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Innovative bridge solutions are a key aspect to the future of transportation, and transportation departments are increasingly recognizing their importance. By utilizing innovative bridge solutions and technologies, transportation agencies can improve safety, reduce project costs and increase the sustainability of the infrastructure. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) developed its Standard Bridge Design Tool (SBDT) to produce standardized bridge plans and reduce overall costs. 

In recent years, there has been an increase in pedestrian-related crashes resulting in deaths and severe injuries. As a result, state transportation agencies must prioritize innovative solutions and take proactive steps to ensure pedestrian safety. WisDOT developed their 2019 Pedestrian Plan using Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) approaches to improve pedestrian safety and create a safer transportation network. 


Federal funds lead to innovative solutions 

The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) State Transportation and Innovation Council (STIC) Incentive program provides up to $100,000 in federal funding to state DOTs and other public sectors STIC stakeholders. Funds are allocated to support or offset the costs of mainstreaming innovative practices or technologies.  

Utilizing these funds, WisDOT developed and implemented its Standard Bridge Design Tool (SBDT). This innovative software produces standardized plans for single-span slab bridges, which are commonly used on local roads. However, WisDOT is leveraging the tool on the state highway system as well. 

The SBDT decreases the financial resources needed during the design phase by automating a large portion of the design and drafting work of relatively simple bridge projects. The transportation agency’s primary goal of using the technology is to deliver more bridge replacement projects with the same amount of funding by utilizing the overall cost savings.  

WisDOT’s SBDT system operates from a website user interface that allows the bridge designer to input up to seven bridge parameters (span length, skew, bridge width, etc.) based on their initial size, type and location design.  From there, the software provides users with roughly 85 percent of the designed and detailed final bridge plans. According to the agency, only minor editing is required of the final plans produced by the SBDT, ultimately saving costs during the design phase. 

View the process for using the SBDT in WisDOT’s Standard Bridge Design Tool User Guide. 


Using STEP approaches to improve pedestrian safety 

To ensure pedestrian safety, state DOTs often use a combination of resources to identify areas in need of improvement and determine the appropriate countermeasures for those specific locations. The Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) program is the systemic application of cost-effective countermeasures that help transportation agencies reduce pedestrian fatalities at signaled and uncontrolled crossing locations. 

The city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin utilized STEP approaches to assess crash risk for their 2019 Pedestrian Plan. The plan evaluated pedestrian crash risk through a combination of network analysis, crash typing and estimating pedestrian exposure to identify locations for pedestrian safety improvements.  

First, WisDOT used a study to categorize a sample of pedestrian crashes that served as a basis for the approach. Then, the agency created a Pedestrian High-Injury Network map to illustrate where severe and fatal pedestrian crashes outweighed the non-severe crashes. Next, the pedestrian exposure was added to demonstrate where short duration pedestrian counts were administered, and the data was extrapolated to estimate annual pedestrian crossings.  

The city then merged all the produced data to estimate the pedestrian crash rate per million pedestrian crossings. And with those approximate crash rates, WisDOT is now equipped to target pedestrian safety countermeasure installations in locations with a heightened pedestrian crash risk. As a result, the agency is able to reduce the number of pedestrian-related injuries and deaths, and create a safer, more efficient transportation system. 

Learn more about Milwaukee’s use of data to improve pedestrian safety here.