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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses 2 Highway Research Programs in the United States Highway research, like the management of the highway system itself, is decentralized. Roads and highways are owned and operated by the states, thousands of counties, and tens of thousands of cities and municipalities. These many and varied organizations make all the key decisions about investment in and operation and preservation of their roads and highways. Significant highway research and technology (R&T) work is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT); however, many other programs fund highway-related research, including several federal agencies, each of the states, University Transportation Centers (UTCs) (generally through USDOT funding), and private entities. This chapter provides a brief overview of the various programs, with emphasis on those analyzed in the remainder of this report. It ends with a comparison of the level of research and development (R&D) investment in highways and the R&D investment of private industry. FEDERAL PROGRAMS The focus of this report is on investments in highway research funded through the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). These activities are described below, along with a brief overview of other federally funded highway-related research. U.S. Department of Transportation Highway research is funded and managed principally through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), but not exclusively. The intermodal Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) research program, administered by
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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), includes several highway initiatives funded by ITS but managed by FHWA. (This report addresses those ITS-funded activities managed by FHWA, but not those managed by other USDOT agencies.) Motor vehicle safety research is funded through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), while truck safety programs are funded through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These programs, although highway-related, are not considered in this report because the scope of the Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC) is limited to R&D on infrastructure, highway operations, highway safety (other than vehicle design), environmental impact, and highway policy and planning. The UTC Program, which is also managed by RITA, funds research in all modes of transportation. As described in Chapter 4, the majority of research projects conducted by UTCs are highway related. Hence, this assessment includes consideration of the UTC-funded research program as a whole. FHWA FHWA’s research encompasses a wide array of topics of importance to highway planning, construction, operation, safety, environmental protection, and maintenance. Research programs are organized along lines of authorized funding. Title V funding includes several different categories: Surface Transportation Research, Development, and Deployment (STRDD), Training and Education, University Transportation Research, ITS Research, and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (see Table 2-1). FHWA manages most of the STRDD funds and the Training and Education Programs. STRDD, with budgeted funding averaging about $156 million annually under SAFETEA-LU, is one of the main programs of interest in this report.1 This category includes Infrastructure, Planning and Environment, Operations, Highway Safety, Policy, and Exploratory Advanced Research. Most of the highway research analyzed in this report is managed through FHWA’s Office of Research, Development, and Technology (RD&T). This 1 In fiscal years (FY) 2006 and 2007, STRDD included SHRP 2, which averaged about $38 million in each of these two years. The estimate given of $156 million for STRDD excludes SHRP 2, which was moved to Title I of SAFETEA-LU in FY 2008 and is described separately from STRDD in this report.
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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses TABLE 2-1 Estimated Average Annual Title V and SHRP 2 RD&T Funding by Program Category, Fiscal Years 2006–2009 Program Area Average Annual Funding ($ millions) Funding as Percentage of Total Funding as Percentage of STRDD and SHRP 2 STRDD Infrastructure 60.4 14.5 30.4 Pavements 30.5 LTPP 8.3 Structures 21.5 Planning and Environment 18.6 4.5 9.4 Operations 7.4 1.8 3.7 Highway Safety 13.7 3.3 6.9 Policy 0.7 0.17 0.4 Corporate Activities 24.6 5.9 12.4 Advanced Research 11.5 Other USDOT R&T Programsa 30.7 7.4 15.5 Training and Education 24.2 5.8 SHRP 2b 42.3 10.2 21.3 Subtotal 156.1 100.0 RITA Programs University Transportation Research 66.9 16.1 ITS Research 99.9 24.0 Bureau of Transportation Statistics 26.7 6.4 Total 416.2 100.0 NOTE: The figures shown are averages of 4-year estimates of budgeted amounts, which are less than the amounts authorized because of obligation limits, budget rescissions, and other adjustments. Based on tables provided by FHWA. LTPP = Long-Term Pavement Performance (Program); SHRP = Strategic Highway Research Program. aThese research programs and projects, mainly earmarks, are managed by various administrations within USDOT. bSHRP 2 was funded in Title V for fiscal years (FY) 2006 and 2007. In the Technical Corrections legislation of 2008, SHRP 2 funding was taken from Title I for FY 2008 and 2009. To avoid confusion in this table, SHRP 2 is listed separately, even though in FY 2006 and 2007 it was a component of Title V Corporate Activities. office also manages the Turner–Fairbank Highway Research Center, a federally owned and operated highway research facility in McLean, Virginia. Other offices within FHWA also manage research, development, and deployment. Planning, environmental, and realty research (4.5 percent of Title V R&D funding) is managed by the Office of Planning, Environment, and Real Estate Services. Policy research, for which there is very little funding under SAFETEA-LU (0.4 percent of Title V R&D funding) is managed
