CHAPTER 3
Highway and Highway-Related Research and Technology Programs

CHAPTER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Highway research and technology (R&T) comprises many independent programs, each with its own scope and management.

  • The federal highway R&T program involves Congress and FHWA in funding, priority setting, and decision making.

  • State highway research programs generally focus on issues of state interest; private-sector research focuses on issues affecting business operations or output.

  • Absent federal highway R&T, some topics of national importance will not be addressed.

  • The federal highway R&T program encompasses a range of activities aimed at supporting state, private, and university highway research.

  • Congress has chosen to designate more research projects and research performers, eroding the ability of the program to address highway industry priorities.

  • Highway R&T expenditures are low compared with those of other major industries.



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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology CHAPTER 3 Highway and Highway-Related Research and Technology Programs CHAPTER HIGHLIGHTS Highway research and technology (R&T) comprises many independent programs, each with its own scope and management. The federal highway R&T program involves Congress and FHWA in funding, priority setting, and decision making. State highway research programs generally focus on issues of state interest; private-sector research focuses on issues affecting business operations or output. Absent federal highway R&T, some topics of national importance will not be addressed. The federal highway R&T program encompasses a range of activities aimed at supporting state, private, and university highway research. Congress has chosen to designate more research projects and research performers, eroding the ability of the program to address highway industry priorities. Highway R&T expenditures are low compared with those of other major industries.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology Change, improvement, and innovation based on highway research have long been important to the highway system. Even before the federal-aid highway system was initiated in 1916, Congress provided funds for the Office of Road Inquiry, the precursor of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) research program, to assist the states by gathering information about highway laws, road-building materials, and the rail rates for such materials. Since then, FHWA, the states, many private companies, and national associations of industry components and engineering professions active in construction and highway transportation have supported considerable highway research and technology (R&T).1 This chapter first describes the principal U.S. highway R&T programs and characterizes them according to their underlying goals and rationale. Information is presented on their scope, management, priority setting, funding, and research performers. Highway-related R&T activities at several other federal agencies and in other countries are then described. The final section provides an overview of highway R&T program funding and a comparison of this funding with that of other industries and other federal agencies. PRINCIPAL HIGHWAY R&T PROGRAMS AND RELATED ACTIVITIES The four principal highway R&T programs are FHWA’s R&T program, state highway R&T, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), and private-sector research.2 State highway research and NCHRP are supported largely by federal funds. Coordination among these programs is mainly informal and based on professional relationships and collaboration among decision makers, researchers, program managers, and state highway personnel. Highway research also involves an increasing number of research partnerships, as described in Box 3-1. The following subsections describe the above four programs, as well as special highway research initiatives and the role of universities in highway R&T. Federal Highway Administration Program FHWA has the mission and responsibility to carry out the federal-aid highway program authorized by Congress.3 The agency is also responsible for “highway 1 Most local highway agencies do not have the funds or staff expertise to support R&T programs. However, these agencies often provide data and data collection support for others. 2 State and private-sector highway R&T are actually collections of research programs; each state program and each association or corporate R&T program is independently organized and managed. 3 The federal government, through Congress and the Executive Branch—principally the Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget—gives considerable direction and

