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5 Assessment of Authorized Programs This chapter presents the committeeâs assessment of the Title Vâauthorized programs described in Chapter 3 according to the principles delineated in Chapter 4. The program areas assessed include advanced research, infrastructure, operations, planning and environment, safety, policy, and the University Transportation Centers (UTC) Program. As in Chapter 3, the intelligent transportation system (ITS) research projects funded by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) but man- aged by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) 2 are discussed under the appropri- ate topic areas (operations and safety for the former, and infrastructure, operations, safety, and planning and environment for the latter). ADVANCED RESEARCH Assessment Based on Principles of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efï¬cient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users The Exploratory Advanced Research Program adheres to the principles articulated by Congress, as reï¬ned for this assessment. 1. Full Innovation Cycle The Exploratory Advanced Research Program is speciï¬cally dedicated to fundamental, long-term research and provides a critical opportunity to improve understanding that can lead to enhanced applications. 2. Justiï¬cation for Federal Investment The program is clearly a federal responsibility. Very little advanced research in highway transportation is being conducted. The private 89
90 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses sector has little or no incentive to perform this sort of work, and state research and development (R&D) is devoted almost exclusively to applied, problem-solving research. As noted in Special Report 261 (TRB 2001), this area of research by FHWA will ultimately help provide new ideas for state and federal applied research programs to pursue toward implementation. 3. Content The Exploratory Advanced Research Program is the only FHWA program dedicated to fundamental, long-term highway research. As noted in Chapter 3, there are also two substantial earmarks for asphalt researchâ one awarded to a single institution totaling about $3.4 million annually and another to that same institution totaling $6.2 million annually, shared with four other partnersâmost of which is advanced research. 4. Stakeholder Input FHWA sought stakeholder input for the initial program Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) during three stakeholder forums held in 2005 and 2006. This information was used to help shape the focus areas of that BAA. Stakeholders for advanced research differ from those for applied research. In applied research, the problem is well deï¬ned, and much of the research involves testing known solutions; appropriate stakeholders are those with an understanding of the problem and the potential for known strategies to address it. In advanced research, there may be some idea of the problem to be solved, but the solutions are unknown; thus, appropriate stakeholders are those with a long-term vision and expertise in fundamental areas of research who can guide decisions about promis- ing opportunities for investment (Brach 2005). FHWA interacted with such individuals in preparation for the second round of funding for the Exploratory Advanced Research Program in 2008. 5. Awards Based on Competition and Merit Review FHWA awards funds on the basis of review of preproposals invited through full and open competition solicited through a BAA. Merit review is conducted by staff experts and experts external to FHWA and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) from the National Institute for Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation,
Assessment of Authorized Programs 91 the Transportation Research Board (TRB), RITA, and the National High- way Trafï¬c Safety Administration (NHTSA). 6. Performance Review and Evaluation Proposals funded under this program are by deï¬nition âlonger term and higher riskâ than the applied research typically funded by USDOT. Therefore, a different set of standards for review and evaluation should apply. Agreements with researchers are designed with regular milestones appropriate for evaluating advanced research. Lead staff for each project are responsible for engaging outside experts with appropriate technical expertise to help in reviewing results once initial projects selected for the program have been completed. Assessment Based on Additional Criteria The Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC) views the Exploratory Advanced Research Program as a genuine opportunity to expand the federal investment in R&D in a fashion that complements the highly applied activities of state programs and the majority of the FHWA program. The current level of investment in the Exploratory Advanced Research Program (about 6 percent of FHWAâs program) is well below the 25 percent recommended by the committee in Special Report 261. As indi- cated above, if the asphalt earmarks and SHRP 2 Safety Program funds are included in the deï¬nition of advanced research, then the share of FHWAâs Title V and SHRP 2 funding devoted to advanced research increases to 15 percent. As discussed in the following section on infrastructure research, development, and technology (RD&T), the committee believes that advanced research should not be earmarked. The committee was pre- viously concerned about the funding requirements imposed on the Exploratory Advanced Research Program. The 50-50 match required for the program by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efï¬cient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) appeared to be inappro- priate for this kind of research and inconsistent with funding for advanced research available in other federal agency programs. This requirement may well have been inhibiting university faculty and other researchers with promising new concepts from participating in the program. Fortunately, the 2008 Technical Corrections legislation reduced the match to 20 percent.
92 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses The committee is also concerned about some elements of program execution. The ï¬rst round of research solicitations appropriately cast a broad net to gather ideas from researchers. The topics for the second round depended more on previous scanning and research by FHWA, thus resulting in a narrower set of potential topics. The committee is concerned about the extent to which this strategy is narrowing the field of possible research topics. Moreover, about 23 percent of the funding allocated through fiscal year (FY) 2008 was retained for intra- mural research (research conducted by FHWA staff or contractors). Such research, although appropriate at a modest level, is not subject to the same level of competition as extramural research. Thus, the committee would prefer to see most of the advanced research funding allocated for extramural research. INFRASTRUCTURE RD&T Assessment Based on SAFETEA-LU Principles Brief assessments of each infrastructure program described above in terms of the SAFETEA-LU principles are contained in Appendix C and are summarized in Table 5-1. The following consolidated assessment covers all the FHWA and SHRP 2 programs, with variations noted as appropriate. 1. Full Innovation Cycle The wide variety of research activities in the infrastructure area encom- passes agenda setting, advanced research, applied research, evaluation, and technology transfer (deployment and training).1 The Fundamental Properties of Asphalts and Modiï¬ed Asphalts Program is, as its name suggests, conducting advanced research, along with the Asphalt Research Consortium, albeit, as discussed below, earmarking is inappropriate for this type of research.2 Speciï¬c programs for deployment include the 1 It makes better sense to apply this principle to FHWAâs entire portfolio of programs rather than attempting to apply it to each program; some programs are limited in scope by their nature (applied research, technology transfer). 2 FHWA estimates that about 60 percent of consortium funding is advanced research, and about 40 percent is applied.
TABLE 5-1 Summary Assessment of Infrastructure RD&T Programs Based on SAFETEA-LU Principles Average Annual 1. Full 5. Competition 6. Performance Funding Innovation 2. Justiï¬cation for 4. Stakeholder and Merit Review and Program ($ millions) Cycle Federal Investment 3. Content Input Reviewa Evaluationb Innovative 18.6 Mainly Suboptimal private Gap ï¬lling/ ETGs 70 percent TRB Pavement Pavement deployment investment/ deployment competed Technology Research and and evaluation efï¬cient use of through RFPs Committee Deployment federal dollars Long-Term 8.3 Data collection Suboptimal private Gap ï¬lling Ongoing external Competitive TRB LTPP Pavement investment/ review selection committee Performance efï¬cient use of committee of main federal dollars contractor AlkaliâSilica 2.0 Development, Suboptimal private Gap ï¬lling/ AlkaliâSilica Competitive AlkaliâSilica Reactivity deployment investment deployment Reactivity ETG contractor Reactivity selection ETG Fundamental 3.4 Advanced Not a national Advanced FHWA funding None (earmark) None required Properties of priority through its (earmark) Asphalts and limited discre- Modiï¬ed tionary funds Asphalts Asphalt Research 6.2 Advanced/ Suboptimal private Gap ï¬lling FHWA funding None (earmark) None required Consortium applied investment through its (earmark) limited discre- tionary funds (continued on next page)
TABLE 5-1 (continued) Summary Assessment of Infrastructure RD&T Programs Based on SAFETEA-LU Principles Average Annual 1. Full 5. Competition 6. Performance Funding Innovation 2. Justiï¬cation for 4. Stakeholder and Merit Review and Program ($ millions) Cycle Federal Investment 3. Content Input Reviewa Evaluationb Long-Term Bridge 6.4 Data collection/ Suboptimal private Gap ï¬lling AASHTO support Competitive AASHTO bridge Performance applied investment/ along with local contractor subcommittee efï¬cient use of governments selection review federal dollars Innovative Bridge 14.6 in FY Full cycle Efï¬cient use of Mainly gap Road maps Grant program Usually Research and 2006 federal dollars ï¬lling developed with competed; reviewed by Deployment and stakeholders RD&T end-user 2007 conducted groups at FHWA High-Performance 4.0 in FY Full cycle National priorities Mainly gap Guided by working About 35 Usually Concrete 2006 ï¬lling group of percent reviewed by Bridge and stakeholders competed, end-user Research and 2007 remainder groups Development intramural Ultra-High- 0.5 Full cycle Suboptimal private Mainly gap Stakeholders Noneâall Usually Performance investment/ ï¬lling/ guide work to internal reviewed by Concrete efï¬cient use of deployment be done end-user Research federal dollars groups
Higher-Performing 3.4 Full cycle Nationally signiï¬cant/ Mainly gap TWG guidance 50 percent of TWG evaluation Steel Bridge efï¬cient use of ï¬lling/ funding Research and federal dollars deployment competed Technology Transfer Steel Bridge 1.0 Applied/ Not a national priority Gap ï¬lling/ Stakeholder Full and open Stakeholders Testing deployment deployment guidance Seismic Research 2 Applied/ National priority Gap ï¬lling Stakeholder None (earmark) Stakeholders deployment guidance PolymerâWood 0.7 in FY Applied Not a national priority Gap ï¬lling None None (earmark) None required Composite 2006 (earmark) Materials and and Structures 2007 SHRP 2: Renewal 7.9 Applied/ Suboptimal private Gap ï¬lling/ Stakeholder Full and open Peer review deployment investment/ deployment governance, with merit by expert efï¬cient use of merit review, review by stakeholders federal dollars peer review expert stakeholders NOTE: AASHTO = American Association of State Highway and Transportation Ofï¬cials; ETG = Expert Task Group; RFP = request for proposals; TWG = Technical Working Group. aMerit review of FHWA programs is normally conducted by technical staff from various ofï¬ces. External experts are occasionally involved. bVarious levels of project and program review are conducted by FHWA staff and managers; this applies to each program in this column. The cells in this column comment on external/stakeholder evaluation of products and peer review of completed research.
96 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses Innovative Pavement Research and Deployment Program, the Innova- tive Bridge Research and Deployment Program, and elements of the AlkaliâSilica Reactivity (ASR) Program. The vast majority of the infra- structure RD&T program is applied research and technology transfer to the states and local governments through deployment, training, prepa- ration of manuals, and the like. Although deployment is a major theme of the FHWA program, the committee questions whether RD&T deployment activities at FHWA are organized to be most effective. As a result of FHWA reorganizations beginning in 1998, virtually all deployment activities have been decen- tralized to the program ofï¬ces. This change coincided with substantial cuts in funding for FHWAâs technology transfer activities. In the Trans- portation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), compared with a request for $100 million annually, Congress provided only $40 million, and much of that total was earmarked (TRB 1999). In a September 2007 letter report to FHWA, the committee noted that the lack of a central resource within FHWA with explicit expertise in technology transfer could be hampering deployment activities, an observation based on a previous RTCC report (TRB 1999). There is something of a science to technology transfer that requires matching an appropriate strategy to a new technology or practice. There are certainly innovative practices occurring in some programs (see the discussion below regarding oper- ations). The committee also applauds FHWAâs efforts to (a) identify, market, and track the deployment of market-ready technologies and (b) develop and implement a strategic plan for deployment across all of its pavement activities (TRB 2008a). The committee also applauds the Highways for LIFE program, which is funded and being conducted out- side of the RD&T program. SAFETEA-LU authorized $75 million in funding for Highways for LIFEâ$15 million for FY 2006 and $20 mil- lion annually for FY 2007â2009 for activities including demonstration construction projects, stakeholder input and involvement, technology transfer, technology partnerships, information dissemination, and mon- itoring and evaluation. The missing element among all of FHWAâs deployment activities appears to be a resource within the agency with explicit expertise in technology transfer and deployment that could pro- vide guidance to the various efforts agencywide.
Assessment of Authorized Programs 97 2. Justiï¬cation for Federal Investment Most of the research funded under infrastructure RD&T could easily be justiï¬ed by the criterion of public beneï¬t and suboptimal private invest- ment. Virtually all the nationâs roads and bridges are owned and oper- ated by some level of governmental or public authority; hence, research to reduce the cost and improve the performance of these assets is public- sector by nature. Much of the research can also be justiï¬ed under the cri- terion of national signiï¬cance. The Long-Term Pavement Performance (LTPP) Program, for example, once brought to fruition, should signiï¬- cantly enhance knowledge about loadings and environmental factors that signiï¬cantly affect highway design. Given that the nation invests more than $10 billion annually in pavements and that the inï¬uence of loadings and environmental factors on pavement service life and per- formance has not been established, this activity promises considerable future beneï¬t. Most of the infrastructure RD&T on pavements and bridges is also designed to assist states and local governments in making decisions about infrastructure investments that should improve efï¬- ciency, another criterion justifying these investments. Evaluation of past FHWA RD&T programs in materials and structures has found substan- tial savings (and extension of the service life of assets) that far exceed the cost of the research (Battelle et al. 2003). Some of the research authorized by Congress in the infrastructure area fails to meet the criterion of national signiï¬cance. FHWA would not have proposed the Steel Bridge Testing Program, given that it considers existing nondestructive evaluation techniques for detecting ï¬aws and cracks to be adequate. Nor is the earmark for research on polymerâwood composites, for which there is little public-sector demand, of national signiï¬cance. 3. Content Almost all of the infrastructure research discussed here is ï¬lling gaps that are not being addressed by other programs (see Table 5-1). Most of these gaps, but not all, are signiï¬cant, as indicated above. A small portion of the research is fundamental or advanced in nature. None of it could be clas- siï¬ed as planning or policy research, and this represents a signiï¬cant gap in the program. State departments of transportation (DOTs) face many
98 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses policy decisions regarding levels of investment in ï¬xed assets that could be informed by research to address questions such as the following: â¢ How much should be invested in maintenance to optimize the life- cycle performance of pavements and structures? â¢ What is the minimal level of asset condition below which replacement costs exceed maintenance and rehabilitation costs? â¢ What should it cost a state DOT to achieve a percentage point increase of its pavements to an acceptable condition, and what is the beneï¬tâ cost ratio of doing so? â¢ What should government entities negotiate for in concession agree- ments regarding asset condition at the end of a term, how should this be monitored, and what incentives are required to ensure that private- sector managers meet this commitment? â¢ With the recent sharp increase in the cost of petroleum and as the cost of asphalt approaches that of concrete, what is the tipping point at which states would make a better investment, on a life-cycle basis, in concrete pavements? There are many such policy questions in the infrastructure area that are of concern to the states but are not being addressed in the federal program. 4. Stakeholder Input A number of mechanisms exist across infrastructure RD&T programs for engaging a variety of stakeholders. SHRP 2 is perhaps the most impressive in this regard, in that stakeholders have more than an advi- sory role, actually setting priorities, deciding about research topics, and approving funding levels and contractors for individual research proj- ects. Several programs in FHWAâs pavements and structures area have impressive stakeholder involvement as well. FHWA staff have partici- pated with the asphalt and concrete industries and other pavement stakeholders in the development of research road maps that have inï¬u- enced the agencyâs pavement research (to the extent possible given that most pavement research in FHWAâs budget is earmarked or designated). The bridge subcommittee of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Ofï¬cials (AASHTO) and other bridge stakeholders have been involved in agenda setting and program design in several of
Assessment of Authorized Programs 99 the structures research programs, and products are routinely reviewed by end-user groups. In a presentation to the committee, the chairman of this AASHTO subcommittee commended FHWA for its extensive engagement with the state DOT bridge community. In the pavements area, the LTPP Program has had an external committee of state stake- holders and pavement experts from industry, states, and academia providing ongoing program review and guidance since 1992. FHWA established a high-level committee of experts and stakeholders to pro- vide similar guidance for its entire portfolio of pavement research and deployment activities in 2006. FHWA routinely forms Technical Working Groups (TWGs) representing industry, states, and academia to provide guidance in particular technical areas. For example, a TWG representing state DOTs, industry, consulting, and academia was formed to provide feedback on the ASR Program. The long-standing congressional earmark for the Fundamental Prop- erties of Asphalts and Modiï¬ed Asphalts Program, which dates back to at least 1992, has been a notable exception to stakeholder involvement. Funding decisions and research topics have been set by the recipient itself, with little input or support from external stakeholders in the asphalt community. To help address this problem, FHWA asked the Asphalt TWG to review the program. 5. Awards Based on Competition and Merit Review Of the designated programs that FHWA administers, some [LTPP, Long-Term Bridge Performance (LTBP), Steel Bridge Testing] are com- pletely subject to full and open competition. Several programs devote a share of funding to in-house staff and contractors. Most award at least some share of their funding through competition and merit review. In the Higher-Performing Steel Bridge Research and Technology Transfer Program, half of the funds are competed outside of FHWA. In the High- Performance Concrete Bridge Research and Development Program, 35 percent of funds are competed. In the Innovative Bridge Research and Deployment Program, 70 percent of funds are competed. A good argu- ment can be made that some share of RD&T funding should be intra- mural to ensure that FHWA staff remain current in their technical ï¬elds and have opportunities to make technical contributions. Indeed, RTCC
100 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses has made such a recommendation to FHWA in the past. The contractors that support FHWA laboratories are selected competitively. But whether the researchers who make up the teams of the selected contractors have the best talent for individual research projects to which they are assigned is an open question, as elaborated in the following discussion of indeï¬nite- delivery/indeï¬nite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts. Contracting mechanisms at FHWA range from contracts, to assis- tance agreements (grants and cooperative agreements), to task order IDIQ contracts. Like other federal agencies, FHWA conducts full and open competition for contracts and cooperative agreements. Competi- tion is also relied on in the awarding of IDIQs. Typically, IDIQs are com- peted in a full and open fashion. Once a small number of contractors have been selected, however, tasks under these agreements are usually offered for competition among these preapproved bidders. The issue that arises for universities with IDIQs is that university researchers are often listed as subcontractors. This helps the main contractor to be selected as a qualiï¬ed bidder on subsequent tasks, but the subcontrac- tors feel they do not have an adequate opportunity to work on individ- ual tasks that are awarded. IDIQs have a signiï¬cant advantage over regular contracts: it takes 5 to 7 months for both to be ï¬nalized, but once an IDIQ is in place, the individual tasks under that IDIQ can be com- peted in a matter of days. IDIQs thus appear to be appropriate for dis- crete tasks that assist research programs, and they certainly have a place when getting research under way quickly is a high priority. RTCC, how- ever, questions whether IDIQs are appropriate for pure research activi- ties because of the way they reduce the ï¬eld of potential competitors. Contractor selection for projects competed by FHWA is based on merit review, and the decisions made depend heavily on the capability of gov- ernment staff. External experts are not regularly involved in merit review for contractor selection. FHWA has no funds to support this activity; this is one of many consequences of having no budget ï¬exibility because of budgetary constraints. External reviewers are occasionally included in the review of the technical portions of a proposal. (Only government employ- ees can review the cost and stafï¬ng portions of proposals.) Congressionally earmarked programs (Fundamental Properties of Asphalts and Modiï¬ed Asphalts, Asphalt Research Consortium, Seismic
Assessment of Authorized Programs 101 Research, and PolymerâWood Composite Materials and Structures) all fail to meet the criteria for competition and merit review. The $49.2 mil- lion allocated to these earmarked programs in FY 2006â2009 represents about 20 percent of the total infrastructure RD&T budget. The commit- tee ï¬nds it disappointing that such a large share of infrastructure research is earmarked for such a small number of institutions. The public is not receiving the beneï¬ts that would accrue from the dozens of organizations with talented researchers that would compete for these funds. As noted earlier, SHRP 2 awards 80 percent of its funds through full and open competition (with the remaining 20 percent being used for administration and meeting costs). Contractors are selected through merit review, in which stakeholders are heavily involved. As with all SHRP 2 programs, an Expert Task Group (ETG) evaluates the merits of proposals for the Renewal Program and forwards its analysis to a Tech- nical Coordinating Committee (TCC) for recommendation to the SHRP 2 Oversight Committee.3 6. Performance Review and Evaluation Performance review takes place at both the project and program levels. At the project level, FHWA staff review results of contractorsâ efforts for acceptability; staff regularly involve end users in a separate review to test customer satisfaction. For research projects conducted internally, work of internal contractors is reviewed by FHWA staff; research conducted by individual staff is reviewed by team leaders, technical directors, and man- agers. In addition, research managers track outputs, costs, and timeliness (efï¬ciency measures). To obtain external peer review, FHWA encourages publication of FHWA-funded research in peer-reviewed journals. At the program level, FHWA involves peer committees, such as RTCC, the TRB committee for the LTPP Program, and the TRB committee for FHWAâs pavement research and deployment activities, in ongoing assessments. The laboratories at the TurnerâFairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) that support all of FHWAâs RD&T programs, includ- ing infrastructure programs, are peer reviewed on a regular cycle by 3 Research projects are recommended for each SHRP 2 strategic focus area by TCCs, whose mem- bership is made up of experts from the public, private, and academic sectors. The SHRP 2 Over- sight Committee awards contracts and selects contractors.
102 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses external experts. Because RD&T is viewed as a tool for achieving the strategic goals of USDOT and FHWA, FHWAâs goal indicators, such as highway-related fatalities, pavement condition, and congestion, serve as the overall performance measures for RD&T programs. FHWA exam- ines these indicators to help determine whether its RD&T activities are focusing on the right thingsâfor instance, not just reducing highway- related fatalities but also examining how these fatalities occur, such as run-off-the-road and intersection collisions. These indicators also enable FHWA to determine whether the RD&T program is meeting the annual milestones in multiyear program plans and making progress toward long- term goals. SHRP 2 projects and their products are reviewed by the TCCs estab- lished for each program area, with ETGs providing additional peer review when reports have highly technical content. The program is governed by stakeholders, and they assess the results of projects and the merits of the program on an ongoing basis. Senior FHWA and AASHTO representa- tives serve in an ex ofï¬cio capacity on the SHRP 2 Oversight Committee to ensure coordination and ongoing evaluation of the program as it pro- gresses. As required by Congress, the Government Accountability Ofï¬ce (GAO) also evaluates the program. Assessment Based on Additional Criteria Congressâs extensive designation of research programs large and small, as well as congressional earmarks that total about 23 percent of infra- structure RD&T in Title V, has compromised some important programs. The LTPP Program, which emerged from the original SHRP with high levels of stakeholder support, had to be cut by 12 percent to make room for other designations and earmarks. This 20-year program, intended to be completed by 2009, has now been reduced to essential data collection. The beneï¬ts of this $260 million4 pavement experiment, however, will not be fully realized until the data can be thoroughly analyzed. Recent estimates indicate that the data collection can be completed and basic data analyses conducted for about $9 million annually through 2015 4 This ï¬gure refers to the federal share. Many state DOTs also contributed funds, efforts, and mate- rials, but the total level of state expenditures is not known.
Assessment of Authorized Programs 103 (FHWA 2007; TRB 2008b). Similarly, the LTBP Program was envisioned by FHWA and AASHTOâs bridge subcommittee as being modeled on the LTPP Program. It has been cut back even more than the LTPP Program, delaying its beneï¬ts until far into the future. Some of the activities des- ignated or earmarked by Congress, such as those focused on steel bridge testing and polymerâwood composite materials and structures, would not rank high among federal or state DOT priorities for research. Within some programs, the details speciï¬ed by Congress, such as the share of funding among asphalt, concrete, and aggregates, limit FHWAâs ability to exercise technical judgment in optimizing resource allocation. SHRP 2 received about one-third of the funding envisioned by stakeholders, and the life- time of the program is 2 years less than expected because the duration of funding is shorter than anticipated. These reductions in both money and time have greatly compromised what the program can accomplish. The constraints on Title V also left FHWA without any direct fund- ing for RD&T program support and with no budget ï¬exibility for FY 2005â2007. The 2008 Technical Corrections legislation restored funding for part of FY 2008 and 2009 for the operation of TFHRC and gave FHWA some ï¬exibility in the allocation of Title V fundsâabout $14 mil- lion after full funding of all other designations and earmarks, which is still below authorized levels. OPERATIONS RD&T Assessment Based on SAFETEA-LU Principles The operations RD&T activities of FHWA and SHRP 2 are assessed col- lectively below. 1. Full Innovation Cycle Operations RD&T, both at FHWA and in the ITS Joint Program Ofï¬ce, consists of an assortment of activities that collectively encompass most elements of the innovation cycle. For the four examples described in Chapter 3, the primary emphasis is on applied research, particularly the development, application, and evaluation of technologies. This is espe- cially true for the Adaptive Control Software (ACS) Lite and Electronic Freight Management (EFM) Programs, which are aimed at developing
104 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses and evaluating software and web service programs. The Congestion Pric- ing and Trafï¬c Incident Management (TIM) Programs are oriented more toward information and technology transfer, each seeking to pro- mote the application of promising practices, policies, and tools in the ï¬eld. By and large, the four programs are problem and solution oriented and thus do not consist of longer-term, higher-risk advanced research. (FHWA also supports more advanced RD&T projects on trafï¬c analysis, modeling, and simulation and on the causes of congestion that are not reviewed in detail in this section.) SHRP 2 travel time reliability research is focused on applied research. The agenda-setting phase of the program, which involved stakeholders, occurred before SAFETEA-LU funding became available. Planned deploy- ment activities for SHRP 2 have had to be substantially curtailed because of a lack of funding and the shorter-than-expected funding cycle for the program. 2. Justiï¬cation for Federal Investment Responsibility for highway operations rests primarily with state and local highway agencies; in particular, the operating performance of urban road networks is a main responsibility of municipal and county govern- ments. In general, however, federal support for operations RD&T in both the FHWA and SHRP 2 programs is justiï¬ed for the same reason given for infrastructure RD&T. A main rationale is that the federal gov- ernment contributes much of the funding for the highway system and therefore must act in a stewardship role, ensuring that its large invest- ment is put to good use and the system performs efï¬ciently. The national signiï¬cance of a well-functioning, efï¬ciently operating national network of highways is commonly accepted grounds for federal support for highway operations RD&T. The Secretaryâs National Con- gestion Initiative maintains that urban trafï¬c congestion is a widespread problem that has the collective effect of reducing the nationâs economic productivity and standard of living while also contributing to other national concerns, such as air pollution and energy consumption. 3. Content Although there is some advanced work in the ITS Program, the exam- ples given above are ï¬lling signiï¬cant gaps, such as the adaptation of
Assessment of Authorized Programs 105 complex ACS software for use by smaller cities, evaluation of congestion pricing demonstrations, development of open-source EFM software, analysis of performance measures and monitoring programs for trafï¬c operations, and appropriate institutional structures for managing oper- ations. R&D to inform the operations of roads and highway systems has been considerably underfunded over the years relative to the signiï¬cance of the congestion problem. Many gaps need to be ï¬lled, and SHRP 2 pro- jects are designed to do so in practical ways that can be implemented. 4. Stakeholder Input All four FHWA RD&T efforts described in Chapter 3 illustrate the agencyâs engagement with stakeholders, but at different points in the cycle and with differing degrees of involvement. After surveying state and local highway agencies, FHWA concluded there was a need for a simpli- ï¬ed version of ACS and worked with the National Electronics Manufac- turers Association to obtain assistance from vendors to ï¬eld test this technology. FHWA is also a member of the National Transportation Operations Coalition (NTOC), an informal alliance of national associa- tions, practitioners, and private-sector groups with interest and exper- tise in highway operations and management. NTOC promotes ACS Lite in its electronic newsletter and through Internet communications. Being implementation oriented, TIM is characterized by extensive stakeholder involvement, which is essential for promoting comprehen- sive, performance-driven incident management programs in communi- ties. The primary stakeholders with interest in TIM are public safety and transportation agencies. FHWA solicits the involvement of these stake- holders through the National Trafï¬c Incident Management Coalition, a forum of national organizations representing providers of emergency medical services, law enforcement, public safety communications, tow- ing, and transportation services. The program has also reached out to stakeholder associations outside the traditional highway community, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Towing and Recovery Association of America. Stakeholders are engaged through workshops, conferences, and Internet communications. Stakeholders are also involved during all phases of the EFM program. The EFM concept was initiated by the private sector, and the program
106 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses content (operational concept, design, and test plans) is being guided by the Intermodal Freight Technology Working Group of the Intermodal Association of North America. As described above, SHRP 2 is guided by committees comprising stake- holders who set priorities, choose among bidders, evaluate proposals, provide merit review, and perform peer review of results. The TCC for the travel time reliability program includes representatives from state DOTs, FHWA, AASHTO, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), ï¬rst responders (ï¬reï¬ghters), academia, and consulting. 5. Awards Based on Competition and Merit Review In the case of ACS Lite, the federal contract for development of the soft- ware was awarded through a competitive process. TIM, by comparison, is a more dispersed program consisting of a number of projects and ini- tiatives, including many intramural activities. For extramural projects, contractor selection is competitive. In the case of EFM, a competitive process to select the development and deployment team is anticipated. In SHRP 2, as described in the section on infrastructure above, ETGs prepare requests for proposals (RFPs) and provide merit review. All SHRP 2 proposals are subject to full and open competition. 6. Performance Review and Evaluation The success of the results of FHWAâs RD&T program will in many cases be determined by the marketplace, and especially by the public entities that are the customers for those results. ACS Lite software has undergone ï¬eld evaluations and proven its value; it has been turned over to suppli- ers for further development and implementation. FHWA expects to have an ongoing role in promoting the product and keeping it current. Because TIM activities are closely coordinated with stakeholder interests, they are subject to constant iterative reviews and evaluations by cus- tomers. One element of TIM is annual self-assessments, a formal process by which state and local transportation and public safety agencies collabo- ratively assess their TIM systems to identify opportunities for improvement and for federal assistance. EFM will likewise depend on the stakeholders in the industry working group to provide ongoing feedback and assessment of EFM design and deployment. In the case of the Congestion Pricing Program, USDOT and FHWA track the programâs results to a limited extentâfor instance, by report-
Assessment of Authorized Programs 107 ing experiences and best practices from the Value Pricing Pilot Program. Evaluation funds are provided to participants as part of the grant pro- gram, and project partners are expected to assist FHWA by providing data on project results in reports to Congress. Performance review and evaluation for SHRP 2 was discussed above in the section on infrastructure RD&T. Assessment Based on Additional Criteria Because of funding constraints, important activities of the Ofï¬ce of Operations are unfunded, including updating of the Manual on Uniform Trafï¬c Control Devices and work on truck size and weight issues and emergency trafï¬c operations. The level of funding in this area was cut by 50 percent between TEA-21 and SAFETEA-LU. An argument can also be made that investments in RD&T in operations, even with the ITS Pro- gram, are considerably out of alignment with the size and consequences of the nationâs congestion problem. Non-ITS operations RD&T funds are insufï¬cient to permit full exploration of issues in such areas as man- agement and operations, congestion management, pricing, and freight management. The reduction in funding for SHRP 2 to levels well below what had been planned has hurt the program. Before SAFETEA-LU, the research plan was designed from a systems perspective as an integrated package. The required deletion of certain projects has reduced the pro- gramâs coherence. PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENTAL RD&T Assessment Based on SAFETEA-LU Principles 1. Full Innovation Cycle FHWAâs planning and environmental RD&T is oriented toward a wide range of technical assistance and other implementation activities, as indicated by the efforts described in Chapter 3 and highlighted by FHWA in its presentation to RTCC (see Table 5-2). SHRP 2 activities have more of an applied research component; the projects are focused on achieving speciï¬c results that can be implemented. Much of SHRP 2âs Capacity Program is designed to identify key decision points in the planning process and develop strategies to facilitate resolution of the issues that impede decision making.
108 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses TABLE 5-2 Illustrative FHWA Planning and Environmental Research Projects Funding Funding Title ($) Mechanisms Stakeholders Survey State and Local Climate Change 150,000 Task order State DOTs, Activities MPOs Climate Change Clearinghouse 85,000 IDIQ task State DOTs, order MPOs Integrating Climate Change Considerations 69,000 IDIQ task State DOTs, into Planning Processes order MPOs Mobile Source Air Toxics near Roadway 818,000 Interagency State DOTs, EPA, Dissemination Study agreement, NGOs IDIQ task order Context-Sensitive Solutions Pooled Fund 200,000 TBD State DOTs, local agencies Advancing Methods, Maps, and Tools 400,000 TBD Federal agencies, Used for Decision Support and Impact state DOTs Analyses for Transportation, Wildlife, and Ecological Systems Regional Approaches to Tolling and Pricing 20,000 IDIQ task State DOTs, order MPOs Metropolitan Accessibility: Performance 63,900 Cooperative State DOTs, Indicators for Planning Reform agreement MPOs Safety Planners Guidebook and 249,000 IDIQ task State DOTs, Communication Materials order MPOs Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Best 30,000 Task order State DOTs Practices for Planning and Environmental Linkages Ecological Grants Integrating Transportation 1,000,000 TBD Federal agencies, and Resource Planning to Develop State DOTs Ecosystem-Based Infrastructure Projects NOTE: EPA = Environmental Protection Agency; NGO = nongovernmental organization; TBD = to be determined. 2. Justiï¬cation for Federal Investment Planning and environmental protection are clearly national priorities. Most of the FHWA and SHRP 2 activities described above would foster improved implementation of federal planning and environmental require- ments by states, MPOs, and other levels of government. These activities
Assessment of Authorized Programs 109 address planning, environmental, and stewardship goals that are high priorities for state DOTs. 3. Content Activities in the planning and environmental area funded through the Surface Transportation Environment and Planning (STEP) Coopera- tive Research Program, designated programs, and earmarks fall mainly on the implementation end of the development spectrum. They might be described as gap filling with respect to technical assistance and pro- gram support. SHRP 2 could also be described as gap-filling applied research. 4. Stakeholder Input FHWAâs Ofï¬ce of Planning, Environment, and Realty conducts a wide range of stakeholder involvement activities, including monthly meetings with stakeholder groups. The ofï¬ce is particularly responsive to state DOT and MPO staffs. RTCC invited representatives of these stakehold- ers to comment on the FHWA and SHRP 2 planning and environmen- tal programs; all commended the activities under these programs as much needed by their constituencies. Although the FHWA program is responsive to stakeholder needs, the surface transportation environment and planning cooperative research program envisioned in TRB Special Report 268 (TRB 2002) would have given stakeholders a decision-making role in project funding, similar to their role in SHRP 2 and other transportation cooperative research pro- grams. With the STEP Program being administered by FHWA as a fed- eral program, decisions about resource allocation must of necessity be made by federal ofï¬cials. Even so, FHWAâs planning and environmen- tal staff make a considerable effort to gather stakeholder input before making decisions. 5. Awards Based on Competition and Merit Review FHWAâs Ofï¬ce of Planning, Environment, and Realty awards funding through various competitive means, including contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements. It also occasionally assigns projects to the Volpe
110 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses National Transportation Systems Center.5 As indicated by the list in Table 5-2, IDIQ contracts and task orders appear to be a popular means of funding contractors. In SHRP 2, 80 percent of funds are awarded through full and open competition with merit review. About 7 to 8 per- cent of FHWAâs planning and environmental funds are earmarked to two organizations, obviously without competition and merit review. 6. Performance Review and Evaluation The Ofï¬ce of Planning, Environment, and Realty utilizes performance review and evaluation at the staff level to review scoping, schedule, deliv- erables, and other aspects of contract performance. TWGs or other informal stakeholder groups (including federal as well as state partners) follow speciï¬c projects to review results related to several initiatives, including the Center for Environmental Excellence, activities related to climate change, travel model improvements, Eco-Logical grants, trafï¬c noise model development, transportation planning capacity building, binational border activities, and outdoor advertising control. Performance review and evaluation for SHRP 2 was discussed above in the section on infrastructure RD&T. Assessment Based on Additional Criteria Funding Levels Undoubtedly the most signiï¬cant issue facing RD&T in the planning and environmental area is funding. As noted earlier, FHWAâs overall plan- ning and environmental RD&T resources declined by at least 13 percent between TEA-21 and SAFETEA-LU. FHWA lost all the resources it had previously used to engage with stakeholders; offer technical assistance; provide its own program support; and develop the planning capacity of state, MPO, and local staffs to meet federal planning and environmen- tal requirements. This loss required FHWA to orient the STEP Program to serve these purposes, which greatly reduced the amount of applied and advanced research that would be possible with STEP Program funding. 5 The Volpe Center, administered by USDOTâs RITA, is a federal fee-for-service organization.
Assessment of Authorized Programs 111 The SHRP 2 Capacity Program was designed for a budget of $80 mil- lion but received only $18 million under SAFETEA-LU. The original vision for the planning and environmental topics incorporated into SHRP 2 simply could not be achieved with the level of funding available, even after the modest increases made possible by the 2008 Technical Corrections legislation. As a result, the Oversight Committee for the pro- gram had to drastically scale back the effort as originally planned and redesign a coherent program. Although the outputs of the newly designed program should be useful, they fall far short of the vision articulated by stakeholders. Stakeholder Governance As noted, a result of the reduced funding under SAFETEA-LU was FHWAâs need to rely on the STEP Program to fund information sharing and technical assistance in addition to research. FHWA has focused its funding on activities requested by stakeholders. Even so, the committee that recommended the research agenda for a surface transportation envi- ronment and planning cooperative research program wanted the pro- gramâs governance to be modeled on that of other cooperative research programs, wherein stakeholders determine priorities and allocate funding (TRB 2002). The committee believed that the cooperative research process of having stakeholders collectively set priorities, monitor research projects, and evaluate research outputs would itself be important in addressing and resolving some of the fundamental disagreements that exist among various stakeholder groups concerned about highway planning and environmental issues. Diffuse Program FHWA is attempting to address an expanding and complex set of issues, such as the health effects of air pollutants, the role of highway trans- portation in climate change, and security, even as its resources in this area have diminished. The pressure to address a wide variety of topics (55 projects for FY 2008) for a diverse set of stakeholders with declining resources has resulted in a fairly large number of activities, including sev- eral projects funded relatively modestly at less than $100,000 each. Whether such small projects can have a signiï¬cant impact is doubtful.
112 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses Data and Research Gaps Federal law requires MPOs to develop transportation plans to accom- modate mobility needs for persons and goods within their regions. Many of the guidebooks and manuals and the technical assistance provided through the programs described above relate to meeting federal require- ments. MPOs discharge these planning requirements by forecasting future personal and freight demand with complex computer models. A recent report documents notable shortcomings of these models for con- ducting the kinds of analysis needed by state and local ofï¬cials (TRB 2007). Addressing the technical issues identiï¬ed in that report through research, development, and deployment of improved models would require more resources than are currently available to FHWA. The report also points to critical data gaps that impede current forecasting. In SAFETEA-LU, Congress reduced funding for the Bureau of Trans- portation Statistics (BTS). One consequence of this cutback was that BTS dropped funding for the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS). This national survey, conducted every few years, provides basic infor- mation about individual and household travel behavior. Moreover, when the NHTS is conducted, many states pay to supplement their sam- ple to collect data needed for federal planning purposes (TRB 2003). The models described above, as well as needed improvements to these mod- els, can be only as good as their input data allow. Because BTS is unable to fund the NHTS, FHWA is a logical alternative to carry on this impor- tant effort (FHWA funded the survey before BTS was created), and in 2008 FHWA reassumed this responsibility. FHWA, however, is con- strained by budgetary restrictions under the current authorization. For FHWA to discharge this responsibility in the future, it will need the authorization and appropriation to do so. One of the key threats to the NHTS and other efforts to understand how people travel is the increasing problem of gathering representative information through telephone surveys (TRB 2003). With more and more people choosing not to respond to surveys or relying solely on cell phones rather than land lines, survey response rates have been steadily declining. An important research effort would be to develop cost-effective systems for gathering information from a sample of willing partici- pants (TRB 2003). Some pilot efforts to this end have involved outï¬tting
Assessment of Authorized Programs 113 vehicles to take advantage of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and having people carry small GPS data recorders with them, but much greater effort is needed to develop cost-effective methods for gathering statistically reliable data. Improved insight into travel behavior is critical for local-level plan- ning. Regional travel modelers in the past completely missed large-scale demographic trends because of a lack of research on nonwork trips, automobile ownership, and the labor force participation of females. As a result, many past model forecasts and long-range capacity expan- sion plans greatly underestimated current peak-period travel demand. Assumptions about travel demand are critical inputs to regional travel models. Once used primarily to help local governments determine the size and location of new highway and transit facilities, these models are now being used to help understand how travel demand and patterns might change in response to congestion and new policies to address it, such as high-occupancy toll lanes and other road and parking pricing strategies. The models are poorly designed for answering such questions, however. Also lacking is adequate information on how travelers respond to such policies that could be used in calibrating the models (TRB 2007). The conduct of research in this area is an essential complement to ongo- ing and planned improvements to the models themselves. These models are also used to conduct analyses necessary to forecast over 20 years whether proposed transportation capital plans are consis- tent with state implementation plans for meeting mandates of the Clean Air Act Amendments. Aside from the question of whether forecasts 20 years into the future can be made with the level of precision required, improved models and data are needed to make such exercises more cred- ible. In Special Report 288: Metropolitan Travel Forecasting: Current Prac- tice and Future Direction (TRB 2007), a program of research to advance both models and practice is recommended. The level of funding needed to make these improvements would exceed current FHWA resources. The main source of data on national freight movement is the Com- modity Flow Survey (CFS), which is funded by BTS and administered by the Census Bureau. This survey has been hampered in the past by inad- equate planning and funding for a large enough sample to allow for plan- ning at the state and MPO levels (TRB 2003). Users are particularly
114 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses concerned about having more timely data (the data are often released 2 or more years after completion of the survey). Both the NHTS and CFS are critical data sources for planning and research. Other data sources in the freight area have declined over time in ways that hamper analysis and planning for freight demand. The Form M Pro- gram was formerly a mandatory annual survey of motor carriers that generated (among many other things) ï¬nancial and operating statistics that were used by industry and government for benchmarking, research, and planning. For a number of reasons, funding for this program was eliminated; it is now an unenforced regulation. The trucking industry has developed an alternative Form M Program that should be able to replicate adequately the ï¬nancial and operating data. The Vehicle Infor- mation and Use Survey (VIUS) is another program, formerly conducted by the Census Bureau, that is no longer being funded. Arguably, it was even more important for freight analysis and planning than Form M. It provided relatively detailed data on truck ï¬eet sizes, truck operations, and vehicle conï¬gurationsâall stratiï¬ed by state-level and geographic regions. FHWA recently issued an IDIQ task order to inquire about how 2007 VIUS data might be replicated by using predictive formulas, but such replication would be a poor substitute for the survey data. SAFETY RD&T Assessment Based on SAFETEA-LU Principles The safety RD&T activities funded under Title V conform to the SAFETEA-LU principles, with the exception of four major earmarks. 1. Full Innovation Cycle The majority of FHWAâs safety programs provide software tools, man- uals, technical briefs, and other guidance for practitioners. This work, therefore, particularly the software tools, manuals, and guides, are highly supportive of the implementation end of the innovation cycle. An exam- ple is FHWAâs role in researching and aiding in the implementation of modern roundabouts, which reduce intersection crashes. Because of its large-scale naturalistic driving experiment, SHRP 2 is funding fundamen- tal research at the advanced end of the research continuum. Collectively,
Assessment of Authorized Programs 115 these activities span the full innovation cycle. SHRP 2 includes agenda setting with stakeholders and the conduct of advanced safety research. The FHWA program includes applied research and development, demon- stration programs, implementation, evaluation, and the development of guidance documents to assist in the implementation of safer approaches to intersection design. 2. Justiï¬cation for Federal Investment Highway safety has long been recognized as a public-sector responsibil- ity. The research funded through Title V is clearly a national priority because of the large number of people killed and injured on the highway system each year. Because roads are owned and operated almost exclu- sively by the public sector, very little private infrastructure safety R&D is being conducted. 3. Content FHWAâs safety activities ï¬ll critical gaps and are highly applied. The ITS safety research on the Cooperative Intersection Collision Avoidance Sys- tem includes elements of fundamental research in evaluating safety ben- eï¬ts and user acceptance of such technologies, along with traditional elements of technology development and deployment.6 Much of the SHRP 2 safety research is advanced in nature, even though the bulk of the cost is for data collection. The SHRP 2 research may signiï¬cantly improve understanding of the causes of driver error and lead to improved countermeasures. 4. Stakeholder Input FHWAâs safety research is closely coordinated with other major stake- holders in highway safety, including other federal agencies with a safety mission, such as NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Adminis- tration; associations representing the states, counties, police chiefs, and motor vehicle administrators; companies providing signs and markings; 6 This research is funded through the ITS Program, housed in RITA since 2007, but portions of the work are conducted at TFHRC, and development and deployment of such technologies is an element of FHWAâs safety program.
116 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses governorsâ highway safety representatives; and others. Each safety program develops a detailed strategic plan in collaboration with stakeholders.7 Coordination with local ofï¬cials responsible for the rural roads where most fatalities occur is difï¬cult because there are so many individual engineers to reach, and they are highly decentralized. Even where FHWA has good ties with stakeholders, greater involvement is desired. For example, a state DOT stakeholder presenting to RTCC urged FHWA to do even more to involve and inform state DOT safety engineers with regard to the priorities and results of FHWAâs safety research and out- reach programs. FHWA is also managing and helping to fund research initiatives funded in part by state DOTs and is involved with AASHTO in the devel- opment and implementation of the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan. As a further example of responsiveness to stakeholder input, research and the development of design guidance on nontraditional intersections resulted from strong state and local interest in these alternative designs. In addition, individuals from stakeholder groups are involved in tech- nical working groups, expert panels, and focus groups; serve as partici- pants in conferences to set agendas for safety research; and are active in demonstration programs conducted with various states. FHWAâs safety staff is also heavily engaged in the safety activities of TRBâs standing technical committees, which serve to bring together practitioners and researchers. As discussed earlier, SHRP 2 is stakeholder driven. Volunteers repre- senting multiple stakeholder groups set the direction and provide over- sight for the safety program, provide merit review in the selection of research contractors, and conduct the peer review of completed research. 7 The following are examples of stakeholder involvement: â¢ The Roadway Departure Teamâs active involvement with the AASHTO Technical Committee on Roadside Design and related TRB committees; â¢ The Intersection Teamâs support for the National Agenda for Intersection Safety, based on a 2001 workshop, with plans to hold a workshop to update the agenda; â¢ The Pedestrian Teamâs active engagement with state pedâbike coordinators and various pedâbike advocacy groups and its close work with NHTSA; â¢ The Speed Teamâs sponsorship of the National Speed Forum; and â¢ The Professional Capacity Building Teamâs sponsorship of a 2002 Highway Safety Workforce Planning Workshop and its active coordination with the Institute of Transportation Engineers, TRB, and AASHTO on a variety of related activities.
Assessment of Authorized Programs 117 5. Awards Based on Competition and Merit Review About 20 percent of funding for FHWAâs safety programs, averaging roughly $3 million annually, is earmarked to four activities: the Center for Transportation Safety (Virginia Tech), the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (University of Minnesota), the Motorcycle Crash Causation Study (Oklahoma Transportation Center), and the Transportation Injury Research Program (Calspan University of Buffalo Research Center). While the activities funded by these earmarked institutions are laudable, the earmark for the latter program would appear to be more appropriate for NHTSAâs budget than FHWAâs. A portion of FHWAâs research funding is provided through IDIQ contracts, which are awarded through full and open competition, with subsequent tasks being competed among contract holders. As noted ear- lier, there is concern about whether research projects should be com- peted in this fashion. Some of the IDIQ-funded work, however, is awarded to support the operation, equipment, and stafï¬ng of the labo- ratories at TFHRC that play an important role in FHWAâs safety RD&T. The Geometric Design Laboratory, for example, is heavily involved in the development and testing of the Interactive Highway Safety Design Model. As discussed earlier, all of the SHRP 2 research funds are awarded in full and open competition. Both FHWA and SHRP 2 safety programs engage stakeholders in merit review of proposals. 6. Performance Review and Evaluation FHWA employs various forms of program review, ranging from the nor- mal managerial evaluation of contractor performance to the engagement of stakeholders in the review of completed projects. In the Evaluation of Low-Cost Safety Improvements Pooled-Fund Study, for example, stake- holders will be involved in peer review of the research results. Likewise, in the development of Safety Analyst, a software tool being funded in part by the states through a pooled funding arrangement, stakeholders and experts will take part in evaluating interim and ï¬nal versions of the software. Stakeholders representing state DOTs, local agencies, and uni- versities peer review the products resulting from FHWAâs evaluation of nontraditional intersections and interchanges. Performance review and evaluation for SHRP 2 was discussed above in the section on infrastructure RD&T.
118 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses Assessment Based on Additional Criteria The main area of concern for Title V safety RD&T is funding. Under SAFETEA-LU, FHWAâs safety programs are receiving about 30 percent less funding, in current dollars, than was received under the previous authorization, in part because of the constraints on Title V funds. Valu- able research and evaluation projects endorsed by stakeholders simply can- not be funded. SHRP 2 has been similarly affected. Congress authorized about $50 million annually for the total SHRP 2 effortâconsiderably less than the $75 million called for in the program plan and endorsed by AASHTO. Moreover, actual SHRP 2 funding is even less than $50 mil- lion annually because of obligation limits and funding constraints. The safety research program was to be funded at $180 million over the life of SAFETEA-LU, but will instead receive $43 million. These levels of investment are small compared with the annual cost of the highway trafï¬c safety problem, which is estimated to exceed $230 billion (Blincoe et al. 2002). POLICY RESEARCH Assessment Based on SAFETEA-LU Principles 1. Full Innovation Cycle Unlike the research and technology transfer activities of other program areas, which often lead to the introduction of new technologies and products, policy research helps inform decisions about investment lev- els, taxes, and regulations. The work conducted in the policy area spans the range of data collection, applied research, and implementation. 2. Justiï¬cation for Federal Investment The databases, models, and reports produced through funding in this area are clearly on topics of national signiï¬cance. Moreover, without FHWAâs national-level policy research, there would be few or no other sources of such information. 3. Content The content of the policy research program easily falls within the cate- gory of policy or planning. There are major gaps that could be ï¬lled if
Assessment of Authorized Programs 119 FHWA had more resources to devote to this program. For example, one of the major policy issues facing the highway program and the next Con- gress is the future revenue stream expected from the fuel tax, which is the primary funding source for state and federal highway trust funds (TRB 2006). Critical to projecting future revenues are estimates of future vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and how these estimates will be affected by prices, economic activity, growing congestion, and demographic changes (the aging population, immigration). As the nation considers alternatives to fuel taxes for providing the majority of funding for high- way and transit programs, there is a great need for large-scale demon- strations to test new concepts, such as charging fees based on VMT (TRB 2006). Critical policy questions must be addressed as to whether the technology envisioned for such systems will work and protect privacy. Demonstrations are needed so policy makers and the public will know whether they can rely on such novel programs. Important questions in other areasâsuch as how increased congestion will affect travel demand, whether aging baby boomers will show different travel behavior than earlier cohorts of senior citizens, and how changing household compo- sition will inï¬uence total travel demandâare simply not being ade- quately examined (Polzin 2006). Also important is understanding how sensitive freight carriers are to fuel price increases and tolling and a potential shift of freight between trucks and rail. Almost no public research on these topics is being funded or conducted, and this repre- sents a major knowledge gap on topics vital to policy makers. Other important policy questions are being inadequately examined through research. As important as commercial motor vehicle trans- portation is to the nationâs economy and to the design and operation of highways, for example, there are signiï¬cant gaps in understanding of the nature and extent of commercial trucking, including the sizes and weights of trucks and the roads on which they travel, as well as where bottlenecks occur in intermodal transfers. Likewise, in the context of growing interest in tolling, it is important to know how truckers would respond to more widespread tolls on Interstates. Would they, for exam- ple, divert to roads that are less safe, thereby increasing crash rates? The work of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission was hampered by a lack of understanding of these
120 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses and other key policy questions. Examples of such questions are how important megaregions are to future economic development and high- way demand, whether and how to divide federal revenues between states and regions for maximum public beneï¬t, what the potential is for inter- city passenger rail to compete with congested intercity highways, and whether there is adequate redundancy in the freight and passenger sys- tems to respond to natural and man-made disasters. 4. Stakeholder Input The primary constituencies for FHWAâs policy research are policy mak- ers in the administration and Congress. States are also vitally interested in national highway policy. Presumably, FHWA receives direct feedback on the efï¬cacy of its work from its primary customersâthe administra- tion and Congress. The Ofï¬ce of Policy and Governmental Affairs has been responsive to stakeholders. In 2000, for example, FHWA adjusted the models it developed for national estimates of cost allocation to make them useful to the states. In 2007, after BTS reported that it could not support the NHTS, stakeholders appealed directly to the Secretary of Transportation, and, as noted above, FHWA volunteered to undertake the management of and collection of revenues for this important national survey. 5. Awards Based on Competition and Merit Review Without funding during this authorization cycle, there has been little contract activity on which to comment. 6. Performance Review and Evaluation The primary reports of the Ofï¬ce of Policy and Governmental Affairs receive considerable scrutiny by FHWA, USDOT, and the Ofï¬ce of Man- agement and Budget before being submitted to Congress, where they receive similar scrutiny. Assessment Based on Additional Criteria As indicated above, policy research was virtually eliminated in FY 2006 and 2007 as a result of SAFETEA-LU, with funding in the area declining from approximately $9.5 million annually to only $225,000. Restoring
Assessment of Authorized Programs 121 the prior levels of funding would be adequate to revive FHWAâs pro- grammatic activities in this area but would still fall far short of the level needed to fund the research needed to ï¬ll the gaps identiï¬ed above. UNIVERSITY TRANSPORTATION CENTERS PROGRAM Assessment Based on SAFETEA-LU Principles Universities are valuable assets that should be relied on for highway research. The UTC Program as currently designed, however, does not make the best use of the assets universities have to conduct research, par- ticularly advanced research. 1. Full Innovation Cycle UTC funding covers the full innovation cycle, from advanced research through training and technology transfer. Technology transfer to local governments occurs at 13 UTCs that house a Local Technical Assis- tance Program center, but all UTCs are required to include technology transfer in their program plans. The strength of most universities is in basic and fundamental research; however, the current matching require- ment of the UTC Program drives UTCs toward applied research. As noted earlier, when state DOTs provide the match, as is often the case, they typically are most interested in highly applied, problem-solving research. 2. Justiï¬cation for Federal Investment Federal investment in the UTC Program is justiï¬ed by the national sig- niï¬cance of innovation, while the programâs educational mission reï¬ects federal interest in developing a future nationwide skilled transportation workforce. It is difï¬cult to know how well the output of the UTC Pro- gram is meeting market demand for these workers. Rates at which UTC graduates are placed in transportation agencies or ï¬rms that work for such agencies would be one indicator, but it is one the UTCs are not required to collect and report. Justifying a federal investment in some other elements of the UTC Program is more difï¬cult. As noted, the applied research to which the match requirement drives UTCs is already supported through State
122 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses Planning and Research (SP&R) funds and most FHWA-funded pro- grams, though arguably at lesser amounts than could be justiï¬ed. More- over, although the UTC Program probably does not fund a great deal of duplicative research, it is supporting research in similar areas and of a similar nature to that being funded by FHWA and state programs in an uncoordinated fashion. The large number of UTCs funded under SAFETEA-LU also raises questions about whether so many programs are needed; this is especially true for institutions earmarked in TEA-21 and SAFETEA-LU that did not previously house transportation education and research activities. A fragmented approach to research, character- ized by uncoordinated research across myriad topics and universities, arguably is not the âbest means to support federal policy goalsââone of the criteria for justifying federal investment. 3. Content A review of UTC research under way in FY 2008 reveals that UTCs are engaged in research on a wide variety of technical and policy topics, but the research is almost exclusively applied in nature. The lack of advanced or basic highway research within the university community suggests a signiï¬cant ï¬aw in the program. UTC research probably does ï¬ll gaps in applied research. About 30 percent of research projects in the UTC Pro- gram are identiï¬ed by the source UTC as addressing policy or planning topics.8 Because of cutbacks elsewhere, the UTC Program is the only source of policy research under SAFETEA-LU, but only about 5 percent of UTC research addresses policy topics. 4. Stakeholder Input Stakeholder input in the UTC Program is addressed for some stake- holders through the programâs matching requirements. RITA also requires UTCs to engage stakeholders and peers through merit review of their pro- posed research and through advisory boards for the centers. Centers have a variety of processes for engaging stakeholders, but those processes must be approved by RITA as part of program plans. 8 The category of policy research encompasses legal topics.
Assessment of Authorized Programs 123 5. Awards Based on Competition and Merit Review Most UTCs (62 percent) and most funds for UTCs (58 percent) are ear- marked with no competition and merit review.9 As noted, all UTCs must award funds they receive through a merit review process, but competition for these funds is not required. There is competition and merit review in part (38 percent) of the overall program. The 10 regional centers are awarded competitively (4-year awards made in August 2006), while the 10 Tier I UTCs are competed every fourth year (the Tier I centers recom- peted for FY 2007â2009 awards, which were announced in October 2006). The 10 national centers and 22 Tier II centers are not required to compete. 6. Performance Review and Evaluation The Government Performance and Results Act requires all federal pro- grams to establish quantiï¬able performance measures by which the pro- gramsâ effectiveness in achieving desired outcomes can be evaluated. UTCs are required to report annually on the number, types, and cost of research projects funded through the program; the number and types of courses offered; the number and types of students enrolled; and the number of transportation seminars, symposia, distance learning classes, and the like conducted for transportation professionals. Centers are also required to have their research activities peer reviewed. The results of such reviews, however, are not shared beyond the center, so the judg- ment of peers about the quality of a centerâs research is not part of the public record. This makes it difï¬cult to judge the quality and value of the research produced through UTC funding without examining a sample of the completed research. One measure that would help in this regard would be publication in peer-reviewed journals, but this is not a metric the UTCs are required to collect. Assessment Based on Additional Criteria One of the structural weaknesses of the UTC Program is the lack of opportunity USDOTâs mission agencies have to inï¬uence the centersâ 9 There are several universities and research institutes earmarked in sections of SAFETEA-LU in addition to those earmarked in the UTC Program. The total percentage of UTCs in Titles III and V receiving earmarked funding in this authorization is 67 percent.
124 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses Scientiï¬c Earmarks The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the worldâs largest general scientiï¬c society, has been in the forefront of the debates about the harmful effects of ear- marking on science. AAAS has long supported the awarding of research funds on the basis of merit review by peers. AAAS Resolution: Reafï¬rmation of Commitment to Scientiï¬c Peer Review âWhereas the partnership between the government and the com- munity of scientists is essential to the advancement of science, and âWhereas without broadly based, consistent, critical, and profes- sional evaluation of proposed expenditures for scientiï¬c work, there is a growing danger that the quality of research and educa- tion in science will be jeopardized, âBe it resolved that the Council of the AAAS reafï¬rm its com- mitment to the principle and practice of scientiï¬c peer review as indispensable to the allocation of public funds for the scientiï¬c enterprise.â [Adopted by the AAAS Council, May 30, 1985.] SOURCE: archives.aaas.org/docs/resolutions.php?doc_id=372. Accessed Sept. 3, 2008. research activities. Clearly there is a beneï¬t to giving universities inde- pendence in the selection of research topics, but the UTC Program does not work this way in practice. Because of the 50-50 match, the entities providing the match have the greatest inï¬uence in setting a UTCâs research agenda. SAFETEA-LU itself prohibits using most federal funds for matching purposes; hence FHWA and other administrations have little leverage over the topics pursued.
Assessment of Authorized Programs 125 Funding based on the multitiered structure of the program also appears to lack a rationale. Funding for the regional centers was under- standably increased in SAFETEA-LU after having been ï¬xed at $1 million per center since 1987. But there is no apparent research or educational justiï¬cation for providing the national centers $3.5 million annually or the Tier II centers $500,000. As discussed above, the state DOTs are a primary source of matching funds for UTC research. The states have varied perspectives on the UTC Program. Some states, such as California, are pleased with the program. Other states, particularly smaller ones with limited SP&R funding, do not wish to have most of their SP&R funding devoted to matching funds for UTCs that are not necessarily focused on serving the state DOTâs interests. A roughly equal proportion of state research directors rate the program positively (48 percent) rather than negatively (44 percent), but this is the only highway research program that more research directors (44 percent) believe to be overfunded rather than underfunded (7 per- cent) (CTC and Associates 2007). SUMMARY Overall Assessment Based on SAFETEA-LU Principles FHWA manages several highway RD&T programs and funds SHRP 2, which is managed by TRB. RITA manages two research and technology (R&T) programsâthe UTC and ITS Programsâthat have signiï¬cant highway research components. FHWAâs Corporate Master Plan for Research and Technology commits the agency to adhering to the princi- ples for RD&T called for by Congress. Full Innovation Cycle As required in SAFETEA-LU, the above programs collectively cover the full innovation cycle, from agenda setting through deployment and eval- uation. While most FHWA programs include deployment activities, however, it is questionable whether the scale of these activities is ade- quate to meet the need and whether FHWA is appropriately organized to carry out an effective effort in this area.
126 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses Justiï¬cation for Federal Investment The R&T activities discussed in this chapter are justiï¬ed either by the national signiï¬cance of the topics addressed; a lack of private investment in the area; or the importance of facilitating efï¬cient use of federal aid by states, counties, cities, and municipalities. Content The program content comprises largely either applied research or deployment and technology transfer. The bulk of FHWAâs activities are in areas that fill gaps in state programs. RTCC would prefer that a larger proportion of FHWAâs RD&T funds be invested in advanced research, which is most suited to the federal role. Too much of the funding under the UTC Program is invested in the same applied research and deployment activities supported by other programs. This applied R&T bias in the UTC Program is driven by the dollar-for-dollar matching requirement. The content principle calls for advanced, applied, and policy or planning research. The committee believes that far too little funding is invested in the latter research, at both the national and program levels. Many significant policy debates are underinformed on such important issues as the total level of demand for highway transportation and how it might change with sustained high fuel prices and the large-scale pop- ulation and demographic shifts now under way. At the program level, such questions as how to optimize expenditures on capital assets are not being examined at a level commensurate with their importance to state and local policy makers. There are also significant data gaps involving passenger travel behavior, freight demand, and other impor- tant issues. Stakeholder Involvement In recent years, FHWA has adjusted its R&T programs to involve stake- holders increasingly in agenda setting, merit review, and product evalu- ation. A complete lack of discretion over its budget, however, provides FHWA limited opportunities to expand these activities more completely and systematically. The lack of discretion is a result of the constraints on Title V funds. SHRP 2 programs are models of stakeholder involvement,
Assessment of Authorized Programs 127 as stakeholders make decisions about topics to be investigated, prepare RFPs, provide merit review, decide which projects will be approved, and perform peer review of projects and their products. RTCC endorses RITAâs emphasis on the UTCsâ creating advisory committees for improved stakeholder involvement and applauds FHWAâs efforts to foster stake- holder involvement in significant earmarked activities at universities outside of the UTC Program. Competition and Merit Review Most FHWA programs distribute funds through competitive processes, but some funding is retained for intramural research and support for FHWA laboratories. Signiï¬cant portions of FHWAâs programs (18 to 38 percent10) and RITAâs Title V UTC Program (62 percent) are ear- marked, thus failing the test for competition and merit review. RTCC would prefer to see less reliance on IDIQ contracts for FHWA research projects, as the awarding of individual tasks limits opportunities for competition. Performance Review and Evaluation FHWA has systematic processes for internal and staff-level evaluation of its R&T programs. Stakeholders are involved in review of the output of many R&T initiatives. More systematic use of external stakeholders in peer review would be desirable but is infeasible on a broad scale given the lack of dedicated resources for the purpose. SHRP 2 projects and prod- ucts are evaluated by stakeholders and peers, and the entire program will be evaluated by GAO. The UTC Program requires peer review of UTCs, but the results of these reviews are not made public, so there is no ready means of evaluating the quality of these individual programs. Informa- tion on the publication of UTC research in peer-reviewed journals would be a useful indicator of the quality of UTC research. 10 The percentage of FHWAâs share of the Surface Transportation Research, Development, and Deployment (STRDD) component of Title V and SHRP 2 funding that is earmarked depends on how one classiï¬es SHRP 2 funding. If it is classiï¬ed as an earmark, which RTCC does not con- sider it to be, then 38 percent of FHWAâs share of STRDD is earmarked; if it is not, then 18 per- cent of FHWAâs share is earmarked.
128 The Federal Investment in Highway Research 2006â2009: Strengths and Weaknesses Program-Speciï¬c Findings FHWAâs new Exploratory Advanced Research Program is a very impor- tant initiative. The committee has long advocated for an effective program of this sort. The earmark of approximately $7.6 million annually for asphalt research that is advanced, however, eliminates the important quality control mechanism of competition and merit review that has been the hallmark of advances in American science and engineering over the past century. Also, the area of research earmarked is not as impor- tant as those addressed by other, underfunded programs. In principle, the universities funded through the UTC Program should be conduct- ing much more advanced research; however, the dollar-for-dollar match diverts UTC research from its originally intended purpose. As noted, most matching funds are provided by state DOTs, which are interested in highly applied and developmental research. Elimination of the match requirement would end this distortion of purpose and allow UTCs to focus more of their research on the knowledge development that is the universitiesâ greatest strength. FHWAâs infrastructure program covers many core topics of deep interest to state DOTs and adheres to the principles of SAFETEA-LU. Individual components of the program, however, such as the long-term pavement and bridge research efforts, cannot realize their potential because of cutbacks necessitated by the constraints on Title V funding. FHWA operations and safety programs embody the SAFETEA-LU principles. However, both programs were subjected to substantial cuts in SAFETEA-LU (operations by 50 percent and safety by 27 percent) and appear to be underfunded relative to national needs. FHWAâs planning and environmental program was reduced by at least 13 percent between TEA-21 and SAFETEA-LU. The only substantial R&T activity remaining under this program is the STEP Program. FHWA makes considerable effort to reach out to stakeholders of the STEP Pro- gram but also must rely on it for program support and technical assistance, thereby limiting its use for addressing complex and contentious environ- mental and planning issues through research and evaluation. If funding for program support and technical assistance could be restored, the STEP Program could work more as was originally envisioned by stakeholders.
Assessment of Authorized Programs 129 Beyond restoring the lost RD&T funds for planning, new initiatives are required. Given the legal and regulatory requirements imposed on regional planning agencies and their travel forecasting models, the fed- eral government could do much more to improve travel forecasting models and modeling practice. The research, development, and deploy- ment proposals set forth in Metropolitan Travel Forecasting: Current Practice and Future Direction (TRB 2007) provide sound guidance for such an effort. Many important transportation policy questions are going uninves- tigated because of a lack of funding for this purpose, forcing infrastruc- ture owners to make decisions without the necessary information. The lack of policy-relevant research has signiï¬cantly hampered the work of the two commissions created by Congress in SAFETEA-LU to advise it on, among other things, the future viability of motor fuel taxes for fund- ing highway and transit infrastructure. For example, gaps in knowledge about how sensitive travelers are to rising fuel prices and increased con- gestion, or how freight trafï¬c might switch modes for these same rea- sons, undermine conï¬dence in projections of future revenue streams for the Highway Trust Fundâone of the key policy concerns in reautho- rization of the highway program in 2009. About 62 percent of Title V UTC funding is earmarked, causing this program to fail to meet the requirement for competition and merit review, and funding is dispersed across too many institutions. Universi- ties are a key resource for highway research and education, but the 50-50 matching requirement hinders them from conducting the advanced research that is the strength of universities and is needed by the highway sector. The diffuse and uncoordinated research conducted through the UTC Program highlights the need for a communitywide consensus on research priorities at a level of speciï¬city that could guide research. With such a prioritized agenda, it might be possible to steer UTCs more toward national priorities. Finally, SHRP 2 is a model in conforming to the SAFETEA-LU prin- ciples and promises signiï¬cant contributions. However, the strategic nature of the program is compromised by the loss of 64 percent of its anticipated funding and 2 years of its originally planned duration.
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