Gov. Tim Walz proclaimed April 23-29 Capitol Area Library Consortium Week to recognize CALCO libraries during National Library Week.Continue reading MnDOT Library is Among State Government Libraries Recognized by Gov. Walz
Tag Archives: transportation
MnDOT Library launches digital library
The MnDOT Library recently got a request for a copy of Minnesota Standard Specifications for Highway Construction from 1938. It might seem obscure, but the request was easy to fulfill because a digitized version of the manual was readily available in the newly launched MnDOT Digital Library.Continue reading MnDOT Library launches digital library
Scholars reflect on critical transportation topics in new Future of Mobility series
What’s next in transportation? CTS’s new Future of Mobility series collects the perspectives of top University of Minnesota researchers and other national experts.
In 17 articles, the authors scan the horizon and reflect on critical transportation topics ranging from rural transportation to automated vehicles to equity for users. The future of transportation will be a complex, interconnected set of practices and technologies, and this series brings bold thinking together in one place.Continue reading Scholars reflect on critical transportation topics in new Future of Mobility series
Register for the annual CTS Research Conference
Join us at the 28th Annual CTS Research Conference to hear about new learning, emerging ideas, and the latest innovations in transportation. This year’s event is scheduled for November 2 at The Commons Hotel in Minneapolis.
Attendees will learn about research findings, implementation efforts, and engagement activities related to a variety of transportation topics. This year’s keynote presentations feature:
- Joung Lee, policy director at AASHTO, on how we pay for transportation infrastructure
- Joshua Schank, chief innovation officer at LA Metro, on policy innovation at his agency
To browse the full program or register for attend, visit the CTS website.
Reducing Driver Errors at Two-Lane Roundabouts
Researchers studied driving behavior at four multilane roundabouts to better understand the relationship between traffic control designs and driver errors. Data collected showed that certain traffic control changes decreased turn violations but failed to eliminate yield violations. Researchers were unable to identify long-term solutions for improving roundabout design and signage, and recommended further research to improve the overall safety and mobility of multilane roundabouts.
“Even though the study did not provide a silver bullet on how to prevent crashes at multilane roundabouts, it did create an efficient tool to analyze and quantify driving behavior data,” said Joe Gustafson, Traffic Engineer, Washington County Public Works.
“This study has advanced our knowledge in multilane roundabout safety and is one step closer to providing much needed improvements to roundabout design guidance,” said John Hourdos, Director, Minnesota Traffic Observatory, University of Minnesota.
What Was the Need?
Roundabouts have been shown to improve overall in-tersection safety compared to traditional traffic signals. However, noninjury crashes are sometimes more frequent on multilane roundabouts than on single-lane roundabouts due in part to driver confusion. Common driver errors such as failing to yield and turning violations on multilane roundabouts have contributed to an increase in noninjury crashes.
Given the benefits of improved mobility, traffic throughput and injury reduction of multilane roundabouts, reducing the noninjury crash rate at multilane roundabouts is important to facilitating their use by Minnesota cities and counties. Identifying solutions to reduce common driving violations would be more sustainable than the current practice of converting multilane roundabouts back to single-lane roundabouts.
In a previous study on a two-lane roundabout in Richfield, Minnesota, researchers demonstrated that traffic control changes could reduce some of these driver errors. However, more data was needed to support study results. Understanding driver behavior and improving traffic control devices are key factors in designing safer multilane roundabouts.
What Was Our Goal?
With limited research on modern multilane roundabouts, the Minnesota Traffic Observatory sought to collect more data to evaluate the correlation between traffic control design features and collisions. Instead of conducting manual observations, researchers used an innovative video analysis tool to collect and process recorded videos of driving behaviors at test sites. Based on the analysis, they attempted to identify driver behaviors and error rates to help reduce noninjury crashes at multilane roundabouts.
What Did We Do?
The research team selected four multilane roundabouts in Minnesota — two in Mankato, one in Lakeville and one in St. Cloud — to observe undesirable driving maneuvers. At each roundabout site, researchers mounted video cameras at key locations to record one to two weeks of driving behavior. Only one roundabout could be observed at a time because only one set of specialized video equipment was available.
The raw videos were processed to produce a data set for analysis. Researchers used TrafficIntelligence, an open-source computer vision program, to automate extraction of vehicle trajectories from the raw footages. They used the same software to correct any errors to improve data reliability. The resulting clean data from the recorded videos were supplemented with historical crash frequency data reports obtained from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Collectively, data from both sources allowed researchers to thoroughly investigate the frequency and crash types from the four roundabouts. A statistical analysis of the data revealed that turn violations and yield violations were among the most common driving errors.
