March 2015 Catalyst

March 2015
For Minnesota’s roadside grasses, life isn’t easy. To survive, grass must be able to withstand extreme stresses including drought, heat, disease, soil compaction, poor quality soils, and high levels of road salt. Quality roadside vegetation is also needed to prevent erosion and maintain water quality from roadside runoff. In 2010, the Minnesota Department of Transportation noticed a number of its new sod and seed plantings were failing and asked U of M experts to take a look at its specification. During the next several years, the team worked to identify the best seed and sod for use along Minnesota’s roadsides. Findings are now available.
Not all bridges in the United States are made of concrete and steel. Even today, timber bridges remain an important part of the U.S. roadway system, especially in rural areas. Because traditional inspection techniques may miss internal decay or deterioration, the service life and load-carrying capacity of a timber bridge can be in question. To improve the quality of timber bridge safety inspections, a research project led by researchers at the University of Minnesota Duluth identified new advanced inspection techniques and equipment and developed implementation strategies.
In 2012 the Minnesota legislature modified a law that exempts certain speeding violations from a motorist’s driving record. The legislation also requested a joint report from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety to learn the impacts of the modifications in terms of safety, travel reliability and efficiency, and data privacy. The U of M’s State and Local Policy Program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs provided policy and data analyses for this report. The researchers found that the impacts of the 2012 modifications were small, or even negligible. More significantly, however, the findings led them to question the effectiveness of the amendment itself.
Nighttime crashes at rural intersections are a major roadway safety concern. Rural intersection collisions account for 16 percent of all fatalities nationwide, with almost 30 percent of those fatalities occurring at night. While previous research has shown the connection between an increase in lighting and a reduction in rural road nighttime crashes, little has been known about how the quality or quantity of that lighting affects nighttime crash rates. In a recent project, University of Minnesota research confirmed that adding lighting to unlit rural intersections can significantly reduce nighttime crash rates, even when lighting levels are below national recommendations.
Publication Credits 

Publisher/Director: Laurie McGinnis
Managing Editor: Pamela Snopl
Editors: Christine Anderson, Amy Friebe, Michael McCarthy
Designer: Angela Kronebusch
Freelance Writer: Megan Tsai