Research Projects Starting in 2012

Multi-Institution

1. Digital Dissemination Platform of Transportation Engineering Educational Materials Founded in Adoption Research

PI:
Shane Brown (WSU)
Co-Investigators:
D. Hurwitz (OSU), M. Hallenbeck (UW), M. Kyte (UI), R. Perkins (UAF)
Dates:
05/16/2012 – 06/30/2013
Led By:
Washington State University (WSU) Professor Shane Brown, this project is the PacTrans multi-institution Education Project for 2012-2013.

National interest abounds in improving engineering education in the US. This interest stems from low performance on concept inventories (P.S. Steif, Dollar, & Dantzler, 2005; Paul S Steif & Hansen, 2006) concerns over the role of the US as a national economic leader (The National Academies, 2006), evidence of best practices in curriculum development and pedagogy, and a sense that we can just do things better. These concerns have led to the development of an abundance of materials and methods that are based on effective methods of development and/or been shown to be effective on student learning and other important educational outcomes.

While progress has been made in improving courses and curriculum, it is greatly hindered by inefficiencies associated with duplicating development efforts. For example, there are approximately 200 introduction to transportation engineering courses taught annually in the US and little evidence of sharing of materials (other than textbooks) in these courses. More knowledge is needed on how and why faculty and teachers adopt curriculum. Where do they go for resources when developing a new course or revising an old course? How do they make adoption decisions when they find curriculum? In what forms can dissemination venues (such as websites) take to optimize adoption? How can higher education and workforce development curriculum be shared efficiently? This project will begin to answer these important questions through an investigation of how faculty adopt curriculum when developing a new course or revising an existing course and using this knowledge to develop an architecture and sustainable plan for a web-based dissemination venue. In parallel with this work, faculty from University of Alaska, Fairbanks will develop and test courses focused on working professionals. We will monitor this course development process to add to our knowledge base for repository development.

2. Educating Teenage Drivers in the Pacific Northwest Regarding the Dangers of Distracted Driving

PI:
David S. Hurwitz (OSU)
Co-Investigators:
Karen Dixon (OSU), Bryan Vila (WSU), Ahmed Abdel-Rahim (UI), Linda Boyle (UW), Billy Connor (UAF)
Led By:
Oregon State University (OSU) Professor David S. Hurwitz, this project is the PacTrans Multi-Institution Outreach Project for 2012-2013.

Driver distraction can be defined as the diversion of driver attention away from the driving task, and it can result from factors both within and outside of the vehicle (Sheridan, 2004). It can include anything that distracts a driver from the primary task of driving and has been categorized as follows: visual (e.g., reading a map), auditory (e.g., listening to a conversation), biomechanical (e.g., tuning a radio), and cognitive (e.g. 'being lost in thought,' and 'looking but not seeing') (Ranney et al., 2000). Most distractions are actually a combination of these, thus it may be more useful to categorize distractions according to the task that drivers are engaged in while driving (rather than the combination of the forms of distractions). For example, cell phones are associated with cognitive, auditory, biomechanical, and potentially, visual distractions.

As teenage drivers gain moderate levels of experience, they also tend to have greater crash risks related to driver distraction when compared to drivers in other age groups (Lam, 2002). One proposed explanation for this is that younger drivers appear more willing to accept new technologies and devices than other drivers. As younger drivers become confident in their driving abilities, they tend to over-estimate their ability to multitask with these devices while driving (Sarkar and Andreas, 2004). Poysti et al. (2005) also found that young drivers, from 18- to 24-years old, were more likely to use their cell phones while driving than middle-aged drivers.

The goal of the study is to examine driver distraction among teenagers including what tasks they consider to be distracting as compared to their level of engagement in these same distracting tasks. This study differs from other studies in that a follow-up period will be used to identify differences in response based on feedback and education on distraction.

3. An Innovative Survey Design to Understand Sustainable Travel Behaviors

PI:
Cynthia Chen (UW)
Co-Investigators:
Anne Vernez Moudon (UW), Qing Shen (UW), Hejun Kang (UI)
Dates:
06/16/2012 – 11/01/2013

An innovative survey is being undertaken with rolling samples to address a major fiscal challenge faced by many MPOs. Faced with a small, but continuous budget, MPOs are increasingly unable to continue the current survey practice: conducting a large survey every 10 years. A rolling sample design also has other benefits over the current practice. Yet, for its implementation in household travel surveys, many questions exist. Some are technical issues, while others are cost and procedural-related. The primary purpose of this project is to understand these issues and provide recommendations for a future household travel survey with rolling samples.

It is also expected that a rolling sample design can help us understand travel behavior better for the purpose of VMT reduction. By sampling participants living in very different neighborhoods, it can help us devise better VMT reduction strategies. The second purpose of this project is to assess the potential of a rolling sample design in addressing the potential of land use and infrastructure related strategies for VMT reduction.

We anticipate taking a three-pronged approach: an extensive review of the relevant issues, a pilot data collection effort with a survey with rolling enrollment, and the analysis of the survey administration process as well as the data collected.

The research will help transportation planners and analysts to proactively reposition their service in light of the changing budgetary environment by developing a new approach to travel surveys based on small samples but continuous enrollment. This new approach is also more consistent with the recent changes in data collection methods used by the US Census Bureau. The proposed research will also enable researchers to gain a much better understanding of the potential of designing a new methodology for empirical examinations of the effects of built environments on transportation outcomes based on data collected from continuous enrollment.

