the Bikeway Selection Guide,” Chao

said in remarks prepared for delivery at the National Bike Summit, held March 11 in Arlington, Va. “This resource will help transportation practitioners make informed decisions related to the selection of bikeway types. It builds upon (the Federal Highway Administrations’s active support for design flexibility and connected, safe and comfortable bicycle networks. Federal Highways will provide technical assistance to several pilot communities, which will use the guide for the next two years. And Federal Highways recently released the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Scalable Risk Assessment

Methodology to help communities estimate pedestrian and bicyclist risk and inform funding decisions. “The department’s efforts to reduce pedestrian and bicycle fatalities include focusing extra resources on the 16 states and 35 cities with the highest number of these fatalities. Federal Highways has several other ongoing research projects. They address safety, such as the development of crash modification factors for different separated bike lane configurations. One of the administration’s priorities is accelerating delivery of infrastructure projects. Consistent with that, Federal Highways released the Strategies for Accelerating Multimodal Project Delivery report. ... To boost training, Federal Highways is updating the National Highway Institute Bicycle Facility Design course and making it web-based. It is also developing lesson plans focused on bicycling and walking that can be incorporated into undergraduate- or graduate-level transportation courses.”


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Constant Motion If it moves, chances are DOT has a role in its operation and regulation

T

HE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF Transportation,

in its 53rd year of operation, is tasked with ensuring that the United States has the safest, most efficient and modern transportation system in the world. With nearly 55,000 employees and a budget of almost $77 billion, DOT’s mission is to improve the quality of life for all Americans and increase the productivity and competitiveness of the nation’s workers and businesses. Here is a glance at each of DOT’s operating administrations:

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NEWS

TRANSPORTATION BUDGET (FY19)

TRANSPORTATION EMPLOYEES

Federal Highway Administration 2,713 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 1,202

Federal Highway Administration $44.5 billion

Federal Railroad Administration 927

Federal Aviation Administration $16.1 billion

Maritime Administration 813

Federal Transit Administration $12.4 billion

Federal Aviation Administration

Federal Railroad Administration $959.8 million

45,147 EMPLOYEES

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration $914.7 million

Federal Transit Administration 660 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 626 Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration 581 Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation 144

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration $665.8 million Maritime Administration $396.4 million Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration $254.3 million

PIPELINE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SAFETY ADMINISTRATION Develops, issues and enforces regulations for the transportation of energy and other hazardous materials

Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation $28.8 million

FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION Develops, implements and promotes technologies and practices that mitigate safety challenges and improve passenger and freight rail service

FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION Works with state and local governments and transportation organizations to develop and provide federal grant funding

MARITIME ADMINISTRATION

SAINT LAWRENCE SEAWAY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

Promotes the use of waterborne transportation and its integration with other segments of the transportation system

Operates and maintains the U.S. portion of the St. Lawrence Seaway between Montreal and Lake Erie

FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION

FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION Reduces transportationrelated fatalities and serious injuries; invests in infrastructure to ensure mobility and accessibility; develops and deploys practices and technologies to improve safety

Regulates approximately

NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION Conducts research on driver behavior and traffic safety; provides grants to state and local governments for effective local highway safety programs SOURCE: DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

521,000 active interstate freight motor carriers

FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION Regulates civil aviation to promote safety; operates air-traffic control and navigation systems GETTY IMAGES


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NEWS

Southwest Airlines 737 Max aircraft on the tarmac at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, Calif.


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NEWS

Air of Uncertainty Boeing, airlines, regulators face tough questions in wake of 737 Max crashes By Chris Woodyard

A

S ATTEMPTS TO FIX and

recertify the troubled Boeing 737 Max drag on, airlines are facing the prospect that they will have to do without the fuelefficient jetliner during the busy holiday travel season. With the latest delays, the jet, grounded after two deadly international crashes, may not return to the skies until next year. United Airlines announced in early July that it’s going to keep the 737 Max off its flight schedules until Nov. 2, pushing back its previous return date by two months. American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, the other U.S. carriers that deploy Max jets, quickly followed suit. As much as airlines will miss the planes and the profits they can deliver, safety considerations come first. “The stakes are too high to get this one wrong,” said Larry Rooney, president of the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations. “We want to ensure when this plane returns to the skies, we have vetted a lot of the issues that contributed to these two tragedies.”

MARK RALSTON/GETTY IMAGES

Boeing said it has completed its software fix on the 737 Max, but the updated systems require testing and certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other agencies around the world. Besides the plane’s initial problems, the FAA has asked for additional software improvements that could further slow the process. After the crash of a 737 Max operated by Ethiopian Airlines in March, the hope was that the jet’s troubles could be remedied and certified and it would be flying again by summer. That crash, outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, followed the crash of a Lion Air 737 Max in the Java Sea last October. Together, the two accidents killed 346 passengers and crew. The 737 Max has been grounded since March 13. Preliminary investigations into both crashes found that pilots wrestled with an automated flight control system called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which repeatedly pointed the plane’s nose toward the ground before crashing. The system had been intended to compensate for larger engines that had been mounted farther forward CONTI NUED


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NEWS on the wings of the jet. So far, the delays have taken the plane out of service during the busy summer season. But grounding the planes through the year-end holiday period, when they are generally full and airfares high, could further hurt affected airlines financially. Airlines that were counting on the 737 Max to play a significant role in their fleets may have to scrounge for additional aircraft. To fill the gap, airline industry consultant Robert Mann of R.W. Mann and Co. expects airlines to try to squeeze more hours of daily use out of their existing fleets and swap in other types of planes on certain routes. But the substitutions will still fall short of planners’ hopes for near-perfect matchups between plane types and passenger demand. “Added utilization during the business day cannot completely replace missing aircraft, in that airlines cannot operate the optimal number of frequencies during peak periods, peak days and peak hours,” Mann said. American Airlines said it is extending the Max cancellations through Nov. 2 so travelers can “more reliably” book fall travel. The move will cancel 115 flights per day in October and the first couple days of November. The airline won’t just cancel Max flights to cover the loss because that would have a disproportionate effect on flights to and from Miami, where its Max flights are heavily concentrated. Taking the planes out of its schedule in advance means American doesn’t have to scramble last minute if the plane’s grounding lingers. Travelers whose flights are affected will be rebooked or can request a refund if their flight is canceled. United’s extension will cancel 95 flights a day in October. The airline said it will continue to try to offset the continued absence of the Max by swapping in other planes on Max routes or adding larger aircraft. United said it is automatically rebooking travelers. Those who can’t be accommodated will be given other options, including the ability to cancel without penalty. The FAA has faulted Boeing for not telling regulators for more than a year that a safety indicator in the Max cockpit didn’t work. At

the Paris Air Show in June, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company made a “mistake” by failing to communicate the problems it was having with software aboard 737 Max aircraft. Boeing is also moving ahead with plans to cut about 900 inspectors, replacing their jobs with technology improvements at its Seattle-area factories. International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 751 told its members that 451 inspectors out of a total of about 3,000 inspectors at its commercial aircraft operations in the Seattle area will be transferred to other jobs this year, and about the same number next year. Boeing, which confirmed the plan but declined to disclose the number of workers involved, said the changes will result in better quality overall. “As we identify and reduce second-layer inspections for stable processes, quality assurance professionals will be redeployed and take on new roles such as leading and supporting efforts to prevent defects and rework,” Boeing said in a statement. It added that it is working to try to convince regulators and others that the changes “will not jeopardize our quality, but will, in fact, lead to higher levels.” The FAA has for years allowed dozens of aerospace companies to use their own workers, rather than FAA inspectors, to report on systems deemed not to be the most critical under a program known as Organization Designation Authorization (ODA). Dan Elwell, acting director of FAA, told the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation and Space that the 737 Max’s MCAS was initially supervised directly by the FAA, but was then handed over to ODA supervision once the agency’s “comfort level” with the system had risen. In early July, Boeing announced it was setting aside $100 million in “initial outreach” to crash victims’ families. The funds will be used to support education, hardship and living expenses for the families, as well as for community and economic development programs in affected communities. Marco della Cava and Dawn Gilbertson contributed to this story.