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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses in the Office of Policy. Although the Office of RD&T manages most of FHWA’s research, the research activities within the agency are closely coordinated with the offices responsible for delivering its programs, such as the Offices of Infrastructure, Operations, and Safety, as well as with the programs for Training and Education. Responsibilities for priorities and programs are shared between the Office of RD&T and the program offices. The research itself is managed through RD&T, but deployment activities are often led by program offices. Training and Education activities receive about $24 million annually under SAFETEA-LU. The major programs are the National Highway Institute (about $8.7 million annually) and the Local Technical Assistance Program (about $10 million annually). These programs are not addressed explicitly in this report, but both are important elements of FHWA’s overall deployment activities. RITA RITA administers two programs of particular interest to RTCC: the ITS Program and the UTC Program. The ITS Program funds several major highway-related research initiatives: road weather safety, intersection collision avoidance systems, electronic freight management, and emergency transportation operations, among others. Because ITS technologies apply to all modes, ITS activities are conducted throughout USDOT, most funded by the ITS Program, with related activities funded by the various modal administrations. Major ITS research activities in highway traffic operations and safety are managed within FHWA’s Office of RD&T. The UTC Program provides grants to more than 60 university centers around the country. The program is intended to encompass all aspects of transportation, but most of the funded centers sponsor and conduct highway research. As described in Chapter 4, about 70 percent of UTC research projects are highway research. NHTSA NHTSA is the USDOT agency responsible for regulating the safety of motor vehicles; conducting and reporting on crash tests; issuing motor vehicle recalls; establishing corporate average fuel economy standards; and collecting data on highway crashes, injuries, and fatalities. NHTSA also has a small R&D program on behavioral safety. NHTSA’s activities are
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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses funded through a separate title of SAFETEA-LU. The data that NHTSA collects on highway crashes, injuries, and fatalities are critical to the highway safety research of NHTSA, FMCSA, and FHWA. FMCSA FMCSA was established as a separate administration within USDOT on January 1, 2000, pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Formerly, the truck safety activities within USDOT were conducted within FHWA. FMCSA’s primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. FMCSA has a modest research program aimed at gaining fundamental and applied knowledge to inform the development of new methods and technologies that can enhance truck and bus safety and security. Federal Aviation Administration Although most pavement research in USDOT is carried out through FHWA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducts such research as well, on pavement design, materials, performance, and recycling. The largest commercial aircraft impose loadings on runways that are an order of magnitude greater than those imposed on highways by heavy trucks. Hence pavement design for airports differs from that for highways. FAA spends $10 million to $16 million annually on pavement research. Other Federal Highway-Related Research Programs A variety of research activities that are important to highway transportation are scattered throughout the federal government.2 The Department of Energy funds most federal research on transportation fuels and propulsion systems. The Environmental Protection Agency funds research on health effects of motor vehicle emissions, emission control technologies, and biodiversity, among other environmental topics related to highways. Some highway-related basic research is typically funded each year through- 2 Brach (2005) provides an overview of transportation research funding across federal agencies; information about this research is difficult to gather because of incomplete and inconsistent data. Information on highway research—a subset of transportation research—is even more difficult to locate. Actual highway research funded in federal agencies other than those discussed above is unknown but not likely to be substantial.