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology BOX 3-1 Highway R&T Partnerships Research partnerships can provide an efficient way of combining staff and financial resources to address research topics of joint interest that require more resources than any of the individual partners can provide. Such partnerships involve formal agreements among agencies, companies, institutions, and other groups to address a topic of joint interest in a coordinated work effort that includes shared financial and staffing responsibilities. The results of research partnerships are shared openly by all partners. The success of some recent research partnerships (e.g., some activities within SHRP, the Intelligent Vehicle Initiative), coupled with current research needs, suggests that more research partnerships could be beneficial to the highway industry. It is important that such partnerships be linked to strategic agency goals; include arrangements that commit funds, facilities, and personnel; and establish a specific project timetable with milestones. safety programs, research and development related to highway design, construction, and maintenance, traffic control devices, identification and surveillance of accident locations, and highway-related aspects of pedestrian design.”4 Expenditures for FHWA’s R&T program, the nation’s largest individual highway R&T program, amounted to about $208 million in Fiscal Year 2001.5 Table 3-1 shows the breakdown of federal highway R&T expenditures from 1998 through 2001. Reflecting the agency’s role in administering the federal-aid highway program, FHWA’s R&T addresses a wide range of topics and includes many related activities in support of other highway R&T programs (Table 3-2 provides examples). focus to the highway industry through funding, regulations, and program decisions. Congress allocates funds for the federal-aid highway program and FHWA’s R&T program, and thus sets priorities. Its decisions support a vision for the nation’s transportation system. Congress influences private-sector highway R&T through legislation on such issues as tax treatment for corporate research, the extent to which manufacturers are liable for product failures, and antitrust law. 4 Subtitle 1 of Title 49, U.S.C., Section 104. 5 Included in this total is funding for surface transportation research, technology deployment, training and education, intelligent transportation systems research and development (R&D), and the University Transportation Centers program.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology Table 3-1 FHWA R&T Expenditures by Category, 1999–2001 ($ thousands) Program 1999a 2000b 2001c Surface Transportation Research 85,651 84,487 86,142 Technology Deployment 30,905 34,840 39,555 Training and Education 13,245 13,936 15,822 Intelligent Transportation Systems R&T 35,976 40,901 42,478 University Transportation Centers 22,649 23,755 23,953 Total 188,426 199,919 207,950 aAfter applying an obligation limit of 88.3 percent. bAfter applying an obligation limit of 87.1 percent. cAfter applying an obligation limit of 87.9 percent. SOURCE: Based on FHWA budget information. The program’s payoffs are relatively certain and tangible—incremental improvements leading to lower construction and maintenance costs, better system performance, added highway capacity, reduced highway fatalities and injuries, reduced adverse environmental impacts, and a variety of user benefits (e.g., improved travel times, fewer hazards). A small portion of FHWA’s R&T program funding, about $900,000, supports research aimed at breakthrough technologies capable of effecting dramatic improvements in highway performance and cost reductions. Such research includes seeking wholly new ways to control vehicles on highways through electronics, build bridges using newly engineered materials, or even develop pavements based on new design procedures. Such speculative, high-risk research has potentially high payoffs and is unlikely to be addressed in other highway R&T programs because of the risks and costs involved. The directors of FHWA’s core business units (CBUs) define strategic research priorities, develop program and project plans within their individual business areas, and prepare budget proposals for carrying out research needed to deliver technology to the nation’s highway agencies.6 The agency’s service business units (SBUs), resource centers, and division offices also participate in this 6 The five FHWA CBUs address infrastructure, operations, planning and environment, safety, and federal-land highways.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology Table 3-2 Examples of FHWA Activities That Support Other Highway R&T Programs Program Activity National highway R&T Coordinate federal highway R&T with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s national transportation system goals. Evaluate the public costs and benefits of new highway technologies. Identify and help remove barriers to the deployment of new highway technologies. Monitor and coordinate highway system–related activities across federal agency R&T programs. Monitor federal regulatory issues that affect the highway system and its users. Monitor international R&T programs for new technologies. Identify technology transfer best practices, and adopt and support them. Educate audiences about the federal R&T program, its accomplishments, and its benefits. Private-sector highway R&T Characterize national highway technology needs. Examine technology options that otherwise would not be considered by commercial interests. Partner with industry to help guide the initial stages of technology development. Public-sector highway R&T Monitor and coordinate across highway R&T programs (making use of existing FHWA contacts with state, private-sector, and university research programs). Evaluate user technology needs to identify information and technology gaps. Facilitate state pooled-fund studies. process by identifying research needs. The Research, Development, and Technology SBU has primary responsibility for conducting and managing research at FHWA. It is located at the agency’s Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, which houses more than 300 staff, as well as research laboratories and equipment. Other offices within FHWA conduct research as well; for example, the Policy SBU undertakes research on highway policy issues. FHWA also supports, at an annual cost of about $500,000, the Highway Safety Information System database, which includes crash, roadway inventory,