OUT OF SERVICE U.S. airlines affected by the grounding of 737 Max aircraft:

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES Number of 737 Max 8s: 34 Daily flights on the 737 Max 8: Approximately 160

AMERICAN AIRLINES

AMERICAN AIRLINES Number of 737 Max 8s: 24 Daily flights on the 737 Max 8: Approximately 90

UNITED AIRLINES

UNITED AIRLINES Number of 737 Max 9s: 14 Daily flights on the 737 Max 9: 40

SOURCE: USA TODAY RESEARCH; FLIGHTAWARE.COM


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BUILD grants will help Jacksonville, Fla., transition its Skyway tram into a roadway for autonomous vehicles. JACKSONVILLE (FLA.) TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY

Building the Future Grants leverage federal funds to improve transportation systems

By Brian Barth

E

ACH YEAR, STATE AND local

authorities compete for a share of federal funds known as Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD)

grants. Previously called TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants, the initiative kicked off in the wake of the Great Recession to improve infrastructure while stimulating the economy. Since 2009, $7.1 billion has been awarded to 554 projects in all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. The annual competition for these DOT

grants is fierce — fewer than 10 percent of applicants were accepted for the most recent round of funding — forcing jurisdictions to focus on the most innovative, compelling and effective solutions to the nation’s transportation woes. The BUILD grant pool totaled $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2018, the largest amount since 2009, and was spread among 91 projects. Among these are an array of bread-and-butter road widenings, interchange expansions and bridge improvements. There are freight rail projects and shipyard projects, urban multimodal transit hubs and projects to bring bike lanes to small towns and CONTI NUED


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Autonomous transit vehicle on Jacksonville (Fla.) Transportation Authority’s test and learn track JACKSONVILLE (FLA.) TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY

rural areas. Even horse transportation gets a nod: Geauga County, Ohio, home to a large Amish community, received $9.65 million for improvements meant to mitigate safety hazards between horsedrawn buggies and motorists. One notable trend in 2018 was that road and bridge projects — infrastructure predominantly used by cars — received nearly 70 percent of the funding. This is way up from 2015, when roads and bridges got 30 percent of the total, with a nearly equal amount dedicated to mass transit; in 2018, mass transit received less than 10 percent of the funds. Another trend among the most recent BUILD grants, which can’t readily be broken down into mode of transporta-

tion, is the application of technology to solving transportation issues — projects that fall under the “smart city” banner. One might expect urban technology hubs like San Francisco and Seattle to lead the pack in this area, but DOT has been providing funds for smart city projects in smaller cities and rural regions. Several 2018 BUILD grants went to support infrastructure necessary to make autonomous vehicles a reality on the nation’s roads. Jacksonville, Fla., received $25 million toward the development of the Bay Street Innovation Corridor, a project to upgrade one of the main downtown arteries with dynamic connected traffic signals, smart lighting, pedestrian sensors, smart parking and

flood warning sensors and autonomous transit vehicles. These driverless shuttles — about the size of a van — will form part of a new transit system along the corridor, allowing riders to get on and off at designated stops, much like with a streetcar.

DRIVEN BY TECHNOLOGY “The technology is still emerging,” said Bernard Schmidt, vice president of automation at the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, adding that it has been challenging to find funding that will allow the authority to move beyond the research phase and into implementation of autonomous vehicle projects. “What is very unique about the BUILD grant is

it’s allowing us to actually implement an autonomous vehicle shuttle service on a public road,” Schmidt said. “So we are blessed to be leading the way in doing that here in Jacksonville.” The Bay Street Innovation Corridor represents the first phase of Jacksonville’s planned Ultimate Urban Circulator, or U2C, a 10-mile route through downtown where autonomous shuttles and other smart city infrastructure will be deployed. Youngstown, Ohio, is attempting something similar, but in a very different economic context. The city’s population shrank from more than 168,000 in 1950 CONTI NUED


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An artist’s rendering shows how Youngstown, Ohio, plans to incorporate autonomous shuttles. EASTGATE REGIONAL COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS

to fewer than 65,000 by 2017, and it has yet to recover. It is a poster child of Rust Belt decline, but civic leaders are banking on a new type of industry to spark an urban revival. In 2012, the city became home to America Makes, a “national accelerator” for 3D printing technology run by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining. The idea was to jump-start a new industrial revolution in a city all but abandoned after the first one. But the city’s infrastructure was not meeting the standards of a center for high-tech innovation, said Mike Hripko, associate vice president of external affairs at Youngstown State University (YSU). In the city, a major health center,

entertainment venues and institutions like YSU are near its urban core, yet they’re difficult to access, whether on foot or with public transit. A $10.9 million BUILD grant for the Youngstown SMART2 Network aims to change that scenario by funding an autonomous shuttle system and major pedestrian improvements along the downtown street grid, including a smart signal system that balances traffic flow with the timing of crosswalk signals. “The prestige of hosting the national center for 3D printing is somewhat underwhelmed by our current infrastructure,” said Hripko. “We’ve needed an infrastructural project to really highlight the fact that this is a national hub for

“What is very unique about the BUILD grant is it’s allowing us to actually implement an autonomous vehicle shuttle service on a public road.” — BERNARD SCHMIDT, vice president of automation, Jacksonville (Fla.) Transportation Authority

advanced manufacturing technologies.” If technology and innovation are the keys to unlocking the potential of local and regional economies, BUILD grants are proving to be a useful lubricant helping them turn in many areas of the country. Last year, funds went toward autonomous shuttles and pedestrian detection technology for the Las Vegas Medical District. Tulsa, Okla., was awarded funding for its Leveraging Intelligent Networks and Key Corridors (LINK) project, which will connect 60 bus rapid-transit stations to the Tulsa Traffic Management Center with broadband cables and install CONTI NUED


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KEEP IT MOVING DOT awards $60 million for university transportation research The Department of Transportation recently announced more than $60 million in funding for 32 University Transportation Centers (UTCs) around the country. UTCs are comprised of groups of universities seeking solutions to national, regional

and local transportation issues. The 32 UTCs were previously selected for grants authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. UTCs advance U.S. research, technology and expertise across

modes of transportation, including in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. Vital workforce needs are also being addressed by programs designed to train the next generation of leaders in the transportation field.

UTCS AND THE DOT FUNDING THEY ARE RECEIVING National UTCs ($2,800,100 each): • Carnegie Mellon University • Portland State University • University of California, Davis • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Pittsburgh Portland, Ore. Davis, Calif. Chapel Hill, N.C. Blacksburg, Va.

Regional UTCs ($2,574,300 each): • Louisiana State University • North Dakota State University • University of Florida • University of Michigan • University of Nebraska-Lincoln • University of Southern California • University of Washington

Baton Rouge, La. Fargo, N.D. Gainesville, Fla. Ann Arbor, Mich. Lincoln, Neb. Los Angeles Seattle

Tier 1 UTCs ($1,400,100 each): • Arizona State University • Clemson University • Colorado School of Mines • Cornell University • Florida Atlantic University • Florida International University • Montana State University • Morgan State University • New York University • North Carolina A&T State University • Missouri University of Science and Technology • San José State University • Texas A&M Transportation Institute • University of Alaska Fairbanks • University of Arkansas • University of Iowa • University of Nevada, Las Vegas • University of North Carolina at Charlotte • University of Texas at Arlington • University of Texas at Austin

Tempe, Ariz. Clemson, S.C. Golden, Colo. Ithaca, N.Y. Boca Raton, Fla. Miami Bozeman, Mont. Baltimore New York City Greensboro, N.C. Rolla, Mo. San José, Calif. College Station, Texas Fairbanks, Alaska Fayetteville, Ark. Iowa City, Iowa Las Vegas Charlotte, N.C. Arlington, Texas Austin, Texas

SOURCE: DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Geauga County, Ohio, received a BUILD grant for a buggy detection system. GETTY IMAGES

“transit signal priority” technology at 42 intersections. Colorado received funding for a similar project, but on a statewide scale: a 537-mile network of “vehicle-toeverything” technology — sensors and fiber optic cables that will relay safety and mobility-critical messages directly to drivers. It is believed to be the first system of this scale in the nation.

RURAL PRIORITIES Crumbling infrastructure is a complaint across America, but the crisis is perhaps most acute in rural regions, where transportation options are more limited. From 2010 to 2016, only 28 percent of

TIGER grants went to rural projects, but the Trump administration has prioritized closing that gap. For 2018, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao stipulated that at least 30 percent of BUILD funds go to rural projects, and that requirement will increase to 50 percent for the 2019 grant cycle. These are just minimum standards, however; in reality, nearly 70 percent of funds went to rural projects last year. Even the Amish are benefiting from BUILD-funded technology infrastructure: The buggy-motorist hazard prevention initiative in Geauga County, Ohio, includes an advanced warning detection system to alert motorists of oncoming buggies.


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AVIATION Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity, designed to take passengers to the edge of space, has made five powered test flights.

