3
Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V

This chapter describes each major highway research program funded through Title V of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). Program areas reviewed include advanced research, infrastructure, operations, planning and environment, safety, policy, and the University Transportation Centers (UTC) program. The intelligent transportation system (ITS) research projects funded by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) but managed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are subsumed under the appropriate topic areas (operations and safety), as is the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) 2 (discussed under infrastructure, operations, safety, and planning and environment).

ADVANCED RESEARCH

In 2001, the Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC) recommended that “FHWA’s R&T program should focus on fundamental long-term research aimed at achieving breakthroughs in the understanding of transportation phenomena” (TRB 2001b, 6). In 2005, SAFETEA-LU, Section 5201(g), authorized $14 million annually for advanced research, or “longer-term, higher-risk research with potentially dramatic breakthroughs for improving durability, efficiency, environmental impact, productivity, and safety (including bicycle and pedestrian safety) aspects of highway and intermodal transportation systems.” This compares with an authorization of $1 million annually for advanced research under the previous authorization. Research



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 28
3 Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V This chapter describes each major highway research program funded through Title V of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transporta- tion Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). Program areas reviewed include advanced research, infrastructure, operations, plan- ning and environment, safety, policy, and the University Transportation Centers (UTC) program. The intelligent transportation system (ITS) research projects funded by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) but managed by the Federal Highway Adminis- tration (FHWA) are subsumed under the appropriate topic areas (oper- ations and safety), as is the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) 2 (discussed under infrastructure, operations, safety, and planning and environment). ADVANCED RESEARCH In 2001, the Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC) recommended that “FHWA’s R&T program should focus on funda- mental long-term research aimed at achieving breakthroughs in the understanding of transportation phenomena” (TRB 2001b, 6). In 2005, SAFETEA-LU, Section 5201(g), authorized $14 million annually for advanced research, or “longer-term, higher-risk research with poten- tially dramatic breakthroughs for improving durability, efficiency, environmental impact, productivity, and safety (including bicycle and pedestrian safety) aspects of highway and intermodal transportation systems.” This compares with an authorization of $1 million annually for advanced research under the previous authorization. Research 28

OCR for page 28
Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V 29 topics are defined as those the Secretary determines appropriate, including: • Characterization of materials used in highway infrastructure, including analytical techniques, microstructure modeling, and the deterioration processes. • Assessment of the effects of transportation decisions on human health. • Development of surrogate measures of safety. • Environmental research. • Data acquisition techniques for system condition and performance monitoring. • System performance data and information processing needed to assess the day-to-day operational performance of the transportation system in support of hour-to-hour operational decision making. The committee views fundamental, long-term research, or advanced research, as somewhere in the middle of the continuum from basic to applied research. “It involves and draws upon basic research results to pro- vide a better understanding of problems and develop innovative solutions” (TRB 2001b, 7). In contrast with applied research, a specific application may not be apparent at the outset of this work. Before SAFETEA-LU, FHWA had been supporting a small advanced research activity for several years (Asmerom and McCrae 2006). Examples of research topics included measurement of concrete moisture content at the nanometer scale, mea- surement of tension in steel cables based on principles of magnetorestric- tive sensing, and development of algorithms describing traffic behavior. The Exploratory Advanced Research Program is receiving about $11.5 million annually for fiscal years (FY) 2006 to 2009. FHWA initi- ated the program by soliciting preproposals through a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) in January 2007. The BAA solicited preproposals for “research and development projects that could lead to transforma- tional changes and truly revolutionary advances in highway engineering and intermodal surface transportation in the United States.” Eligible topics in the first BAA included highway safety, planning and environ- ment, transportation policy, traffic congestion, highway infrastructure, and crosscutting topics. From the hundreds of preproposals submitted in the first round in response to this BAA and after extensive merit

OCR for page 28
30 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses review of completed proposals, FHWA selected 11 projects, nine of which had been awarded at the time of this writing (see Table 3-1). In May 2008, FHWA issued a second BAA. In contrast to the first BAA, which was broadly open to innovative proposals, the second BAA solicited proposals in five specific areas: 1. Understanding of empirical decomposition mode analysis and develop- ment of a new data analysis method in support of integrated safety system for highway safety, 2. Development of methodologies to evaluate the nighttime safety impli- cations of the roadway visual scene under varying cognitive task loads, 3. Making driving simulators more useful for behavioral research, 4. Greatly increased use of fly ash in hydraulic cement concrete for pavement layers and transportation structures, and 5. Sustainability of freight movements: methods to measure and reduce the United States carbon fuel emissions associated with freight movements. TABLE 3-1 Exploratory Advanced Research Program, Round 1 Awards as of July 2008 Topic Institution Intelligent Multi-Sensor Measurements to Enhance Vehicle Auburn University, GPS and Vehicle Navigation and Safety Systems Dynamics Laboratory Intersection Control for Autonomous Vehicles University of Texas, Austin Next Generation of Smart Traffic Signals University of Arizona, ATLAS Center Development and Evaluation of Selected Mobility University of California, Berkeley, Applications for Vehicle–Infrastructure Integration PATH Program Institute of Transportation Studies Development of Soil Stiffness Measuring Device for Pad Colorado School of Mines, Division Foot Roller Compactor of Engineering Development and Demonstration of Systems-Based University of Central Florida, Monitoring Approaches for Improved Infrastructure Department of Civil and Management Under Uncertainty Environmental Engineering High-Performance Stress-Relaxing Cementitious Composites Texas Transportation Institute for Crack-Free Pavements and Transportation Structures Increased Understanding of Driver Visibility Requirements Science Applications International Corporation Layered Object Recognition for Pedestrian Collision Sensing Sarnoff Corporation

