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The Kentucky Transportation Center

Integrity. Dedication. Innovation. Efficiency. The Kentucky Transportation Center strives To provide a safe, efficient, environmentally sound and fiscally responsible transportation system that delivers economic opportunity and enhances the quality of life in Kentucky. Now is the time for smarter and more rapid infrastructure development, and the Center is committed to providing transformative solutions to the most critical problems facing today’s transportation systems. Growing from a small research division founded in 1941, today The Kentucky Transportation Center is a vibrant hub of applied multidisciplinary transportation research. The Kentucky Transportation Center has built a strong partnership with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet while continuously growing its client base by collaborating with other transportation agencies  across the United States. Spread across 12 program areas housed on the University of Kentucky campus, the Center’s staff enjoys a strong and enduring relationship with the Department of Civil Engineering.  The Kentucky Transportation Center’s multidisciplinary focus allows researchers to touch on every dimension of multimodal transportation. As the Center expands, it will continue to deliver practical solutions and disperse knowledge that will benefit how the public experiences and interacts with complex transportation systems.

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Redefining Commercial Vehicle Permitting and Credentialing Violations

Although conviction rates for commercial vehicle violations are on the decline in Kentucky, data shows inconsistencies in adjudication of common offenses from district to district. Across the state, cases are being dismissed at an increasing rate, which results in a drop of court costs, but also a decrease in fines paid by commercial vehicle carriers and drivers. KTC analyzed violations of the International Fuel Tax Agreement and the Kentucky Intrastate Tax, the weight-distance tax, Unified Carrier Registration, size and weight laws, and federal regulations. Officials from Kentucky and 3 other southeastern states were surveyed to determine common commercial vehicle enforcement mechanisms and issues with current policies. The biggest challenges the state faces are a backlog of unresolved cases and the fact that the cost of enforcing commercial vehicles laws exceeds the revenue generated by citations.

KTC offered two policy alternatives to the current system, with the aim of creating a more equitable judicial process for motor carriers operating in Kentucky. The solutions are designed to help the Transportation Cabinet generate additional revenue from commercial vehicle enforcement. The first recommendation allows for only state court systems to preside over

commercial vehicle offenses. The second suggestion is to create an administrative panel at KYTC that has jurisdictional authority over commercial vehicle offenses. Because this panel would hear all cases, the judicial process will be more equitable and efficient, thus generating higher revenue. In addition, KTC recommended extending weigh station hours of operation, increasing conviction rates and/or fine amounts, establishing a task force to identify issues, and focusing on failure-to-appear cases.  – Intelligent Transportation Systems


Use of LiDAR to Detect Bridge Clearance Heights 

Vertical overpass clearances are often not up to federal highways standards and can vary from lane to lane. Over time, resurfacing projects can gradually change clearance heights. These issues require a solution that improves the consistency of routing information. KTC researchers are using mobile LiDAR technology to measure and inventory bridge and overpass clearance heights across Kentucky. This technology offers a safer way to collect data where researchers do not have to establish traffic control and measure heights in a work zone. The data will be put to use by multiple divisions within the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC). KTC identified and developed the ideal structure for a database, which features an interactive map of bridges color coded by clearance heights.

So far, KTC has scanned and mapped all I-75 corridor bridges, and KYTC now has access to the resulting Arc GIS database. Researchers will continue to update overpass height information, with plans to scan and map bridges on the I-65 corridor. The goal is to eventually scan and map all bridges in the state’s network and to allocate the resources for periodic updates. – Pavements Materials & Geotech


Kentucky Traffic Safety Data Service (KTSDS) 

Kentucky has made efforts to improve access to traffic records databases and tools. Improper use of data can result in poor analytical conclusions, waste of resources, and ultimately injury or even loss of life. There are strategies to convert traffic data into useful information that informs decision makers, consultants, state and local agencies, law enforcement groups, citizens groups, attorneys, and the media. Developing a Kentucky Traffic Safety Data Service (KTSDS) will not only increase the availability of data from the state’s six traffic record systems but will increase end user access to experts who have in-depth knowledge of the databases. When these experts work with end users, they can formulate a data query that satisfies the reason for the request. KTC has developed and will host a free traffic data service that enables end users to access an expert to conduct small studies and get answers to traffic safety problems. The KTSDS website will be marketed to the public, will document all queries, and will offer the results of 10-20 small traffic safety studies. The service eliminates the expense of contract services, allows correct data analysis and thus proper use of the results, and provides public awareness that expert data resources exist. – Traffic & Safety


Maintenance Budget Allocation

Maintenance function and funding is often misunderstood, particularly the consequences of underfunding. Once the maintenance budget is approved, it cannot be increased even when funds are running out, resulting in KYTC restricting routine activities. KTC created a graphic for public and legislative audiences that communicates the importance of Maintenance and quantifies the need and importance of funding, with the hopes of improving the process of allocating a maintenance budget.

Maintenance and Operations are the responsibility of KYTC’s divisions of Maintenance and Traffic Operations and district staffs.  The tasks they perform vary widely, to include pothole patching, guardrail repair, bridge painting and maintenance, roadside mowing, litter and carcass removal, and rest stop maintenance. Looking at the maintenance budget from 2012 to 2017 shows the amount allocated remains flat while the number of lane miles to maintain increases. The result is that the annual gap in purchasing power grew to $87 million over that time due to inflation. Projecting to 2022, that gap will grow significantly to $115 million. Establishing future maintenance budgets that keep pace with inflation will ensure KYTC’s ability to provide safe and efficient travel throughout the state. Snow and ice removal is the largest overall maintenance

expenditure, and severe winters will defer resources away from other routine maintenance activities. Examining snow and ice expenditures versus snowfall over time shows that there is no average Kentucky winter. The budget is most impacted by many small storms, as compared to 1 or 2 large snowfalls.

There are many additional benefits to improving the maintenance budget, including improved response to repairs of potholes, signs, and bridges; better pavement conditions that lead to optimal traffic flow; and longer asset life. Routine care will keep infrastructure updated, with less need for expensive rehabilitation and replacement projects. Public safety issues can be dealt with in a timely manner and there can be fewer construction zones at one time. – Special Projects & Initiatives


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