Skip to contentUnited States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration FHWA Home
Research Home
Public Roads
Featuring developments in Federal highway policies, programs, and research and technology.
This magazine is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information.
Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 67 · No. 4 > Championing Innovations

Jan/Feb 2004
Vol. 67 · No. 4

Championing Innovations

by Gene K. Fong, Gary Hoffman, and Tony Sussmann

Roundabouts and ITS technologies in work zones are just two of the state-of-the-art technologies that FHWA and AASHTO encourage State and local agencies to adopt.

Workers are adding a Prefabricated Bridge part.
Use of prefabricated bridge parts like these is one of the many techniques that help accelerate construction projects.

Developing innovations that can save lives, money, and time on the Nation's highways is a vital research goal, but state-of-the-art technologies benefit the traveling public only when they become everyday practice. Putting prototype into practice is the idea behind the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) new list of 28 priority, market-ready technologies and innovations.

The list is one of the outcomes of the FHWA Corporate Master Plan for Research and Deployment of Technology & Innovation (T&I), the agency's new vision for fulfilling the Federal government's role in the Nation's highway research and technology efforts (see “Moving Technologies and Innovations Forward- A Master Plan” on page 2). “It all comes down to assuring that we are investing in those areas that have the highest payoff for achieving agency goals, including the vital few,” says FHWA Associate Administrator for Research, Development, and Technology Dennis Judycki, facilitator of the Research and Technology (R&T) Leadership Team. The 28 technologies on the list may be cutting-edge, he adds, but they are ready for application and have proven benefits. “This list is an important statement of technologies and innovations that agencies should be looking at as they advance their highway programs,” Judycki says. An FHWA working group of field and headquarters representatives distilled the final 28 from nearly 60 technologies and innovations submitted by FHWA offices. The FHWA Research and Technology Leadership Team endorsed the working group's selections, and the list was advanced to the agency at the September FHWA business meeting in Minnesota. The priority list further reinforces one of the agency's key business processes of technology deployment.

The working group evaluated submissions on several criteria, including whether they support FHWA goals of enhancing safety, reducing congestion, and improving the environment. The group also determined if the technologies filled a demonstrated need in the Nation's highway system, whether or not the technologies are ready for the market, and if FHWA or partners have the tools and expertise available to support their implementation.

Advancing the Master Plan

The need for a list of priority technologies and innovations was first identified during the FHWA Restructuring Assessment that led to the corporate master plan. A call for the priority list was reinforced by requests from FHWA field offices-including Resource Center locations, Divisions, and Federal Lands Highway Divisions-looking for a definitive corporate statement of priority technologies and innovations. FHWA field offices are responsible for deploying the priority technologies and innovations, and marketing them to State and local agencies through special programs and everyday communications.

“The priority list helps FHWA field offices focus on high-payoff items,” says Robert Callan, FHWA Georgia Division Administrator and a member of the R&T Leadership Team. “We can gear up and allocate resources appropriately with a finite list. It helps us match agency initiatives and priorities with the tools necessary to achieve results.” FHWA plans to create a fact sheet on each technology or innovation that describes the technology, where the technology was applied, its effect, and the materials and resources available to help agencies implement it. That information will be included on a Web site being developed to track FHWA progress on the corporate master plan.

The priority list will be a living document, one that can be updated as new market-ready, high-payoff technologies are identified. The FHWA list incorporates all of the focus priorities selected so far by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) through its Technology Implementation Group (TIG). AASHTO created TIG to identify ready-to-implement technologies with significant potential to benefit the Nation's transportation system and champion their use throughout the country.

Working with State Partners

The nature of the longstanding partnership between FHWA, FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, and AASHTO; the close match in philosophies; and the common goal of enhancing the Nation's transportation system make it practical and valuable to combine efforts in deploying innovations and technologies. Therefore, part of this Federal initiative also includes the priorities at the State level represented by TIG's approved technologies.

Since the group's launch in 2000, TIG has chosen to support nine focus technologies that are likely to yield significant economic or qualitative benefits, and the group organized teams of lead States to accelerate widespread adoption.

“TIG's vision is to create a culture where rapid advancement and implementation of high-payoff, innovative technologies is the expectation of the transportation community,” says Ken Kobetsky, AASHTO's engineering program director and a TIG member.

A key selection factor for a TIG focus technology is that at least one State is willing to take the lead in championing it to others. “What we want to know is that they believe in the technology, they've proven its effectiveness, and they're willing to do the work necessary for others to adopt it,” Kobetsky says.

Similar to the manner that FHWA used to identify priority technologies, TIG examines: whether or not a technology meets a need or solves a problem in the transportation system, the effectiveness of the technology, the costs, and the ease of implementation on a widespread basis. “By focusing on the low-hanging fruit [easiest and most cost-effective technologies], TIG is able to increase agencies' return on their investment for the technologies that TIG promotes,” says Kobetsky.

