Transportation is all about planning, engineering, construction and maintenance, but it’s also as high-tech as any industry.
A few days at the recent Flintstones-to-the-Jetsons themed Maryland Quality Initiative Conference in Baltimore shows the industry is clearly in George Jetson mode. MdQI sessions addressed transformer logistics, intelligent transportation systems technology, pavement preservation technologies, unmanned aircraft systems and even the lightweight deflectometer.
Speakers shared the latest space-age techniques and initiatives, including sessions on hydro demolition and latex modified concrete overlays, alternative uses of the highway right-of-way for solar and other energy-saving innovations.
More than Mobility
Maryland’s transportation industry not only emphasizes safety and mobility solutions, it delivers jobs and big returns for the state.
MdQI keynote speaker Steven W. Johnson, director of the division of engineering at the Maryland Port Administration, said the Port alone generates more than 37,300 jobs (both direct and indirect) and $3.3 billion in wages and salaries. The benefit: $395 million in state and local tax revenues annually.
The Port of Baltimore is the nation’s top port for autos and light trucks, roll-on roll-off heavy equipment, and imported sugar and gypsum. It ranks No. 9 nationally in overall foreign cargo value ($59.7 billion).
While all the talk about technology is inspiring, we found time to slow down for a session about those who walk along this fast-moving network. A high-touch balance to all the high-tech.
Unfortunately, pedestrian deaths in Maryland are increasing, and in 2018 they accounted for 25 percent of all highway deaths. Five jurisdictions in Maryland account for 82.5 percent of all injury and fatal accidents involving pedestrians: Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Anne Arundel County. Anne Arundel County saw the most alarming jump, from 7 deaths in 2017 to 20 in 2018.
Darkness is a major factor, and November and December represent the most dangerous time of year for pedestrians. According to the MDOT MVA Maryland Highway Safety Office, nearly 70 percent of pedestrian fatalities in Maryland occur in the dark.
Communicating at the Crosswalk Level
Campaign safety tips from two organizations include reminders for drivers to obey the speed limit and stop for people crossing the street. Pedestrians are advised to use the crosswalk and wear something light or reflective at night.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Street Smart program has budgeted $800,000 for 2020 with transportation communications including press events, virtual reality exhibits at street fairs and festivals, and video testimonials of those affected by these tragic accidents.
The Baltimore Metropolitan Council has a campaign called “Look Alive”, featuring Signal Woman, the illuminated crosswalk stick figure brought to life to share campaign messages in a memorable way.
At the heart of all this transportation activity is communications. Without a strong PR program in place few people would know about these innovations and life-saving initiatives. To learn more about MdQI visit the organization’s new website: www.mdqi.org to stay informed on the latest happenings and learn about new opportunities within the transportation industry.
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