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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses out the National Science Foundation, including research on materials, behavior, models, and information technologies that are or could be applied to highway transportation. Considerable pavement research related to military missions, bases, facilities, and runways occurs at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center. For example, pavement research at the U.S. Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory includes the development and application of mechanistic–empirical design models for pavement subgrade design, research on seasonally frozen ground and frost heave, and design of Air Force runways.3 The Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory includes a large-scale and sophisticated Concrete Research Facility and a Pavement Materials Laboratory that support physical, chemical, and mechanical characterizations of pavements and construction materials.4 STATE PROGRAMS Each state department of transportation (DOT) has a research program. Most states fund this research through the State Planning and Research (SP&R) provision of Title I of SAFETEA-LU. FHWA oversight of this program is defined in Title V (as described in Chapter 4). The SP&R provision sets aside a small proportion (2 percent) of selected federal highway aid categories for SP&R activities, 25 percent of which must be spent on research. In fiscal year 2007, SP&R funding totaled approximately $663 million, about $166 million of which was the minimum required for research. Because some states spend more than the SP&R minimum, total state DOT highway R&D exceeds this amount. In 2006, the last time a national figure was estimated, states spent $326 million on highway research (see Table 2-2). State programs cover all kinds of research, and their size varies considerably. Large states, such as California and Texas, have sizable programs. California, unlike most states, also funds considerable research with state resources. The vast majority of state DOT research funding is invested in highly applied aspects of highway engineering, design, safety, environment, and planning. 3 www.crrel.usace.army.mil/businessareas/technicalareas/ta-coldregions.html#pavement. Accessed Aug. 26, 2008. 4 gsl.erdc.usace.army.mil/Ifac_info.html#CRF. Accessed Aug. 26, 2008.
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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses TABLE 2-2 Funding for Highway and Highway-Related Research Programs Funding Entity Fundinga ($ thousands) Programs Funded Under Title V of SAFETEA-LU FHWA Surface Transportation R&D 133,000 Training and Education 23,000 SHRP 2 36,200 RITAb UTCs 60,000 ITS 94,700 States SP&R minimumc 165,800 Total state highway research 326,000d Private-Sector Highway Research Programse Associations 25,000–50,000 Companies 50,000–100,000 aFor programs funded under Title V of SAFETEA-LU, funding for FY 2006; for private-sector highway research programs, estimated 2001 funding. bBoth programs administered by RITA cover all modes, but a substantial portion of both addresses highway topics. cSP&R funding is based on a required minimum. Some states spend more than the minimum percentage, and some provide other state funding as well. (National Cooperative Highway Research Program funding of $32.7 million in 2006 is a subset of SP&R funding.) dBased on a 2006 survey of member states, adjusted to account for missing state data by using the ratio of total state research spending to SP&R minimums (Skinner 2007). ePrivate investments in highway R&D were estimated for 2000 by the committee in Special Report 261 (TRB 2001). Each state’s having its own research program might suggest that duplication would occur. In fact, however, states share resources to study topics of collective interest, while at the same time having major differences in many areas that necessitate individual programs. Pavement design itself is highly dependent on local soil conditions, moisture levels, temperature ranges, and sources of local aggregate. Operational needs range widely between states with major metropolitan areas and those consisting mainly of rural areas. Policy concerns with respect to economic development, finance, environmental issues, and safety also vary considerably across states. Because most state programs are funded through federal aid, FHWA has a role in overseeing these activities. The states themselves, however,
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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses define their research agendas. States are required by FHWA to enter their research projects into a database (Research in Progress) and to check this database to avoid duplication. SP&R Program funding plays a vital role in connecting USDOT programs with those of the states and in facilitating collaboration among the states. States use their SP&R funds in a variety of ways, but in general, the following uses are characteristic: To conduct state-specific research, development, and deployment projects; To support the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP); To support pooled-fund projects with other states and FHWA; To provide matching funds for universities participating in the UTC Program; To provide support for the standing committee structure, conferences, and workshops