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology and traffic-flow data from eight states. This database is used by researchers in FHWA, other federal agencies, NCHRP, universities, and private research organizations to study safety issues in such areas as roadway design, maintenance, and safety treatments. The Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS/JPO) has a departmentwide role in ITS research and is managed by the department-wide ITS Program Office. The head of FHWA’s Operations CBU also serves as the ITS/JPO director. The ITS/JPO fosters and supports the application of advanced information technologies to improve surface transportation mobility, capacity, safety, and environmental compatibility. The primary focus of ITS research activities is the Intelligent Vehicle Initiative, aimed at development and commercialization of safety-enhancing ITS systems. FHWA contracts for research with private firms, university researchers, and research institutes, and also performs research in house. Traditionally, the majority of the agency’s research contractors have been selected through open, merit-based competition. FHWA technical staff manage the research program. In recent years, however, Congress has chosen to designate more research projects and research performers, modifying the extent of open competition in the federal program. Such designations can involve qualified research performers. However, they can also reflect successful lobbying by special interests without attention to the research needs of the national highway system, and ignore highway industry consensus on research needs and priorities, as well as stakeholder involvement in program decision making. Congressional designations under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) for 1999, 2000, and 2001 amounted to 44 percent, 42 percent, and 51 percent of FHWA’s R&T spending, respectively. The trend is clearly upward, especially in light of the extent of such designations under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), which amounted to about 16 percent annually.7 Table 3-3 provides summary information on the FHWA R&T program. State Programs Each state highway agency has a research program that addresses technical questions associated with the planning, design, construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance of highways, as well as highway-related environmental issues in the state. State highway research projects often reflect local conditions related to highway use, weather and environmental conditions, materials availability, and 7  Committee estimate based on FHWA data. See Appendix E for details.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology Table 3-3 Information on Aspects of Federal Highway Administration’s R&T Program Aspect Summary Program management Managed by FHWA staff. Agenda setting Core business unit directors are responsible for defining research priorities and developing program and project plans. In so doing, they use input from relevant service business units, resource centers, and division offices, as well as some external input. Congress is taking an increasingly active role by designating research topics in annual appropriations bills without being guided by established national highway research goals or highway industry consensus on research needs. Researchers These include ones from private firms, research institutes, and universities as well as individuals. Some FHWA research is performed by agency staff. With the exception of congressionally designated projects, FHWA research is selected by agency staff. All FHWA research is managed and evaluated by agency technical staff. Typical scope This generally encompasses applied research, development, and testing designed to address a problem of widespread (national) interest. It also includes some fundamental and long-term research. Researcher selection mechanism (level of competition) Traditionally, researchers have been selected by FHWA staff in an open, merit-based competition. As noted, however, Congress has recently chosen to designate more research projects and researchers in annual appropriations bills. Expert–peer review FHWA does not use outside experts to review projects. other factors. Projects are usually of short duration and involve seeking practical solutions for quick application to current problems. Nevertheless, certain states have developed considerable expertise in one or several research areas. Some state research yields results that are adopted by other states. State research has also led to changes in nationally applicable specifications. A 1999 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) survey of member states provides the best available estimate of state