Researchers also looked at how violation rates vary with the roundabout’s location and relevant design features. Based on these findings, researchers proposed signage and striping changes to reduce driver errors at the two Mankato test sites. After the changes were implemented, they collected additional video data.
What Did We Learn?
This study provided one of the most comprehensive analyses to date of driving behavior at multilane roundabouts. Researchers were successful in finding solutions for reducing turn violations, but they were unable to identify solutions for yield violations despite the vast amount of data.
Minor differences in the design at each roundabout presented specific challenges. The analysis focused on how each varying design feature impacted driving behavior. Proposed traffic control changes such as extending solid lines between entrance lanes, adjusting the position of yield signs and adding one-way signs successfully decreased turn violations. However, data from before and after traffic control changes showed an insignificant impact on decreasing yield violations. Importantly, the study produced a list of ineffective traffic control methods that can be eliminated from future studies, saving engineers time and money.
The TrafficIntelligence tool was crucial in efficiently processing and cleaning large amounts of raw video. With improvements made to the software program, the tool should be an asset to future research on roundabouts and to other studies requiring observations of driving behavior.
The traffic control changes that were successful at reducing crashes at two-lane roundabouts should be implemented by traffic engineers. In particular, large overhead directional signs or extended solid lines between entrance lanes should be installed to help reduce turning violations. The analysis method used in this study could also be used for a robust before-and-after evaluation of future modifications to traffic control devices.
Additional research could further scrutinize the data already collected, and researchers recommend that more data be collected to examine additional traffic control methods and other intersection design elements to improve the overall safety and mobility of two-lane roundabouts. This research could also serve as an impetus for the study of numerous roundabouts in a pooled fund effort involving several states.
This post pertains to the LRRB-produced Report 2017-30, “Evaluation of Safety and Mobility of Two-Lane Roundabouts,” published July 2017. A webinar recording of the report is also available.
MnDOT Chooses EasyMile for Autonomous Shuttle Bus Project
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Transportation chose EasyMile, a France-based company specializing in driverless technology, to lead its autonomous shuttle bus pilot project. MnDOT announced in June it will begin testing the use of an autonomous shuttle bus in a cold weather climate.
“We’re excited to partner with EasyMile to help MnDOT test autonomous technology,” said Jay Hietpas, MnDOT state traffic engineer and project manager. “Their expertise will help us learn how these vehicles operate in a winter weather environment so we can advance this technology and position MnDOT and Minnesota as a leader.”
EasyMile, which has a location in Colorado, has conducted driverless technology cold weather tests in Finland and Norway. Minnesota will be their first cold weather test site in the U.S. EasyMile will use its EZ10 electric shuttle bus that has already transported 160,000 people more than 60,000 miles in 14 countries. The shuttle was tested in various environments and traffic conditions. During these tests, the shuttle operated crash-free.
The shuttle operates autonomously at low speeds on pre-mapped routes. It can transport between six and 12 people.
Initially, it will be tested at MnROAD, which is MnDOT’s pavement test facility. Testing will include how the shuttle operates in snow and ice conditions, at low temperatures and on roads where salt is used.
Testing is scheduled to start in November and go through February 2018. The shuttle will also be showcased during the week of the 2018 Super Bowl.
Hietpas said 3M will also be a partner in the project so the company can research various connected vehicle concepts including sensor enhancement and advanced roadway safety materials. When optimized, these materials would aid in safe human and machine road navigation.
Read more about the autonomous shuttle bus pilot project:
- MnDOT press release
- MnDOT Autonomous Bus Pilot Project website
- MnDOT Research project page
- EasyMile website
- MnDOT’s MnROAD facility
Related MnDOT research:
- Development and Demonstration of a Cost Effective In-Vehicle Lane Departure and Advanced Curve Speed Warning System (active)
- In-Vehicle Dynamic Curve Speed Warnings at High Risk Rural Curves (active)
- Transportation Futures Project
- Fog lines project
- Bluetooth low energy technology
- Collision avoidance
- Snowplow Driver Assist System
- In-Vehicle Work Zone Messages: Examining Signing Options for Improving Safe Driving Behaviors in Work Zones
- In-Vehicle Sign Systems May Improve Safety When Supplementing Road Signs
Seven Pilot Projects to Change Transportation Practice in Minnesota
Roadside fencing that protects endangered turtles, a toolkit for identifying potentially acid-producing rock and a device that could save MnDOT $200 million a year in pavement damage are just a few of the advancements that MnDOT hopes to make in the near future, thanks to seven recently funded research implementation projects.
