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FHWA schedules three webinars for proposed MUTCD updates

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The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has scheduled three webinars through April 1 on topics related to the proposed updates to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD).

The webinars take place at 2 p.m. EDT and are scheduled as follows: March 18, Introduction and Overview; March 25,  Pedestrians, Bicycles and Transit; and April 1, Urban Traffic Control.

The MUTCD has not undergone a comprehensive update in more than a decade. FHWA is currently accepting comments.

Register now for ATSSA’s 2021 Legislative Briefing & Virtual Fly-In

Connect with Capitol Hill policymakers from a socially distant virtual platform

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Take part in ATSSA’s 2021 Legislative Briefing & Virtual Fly-In from the comfort and safety of home. The April 21-22 event is free for members and will be completely online making access to Capitol Hill policymakers convenient and effective.

Last year’s virtual event proved popular with ATSSA members and provided a great way to interact with legislators without the need for travel. Participants drove their message to Capitol Hill and enjoyed direct interactions with members of Congress and congressional staff involved in funding and policy decisions.

ATSSA’s Legislative Briefing & Fly-In equips members to present key roadway safety infrastructure industry issues directly to political leaders and this year’s issues are key for the industry. The FAST Act, or Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, was a hot topic last year as ATSSA members advocated successfully for a one-year extension but a new deadline is looming.

They’re baaaaaaaaaack – Earmarks that is

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Late last week, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) announced a process for bringing back congressional directed funding, also known as earmarks. Additionally, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) disseminated a “Dear Colleague” letter to members of Congress indicating his plan to include earmarks in the upcoming highway bill, which is expected to be part of a larger House infrastructure package.

Earmarks are projects that receive some level of federal funding for state and local projects in congressional districts. They differ from competitive grant programs in that competitive grants are applied for and decided by staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), whereas earmarks are advocated for by interested parties and members of Congress decide if they want to include them in a particular legislative vehicle.

Because of an extremely bloated earmark process in the 2005 surface transportation bill, Congress opted to ban earmarks starting in 2011. Since then, there have been occasional rumors that they may return; however, DeLauro’s and DeFazio’s announcements mark the first time there has been this serious of an effort.

Report estimates 2020 traffic fatalities highest in 13 years

National Safety Council releases preliminary data on motor vehicle crashes

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Fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2020 increased 8% over the previous year despite a drop in driving because of the pandemic, according to a report released this morning by the National Safety Council (NSC).

Preliminary data suggests 42,060 people died and 4.8 million were seriously injured in crashes in 2020, according to the report. The rate of death from that data shows a 24% rise over the previous year though motorists traveled 13% fewer miles. That accounted for the biggest year-over-year increase in 96 years, the report noted.

“It is tragic that in the U.S., we took cars off the roads and didn’t reap any safety benefits,” Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of NSC, said in the release. “These data expose our lack of an effective roadway safety culture. It is past time to address roadway safety holistically and effectively, and NSC stands ready to assist all stakeholders, including the federal government.”

MUTCD discussions scheduled for ATSSA’s Convention & Traffic Expo

Take part in chats on nine topics Feb. 16-18

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Join the discussion on various aspects of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) during week two of ATSSA’s 51st Annual Convention & Traffic Expo.

The discussions are hosted by ATSSA and take place within the Conversation Lounge of the Convention’s online platform. Check out the topics you want to be part of and join the conversation. Participation is free for everyone registered for the Convention.

Sessions run Tuesday through Thursday next week and cover nine topics.

FHWA issues letter to clarify eligibility process for cable barrier systems

Letter from the Office of Safety relates to the 2nd edition of MASH

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The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued a letter clarifying the process to obtain an eligibility letter for cable barrier systems.

The “open letter” from Michael S. Griffith, director of the Office of Safety Technologies in the Office of Safety, is addressed to members of the “highway safety hardware and roadside design community.”

He notes that the FHWA received questions about the eligibility letter over the past several months.

AASHTO and FHWA issue clarifications on implementing MASH 2016

Q and A released for issues raised since May 2018

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Information is now available that clarifies issues related to implementing the 2016 edition of the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH).

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) publishes MASH and issued the latest updates in a Question-and-Answer format. The latest information is the result of work produced by a joint technical working group of people from state departments of transportation (DOTs), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and accredited crash testing labs, according to a statement included in the release.

Senate confirms Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation

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The Senate today confirmed former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation, adding him to the cabinet of President Joe Biden.

Buttigieg campaigned on the need for transportation and infrastructure investment throughout his bid to become the Democrats’ nominee for president. During his hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee last month, he touched on the need for shoring up revenue for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), increased investment in tribal and rural roads, the future of autonomous vehicles and the need for safety to be at the forefront of any new transportation or infrastructure initiative.

The Senate Commerce Committee forwarded his nomination to the full Senate on Wednesday by a 21-3 vote.

The full Senate confirmed Buttigieg’s nomination by a vote of 86-13.

Legislation introduced to find alternative Highway Trust Fund revenues

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03) has introduced H.R.383, the Road User Charge Advancement Act of 2021, legislation that would build on the Surface Transportation Systems Funding Alternatives (STSFA) program included in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The bill was originally introduced during the last Congress and included in the Moving Forward Act. If it secures passage this Congress, it would nearly double current funding to $35 million annually for STSFA.

The STSFA program incentivizes states to find alternative funding solutions for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), as a reliance on revenues from the current gas tax becomes a less feasible method of keeping the HTF solvent. The federal gas tax has lost nearly 71% of its purchasing power since its most recent rate increase in 1993 due to inflation and the increase in fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles.  Failure to develop new sources of revenue could see the HTF experience a $190 billion shortfall in the next decade.

USDOT releases 'Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan'

The plan is available on the Federal Register for public comments

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The U.S. Department of Transportation this week released an “Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan”  (AVCP) that details a multi-pronged approach that “prioritizes safety while preparing for the future of transportation,” according to a statement announcing the plan.

“This comprehensive plan lays out a vision for the safe integration of automated vehicles into America’s transportation system while ensuring that legitimate concerns about safety, security and privacy are addressed,” Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in the statement.

Public comments should be made within 60 days of the posting.

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