Story Ideas for Media
TDOT is dedicated to implementing projects and programs that improve transportation and benefit the people of Tennessee. Below are materials provided for journalists explaining the Department's current projects, programs and initiatives. For more information, please contact the Community Relations Officer in your Region.
During winter weather, TDOT deploys equipment and resources in an effort to keep roads clear. In the winter season of 2017-2018, TDOT made available 826 salt trucks, 663 brine trucks, 1.6 million gallons of brine, and 229,000 tons of salt at a cost of $21.4 million. Additionally, personnel worked around-the-clock during winter weather events. For more information on winter weather operations, visit the Ice & Snow section of the TDOT website.
Snow Plow Simulator Training
In preparation for the winter season of 2015-2016, TDOT began a pilot training program to better prepare personnel for winter weather road conditions using a snow plow truck simulator. The training allows new and inexperienced drivers to hone their skills, using real-life scenarios and responsive simulator technology, before getting on the road. For the winter season of 2018-2019, roughly 60 employees in each of the state’s four regions completed the snow plow simulator training.
Potholes are a normal (and expected) part of the freeze-thaw cycle that occurs during winter weather. Because asphalt plants are closed in the winter, repairs made in the colder months are only temporary, cold-mix patches. A more permanent, hot-mix fix is done in the warmer months, when asphalt plants are open. Immediately after a winter storm, when potholes are most noticeable, TDOT crews are assigned routes to address potholes.
TDOT is responsible for licensing and inspecting 74 airports across the state. Automated Weather Observation Systems (AWOS) are located at 40 of those sites to assist pilots, the National Weather Service, and local meteorologists. Work is currently underway to upgrade the AWOS systems statewide and should be completed by 2020 at a cost of $2.5 million.
TDOT Snow Plow Truck
Work With Us
In 2016, three TDOT workers were struck and killed by passing motorists while on duty. In April 2017, TDOT launched "Work With Us," a statewide call to action for drivers to move over and slow down for emergency and state highway vehicles and workers. The ongoing campaign is now utilized year-round to encourage safe driving and promote highway worker safety.
In 2014, TDOT joined the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security in celebrating the nation’s first Traffic Incident Management (TIM) Training Center in Nashville. The TIM facility is designed to teach best practices for safe, quick clearance of highway incidents. The track features a section of interstate-like roadway, intersections, guardrail, and cable barrier rail, which allows emergency responders to safety and efficiently train under a variety of crash scenarios.
Road Safety Audit
A Road Safety Audit (RSA) is an in-depth study of the roadway that looks to improve both safety and congestion through low-cost safety improvements. The study includes data on traffic, crash history, visibility, geometric features, and field investigations. Suggested improvements can include signing, striping, roadway delineation, surface rehabilitation, guardrail, cable rail, shoulder widening or stabilization, rumble stripes/strips, turn lanes, roundabouts, traffic signals, etc. Typically, all approved and funded improvements are completed within one year of the final report.
Due to the nature of the rugged, mountainous terrain, Tennessee has many hazardous rockfall sites. In December 2000, TDOT began developing a Rockfall Management Program (RMP) to identify, prioritize, and mitigate the rockfall slopes having the highest risk. Currently, TDOT monitors more than 2,000 potential rockfall sites statewide.
Enlarged, Reflective Advanced Warning Sign
TDOT is always looking for new and innovative ways to keep traffic moving safely and efficiently. Two designs have proved successful in both design and function: J-Turn and Diverging Diamond.
- J-Turn – A J-Turn requires side road movements to be made indirectly by making a right turn, traveling about a quarter-mile (pending speed and curves) on the divided main road, and then making a U-turn to proceed in the opposite direction on the main road toward the intended destination. (In 2013, TDOT received a National Roadway Safety Award for its use of J-Turn improvements.)
- Maury County, State Route 6 at Canaan Road
- Maury County, State Route 6 at South Cross Bridges Road
- Monroe County, State Route 33 at the intersection of Wal-Mart entrance
- Crockett County, State Route 20 at the intersection of Egg Hill Road
- Gibson County, State Route 43 at State Route 54
- Sumner County, State Route 109 at Old 109
- Diverging Diamond – A Diverging Diamond (DDI) allows two directions of traffic to temporarily cross to opposite sides of the roadway, and then cross back and resume the original travel pattern.
