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Implementing the Results of the Second Strategic Highway Research Program: Saving Lives, Reducing Congestion, Improving Quality of Life 8 Recommendations As of this writing, research projects in the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) had been under way for less than 2 years of the program’s projected 7-year duration. Preliminary results indicate that SHRP 2 research products will contribute substantially to addressing some of the most salient challenges facing highway transportation. Widespread implementation of these products promises to deliver on the overarching goal of SHRP 2: providing outstanding customer service for the 21st century. In view of the findings documented in this report, the committee makes the recommendations presented below. These recommendations are rooted in the principles and strategies outlined in Chapter 6 and should be understood in that context. Recommendation 1: A SHRP 2 implementation program should be established. A robust and comprehensive effort to implement the products of SHRP 2 should address all four focus areas: Safety, Renewal, Reliability, and Capacity. The program should use demonstrated implementation strategies, including those described in Chapter 7, as well as other innovative approaches that may be developed. Lessons learned from implementation of the first SHRP can serve as a good starting point, keeping in mind that SHRP 2 differs from SHRP 1 in some significant ways: it addresses a broader array of research topics, encompasses disciplines not traditionally involved in highway research, and engages stakeholders external to the highway community per se. These differences call for new implementation approaches in addition to those that
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Implementing the Results of the Second Strategic Highway Research Program: Saving Lives, Reducing Congestion, Improving Quality of Life were effective in implementing the first SHRP. Beyond engaging state departments of transportation (DOTs), which remain the primary user group, mechanisms must be established to engage metropolitan planning organizations and local governments, law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services, railroads, utility companies, automobile manufacturers, university researchers, and others, depending on the specific products under consideration. SHRP 2 implementation should also be coordinated with other technology transfer and dissemination processes, even as a focus on the uniqueness and branding potential of SHRP 2 products is maintained. Recommendation 2: The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) should serve as the principal implementation agent for SHRP 2 , in partnership with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Transportation Research Board ( TRB). NHTSA should exercise a leadership role in the long-term stewardship of the safety database. The SHRP 2 implementation agent should have a national scope, extensive knowledge of the highway field, experience with implementing research results and new technologies, established relationships with transportation agencies, and the ability to provide funding and technical support to state DOTs and other potential users of SHRP 2 products. The committee considered three organizations of national scope as candidates for this role: FHWA, AASHTO, and TRB. All three organizations are active in promoting highway innovation; all have experienced staff and access to potential users of SHRP 2 results. TRB and AASHTO have relatively small staffs, nearly all of whom are located in the Washington, D.C., area. Either organization would need to undergo significant restructuring to administer the SHRP 2 implementation program, including hiring many new staff and establishing a presence or mechanisms to provide timely, on-site support to users of SHRP 2 products throughout the country. Promoting technology has been central to FHWA’s mission since its earliest predecessor agency, the Office of Road Inquiry, was established in 1893. It has long-established relationships with state DOTs, including field offices in each state with staff who work closely with state DOT staff, in addition to expertise in Washington and a multidisciplinary highway research center in
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Implementing the Results of the Second Strategic Highway Research Program: Saving Lives, Reducing Congestion, Improving Quality of Life Virginia. The agency’s expertise encompasses most of the major disciplinary areas covered by SHRP 2: highway planning, design, and construction; environmental and safety concerns; and highway operations. In addition to being able to provide funding and technical assistance to state and local transportation agencies, FHWA can modify or waive regulations to facilitate testing and implementation of new technologies and methods. FHWA administered a successful implementation effort for the first SHRP and learned many practical lessons from that experience. The committee believes the agency is best positioned to administer SHRP 2 implementation as long as it takes into consideration the specific differences between SHRP 1 and SHRP 2, as well as the unique challenges facing SHRP 2 implementation. The agency will need to engage in some reorganization to provide dedicated management and technical support for SHRP 2 implementation. It may need to recruit additional expertise or technical expertise different from that which is currently available among its staff and contractors. While many stakeholders will be involved in the implementation program, several stand out as potential partners. Primary among these is AASHTO, because the state DOTs remain the principal user group. AASHTO can also play an important role in setting standards to facilitate adoption of innovations by both state and local government transportation agencies. TRB’s involvement is based on its current role in administering the research program and on its network of technical committees; its other communication and coordination mechanisms; and its ability to establish high-level advisory, oversight, and technical committees. The Safety component of SHRP 2 calls for a strong role for NHTSA. As the principal implementation agent, FHWA should consider funding senior staff at other organizations to serve as point persons for SHRP 2 implementation and to coordinate their organizations’ activities with FHWA. AASHTO, NHTSA, and TRB are among the organizations in which such a position could be beneficial. Chapter 7 outlines the key attributes and activities of the proposed SHRP 2 principal implementation agent, which the committee believes FHWA should consider in establishing the implementation program. The committee wishes to emphasize three of those attributes here: Adequate dedicated staff: FHWA will need sufficient staff with appropriate technical and managerial expertise to guide the program successfully, providing support to volunteer stakeholders and overseeing the technical