TREVOR HUGHES/USA TODAY; GETTY IMAGES


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AVIATION

Small Rockets, Big Dreams More spaceports are taking off across the U.S. curious visitors starting at $50 each. And backers are promoting spaceports RIBBON OF CONCRETE in Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii and Virginia runway on Colorado’s as they jockey for a slice of a potentially eastern plains is poised to trillion-dollar industry. become the cutting edge of Congress created the commercial civilian spaceflight if local space launch sector in 1984, and since boosters realize their long-held dreams then, most of the launches have been to travel anywhere in the world in just of large rockets thundering off the pads minutes. at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg. But The former Front Range Airport in experts say the launch future lies with Watkins is now known as the Colorado tiny satellites that are cheaper to make, Air and Space Port. The fly and replace. Along with nascent launch complex, those rockets comes the about 30 miles east of technology to fly rocketDenver, recently joined powered airplanes through FAA EXPECTS nearly a dozen sites the upper atmosphere, around the country hoping potentially cutting travel to cash in on the commertime to approximately 90 cialization of space travel minutes between any two and inexpensive satellite points around the globe. launches. The Federal Aviation Because most of the Administration anticipates LAUNCHES sites are in out-of-the-way YEARLY BY 2021 as many as 44 launches places, such as Kodiak in 2019, and the agency’s Island, Alaska, or Truth National Aerospace Foreor Consequences, N.M., cast reports that as many they’ve largely remained under the as 56 launches are expected annually by radar and out of the public eye. Instead, 2021. In March, DOT released a notice high-profile sites such as California’s of proposed rulemaking for streamlined Vandenberg Air Force Base grab the launch and re-entry licensing requirespotlight. ments, which would allow companies That could be changing with a move to use a single FAA license for multiple toward cheaper and smaller rockets. launches from multiple launch sites. A more sophisticated complex in In April, Transportation Secretary southern New Mexico, Spaceport Elaine Chao announced that the FAA’s America, has already seen multiple Office of Commercial Space Transportaprivate rocket launches as companies tion will undergo “an extensive reorsuch as Richard Branson’s Virgin ganization” and “will be reconstituted Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX race under the leadership of Gen. (Wayne) toward providing inexpensive space Monteith to maximize the efficiencies travel. The facility even offers tours for of the new streamlined rule.” DOT has By Trevor Hughes

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also created the Office of Spaceports to “approach spaceports from an enterprise perspective. It will seek to remove barriers to competitiveness and help ensure that the U.S. leads the world in space infrastructure,” Chao said.

THE FUTURE IS NOW For decades, space launch sites have been selected because they’re close to oceans, where rocket boosters can safely be jettisoned and wayward launches aborted. But new technology is rapidly changing things, especially the miniaturization of technology to the point where a single iPhone contains more computing power than NASA had for the Apollo missions. Smaller satellites ride aloft on smaller rockets that don’t need external boosters or tanks, can be shipped easily by plane or barge and can be quickly assembled anywhere. Scientists are perfecting two types of launches: the vertical kind typically associated with rockets, and horizontal launches and landings like those of an airplane. Spaceport America sprawls over nearly 30 square miles, features a concrete runway that’s more than 2 miles long and has multiple pads for vertical launches. In addition to nearly 200 vertical launches, the facility has also seen multiple test flights of Virgin Galactic’s combined aircraft-rocket system, which uses a special airplane to carry a rocket that will take people into space, initially as tourists. “We will look back at this phase and realize we were rewriting history,” said Daniel Hicks, Spaceport America’s CEO.


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GETTY IMAGES

Clear Skies FAA forecasts modest industry growth over next 20 years

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S PART OF ITS long-term planning process, on May 1, the Federal Aviation Administration released its Aerospace Forecast: Fiscal Years 2019-2039 report, which includes projections for the commercial passenger, air cargo, general aviation, unmanned aircraft and commercial space sectors. Here are some highlights from the report:

For the U.S. airline industry, 2018 marked the 10th consecutive year of profitability. Looking forward, there is confidence that airlines have finally transformed from a capital-intensive, highly cyclical industry to one that generates solid returns on capital and sustained profits. Fundamentally, over the medium and long terms, aviation demand is driven by economic activity, and expanding U.S. and global economies provide the basis for aviation to grow over these periods. The 2019 FAA forecast calls for U.S. carrier domestic passenger growth over the next 20 years to average 1.8 percent annually. Oil prices averaged $64 per barrel in 2018, and the FAA predicts prices will increase beginning in the early 2020s to

reach $98 per barrel by the end of the forecast period. Some economic headwinds that have been present over the past few years remain, such as the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the difficulty China faces in managing the slowdown of its economy. Meanwhile, new headwinds have developed, including a broad slowdown in global trade, political tensions in several countries and economic slumps in Italy and Germany. The U.S. economy is showing signs of moderating from the above-trend pace in 2018, even as the expansion has become the longest on record. Growth is expected to ease back toward trend, with domestic demand supported by positive financial conditions and a strong labor market.


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AVIATION

GETTY IMAGES

System traffic in revenue passenger miles (RPMs) is projected to increase by 2.2 percent a year between 2019 and 2039. Domestic RPMs are forecast to grow 1.9 percent annually, while international RPMs are forecast to grow at an annual rate of 3 percent. System capacity as measured by available seat miles is forecast to grow in line with the increases in demand. The number of seats per aircraft is growing, especially in the regional jet market, where it is expected that the number of 50-seat regional jets will fall to just a handful by 2030, replaced by 70- to 90-seat aircraft. Although the U.S. and global economies saw solid growth in 2018, a combination of higher energy prices and labor cost increases resulted in profits for U.S. airlines falling further from the record levels of 2016. The FAA expects U.S. carrier profitability to remain steady or increase as solid demand fed by a stable economy offsets rising energy and labor costs.

Oil prices averaged $64 per barrel in 2018, and the FAA predicts prices will increase beginning in the early 2020s to reach $98 per barrel by the end of the forecast period. — Aerospace Forecast: Fiscal Years 2019-2039

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Over the long term, the FAA sees a competitive and profitable aviation industry characterized by increasing demand for air travel and airfares growing more slowly than inflation. The long-term outlook for general aviation is stable to optimistic, as fleet growth at the high end offsets continuing retirements at the tradi-

tional low-end of the segment. The active general aviation fleet is forecast to remain relatively level between 2019 and 2039. While steady growth in both gross domestic product and corporate profits results in continued growth of the turbine and rotorcraft fleets, the largest segment of the fleet — fixedwing piston aircraft — continues to shrink over the forecast. Against the stable fleet, the number of general aviation hours flown is projected to increase an average of 0.8 percent annually through 2039, as growth in turbine, rotorcraft and experimental hours more than offset a decline in fixed-wing piston hours. With increasing numbers of regional and business jets in the nation’s skies, fleet mix changes and carriers consolidating operations in their large hubs, the FAA expects increased activity growth that has the potential to increase controller workload. Operations at FAA and contract towers are forecast to grow 0.9 percent annually over the forecast period, with commercial activity growing at five times the rate of general aviation and military activity. Large- and medium-size hubs will see much faster increases than small and nonhub airports, largely due to the commercial nature of their operations.


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A drone was used to deliver a human kidney for transplant. MARK TESKE/UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Wing drone transports a package

Amazon’s latest Prime Air drone WING

AMAZON

Bring It On Drone deliveries expected to take off later this year By Chris Woodyard

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ING, THE DRONE DELIVERY service

spun off from Google parent Alphabet, hopes to start flights to homes and businesses in and around Blacksburg, Va., by the end of the year. The Federal Aviation Administration in April approved Wing as the first air carrier certified for drone delivery. Wing beat Amazon to the punch, but multiple companies have been racing to develop drone programs as a more cost-effective way of

delivering small, high-value orders like medicine. Wing has been using a drone designed with stubby wings and 12 small propellers for hovering and two to drive it forward. The company said the drones do not set down at destinations; instead, they lower payloads on a tether. Wing said it performed 70,000 test flights — including 3,000 deliveries — to its customers in Australia. The effort is part of DOT’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, in which participants will collect data on night operations, flights above

populated areas and beyond the pilot’s line of sight, package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies and the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft. Also in April, a drone built to monitor the status of human organs delivered a kidney scheduled for transplant to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Drone delivery “could make organs more widely available for transplantation than traditional methods of transport,” said Dr. Joseph Scalea, project lead and one of the surgeons who performed the transplant.

In June, Amazon unveiled the latest Prime Air drone design at its re:MARS (Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics and Space) Conference in Las Vegas. Where and when the drones will begin making deliveries was not announced, but in a blog post, Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke said the company expects “to scale Prime Air both quickly and efficiently, delivering packages via drone to customers within months.” Brett Molina and Kelly Tyko contributed to this story.


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Autonomous truck testing by Swedish startup Einride EINRIDE


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Shifting Gears On the road to autonomous driving, driverless trucks are low-hanging fruit By Matt Alderton

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RIVERLESS CARS ARE COMING.

