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NTSB takes aim at public rail, helicopters, passenger vessels in new ‘Most Wanted’ list

THE TRUCKER NEWS SERVICES

WASHINGTON — The National Transportation Safety Board last month released its 2014 Most Wanted List, the top 10 advocacy and awareness priorities for the agency for 2014, which for the first time includes improving operational safety in rail mass transit.

Millions of Americans rely on commuter rail, subways and light rail for their daily commute, the board said in releasing the list.

The NTSB said in just the past year it has opened investigations into accidents involving MTA Metro-North Railroad, Chicago Transit Authority and the Bay Area Rapid Transit. And there are still open safety recommendations to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority stemming from its fatal crash in 2009.

In numerous accident investigation reports on mass transit, the board has repeatedly identified the need for safety improvements, particularly with regard to safety culture and operational practices, in systems providing light, heavy and commuter rail.

"The traveling public relies on a safe and efficient transportation system. Yet, every year, we see over 35,000 fatalities," NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said. "That's why we have the Most Wanted List: Steps we can take today, so that more people make it home tonight."

The helicopter operations category has been added to the 2014 Most Wanted List. Between January 2003 and May 2013, 1,470 helicopter accidents have occurred, with 477 fatalities and 274 serious injuries. The U.S. civil helicopter industry continues to see overwhelming growth and demand for emergency medical services, law enforcement support, electronic news gathering, offshore oil and gas support, as well as a variety of other applications.

Occupant protection is also new for 2014. While preventing accidents is always the goal, saving lives and reducing injuries in the event of an accident is also critical, the board said, adding that increasing the use of available occupant protection systems and improving crashworthiness to preserve survivable space can mean the difference between life and death.

Also new to the list this year is passenger vessel safety.

Between 2000 and 2010, the NTSB has investigated several accidents involving passenger vessels. For decades, NTSB accident investigations involving passenger vessels revealed in numerous cases that the cause of an accident was not the failure of the vessel but the lack of good safety practices that led to the loss of life and injuries.

Also on the list and the commentary on those items include:

Distraction: Accident investigations and safety studies conducted by the NTSB in all modes of transportation underscore the dangers of using portable electronic devices while operating a car, train, plane or marine vessel. In addition to banning the use of these devices while driving, education and company policies help to reinforce laws and regulations by explaining the dangers of distraction and what companies expect from their employees.

Fire Safety: The NTSB has issued numerous recommendations where fire was caused by power sources, as well as recommendations on survivability in the event of a fire, and improving fire detection and suppression systems.

General Aviation: Identify and communicate hazardous weather. A frequent cause or contributing factor to general aviation accidents is a failure to recognize or take appropriate steps to avoid hazardous weather. The NTSB investigated a total of 1,466 general aviation accidents in 2011, resulting in 444 deaths.

Pipeline Safety: Two and a half million miles of pipeline crisscross the nation powering thousands of homes and delivering important resources, such as oil and gasoline, to consumers. The NTSB is currently investigating a pipeline explosion in Birmingham, Ala., and a rupture and fire in Sissonville, W.Va., that destroyed three homes.

Positive Train Control: The NTSB has long been calling for PTC, which works by monitoring the location and movement of trains, then slowing or stopping a train that is not being operated in accordance with signal systems or operating rules. Just since 2004, the NTSB has completed investigations of 25 train accidents that killed 65, injured over 1,100 and caused millions of dollars in damage, all of which could have been prevented or mitigated by PTC.

Substance-Impaired Driving: In 2012 more than 10,000 traffic deaths in the U.S. involved an alcohol-impaired driver, according to NHTSA. Drugs also affect driving ability.

ATA applauds NTSB’s new Most Wanted List

THE TRUCKER NEWS SERVICES

ARLINGTON, Va. — Following the release of the National Traffic Safety Board’s Most Wanted List, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves applauded the organization’s commitment to safety.

“We appreciate NTSB’s persistence in addressing critical safety issues, especially those that affect the trucking industry’s workplace, our highways,” Graves said. “Chairwoman Deborah Hersman and the board deserve credit for continuing the push to make our entire transportation system safer.”

Graves said NTSB’s Most Wanted List is an important record of needed safety improvements, and this year includes three items of particular interest to the trucking industry: eliminating distraction, addressing substance-impaired driving and improving occupant protection and crashworthiness of vehicles.

