National Academies Press: OpenBook

NCHRP 2018 Annual Report (2018)

Chapter: The States Highway Research Program: The Critical Role of State DOTs

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Suggested Citation:"The States Highway Research Program: The Critical Role of State DOTs." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. NCHRP 2018 Annual Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25346.
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Page 2
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Suggested Citation:"The States Highway Research Program: The Critical Role of State DOTs." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. NCHRP 2018 Annual Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25346.
×
Page 3
Page 4
Suggested Citation:"The States Highway Research Program: The Critical Role of State DOTs." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. NCHRP 2018 Annual Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25346.
×
Page 4
Page 5
Suggested Citation:"The States Highway Research Program: The Critical Role of State DOTs." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. NCHRP 2018 Annual Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25346.
×
Page 5

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2 Nat i on al Coo perat ive Highway Research Program THE STATES’ HIGHWAY RESEARCH PROGRAM The Critical Role of State DOTs The state DOTs created NCHRP in 1962 to find answers to common problems in highway planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance. The state DOTs, through AASHTO, are the sole sponsors of NCHRP. The program is operated in cooperation with FHWA and is administered by TRB, part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Fifty-six years after the program’s creation, state DOTs continue to be the driving force behind NCHRP research. The members of AASHTO—the DOTs of the 50 states and the District of Columbia—come together every year to fund, select, and oversee NCHRP research projects aimed at providing research-based solutions that address the states’ most critical challenges. States provide the funding for NCHRP Each year, state DOTs voluntarily commit to NCHRP research 5.5 percent of the State Planning and Research (SPR) portion of their Federal-Aid-Highway funds. FHWA requests and pools these state contributions and, under a cooperative agreement, makes them available for research contracts and for administration of the program by TRB. Available funds for NCHRP have remained strong during the past 21 years, rising along with increases in the Federal-Aid-Highway funds provided by Congress and the corresponding growth of SPR funds. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) resulted in a funding level of approximately $17 million for NCHRP for fiscal years 1992 through 1997. This was increased by more than 50 percent on average in fiscal years 1998 through 2003 by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which Congress extended, resulting in $35.4 million for FY 2004. The last two federal highway acts—the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) and the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21)—resulted in an average of $42 million being programmed for fiscal years 2014 through 2018. A slight increase was experienced as a result of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, signed into law on December 4, 2015. “For writing or evaluating performance-based specifications, I have borrowed some of the methods and findings from NCHRP Report 720: Estimating the Effects of Pavement Condition on Vehicle Operating Costs when estimating the road user cost impact of surface quality.” – James Selwyn Gillespie, Virginia DOT

3 2018 Annual Repor t States select NCHRP research projects A thorough process of consultation and review by subject matter experts from the state DOTs, AASHTO, FHWA, and TRB ensures that each proposed research project is vetted prior to being considered for funding. The process is led by AASHTO R&I, which provides oversight to NCHRP. R&I membership includes 16 state DOT members (four from each of the four AASHTO regions) plus ex officio members from FHWA and other federal agencies. In addition, the R&I chair must be the CEO of one of the state DOTs, and the vice-chair is the chair of the AASHTO Research Advisory Committee (RAC), composed of research directors from all AASHTO member departments. In July of every year, R&I invites the submission of research problem statements from three authorized sources: (1) AASHTO member transportation departments, (2) the chairs of AASHTO’s committees and councils, and (3) FHWA. Problem statements are due November 1 each year and should explain why the research represents an immediate need and is of interest to the majority of states. The proposed research should have a high probability of success and should not duplicate other research that is under way or completed. Submitters are asked to search the relevant literature in TRID and the Research in Progress (RiP) database to determine if similar efforts are already under way or if satisfactory answers are already available. In December, NCHRP prepares a report that contains proposed new problem statements and continuation projects. This report is sent to members of R&I and RAC to rate each of the candidates according to need, value, and appropriateness. The results are used to establish a preliminary ranking to help structure the discussion of candidates by R&I at its March meeting.

4 Nat i on al Coo perat ive Highway Research Program At its spring meeting, R&I allocates funds (based on expected funding for the next fiscal year) for new and continuation projects. Once the program is developed, R&I sends a report to the AASHTO Board of Directors (CEOs of each of the member departments) requesting final approval. A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the member departments for each proposed research project is required. In addition, each year’s program must be approved by FHWA and accepted by the National Academies. An average of 120 problem statements and 20 requests for continuation are received each year. Continuation projects include research carried out under NCHRP subprograms, such as the Synthesis series, the IDEA program, and the Domestic Scan Program, and projects from previous years that request additional funds. In recent years, R&I has funded approximately 100 new projects each year, and approximately half of these are tasks under NCHRP subprograms. A cumulative total of 1,842 research contracts have resulted from all NCHRP yearly programs through 2017. The FY 2019 program will add another 42 new contracts and 22 continuations. The annual number of new continuation projects since 2015 is shown in Exhibit 1. Funding for the FY 2019 program is expected in early 2019 permitting execution of contracts and initiation of research. R&I will formulate the FY 2020 program in April 2019 based on research problem statements that were submitted by November 1, 2018, the beginning of another cycle of NCHRP research. States help guide NCHRP research projects Each research project is assigned to a panel of subject experts who are knowledgeable in the project area and who will provide technical guidance and counsel throughout the research and reporting phases. A broad search is made for these individuals, and TRB usually receives about four to five times as many nominees as are needed. Panel members do not act as consultants or advisors to project investigators; they may not submit proposals for research. All members serve without compensation, and their total yearly contribution to the program adds up to thousands of staff-days. The panel members are drawn from all walks of professional life, with heavy dependence on practitioners from AASHTO member departments. See Exhibit 2. Exhibit 1. Number of Research Projects Selected by R&I, FY 2015 to FY 2019 Project FY 2015 FY 2016 FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 Continuation projects 12 16 16 22 11 New projects 46 45 37 42 47 Total projects 58 61 53 64 58 Total project funds $28,630,000 $30,840,000 $32,275,000 $35,317,000 $34,429,000

5 2018 Annual Repor t “NCHRP Report 715: Highway Safety Manual Training Materials was the basis for Highway Safety Manual training delivered across more than 20 states in the United States, is the basis for training in colleges (undergraduate and graduate level), and also served as a starting point for customized training for Washington State DOT.” – Ida van Schalkwyk Washington State DOT Panel members assume a number of key responsibilities for helping ensure the quality of NCHRP research. Project panels analyze the initial problem statement, develop a final project scope and objectives, and prepare a formal request for proposals from qualified research agencies. The panels review the research proposals, recommend contract awards, and provide counsel to the NCHRP staff responsible for management of the research contracts. Finally, the panels review final reports for acceptability and for accomplishment of the approved research plan. Exhibit 2. Affiliations of Panel Members on Active Projects (Current number of active projects = 433) Panel Members* Affiliation Number Percentage State agencies 1,644 61 Federal agencies 41 2 Local, transit agencies, MPOs 135 5 Educational institutions 295 11 Industry, consultants, associations 556 21 Other 19 1 All 2,710 100** *Does not include liaison representatives. **Rounded down by 1.

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TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) has released its annual report. During 2018, NCHRP completed 150 research projects, published 68 research products, and approved 58 new and continuation projects. The report also presents detailed information about the operation of NCHRP.

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