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Implementing the Results of the Second Strategic Highway Research Program: Saving Lives, Reducing Congestion, Improving Quality of Life activities of other staff, contractors, and lead users of research products. In addition to technical expertise in the four SHRP 2 focus areas, FHWA will need to tap expertise in information technology (IT) and knowledge management. High-intensity focus to expedite implementation: The benefits promised by SHRP 2 research are urgently needed. FHWA must be prepared to give the implementation program top priority and establish mechanisms for expediting key supporting activities, such as forming stakeholder groups; executing contracts and other agreements; establishing communication mechanisms; initiating field demonstrations; and publishing usable manuals, guidelines, databases, and other products. Appropriate quality control mechanisms: To the extent practical, competitive processes and merit review should be used to select support contractors, researchers, and pilot test or demonstration sites. Implementation activities should be evaluated on a regular basis through the use of appropriate quantitative and qualitative approaches. Recommendation 3: Stable and predictable funding should be provided over several years to support SHRP 2 implementation activities. Total funding for the first 6 years of the implementation program is estimated at $400 million. The need for additional funding thereafter should be assessed at the appropriate time. Implementation planning and budgeting should take into account that several SHRP 2 products, especially the safety database, will require long-term support that will extend beyond the initial 6-year period. Effective implementation will require the ability to plan several years of effort with a predictable funding flow; ideally, funding should be authorized to be “available until expended.” The funding recommended for SHRP 2 implementation is intended to be over and above the usual level of funding for ongoing research and technology activities at FHWA and NHTSA to ensure that the implementation program does not have a negative impact on other much-needed activities of these agencies. NHTSA’s provision of long-term stewardship for the safety database should be supported by funding provided by FHWA from the overall SHRP 2 budget. Products requiring long-term stewardship are difficult to maintain in the highly decentralized highway community, and they require special attention to ensure that the
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Implementing the Results of the Second Strategic Highway Research Program: Saving Lives, Reducing Congestion, Improving Quality of Life public investment made in their development is allowed to fulfill its promise. These products all involve computer hardware or software and potentially large amounts of data (especially the safety database). Stable, predictable funding is required so they can be updated and maintained—for example, through periodic hardware or software upgrades that are too expensive to be sustained by individual projects. FHWA and NHTSA should perform a thorough study of the most effective means of providing long-term administrative and technical support for these products. The study should include investigation of various approaches, such as centralization versus decentralization; collocation with existing programs versus establishment of new entities; and use of the AASHTOWare, online hosted models, and cloud servers. Recommendation 4: A formal stakeholder advisory structure should be established to provide strategic guidance on program goals, priorities, and budget allocations, as well as technical advice. At a minimum, this advisory structure should include an executive-level oversight committee for the entire SHRP 2 implementation program and a second oversight committee focused exclusively on administration of the safety database. Membership of the executive-level SHRP 2 implementation oversight committee should include the principal users of SHRP 2 products—state DOTs, local transportation agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, and appropriate private-sector and academic representatives—as well as experts on research implementation, IT, and knowledge management. The committee should be small enough to engage in efficient and effective decision making while including sufficiently broad stakeholder representation. The committee should meet at least twice a year. Its charge should include setting strategic priorities for the implementation program, reviewing and concurring with annual and multiyear program plans and budgets, monitoring progress on SHRP 2 implementation, and documenting results and lessons learned on which to base recommendations for future implementation efforts. In short, the SHRP 2 implementation oversight committee should be responsible for ensuring accountability in the SHRP 2 implementation program. The committee should report to Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation annually.
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Implementing the Results of the Second Strategic Highway Research Program: Saving Lives, Reducing Congestion, Improving Quality of Life It may be appropriate for the SHRP 2 implementation oversight committee to obtain additional specialized input from subcommittees or other groups that include technical experts, users of a particular group of research products, specialists in training and technology transfer, and other parties interested in or affected by SHRP 2 implementation. The number and nature of these other committees may evolve over time as the implementation program develops and progresses. The size and unique features of the SHRP 2 safety database warrant a focused oversight group. A safety database oversight committee, under the general auspices of the SHRP 2 implementation oversight committee, should be established to provide oversight and advice on the long-term stewardship and use of the database. This committee should include highway safety researchers and practitioners from the public, private, and academic sectors, as well as experts in database management, security, and privacy issues. The committee should provide both policy and technical guidance to NHTSA and through NHTSA to any contractors the agency may engage to administer a safety data center. The committee’s mission would be to ensure the widest possible access to the safety data, consistent with protection of the private or sensitive nature of the data, and to ensure that use of the data meets the highest scientific standards. NHTSA should determine the best way to provide institutional review board (IRB) oversight of the use of the data. The safety database oversight committee might serve as the IRB, might have an IRB subcommittee, or might cooperate with an existing IRB to ensure ethical use of the data. Recommendation 5: Detailed implementation plans should be developed as soon as feasible to guide the implementation efforts. The SHRP 2 research program is still at an early stage and does not include the charge to produce detailed implementation plans. As soon as implementation funding is made available, however, FHWA should develop detailed plans that include, at a minimum, the elements outlined in Chapter 7. These plans should be coordinated with the ongoing SHRP 2 research program and should be based on appropriate input from users and technical experts. The implementation plans should be living documents that are periodically updated and should be made publicly available.