“In these areas, we agree,” Graves said, “ATA has long been a proponent of reducing the risks of distracted driving, eliminating drunk or drugged driving by all motorists and improving the crashworthiness of vehicles. It makes good sense for NTSB to shine a light on these important issues.” 

Texas has negative distinction of daily traffic fatalities

Michael Graczyk

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HOUSTON — Lonny Haschel remembers delivering the news to a man that his family had been wiped out in a traffic wreck.

“The most difficult job is to go knock on someone's door and say a loved one is not coming back anymore,” the Texas Department of Public Safety sergeant said.

Like people throughout the world, many Texans gathered Dec. 31, 2013, to ring in the New Year with booze-fueled parties. Despite increased warnings about drinking and driving during the holiday season, though, the state is nearly certain to add another notch to Texas' ignominious streak of having at least one road death per day for more than 13 years.

As of the turn of the calendar from 2013 to 2014, the last day without a traffic death in Texas has been Nov. 7, 2000, state Department of Transportation figures show. Since then, more than 45,000 motor vehicle fatalities have occurred. It's believed to be the longest streak ever for Texas, where state records on traffic fatalities go back to 1940.

California, the only state more populous than Texas, most recently had a traffic fatality-free day in September 2009, said Chris Cochran, spokesman for the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Reasons for the Texas streak are varied, but a “big three” stand out, according to Fort Worth-based Haschel.

“What we see are speed, failure to use seat belts and impaired driving,” he said.

Nearly one-third of all the fatalities since November 2000 are attributed to alcohol.

“We're No. 1 in the entire country and people don't think there's a problem,” says Carol Levin, whose 26-year-old son and his girlfriend were killed in 2006 by a drunken driver who ran a red light at a Houston intersection.

The 22-year-old driver of the other car is serving 10 years in prison for two counts of intoxicated manslaughter but is parole eligible. The driver could have been sentenced to up to 20 years behind bars, but Texas judges have wide discretion in deciding sentences. A 16-year-old earlier this month in Tarrant County received probation for a four-fatality wreck.

“The drunks are the ones who get off,” Levin said. “And we're the victims and we're victimized and victimized and victimized. Holidays, birthdays are impossible. You have to grieve all over again.”

On Dec. 31, 2013, safety efforts included 15 agencies on patrol across Central Texas looking for drunken drivers as part of an initiative called Arrive Alive. In Houston, the city's public transit agency, METRO, offered free service from evening into early New Year’s Day.

California says more than 2,000 sobriety checkpoints a year help reduce its death toll, but Texas hasn't used such roadblocks since 1994 when a state appeals court ruled that they violated the Texas Constitution because there were no statewide guidelines.

Daniel Hottman, an assistant pastor at a Montgomery church, was killed when Amanda Doyle slammed head-on into his family's car in February 2008. Hottman's wife and three children were seriously hurt.

“ ‘Nothing will happen to me, no way.’ That's what I'm sure everyone is thinking,” Doyle, 29, said from a Gatesville prison, where she's serving 20 years for intoxicated manslaughter and four 10-year terms for intoxicated assault.

She doesn't remember what happened, but acknowledges it was an “horrific” act. Her blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit.

“He was a good man,” she said of her victim. “They did missionary work. Everything they taught their children came back to God. They did not deserve this at all.”

If there's any good news, it's that the fatality rate is falling despite the continued daily occurrences.

Experts credit better roads, safer cars and increased seat belt use, although police reports show that more than 45 percent of those killed in 2012 weren't buckled in.

Doyle's parents are raising her 7- and 9-year-old daughters, who know why she's incarcerated. She said she's told her children that prison is like school, except that instead of a principal, she has a warden.

“My story: It's true and it can happen to anybody,” Doyle said with her voice cracking. “When I go home, I can still do things with my life. I can teach my kids things. Mr. Hottman, his kids don't get that opportunity.” 

‘Move Texas Forward’ to alert voters to continuing transportation needs

THE TRUCKER NEWS SERVICES

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — During the next several months leading up to the November 2014 election, a new organization, Move Texas Forward, will provide voters with information relating to Texas’ continuing transportation needs, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Chairman Ted Houghton announced last month at the 9th annual Texas Transportation Forum in San Antonio.