OCR for page 28
Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V 31 Selection of these areas was preceded by research and consultation with experts. A total of $3.275 million in research funding from FHWA was made available in the second BAA. The Exploratory Advanced Research Program represents about 6 per- cent of the combination of FHWA’s share of Title V funding and SHRP 2 funding. The program, however, is not the only source of funding for advanced research through Title V. There are two substantial earmarks for asphalt research, which is mostly advanced, that total about $29 million in budgeted funds over the life of SAFETEA-LU. SHRP 2, discussed later, is not designed as an advanced research activity; nonetheless, it includes research totaling about $43 million in its Safety Program and about $3 mil- lion in its Renewal Program that could be classified as advanced. Together, these funds represent about 15 percent of FHWA’s share of Title V funding and SHRP 2 and about 8 percent of all of Title V and SHRP 2 research fund- ing. There may also be a few projects throughout the research programs dis- cussed in this report that could be classified as advanced. The UTC program surely includes some advanced research, but, as described in the section of this chapter on that program, the program as a whole is biased toward applied research by the dollar-for-dollar matching requirement. INFRASTRUCTURE RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT, AND TECHNOLOGY Infrastructure research, development, and technology (RD&T), addressing pavements and structures, is a central and long-standing area of FHWA research activity. The “ultimate goal of FHWA’s pavement research and development is to provide performance-based models and tools to facili- tate effective management of the national highway infrastructure.”1 The structures programs are intended to result in four outcomes: • Outcome 1: Highway structures are designed, constructed, and reha- bilitated with standards and materials that provide longer and more reliable performance. • Outcome 2: Highway structures are constructed or rehabilitated with systems, methods, and practices that reduce congestion and improve safety. 1 www.tfhrc.gov/pavement/pave.htm. Accessed Feb. 15, 2008.

OCR for page 28
32 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses • Outcome 3: Highway structures provide a high level of safety and service under all conditions. • Outcome 4: Highway structures fit their environment through the application of context-sensitive solutions principles. Expected funding for infrastructure (actual amounts budgeted), includ- ing FHWA’s programs and the Renewal Program of SHRP 2, totals about $270 million for FY 2006–2009. FHWA’s pavements and structures programs and SHRP 2’s Renewal Program are described below. Pavements FHWA pavements RD&T includes three designated programs and two significant earmarks. Annual funding for pavements RD&T averages about $30.5 million. Designated Programs SAFETEA-LU provides for three programs that are managed by FHWA’s Pavement Technology Program: • The Innovative Pavement Research and Deployment (IPRD) Program, • The Long-Term Pavement Performance (LTPP) Program, and • The Alkali–Silica Reactivity (ASR) Program. The IPRD Program was established to promote, demonstrate, support, and document the application of innovative pavement technologies, prac- tices, performance, and benefits. Congress specified a number of program goals, including the following: • Deployment of new, cost-effective, innovative designs, materials, recy- cled materials (including taconite tailings and foundry sand), and prac- tices to extend pavement life and performance and improve customer satisfaction; • Reduction of initial and life-cycle costs of pavements, including the costs of new construction, replacement, maintenance, and rehabilitation; • Deployment of accelerated construction techniques to increase safety and reduce construction time and traffic disruption and congestion; • Deployment of engineering design criteria and specifications for inno- vative practices, products, and materials for use in highway pavements;