Each spring, the governing board for MnDOT’s research program funds initiatives that help put new technology or research advances into practice. This year’s picks aim to improve the environment, reporting of traffic signal data, notification of lane closures and the design and quality of pavements.
Here’s a brief look at the projects (full proposals here):
Protecting the Environment and Wildlife
- To avoid the leaching of potentially acid-generating rock during excavation projects, MnDOT hopes to develop a GIS-based risk-screening tool that identifies areas where PAG rock might be encountered. Guidance will be developed for identifying and handling PAG rock.
Found in bedrock throughout the state – especially northern Minnesota, PAG minerals can release acid upon contact with air or water, a danger to aquatic and human life.
“Anytime we dig, there is the potential to expose this stuff,” said Jason Richter, chief geologist.
- Reducing roadway access for small animals, including endangered turtles, is a priority for MnDOT and the Minnesota Department of Resources. MnDOT will analyze the effectiveness of different types of small animal exclusion fences tried across the state and develop a standard set of designs for future projects.
Improved Reporting of Traffic Signal Data
- A centralized hub of traffic signal data could benefit future vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) applications and assist with the modeling of transportation project impacts. Methods and tools will be developed for a regional database of intersection control information that extracts data from MnDOT’s recently acquired Central Traffic Signal Control System and soon-to-be adopted Signal Performance Measure application.
Real-Time Notice of Lane Closures
- In this pilot project, 20 MnDOT arrow board messages will be equipped with technology that automatically reports lane closures on 511 and highway message boards, providing more timely motorist notification.
Longer-Lasting Roads and Improved Quality Control
- This summer, a new quality assurance device called the Rolling Density Meter will be deployed on several pavement projects, eliminating the need for destructive sample cores.
“This is the ultimate in compaction control,” said Glenn Engstrom, Office of Materials and Road Research director. If contractors obtain the right level of density when paving asphalt roads, MnDOT could eliminate $200 million per year in premature road failure.
- In 2018, MnDOT plans to require Intelligent Compaction (a pavement roller technology that reduces workmanship issues) on all significant asphalt projects. A vehicle-mounted mobile imaging device will be piloted that collects necessary supportive roadway alignment data, without the need for survey crews.
- Upgrades to MnDOT’s pavement design software, MnPAVE, (incorporating recycled unbound and conventional base material properties) will help increase the service life of Minnesota roads.
MnDOT shares knowledge at national research conference
MnDOT employees are sharing knowledge and displaying leadership in Washington this week by delivering presentations and conducting meetings at the nation’s preeminent transportation conference.
The Transportation Research Board (TRB) 96th Annual Meeting held Jan. 8-12 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., is expected to draw more than 12,000 transportation professionals from around the world. According to its website, the 2017 event scheduled more than 5,000 presentations in more than 800 sessions and workshops addressing topics of interest to policy makers, administrators, practitioners, researchers, and representatives of government, industry, and academic institutions. TRB’s 2017 annual meeting theme is “Transportation Innovation: Leading the Way in an Era of Rapid Change.”
“Every year when TRB holds its annual meeting, MnDOT’s strong presence at the event is a reminder of our state’s commitment to top-notch transportation research,” said Linda Taylor, director of MnDOT Research Services and Library.
The following is a roundup of MnDOT employees who were invited to deliver presentations and participate in key committee meetings along with their presentation topics and committees (not all staff may have attended the conference; however, due to limited funding or availability):
Kenneth Buckeye, Financial Management
- Congestion Pricing Research Subcommittee
- Implementing Distance-Based Fees Through Shared Mobility Model
- Planning for Data Needs for Clean, Smart Cities and the Electric Vehicle-Autonomous Vehicle-Shared Vehicle Transition
- Operational Aspects of Priced Managed Lanes and Cordon Pricing
- Congestion Pricing Committee
Thomas Burnham, Materials & Road Research
- Performance of Accelerated Concrete: Practical Applications and How They Are Working (Rapid Concrete Pavement Repairs at the MnROAD Test Facility)
- Pavement Rehabilitation: Looking Back, Looking Forward (Rigid Pavements)
- Portland Cement Concrete Pavement Thickness and Shear Wave Velocity Variation Versus Observed Pavement Distresses
- Calibration of Asphalt Strain Transducers Using Digital Image Correlation
Kathryn Caskey, Transportation System Management
- Building Strategic Institutional Relationships at the Intersection of Health and Transportation