Move Texas Forward is being formed by former TxDOT commissioners to advocate for the passage of a ballot measure in November 2014 that would add more than $1 billion annually to road funding in Texas, without new taxes or fees. Former TxDOT Commissioners Ned Holmes, Bill Meadows, Henry Muñoz and Deirdre Delisi will lead the effort.

“The passage of this constitutional amendment in November is one of the most important issues facing our state today,” Houghton said. “We are all familiar with funding challenges facing transportation. That’s why it was so important that the legislature passed the proposed constitutional amendment that if approved by the voters will dedicate new revenue to transportation.”

“Move Texas Forward is committed to improving Texas infrastructure and keeping our roads capable of supporting our prosperous state,” Holmes said.

“As Texas adds more than 1,000 people each day, employers add Texas jobs, out-of-state companies expand in Texas, and the shale gas boom creates new opportunities for Texas families, Texas transportation networks must keep up with our fast-growing population, job-creation and economy,” Meadows added.

“Economic growth is good for our families and communities, but growth also strains our roads and other critical infrastructure. Our state’s continued growth is expected to result in an additional 18 million additional vehicles on Texas roads by 2040. Without additional transportation funding, traffic and safely will grow worse, and our economy will suffer,” Muñoz said.

For more information about Move Texas Forward, visit www.MoveTexasForward.com. 

Daviess County, Ind., leaders drum up interest in Interstate 67 plan

Mike Grant

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Washington Times-Herald

Editor’s Note: This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Washington Times-Herald.

WASHINGTON, Ind.  — When Interstate 69 opened last year Daviess County got its first link into the nation's interstate system. Now, a proposal is being discussed that would add yet another interstate link to the county.

Business leaders in Owensboro, Kentucky and Dubois County have built a coalition to build what they call I-67. The road would link into I-69 near Washington, extend south through Jasper and Owensboro and eventually link up with I-65 at Bowling Green, Ky.

Coalition members are excited about the proposal and want to see it become a reality. "We've been working on this for a number of years," coalition member Hank Menke told the Washington Times-Herald (http://bit.ly/13LRvv9 ). "Right now it's a long shot, but we have to look at the big picture."

That picture could turn into one of the less expensive interstate construction projects in history. The Bowling Green-to-Owensboro leg would involve upgrading the Natcher Parkway to interstate standards. The bridge over the Ohio was already built to those standards. Engineering on the improved US 231 to I-64 has already been completed and the road could be improved to an interstate. That leaves a 38 mile "green build" section from 64 to Washington.

"This is really a cost-effective project," said Menke. "It takes a lot of assets that we already have and enhances them. It has picked up a lot of steam."

The link into I-69 in Washington has led to the involvement of some Daviess County officials. "I believe it deserves a lot of study," said Washington Mayor Joe Wellman, who is also a coalition member. "If it connects in here, it would be a good thing for us."

Private interests along the route have already had a $200,000 study done of the Washington-to-Bowling Green corridor. The Cambridge Systematics study concluded the road would draw a minimum of 16,000 vehicles a day, make for safer travel, provide an alternate route south so that I-65 traffic could avoid Louisville, and lead to more economic development.

"We think that study sent a serious message to the state," said Menke. "Historically, we've been isolated. What we lack is basic infrastructure, and this road would help solve that."

The backers of the I-67 proposal say they know they still have to fall in line while I-69 is completed. The section from Crane to SR 37 is due to be done late next year. A new bridge still has to built over the Ohio River at Evansville and SR 37 needs to be improved to interstate standards between Bloomington and Indianapolis. "We support I-69," said Menke. "We just want to get plugged into it. That's my mission."

The coalition has already taken its pitch to Indianapolis, Frankfort and Washington, D.C. "It does have some support with elected officials," said Wellman.

"We realize right now there is no money to build this road," added Menke. "We're going to have to be creative. People recognize tolls may be needed."

What people may not recognize is that the road would once again carve up part of northern Dubois and southern Daviess counties.

"We are getting some concern expressed about that, especially in Dubois County," said Menke.

"The area in Daviess County appears to mostly be old coal mine land between Alfordsville and Washington," said Wellman. "Anytime you have a project of this magnitude, you will have people for and against it. We have to look at the big picture."

Right now the state of Indiana is not looking closely at the I-67 picture.

"It isn't a committed INDOT project," said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield. "We're still in the middle of the construction boom we began when the state leased the toll road."