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology highway research funding. The survey results indicate that the states spent approximately $322 million on R&T that year (Harder 2000).8 The primary source of this funding is the research portion of the State Planning and Research (SP&R) program, part of the federal-aid highway program. SP&R research funds amounted to approximately $144 million in 1999. The states themselves are the second-largest source of state R&T funds, providing a total of $146 million.9 The balance of about $32 million is from other federal funds made available for state highway research. Using this information and an annual inflation rate of 1.025, the committee estimates that state spending for highway R&T in Fiscal Year 2001 was $338 million. The states also participate in pooled-fund research that leverages limited financial, professional, and academic resources to deal more effectively with highway problems shared by several states or a region.10 Such projects address topics of joint interest for which local conditions are sufficiently similar to support a single effort. Pooled-fund projects are often managed by FHWA. In 1999, states pooled approximately $15 million for projects in addition to funding for NCHRP (described below). State research priorities are determined by each state, usually on the basis of suggestions from within the state highway agency and from local highway and transportation agencies. Research performers are generally selected from among private firms, universities, and research institutes in open, merit-based competition. States report using one or a combination of mechanisms to review and evaluate their R&T programs; 37 use peer exchanges, 27 use in-house officials, and 23 use input from user (customer) groups (Harder 2000). Table 3-4 summarizes key information on state highway R&T programs. National Cooperative Highway Research Program NCHRP is a voluntary, national pooled-fund highway research program funded by the states since 1962. Established under an agreement among AASHTO, FHWA, and the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the program was created to address common state needs related to Interstate highway 8 The total for all 52 member departments of transportation is an estimate based on data from 47 respondents. 9 This amount includes the required state match for SP&R funds [on a 20 (state):80 (federal) basis], plus all other state funds allocated for highway research. 10 Although many pooled-fund projects have been successful, participation is constrained by regulations in some states that limit spending of state funds outside the state and require formal management agreements.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology Table 3-4 Information on Aspects of State Highway R&T Programs Aspect Summary Program management Each state program is managed by state staff. Agenda setting Projects are nominated from within each state and selected by the state highway agency. Some states organize technical panels made up of potential users within the state to prepare research problem statements and monitor progress. Annual SP&R work plans are reviewed by FHWA. There is considerable flexibility to change work plan items and funding allocations within a state program. Researchers Researchers come mainly from universities, consulting firms, and research institutes. Some states have experienced researchers who conduct a portion of the research. Typical scope The scope of the program generally encompasses applied research, product development, testing, and technical assistance. The research products are intended for use by the state highway agencies. Researcher selection mechanism (level of competition) Researchers are usually chosen in an open, merit-based competition by state research staff. Expert–peer review of research Some states form technical review panels for program and project evaluation. system design and construction issues. NCHRP funding stems from an agreement among the states to contribute 5.5 percent of the research portion of their SP&R funds to the program; in Fiscal Year 2001, this amounted to $30.6 million. As a result, NCHRP funding varies in response to fluctuations in federal-aid highway program funding. Since 1962 NCHRP’s research focus has broadened considerably to encompass the full range of issues related to highway transportation. Typically, NCHRP projects are problem oriented and designed to produce results that have immediate application—for example, by providing incremental improvements or recommending changes to specifications and guidelines prepared by AASHTO committees. AASHTO’s Standing Committee on Research (SCOR), assisted by its Research Advisory Committee, selects the topics for NCHRP projects subject to approval by the AASHTO Board of Directors.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology Projects are chosen from nominations by the state transportation agencies, AASHTO committees, and FHWA staff, which receive suggestions from TRB technical committees, university researchers, and other members of the highway industry. TRB convenes expert panels that oversee the selection and work of researchers for each topic. These panels, consisting of experts from the state highway agencies, FHWA, universities, and other highway industry organizations, prepare project work statements, help select contractors in open competition based on merit, and monitor the progress of the work. Table 3-5 summarizes information on the program. Box 3-2 provides more information about AASHTO’s role in highway R&T. NCHRP includes support for the Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (NCHRP-IDEA) Program.11 The program encourages the investigation of innovative but untested concepts offering the potential for technological breakthroughs in highway transportation. The investigations are small, researcher-initiated projects designed to demonstrate the feasibility of the innovative concepts. AASHTO support for the program indicates increasing interest among state highway agencies in more innovative concepts for highway use. Funding for the Fiscal Year 2001 NCHRP-IDEA program was $1 million. Private-Sector Research There is no single, or even dominant, private-sector highway research program. Private-sector research is the sum of individual programs conducted or sponsored by companies that design and construct highways and supply highway-related products, national associations of industry components, and engineering associations active in construction and highway transportation. The initiation of several new association programs, such as that of the Innovative Pavement Research Foundation, since the committee’s previous report on highway research (TRB 1994) reflects growing private-sector support for short-term, highly focused research that meets the specific needs of members. Association research programs range from those with their own research staff and laboratories to those relying entirely on contract research. Associations such as the American Trucking Associations, the National Asphalt Paving Association, the Portland Cement Institute, and the American Institute of Steel Construction conduct research in 11 The NCHRP-IDEA program is one of several independent but similar programs. The others are the Transit-IDEA program, funded through the Transportation Cooperative Research Program; the High Speed Rail-IDEA program, funded by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA); and the Safety-IDEA program, sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and FRA.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology Table 3-5 Information on Aspects of National Cooperative Highway Research Program R&T Aspect Summary Program management Program is managed by TRB staff. Agenda setting Agenda is set largely by state highway agencies in the project submission process and by the AASHTO Standing Committee on Research (SCOR) in the project selection process. Projects are selected by SCOR from a list of problem statements submitted by state agencies, AASHTO committees, and FHWA staff. Projects are approved by the AASHTO Board of Directors. Researchers Researchers come mainly from private firms, universities, and research institutes. Typical scope Projects are problem oriented, designed to produce results that have immediate application, and generally focused on state highway agency needs. The Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) Program provides grants to researchers for the development of innovative solutions to highway problems. Researcher selection mechanism (level of competition) Researchers are selected in open competition by a panel of subject matter experts, research peers, and highway agency representatives. Selection is based on merit. Expert–peer review Project panels of subject matter experts, research peers, and state highway agency representatives review project plans and interim and final project results. their fields. Private-sector and association research tends to be driven by profitability and addresses issues affecting business operations or output.12 The committee estimates that annual highway R&T expenditures by associations are between $25 and $50 million.13 Except for a handful of companies, information on corporate research activities and expenditures is scarce because of the large number of firms involved and the proprietary nature of their research programs. Many companies simply do 12 The three predominant aims of private-sector R&D have been described as “increased earnings/ profit objectives, a desire to keep the company on the leading edge, and growth objectives” (CERF 1993, p. 20). 13 This estimate is based on the data in Table 3-8 and discussions with association officials.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology of a UTC, institutionalized the use of strategic planning in university grant management, and reinforced the program’s focus on multimodal transportation. TEA-21 authorizes up to $158.8 million for grants to establish and operate as many as 33 UTCs throughout the United States in Fiscal Years 1998 to 2003.20 Ten of these centers, designated as Regional Centers, were selected competitively in 1999. The other 23 UTCs are located at universities specified in TEA-21. (See Appendix C for more details on the UTC program.) Congressional designations for the UTC program in Fiscal Year 2001 amount to 93 percent of the potential grants. During Fiscal Year 2002, 17 existing centers will enter a competition for funding for the final 2 years of authorization. All UTCs are required to match the federal funding they receive dollar for dollar. OTHER HIGHWAY-RELATED R&T ACTIVITIES Federal Agencies Several federal agencies support research important to the highway industry. The goal of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA; formerly FHWA’s Office of Motor Carriers) is safe operation of trucks and buses through regulation and enforcement, education-outreach, and promotion of safety technologies. The agency’s four primary areas of research are compliance and enforcement, driver alertness and fatigue, regulatory evaluation and reform, and commercial driver training. Car–truck proximity safety is a key topic for future FMCSA work. FMCSA’s research budget in Fiscal Year 2000 was $6.4 million. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for reducing deaths, injuries, and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes. The agency’s R&T program focuses on vehicle-related safety; its budget for Fiscal Year 2001 totaled $64.6 million. About $11.2 million of this amount was for crash avoidance research (ways to help drivers avoid crashes), $14.2 million for biomechanics research (better understanding of occupant injuries), and $9.3 million for crashworthiness research (development and design of specific countermeasures to prevent driver, passenger, and pedestrian injuries). The agency’s research budget also included $21.7 million for the National Center for Statistical Analysis, which supports two important national vehicle crash databases—the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the National Automotive 20 Designated university-based programs and recipients of federal highway research funds must match the federal funds, usually on a one-to-one basis, with federal, state, or other funds.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology Sampling System—to improve the bases for crash countermeasures. NHTSA’s driver behavior research budget was $7.3 million. In addition, the agency spent about $1 million on its vehicle research and test center in Fiscal Year 2001.21 The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) periodically sponsors special studies on highway transportation, particularly on truck transportation of hazardous materials in support of its Office of Hazardous Materials Safety. RSPA’s Fiscal Year 2001 research budget was about $7 million. The agency administers DOT’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, which conducts projects involving research, analysis, and technology applications on behalf of FHWA and other DOT agencies. RSPA also oversees the UTC program. Other DOT agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Office of the Secretary, fund some research related to highways. The Office of the Secretary conducts policy-related research on major issues affecting the nation’s transportation system, often addressing the policy implications of emerging issues.22 The Office of Intermodalism has the lead role in sponsoring and coordinating departmental research on the links between highway transportation and other modes. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), with an annual budget of about $31 million, gathers critical data for studies in support of strategic planning and national transportation policy, frequently addressing issues and topics affecting highways. BTS also manages Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) Online, a collaborative effort of TRB, the National Academies, and BTS to provide a public-domain, web-based version of the TRIS bibliographic database, which currently contains more than 500,000 records of published transportation research. In addition, BTS maintains the National Transportation Library, an online library that provides access to more than 2,000 full-text documents drawn from more than 30 state departments of transportation and university websites. The Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation fund research in technical areas that relate to highways, particularly the areas of materials and construction. The Environmental Protection Agency funds some research in topics of interest to the highway community. Box 3-3 21 NHTSA also administers approximately $207 million in formula grants annually to the states for the operation of highway safety programs. 22 Recent topics include the effects of telecommuting on travel demand; the long-term potential of high-speed, magnetically levitated trains for intercity passenger travel; and remote-sensing data collection for system operations.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology BOX 3-3 Interagency and Federal–State Highway Research Partnership Under a recent interagency agreement between FHWA and the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, CRREL will conduct three research studies. The first will involve examining the possibility of extending the season for concrete construction and repair. The second will focus on developing improved pavement subgrade failure criteria through full-scale accelerated testing. The third will be an examination of asphalt pavement damage related to tire pressure. The agreement involves pooling state funds to partially cover the research costs. FHWA is also participating in the funding and overall management of the research. presents an example of a recent interagency highway research partnership involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FHWA, and several state highway agencies.23 Finally, several national laboratories managed by the Department of Energy have recently been involved in transportation-related projects sponsored by FHWA and DOT. Other Countries Because developed countries face a number of similar highway transportation issues and problems, many support highway research. Each country has its own approach to managing its highway system and organizing and managing its highway R&T activities. Sources for highway research funding in other countries include the central government ministries responsible for transportation, public works, science, and environmental issues; regional governments; and the private 23 Future interagency research on energy, environment, and planning topics related to surface transportation is the goal of the Surface Transportation Environmental Cooperative Research Program Advisory Board, a committee of the National Research Council established by TEA-21. The board is developing a national agenda to be used by federal agencies and Congress to establish future collaborative research partnerships.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology sector, often in partnership with the public sector. Most Western European countries and Japan have separate research institutes for highway infrastructure and highway safety, and some of these are affiliated with technical universities.24 In addition to supporting specific highway R&T projects, many national governments provide support for university research, technical research centers, and related activities that benefit highway transportation. In past years, FHWA and the state highway agencies have supported international scanning tours aimed at identifying and evaluating innovative technologies and methods and encouraging international research cooperation. Reports from these tours summarize key findings and provide recommendations for action in the United States. Because few countries are as open with government budget information as the United States, data on highway research expenditures from other countries are scarce. Table 3-8 presents estimates of expenditures on research in the areas of highway infrastructure and highway safety for 18 countries, based on data from unpublished sources and responses to direct inquiries. Although these data are not strictly comparable because of variations in data sources and availability, they indicate relative funding levels. Many European countries also support cooperative highway R&T with other countries. The largest and best known of these programs are those organized through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Commission. Other, smaller cooperative efforts involve small groups of countries. For example, the Nordic countries have conducted considerable cooperative research on cold-climate road construction and maintenance issues. FHWA and TRB currently participate in several of these international cooperative research activities. More information on international highway R&T programs is provided in Appendix D. In the late 1980s a few countries, most notably Australia and the United Kingdom, privatized their highway programs and research laboratories. One consequence was that the Transport and Road Research Laboratory, which was the focal point for highway research in the United Kingdom and a key participant in international highway research activities, was privatized as the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) and began competing for public and private research funds. TRL now performs research under contract to clients in both sectors. An outcome of TRL’s privatization is that the laboratory’s highly regarded research report series is no longer distributed free to libraries throughout the world, although some individual reports can be purchased. 24 Two voluntary forums have been created to improve cooperation and coordination among laboratories and institutes that carry out highway and highway safety research in Europe. The Forum of European Highway Research Laboratories and the Forum of European Highway Safety Research Institutes aim to encourage greater collaboration among member organizations, most of which are government funded, and to share research results with national governments, the European Commission, the highway industry, and highway users.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology Table 3-8 Estimated Minimum Expenditures on Highway and Highway Safety Research (millions of U.S. dollars) Country Source of Funds Total Government Industry Other Australia 10.0a 5.0a —e 15.0 Austria 6.0b 1.8b 5.0c 12.8 Belgium 10.0 0.7b —e 10.7 Canada 25.0 —e —e 25.0 Denmark 2.7b 0.9a —e 3.6 Finland 6.86 —e —e 6.86 France 92.0 —e —e 92.0 Germany 31.8 —e —e 31.8 Greece 2.2b 0.1b —e 2.3 Iceland 1.5 —e —e 1.5 Ireland 4.1d 0.1b —e 4.2 Netherlands 17.1 —e —e 17.1 New Zealand 1.4a —e —e 1.4 Norway 7.44 0.6 —e 8.06 Portugal 0.7b 0.2b —e 0.9 Sweden 43.7 —e —e 43.7 Switzerland 6.0 —e —e 6.0 United Kingdom 80.3b 8.0b 11.1b 99.4 aHighway safety research only. bInformation from an unpublished survey conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory in 1996. cExpenditures by the Austrian Road Safety Board, a private association that focuses on highway safety issues. dCalculated as 0.3 percent of annual national road construction budget. eData not found. SOURCE: Unpublished data and committee survey. OVERVIEW OF HIGHWAY R&T PROGRAM FUNDING FHWA and the states are the primary public sources of highway R&T funding (see Table 3-9). FHWA R&T funding for Fiscal Year 2001 was about $208 million. State spending for highway R&T in Fiscal Year 2001 is estimated at $338 million. NCHRP funding for that year, $30.6 million, is included in the