of the Transportation Research Board (TRB); and For some states, to support programs for the transfer of technology to county and city engineers. Each of these areas of expenditure facilitates innovation or collaboration, or both. State-specific research projects, for example, test or demonstrate innovations promoted by FHWA and other states. States also pool some of their SP&R funds for NCHRP, through which they fund and conduct research of collective interest. The program is overseen by the Standing Committee on Research of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and administered by TRB. NCHRP projects often result in manuals and handbooks that provide guidance for the implementation of new ideas and techniques and serve as technical resources for the establishment and revision of standards. The NCHRP process is highly competitive; most proposed projects (75 percent) are not funded. The pooled-fund program, administered by FHWA, allows groups of states with a common interest to fund research proposals made by other states and FHWA. Some projects not selected by NCHRP because of a lack of common interest among all states are supported as pooled-fund projects. Dozens of studies are in development or under way through this program. Many pooled-fund projects result in manuals and hand-
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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses books for implementation. Matching funds for UTC research allow states to partner with universities to conduct research that state DOTs might otherwise be unable to fund. Funding for TRB facilitates the technical exchange of new knowledge and practice through TRB’s 200 standing committees and numerous conferences and workshops organized each year. Finally, technology transfer programs help states encourage innovation by counties and cities, which in some states are responsible for the majority of road mileage. SP&R funds, then, are used for a number of purposes other than fostering innovation directly through research. They provide the institutional mechanism that allows FHWA to serve in a coordinating role, create many opportunities for sharing information on research activities among states and with FHWA to avoid duplication, and support interchanges among practitioners and subject matter experts at TRB meetings and events. PRIVATE-SECTOR R&D 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 national associations of industry components, engineering associations active in construction and highway transportation, and companies that design and construct highways and supply highway-related products. Association programs reflect private-sector support for short-term, highly focused research that meets the specific needs of members. These programs range from those having their own research staff and laboratories to those relying entirely on contractors. Associations such as the American Trucking Associations, the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the Portland Cement Institute, and the American Institute of Steel Construction conduct research in their fields. Association research tends to be driven by considerations of cost-efficiency, safety, and productivity and addresses issues affecting business operations or output. The committee has estimated in the past that annual highway R&T expenditures by associations total between $25 million and $50 million (TRB 2001). Except for a handful of companies, information on corporate research activities and expenditures is scarce because of the large num-
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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses ILLUSTRATIVE RESEARCH BENEFITS Rapid Rehab—Construction Analysis for Pavement Rehabilitation Strategies Aimed at reducing highway construction time and its impact on traffic, Construction Analysis for Pavement Rehabilitation Strategies (CA4PRS) is a schedule and traffic analysis tool that helps designers select effective, economical rehabilitation strategies. The software’s scheduling module estimates the duration of highway projects, incorporating alternative strategies for pavement designs, lane-closure tactics, and contractor logistics. On the I-15 Devore reconstruction project, CA4PRS software justified implementing the one-roadbed continuous (24/7) closure scenario, which saved $6 million in construction costs and $2 million in road user delay costs. The project was completed in 18 days by closing down one direction of traffic and reconstructing the freeway. This project would normally have taken 10 months to complete with nighttime closures. CA4PRS was funded through an FHWA pooled-fund, multi-state consortium (California, Minnesota, Texas, and Washington). It was developed by the University of California Pavement Research Center through the university’s Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies. More than 700 people have been trained in its use. SOURCE: Iwasaki 2008. ber of firms involved and the proprietary nature of their research programs. Many companies simply do not report actual research expenditures. Private companies undertake research on such subjects as roadside safety equipment, traffic control devices, and flexible pipes. Limited data indicate that annual spending by private companies for research on highway-related topics is between $50 million and $100 million (TRB 2001).
