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Congress Looks at Innovation in Surface Transportation


The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Highways and Transit heard from transportation industry representatives during a Sept. 5 hearing about new and exciting developments related to autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles, intelligent transportation systems and mobility on demand technologies, according to the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA).

“The population and amount of freight moving through our nation are projected to increase significantly in the coming decades,” Subcommittee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said at the opening of the hearing. “Being innovative and utilizing transportation technologies where it makes sense to do so will help our surface transportation system move people and goods more safely and efficiently.” 

Witnesses shared updates on innovative projects and programs that are helping solve safety and traffic congestion challenges. For example, an innovative “intelligent ramp metering” system currently in use by the Colorado Department of Transportation has helped improve traffic flow on a section of I-25 North. 

Modeled after a system that proved successful in Melbourne, Australia, lasers installed every one-third of a mile monitor and identify gaps in traffic, then trigger the on-ramp signals to turn green and feed cars into the gap. The system also holds drivers on the on-ramp if there’s congestion.

House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) mentioned that on a recent trip to Las Vegas he rode on an autonomously driven shuttle. From that experience, as well as meeting with innovators and stakeholders across the country who are working to solve transportation challenges through technology, he said he felt encouraged and optimistic about the ability of these new technologies to save costs, reduce traffic problems and improve safety.

NSSGA said its members are committed to providing building blocks for the roads of the future. As vehicle miles traveled are anticipated to increase by 20 percent by 2035 on our already overcrowded roads, Congress needs to step up and provide the funding for repairs and upgrades to our nation’s infrastructure, as well as investment in new technologies.  

“The aggregates industry will play a vital role in the future of America’s infrastructure and we applaud the Committee for focusing on these issues,” said Michele Stanley, NSSGA senior director of government affairs. “However, in order for many of these technologies to move forward, the Highway Trust Fund must be made solvent and funds must continue to be made available.”