Every Day Counts (EDC) – Cost Effective Highway Projects Delivered Quickly and More Efficiently
Posted on February, 4th 2016
Starting in 2011, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in cooperation with the American Association of State and Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) launched the Every Day Counts program in order to deliver cost effective highway projects quickly and more efficiently. Through a mix of technological advances and programmatic improvements, the EDC initiative has sought to deploy proven, but underutilized innovations to enhance roadway safety, reduce congestion, improve environmental sustainability, and shorten the project delivery process. The FHWA, in conjunction with transportation agencies and industry stakeholders from all over the country, identify the innovations that would most easily be adapted and institutionalized around the country every two years.
While the first three rounds of EDC initiatives have answered challenges from all across the transportation spectrum, one of the greatest beneficiaries so far has been the roadway safety community. Indeed, one of the crowning achievements of the first round of EDC was the deployment of the Safety EdgeSM, an innovative and low cost technological solution that reduces the risk of unsafe pavement drop-offs on our roads. Based on research showing that pavement tapered to a 30-degree angle vastly improves the ability of drivers to recover from roadway departures, the Safety EdgeSM attachment shoe creates low cost way to vastly improve safety. The merits of the Safety EdgeSM are not based in theory, of course, but instead have a proven track record of success. FHWA’s Iowa Division, and the Iowa Department of Transportation were pioneers in evaluating and testing the merits of the Safety EdgeSM, and found the results so overwhelmingly successful that use of the Safety EdgeSM shoe was adopted as a standard practice statewide. In a few short years, FHWA has joined with local agencies in 20 states to demonstrate the benefits of utilizing this technology.
Technological innovations like the Safety EdgeSM are deployed in response data driven analysis that demands a need addressing a particular safety issue. For example, while only five percent of our Nation’s highway miles are comprised of horizontal curves, more than 25 percent of highway fatalities in the United States occur at or near those areas. In response, the second round of EDC initiatives demonstrated the effectiveness of High Friction Surface Treatments (HFST). The benefits of this surface treatment has been documented all across the country, especially in places like Kentucky where a 70% crash reduction was noted at locations utilizing HSFT. While a more expensive solution than its Safety EdgeSM counterpart, HSFT has proven itself to be durable and effective, and studies from the South Carolina DOT indicate a cost-benefit ratio of about 24 to 1. These technologies are highly adaptable to the specific needs of each state, established by its diffusion throughout the country.
Safety, for all Roadway Users
While technology is a fantastic method to improve the safety of our drivers, the Every Day Counts initiatives realize that our public roadways are home to both motorists and non-motorists. As such conceptual designs like Road Diets and Smarter Work Zones are critical in enhancing the safety of motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and workers. Road Diets in particular are the quintessential example of how the EDC program puts safety at the forefront of our decision making process. In contrast to the dangerous, four-lane undivided road, Road Diets are an excellent way redesign existing systems with the safety of all individuals in mind. By narrowing the roadway to two lanes in each direction with a center turning lane/median in the middle, more conservative speeds are encouraged for vehicles and the crossing of these roads becomes less daunting for pedestrians. Furthermore, the reclaimed space from the previous lanes can be turned into bicycle lanes, ensuring that all users have safe access to the system. Road Diets are not a new idea; thousands of road diets have been implemented over the past several decades, with more than 600 state, regional, and local partners adopting the idea of “Complete Streets” policies, establishing the expectation that all future roadway projects will adhere to these same principals. However, with the backing of the EDC program, these standards will be more rapidly deployed across the country, allowing more people to enjoy the benefits of enhanced safety.
Not Just Technology
Of course, the goal of the EDC program has not been to just exhibit technologies and engineering designs that are effective in tackling safety issues, but to promote a mentality of safety culture as well. The latest round of EDC initiatives has built upon decades of work to promote the integration of safety performance into all highway investment decisions by promoting Data Driven Safety Analysis. Putting safety analysis at the forefront of project development decision making has led to better targeted highway investments, resulting in fewer crashes on our nation’s roadways. This process has been realized in different forms all over the country; for example, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) employs predictive analysis to select cost-effective solutions for its roads, maximizing safety benefits per dollar spent.
Alternatively, states use data driven systemic analysis to counter not what might happen, but what they knew to already be happening, focusing their highway dollars at their greatest risks. Both predictive and systemic analyses have led to more informed decision-making, optimization of investments, and overall, improved safety.
The EDC initiatives that have been deployed have approached safety concerns in a variety of proven ways. By demonstrating technological innovations, new engineering designs, promoting safety as both the means and the ends of project development, best practices from around the country are now shared faster than ever. Ultimately, the goal of the EDC program is to use the resources of the federal government to serve as an amplifier for effective ideas that would otherwise take years to filter through the rest of the country. Given the countrywide application of so many of the initiatives already, the program’s benefit to our roadway safety cannot be understated.
All images accompanying this post are from the FHWA Center for Accelerating Innovation website.