Investing in traffic safety: Grants pave the way for innovation

Wed, 2015-08-19 06:00 -- SCC Staff

Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth, NH will soon have integrated structural, traffic and environmental monitoring programs. It's one of nine cutting-edge traffic safety improvement projects funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The idea behind the FHWA's Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) program is to drive innovations in traffic safety that can be replicated nationwide.

“Innovation requires creative thinking and investment,” said U.S. Secretary Anthony Foxx in announcing the $7.1 million in grant awards recently.

Since launching last year, the AID program has provided more than $27 million for 38 grant awards to help federal, state, local and tribal government agencies speed up their use of innovative traffic, safety and construction practices. The program will ultimately invest $45 million, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

A living bridge
The demonstration at the Memorial Bridge, which connects Portsmouth, NH with Kittery, Maine, could become a benchmark for assessing the long-term condition of transportation infrastructure. That's according to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT).

As NHDOT explains it, the "Living Bridge" project will create a self-diagnosing, self-reporting smart infrastructure through the installation of approximately 250 sensors that will continually monitor traffic, environment and the structural condition of the bridge. The sensors will specifically collect data on traffic, stress, vibration, wind speed, temperature and humidity. And the sensors will be powered by tidal energy through a turbine system installed at a bridge pier.

More gridlock without change
Secretary Foxx addressed the changing transportation environment in Beyond Traffic, a report released earlier this year by USDOT that examines trends and choices facing America’s transportation infrastructure over the next 30 years. The video below is an introduction to the report.

A variety of factors are impacting the future of the country's transportation infrastructure, according to the report. Among them:

  • A rapidly growing population
  • Increasing freight volume
  • Demographic shifts in rural and urban areas
  • A transportation system that faces more frequent extreme-weather events

Gridlock is expected to increase nationwide unless changes are made in the near-term.  

Grants available
“This country’s transportation needs continue to grow, and we need to adapt our infrastructure accordingly, by accelerating the use of new technologies and approaches,” said Federal Highway Acting Administrator Gregory Nadeau. The AID program builds on the FHWA’s ongoing "Every Day Counts" initiative, a partnership formed by FHWA, states and localities to accelerate the use of innovations and reduce project delivery times.

You can see a map of projects funded by the AID program to date on this page and learn about how to apply for a grant here.