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news release

Contact: Jim Berzok
RELEASE: March 26, 1998

NASTO '98: Technology Taking
Transportation into the Next Century

As society continues its shift from one economically dependent on "low tech" manufacturing to one dependent on instant access to information provided by the latest state-of-the-art technology, the transportation industry finds itself in the midst of a similar transformation. It is recognized, especially in the densely populated states of the Northeast, that building more roads or adding capacity to existing highways is not always a viable solution to the challenges facing surface transportation.

The answer -- technology!!!

The Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials (NASTO) will be exploring the various philosophies and applications of technology -- and how it can help meet the changing conditions of the transportation field into the next century -- at its 1998 annual meeting in Atlantic City, NJ, from May 17-19. The central theme of the plenary session and subsequent panel sessions is "Transportation Visions.Solutions.Technology,"

For the better part of the last half century, construction was the policy decision "du jour" to increase mobility, tackle congestion and keep the economy growing. But we now find ourselves living in a different age. Increasing population, environmental constraints, local opposition and ever growing demand for limited transportation funds are the new challenges and transportation leaders are realizing that they cannot always build their way out of problems.

"Despite the fact that the northeast region has one of the best transportation systems, mobility remains threatened and congestion results in lost productivity, wasted energy and air quality problems. The challenge transportation policy makers and planners face today is to use new and developing technologies to make the existing transportation network operate as efficiently and effectively as possible," said New Jersey Transportation Commissioner John J. Haley Jr., host of the NASTO ‘98 meeting. "The answers to the problems do not stop at state borders either. More and more, decreased mobility and congestion are problems that beg solutions at the regional level."

"This year’s annual NASTO meeting focuses on technology, which is truly the key to managing mobility and access in the northeast region. Real time traffic information, automatic vehicle locators, and signal systems that respond immediately, have all become real tools rather than visions. Integrated transportation management systems and related technology are areas that all of us in the transportation field must accept as the standard in our industry," said Anne Canby, NASTO President and Secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation.

Electronic toll collection -- in which motorists use the latest technology and pre-paid accounts to avoid waiting to pay tolls at plazas thereby making travel more convenient and cleaning the air as well -- is making its way on to toll roads throughout the northeast corridor. Recently, a consortium of five toll road authorities in New York, New Jersey and Delaware announced it would move forward with electronic toll collection. Electronic toll collection is a prime example of technology working to improve transportation. As officials congregate in Atlantic City, NASTO ‘98 will focus in on how other technologies can provide the tools to help transportation leaders manage their systems better.

"I think we are doing a good job in New Jersey advancing technological solutions within our borders and participating in regional initiatives. What I believe we can accomplish at NASTO ‘98 is a better coordinated vision among our members and a better understanding of the role technology can plays in fulfilling that vision," Haley added.

The keynote panel, featuring Federal Highway Administrator Kenneth Wykle on behalf of USDOT Secretary Rodney Slater will be held on Monday, May 18 and will examine the changing face of transportation in the northeast. Panelists include David Barger, vice president of Continental Airlines and Harry Voccola, president of Intelligent Transportation Systems of America.

Other panels include:

"Public Transportation Technology and Innovation." This panel will focus on efficient public transportation and how technology and innovation is changing operations, information needs and programs, and will be moderated by New York State Transportation Commissioner Joseph Boardman.

"Private Technology Initiatives and How they Effect Transportation." This panel will look at private sector technology initiatives and how those efforts may depend on or change future transportation needs. New Jersey Commerce Commissioner Gil Medina will moderate.

"Transportation Technology Training and Education." Dr. Saul Fenster, president of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, will moderate a panel on the preparation and re-training of the transportation professional to meet the challenges of the future. The discussion will focus on curricula to prepare for the technology age, benefits of a more adaptive workforce and human resource issues.

NASTO is comprised of the top transportation officials from Maine to Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia.

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