Tesla and General Motors say they will have fully autonomous vehicles ready this year. Ford and BMW, meanwhile, have promised them by 2021. Even if automakers meet their established timeframes, however, there are cultural and regulatory concerns that could delay the autonomous-driving tipping point by years or even decades. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful goal,” Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota’s research arm, the Toyota Research Institute, said in 2017 at CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show. “But none of us in the automobile or IT industries are close to achieving true … autonomy. We are not even close.” The path to autonomous driving is a marathon, not a sprint. And yet, there’s one runner in the race that seems to be moving faster than others: the trucking industry. “We could see the first true driverless truck operations as soon as this year,” said Baltimore-based automated vehicles analyst Richard Bishop, principal of Bishop Consulting, which monitors intelligent vehicle applications and industry trends. When experts like Bishop look at the trucking industry, they see a sector buckling under the weight of serious challenges, many of which could be solved by driverless technology. While autonomy in passenger vehicles still feels like a novelty, in trucking it feels to some like a necessity. Motor carriers’ appetite

training as they do in wages. For labor-starved employers, automation might be a lifeline. “By taking the truck driver out of the picture, selfDRIVING PROFITS driving trucks are going to solve tons of Trucking is a difficult business. “It’s organizational problems that consume a super competitive,” said Steve Viscelli, a huge amount of resources,” Viscelli said. sociologist at the University of PennsylAnother bottom-line issue that stands vania and author of The Big Rig: Trucking to benefit from automation is fuel and the Decline of the consumption, which is American Dream. “Margins typically motor carriers’ are small — fractions of second-highest expense pennies per mile — and and can account for as TUSIMPLE companies have to figure much as 20 percent of total AUTONOMOUS out how to sustain or grow operating costs, according TRUCKS MADE them while maintaining a to ATA. consistent level of reliable, “Human drivers are paid there-on-time service.” by the mile, so they drive Companies’ biggest as quickly and aggressively expense is labor, the cost as possible to get to their of which is further inflated destination,” Price said. “An by a driver shortage that autonomous vehicle doesn’t TEST RUNS has left the industry with have that motivation, so it at least 50,000 vacancies, operates more gently and DELIVERING according to the American MAIL BETWEEN efficiently, which saves fuel Trucking Associations and reduces maintenance PHOENIX AND (ATA). “Because there’s costs over the life of the DALLAS a severe driver shortage, vehicle.” shippers and fleets can’t Swedish commercial meet all the shipping transportation startup needs that are required, Einride has further pushed which drives prices up,” said Chuck Price, the fuel-saving envelope by eliminating chief product officer at TuSimple, a San not just drivers, but also the cabs in Diego-based self-driving truck startup. which they sit. Because its self-driving Because they’re such hot commodities, trucks — the 23-foot-long T-pod, which employers compete fiercely for drivers, can carry 15 standard pallets, and the who switch jobs frequently in pursuit of T-log, a version made for logging — are incremental pay increases. The resulting cabless, they cost less to manufacture turnover requires trucking companies CONTINUED to invest as heavily in recruiting and for innovation could be the linchpin that makes trucks, not cars, the proving ground for autonomous driving.

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OVER THE ROAD and are light enough to run on electric engines. Those types of bottom-line benefits are why trucking companies will likely embrace autonomy. “Individual consumers are just fine without autonomy, but for trucking there’s a cost benefit that’s immediately recognized,” Price said.

Einride’s T-pod is a cabless truck. EINRIDE

ROAD TO AUTOMATION Economics is not the only reason trucking is primed for autonomy. There are other practical considerations as well. For one, personal vehicles must be able to travel virtually anywhere. Trucks, however, generally travel fixed routes, which would allow autonomous trucks to be deployed where and when conditions are optimal. “There’s a lot of freight that runs in the middle of the night and out in the western United States, where there’s hardly any traffic and the weather is consistently good. We’re going to see

driverless operations in those benign environments first, and it will spread from there,” Bishop said. For San Francisco-based autonomous truck startup Ike, the most benign environment for a truck is an interstate. Its autonomous driving system will therefore power driverless trucks that travel only on highways, where there are no pedestrians, intersections or right turns. “We think driving on the highway is a much more structured and simplified domain,” said Ike co-founder and CEO Alden Woodrow, adding that Ike-powered trucks will take a “hub and spoke” approach that incorporates last-mile human drivers who can perform tasks that are more difficult to automate, like driving on surface roads and backing up to loading docks. In such a scenario, “The automated truck drives just on the highway, then hands off the

Ike’s hub-and-spoke approach will be driverless on highways and use last-mile human drivers. IKE


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OVER THE ROAD trailer at a transfer hub near the highway to a human driver who takes it to its final destination,” he said. Because humans would drive local, rather than long-haul routes, truck driving jobs will be safer and more attractive. “We’re really excited about this approach because it preserves a role for truck drivers and has the potential to make their lives and livelihoods better,” Woodrow said. Einride, which is in the middle of its first commercial rollouts with German logistics company DB Schenker and German grocery chain Lidl, also wants to keep people in the mix. Remote operators will supervise up to 10 vehicles at a time and take control of trucks if they end up in situations they can’t handle. “Having a human operator in the background … allows us to put autonomous trucks into commercial operation sooner than would otherwise be possible,” said Einride founder and CEO Robert Falck, who plans to expand into the United States next year. “Our reliance on human operators will decrease as self-driving technology matures.” In contrast to Ike and Einride, TuSimple plans a “depot to depot” solution wherein trucks navigate entirely free of humans — over highways, on ramps and surface streets and at loading docks. “We’re continuing to develop all areas of our technology, but we’re far enough along now that we can operate fully autonomously within our domain monitored by a safety driver and an engineer, and we’re using that opportunity to start introducing the capability to shippers and fleets,” said Price. TuSimple reached a milestone this spring when it completed a two-week pilot program encompassing five round trips hauling mail more than 1,000 miles between U.S. Postal Service distribution centers in Phoenix and Dallas. “This is significant because it’s our first opportunity to demonstrate the power of an autonomous system on a long route for a mission-critical service,” Price said.

SAFETY FIRST In almost every aspect of autonomous driving, progress is evident. Just because it’s close, however, doesn’t mean realworld autonomy in trucks is imminent. “It’s really easy to get excited about the technology, but there is still a tremendous amount of work to do,” Woodrow said. Indeed, autonomy faces the same challenges in trucking that it faces in the broader consumer market — including

TuSimple’s pilot with the U.S. Postal Service was monitored by a safety driver and engineer. TUSIMPLE

those that are technological, regulatory and cultural in nature. The regulatory bar, at least, was lowered last October, when the U.S. Department of Transportation published new federal guidance for automated vehicles stating that current administrative processes are sufficient to allow autonomous trucks, and that existing regulations should not assume that “drivers” are human. “It very explicitly says that an automated truck does not have to comply with the human-oriented regulations that exist for truckers,” Bishop said. “That’s very significant because it indicates the market is fully open for driverless trucks at the federal level, although states still have some say, too.” Culturally, perception and acceptance are the major hurdles. “The real challenge is winning the public’s trust,” Falck said. For that reason, safety is the bottom

“Human drivers are paid by the mile, so they drive as quickly and aggressively as possible to get to their destination. An autonomous vehicle doesn’t have that motivation, so it operates more gently and efficiently, which saves fuel and reduces maintenance costs over the life of the vehicle.” — CHUCK PRICE, chief product officer, TuSimple

line, said Anthony Levandowski, co-founder and CEO of Pronto, a San Francisco-based startup whose autonomous driving system promotes an incremental approach to autonomy. Called Copilot by Pronto, it’s focused on delivering the building blocks of driverless operations — safety features like power steering, adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation, which are common in passenger vehicles but rare in trucks — before pursuing full autonomy. “As an industry, if we truly want to see mass adoption and acceptance of the tech we’re building, we have to take safety more seriously,” said Levandowski, adding that trucking and technology companies should be focused first on safe driving, rather than self-driving technology. “Safety is the only metric that should determine when autonomous vehicles are ready to be deployed.”


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LONG HAUL DOT studying workforce implications of autonomous vehicles The Department of Transportation has teamed with the departments of Labor, Commerce, and Health and Human Services to study just how autonomous technology will affect the profession that employs millions. The first leg of that research, which focuses on truck and bus drivers, is scheduled for delivery to Congress this summer. A second phase will examine how package deliveries, taxis and ride-sharing services will be affected. The DOT study is expected to conclude that, at least in the near term, “adoption of partial automation technologies will likely lead to improvements in safety and operations and is not expected to bring about driver job displacement,” according to a DOT official familiar with the study but unable to comment on the record until the findings are released. Peter Pantuso is president and CEO of the American Bus Association, which represents about 1,000 motorcoach and tour companies in the U.S. and Canada. Unlike passenger cars, buses typically stay on the road for about 20 years, he said, so “You’re still going to have, at least in the motorcoach fleet, a significant portion of buses that … are not going to necessarily have all the new bells and whistles.” To understand why he believes job displacement won’t be immediate and widespread among his membership, Pantuso said it can be helpful to think of the driver as a bus’ pilot. “You essentially have self-flying airplanes,” he said. “They’re almost completely computer driven, but you still have pilots on board. And I don’t think that has changed the number of pilots in the workforce.” Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, whose company manufactures self-driving trucks and was the first to perform an unmanned commercialtruck driving test, makes it a point to hire skilled truckers. Starsky Robotics employs several longtime truckers who help create and operate technology that would allow drivers to deliver goods from a control center rather than a truck’s cab. “In time, as our system improves and it becomes more generally usable, our hope is that we can take any driver and train them into being a teleoperator,” Seltz-Axmacher said, “and give them a higher quality of life while working as part of our team.” — Gina Harkins Einride’s vehicles are light enough to use electric engines. EINRIDE


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The $1.3 billion Eurasia Tunnel in Istanbul, Turkey, was completed in 2016.