That could change in the future, but INDOT is making no commitments. "We review projects throughout the state and look at the need," said Wingfield. "We're willing to talk to any group and take their information under consideration."

Coalition members in Indiana believe they may have a key supporter in their corner. Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann is from Ferdinand and is very familiar with the project.

"The stars may be aligning for this," said Menke. "Economically, this is a huge deal. This is a chance to attract industry, maintain our lifestyle and keep our kids at home."

Highway Trust Fund could run out at end of FY 2014, says former DOT chief

THE TRUCKER NEWS SERVICES

Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says unless Congress acts, the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money at the end of fiscal 2014 — “because people are driving less, driving more fuel-efficient cars and the gas tax hasn't been raised in many years.”

Monies in the Trust Fund fund — derived mostly from excise taxes on gasoline and other fuels — fund the federal government's highway and mass transit projects.

“And if Congress doesn't step up and increase the gas tax, they will have to take the money out of the general fund. And the point is that the gas tax has not been raised since '93,” LaHood told Fox New's Neil Cavuto last month, CNS News reported.

He said if the gas tax had been indexed to inflation in 1993, "we wouldn't be talking about this. My idea is, let's raise the gas tax.”

The Congressional Budget Office reported last July that since 2000, spending from the Highway Trust Fund has generally outpaced revenue collections, so fund balances have fallen over that period.

“The current trajectory of the Highway Trust Fund is unsustainable,” the CBO report said. Starting in fiscal year 2015, it said, the trust fund will have insufficient resources to meet all of its obligations, resulting in steadily accumulating shortfalls.

But LaHood said the United States needs the money to improve its infrastructure. President Obama also has called for infrastructure "investments" to put Americans back to work.

“We built the interstate with the Highway Trust Fund,” LaHood said. “We built the Hoover Dam. We built the Golden Gate Bridge. We're number 16 right now in terms of infrastructure. We used to be No. 1.”

Neil Cavuto noted that billions of dollars in tolls and fees and state and local gasoline taxes also are earmarked for infrastructure improvements, in addition to what the Highway Trust Fund provides: “Methinks that someone is absconding with a lot of that money,” he told LaHood.

“Well, I — I think that's a little ridiculous to say that,” LaHood responded. “Taxes that are collected at the local and state level go for local and state roads. Taxes that are collected for tolls go to maintain the toll roads.”

And what about the billions of dollars in stimulus funds that went to road projects across the country?

“Yes, $48 billion,” LaHood said. “I'm very proud, Neil, that while I was at DOT, we spent $48 billion. We put 65,000 people to work doing 15,000 projects. You never heard any bad stories about the money being misspent.

“America is one big pothole, Neil. If we don't come up with the money, we're in no way, shape or form going to have the money to fix up the potholes.”

According to LaHood, “We need people to step up, provide some leadership, and come up with the money. That's what we have always done in America.”

The July 2013 CBO report noted that since 2008, Congress has avoided shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund by transferring $41 billion from the Treasury's general fund to the Trust Fund. An additional $12.6 billion is supposed to be transferred in 2014.

The report said lawmakers “could address shortfalls by substantially reducing spending for surface transportation programs, by boosting revenues, or by adopting some combination of the two approaches.”

Notably, the CBO report also mentions a congestion tax, which means highway users would pay tolls that vary, depending on traffic volume: “Implementing such a user fee would reduce demand for future spending by providing an incentive to use those roads less during congested periods,” the CBO said.

Mississippi, strapped for road money, eyes options besides gas tax

Jeff Amy

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

JACKSON, Miss. — A new report calls for Mississippi's road-building agency to do more to account for the money it spends, but agrees the state doesn't have enough money to maintain its roads and bridges.

The report by the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review could figure prominently into the ongoing debate over raising more money for the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

The watchdog committee agreed with MDOT's position that Mississippi needs to spend about $400 million more per year to keep roads and bridges from getting worse.

“There is clearly a shortage of funds to meet the state's road needs,” said the report, released last month.

Proponents of more money have pushed to raise the state gasoline tax. But they're now seeking other options, given Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves are both opposed to such a tax increase.

Opponents of more spending have said it's unclear how MDOT decides to spend money, or whether it's spending on the highest needs. In a series of 14 recommendations, PEER called on MDOT to make its decision-making easier for outsiders to understand, and for the agency to do more to measure its bang for the buck.