The AASHTO group selects three or four technologies per year from submissions it receives from State and local agencies, AASHTO units, and FHWA offices. Information on nominating a technology is available at www.aashtotig.org.

Buy-in [favorable reception] from State departments of transportation (DOTs) is critical to the group's success, Kobetsky says. “Another key element is the composition of TIG members, consisting primarily of senior-level State DOT decisionmakers, who can make a difference in implementing best-in-class practices [benchmarking with a specific product, practice, technique, process, or procedure considered to be superior within a certain category] for their agencies.” The group also includes representatives of FHWA, local transportation agencies, organizations such as the Transportation Research Board, and other industry entities.

Implementation panels develop strategic plans for delivering each technology to users. Tactics may include sponsoring workshops, developing training materials, and sending experts from lead States to agencies to advise them on application of the technology.

FHWA and AASHTO held a joint workshop in September 2003 on “Advancing Effective Technology Implementation” to discuss their priority technology lists and develop ways to coordinate their efforts. The workshop explored the roles that State DOTs, TIG, FHWA, and industry organizations play in technology and innovation deployment, along with outreach and communication strategies.

One outcome of the workshop was to identify ways to share good ideas about market-ready technologies and innovations, and how both sides can better manage and operate their processes.

FHWA Priority, Market-Ready Technologies and Innovations

511 Traveler Information—An easy-to-remember three-digit telephone number available to State and local transportation agencies nationwide so that they can readily provide information and highway and transit conditions to travelers by telephone.

Contact: Bob Rupert, 202-366-2194.

Asset Management Guide—The guide illustrates asset management principles and identifies techniques and methods for adopting the decisionmaking framework in transportation agencies.

Contact: Stephen Gaj, 202-366-1559.

Augered Piles—The technology is characterized by the drilling of a hollow-stem auger into the ground, pumping grout or concrete into the hole, and installing reinforcement in the pile. This eliminates the need for a temporary casing.

Contact: Silas Nichols, 410-962-2460.

Border Wizard—A PC-based software model that accurately simulates all cross-border movements of autos, buses, trucks, and pedestrians, using customs, immigration, and security procedures.

Contact: Mike Onder, 202-366-2639.

Dispute Resolution Guidance for Environmental Streamlining—These procedures present strategies for interagency collaborative problem solving during the transportation development and environmental review process.

Contact: Ruth Rentch, 202-366-2034.

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Geofoam—Lightweight material that can be used as fill behind walls and other support structures.

Contact: Peter Osborn, 410-962-0702.

FHWA Traffic Noise Model (TNM), Version 2.1—By improving the ability to predict noise impacts in the vicinity of highways, this model improves the quality of project development decisions. Contact: Bob Armstrong, 202-366-2073

Highway Economic Requirements System, State Version—A software model that is designed to evaluate the implications of alternative programs and policies on the conditions, performance, and user cost levels associated with highway systems.

Contact: David Winter, 202-366-4631.

Improved Decisionmaking Using Geographic Information Systems—A software program that allows for manipulation, analysis, and display of geographically referenced data.

Contact: Mark Sarmiento, 202-366-4828.

Interagency Funding Guidance for Environmental Streamlining—Guidance provides transportation and resource agencies with options for using Federal funds to support Federal resource agency coordination for streamlining environmental reviews.

Contact: Ruth Rentch, 202-366-2034.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) SpecWizard—A software tool that can help transportation agencies write specifications for the National Transportation Communication for ITS Protocol (NTCIP) standards-based ITS equipment.

Contact: Jason Hedley, 202-366-4073.

Load and Resistance Factor Design and Rating of Structures—An AASHTO Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) and Rating (LRFR) bridge specification provides for more uniform levels of safety, which should lead to superior serviceability and long-term maintainability.

Contact: Firas Ibrahim, 202-366-4598.

Pavement Smoothness Methodologies—The new pavement smoothness specification covers smoothness test methods, smoothness equipment specifications, and equipment-certification programs.

Contact: Mark Swanlund, 202-366-1323.

QuickZone—A user-friendly computer software tool for estimating and analyzing length of queues and delays in work zones.

Contact: Scott Battles, 202-366-4372.

Improving Intersection Safety

Associate Administrator of FHWA's Office of Safety and member of the R&T Leadership Team George Ostensen cited roundabouts as one market-ready technology. “Safety is one of our 'vital few' priorities at FHWA,” says Ostensen, “and the bottom line is that roundabouts can be an effective way to improve intersection safety.” Every year almost 9,000 Americans lose their lives and 1.5 million Americans are injured in intersection-related crashes, which cost our society more than $90 billion annually.

Roundabouts are circular intersections with two key characteristics: (1) entering traffic yields to circulating traffic, and (2) geometric constraints slow entering vehicles. Improved highway safety and congestion as well as aesthetics and cost savings have made roundabouts an attractive alternative to traditional intersection traffic control. A number of studies have shown that roundabouts can be safe and effective, and as a result they are now widely used internationally. Proper site selection and pedestrian channelization are keys to making roundabouts accessible to all users.