HERRENKNECHT

Tunnel Vision Forget flying cars: Chances are tomorrow’s transportation won’t be overhead, but underground By Matt Alderton

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UMANS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN obsessed with flying. The ancient Greeks, for instance, told mythical stories about Pegasus, a winged horse, and Icarus, who flew too close to the sun using wings fashioned from feathers and wax. In the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci drew detailed plans to build a human-powered ornithopter, or flying machine. Even Henry Ford was preoccupied with flight. In 1926, he unveiled a


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OVER THE ROAD The Eurasian Tunnel emerges on the Asian side of the Bosporus Strait in Istanbul.

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single-seat civilian aircraft that was supposed to be “the Model T of the air,” and in 1940 he declared, “Mark my words: A combination airplane and motorcar is coming.” As the next era of transit comes into focus, however, there are signs that the future of transportation won’t be in the air. Instead, it might be underground.

TUNNELING TOWARD TOMORROW Consider the buzz around the hyperloop concept, a proposed mode of transit wherein passengers board pods that use magnetic levitation to travel long distances at airline speeds. Pioneers include The Boring Company, Elon Musk’s venture that has nascent hyperloop projects underway in Los Angeles,

Las Vegas, Chicago and Washington, D.C. With speeds of more than 600 miles per hour, hyperloop could reduce the travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco from six hours by car to just 35 minutes. Key to the concept are low-pressure tubes inside which hyperloop pods travel, similar in principle to the pneumatic tubes banks use to transport checks and cash from drive-thru customers to bank tellers. Although the tubes can rest above ground on pylons, many proponents — including Musk — would prefer to put them underground. “The subterranean option allows hyperloop to realize its full potential in terms of speed,” said David PringMill, a tech-startup consultant and

communications director for the nonprofit Hyperloop Advanced Research Partnership. “A system elevated on pylons would invariably have to deal with existing obstacles. The tube would have a curvature, and the pods would slow down. If the whole system goes underground, companies could design routes with straight lines and maximize speeds.” Urban planners are applying the same logic to conventional rail projects. London’s Crossrail will encompass more than 73 miles of new underground railway, including five tunnels beneath central London. A project of similar scale, the $25 billion Grand Paris Express, will nearly double the length of the Paris Métro subway system by 2030.

Even roads are getting the subterranean treatment. In 2016, Turkey opened the first road tunnel between Europe and Asia, the 3.3-mile, $1.3 billion Eurasia Tunnel that traverses the Bosporus Strait between east and west Istanbul. In Australia, Samsung C&T Corporation, a global provider of construction and engineering services, is building WestConnex, a 21-mile roadway consisting mostly of underground tunnels designed to ease congestion in Sydney. And a proposed undersea tunnel linking Japan to the Korean Peninsula would make it possible to drive from Tokyo to Moscow. “The future of transportation ... lies on linking people closer and letting them CONTI NUED


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Crews prepare for breakthrough on the SR 99 tunnel in Seattle.

WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

AMERICANS SPEND

97 HOURS PER YEAR SITTING IN TRAFFIC SOURCE: INRIX

commute with ease,” said Hyungrae Cho, manager of the infrastructure engineering team at Samsung C&T. “I think the tool to translate this into reality could be underground roads.”

UNDERGROUND ADVANTAGES Underground is dark, dank and dirty. As a transportation medium, however, it’s advantageous for myriad reasons. For one, real estate in densely populated cities is at a premium. But where there is little space to develop on the surface, there can be unlimited space to develop beneath it. “Subterranean transportation increases the available, traversable space by an extraordinary factor,” Pring-Mill said. “Obviously, surface-level transportation operates within the limitations of existing developments, networks,

natural barriers and right-of-way issues. That subterranean layer may have some pipes and cables down there, but for the most part, it can be whatever we make it.” More traversable space could mean less traffic — a significant upside, given that Americans lose an average of 97 hours and $1,348 per year to congestion, according to traffic analytics company INRIX. Quality of life also could improve, because when transportation goes underground, surface space can be reclaimed for environmental and recreational purposes. “If you’re in an inner city that’s overdeveloped, above-ground space is very valuable. There’s a tendency to want to put transportation infrastructure underground to make better use of that space,”

said Werner Burger, chief engineer at Herrenknecht, a German manufacturer of tunnel-boring equipment whose portfolio includes the Eurasia, Crossrail and Grand Paris Express projects. “That’s what they did some years ago in Madrid, when they moved a big road underground to have more open space on top in the inner city.” Completed in 2015, the decade-long Madrid Rio project buried 25 miles of urban roadway that for more than 30 years had separated Madrid from the Manzanares River. Where the surface road once stood, the city installed 370 acres of green space and 17 acres of public facilities, including cafés, urban beaches, athletic fields, art centers and playgrounds. A similar vision exists in Seattle. There, an elevated freeway is currently being dismantled following construc-


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OVER THE ROAD When completed, London’s Crossrail project will add 73 miles of underground railway.

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tion of the SR 99 tunnel, a two-mile, double-decker tunnel completed this year to replace the 66-year-old Alaskan Way Viaduct, which acted like a concrete curtain between downtown Seattle and picturesque Elliott Bay. “We had a small earthquake that damaged the highway in 2001, and we had to figure out what to do with it — rebuild it, repair it or replace it,” said Tyler Sandell, director of business development at The Robbins Company, a Seattle-based manufacturer of tunnel boring equipment. “Politicians and voters ... decided it would be best to tear that structure down and replace it with a subsurface tunnel so we could develop the waterfront.” Above the tunnel, plans call for a new surface-level Alaskan Way with public transit, a bike trail and a landscaped promenade for pedestrians.

BETTER BORING Underground transportation isn’t just becoming more attractive. Thanks to next-generation tunnel boring machines (TBMs), it’s also becoming more feasible. “Nowadays, tunnels can be built that would not have been possible 20 years ago,” Burger said, thanks, in part, to the fact that TBMs have gotten larger. “In the last 10 to 20 years, diameters on tunnels have grown significantly,” said Mike Mooney, professor and Grewcock chair of underground construction and tunneling at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo. “We’ve gone from subway-sized tunnels, which are roughly 20 feet, to a roadway tunnel like (Seattle’s SR 99), which is 58 feet.” TBM manufacturers and tunneling contractors have also refined their skills so they can now excavate tunnels

without disturbing surface structures. “That’s huge, because it allays the concerns of decision-makers in urban environments and brings down costs, since you don’t have to fortify buildings or pretreat the ground, both of which cost a lot of money,” Mooney said. Yet a third development is the advent of “crossover” TBMs. “In the last decade we’ve been very successful at combining hard-rock with soft-rock machines so we can tunnel in a variety of conditions,” Sandell said. “In the past, you had to have two different machines, which limited where you could do tunneling because it was cost-prohibitive. Now that we have machines that can cross between different geologies, you can do more tunnels in more areas.” The possibilities are as big as the ground is deep. Unfortunately, money is

still an obstacle, even if technology isn’t. Musk says his hyperloops will cost $10 million per mile to build, but present-day tunnels are far more expensive. A 2018 analysis of recent subway projects by CityLab, for example, found that some cost nearly $1 billion per mile. A new four-lane highway, by contrast, costs $8 million per mile in an urban location and as little as $4 million in rural and suburban locations, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. “Most of this is contingent on the idea that the costs associated with tunnel boring can be dramatically reduced. Engineers have suggested this is possible ... but there’s the big question of when,” Pring-Mill said. “The Earth itself is not the only obstacle that innovators will need to cut through.”