OCR for page 28
Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V 33 • Deployment of new nondestructive and real-time pavement evaluation technologies and techniques; • Evaluation, refinement, and documentation of the performance and benefits of innovative technologies deployed to improve life, perfor- mance, cost-effectiveness, safety, and customer satisfaction; • Effective technology transfer and information dissemination to acceler- ate the implementation of innovative technologies and to improve life, performance, cost-effectiveness, safety, and customer satisfaction; and • Development of designs and materials to reduce storm water runoff. SAFETEA-LU specifically allocates portions of the IPRD funding to research on asphalt pavement, concrete pavement, alternative materials used in highway pavements (including those used in highway drainage applications), and improved aggregates used in highways on the National Highway System. In total, these suballocations account for approximately 65 percent of IPRD funds, leaving some flexibility within the overall IPRD framework. LTPP provides for continued testing, monitoring, and data analysis under a program that was initiated as part of the original SHRP and has been managed by FHWA since 1992. The final year of SAFETEA-LU, FY 2009, marks the end of the originally planned 20-year monitoring period for the program. At that time, FHWA will deliver an updated database that • Contains complete data sets—inventory, materials, traffic, climate, maintenance and rehabilitation, and pavement performance data— for most LTPP test sections; • Has been reviewed and checked through quality control/quality assur- ance processes and data studies and is as error-free as time and the program budget allow; • Is documented in terms of not only its content but also how the data were collected and their quality; • Is accessible to the public; and • Conforms to federal guidelines on the quality of information dissem- ination. The ASR program provides for further development and deployment of techniques to prevent and mitigate ASR, including lithium-based tech-

OCR for page 28
34 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses niques, and for assistance to states in inventorying existing structures for ASR. Unlike the other programs discussed here, the ASR program encompasses not only pavements but also bridges and structures. Earmarks Pavements RD&T is subject to two earmarks: • Fundamental Properties of Asphalts and Modified Asphalts, and • Asphalt Research Consortium. The Fundamental Properties of Asphalts and Modified Asphalts earmark is a continuation of a long-standing earmark that directs funding (about $3.4 million annually) to the Western Research Institute to conduct, as the title suggests, research on the fundamental properties of asphalts and modified asphalts. The Asphalt Research Consortium earmark (about $6.2 million annually) calls for a grant to “the asphalt research consortium led by the Western Research Institute to research flexible pavement and extending the life cycle of asphalts.” Other consortium members include the University of Nevada, Reno; the Texas Transportation Institute; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and Applied Asphalt Technologies. Together, these two earmarks account for about a quarter of the total funding authorized by SAFETEA-LU for pavement research. Structures SAFETEA-LU authorized a number of research programs in the struc- tures area that address FHWA and stakeholder needs and priorities; these include both designated programs and earmarks. Funding for the structures RD&T program averages about $21.50 million annually (actual, not authorized amounts) through FY 2009, of which about $2.4 million was earmarked annually for FY 2006 through 2009. The primary designated programs are • The Long-Term Bridge Performance (LTBP) Program, • The Innovative Bridge Research and Deployment (IBRD) Program, • The High-Performance Concrete (HPC) Bridge Research and Deploy- ment Program, • The Ultra-High-Performance Concrete (UHPC) Research Program,

OCR for page 28
Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V 35 • The Higher-Performing Steel (HPS) Bridge Research and Technology Transfer Program, and • The Steel Bridge Testing Program. The earmarks are in two areas: • Seismic research, and • Wood/fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) composite materials and structures. Designated Programs The LTBP Program is an ambitious multiyear research effort that is being modeled somewhat after the LTPP Program. The LTBP Program has been designed as a 20-year effort that will include detailed inspection and periodic evaluation and testing of a representative sample of bridges throughout the United States to monitor and measure their performance over an extended period. The LTBP program also includes a set of instru- mented bridges that can provide continuous, long-term structural bridge performance data, as well as detailed forensic autopsies on bridges using some of the structures that are decommissioned by state transportation agencies. The intent is to collect actual performance data on deteriora- tion, corrosion, or other types of degradation; structural impacts from overloads; and the effectiveness of various maintenance and improvement strategies typically used to repair or rehabilitate bridges. The resulting LTBP database is expected to provide high-quality, quantitative performance data for highway bridges that will support improved designs, improved predictive models, and better bridge management systems. The IBRD Program was established to encourage highway agencies to accept more rapidly the use of new and innovative materials and technolo- gies or practices in the construction of highway structures.2 The intent of the program is to promote, demonstrate, evaluate, and document the appli- cation of innovative designs, materials, and construction methods in the construction, repair, and rehabilitation of bridges and other structures. The 2 This program was not funded in FY 2008 because of a budget rescission enacted by Congress that affected selected items in the federal budget. At the time of this writing, it was not clear whether the program would be rescinded again in FY 2009. For the purposes of this report, the funding is not included for FY 2008 but is included for FY 2009.

OCR for page 28
36 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses goals are to increase safety and durability, reduce construction time and traffic congestion, and reduce the maintenance and life-cycle costs of bridges. The program includes support for innovative research in the areas of hydraulics, aerodynamics, and geotechnical engineering; another part of the program supports the deployment of innovative approaches in the construction of bridges throughout the United States. The HPC Bridge Research and Deployment Program is a subset of the IBRD Program; it is intended to continue the advancement of HPC applications through targeted research that addresses needed improve- ments in design, fabrication, erection, and long-term performance to achieve the strategic goals of the IBRD Program. HPC research is focused on material and casting issues, including improved performance crite- ria, lightweight concrete, curing, and test methods; structural perfor- mance concerns, including compression, shear, and fatigue behavior for both seismic and nonseismic applications; and concepts related to accel- erated construction and bridge system design and performance. ILLUSTRATIVE RESEARCH BENEFITS Prefabricated Components Manufacturing steel and reinforced concrete components off- site for bridges and tunnels is nothing new. Today, however, the task of reconstructing or replacing heavily used highway facili- ties has expanded the use of prefabricated components in some startling ways. In some cases, the components are manufactured thousands of miles from the job site; in others, they are manufac- tured immediately adjacent to the site. Either way, the highway community is seeing a rethinking of how design and construction can be better integrated. When the Texas Department of Transportation needed to replace 113 bridge spans on an elevated Interstate highway in Houston, it was able to reuse the existing columns, but the bent caps (the horizontal connections between columns) needed to (continued)