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology Table 3-9 Major Highway R&T Program Funding and Funding Sources for Fiscal Year 2001 ($ millions) Program Funding Government Private Sector Total Federal State FHWA R&Ta 208 NA NA 208 State highway R&T 185 153 NA 338 Private-sector research NA NA 75–150b 75–150 University Transportation Centers 23.95 —c NA —d NCHRP 30.6 —e NA — All programs       621–696 NOTE: NA not applicable. a Includes funding for FHWA’s Surface Transportation Research and Technology Deployment Programs and ITS R&D program. b Committee estimate. c The state match for University Transportation Centers is included in the $153 million in state government funding for state highway R&T. d Amount is not included in the total because these funds originated in FHWA’s R&T program. e NCHRP is a state pooled-fund program because it stems from an agreement by the states to spend a portion of their SP&R funds on the program. SP&R funding is federally provided and so is included here. state spending total. As noted earlier, information on private-sector highway R&T funding is scarce, and the amounts involved can only be estimated. On the basis of information collected by the committee, such funding is estimated at $75 million to $150 million per year. As a result, total highway R&T spending in Fiscal Year 2001 is estimated at between $621 million and $696 million. Highway Industry Research Expenditures Compared with Those of Other Industries Table 3-10 provides information on net sales and R&D expenditures25 for the top 50 corporations in several major industrial sectors for 1997.26 In terms of a 25 Although this report addresses federal R&T activities and expenditures, the discussion in this section is based on data and information available for industrial R&D activities. 26 More recent data are not available.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology Table 3-10 R&D Expenditures of Major Industrial Sectors as Percentage of Net Sales (Top 50 Corporations in R&D Spending in 1997) Sector Net Sales ($ billions) R&D Spendinga ($ billions) R&D as Percentage of Net Sales (percent) Basic industries and materials 727 8.4 1 Motor vehicles and other surface transportation equipment 455 18.4 4 Aircraft and guided missiles 130 4.7 4 Medical substances and devices 168 19.8 12 Chemicals 210 6.8 3 Services 67 0.4 1 Information and electronics 567 45.8 7 Machinery 248 7.0 3 Highway system 117b 0.621 to 0.696 0.53 to 0.59 a The authors warn that “comparisons between industries should be made cautiously because the research and development (R&D) sales ratios may be as circumstantial as they are strategic. For example, in the pharmaceutical industry, R&D is performed not only for the sake of discovering new products, but also for the sake of product testing to meet regulatory requirements once a new product has been developed.” b Highway system expenditures. SOURCE: For all but highway sector, Standard & Poor’s Compustat, Englewood, Colo. fraction of total industry revenues, the highway industry underspends these sectors considerably. As might be expected, research spending is extensive in high-technology industries, such as the medical substances and devices sector (12 percent of net sales) and the information and electronics sector (7 percent of net sales), which rely on the development of innovative products on a frequent basis. The motor vehicle and other surface transportation equipment sector, which is dependent on the highway system, spends 4 percent of its revenues on research activities. Two sectors, the basic industries and materials sector and the services sector, spend about 1 percent of revenues on research; although this figure is low compared with the other sectors, it is higher than highway industry R&T spending. A limitation of such cross-industry comparisons is that an industry is often the end user of products developed or improved through research in other