- Responsive Engagement: The Future of Transportation Meets the Future of Public Involvement
Shongtao Dai, Materials & Road Research
- Agency Experience Using 3-D Ground-Penetrating Radar for Pavement Evaluation
- Characterization, Evaluation, and Modeling of Asphalt Concrete
Dan Franta, District 7
- Investigation of Slab Curvature in LTPP SPS-2 Experiment Using Empirical Mode Decomposition of Pavement Profilometer Data
Timothy Henkel, Modal Planning & Program Management
- AASHTO Asset Management Subcommittee Joint Meeting
- Transportation Asset Management Committee
- MAP-21 and FAST Act Requirements: Overcoming Implementation Challenges and Leveraging Opportunities
Kyle Hoegh, Materials & Road Research
- Agency Experience Using 3-D Ground-Penetrating Radar for Pavement Evaluation
- Effect of Early Age Loading on Concrete Ultimate Strength
- Investigation of Slab Curvature in LTPP SPS-2 Experiment Using Empirical Mode Decomposition of Pavement Profilometer Data
Bruce Holdhusen, Transportation System Management
Santiago Huerta, Metro District
Bernard Izevbekhai, Materials & Road Research
- Effect of Early Age Loading on Concrete Ultimate Strength
- Benefits of Subsurface Drainage Design and Infrastructure: MnDOT’s Experience
- Deployment of Next-Generation Concrete Surface in Minnesota
Brad Larsen, Metro District
Rita Lederle, Bridges
Francis Loetterle, Passenger Rail
Dean Mikulik, Materials & Road Research (student worker)
Mark Nelson, Transportation System Management
Steven Olson, Materials & Road Research
David Solsrud, Modal Planning & Program Management
- Where the TAMP Meets the Road: Utilizing Insights from Asset Management Planning to Improve Practices
Trisha Stefanski, Modal Planning & Program Management
Joel Ulring, State Aid for Local Transportation
- Applications of Expanded Polystyrene Geofoam for Transportation Infrastructure (Roads and Embankments)
Jennifer Wells, Bridges
- Utilizing Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for Bridge Inspections
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to Enable Safe and Cost-Effective Bridge Inspection
- sUAS Applications – A Case Study at MnDOT
Benjamin Worel, Materials & Road Research
Charles Zelle, Commissioner
10 Ways Transportation Research Keeps Minnesotans Moving in the Winter
As the first big snow and ice storms sweep through parts of Minnesota today, we’d like to remind you of some of our great winter weather research studies. Here’s a list of some of this winter-related research from MnDOT and the Local Road Research Board:
Living snow fences
Living snow fences are trees, shrubs, native grasses, wildflowers, or rows of corn crops located along roads or around communities and farmsteads. These living barriers trap snow as it blows across fields, piling it up before it reaches a road, waterway, farmstead or community. Through multiple research efforts, MnDOT continues to advance its practices for living snow fences. Willow plants, which are which are inexpensive and fast-growing, are a new form of snow fence. MnDOT has also developed a tool that allows the agency to better offer a competitive payment to farmers.
- Evaluating the Cost and Benefits of Living Snow Fences
- Web-Based Preventative Blowing and Drifting Snow Control Calculator Decision Tool
- Assessing the Use of Shrub-Willows for Living Snow Fences in Minnesota
- Expanding the Adoption of Blowing and Drifting Snow Control Treatments on Private Lands
According to recent studies, researchers believe Minnesota could eliminate salt usage on low-volume local roads by switching to permeable pavements. Permeable pavements — pavements that allow water to seep through them — have been studied in some Minnesota cities, and a research project is currently underway to further investigate how much salt reduction can be expected.
- Permeable Pavements in Cold Climates: State of the Art and Cold Climate Case Studies
- Permeable Pavement for Road Salt Reduction
Traffic recovery during winter storms
MnDOT’s Metro District developed a way to automatically determine when to stop plowing a highway after a snow storm. The method involves measuring traffic flow to determine when road conditions have recovered. Current practice calls for maintenance workers to visually inspect traffic lanes. The automated technique could potentially be more accurate and save time and costs.
Salt and other deicing chemicals
Minnesota winters are no joke, and Minnesotans still need to get wherever they’re going despite harsh snow and ice conditions. That’s why MnDOT is constantly researching new and improved versions of salt and other deicing chemicals to keep roads safe at the least amount of damage to lakes, rivers and groundwater.
- Roadway Salt Best Management Practices
- Chloride Free Snow and Ice Control Material
- Salt Brine Blending to Optimize Deicing and Anti-Icing Performance and Cost Effectiveness Phase III
- Study of De-Icing Salt Accumulation and Transport Through A Watershed
A couple years ago, MnDOT snowplow operators in southwestern Minnesota invented an experimental plow that uses the wind to cast snow from the road without impeding traffic or the operator’s view. This winter, MnDOT intends to test multiple types of snowplow blades as part of a larger research project comparing types of deicers.