PEER wrote that MDOT not only needs to describe how it selects projects, but “show that it selected the right project and carried out the project in an efficient manner.”

PEER criticized MDOT for deviating from its internal rating system to select bridge replacement projects, but said the agency is “moving in the right direction of providing sufficient documentation to support its bridge project decisions.”

MDOT is trying to allocate maintenance money to its six districts based on need, versus the prior system based on vehicle miles traveled. That transition has left northeast Mississippi's first district with a larger share of funds than need calls for, while it's left the sixth district running from Laurel to the Gulf Coast with a smaller share.

PEER criticized the agency for spending money studying and buying land for expansions unlikely to be built for years.

MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath wrote back to PEER that the department would use the recommendations as "a guiding document" to develop a strategic plan to report on the department's efficiency and performance in a way the public can understand. The department has also received and is analyzing a study about how it uses its equipment.

PEER's analysis shows MDOT spent $505 million on maintenance last year, or 46 percent of the agency's $1.1 billion budget. Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall, a Republican who represents the Central District, has been leading the fight for more revenue. He found the report favorable to MDOT.

“I'm for more resources," he said. “I'll leave it to the Legislature to determine what shape it takes. I'm trying to make the case that we need more resources or we're going to be driving on gravel roads.”

But with opposition strong to raising the state's fuel tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, lawmakers are looking for other ideas.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Johnson III, D-Natchez, said he hoped lawmakers might add another $20 million from general tax receipts to pay for bridges. He also said he'd like MDOT to keep all the money being generated from fuel taxes and find a way to replace about $100 million currently going to cities, counties, and others.

Sen. Russell Jolly, D-Houston, has introduced a bill that would earmark any lawsuit settlements Mississippi gets from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill for transportation needs, with half going to MDOT and half to be distributed equally among the state's 82 counties. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, said he'd like to consider using increased tax revenue from oil drilling in southwest Mississippi as a funding source.

New Hampshire considers ban on hand-held phone use, other types of distracted driving

Lynne Tuohy

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

CONCORD, N.H. — Several New Hampshire legislative proposals to cut down on distracted driving — from bans on electronic devices to outlawing applying makeup or reading a newspaper while behind the wheel — received universal support during a nearly two-hour committee hearing recently.

One bill would ban hand-held cellphone use while driving while another would prohibit cellphone use by school bus, taxi and livery drivers. A third bill bans all electronic devices and other forms of distracted driving, including applying makeup and reading newspapers.

Police, health and highway transportation officials spoke in support of a ban. The measures will be discussed further during the legislative session.

The transportation committee hearing comes just weeks after the fatal hit and run of retired Amherst fire chief John Bachman by a 20-year-old motorist who told police he was texting while driving and thought he had hit a snowbank. It was only after seeing media reports that Travis Hobbs, of Mont Vernon, turned himself in to police.

State law bans only typing and sending text messages while driving, but does not prohibit reading text messages, surfing the Internet, dialing cellphones or programming GPS devices while driving.

The state Supreme Court ruled last year that talking on a cellphone — though not illegal — could be grounds for convicting a driver of criminally negligent homicide.

New Hampshire State Police Lt. Matt Shapiro, who oversees the Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Unit, expressed strong support for the more comprehensive bill.

“In the last six years, as many as 28 percent of New Hampshire's fatal crashes related to distracted driving,” Shapiro said. “The current law is insufficient and many times unenforceable.”

Shapiro said most illegal texting while driving is done using one hand and below the sight line of a police officer looking at a driver.

The proposals would allow hands-free communications and use of cellphones by police officers, firefighters and ambulance drivers but only in emergency situations. The more comprehensive bill would also ban hands-free cellphone use by drivers under the age of 18.

“Every year we're losing a whole lot of people in New Hampshire and a whole lot of people are experiencing life-threatening injuries,” said Howard Hedegard of the New Hampshire Traffic Safety Institute. “Many people will only change their behavior when there's a law that tells them to.”

Twelve states prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cellphones and 41 states ban text messaging for all drivers, according to the Governor's Highway Safety Council. Six other states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.

Smoother commute promised for Garden State Parkway drivers as widening project gets under way

Donald Wittkowski

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Garden State Parkway officials are promising smoother rides and fewer accidents with the widening of a 10-mile stretch that becomes congested during the summer tourist rush to the Jersey Shore.