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology industries, such as steel, chemicals, and electronics. Hence, the improved equipment, materials, and procedures emerging from research in these industries could be significant contributors to highway system improvements. However, such contributions are very difficult to measure. FHWA R&T Expenditures Compared with Those of Other Federal Agencies Table 3-11 presents information on total and R&T Fiscal Year 2001 budgets for several federal agencies. The Department of Defense had the largest federal research agency R&T budget—more than $42 billion. The R&T budget for the National Institutes of Health for Fiscal Year 2001 was $20.1 billion. By contrast, the total DOT R&T budget was $0.747 billion, while that of FHWA was $0.208 billion. Table 3-11 Selected Federal Agency Total and R&T Budgets for Fiscal Year 2001 Department or Agency Total Annual Budget ($ millions) Annual R&T Budget ($ millions) R&T Budget as Percentage of Total Budget (percent) Department of Defense 283,915 42,258 14.9 Department of Agriculture 69,599 1,961 2.8 Department of Health and Human Services (National Institutes of Health) 430,466 20,859 4.8 National Aeronautics and Space Administration 13,777 9,925 72 Department of Energy 16,739 7,744 46.3 National Science Foundationa 3,967 3,279 82.7 Environmental Protection Agency 7,495 609 8.1 Department of Commerce 5,549 1,201 21.8 Department of Transportation 50,611 747 1.5 a Unlike other agencies listed, the National Science Foundation is a research agency, not a mission agency. SOURCE: For total budgets, Office of Management and Budget (www1.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/index.html); for R&T budgets, American Association for the Advancement of Science R&D Funding Update, May 1, 2001 (www.aaas.org/spp/dspp/rd/prev02pt.htm).

