Good Practices: Incorporating Safety into Resurfacing and Restoration Projects

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U.S. Department of Transportation

Federal Highway Administration

December 2006

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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION

Legislators, policy makers and transportation professionals face the challenge of allocating transportation resources for expenditures that will preserve and extend mobility and those that will preserve and improve highway safety. This is not a simple task, and not one for which there is a consensus approach. The following relevant background information will help the reader understand why there is a range of policies and practices, and the steps taken to formulate the scan team and the scan locations.

BACKGROUND

Through the early 1970s, transportation agencies (and predecessor highway departments) had very distinct approaches to construction and maintenance. The scope and definition of highway construction were largely determined by applying geometric design criteria and standards, which are intended to provide motorists with safe and efficient travel. Engineers made design decisions. The fundamental purpose of maintenance has historically been to preserve the serviceability of existing facilities. The driving surface (i.e., pavements and bridges) receives primary attention. In many States, their Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) is the sole or primary mechanism for implementing safety improvement projects.

The clean separation between construction and maintenance processes began to change with enactment of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1976, which amended the U. S. Code definition of "construction" to include resurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation (3R). This made 3R work on Federal-aid highways eligible for Federal funding. The legislation did not address the design standards that should be applied to the 3R projects and this subject was to become a matter of controversy for years. In significant part, the controversy involved the degree to which safety improvements should be included in 3R projects. In the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, Congress indicated the objective of 3R program was "[t]o preserve and extend the service life of highways and enhance highway safety."

Although the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) attempted to develop national standards for Federal-aid 3R projects, these attempts met significant challenges. Instead, individual State Departments of Transportations (DOTs) were given the opportunity to develop standards that, if approved by FHWA, could be used on Federal-aid, nonfreeway 3R projects. The vast majority of States have FHWA-approved 3R standards. The Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) identified preventive maintenance as a new Federal-aid eligible activity. Previously, all maintenance was the responsibility of the States. The ISTEA also established the National Highway System (NHS), for which the FHWA establishes design standards. Although conformance to design standards (including 3R standards) is not required for Federal-aid preventive maintenance activities, appropriate ways to maintain or enhance the current level of safety and accessibility should be considered. Isolated or obvious deficiencies should always be addressed. Safety enhancements can be deferred and included within an operative safety management system or included in a programmed future project. Preventive maintenance projects may not adversely impact the safety of the traveled way or its users. Appendix A includes the FHWA policy memorandum on preventive maintenance project eligibility.

The provisions outlined above allow for flexibility in the use of Federal funds for resurfacing projects. Many FHWA Division Offices now work with State DOTs to develop tailored approaches that meet the needs of individual States. For resurfacing projects, integrated safety interventions are often selected through analysis of crash data rather than application of dimension-based and/or geometric criteria. To some observers, this approach is the third phase in the resurfacing project evolution: (1) standards and dimension-based criteria, (2) resurfacing only, and (3) integration of selected safety improvements in resurfacing.

The scan report attempts to capture many of the promising organizational processes and technical approaches.

SCAN PURPOSE AND PARTICIPANTS

Federal, State, and local transportation agencies endeavor on a routine and ongoing basis to improve the methods by which existing highways are preserved and safety is improved. Combining pavement preservation and safety improvements in a single project is potentially more effective than separate interventions along the same facility. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and National Association of County Engineers (NACE) cosponsored a scan tour to identify and disseminate information on practices that effectively integrate safety improvements into resurfacing and pavement restoration projects.

A Scan Team assembled by the sponsoring agencies included personnel with expertise in highway design, local government operations, maintenance, pavement management, project development, and safety. Additionally, FHWA arranged for a report facilitator. The Scan Team met with State DOT and FHWA Division (i.e., local office located in each State) personnel in each of the six States and with county engineers in three States. Because of scheduling conflicts, the entire Scan Team was not able to visit every scan destination. However, four Scan Team members participated in all activities and visits. The Scan Team members provided a wealth of knowledge and input to the goal of this report The Scan Team members included the following:

  • Ernest (Ernie) J. Blais, P.E., Assistant Division Administrator Connecticut Division, FHWA (Scan Team Co-Chair).
  • Keith Cota, P.E., Chief of Consulting Design, New Hampshire Department of Transportation (Scan Team Co-Chair).
  • Lawrence (Larry) B. Hummel, P.E., County Highway Engineer Manager, Van Buren County (Michigan) Road Commission.
  • N. Kent Israel, P.E., Road Design Engineer, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.
  • Frank Julian, Safety Engineer, Safety and Design Technical Service Team, FHWA.
  • Bernie Kuta, P.E., Pavement and Materials Engineer, Pavement and Material Technical Service Team, FHWA.
  • Susan G. Miller, County Engineer, Freeborn County, Minnesota.
  • Harry W. Taylor, Jr., Roadway Departure Safety Team Leader, FHWA (now retired).
  • Kevin M. Mahoney, P.E., Senior Research Associate, Pennsylvania State University (Scan Team Report Facilitator).

Appendix B presents biographies of the Scan Team.

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Program Contact

Brian Fouch
Safety Design Team Leader

(202) 366-0744

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