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1 SUMMARY Implementing Transportation Knowledge Networks Today's transportation professionals are facing an enormous set of challenges as they work to sustain and improve the mobility that is essential to our economic well-being, way of life, and security. Addressing congestion, unacceptably high fatality rates, aging infrastructure, and environmental sustainability in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis will require rapid discovery and adoption of technologies, practices, and methods that work. In this context, a well-functioning infrastructure for sharing and accessing relevant and timely information about current research, best practices, and lessons learned will be a necessity. In recent years, there has been growing interest across the transportation community to pro- vide a stronger, more coordinated approach to information access and availability for trans- portation professionals. In 2006, the Transportation Research Board published Special Report 284: Transportation Knowledge Networks: a Management Strategy for the 21st Century (also referred to herein as the TRB Special Report 284 and SR 284). This report laid the foundation for the establishment of Transportation Knowledge Networks or TKNs, which were defined as "decentralized, managed networks linking information providers to users wherever they are located." TRB Special Report 284 recommended development of a business plan for moving forward with their implementation. NCHRP Project 20-75 has developed a business plan for implementing TKNs, and has begun the process of conducting the outreach necessary to ensure broad understanding of this plan and its potential benefits. There are three major institutional elements to establishing a sustainable and well-functioning network for information sharing in transportation: · Regional TKNs, which are groups of transportation organizations (for example, state DOTs, MPOs, transit agencies, and engineering firms) that work together to share their information resources and collaborate on information access improvements. · A national TKN Coordination Function, with responsibility for developing a national infrastructure for transportation information sharing and for leading and supporting TKN activities. The Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) of the U.S.DOT was identified in TRB Special Report 284 as a logical home for this function. · An Advisory Board with senior transportation community representation to provide strate- gic direction and ensure accountability. The business plan for TKNs defines ten key products and services to be provided to trans- portation practitioners by the regional TKNs, with support from the national coordination function. One of the major products to be provided is a national transportation information portal that will serve as a focal point for transportation professionals seeking information. Sev- eral services are included in the plan to ensure that this portal is continually refreshed with timely and useful information. Taken as a whole, the ten products and services in the business
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2 plan are designed to achieve (1) a noticeable improvement in information access as perceived by transportation professionals, (2) substantial increases in information sharing among trans- portation information producers and providers leading to greater efficiencies, (3) preserva- tion of valuable information resources that are at risk due to employee retirements and other factors, and (4) capacity building among transportation information professionals to enhance their effectiveness. Implementation of the products and services in the business plan will require an estimated $13.5 million annually. A source for this funding will need to be identified. Outreach activities conducted under this project to communicate the contents of the busi- ness plan included individual meetings with senior transportation agency representatives, a focus group with transportation planning practitioners, a briefing and follow-up survey of the AASHTO Standing Committee on Highways (SCOH), and presentations at conferences. A variety of outreach materials were prepared, including an overview flyer, testimonials from members of the transportation community, and narrated slide presentations. Outreach materials included descriptions of hypothetical scenarios for how transportation practition- ers would use the transportation information portal to find materials that would help them respond to specific assignments in an efficient manner. An implementation plan is provided that includes activities that can be pursued prior to availability of additional funds to support the TKN effort as well as a sequence of steps to be followed when and if funding is made available. Immediate activities include continuation of outreach and incremental implementation and tracking of pilot information-sharing initia- tives. Some of these activities are already being carried out by the AASHTO Research Advi- sory Committee TKN Task Force, the National Transportation Library (NTL), members of current regional TKNs, and participants of the Transportation Library Connectivity Pooled Fund Study.