The project will add a third lane in each direction between mileposts 38 and 48 through the Atlantic County communities of Port Republic, Galloway Township and Egg Harbor Township.

Representatives of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the parkway's operating agency, touted the benefits of the project during a public hearing last month at the Egg Harbor Township Community Center.

John Withers, the authority's supervising engineer, predicted there will be "significant" improvements to traffic flow and safety when the heavily traveled toll road is widened in this area.

“We saw 14-mile backups in the summertime. They are going to be a thing of the past,” Withers said. “People will no longer give a second thought to traveling because the traffic won't be as bad as in the past.”

The project represents the next phase of a $900 million widening of the southern part of the parkway from Toms River, Ocean County, into Atlantic County, including improvements to the bridges spanning the Mullica and Bass rivers.

The project's northern stretch between mileposts 63 and 80 was completed in 2011. As construction moves south, work crews continue to widen the road, along with making related improvements to bridges, culverts and other parts of the parkway.

Widening of the 10-mile section through Atlantic County is scheduled to begin by the third quarter of this year, with completion in 2016 and 2017.

Parkway motorists who attended the public hearing said they supported the project, especially if it fulfills the highway authority's promise of making their commutes faster and safer.

“When they did it up north in the Forked River area, it really improved traffic patterns. If it worked up there, it should be successful down here,” said Paul Casaccio, an Upper Township, Cape May County, resident who uses the parkway for business trips to Trenton.

Jean Lawless, of Northfield, is anxious to see the project completed, hoping it will cure the bottlenecks she and her husband, Charles, encounter during rides up to Bass River State Forest at Exit 50.

“I like the idea very much, because I see bumper-to-bumper traffic,” she said. “I definitely think it needs to be widened.”

Charles Lawless said he tries to avoid driving on the parkway during busy weekends, particularly when there are big concerts or other special events to draw tourists to the shore.

“You can tell when there is big-name entertainment or something else big going on, because it's a full house,” he said of the parkway congestion.

Lawless said he hopes the widening project will reduce air pollution because cars, trucks and buses won't idle as much if they're not stuck in traffic jams.

Port Republic City Council President Craig Rummler said the project should improve access to his tiny town, but he expressed concern that residents living next to the parkway will have to deal with more noise generated by extra traffic. He said Port Republic officials asked for sound barriers of some type to be installed, but were told by the highway authority that they wouldn't be needed.

“They said it wouldn't create more noise. But I think there's going to be increased noise. It's got to be louder,” Rummler said.

Withers and Lamis Malak, the highway authority's senior highway engineer, said the project does not have any controversial aspects. When the widening project originally began, environmental groups and others criticized it because it led to the cutting of scores of trees along the wooded roadway.

Most of the tree-cutting needed for the stretch through Atlantic County has already been done, although an additional 3.9 acres of trees will have to be chopped down for storm water basins, Withers said. He did not have an estimate of the number of trees that will be cut down in that area.

As a companion to the widening project, the parkway has begun building full exits at Interchanges 44 and 41 in Galloway Township. Those exits are scheduled for completion in 2015 at a cost of $32.6 million.

Plans call for Interchange 41 to have a new southbound and northbound entrance at Jimmie Leeds Road, where motorists are able to access the parkway through a service plaza that is not officially marked as an exit. Parkway food contractor HMS Host Corp. will build a new $7 million service plaza related to Interchange 41's reconstruction. The new service plaza is scheduled for completion in 2015.

In addition, a new $13.5 million State Police barracks is being built at Interchange 41. Completion of the barracks is set for 2014.

Interchange 44, at Pomona Road, will be upgraded into a full exit with new traffic lights and ramps.       

Donald Wittkowski writes for The Press of Atlantic City.

Government plan aims to keep older drivers safe on road

Kevin Freking

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — Silver could take on a whole new meaning when it comes to car shopping. With more elderly drivers on the road, the federal government is contemplating a "silver car" rating system that will help identify which cars better protect elderly drivers and passengers in a crash.

Federal highway safety officials will investigate the possibility of such a rating system as part of a five-year plan designed to reduce the number of fatal and injury-causing accidents among older drivers.

The plan, released Dec. 5, also calls for more research into technology to prevent crashes or reduce their severity. One promising technology would warn drivers when their car has moved outside its lane. Another would automatically apply the brakes when a car is about to ram the vehicle in front of it.