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology Federal agency R&T budgets reflect decisions made by Congress, often in response to federal agency priorities as expressed in the President’s annual budget proposal. Although in the past congressional action was largely reactive to such proposals, this situation began to change in the 1990s (COTA 1991). Data presented earlier in Table 3-1 reveal that although federal highway R&T spending has grown in recent years, the increasing number of congressional designations for highway R&T activities has resulted in less funding for the research needs of the national highway system and consensus research priorities developed by the highway system’s stakeholders. SUMMARY The nation’s highway research activities are highly decentralized and involve many participants. This situation reflects the nation’s approach to problem solving: locating it close to where solutions are being sought and providing quick responses when an immediate solution is needed. The federal government plays several important roles in the national highway R&T program. Congress sets the tone when it reauthorizes the federal-aid highway program. It establishes the direction and budget for the highway program, sets the FHWA R&T program budget, and influences research priorities by supporting some programs and not others. Recently it has chosen to designate more research projects and research performers. Congress also determines the size of the state highway R&T and NCHRP programs by continuing to authorize SP&R funds from the federal-aid highway program. These funds establish the base for state highway R&T funding. They are also used—based on a voluntary agreement among the states—to fund the NCHRP program. Congress and FHWA influence highway R&T by establishing and supporting a vision for the nation’s highway system. Historically, FHWA has played a key role in highway research. Several factors, including greater congressional designation of research projects and research performers and increased state R&T activity in response to growth in SP&R funding, have reduced this role. Nevertheless, the agency continues to be responsible for addressing highway issues of national interest and managing the nation’s largest single highway R&T program. FHWA operates the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, which houses laboratories, test facilities, and research staff that support its R&T program. In addition, the agency supports the other highway R&T programs in many ways, including funding research and participating in collaborative and partnership efforts, organizing and managing pooled-fund studies, acting as a catalyst for public–private research initiatives, and provid-