OCR for page 28
Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V 37 be replaced. As an alternative to the conventional and time- consuming cast-in-place approach, researchers at the University of Texas developed and tested new methods for installing precast concrete bents. Used on the project, the precast bents cut con- struction time from 18 months to just over 3 months. As part of a massive project to replace the San Francisco– Oakland Bay Bridge, the California Department of Transportation and the Bay Area Toll Authority needed to replace a 350-foot, four-lane viaduct section on Yerba Buena Island. In this case, the contractor, C. C. Myers, prefabricated the section immediately adjacent to the existing viaduct. The entire bridge was shut down for the 2007 Labor Day weekend while the existing viaduct was demolished and the new 6,500-ton segment was “rolled” into place. All of this was accomplished 11 hours ahead of schedule. Probably the most extensive and stunning collection of prefab- ricated applications on a single project was used on the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (“Big Dig”) in Boston. For the Ted Williams Tunnel, twelve 325-foot-long steel tunnel sections were con- structed in Baltimore, shipped to Boston, floated into place, and then submerged. For the tunnel section underneath the Fort Points Channel, which is part of the I-90 extension, bridge restric- tions made such an approach infeasible. Instead, a huge casting basin was constructed adjacent to the channel, where thirty 50-ton concrete tunnel sections were manufactured. When all of the sec- tions were complete, the basin was flooded, and the sections were winched into position with cables and then submerged. To build the extension tunnel under existing railroad tracks with poor underlying soil conditions, an even more complex process was used. Concrete and steel boxes were built at one end of the tun- nel and then gradually pushed into place through soil that was frozen, by using a network of brine-filled pipes. SOURCE: Skinner 2008.

OCR for page 28
38 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses In addition to the program funding research and development (R&D) on HPC, but funded separately from IBRD, the UHPC Research Pro- gram continues R&D of optimized applications for the use of UHPC. UHPC, also known as reactive powder concrete, is a unique material that is reinforced with short steel fibers and requires no conventional steel reinforcement. Prior FHWA research on UHPC focused on basic material characterization and the development of optimized structural systems using this very high-performance but costly material. Under the UHPC Research Program, additional work is being conducted to further char- acterize the material and assess its corrosion-resistance properties while addressing its use in other structural components, including precast bridge deck panels and prestressed I- and bulb-tee girders. The HPS Bridge Research and Technology Transfer Program is a broad-based effort aimed at resolving a number of issues and concerns with respect to the design, fabrication, erection, and long-term perfor- mance of both conventional and high-performance steels. The program is focused on research and technology transfer and education in the areas of materials and joining (e.g., optimized welding processes and proce- dures), long-term performance (including advanced knowledge of the performance limitations of weathering steels and the potential devel- opment of a 100-year shop-applied permanent steel coating system), innovative design (including testing and deployment of modular steel bridge super- and substructure systems), and fabrication and erection tools and processes. Finally, the Steel Bridge Testing Program is focused on the further development and deployment of advanced nondestructive evaluation (NDE) tools that can be used to detect and quantify growing cracks in steel bridge members and welds. As defined in SAFETEA-LU, the NDE technology should be able to detect both surface and subsurface cracks in a field environment for flaws as small as 0.010 inch in length or depth. R&D Earmarks SAFETEA-LU directed FHWA to conduct research in two specific areas with designated research institutions. The earmarks for seismic research are for the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of New York at Buffalo, Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER).