While a lot of research has been done on the plow itself, MnDOT hasn’t forgotten to invest in research to improve in-cabin snowplow technology as well. Some of the great technology recently developed to assist snowplow drivers, includes a driver assist application that a MnDOT plow driver used last winter to navigate a storm and rescue stranded motorists. The agency is also studying equipment factors that can cause fatigue in snowplow operators.
- Driver Assistive Systems for Rural Applications: A Path to Deployment
- Synthesis on GPS/AVL Equipment Used for Winter Maintenance
When the snow melts every spring, the damage salt does to roadside grass is obvious. That’s why researchers have spent years looking into developing and implementing salt-tolerant grasses on roadside settings. The result of this effort has been the introduction and use of salt-tolerant sod and seed mixtures that are made up primarily of fine fescue species. MnDOT is also studying how chlorides are transported within watersheds in order to better focus efforts to reduce deicer usage in areas where it will have the biggest environmental impact.
- Developing Salt-Tolerant Sod Mixtures for Use as Roadside Turf in Minnesota
- Best Management Practices for Establishment of Salt-Tolerant Grasses on Roadsides
- Expanding the Success of Salt-Tolerant Roadside Turfgrasses Through Innovation and Education
- Regional Optimization of Roadside Turfgrass Seed Mixtures
Cold-weather cracking prediction test
MnDOT has developed a test that can tell whether a contractor’s proposed asphalt mix will cause the road to crack in the winter. Building roads using better asphalt mixes leads to less cracking and fewer potholes. The test is expected to save the state about $2 million per year.
- DCT Low Temperature Fracture Testing Pilot Project
- Optimizing Cold In-Place Recycling (CIR) Applications Through Fracture Energy Performance Testing
- Disc Shaped Compact Tension (DCT) Specifications Development for Asphalt Pavement
Pedestrian snow removal
It’s not all about cars and trucks. Minnesotans still ride bikes and walk in the winter. That why MnDOT assembled a comprehensive review of existing practices and policies from other states, as well as a summary of valuable publications that could be referenced while developing a new policy.
Maintenance Decision Making
MnDOT research led to the development of a Maintenance Decision Support System and related components provide real-time, route-specific information to snow plow drivers, as well as recommended salt application levels. These recommendations have reduced chemical usage while still achieving performance targets for snow and ice clearance.
Knowing While Mowing: GPS Keeps Maintenance Workers Out Of the Weeds
As temperatures fall and days get shorter, MnDOT Metro District maintenance workers are wrapping up a season of mowing grass along roadsides and in medians that they hope will prove a little more efficient than in the past.
Thanks to a research project that installed GPS devices in tractor cabs, operators have a better sense of exactly which areas they need to mow and which areas should be left alone. Five Metro District tractors were tested in 2015. This year, more than 40 tractors were fitted with the automated vehicle location (AVL) technology, which includes a GPS antenna, an on-board central processing unit (CPU) and an in-cab screen with a user interface.
Trisha Stefanski, Metro District asset management engineer, expects one of the biggest benefits of the project to be a reduction in herbicide use. Maintenance crews use herbicide to control the spread of noxious weeds that sometimes get spread during mowing operations. Mapping exactly where noxious weeds are, and providing that information to operators on a real-time, in-cab screen and user interface helps them mow around those areas.
“We’re really hoping it will reduce the amount of herbicide that we’re putting on our roadways by 50 percent,” Stefanski said. “We’re not certain that will be the number, but that’s what we’re hoping for. We think just not mowing those areas will not spread as many noxious weeds and so we don’t have to apply as much herbicide.”
Metro District operators, such as Jesse Lopez, give the AVL technology rave reviews.
“Basically you can see what you shouldn’t mow and what you should mow. So, it makes it easy for me. It’s just like playing a game,” Lopez said. “This actually helps me to optimize what my job is. I know exactly where I’m at and where I’m going. I think everyone should use it – absolutely everybody who is in a mowing situation or a plowing situation.”
In addition, the AVL technology helps maintenance supervisors keep tabs on exactly where their operators are in real time. It also helps supervisors complete reports by automatically providing the geographic areas where mowing has been completed.
Stefanski says the project has gone really well, and she hopes collecting more data over another mowing season will show real savings on herbicide use. In the meantime, she is thinking of other ways AVL technology could be applied to maintenance operations.
“What I really like about the project is that we are taking something used in a lot snow plows and a lot of other technologies – cars, other things, maybe UPS uses them – and we’re putting it into maintenance operations,” Stefanski said. “Having it for mowing, we can also use it for smooth pavements. We can also use it for other things in mowing operations.”