4. A Platform for Proactive Risk-Based Slope Asset Management

PI:
Andrew T. Metzger (UAF)
Co-Investigators:
Pedro Arduino (UW), Michael Olsen (OSU), Armin Stuedlein (OSU), Joseph Wartman (UW)
Dates:
05/16/2012 – 05/15/2013

Unstable slopes, including landslides, rock falls, and debris flows, present significant risk to safety and regional commerce and represent a chronic concern for highway mangers. Due to the widespread spatial and temporal distribution of these problems, most states have, or are taking, measures to manage slopes along their highway alignments. However, given the physical nature of slopes along highway corridors, they pose a number of challenges when deciding where to allocate funds as well as from an overall asset management perspective. This is compounded by the level of effort currently required to survey, inspect and characterize slopes for the purpose of condition assessment. Slope assessment has traditionally been laborious and costly, but altogether necessary due to the potential consequences of a failure. Current best-practices for management do not necessarily facilitate proactive slope management — identifying and remediating hazardous conditions before a failure occurs.

The objective of this project is to develop a platform that will facilitate an objective programming of DOT resources for rock-slope assets within highway corridors. This platform should take the form of an administrative tool that will enable highway owners to make informed decisions on how best to program resources related to rock-slope inspection and remediation. The platform will be risk-based. That is, implementation of the products of this project will help qualify/quantify the level a risk a rock-slope poses to the highway corridor customers (users) based on the current condition and importance metrics of the corridor.

5. Performance Monitoring for Safe and Livable Communities: Fusing Data, to Improve Arterial Operations for All Users

PI:
Michael Dixon (UI)
Co-Investigators:
Ahmed Abdel-Rahim (UI), Mike Lowry (UI), D. Kim (OSU), J.D. Porter (OSU); Yinhai Wang (UW)
Dates:
05/01/2012 – 04/30/2013

Safe travel and livable communities require data that can characterize all modes, not just motorized vehicles. The problem many transportation professionals face is measuring performance and correcting poor performance to meet community goals. This project will integrate data from multiple sources for a more complete understanding of how to improve arterial traffic safety and how arterial systems serve each mode and steps that professionals should take to improve service.

6. Inspection, Assessment, Monitoring, and Renewal Strategies for Structures on Critical Lifeline Corridors

PI:
David Trejo (OSU)
Co-Investigators:
Marc Eberhard (lead at UW), Dawn Lehman (UW), Charles Roeder (UW), John Stanton (UW), Leroy Hulsey (UAF), Chris Bell (OSU)
Dates:
06/01/2012 – 10/31/2013

The Pacific Northwest (PNW) faces unique combinations of environmental hazards, including the strong potential for seismic events from the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ). The last known significant earthquake on the CSZ is believed to be in 1700. Evidence indicates that major earthquakes on the CSZ likely occur at a return period of approximately 300 years, and the next subduction event is anticipated to cause widespread damage throughout the PNW (The Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup 2005). In addition to being susceptible to earthquake damage, many infrastructure systems in the region are exposed to coastal zones or de-icing and/or anti-icing chemicals. Exposure to these conditions result in premature deterioration (corrosion, alkali silica reactions (ASR), cracking, etc.) and often results in reduced structure capacity. Keeping critical corridors operational during and after a seismic event on the CSZ is essential to minimizing loss of life and minimizing economic impact after the quake in the State. Critical to keeping these corridors open is the continued operation of the bridges on these corridors.

For this research we will perform inspections of bridges on critical corridors. In addition, the research will identify methods to assess the health of bridge structure and will identify innovative methods for repairing, rehabilitating, or replacing bridges on critical corridors. The outcome of the research will provide SHAs with efficient methods to inspect, assess, repair, rehabilitate, or replace these critical structures.

7. Developing a Performance Measurement Approach to Benefit/Cost Freight Project Prioritization

PI:
Kenneth Casavant (WSU)
Co-Investigators:
Shane McMullen (OSU), Anne Goodchild (UW), Edward McCormack (UW), Eric Jessup (WSU)
Dates:
06/01/2012 – 05/31/2013

Current project prioritization methodologies used by DOTs often do not specifically include freight benefits of projects and they have not taken advantage of new data made available by GPS technology (instead they depend on modeled data). This project will investigate the use of performance data for the emerging freight project prioritization methodology, primarily through the investigation of minimum performance standards and ongoing performance evaluation to develop a prioritization methodology that recognizes the impact of investments on overall freight system performance. The Washington State Department of Transportation has a well-developed benefit/cost methodology for long-standing programs supporting the Legislature’s policy goals for safety, preservation, environmental issues, and mobility. This project will finalize and test important methodological elements to improve freight project prioritization. It will also exploit new data sources for performance measurement, therefore addressing key weaknesses of the current approaches.

GPS data will be used to evaluate current network performance (travel time and travel time reliability) against minimum performance standards. We will also investigate methods to estimate future performance using current performance data, blending it into the benefit/cost methodology currently being developed by several project team members.

The project will result in cost-benefit analysis framework tool, supported by truck travel data collected from GPS devices, designed to be used by public transportation agencies in the Pacific Northwest. The project will also result in a final recommendation for a benefit/cost methodology and a set of recommendations for how WSDOT can integrate performance management (primarily GPS data based), with project prioritization process (including benefit/cost analysis) for freight projects.

Small Projects