The state departments of transportation and local governments of 10 different states are receiving part of the Federal Highway Administration’s $8 million in grants for Accelerated Innovation Deployment or AID demonstration programs, as announced January 21st.
These grants will work to accelerate the implementation of new transportation technology, improve traffic management, speed up completion times for bridge projects, and improve overall roadway safety in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and North Dakota.
“These funds will help support our state and local partners across the country in their efforts to deliver more resilient roads, bridges, and highways for the traveling public,” said FHWA administrator, Nicole Nason.
One of these efforts is that of North Dakota, which received $241,687 for its autonomous crash attenuator truck.
A crash attenuator itself is a tool used to lessen crash impact, and is often installed at the end of a guardrail. An attenuator truck, or a “crash truck,” is typically positioned at the ends of work zones to help protect workers from collisions.
“[The attenuator] dampens or deflects that vehicle that’s coming into the work zone,” NDDOT engineer Travis Lutman said. “This is a big box, essentially, that is meant to deflect or absorb the impact of a crash so it doesn’t enter the work zone and hurt anybody.”
As of now, NDDOT uses an attenuator-mounted truck which must be operated by a driver. According to Lutman, the FHWA will be used for new autonomous vehicle tech in order to create a system allowing a driver-operated lead vehicle to communicate easily with an autonomous follower vehicle.
This attenuator-equipped follower vehicle would not need a driver in a work zone, but a human operator would need to aid in transporting the vehicle to and from the zone itself. Lutman said the autonomous attenuator truck would be useful in tasks like crack sealing, lane striping, and bridge cleaning.
The overarching goal of this new system is to increase safety around work zones, especially for the operator of current crash trucks.
“We want to get him or her out of that vehicle, creating a safe work environment for them,” said Lutman.
He also explained that Fargo will be the first city to implement the technology as efforts move forward between North Dakota and Minnesota.
Additionally, in Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation and the City of Orlando are using their joint $1 million AID grant for a segment of a larger project aiming to better manage traffic flows around downtown Orlando–which will specifically seek to improve “traffic signalization” at roadway intersections throughout the downtown area.
In New York, the state Department of Transportation will work to improve traffic incident management with its $740,000.
With $1 million, the Alabama Department of Transportation and Baldwin County will accelerate bridge construction and next beam ultra-high-performance concrete retrofit in an effort to shorten construction time from 14 weeks to six weeks.
Arkansas will use $313,600 for 3D modeling and paperless construction to enhance Global Navigation Satellite System technology throughout engineering and construction project phases.
Colorado’s DOT will use its $800,000 for Snowplow Signal Priority, allowing prioritized treatment for snowplows at traffic lights in order to help traffic flow more easily during snow removal.
In Iowa, the DOT and the city of Dubuque will develop a next-generation traffic control system in order to link 11 different corridors and act as one large integrated system. The state was given nearly $1 million for the project.
The Minnesota DOT will use another $1 million to improve safety and access along Broadway Avenue in Winona. In Michigan, the Department of Transportation will use $1 million to accelerate bridge construction and employ Prefabricated Bridge Elements and Systems (PBES) to decrease traffic delays, currently caused by the construction of its 2nd Avenue Network Arch Superstructure project.
The Illinois Department of Transportation will also use $1 million to implement compacted concrete pavement to improve the surface of Jerseyville’s Hollow Avenue. This concrete differs from standard roller compacted concrete with its high-density asphalt-type paver instead of standard paving. Compacted concrete pavement has a similar surface finish to standard pavement, but will use a tamper screed on its high-density paver. This will compact the road’s surface without the need for roller compaction.
“The grants being awarded today will help advance innovative transportation solutions to improve safety and mobility on America’s roadways,” said FHWA’s Nason.