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Pedaling Backward Fewer Americans bike to work despite new trails, lanes and bicycle-share programs By Chris Woodyard

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N THURSDAYS, CHARLES DANDINO becomes the

conductor of an unusual kind of train. He leads what he calls a “bike train,” a group of cycling co-workers who band together for their 6-mile ride to work in the name of safety, as well as for fun and exercise. Around the country, city transportation officials wish there were more bicyclists like Dandino as they seek to reduce traffic congestion, promote health and identify alternatives to cars. After rising for several years, the percentage of commuters turning to bikes declined for the third consecutive year in 2017, the most recent year for which U.S. Census Bureau data is available. Nationally, the number of people who say they use a bike to get to work fell 3.2 percent from 2016 to 2017, to an average of 836,569 commuters, according to the bureau’s latest American Community Survey, which regularly asks a group of Americans about their habits. That’s down from a high of 904,463 in 2014. Experts offered several explanations for the nationwide decrease that has unfolded despite cities spending millions trying to become more bike-friendly. Lower gasoline prices and a strength-

ened economy contributed to reduced having safe and connected networks that interest in cheaper commuting alternamake people feel safe biking to work,” tives, such as mass transit and bikes. The said Ken McLeod, the league’s policy rise of ride-hailing services such as Uber director. and Lyft and electric scooters also cut Federal highway spending on bike- and into bike commuting, said Dave Snyder, pedestrian-related improvements totaled executive director of the California $915.8 million in 2018. “This level of Bicycle Coalition. spending is relatively small A bike advocacy group, given the needs for bicycle the League of American and pedestrian infrastrucBicyclists found a mix ture,” McLeod said. when it examined trends City officials around the in the nation’s 70 largest country said they try to cities based on its own support bike commuters. analysis of Census data. Besides new bike lanes and Bike commuting was up trails, many cities added slightly from 2016 to 2017 programs, BIKE COMMUTING bike-sharing in one of the large cities which give cyclists the DECLINED where it is most popular ability to rent a bike to ride — Portland, Ore. There, point-to-point or for the 6.3 percent of commuters day. bike to work. It was also Seattle saw a 19 percent up in the second- and decline in bike commuters third-most popular big from 2011 to 2017, according biking cities, Washington, to the league’s report. Dawn PERCENT D.C., and Minneapolis, spokesFROM 2016-2017 Schellenberg, but declined 19.9 percent woman for the Seattle in fourth-place San SOURCE: U.S. CENSUS BUREAU Department of TransportaFrancisco, 11.4 percent in tion, said that may be due fifth-place New Orleans to the city’s rainy weather and 20.5 percent in sixth-place Seattle. or commuters using bikes for only part “It shows that while we have made of their trips, such as to connect to investments (in bicycle infrastructure) over the last 20 years, we are still far from CONTI NUED

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Bicycle commuting is up slightly in Portland, Ore., where 6.3 percent of commuters ride. GETTY IMAGES; RICK BOWMER/ASSOCIATED PRESS


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TOP SIX LARGE CITIES FOR BICYCLE COMMUTING IN THE U.S.

3

Seattle

Minneapolis

1

Portland

2

Washington, D.C.

4

San Francisco

5

New Orleans SOURCE: LEAGUE OF AMERICAN BICYCLISTS

public transit. In Austin, Texas, there was a 24 percent drop in bike commuting from 2016 to 2017 and a 38 percent decline from 2011 to 2017. City officials said they have a strategy to increase ridership by concentrating their biking infrastructure efforts on trips up to 3 miles that are “very doable by bike,” said Laura Dierenfield, the city’s division manager of active transportation. “We want to make it possible for people to have a variety of choices about how they get around,” she said. Long Beach, Calif., saw a 23 percent increase in the number of bike commuters from 2016 to 2017, though it was down 19 percent from 2011 to 2017, according to the league. Over the past decade, Long Beach added bike lanes throughout the city and dedicated

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routes separated from traffic. Its bikesharing program, which has 11,000 members, continues to grow. “I think we are getting a lot of commuters coming into the downtown” area, Public Works Director Craig Beck said. “A separated bike lane that goes four blocks doesn’t really do anything. It’s about point-to-point safety.” For bike commuters, safety is a top consideration. In a push to make the city more bike-friendly, Los Angeles started installing miles of protected bike lanes and embracing “road diets” — reducing speed to make them safer for bikers and pedestrians. In a city where the car is king, a backlash from motorists led to curtailment of those efforts. As a result, Bicycling magazine last year named Los Angeles the worst

biking city in America. “The City Council and the mayor’s office are only listening to angry drivers who don’t want their commute to be slowed down by anyone,” said Ted Rogers, a veteran bike rider who authors the BikingInLA blog. “I hear from countless people who say they quit (biking),” he said. “They just don’t feel safe on the streets anymore.” Safety was one of the reasons Dandino created his bicycle train six years ago. He started by recruiting coworkers to meet early at a coffee shop in the old business section of Pasadena to ride together to work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dandino said he will have about eight riders on a typical day, the numbers swelling to as many as 15 when there are more interns. “Riding bikes in a group is more

thrilling and a joy to do,” said Dandino, a mechanical engineer. “On the safety side, it makes us much more visible, and there’s strength in numbers.” As the self-described conductor, Dandino said he keeps the group together and is ready to fix flats or help with other bike repairs. Barbara Insua used to ride regularly with Dandino’s bike train. She said she loved getting a workout on the way to her job as a graphic designer. “Uphill to work. Downhill home,” she said. Then she bought a new car and stopped riding. As her 50th birthday looms, she said she’s inspired to join the train again. “I am going into a phase in which I want to come back to biking,” Insua said. “There are so many wonderful things about biking.”


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Brooklyn Bridge GETTY IMAGES

Bridge Too Far? Report finds it would take 80 years to fix deficient structures

By Jorge L. Ortiz

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HE RECENTLY RELEASED ANNUAL report by the Ameri-

can Road & Transportation Builders Association, based on an analysis of data from the Department of Transportation, paints a grim picture of bridges throughout the country. According to the report, 47,052 of the nation’s 616,087 bridges — 7.6 percent, spanning nearly 1,100 miles — are “structurally deficient and in poor condition.” Just as concerning, ARTBA said the rate of bridge improvements is at its slowest point in five years, and at that pace it would take more than 80 years to

replace or repair them all. That rate more than doubled in just one year. “This report makes clear that it’s about time Congress and the Trump administration stop talking and start solving this national problem,” said ARTBA President Dave Bauer. ARTBA, which advocates for investment in transportation infrastructure, has a vested interest in the matter, but the numbers it presents are nonetheless striking. Among them: Drivers cross compromised structures 178 million times a day, including such well-known spans as New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge, the Arlington Memorial CONTI NUED


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Government Bridge in Davenport, Iowa

STATES

THE LARGEST NUMBER OF STRUCTURALLY DEFICIENT BRIDGES DOUG COLLIER/THE SHREVEPORT (LA.) TIMES

Iowa Pennsylvania Oklahoma Illinois Missouri

4,675 3,770 2,540 2,273 2,116

North Carolina California New York Louisiana Mississippi

1,871 1,812 1,757 1,678 1,603

STATES AND TERRITORIES

THE MOST STRUCTURALLY DEFICIENT BRIDGES AS A PERCENT OF TOTAL BRIDGE INVENTORY Rhode Island West Virginia Iowa South Dakota Pennsylvania

23.1% 19.9% 19.4% 16.7% 16.6%

Maine Louisiana Puerto Rico Oklahoma North Dakota

13.1% 13.0% 11.7% 11.0% 10.8%

Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C. GETTY IMAGES

Bridge over the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., and the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge over San Francisco Bay. The average age of the structurally deficient bridges is 62 years, while nondeficient bridges average 40 years. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. bridges — some 235,020 — need repair, replacement or other major work, with an estimated cost of $171 billion. One in three interstate highway bridges require repairs, and about 1,775 of them are regarded as “structurally deficient.” Being structurally deficient does not mean a bridge is about to collapse, but rather that it rates poorly — earning a score of 4 or below on a safety scale of

0 to 9 — in at least one of four critical elements: culvert, deck, substructure or superstructure. The 2019 report marks the first in which two measures previously used to classify bridges as structurally deficient — overall structural evaluation and insufficient waterway openings — are no longer included. Under the new definition, 6,533 bridges that would have been classified as structurally deficient in 2017 were not designated as such in 2018. ARTBA officials say the way to address the issue is through major federal funding. “America’s bridge network is outdated, underfunded and in urgent need of

SOURCE: ARTBA 2019 BRIDGE REPORT

modernization,” said Alison Premo Black, the ARTBA chief economist who conducted the analysis. “State and local government(s) just haven’t been given the necessary resources to get the job done.” The Trump administration has proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that would include $200 billion in federal investment over 10 years, with the rest of the funding coming from state, local and private sources. Reports that followed a late April meeting between the president and Democratic congressional leaders had the total at nearly $2 trillion, though few details about funding or a timeframe emerged and no further public discus-

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sions have taken place. Rachel Derby, vice president of government affairs for the Portland Cement Association, said the trade group could support any number of infrastructure funding mechanisms, including increased gas taxes, freight charges and other sales taxes. While encouraged that the president “listed infrastructure as a top-5 priority in the State of the Union (address),” Derby said, the central question yet to be answered is “where does the money come from?” John Fritze and David Jackson contributed to this story.