OCR for page 28
Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V 69 Study Commission (2007) relied heavily on the staff of the Office of Policy and Governmental Affairs, the office’s data programs, and the models developed for reports the office prepares for Congress on a reg- ular basis; these activities of the office were supported by funds dedicated to the commission. The Office of Policy and Governmental Affairs has several “product lines” that are well known and relied on by professionals working in transportation policy. Perhaps best known is the semiannual Status of the Nation’s Highways, Bridges, and Transit: Conditions and Performance.10 These reports to Congress are relied upon for several purposes, includ- ing the development of estimates of the funding levels for surface trans- portation reauthorization legislation. Also well known are reports on truck size and weight that inform national and state regulations on truck dimensions, the most recent example of which is the Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study (USDOT 2000). From time to time, the office also prepares a highway cost allocation report, which forms the technical basis for the allocation of tax rates for different highway users, particularly trucks. The last such report was produced in 1999 and updated in 2000.11 Research funds have been used in the past to develop the suite of com- plex models required to support these reports. As indicated above, no funding is authorized for these activities under SAFETEA-LU. The 2006 Conditions and Performance report was made possible by work initiated in 2002. Before passage of the Technical Corrections legislation, the 2008 report was being updated with no improvement to the technical tools used in developing estimates of condition and performance. (The Tech- nical Corrections legislation designated $1 million for FY 2008 and 2009 for updating of the Conditions and Performance report.) The Office of Policy and Governmental Affairs is also responsible for important data systems and reports. These include the Highway Perfor- mance Monitoring System,12 which uses sample data provided by states to develop measures of the highway system’s condition and performance, and the Highway Statistics series,13 which provides annual statistical reports on highway mileage, finance, condition, and performance. 10 www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/olsp/reportspubs.htm. 11 www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/olsp/reportspubs.htm. 12 www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohpi/hpms/index.htm. 13 www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohpi/hss/index.htm.

OCR for page 28
70 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses ILLUSTRATIVE RESEARCH BENEFITS Roundabouts—A Successful Innovative Technology As a result of exposure to new designs and research results during an international scan, U.S. practitioners became excited about the potential of modern roundabouts to improve traffic flow and safety. The publication Roundabouts: An Informational Guide (FHWA 2000) provided a wealth of information on the international benefits of roundabouts, design practices, and many adaptations from AASHTO policies on geometric design that would permit wide-scale use of an improved roundabout design in the United States. Although a few roundabouts had already been constructed before its publication, the guide lent legitimacy and credibility to an alternative intersection design and control proven to be safer, with operational benefits. FHWA promoted this innovative technology through training and workshops presented by staff of its Safety R&D and Resource Center. Before the publication of the FHWA guide, two states— Florida and Maryland—had developed preliminary guidelines. Many states have now adopted the FHWA guide, and several have developed their own detailed guidelines inspired by that publication. Approximately 800 roundabouts have been built in more than a dozen states. More states and cities are adopting the technology as its benefits are further analyzed and confirmed. The safety ben- efits of one- and two-lane U.S. roundabouts range from a 68 to 82 percent reduction in injuries and fatalities and an average 35 percent reduction in total crashes (Rodegerdts et al. 2007). Currently, roundabouts are applicable mainly for low and medium traffic levels with balanced flows. Safety and operational evaluations of other innovative approaches to serve most inter- (continued)

OCR for page 28
Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V 71 section and interchange conditions are under way. FHWA is work- ing on several research studies and a report designed to provide information on the safety and operational benefits of these inno- vations, along with design recommendations and accommoda- tions for all users. These innovative treatments include continuous- flow intersections, median U-turn intersections, superstreet intersections, quadrant designs, diverging diamond interchanges, and displaced-left diamond interchanges. Policy research funds have also been used in the past to support econo- metric research on the value and economic return of highway investments. Such macroeconomic information is useful to policy makers in deciding on levels of highway funding in reauthorizations of the highway program. Funding has not been available for this activity under SAFETEA-LU. The Office of Policy and Governmental Affairs is involved in inter- national activities as well. These include seeking out and sharing infor- mation about innovations and practice throughout the world that would be useful to FHWA and the states. The best known of the office’s inter- national activities is a series of international scans, funded jointly with AASHTO through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, which have introduced many innovations to U.S. practice. One example of a successful scan and follow-up research and implementation is the remarkable safety improvements achieved through modern roundabouts. Because of the severe cuts to this program under SAFETEA-LU (from $470,000 in the last year of TEA-21 to $247,000 during SAFETEA-LU), the number of international scans has been reduced. Lacking in the international research arena is a single office within USDOT with information on ongoing international research collabora- tions. Interest and activity in this area involving U.S. and European and other partners have grown in recent years. Such collaborations hold promise for sharing insights across borders and reducing the potential for duplicative effort, but an office within USDOT is needed to collect information on these activities, monitor progress, and provide guidance.