- Blount County, US 129/State Route 115/Alcoa Highway at Bessemer Street
- Sevier County, I-40 at Exit 407 (State Route 66/Winfield Dunn Parkway/Sevierville)
- Davidson County, I-24 at Exit 60 (Hickory Hollow Parkway) – under construction
- Davidson County, I-40 at Exit 216 (State Route 255/Donelson Pike) – under development
J-Turn at SR 6 and South Cross Bridges Road in Maury County
Open-Graded Friction Course (OGFC) is porous asphalt that allows rainwater to drain through the top layer and out the side of the road. It helps prevent hydroplaning and spray from larger vehicles. OGFC has been used on several interstate statewide.
Diverging Diamond Interchange at I-40 and SR 66 in Sevier County
Standard Asphalt Pavement vs OGFC
TDOT has several programs and initiatives in place to keep drivers safe by partnering with state and local agencies and responding to state highway incidents.
- Quick Clearance – Through incident management, TDOT looks for opportunities to provide “quick clearance” of incidents and restore as much of the capacity of the roadway as possible, as soon as possible, to reduce motorist delays, improve responder safety, and prevent secondary crashes.
- Protect the Queue – A queue is a line of slow-moving or stopped traffic. Studies show traffic queues significantly increase the likelihood of secondary crashes. In 2013, the Protect the Queue campaign began. The initiative, which remains in place today, aggressively alerts drivers of slow-moving traffic ahead.
- HELP Program – The TDOT HELP Program began on July 1, 1999. HELP trucks and operators provide assistance to emergency responders and the general public in an effort to maintain safety and mobility on Tennessee roadways. HELP units operate near the larger metropolitan areas of Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville.
Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) allows states to better understand and efficiently operate state transportation systems. TDOT relies on an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) known as TDOT SmartWay, which uses live video cameras to monitor highways, sensors to gauge traffic flow, and large electronic message boards to provide urgent traffic notices and safety messages to drivers.
Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is used by TDOT to collect specific data points of a roadway. LiDAR is a surveying method that measures distance to a target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses with a sensor. LiDAR can be used without impacting traffic, and the results provide a 3D model of the roadway. Collected data can include lane and shoulder widths; guardrail offsets and heights; sign placement; bridge lengths, widths, and clearances; and the slope of the road.
Intelligent Compaction (IC) is equipment-based compaction technology that increases quality control and results in longer pavement lives by improving the density of road materials such as soils, aggregate bases, or asphalt. IC helps reduce future repair costs and congestion caused by construction. IC has been used on SR 331 in Knox County, SR 58 in Hamilton County, US 64 in Lincoln County, and US 412 Crockett County.
Snow Plow Truck Assembly
In January 2018, TDOT added 108 snow trucks to its fleet of winter weather vehicles. The trucks are customized for TDOT use, and specifically designed to increase safety and efficiency, while remaining cost effective.
Long Range Planning
TDOT has a long-term vision for transportation in Tennessee, as outlined in the Department’s 25-Year Long Range Transportation Policy Plan (2015). The plan provides a foundation for prioritizing transportation investments across the state in order to improve the state’s multi-modal transportation system.
TDOT inspects all publicly-owned bridges (state and local), which includes 19,822 structures. Typically, bridges are inspected every two years, and inspections result in a bridge rating. If a bridge is deemed structurally deficient, it may require more frequent inspections, which may lead to repair, replacement, rehabilitation, or closure of the structure. In 2012, Congress passed legislation that forces bridge projects to compete with other transportation funding needs.
IMPROVE Act Funding
Primarily, TDOT projects are prioritized based on safety, congestion, and economic development, and often include input from Regional Planning Organizations. Transportation projects are developed in four phases (Planning and Environmental, Design, Right-of-Way and Construction), and funded through a combination of Federal and state dollars. In 2017, the IMPROVE Act was passed, allowing TDOT to fund more projects in all 95 counties. To find specific IMPROVE Act projects, visit the Statewide Project Overview Tracker (SPOT) website.