Road Management & Engineering Journal
Road Management & Engineering Journal
July, 2000
TranSafety, Inc.
(360) 683-6276
Fax: (360) 335-6402

A Word from the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearing House

By

T. Peter Ruane,
President & CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association
and
Dr. Gerald Ullman,
Associate Research Engineer of the Texas Transportation Institute

(This article is reproduced, with permission, from the June 1999 edition of The Road Ahead, a publication of the Virginia Transportation Technology Transfer Center.)

The National Work Zone Safety Clearinghouse was opened in February 1998. It is a unique partnership between the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and FHWA [the Federal Highway Administration]. The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), which is located on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, handles the day-to-day operations. The National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) assist ARTBA in marketing and publicizing the Clearinghouse.

The Clearinghouse project has captured the attention of the media and the transportation community during the last year. More than 10 million people have been reached through 95 news articles that have been written about the project in publications, including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Engineering News-Record magazine. As a result, ARTBA and its marketing partners have made great progress towards increasing awareness of the Clearinghouse and increasing utilization of the website.

Construction industry trade publications have also stepped up to the plate by providing more than $30,000 in free ad space to promote the Clearinghouse as a public service. More than 20,000 people around the nation received the Clearinghouse newsletter. During the first nine months of 1998, there were also more than 230,000 "hits" on the Clearinghouse website in addition to phone calls, faxes, and emails seeking information about work zone safety issues.

Safety in roadway construction sites will take on new significance in 1999. Congress has already made the first down payment on the 6-year Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) by appropriating $25 billion for the core highway program in 1999. TEA-21 will go a long way toward improving the quality of America's highways, but the dramatically increased levels of investment also mean that there will be thousands of new construction sites in the coming years. ARTBA's Vice President of Economics and Research, Dr. Bill Buechner, estimates a 66 percent increase in the number of construction sites over the next few years. Some other transportation officials estimate that construction work zones are likely to appear as frequently as every 30 to 40 miles on the interstate system. This places motorists and construction workers potentially at greater risk.

The transportation construction industry and the federal government understand that more must be done to improve safety in our nation's roadway work zones. Better worker safety training and motorist education, and better work zone traffic control design, procedure, and technology are needed. Information sharing and technology transfer are important. The Work Zone Safety Clearinghouse has become a part of the solution as an increasing number of work zone safety professionals are looking to new places for answers.

The Clearinghouse was established to collect roadway safety-related information and serve as a central "library" on the subject. Anyone can contact the Clearinghouse to ask questions on work zone safety. The Clearinghouse maintains a comprehensive web site that includes additional work zone safety-related information.

The Clearinghouse provides information useful to contractors, educators, labor unions, public safety officers, public and private work zone safety advocates, manufacturers, researchers, suppliers of traffic control devices, traffic law enforcement officials, traffic and highway design engineers, utility companies, and the news media.

During the past year, TTI researchers have compiled the most comprehensive library available on roadway work zone safety. Users can take advantage of the Clearinghouse databases and electronic linkages to find information about the following topics.

ARTBA and FHWA are not alone in demonstrating their commitment to improving safety in roadway construction sites. In September of 1998, the Board of Advisors of the Clearinghouse held its inaugural meeting at the ARTBA Building in Washington, D.C. The Board, which consists of more than 20 corporate and organization leaders interested in highway safety, counsels ARTBA and FHWA on the development and general operation of the Clearinghouse. Board members are also involved in helping develop long-term financial support for the project. To that end, ASSHTO, the Laborers' International Union of North America, CNA Commercial Insurance, Lanford Brothers Co., and ARTBA have pledged more than $100,000 to support the facility in 1999.

The FHWA is providing the initial seed money for the project, which is to become fully self-sustaining by October of 2000. Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Friends of the Clearinghouse sponsorships are available. To become a sponsor, contact ARTBA's Brad Sant at (202) 289-4434.

Clearinghouse services can be accessed via toll-free phone (888) 447-5556, FAX (409) 845-0568, email at workzone@tamu.edu, and on the Internet at http://wzsafety.tamu.edu.



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