OCR for page 28
72 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses UNIVERSITY TRANSPORTATION CENTERS PROGRAM Although the UTC Program is multimodal and managed through RITA rather than FHWA, the committee has taken a keen interest in this pro- gram for several reasons: (a) most of the research conducted through the program is on highways; (b) universities are the best institutions to con- duct the advanced research the committee believes is so urgently needed; (c) the program is building the workforce of the next generation of high- way researchers and administrators; and (d) the funding for this program has grown sharply over the last three authorization cycles to the point where it represents a significant portion of the total research authorized under Title V, and therefore an important share of the total highway research funded by Congress. The UTC Program was initiated under the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987, which authorized $10 million annually for the establishment and operation of transportation centers in each of the 10 federal regions. The program was reauthorized in the Inter- modal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and expanded in sub- sequent reauthorizations. TEA-21 increased its size through earmarking of specific centers, added an emphasis on education by specifying this as one of the primary objectives of a UTC, and reinforced the program’s focus on multimodal transportation. SAFETEA-LU again expanded the program by adding substantially more funding and earmarking even more centers. TEA-21 authorized about $32.4 million annually for grants to establish and operate up to 33 UTCs throughout the United States in FY 1998 to 2003. Ten of these centers, designated as Regional Centers, were selected competitively in 1999. The other 23 UTCs were located at universities earmarked in TEA-21. (See Appendix D for more detail on participants in the UTC Program as of July 2008.) Congressional designations for the UTC Program in FY 2001 amounted to 93 percent of the potential grants. During FY 2002, 17 existing centers competed among themselves for funding for the final 2 years of TEA-21 authorization. SAFETEA-LU authorized 60 UTCs and earmarked funds for another 16 universities outside of the UTC Program.14 Total authorized funding 14 Eight of these UTCs are earmarked in Title III of SAFETEA-LU (the Transit title), but they are not restricted to transit topics.

OCR for page 28
Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V 73 for the UTC Program under Title V was increased in SAFETEA-LU to about $67 million annually. In Title V, SAFETEA-LU provides fund- ing for universities in four separate categories: national, regional, Tier I, and Tier II. Ten universities in the national category are earmarked to receive the largest level of funding for individual centers (see Appen- dix D). National schools are authorized $3.5 million each for FY 2006 to 2009.15 In the regional category, 10 universities were selected in a com- petition to represent each federal region. Regional schools are autho- rized $2 million each for FY 2006 and 2007 and $2.25 million for FY 2008 and 2009. In the Tier I category, 10 schools competed against other earmarked schools for continued funding during the final 2 years under TEA-21. These schools recompeted in FY 2006 and will compete on a 4-year cycle. They are authorized to receive $1 million annually. The 22 earmarked Tier II schools are authorized to receive $500,000 annu- ally through FY 2009. UTCs authorized through Title V must match their federal funding with nonfederal funds (with limited exceptions) on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The committee is most interested in this program for the research it will fund but recognizes that it is also an important educational pro- gram that can serve to attract students to the transportation profession. Some of the UTC research funds are supporting graduate students for this very purpose. This funding may or may not result in groundbreaking research; in either case, it is providing support to train the next generation of transportation professionals. Program Components Oversight of the original program begun under ISTEA was based on the detailed proposals universities submitted as part of the competition. There is little program oversight, however, for the earmarked universities.16 The 15 Actual funds received will be less because of the obligations limit on total authorized funding and because of the overdesignation and overearmarking of activities in the legislation (more funds were approved by Congress for programs and earmarks than were actually authorized in total). 16 RITA does require all UTCs to develop detailed strategic plans, and funding is dependent on RITA’s approval of those plans. Recipients are also required to collect and report various output measures.

OCR for page 28
74 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses legislation itself provides little specificity as a basis for program oversight other than stating that the program objectives are to “advance significantly the state-of-the-art in transportation research” and “expand the workforce of transportation professionals.” These activities are to be conducted through peer-reviewed research, education, and technology transfer. Issues The UTC Program began under ISTEA as a small program ($10 million annually for 10 centers) that was designed around a competitive process to ensure quality and relevance. The program has grown sixfold in fund- ing over three authorization cycles, while the number of funded cen- ters has increased fivefold. The bulk of the funding is awarded and the involved universities (about 60 percent) are selected without competi- tion. In reviewing the UTC Program, RTCC identified three significant issues: (a) relevance, (b) fragmentation, and (c) quality control. Relevance The new, broad requirement SAFETEA-LU places on UTCs conducting highway research is that their work support the research priorities iden- tified by a loose coalition of highway experts and interested parties in the National Highway R&T Partnership (2002) report Highway Research and Technology: The Need for Greater Investment and the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA’s) National Research and Technology Program.17 For competitively awarded funds, the Secretary of Transportation has discretion in specifying the content for proposals, and schools are encour- aged to propose unique themes to avoid duplication. SAFETEA-LU does not impose these quality control requirements for grants to earmarked institutions, but RITA has encouraged this approach for all funded pro- 17 The Highway Research and Technology report identifies a large number of high-level research pri- orities. It was intended to provide justification by stakeholders for a much larger total investment in highway research than existed under TEA-21; it was not designed to be a research program plan. Thus almost any discrete surface transportation R&D activity could be made to fit within the broad range of R&D identified in the document. FTA’s National Research and Technology Program is described in the agency’s Strategic Research Plan (FTA 2005), which is expected to be updated and revised over time but is still at a fairly general level.

