sealPurdue News

March 18, 2003

Purdue Road School examines funding, environment, safety

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The 89th Purdue Road School will tackle a range of major transportation issues facing Indiana, from the critical need for renewed federal funding for state highway projects, to sessions dealing with environmental, safety and aesthetic concerns.

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The two-day conference, which begins March 25, is an annual event expected to draw more than 1,500 state and local government officials, traffic experts and engineers to the Purdue campus. All conference sessions will take place in Stewart Center Tuesday (3/25) and Wednesday (3/26). The event is free and open to the public.

J. Richard Capka, deputy administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration, will be one of two featured speakers for the opening session, at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Loeb Playhouse.

Capka's talk will include up-to-date information about efforts to renew federal funding vital for state highway programs. The six-year federal funding bill, known as the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, or TEA-21, expires in October. The spending bill's anticipated renewal is of major concern to Indiana lawmakers, transportation administrators and the highway industry, said Kumares Sinha, Road School chairman, director of the Joint Transportation Research Program and the Olson Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering at Purdue.

The other featured speaker, J. Bryan Nicol, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation, will talk about the state of the state's transportation system. His presentation will include information about such large-scale projects as the Interstate 69 corridor between Evansville and Indianapolis, the upgrade of U.S. 31 to South Bend, added capacity on the Borman Expressway in northwest Indiana and the completion of the Hoosier Heartland Corridor near Lafayette.

Other Road School highlights include:

• At 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, sessions on road safety. The sessions will include a presentation by Andrzej Tarko, an associate professor of civil engineering, who will speak about an interactive Web site he created for motorists to report roadway safety concerns. Tippecanoe County may create a Web site based on the concept, he said.

Safety discussions this year will focus on city and county roads, as opposed to state highways, said John Habermann, a research engineer for the School of Civil Engineering and the Indiana Local Technical Assistance Program, established by the Federal Highway Administration to aid local agencies. Local safety-related problems include dangerous curves, relatively high speed limits, narrow roads and the placement of utility poles close to the edge of roadways. Purdue is working on a system that officials might use in the future to specify the most dangerous locations. These locations might then be candidates for safety improvement projects, Habermann said.

Road safety concerns will take on a somber tone with a National Work Zone Memorial exhibit, a traveling monument to the thousands of people killed in work zone accidents over the years. The exhibit highlights the need to observe reduced speed limits in work zones and will be on display on the second floor of Stewart Center during the conference.

• At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, sessions regarding emergency response and security issues in transportation.

• At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday INDOT's Seymour District Operations Engineer Terry Byrns will oversee maintenance presentations in six categories, including a talk dealing with the growing problem of people dumping toxic trash along roads.

• Also at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday Lynn A. Corson, director of the Clean Manufacturing Technology Institute at Purdue, will lead a panel of officials from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and INDOT regarding new storm water regulations that will become effective later this year. The regulations will set limits on the allowable concentrations of various pollutants contained in storm water runoff and will require municipalities to carefully monitor the contents of storm water. Polluted storm water runoff from industrial sites, residential neighborhoods, highways, parking lots and other sources can flow into the state's creeks, rivers and lakes, posing a contamination threat to those bodies of water.

• From 1:30-3 p.m. a panel discussion on sharing the road with bicyclists. Connie Szabo Schmucker, executive director of the Indiana Bicycle Coalition Inc., will moderate talks, including discussions on efforts in Allen County to reduce bicycle fatalities. The session will include a talk by Fort Wayne resident Sharon Repka, whose husband was killed in a bicycle accident.

• At 3:15 p.m. Tuesday engineers will discuss ongoing research efforts to isolate the causes of highway noise, a major nuisance for residents and businesses located near highways. Researchers are trying to design pavements and tires that produce less noise. Sessions will feature talks by Vincent Drnevich and Robert Bernhard, co-directors of Purdue's Institute for Safe, Quiet and Durable Highways.

Bernhard's talk will include the latest results from research testing various types of pavements and tire designs using a one-of-a-kind, 38,000-pound machine known as the Tire/Pavement Test Apparatus. A report on the findings is available online. Bernhard also will talk about various efforts to control traffic noise, including work in Arizona to reduce highway noise by using "rubberized" pavements.

• At 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, officials from Indiana and Kentucky will discuss a bridge construction project along the two states' border.

• At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday Gary Mroczka, a design section manager for the Indiana Department of Transportation, and his staff will school engineering professionals on the proper way to design roadway signals, signs and lighting. The use of these devices must conform to the federal "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices," which will soon include a special supplement that applies only to Indiana.

• At 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, engineering consultants will report on the effectiveness of highway noise barriers. Talks will include information about the accuracy of mathematical models used to predict how well certain barriers will work, aesthetic considerations in the use of various types of barriers, and where to place and how high to make the barriers to increase their effectiveness.

The Road School, held annually at Purdue since 1914, was the first state highway conference in the nation. The program brings together all levels of transportation-related professionals, from the Federal Highway Administration in Washington, D.C., to the smallest municipalities in the state, said Karen Hatke, program coordinator for Purdue's Joint Transportation Research Program.

The Road School is sponsored by Purdue's School of Civil Engineering, which maintains a Road School Web site, and the Indiana Department of Transportation. Detailed information about this year's Road School is available online.

Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709,

Sources: Karen S. Hatke, (765) 494-9310,

Andrzej Tarko, (765) 494-5027,

Robert Bernhard, (765) 494-2141; Home (765) 463-5463;

Vincent Drnevich, (765) 494-5029,

John Habermann, (765) 496-6584,

Lynn Corson, (765) 463-4749,

Connie Szabo Schmucker, (317) 466-9701,

Terry Byrns,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Video B-roll and a publication-quality photograph are available. The photo and video show a Purdue researcher using a special Tire/Pavement Test Apparatus. To get a copy of the video, contact Jesica Webb, (765) 494-2079,

Related Web site:
Purdue highway noise report


Will Thornton, a mechanical engineering doctoral student at Purdue University, positions a microphone needed to gather data using the Tire/Pavement Test Apparatus at Purdue's Institute for Safe, Quiet and Durable Highways. The machine, the only one of its kind, is housed at the university's Herrick Laboratories. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photograph is available at

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