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Reduced Speed Ahead Shifting priorities force some smart highway projects to pump the brakes

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By Matt Alderton

I

F THERE WERE INFIRMARIES for

Wattway, a photovoltaic road surface THE RAY

infrastructure, American roadways would be laid up in the intensive care unit. So suggests the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gave U.S. highways a ‘D’ grade in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. Despite the dire prognosis, things were looking up as recently as last summer thanks to a handful of “smart highway” projects underway across the nation, the most ambitious of which was Colorado’s RoadX program. Launched in 2015 by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), its mission was to “make Colorado one of the most technologically advanced

transportation systems in the nation, and a leader in safety and reliability.” Plans were underway to pilot innovations like vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology, which allows internetconnected vehicles to exchange data with each other and with infrastructure, and “smart pavement” — precast concrete slabs embedded with sensors to analyze traffic and detect errant driver behavior. But RoadX has hit a roadblock. Newly elected Gov. Jared Polis retired RoadX, although CDOT insists its commitment to smart highways will live on in a new Office of Innovative Mobility. The state’s transportation agency “is committed to providing mobility options for all Coloradans by leveraging traditional and innovative approaches,”


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“DOT programs ... are vulnerable to political changes. There’s something about our model that helps to ground and anchor the work.”

Colorado has retired the RoadX project, rolling some of its initiatives into the new Office of Innovative Mobility.

— ALLIE KELLY, executive director, Ray C. Anderson Foundation INTEGRATED ROADWAYS; GETTY IMAGES

according to a written statement from CDOT. The new Office of Innovative Mobility “will work to deliver reliable, cleaner transportation choices that help to reduce congestion on the road and in the air, through projects such as electrifying transit fleets, connecting to existing transit through on-demand services and mobility hubs or expanding transit systems to make them more consistent.” Partners in the project aren’t quite so optimistic. “As for RoadX, we’ve been in limbo,” said Tim Sylvester, founder, CEO and chief technology officer of Kansas City, Mo.-based Integrated Roadways, maker of the smart pavement being used in the RoadX program. “As we understand it, all contracts with CDOT have been frozen until (executive director Shoshana Lew) gives her personal approval for the work to proceed.” Another program that has followed a similar trajectory is Road to Tomorrow, launched in 2015 by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) with the goal of soliciting new ideas for future highways. “The Road to Tomorrow initiative was an excellent way to determine what innovative ideas were being considered by entrepreneurs across the nation, as well as what types of markets and funding

were available to support and launch those creative concepts,” explained MoDOT Director Patrick K. McKenna, who said Road to Tomorrow resulted in approximately 350 proposals; MoDOT pursued five of them, but none resulted in contracts due to “instability in product and project delivery.” Innovative technologies “are costly to cultivate, test and implement. Given our limited funding in Missouri, we believe

these types of explorations should appropriately fall to the private sector to undertake and champion,” McKenna said. The country has one smart highway left in the proverbial fast lane: the philanthropically funded Ray C. Anderson Memorial Highway in Troup County, Ga. An 18-mile stretch of I-85 named for a late Georgia businessman who was committed to sustainability, “The Ray”

WheelRight station THE RAY

is supported by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. It has piloted electric vehicle charging stations, photovoltaic road surfaces that harvest solar energy and a high-tech tire pressure monitoring system, WheelRight, which promotes safety and fuel efficiency by texting drivers when their tires need air. “DOT programs … are vulnerable to political changes,” said Allie Kelly, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. “There’s something about our model that helps to ground and anchor the work. It helps to insulate us and protect us from what has happened in Missouri and Colorado.” That protection has allowed The Ray to continue propagating new technologies regardless of public-sector priorities. This summer, for example, it’s repaving a mile of roadway with rubberized asphalt made from recycled tires, which will increase noise mitigation and crack resistance; installing the next generation of Wattway, a photovoltaic road surface; installing road striping that’s designed to help guide autonomous vehicles; and co-developing, with Panasonic and the Georgia Department of Transportation, data infrastructure that eventually will allow The Ray to become a test bed for V2X technology.


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Formerly a submarine surveillance and Coast Guard enforcement ship, T/S State of Michigan is now a floating classroom. BRIAN WELLS/THE (PORT HURON, MICH.) TIMES HERALD; GETTY IMAGES


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All Hands Training ship allows students to experience life on deck a bit of a family tradition for Lindsey Ajubita of New Orleans. “It’s something HE BICYCLES LEANING that my family has been involved in for AGAINST the railing of the T/S generations, even going back to before State of Michigan offer the we were even in the United States,” first hint of the new mission Ajubita said. of the 224-foot former Navy Tiffany Pascal of Chattanooga, Tenn., vessel, which now serves as a floating worked as a digital arts professor in New classroom for students of the Great Lakes Mexico for about six years before decidMaritime Academy. ing she wanted to do something else. “I The training ship sets sail realized that the traditional at various times throughout office setting was not for the academic year “to me,” she said. Pascal was reinforce the skills taught STUDENTS SPEND considering the military shoreside,” according to when she learned about the academy’s website. “As the maritime industry cadets progress through and decided to pursue it the Academy, they learn instead. “I really want to our industry firsthand by develop ship handling in completing essential sea particular,” she said. DAYS time aboard commercial The T/S State of ABOARD THE SHIP Michigan, formerly named ships of the Great Lakes and oceans.” Persistent, was used by the Students of the Great U.S. Navy for submarine Lakes Maritime Academy surveillance. Built in 1986, spend about 75 days on board the T/S the Navy transferred the ship in 1997 State of Michigan as part of a four-year to the U.S. Coast Guard, which used it program that earns them a bachelor’s for drug enforcement in the Caribbean. degree and merchant marine credentials. In the summer of 2001, the ship was The program is based out of the Northacquired by its current owner, the U.S. western Michigan College Great Lakes Maritime Administration. Campus in Traverse City. Students studying on the ship have Working in the maritime industry is been enrolled for about a year and By Jeremy Ervin

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will have approximately three years of school left once they finish, T/S State of Michigan Capt. Michael Surgalski said. The students are mostly separated into deck and engineering tracks; they learn about navigation, ships systems and procedures, and technical aspects of running the ship, depending on their field of study. “Everything they’ve done academically is put into practice,” Surgalski said. Both Pascal and Ajubita are three-year deck track students. Ajubita said she and fellow students use the bikes to take in the sights when they have shore leave. About five years ago, the program added an opportunity for culinary students to come aboard. While that program doesn’t have a specific track, participants can get a firsthand feel for ship life. “They’re going to make more (money) on a ship than any restaurant,” Surgalski said. Fisher Heck of Lansing was recently T/S State of Michigan’s culinary intern. He said there aren’t a lot of culinary opportunities that offer the chance to travel, and he’s using his time to see if working aboard a ship is appealing. “This is kind of a test drive,” Heck said. Jeremy Ervin writes for The (Port Huron, Mich.) Times Herald.


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MARITIME Soldiers attached to U.S. Army Pacific guide a military vehicle off MARAD’s Ready Reserve Force vessel M/V Cape Hudson.

GRADY T. FONTANA/U.S. NAVY

Flagging Support Economic, security interests tested by dearth of maritime fleet By Adam Stone

O

F THE 50,000 LARGE

oceangoing commercial vessels operating worldwide, only 80 or so fly the U.S. flag. At the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD), that’s an ongoing cause for concern. “For our economic security, a strong

maritime community — comprised of ships, sailors and the shoreside infrastructure to build, support and maintain them — is what allows us to control our own commerce,” said MARAD Administrator Mark H. Buzby at the spring 2019 New York Maritime Day celebration. While 90 percent of all consumer goods worldwide are shipped by water, less than 2 percent travels via the U.S.-flagged fleet. MARAD is tasked with

addressing this critical issue. The Persian Gulf War exposed the military liability of a small U.S.-flagged fleet. “You had military cargoes, things like food and trucks, and we relied on foreign-flagged vessels with foreign crews. But it wasn’t their war, and they didn’t want to go in,” said Sara Fuentes, vice president of government affairs for the Transportation Institute, a nonprofit maritime research group.