OCR for page 28
Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V 75 grams. The Secretary is required to evaluate each of the programs at least annually. SAFETEA-LU initially did not include increased funding for USDOT or for staff that oversee the expanded UTC Program; the limited funding for program coordination, annual review, and oversight (about $300,000 annually in contract authority for FY 2006 and 2007) amounted to about $5,000 per UTC per year. The Technical Corrections legisla- tion increased authorized funding for program administration and UTC evaluation to about $1.15 million annually for FY 2008 and 2009. The main mechanism for ensuring the relevance of the UTC Program is the matching requirement: as noted, both competitively selected and earmarked schools funded through Title V must match federal funding on a one-to-one basis. (Those universities earmarked in Title III—the Transit title—are not required to match funding.) The matching require- ment applies to both the research and education components of the UTC Program. For the most part, UTCs seek matching funds from state DOTs. Many state DOTs support research through individual universities, and some have designated a state school or a statewide consortium to con- duct some or all of their research agenda. (State DOTs, however, typi- cally decline to provide the match for education.) Although matching does ensure relevance to the cosponsoring institution, it also has at least two unintended consequences. First, because state DOTs provide a large portion of the matching funds and because states, for the most part, are interested in applied, problem- solving research, much of the matched research conducted through the UTC Program is highly applied. Indeed, one could argue that much of the work supported by State Planning and Research funds would be bet- ter characterized as demonstration or implementation of research than as applied research. To gain a sense of what topics the UTCs were using the funds to research, RTCC searched all UTC projects in the Research in Progress database, maintained by TRB, as of May 23, 2008. Of the 1,130 UTC research projects in the database, 779 (69 percent of the total) were self-reported by UTCs as addressing highways. The specific topics encompassed administration, design, energy and environment, finance, maintenance, operations, pavements, planning, safety, and structures. Examination of a 10 percent sample of these projects indicated that at

OCR for page 28
76 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses least 80 percent were highly applied research; the remaining 20 per- cent may have been advanced research under a liberal interpretation of advanced, but that proportion is probably too high. This applied research bias diverts the program away from the strength of universities, which is in knowledge creation through basic and fundamental research.18 Another disadvantage of the matching mechanism is that it inhibits the ability of professors and graduate students to undertake self-initiated research projects on important topics that are not currently of priority interest to the state DOTs with matching funds, such as research on strategies to reduce energy consumption or respond to climate change. The applied research bias resulting from the matching mechanism also conflicts with the reward system for most university professors and university pro- grams, which are rated in part on the basis of publications in the most prestigious journals (which usually do not accept papers reporting highly applied research). Second, FHWA is unable to influence the direction of UTC programs because it has almost no resources to provide as matching funds. More- over, SAFETEA-LU restricts the use of federal funds for matching pur- poses. For example, FHWA might build on the strengths of universities through its advanced research program, where it does have discretion, but these funds are not allowed as a match for the UTC Program. In summary, the matching requirement does bolster relevance and has surely strengthened the ties between state DOTs and universities within their states. Because most matching funds are used for applied research, however, the program diverts universities from their natural strength in knowledge creation. In addition, the limitation on sources of federal funds for matching makes it difficult for FHWA to influence university programs. Many UTCs welcome the opportunity to partner with federal agencies. The last matching dollar into the program, however, tends to be the most influential. 18 This is not a new observation. In 1993, a TRB committee tasked to help USDOT review the UTC Program commented, “The centers continue to operate under operating constraints and require- ments that are not always conducive to achieving stated goals. For example, the matching require- ments compel centers to be responsive to the goals and priorities of local and federal sponsors; typically, local sponsors are interested in applied research and not the high-risk, cutting edge research envisioned by the program’s founders” (TRB 1993, 2).

OCR for page 28
Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V 77 Fragmentation Although university funding has expanded significantly under SAFETEA- LU, so has the number of schools. Indeed, the program appears to be frag- mented, for in addition to the 52 centers funded in Title V, some centers are consortia, often with several partners. UTC Program staff estimate that there are probably about 120 universities participating in the program. If so, the average annual funding per institution would be about $500,000.19 A further disadvantage of having so many different institutions involved is that relatively little of the funding actually goes to research. Moreover, because most schools in the program are earmarked and there are no requirements for project content other than to support the national research strategy identified in Highway Research and Technology: The Need for Greater Investment (National Highway R&T Partnership 2002) and the FTA National Research and Technology Program, the overall university research effort lacks coherence. Thus, there is the risk that considerable funds will be provided for the program each year, but those funds will be divided up in so many ways that by the time they reach indi- vidual researchers, the amounts may be too small to “advance significantly the state-of-the-art in transportation research,” a SAFETEA-LU criterion for the UTC Program. The lack of overall coordination could also lead to duplication of research. To address this, RITA requires UTCs to post their ongoing research in the online Research in Progress database. Although this require- ment at least provides a place for individual researchers to check to see whether peers are already addressing potential topics of interest, it does not by itself lead to a coherent strategy. Quality Control Scientific knowledge has advanced dramatically in recent decades in the United States in part through the normal processes of quality control. Among the most important of these processes are competition for funds and merit review in the selection of finalists (TRB 2001b, 6). Only 38 per- cent of the Title V UTCs are awarded their funding competitively. 19 Contract authority for the Title V UTC Program in FY 2006 was about $61 million annually (lower than the authorized amount of more than $70 million), and the funds were not divided evenly since national centers were authorized to receive $3.5 million, regional centers $2 million, Tier I centers $1 million, and Tier II centers $500,000.