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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses COMPARATIVE R&D INVESTMENTS It is useful to put the investment in highway research in some perspective. The total amount of funding for highway-specific research (amounts funded through Title V of SAFETEA-LU and the private sector) is approximately $823 million annually, a figure that reflects a generous assumption about the total level of private-sector R&D (Table 2-2). Although this may appear to be a large figure, it pales by comparison with total industrial R&D in the United States, which is funded at about $225 billion annually when private ($204 billion) and public ($22 billion) investments are combined (Wolfe 2007, Tables 2 and 3). To help put these figures in perspective, industrial investment in R&D represents about 3.34 percent of total sales (see Table 2-3), while highway RD&T as a percentage of total public-sector highway expenditures (a rough comparison to private sales) is about 0.88 percent—comparable with the percentage in the lowest-technology industrial sectors and only 26 percent of the overall industrial percentage. SUMMARY Management and decision making with respect to highway research in the United States are fairly decentralized, and appropriately so. A wide range of conditions affect highway design and performance across the country. The largest single highway research program is managed by FHWA. RITA manages and funds the UTC and ITS Programs, both of which include substantial highway research. State programs allow state DOTs to focus on topics of specific concern and are flexible enough to allow for sharing of resources across all states and among groups of states with common interests. The SP&R Program, funded through Title I, provides a foundation that links the states with the federal programs and provides a vehicle for implementing innovations. Although the organization of the highway research effort fits the federalist structure of the U.S. political system and the decentralized responsibilities for highways, the level of funding is far out of proportion to the importance of highway transportation to U.S. society and the nation’s economy and current challenges to the ability to meet mobility needs. The level of investment in highway research as a percentage of expendi-
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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses TABLE 2-3 Industrial R&D as a Percentage of Sales in 2005 Versus Highway RD&T as a Percentage of Total Public-Sector Highway Expenditures Source of Fundsa Fundingb ($ millions) Sales or Expendituresc ($ millions) Funding as Percentage of Sales or Expenditures Manufacturing industries 142,555 3,998,256 3.57 Food 2,710 374,342 0.72 Textiles, apparel, leather 811 51,639 1.57 Chemicals 42,826 624,344 6.86 Plastics and rubber products 1,747 90,176 1.94 Fabricated metal products 1,323 174,165 0.76 Machinery 8,244 230,941 3.57 Computer and electrical products 42,463 472,330 8.99 Electrical equipment 2,322 101,398 2.29 Transportation equipment 28,321 957,951 2.96 Miscellaneous manufacturing 5,061 83,103 6.09 Nonmanufacturing industries 61,695 2,120,877 2.91 All industries 204,250 6,119,113 3.34 USDOT and SHRP 2 347 States 326 Private sector 150 Total 823 93,643 0.88 aFor industries, source of R&D funding; for USDOT and SHRP 2, states, and private sector, source of highway RD&T funding. bFor industries, R&D funding; for USDOT and SHRP 2, states, and private sector, highway RD&T funding. cFor industries, domestic net sales; for USDOT and SHRP 2, states, and private sector, total public-sector expenditures. SOURCE: For industry, Wolfe 2007, Tables 2 and 3; for highways, this report, Tables 2-1 and 2-2. tures is comparable with the research investment of the lowest-technology industrial sectors as a percentage of sales. Given the magnitude of the economic, safety, and environmental issues associated with highway transportation, these funding levels are simply inadequate. The roughly $673 million invested by the public sector annually in highway RD&T pales in comparison with the nearly $300 billion in societal costs (such as costs resulting from injuries and deaths due to crashes, including medical expenses and lost wages, and from the value of time wasted in congestion) borne each year by the citizens of the United States. If environmental costs could be quantified, they would make this discrepancy more dramatic still.
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The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses REFERENCES Abbreviation TRB Transportation Research Board Brach, A. 2005. Identifying Trends in Federal Transportation Research Funding: The Complex Task of Assembling Comprehensive Data. TR News, No. 241, Nov.–Dec., pp. 3–9. Iwasaki, R. 2008. Testimony, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, June 24. Skinner, R. 2007. New Directions for Highway Research in the United States. Presented at the World Road Congress, Sept. www.transportationfortomorrow.org/pdfs/commission_meetings/0307_field_hearing_washington/031907_fh_trb_testimony4.pdf. Accessed Sept. 9, 2007. TRB. 2001. Special Report 261: The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology. National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Wolfe, R. 2007. Expenditures for U.S. Industrial R&D Continue to Increase in 2005. Info-Brief. NSF 07-355. Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, National Science Foundation, Arlington, Va.