Tennessee first responders, transportation workers, and even tow truck operators can learn safe and efficient techniques for clearing highway incidents on a realistic interstate training track complete with multiple lanes, an intersection, interchange, guardrails, and movable barriers. Aside from car crashes, the first-of-its-kind training site, opened in 2014, allows first responders to train on tanker fires and hazardous waste spills. More than 4,800 people have been trained on the track. The program is a partnership between the state’s Highway Patrol and Department of Transportation. Colorado recently opened its own training track and officials from other states are expressing interest in building similar sites.
To aid in its battle against the opioid crisis, the town of Cary, North Carolina, is looking beneath its streets. The town plans to set up 10 sampling stations in its sewers to measure concentrations of opioids in the wastewater to calculate the daily rate of drug usage per 1,000 people. The data will not be able to identify a specific home or user. The town received funding from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge to test the plan. North Carolina has seen an 800-percent increase in fatal opioid overdoses over the past decade.
In support of a multipart initiative to strengthen maternal care, New York State will begin a pilot program to expand Medicaid coverage for doulas, non-medical birth coaches who help women with physical and emotional support before, during, and after childbirth. The initiative is particularly focused on the high rate of maternal mortality among black women, who are four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women in the state, according to a recent report. Studies have shown that the use of doulas can increase positive birth outcomes but they are not widely utilized. Oregon and Minnesota currently allow Medicaid reimbursements for doula services.
The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (“Metro”) that serves the US capital area is making a simple graphic design change by adding color-coded escalator handrails in one of its stations to help riders find their way to the right platform. The pilot project is part of a larger initiative to improve wayfinding and security, especially where multiple train lines meet. The cost is minimal because escalator handrails are already replaced every two years. The Metro will study the progress of the pilot to determine whether it becomes a template for all 91 of its stations.
Three San Francisco public elementary schools are now adding bike-riding and traffic safety instruction to the curriculum for their students. Under the new physical education offering, the young students will be provided, for the duration of the course, with bicycles, helmets, and locks, as well as lessons in riding and safety. The city already provides bike education for middle school and high school students, but the new courses are an opportunity to instill good ridership skills as well as the enjoyment of cycling at an earlier age, particularly for those who might not be exposed to bicycling or have access to safe riding paths. The city plans to expand the program to all second-grade students over the course of the next several years.