OCR for page 28
78 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006–2009: Strengths and Weaknesses Although most UTCs are earmarked, some distribute the funds they receive through a competitive process. Competitive awarding of research funds received by universities is one means of ensuring accountability for the public funds provided. Yet the researchers allowed to compete are typically restricted to the center’s faculty or universities that make up its consortium.20 RITA requires UTCs to have a peer or merit review process for awarding their research funds, but it does not require that the funds be competed outside of the home institution or consortium. REFERENCES Abbreviations AAAS American Association for the Advancement of Science FHWA Federal Highway Administration FTA Federal Transit Administration GAO Government Accountability Office TRB Transportation Research Board USDOT United States Department of Transportation AAAS. 2006. R&D Earmarks Headed Toward Records in 2007. www.aaas.org/spp/rd. Accessed Aug. 11, 2006. Asmerom, A., and T. McCrae. 2006. The Evolution of Advanced Research. Public Roads, Vol. 69, No. 6, pp. 8–13. Campbell, K., and L. Mason. 2008. Developing Measures to Improve Highway Safety: The Safety Focus Area of the Strategic Highway Research Program 2. TR News, No. 255, March–April, pp. 3–9. Chandler, B. 2007. Eliminating Cross-Median Fatalities: Statewide Installation of Median Cable Barrier in Missouri. TR News, No. 248, Jan.–Feb., pp. 29–31. FHWA. 2000. Roundabouts: An Informational Guide. FHWA-RD-00-67. June. www.tfhrc. gov/safety/00068.htm. Accessed Aug. 29, 2008. FTA. 2005. Strategic Research Plan. www.fta.dot.gov/documents/Strategic_plan_9-30-05. doc. Accessed Aug. 29, 2008. GAO. 2005. Highway Congestion Intelligent Transportation Systems’ Promise for Managing Congestion Falls Short, and DOT Could Better Facilitate Their Strategic Use. GAO 95-943. www.gao.gov/new.items/d05943.pdf. Accessed Aug. 28, 2008. 20 The competitive process varies widely, but one common example is selection of the best research proposals from among a pool of those solicited.

OCR for page 28
Highway Research Programs Funded Under Title V 79 Ghaman, R. S. 2006. Enhancing Signal Timing with Adaptive Control Software Lite. ITE Journal, Vol. 76, No. 8, Aug., pp. 26–29. National Highway R&T Partnership. 2002. Highway Research and Technology: The Need for Greater Investment. onlinepubs.trb.org/Onlinepubs/rtforum/HwyRandT.pdf. Accessed Aug. 29, 2008. National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. 2007. Trans- portation for Tomorrow. Dec. www.transportationfortomorrow.org/final_report/. Accessed Sept. 9, 2008. Rodegerdts, L., M. Blogg, E. Wemple, E. Myers, M. Kyte, M. Dixon, G. F. List, A. Flannery, R. Troutbeck, W. Brilon, N. Wu, B. N. Persaud, C. Lyon, D. L. Harkey, and D. Carter. 2007. NCHRP Report 572: Roundabouts in the United States. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, D.C. trb.org/news/blurb_detail.asp?id= 7086. Accessed Aug. 29, 2008. Shrank, D., and T. Lomax. 2007. 2007 Urban Mobility Report. Texas Transportation Institute. tti.tamu.edu/documents/mobility_report_2007.pdf. Accessed Sept. 30, 2007. Skinner, R. 2008. Highway Design and Construction: The Innovation Challenge. The Bridge: Linking Engineering and Society, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 5–12. TRB. 1993. Measuring Quality: A Review Process for the University Transportation Centers Program. National Research Council, Washington, D.C. TRB. 2001a. Special Report 260: Strategic Highway Research: Saving Lives, Reducing Congestion, Improving Quality of Life. National Research Council, Washington, D.C. TRB. 2001b. Special Report 261: The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology. National Research Council, Washington, D.C. TRB. 2002. Special Report 268: Surface Transportation Environmental Research: A Long-Term Strategy. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, D.C. TRB. 2007. Special Report 288: Metropolitan Travel Forecasting: Current Practice and Future Direction. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, D.C. USDOT. 2000. Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Study. FHWA-PL-00-029. www.fhwa. dot.gov/policy/otps/truck/finalreport.htm. Accessed Aug. 29, 2008. USDOT. 2007. National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America’s Transportation Network. May. isddc.dot.gov/OLPFiles/OST/012988.pdf. Accessed May 15, 2008.