Future Road Infrastructure Condition
Programmed and Planned Roadway Improvements
The future freight roadway network includes the current infrastructure and changes that will be made over time. These include capacity enhancements, safety improvements, and projects that bring roadways up to a state of good repair. The discussion that follows covers roadway projects funded or planned for the OKI region. Bicycle/pedestrian and multiuse path projects, planning projects, and bridge inspections have been removed from this discussion to focus solely on those relevant to truck freight transportation. No projects are explicitly identified as “freight” improvements within the TIP or 2050 Plan. This means they are intended to improve transportation for all users including those accommodating freight.
Funded Road Freight Improvements
The OKI Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is a program of publicly funded transportation improvements for the OKI region. For this freight plan, an inventory of the transportation improvements included in the TIP was developed to identify projects related to truck movement in the region. Since the future of regional goods movement is impacted by these projects, a summary is provided.
OKI Transportation Improvement Program Projects with Truck Benefit
There are 192 roadway projects in the OKI TIP that have a truck benefit with an investment of over six billion dollars over the next four years. Projects are primarily those related to bridge and culvert replacement, maintenance or reconstruction, traffic operations and safety, and widening or relocation. Nearly half of roadway freight-related TIP projects are in Hamilton and Kenton counties.
Of all the programmed roadway TIP projects, only one in Dearborn County is directly related to freight. This is the reconstruction of the weigh station in West Harrison on I-74, just west of the Ohio/Indiana state line. The project replaces a demolished weigh station destroyed in a truck accident in September 2021, and is intended to simply restore the station.
Although there are no other projects in the OKI TIP directly related to truck movement, several roadway improvements will have significant impact to the movement of freight. This include:
- Repairs to the Brent Spence Bridge and construction of a companion bridge.
- Replacement of the Western Hills Viaduct in Hamilton County.
- In Boone County, the US 25 improvement project from Winning Colors Drive to the Norfolk Southern Railroad Crossing, and a capacity improvement project at the Industrial Road/Foundation Drive intersection, will reduce congestion along roadways that link trucks to warehouses and distribution hubs. TIP also includes several roadways serving truck traffic to and from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), including KY 236, KY 237, and KY 18.
- The TIP includes number of maintenance and traffic operations improvements for State Route 1 which is used by drivers as an alternative connection for southbound truck traffic from I-74 in Dearborn County to I-275 in Boone County.
Planned Road Freight Improvements
Planned improvements are those that are beyond the horizon of the region’s four-year TIP. These improvements are included in the fiscally- and air quality constrained OKI 2050 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (2050 Plan). These projects will assist freight movement in the future and provide an important backdrop for the region’s freight evolution. For this reason, a summary is provided.
OKI 2050 Metropolitan Transportation Plan Projects with Truck Benefit
There are 160 roadway projects in the OKI 2050 Plan that have a truck benefit and together total an investment of almost 7.5 billion dollars. Projects are primarily those related to interchange or intersection improvements and adding through lanes. Over one fourth of the roadway freight-related 2050 Plan projects are located within Hamilton County.
Of all the programmed roadway projects in the OKI 2050 Plan, none are directly related to truck movement. However, several planned roadway improvements will have a benefit upon the movement of freight such as:
- Additional construction phases of the new Brent Spence Bridge and Western Hills Viaduct that are not yet funded and included in the TIP.
- Northern Kentucky improvements planned for KY 20, KY 18, KY 536, and US 25 (Dixie Highway).
- The widening and realignment improvements to State Route 1 in Dearborn County.
Future State Roadway Conditions
Each of the three departments of transportation for Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana update their Transportation Asset Management Plans (TAMP) every four years. The last updates for each were in 2019 for Ohio and Kentucky and 2022 for Indiana. Within these plans, the state DOTs update their planned 10-year investment strategies and describe the life cycle approach to maximize state investments. The assets within these plans include roadways, bridges, culverts, storm drains, retaining walls, sound walls, storm drains, guiderails, signs, etc. The aim is to identify and analyze problem areas before unexpected events occur, which allows to better plan and prioritize future improvements. The improvements are geared toward meeting the set performance targets for asset conditions in the future.
Future Bridge Conditions
To help prioritize bridge repairs, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) maintains the Vulnerable Asset Scoring Tool (VAST) which estimates a vulnerability score for the state’s bridges based on three components: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity.
To ensure bridge preservation, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) coordinates bridge inspections, prepares bridge repair contracts and determines bridge weight restrictions, including the extended weight coal haul system.
Using historical analysis on bridge replacement costs, INDOT estimates a need of over $15 billion to rebuild the more than 5,700 bridges within its network, and a need of almost $17 billion when including NHS bridges not owned by INDOT. Therefore, INDOT uses data-driven decision making to identify the most cost-effective improvement projects for our bridges.
Future Pavement Conditions
Ohio Pavement Longevity Research
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is conducting research to improve pavement design and save significant resources. Ideas related to pavement longevity include an analysis on a highly modified asphalt binder (HiMA) currently being tested in limited applications. Highly modified means a great deal of polymers are added to the binder, which makes pavement stiffer while still being flexible. Research shows that asphalt pavement utilizing HiMA binders results in substantial performance increases. Implementing HiMA as a perpetual pavement design could allow Ohio to drastically reduce section thickness of its asphalt pavements. As a result, ODOT could save up to 20 percent on initial material costs for HiMA perpetual pavements, based on historical material cost and thickness reduction estimates. Using this material on higher performing/longer lasting pavements could significantly lower life cycle costs by reducing the number, frequency and cost of future rehabs. Special application can lead to other cost savings such as avoiding the necessity of raising bridge, due to pavement thickness. Further economic rewards from HiMA are still being identified.
