Blog Archives

Reducing speeds to improve safety for work-zone flaggers

Work-zone flagger holding a stop sign up for cars as they approach a construction zoneWhen drivers approach a roadway work zone at high speeds, they put the lives of work-zone flaggers at risk. To keep flaggers safe on the job, U of M researchers are looking for better ways to capture drivers’ attention—and compel them to slow down—as they approach flagger-controlled work zones.

Kathleen Harder, director of the Center for Design in Health, and John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory, identified and tested new work-zone warning elements to more effectively capture and sustain driver attention. The project was funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board.

Posted in Construction, Safety, Traffic operations, Transportation research

New work-zone warning app featured on KARE 11

KARE 11 reporters interviewing researcher Chen-Fu Liao next to a highway work zone.A new app that sends warning messages to drivers as they approach work zones was featured on KARE 11 News on Thursday. The app was developed by U of M researchers in a project sponsored by MnDOT.

The story aired as part of KARE 11’s #eyesUP campaign to end distracted driving.

The app works by pairing with Bluetooth low-energy tags placed in work zones, triggering audio warnings in smartphones that are within their range. This allows drivers to get a warning message without having to look down at their phones—or at warning devices such as changeable message signs outside their vehicles.

Posted in Construction, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Safety, Technology, Transportation research

Submit a proposal to the Local OPERA Program

Lake County OPERA projectDo you work for a local transportation agency in Minnesota? Do you or your maintenance staff need funding to develop a new idea, tool, material, or process related to operations, construction, or maintenance?

The Local Operational Research Assistance (OPERA) Program is here to help! Funding for OPERA projects is now available, and it’s easy to submit a proposal. The maximum funding per project is $20,000, and submissions are due Friday, May 12, 2017.

Posted in Construction, Maintenance

Work-zone warnings could soon be delivered to your smartphone

Photo of a work zoneImagine that you’re driving to work as usual when your smartphone announces, “Caution, you are approaching an active work zone.” You slow down and soon spot orange barrels and highway workers on the road shoulder. Thanks to a new app being developed by University of Minnesota researchers, this scenario is on its way to becoming reality.

“Drivers often rely on signs along the roadway to be cautious and slow down as they approach a work zone. However, most work-zone crashes are caused by drivers not paying attention,” says Chen-Fu Liao, senior systems engineer at the U’s Minnesota Traffic Observatory. “That’s why we are working to design and test an in-vehicle work-zone alert system that announces additional messages through the driver’s smartphone or the vehicle’s infotainment system.”

As part of the project, sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Liao and his team investigated the use of inexpensive Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) tags to provide in-vehicle warning messages. The BLE tags were programmed to trigger spoken messages in smartphones within range of the tags, which were placed on construction barrels or lampposts ahead of a work zone.

Posted in Construction, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Safety, Technology, Transportation research

Submit an entry to Minnesota LTAP’s Build a Better Mousetrap contest

Have you or one of your co-workers recently built an innovative gadget or developed an improved way to do a job? Show off your creativity and help other transportation agencies solve problems by submitting an entry to the Build a Better Mousetrap Competition!

The Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), housed at CTS, is participating in the 2017 contest, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration’s Local Technical Assistance Program and Tribal Technical Assistance Program.

Posted in Construction, Maintenance, Safety

New pothole patching techniques lead to repairs that last

potholesIn Minnesota, the combination of traffic and extreme weather can turn small pavement problems into big potholes. To make progress in the seemingly unending task of pothole repair, U of M researchers are designing durable patches and repairs that are quick to apply and less costly for maintenance budgets.

In a new report, researchers present two improved options for pothole repair that are ideally suited to Minnesota’s cold and wet conditions. The first approach is a fast-setting, taconite-based compound, which was found to be especially well-suited for rigid and relatively deep repairs in concrete pavements. The second approach uses a vehicle-based microwave heating system with taconite materials for in-place pothole and pavement repair; this technology proved very effective for repairing potholes in asphalt pavement at all temperatures, including very cold temperatures.

Posted in Construction, Infrastructure, Maintenance, Pavements, Transportation research, Uncategorized

Local OPERA Program helps local agencies develop innovations in construction, maintenance

In 2015, the Local Operational Research Assistance (OPERA) Program continued to foster hands-on transportation research by cities and counties across Minnesota. Local agencies completed eight OPERA-funded projects on topics that included a road coating for snowmobile crossings, an urban snow support vehicle, and a reptile crossing tunnel designed to improve road safety.

Posted in Construction, Maintenance, Transportation research
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