On at least a dozen occasions, foreign-flagged ships declined to transport needed supplies for that war, either because of security fears or out of political reluctance, Fuentes said. That is just the type of scenario that MARAD seeks to address. “When American forces deploy, or when we respond to domestic or foreign emergenCONTI NUED


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Graduation at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy USMMA ALUMNI

cies, everything our troops need … sails in commercial ships. It is the foundation of our ability to project power and to defend our interests around the world,” Buzby said. “Yet, there are troubling signs that we are not as prepared as we must be to meet the coming economic and national security demands.” MARAD runs several initiatives aimed at ensuring the nation’s oceangoing fleet and its ships on the inland waterways are ready and able to heed the call in the event of war or natural disaster. The Maritime Security Program helps offset the costs of operating under the U.S. flag by providing stipends for 60 of the 82 active, militarily useful, privately owned U.S.-flag vessels and crews operating in U.S. international trades. The owners of these ships agree to make the vessels available to the government in times of war or national emergency. MARAD also maintains the Ready Reserve Force, a fleet of 46 government-

owned ships that can be ready within five days to transport military cargo to critical areas of operation. These ships can provide an initial surge capacity, with commercial vessels providing ongoing shipping capabilities. The issues go beyond military readiness. When masses of goods are shipped overseas in support of U.S. forces, “it’s an economic issue, too,” said Susan Beardslee, principal analyst at ABI Research. “We want that business to go to American companies, rather than to companies outside the United States. You want to use your own country’s resources.” Logistics experts note that history has shown the need for such efforts in support of secure supply lines. In 1986, for instance, France denied U.S. warplanes the right to cross French airspace en route to bomb Libya. “These are our friends, our allies,” said retired Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, a program manager with logistics consultancy LMI.

IN A CRISIS, THE U.S. WOULD FALL ABOUT

1,800 MARINERS SHORT OF THE NUMBER NEEDED FOR CONTINGENCIES SOURCE: MARK H. BUZBY

“If they can do that, why do we think that Liberian or Panamanian or Filipino crews would be on our side?” MARAD is also working to close a critical gap in the maritime workforce.

“The number of qualified American mariners has declined from a peak of 215,000 in the 1940s to just under 12,000 deep sea mariners today,” Buzby said. In a crisis, “we would fall about 1,800 mariners short of the number needed to sustain contingency operations.” To help build up the workforce, MARAD operates the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, which provides education and training to future merchant mariners. It also maintains a working group to track key issues surrounding the maritime workforce. A sailor’s life can be difficult. While industry labor unions help support competitive pay and benefits, oceangoing vessels may be at sea for extended periods of time. “That makes it a big challenge just to hang out with your friends or have a significant other,” Beardslee said. “As a result, not a lot of young people are all that excited about a job at sea.”


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A China Railway High-speed bullet train travels on the Liunan Intercity Railway. Highspeed trains there can travel up to 240 mph.

Leadin goes here asdfasdfasdfasg fsdfdfasdf asdf asdf asdf asdf asdf asdf asdf asdf asdf asdf asdfa sdfasdfg sdfgsd asdfasdfasdfasdfas ASSOCIATED PRESS; GETTY IMAGES


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Fast Track Could the Green New Deal green-light high-speed rail? federal funding.” But pursuading taxpayers to invest in HINA, ITALY, SPAIN AND Saudi an expensive high-speed rail system has Arabia are just some of the long been an uphill battle, and Richard countries where train speeds Little, visiting research scholar at Renshit 200 mph, and an ambiselaer Polytechnic Institute’s school of tious new resolution could engineering in Troy, N.Y., isn’t convinced make the U.S. the next spot for major the Green New Deal is going to change high-speed rail investment. that. “We haven’t seemed to have money A plan that has the potential to change to spend on the infrastructure systems we the way Americans travel is tucked into have, whether it’s water, sewer, drainage, the 14-page Green New Deal legislation roads or buses for that matter,” he said. Democrats introduced High-speed rail has in February. Patterned faced a host of hurdles in “There are trains after President Franklin the U.S. These are some Roosevelt’s response to of the opportunities and now in China the Great Depression, the challenges that come with that go 240 miles Green New Deal calls for a massive new rail system: measures to significantly The cost. California has an hour. What’s reduce pollution and been working for years on greenhouse gas emisa bullet-train system to ‘yesterday’ about sions. One way to do connect Los Angeles and that?” that, advocates say, is to San Francisco, but Gov. get more people taking — ANDY KUNZ, Gavin Newsom recently high-speed rail in lieu of president and CEO, U.S. High announced the $77 billion flying or driving. Speed Rail Association project would be signifiThe plan, sponsored by cantly scaled back — the Rep. Alexandria Ocasioresult, Little said, of too Cortez of New York many unanswered quesand Sen. Ed Markey of tions about the project’s Massachusetts, could give high-speed rail cost. Little said he worries the same the federal planning and funding it has would happen at the federal level. lacked, said Andy Kunz, president and Kunz counters that the federal governCEO of the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. ment pours money into roads every year High Speed Rail Association. without seeing much return on their “The Green New Deal was the first time investment, and high-speed rail “has the that something big and bold was put on potential of making billions of dollars in the table,” Kunz said. “This is how we profits once the systems are built.” built our highways (by giving) the states Yesterday’s technology? The U.S. federal support, federal standards and once led the way in railroad travel. But By Gina Harkins

C

when the highway system was built in the last century and people began moving to the suburbs, cars became king. Today, some people view railroads as 19thcentury technology. The key, Kunz said, is to show that high-speed rail is different. “There are trains now in China that go 240 miles an hour,” he said. “What’s ‘yesterday’ about that?” Demand. Whether Americans will embrace high-speed rail remains one of the biggest questions about the system, Little said. That could be especially challenging in suburbs where it might not be easy to access a high-speed rail station. Without riders, there is no revenue. Anti-transit efforts. Political activists opposed to public transit initiatives have been effective in killing several projects around the country. Those efforts permeate the decision-making process on Capitol Hill, Kunz said, which is why he found it so refreshing to see politicians prioritizing this issue. “To me, the paradigm has shifted,” he said. “When have you seen three or four presidential candidates putting their climate plans out there and including high-speed rail? The fact that we’re seeing that happening tells you the context is definitely changing.” Environmental impact. Politics aside, Little and Kunz insist there are major environmental benefits with a high-speed transit system, but that’s only if people trade those flights and car rides for the trains. As cars and planes become more environmentally friendly, however, high-speed rail is likely to face increased scrutiny, Little said.


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Proceed With Care DOT agencies collaborate on railway-crossing safety campaign

GENE J. PUSKAR/ASSOCIATED PRESS

By Bill Moak

L

AST SUMMER, 81-YEAR-OLD

Thomas Baker of Gulfport, Miss., died when police said he drove around a CSX railroad crossing gate and was struck by an oncoming train. Baker was the latest of many fatalities on the busy track, which cuts through some densely populated areas along the Gulf Coast. According to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) data, there have been 28 deaths on CSX tracks in Harrison County,

Miss., alone since 2009, including eight in 2017. Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and FRA relaunched a $5.6 million public safety awareness campaign — Stop. Trains Can’t. — urging Americans to take greater care at road-rail grade crossings. Mississippi is one of 16 states targeted by the campaign. “So many fatalities at highway-railway crossings are preventable, and this campaign is key to raising public awareness and saving lives,” said Transportation

Secretary Elaine Chao. Every three hours, a person or vehicle is struck by a train at a U.S. rail crossing. In 2018, 270 people died at railroad crossings, with more than a third of those occurring when the driver went around lowered crossing gate arms. In the past five years, nearly 800 people have died while trying to drive across railroad tracks. Impatience can be a factor in these accidents, and freight trains are getting CONTI NUED


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longer. In 2018, CSX told investors that when the driver applies the emergency its average train length had increased by brake. more than 800 feet, to 7,088 feet (about The “Stop. Trains Can’t.” campaign 1.34 miles), and all is trying to increase major rail carriers awareness of the are doing the same. danger of such gamWhile carriers argue bles. “Road safety is THERE WERE that longer trains NHTSA’s mission, are more efficient, and too many lives they can take longer are lost every year to pass through when drivers disrecongested areas, gard safety warnings and in their haste to at rail crossings,” said reach their destinaHeidi King, deputy DEATHS tions, some drivers administrator for AT RAILROAD CROSSINGS NHTSA. “We want try to beat oncomIN 2018 ing trains. This is a every American to recipe for disaster; understand the danSOURCE: Federal Railroad Administration trains can weigh ger surrounding rail thousands of tons, crossings and to act and even with their with safety in mind. massive power and braking ability, a Trying to save a few minutes can cost loaded train traveling 55 mph can take a you your life.” mile or more to come to a complete stop The “Stop. Trains Can’t.” campaign,

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which ran from mid-April to mid-May, included videos on digital and social platforms, radio advertising and social media messaging, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. While national in scope, the ads were targeted to communities in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas with particularly high incident rates. “We are pleased to collaborate with our colleagues at NHTSA to improve driver behavior at highway-rail crossings and reduce preventable injuries and deaths,” said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory. “Rail safety isn’t just about the safe movement of passenger and freight trains; it’s also about helping the American public be safe near railroad tracks.” Bill Moak writes for the (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger.


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Profile for STUDIO Gannett

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION 2019  

USA Today's U.S. Department of Transportation 2019 publication

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION 2019  

USA Today's U.S. Department of Transportation 2019 publication

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