Kentucky State and Local Investments Needed to Ensure Adequate Road Maintenance
Improving Kentucky’s roads, highways and bridges provides a significant boost to the economy by creating jobs in the short term and stimulating long-term economic growth through enhanced mobility and access. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) federal funding provides Kentucky with an opportunity to move forward with a number of projects to improve road conditions. But further increases in state and local transportation investment will be required to supplement federal dollars, if Kentucky is going to complete needed transportation projects for maintenance and efficiency.
Indiana Maximizing Every Dollar
With most pavement preservation conducted in-house, the Indiana Department of Transportation’s (INDOT) focus is on optimizing road maintenance costs. They report that spending just $1 on chip and crack sealing can save $6 to $14 on future repairs.
Cutaway image of traditional road pavement and HiMA pavement treatments to contrast the thickness and material volume differences.
Source: Kraton Corporation. Paving the Future of Mobility. 2022.
Maintenance Demands Associated with Future Road Technologies
As automated trucks are introduced to our roadways, their ability to “see,” “read,” and interact with roadway markings, signage, and traffic signals through use of cameras, sensors or other technological advances will be vital to their safe and unimpeded travel. In the future, more attention to regular maintenance of shoulders and other infrastructure will be needed. Such maintenance would include everything from regularly scheduled clearance of roadway debris and stranded vehicles from shoulders to roadside and intersection vegetation control or pruning.
As public roads are owned and maintained by different state, county and local jurisdictions, higher standards and more frequent road maintenance will be required at every level. This will likely require increased maintenance budgets and, potentially, the introduction of new advancements in materials and products to support enhanced preservation.
Future Potential of Truck Platooning Technology
New and emerging technologies could significantly assist the movement of larger loads on the region’s highways and improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of the highway freight network. Many new freight technologies have been, or are being, developed with this in mind.
These technologies include truck platooning, which utilizes a combination of connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technologies to establish connectivity between multiple trucks. This involves a front driver making driving inputs and following trucks automated to replicate these inputs in real time, enabling drastically shorter headways. In addition to enhancing safety and efficiency when carrying heavier truckloads and higher truck volumes, truck platooning saves fuel, reduces driver fatigue and increases roadway capacity.
Truck platooning technology is being tested and deployed in Ohio through various research projects led by DriveOhio (an initiative of the Ohio Department of Transportation), in coordination with the Ohio State Highway Patrol and other statewide law enforcement stakeholders, in accordance with Ohio Revised Code.
Platooning is permitted, so the state’s Following Too Close (FTC) statute requiring truck drivers to provide at least 250 feet of space when following another vehicle does not apply to “trailing commercial motor vehicles involved in a platoon. KY. REV. STAT. § 189.340(9)(c). “Platoon” is defined as a group of “two (2) individual commercial motor vehicles traveling in a unified manner at electronically coordinated speeds.” KY. REV. STAT. § 281.010(39).
In March 2018, Indiana enacted legislation to authorize automated vehicle platooning. “Vehicle platoon” is defined as “a group of motor vehicles that are traveling in a unified manner under electronic coordination at speeds and following distances that are faster and closer than would be reasonable and prudent without electronic coordination.” IND. CODE § 9-21-8-0.5(3). The legislation permits platooning of less than 300 feet distances for vehicles traveling under electronic coordination as an exception to the state’s Following Too Close (FTC) statute. IND. CODE § 9-21-8-15(a). Platoon operators must file a general plan with the Indiana Department of Transportation which can approve or reject the plan within 30 days of receipt.
A pair of trucks utilize platooning technology in a demonstration by Peloton, Meritor Wabco and Denso.
Source: Meritor Wabco and Transport Topics. Platooning Tries to Move Past a Work in Progress. Roger Gilroy, Senior Reporter. (October 3, 2018.)
Truck platooning is enabled primarily by vehicle-based automation sensors and vehicle-to-vehicle radio communications. However, modest infrastructure enhancements may be required to make roads more “machine readable” to trucks:
- High contrast pavement striping: The lead truck will need to be able to center itself within a lane and easily interpret lane markings at merge points. These improvements also improve safety for human drivers.
- Communication of signage instructions: Signage will need to use standardized language and be visible from a distance. This may also be accomplished with some form of connected vehicle communications in the future.
- Global Positioning System (GPS): Automated vehicles rely on GPS to accurately place themselves on a map. In dense urban areas GPS signal repeaters may be required.
Examples of Truck Platooning Deployments
The Smart Belt Coalition (SBC), a collaboration between Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania transportation agencies and academic institutions, successfully conducted an automated truck platooning demonstration that traveled between Pittsburgh and Michigan. The SBC worked with Locomation, an autonomous trucking technology firm, to complete a trip that showcased the capabilities of truck platooning. The SBC fosters collaboration among stakeholders in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania to advance research, policy and standards development, and deployments in the realm of connected and automated vehicle technology.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration has awarded a $4.4 million grant to Ohio and Indiana for their joint program, the I-70 Truck Automation Corridor project. This initiative will support and enable advanced freight technology, including platooning and limited automation, along the corridor to improve freight and driving efficiencies between Indianapolis and Columbus. The project will also permit freight companies and truck automation vendors to employ partially automated driving technology along a 175-mile stretch of I-70. To ensure the safe deployment of platooning and automated technology, the project provides professional driver training through the Transportation Research Center. The four-year project also includes a road audit to identify any deficiencies and recommended changes along the route, pilot programs for heavy duty truck platooning and automation, and the sharing of findings through an AV Readiness Guidebook and general results for USDOT.