According to a status report published on May 13, 2000, a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that roundabouts can reduce crashes by 39 percent. Roundabouts also resulted in an 80 percent reduction in injury crashes and a 90 percent reduction in fatal crashes. These findings are consistent with a study conducted by the Maryland State Highway Administration and are summarized in Maryland Roundabout Safety Experience, published in October 2001. The overall crash rate was reduced by 60 percent and the injury crash rate was reduced by 82 percent at eight intersections in Maryland where traditional intersections were replaced by roundabouts.

For more information on roundabouts, FHWA published Roundabouts: An Informational Guide, which is available on the Web at www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/00068/index.cfm.

AASHTO Technology Implementation Group Approved Technologies

Red Light Cameras-The traditional enforcement of violations for running red lights is automated by using camera systems at lightcontrolled intersections that detect an offending motorist, capture an image of the license plate, and issue a citation by mail.

Contact: Hari Kalla, 202-366-5915.

Roundabouts-A circular intersection that requires entering vehicles to yield to existing traffic in the circulatory roadway. Contact: Hari Kalla, 202-366-5915.

Rumble Strips—Shoulder rumble strips are continuous grooved indentations in roadway shoulders that provide both an audible warning and a physical vibration to alert drivers that they are leaving the roadway.

Contact: Dick Powers, 202-366-1320.

Safe Speeds in Work Zones—Two technologies that can improve safety in work zones are portable speed limit signs that automatically display the safe speed based on traffic conditions and the nature of the roadwork, and feedback displays that show the speed of approaching vehicles.

Contact: Davey Warren, 202-366-4668.

Transportation, Economics, and Land Use System (TELUS)—This information-management and decision-support system helps State DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations prepare their annual transportation improvement programs and statewide transportation improvement programs.

Contact: Fred Ducca, 202-366-5843.

Accelerated Construction—This undertaking promotes creative techniques to reduce construction time and enhance quality and safety.

Contact: Dan Sanayi, FHWA, dan.sanayi@fhwa.dot.gov.

Air Void Analyzer—The air void analyzer can be used to provide real-time evaluation for measuring air content, specific surface, and the spacing factor of fresh portland cement concrete.

Contact: John Wiakowski, Kansas DOT, johnw@ksdot.org.

Fiber-Reinforced Polymer—This material can be used to repair cracks in overhead sign supports by wrapping the support with the fiber-reinforced material.

Contact: Paul Wells, New York State DOT, pwells@gw.dot.state.ny.us.

Global Positioning System (GPS) Surveying—The GPS uses satellites that transmit signals continuously; it has many highway applications, including surveying pavement conditions and inventorying highway assets.

Contact: Charlie Brown, North Carolina DOT, charliebrown@dot.state.nc.us.

Ground-Penetrating Radar—Vehiclemounted, ground-penetrating radar can be used to collect information about underlying highway pavement layers without incurring the time and labor costs and traffic delays associated with traditional methods of drilling for core samples.

Contact: Mike Murphy, Texas DOT, mmurphy@dot.state.tx.us.

Highway Rail Warning System—A lowcost active warning system used at lowvolume, highway-railroad at-grade intersections, most often mounted on standard crossing poles. The technology is solar battery-powered with wireless communications between the device and the locomotive.

Contact: Dave Huft, South Dakota DOT, dave.huft@state.sd.us.

*ITS Technologies in Work Zones—The use of ITS technologies in work zones, such as ramp-metering systems, intrusion alarms, and queue-detection information (sensors/cameras), is aimed at increasing safety for workers and road users and ensuring a more efficient traffic flow.

Contact: Doug Rose, Maryland State Highway Administration, drose@sha.state.md.us.

Prefabricated Bridge Elements and Systems—These systems minimize traffic impacts of bridge construction projects, improve construction work-zone safety, and make construction less disruptive for the environment by minimizing the need for lane closures, detours, and use of narrow lanes.

Contact: Mary Lou Ralls, Texas DOT, mralls@dot.state.tx.us.

Thermal Imaging Safety Screening System—The system allows an operator at a weigh station to view the relative temperatures of brake drums through the wheel rims of commercial vehicles, using infrared images to detect whether brakes are functioning properly.

Contact: Gary Hoffman, Pennsylvania DOT, ghoffma@dot.state.pa.us.

Reducing Work Zone Congestion

As rehabilitation work on the Nation's aging highway system increases, so does the need to move drivers through work zones safely and with minimum frustration. More than 1,000 people die and more than 40,000 people are injured each year in work zone-related crashes. In addition, work zones account for nearly 24 percent of nonrecurring congestion on roadways, causing 482 million vehicle hours of delay per year.

State and local agencies are applying intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technology in work zones to increase safety for both workers and road users and to ensure more efficient traffic flow.

For more information on bridge research at FHWA, visit www.tfhrc.gov/structur/.

ResearchFHWA
FHWA
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration