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500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 Phone 202.334.2934 www.TRB.org 1 March 28, 2017 Walter C. Waidelich Federal Highway Administration U.S. Department of Transportation 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE Washington, DC 20590 Dear Mr. Waidelich: The Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC) met with staff of the Federal Highway Administrationâs (FHWAâs) Office of Research, Development, and Technology on December 13 and 14, 2016. The committee roster, which indicates the members in attendance, is included in Attachment 1. RTCCâs charge is to monitor and review FHWAâs research and technology (R&T) activities and advise FHWA on (a) the setting of a research agenda and coordination of highway research with states, universities, and other partners; (b) strategies for accelerating the deployment and adoption of innovation; and (c) areas in which research may be needed. For this meeting the RTCC asked that FHWA focus on the new demonstration programs included in the Fixing Americaâs Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) and describe how the agency is organizing to carry out both the demonstration programs and the deployment of R&T in general. Thus, the main focus of this letter report is on Item (b) of the committeeâs charge. The committee developed the content of this report through deliberations and subsequent correspondence. The report was then subject to the National Academiesâ peer-review process. The first section of the report summarizes presentations by FHWA and guest speakers and subsequent committee discussions on the deployment of innovation. The second summarizes the presentations and discussion concerning planning and budgeting for R&T and FHWAâs ongoing evaluation of its R&T program. The final section includes the committeeâs findings and recommendations. The meeting covered more topics than are summarized here; we have focused this report on the topics of discussion that led to committee findings and recommendations. FHWA staff, presenters, and guest speakers are shown in Attachment 2. The valuable presentations and subsequent discussions informed the development of this report. INNOVATION DEPLOYMENT The shortage of funding for maintaining and expanding the vast highway network requires that more be done with less. The FAST Act makes a major commitment to the deployment phase of the innovation process to help bridge the gap between needs and resources. The meeting began with discussion of FHWAâs efforts to establish a national culture of innovation through changes within the agency and the states.
2 Creating a Culture of Innovation Presentation As explained in a presentation by Rob Ritter, the role of the newly reorganized Office of Innovative Program Delivery (OIPD)âled by FHWAâs first chief innovation officer, Tony Furstâis to improve transportation performance by driving innovation into action through partnerships, technology deployment, and capacity building. The program offices are to serve as interfaces between researchers and the field to identify appropriate and promising new concepts and approaches, foster their adoption, and evaluate the results (Figure 1). Innovations are developed through research (left-hand box of Figure 1), further formulated through program offices and OIPD (center box), and deployed as innovations into the field (right-hand box). The innovations are assessed and ultimately generate new research topics, and the process repeats. FIGURE 1 Innovation cycle and role of FHWA Offices. (AID = Accelerated Innovation Deployment.) OIPD has been reorganized into four centers: the Center for Local Aid Support, the Center for Innovative Finance, the Center for Accelerating Innovation, and the Center for
3 Transportation Workforce Development. The centers address innovation deployment through three vehicles: partnerships, technology deployment, and capacity building. OIPD accomplishes its mission by offering support and funding. â¢ The Center for Local Aid Support manages the technical assistance and technology transfer programs for local agencies, tribes, and federal land management agencies. â¢ The Center for Innovative Finance conducts research and provides tools, training, and technical assistance to help the transportation community review and implement innovative strategies to fund and deliver transportation improvements. â¢ The Center for Accelerating Innovation has three main programs: the Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative, State Transportation Innovation Councils (STICs),1 and the Accelerated Innovation Deployment Demonstration Program.2 â¢ The Center for Transportation Workforce Development provides leadership, coordination, and assistance in support of initiatives to develop and expand the nationâs transportation workforce. FHWAâs efforts to build a culture of innovation extend to its state partners. OIPD has established a memorandum of understanding with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to collaborate through the AASHTO Innovation Initiative (AII). AII helps in (a) deploying construction innovations, (b) fostering EDC conversations among AASHTO members, and (c) evaluating innovations for market readiness for deployment. Discussion During the discussion, participants pointed out that many of the materials used in the highway sector have long life cycles, which can extend to decades in the case of roadbeds and bridges. This makes the introduction of innovative materials challenging when their long-term durability is uncertain. Participants agreed that, at a minimum, the performance of new materials should be assessed over time. Another major challenge to innovation is workforce awareness of new materials and training in their application. Overall, the RTCC was pleased to see how FHWA is responding to the challenge in the FAST Act by (a) reorganizing an office and providing it with new leadership to emphasize the deployment phase of the innovation process and (b) promoting a stronger culture of innovation across FHWAâs program, division, and R&T offices, and in state DOTs as well. New Demonstration Programs Presentations Angela Jacobs, Office of Transportation Management, made presentation on two new FAST Act programs: the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment 1 STIC members include representatives from state departments of transportation (DOTs), contractors, consultants, and others. Their mission is to identify and deploy promising innovations. OIPD supports the STICs through annual grants of $100,000. 2 The Accelerated Innovation Deployment Demonstration Program provides funding as an incentive for eligible entities to accelerate the implementation and adoption of innovation in highway transportation.
4 (ATCMTD) Program and the Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives (STSFA) Program. The FAST Act authorizes the ATCMTD with $60 million annually, to be awarded competitively, for the development of model deployment sites for large-scale installation and operation of advanced transportation technologies. The act authorizes STSFA grants of $15 million in 2016 and $20 million through 2020 to encourage states to explore alternative user-fee- based revenue mechanisms to supplement or replace existing motor fuels and other taxes. Jacobs noted that FHWA intends to share lessons learned from these programs with the states and local agencies. Discussion During the discussion, participants noted that the states and local governments would benefit from thorough documentation of the experience with pilot projects funded through the new demonstration programs. Many demonstration programs have been authorized through the years, but the inconsistent evaluation of these efforts has limited the opportunity for the highway community to learn from them. The RTCC was pleased to learn about the evaluation efforts built into these programs. To the extent that experience with implementation can assist other jurisdictions, FHWA could share this information before the pilots are completed. With regard to the STSFA Program, FHWA indicated that opinion polls pertaining to novel user fees would be included as part of the evaluations. Conduct of polls before and after pilot testing would help gauge whether the pilots affected public acceptance of novel user fees, and extension of the polling to include elected officials would be useful in testing awareness and attitudes. For concepts like mileage-based user fees, the technology options are well understood, and previous pilots, such as Oregonâs, have demonstrated feasibility from a technical standpoint.3 However, lack of public acceptance is a major barrier to adoption. Even so, despite public opposition to a large-scale congestion charging pilot in Stockholm, Sweden, gradually changed to majority support with experience and awareness of the benefits, which speaks to the advantages of assessing support before and after the pilots.4 Evaluation of Deployment Presentation Carin Michel, the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) Implementation Manager, presented FHWAâs evaluation plan of its SHRP 2 deployment effort to learn how well the effort worked and the consequences of the innovations adopted by state and local governments. More than 100 SHRP 2 research projects were condensed into 63 products that included new technologies, processes, software, and testing procedures. More than 430 SHRP 2 projects were implemented nationwide in 100 agencies, including states, metropolitan planning organizations, and local agencies. FHWA will monitor and evaluate outputs and outcomes of 3 Sorenson, P., L. Ecola, and M. Wachs. 2009. Mileage-Based User Fees for Transportation Funding: A Primer for State and Local Decisionmakers. RAND. http://www.rand.org/pubs/tools/TL104.html. 4 Eliasson, J. 2014. The Stockholm Congestion Charges: An Overview. Centre for Transport Studies, Stockholm, Sweden. CTS Working Paper 2014:7. http://www.transportportal.se/swopec/CTS2014-7.pdf. For public opinion about road pricing in the United States, see National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP). 2008. Synthesis 377: Compilation of Public Opinion Data on Tolls and Road Pricing, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Washington, D.C.
5 these projects. FHWA is also conducting an evaluation of how effectively the SHRP 2 implementation program was operated. Discussion RTCC members expressed strong support for FHWAâs effort to learn from the experience of deploying SHRP 2 products and evaluating how well they are working in the field. FHWA deployment of SHRP 2 products was designed in response to the less well-organized efforts following the first SHRP. Understanding how the process has and has not worked will help FHWA improve its ongoing deployment efforts. Members also noted the merits of documenting the outcomes of the products introduced. Case examples of successes demonstrate the benefits of R&T, and understanding why some good concepts do not work as expected in the field can help in the development and deployment of future innovations. Leveraging Private Enterprise (Proprietary Products) Presentations As funding for public R&D diminishes, private-sector sources of innovation become more important. Throughout most of the U.S. economy, growth depends on innovation from the private sector. The public role in basic research that leads to private innovation is widely perceived as justified. Patents and trademarks protect innovations as intellectual property for a limited time and prevent inventorsâ ideas from being duplicated or stolen; the protection allows them to benefit from their investments in the competitive marketplace.5 As John Hillman, inventor of the Hillman Composite Bridge Beam, pointed out during the meeting, in the early days of building U.S. transportation networks, most bridges were based on patented or trademarked designs. In addition, reinforced concrete, which is extensively relied on in all sorts of structures, was introduced as a patented product. However, proprietary and patented products and processes (subsequently referred to as proprietary products) face considerable institutional barriers in the U.S. highway sector. In his presentation, Gerald Yakowenko, Team Leader, Contract Administration Group, FHWA, explained that federal regulation (23 CFR 635.411) requires competition in the selection of materials and processes for projects supported with federal aid. For some proprietary products, suitable substitutes may not exist, or substitutes may not provide the level of service provided by the proprietary product an agency wishes to use. These conditions can limit the opportunities for proprietary products. In response to previous advice from the RTCC6 and others, FHWA provided updated guidance in 2011 on the use of proprietary products on federal-aid projects.7 The guidance allows for use of proprietary products if â¢ The product is bid competitively with other suitable products; â¢ A state certifies that there is no suitable alternative or that the product is needed for synchronization with other products or processes already in place; 5 U.S. Department of Commerce. 2012. Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus. Washington, D.C. https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/ip-motion/intellectual-property-and-us-economy. 6 http://www.trb.org/main/blurbs/164173.aspx. 7 https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/contracts/111130.cfm.
6 â¢ An FHWA division office, or a state with federal stewardship approval, issues a public interest finding (PIF) that a specification for a proprietary product is permissible even if suitable alternatives are available; or â¢ The product is being tested in an experimental program on a limited basis and is to be evaluated. FHWA also promotes transparency by posting all certifications and PIFs on the FHWA website, on the AASHTO Product Evaluation List (APEL) website,8 or on a publicly accessible webpage of a state DOT. Barriers Yakowenko pointed out that FHWA and AASHTO are working within the constraints of federal law to encourage states to exploit available avenues to introduce and use promising proprietary products when possible. At each of the EDC-4 summits in 2016, for example, FHWA and the states have held a roundtable discussing barriers and options. Yakowenko summarized the barriers identified from these roundtables as follows: â¢ A perception that FHWA will not allow use of proprietary products, â¢ Statesâ own restrictions on propriety products, â¢ The risk-averse nature of public agencies, â¢ The materials assessment and evaluation process of the individual states, â¢ Insufficient performance data on durability and other attributes of materials, and â¢ The low-bid environment in highway contracting that discourages life-cycle approaches. Yakowenko noted that AASHTO is working to overcome state risk aversion by identifying and promoting promising innovations through the AII. The AII website promotes a number of products with succinct fact sheets and explanatory information about their benefits.9 In his presentation, John Hillman cited a white paper prepared by an American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) task force (of which he was a member), which finds that despite FHWAâs guidance, proprietary products face significant barriers.10 According to the ARTBA paper, the barriers include â¢ More extensive requirements for PIFs in some states than in others, â¢ Requirements by some FHWA division offices that PIFs be established for products being promoted by FHWA through EDC, and â¢ State unwillingness to petition FHWA division offices for PIFs because of the perceived staff time and associated cost. Yakowenko noted that FHWA has established a website where all the PIFs approved by division offices are posted. He also pointed out that the APEL website captures PIF and certification information from eight states, while another dozen or so states post information on their own 8 http://apel.transportation.org/Home/Index. 9 http://aii.transportation.org/Pages/default.aspx. 10 http://www.artba.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/ARTBA-Proprietary-Products-White-Paper.pdf.