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology ing technical and financial assistance important to the implementation of innovations. The mission and scope of state and private-sector R&T programs are well defined. Although state highway R&T programs generally focus on issues of state interest, their research results can be applicable to national problems. Private-sector highway R&T focuses on issues affecting business operations or output. There is no incentive for the state programs to address issues that are national in scope. Furthermore, although private-sector research may address issues related to the national highway industry market, it is not likely to deal with national highway system issues. Thus, absent federal highway R&T, some highway-related goals and issues are unlikely to be addressed.27 FHWA is in a position to address these issues and establish partnerships with the other research programs for this purpose. The agency’s role in administering the federal-aid highway program and its contacts with all the states, many research universities, and most highway researchers position it strongly to be a leader in highway research, as well as in support activities for technology transfer and implementation. On the basis of research investment as a percentage of total highway expenditures as compared with other important sectors of the economy, highway R&T spending is low. This situation reflects overall federal transportation R&T spending, which is low as compared with other federal agency spending. Congressional decisions to designate more research projects and research performers have reduced the flexibility of FHWA’s R&T program even as the demand for innovation has grown. These decisions have also reduced federal R&T funding for national highway system R&T needs and consensus highway industry research priorities. REFERENCES Abbreviations CERF Civil Engineering Research Foundation COTA Congressional Office of Technology Assessment TRB Transportation Research Board CERF. 1993. A Nationwide Survey of Civil-Engineering Related R&D, CERF Report 93-5006. Washington, D.C., December. 27 Such issues include many ITS topics, such as the architecture for the Commercial Vehicle Information System and Network, high-performance steel for highway structures, development of meaningful measures of air quality and air quality trends, and improved nondestructive test methods for evaluation of concrete and asphalt pavements.

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The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology COTA. 1991. Rebuilding the Foundations: Public Works Technologies, Management, and Financing. U.S. Congress, Washington, D.C. Harder. 2000. RAC Survey Results. Available in electronic form on the SCOR-RAC website in the “Resource Center” area. www4.nas.edu/trb/scor/SCORlibr.nsf/$defaultView. TRB. 1984. Special Report 202: America’s Highways: Accelerating the Search for Innovation. National Research Council, Washington, D.C. TRB. 1994. Special Report 244: Highway Research: Current Programs and Future Directions. National Research Council, Washington, D.C. TRB. 2001. Special Report 260: Strategic Highway Research: Saving Lives, Reducing Congestion, Improving Quality of Life. National Research Council, Washington, D.C.