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|Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 77 · No. 4 > Now Is the Time for Innovation|
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-14-002
Now Is the Time for Innovation
by Judith Johnson and Laurie Butts
Realizing that status quo approaches alone can’t do the job, more and more DOTs are changing how they work. To help them address the thorniest transportation issues, SHRP2 Solutions offer tools for the road ahead.
The Nation’s 4-million-mile (6.4-million-kilometer) highway system is the backbone of the U.S. economy. The highways carry 65 percent of the country’s $15 trillion in freight traffic and 88 percent of the noncommercial miles traveled. But this infrastructure has largely exceeded its design life and is inadequate for today’s traffic volumes. The system is deteriorating, with resulting impacts on safety, mobility, and the economy.
Addressing these issues, renewing the highway infrastructure, and delivering excellent customer service are the goals of the second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2), a national partnership of three key transportation organizations. Partnering in SHRP2 are the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the Transportation Research Board (TRB).
Through SHRP2, a multidisciplinary group of researchers and other transportation professionals aim to identify workable solutions that State departments of transportation (DOTs) can implement. The solutions also can be implemented by local roadway agencies, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), divisions of FHWA’s Office of Federal Lands Highway, and resource agencies, among others, to better serve the traveling public.
“With SHRP2, Every Day Counts, and our overall focus on innovation, we are creating an environment where ideas and research are turned into transportation solutions,” says FHWA Executive Director Jeff Paniati. “SHRP2 in particular turns applied research into a menu of ready-to-deploy products and processes that our State and local partners can choose from to help save lives, money, and time on their transportation projects. All of this is helping us foster a culture of innovation in the transportation industry.”
SHRP2 builds on the success of the first SHRP, which ran from 1988 to 1993, and produced, among other innovations, a new technology for addressing snow and ice on highways. SHRP also developed Superpave (SUperior PERforming Asphalt PAVEments), a technology for creating greater durability.
After the success of the first SHRP, Congress authorized SHRP2 in the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) with the goal of delivering groundbreaking products to address specific challenges identified by State DOTs and leaders of the transportation industry. These challenges include reducing crashes and improving safety; renewing roads and bridges more rapidly; delivering projects through targeted collaboration; and operating a more reliable, less congested highway system. The products themselves vary markedly and range from decisionmaking processes to training programs, management tools, and new technologies. They can be used singly or in combination, depending on the user’s specific needs and available resources.
SHRP2 has completed about 100 research projects and prioritized more than 65 resulting products as part of a $169 million, 5-year implementation plan. The program is at the forefront of transportation innovation, helping the Nation’s highway community enhance productivity, boost efficiency, increase safety, and improve reliability. Early adopters are tapping the rich and growing SHRP2 resource to find new solutions to the problems facing America’s roads.
“We are at a tipping point in the highway community,” says Rhode Island DOT Director and AASHTO President Michael Lewis. “Professionals are faced with overwhelming challenges such as rapidly deteriorating infrastructure and increasing congestion, compounded by limited funds and greater public criticism when projects don’t go as planned. Status quo approaches are no longer bridging the gap, and despite the inherent challenges in trying a new technique, more and more highway professionals are eager to embrace practical innovations that can offer significant benefits to all our customers.”
From Research to the Road: The Value of Collaboration
The implementation phase of SHRP2 has only just begun--and it is already changing how DOTs work and their expectations for the highways of tomorrow. To expedite adoption of SHRP2 innovations, the partners launched the SHRP2 Implementation Assistance Program in February 2013 to provide financial and technical support to early adopters of SHRP2 products. The collaborative approach that drives SHRP2 research is carried through into product implementation to ensure that the needs of potential users are incorporated into every stage of technology transfer.
These products are supporting State DOTs and industry leaders as they confront the difficult challenges involved in meeting the following highway-changing goals:
In addition to 10 products that SHRP2 deployed in 2013 (9 through the SHRP2 Implementation Assistance Program and 1 through FHWA’s Every Day Counts initiative), another 14 products are anticipated to launch in 2014, and more to come in 2015. SHRP2 managers at FHWA, AASHTO, and TRB are committed to engaging potential users in prioritizing these products.
With organizations in three-quarters of the States across the Nation participating in the rapid deployment of SHRP2 products, DOTs, MPOs, and other agencies are demonstrating that they are eager to use practical new approaches and innovative techniques to improve the way that they do business. They are ready for the future now.
From its beginnings, SHRP2 has been a collaborative process, its direction informed by the challenges faced by State DOTs, local and tribal agencies, and the highway industry as they work to improve the Nation’s roadway system. Today, with a growing number of emerging products and limited funds available for implementation, product developers, State DOTs, and industry professionals are focusing their combined energies on identifying which innovations to deliver first for the greatest impact and benefit.
“The success of this program is predicated on these products being implemented by State, local, and other transportation agencies,” says Amy Lucero, director of technical services at FHWA. “It just makes sense that we look to these groups to help us judge the applicability of these products and their priority [for implementation] as they emerge from research.”
The process of prioritizing products in SHRP2’s implementation plan occurs about once a year. In 2013, prioritization included a survey of AASHTO committees to gauge the value and readiness of each product. Next came a meeting of the AASHTO implementation task force, composed of dozens of State DOT leaders, who refined the list. SHRP2 product experts and implementation leaders from FHWA then collaborated with AASHTO to advance one set of recommended priority products.
“We are committed to a collaborative effort with this and other SHRP2 activities, and FHWA will continue to work very closely with AASHTO and TRB on implementation,” says Lucero.
What Are SHRP2 Solutions?
The SHRP2 Solutions portfolio includes products that can be applied across the entire life cycle of a roadway. The products belong to numerous topic areas, including pavements, bridges, risk management, planning and design, construction, and maintenance and operations. SHRP2 Solutions are designed to help transportation professionals by giving them the tools to do their jobs more efficiently, use resources more wisely, and systematically engage key partners in decisionmaking.
“We call the results of SHRP2 research ‘solutions’ because, in many cases, the products are processes, software, guides, testing procedures, collaborative decisionmaking protocols, and specifications designed to fill knowledge gaps that have prevented existing innovations from being used more widely,” says Pam Hutton, SHRP2 implementation manager at AASHTO.
The names of SHRP2 Solutions consist of a title and then a letter and number combination. An example is Guidelines for the Preservation of High-Traffic-Volume Roadways (R26), which is a guide that enables the user to evaluate more than a dozen techniques for roadway preservation that have been applied successfully for decades to roads with low traffic volumes. This solution weighs the durability, quality, and service life benefits of various preservation techniques and determines which are best suited for specific conditions. Using the right preservation technique on high-traffic-volume roads can extend service life and the time between major, expensive rehabilitations. The software includes a decisionmaking matrix to simplify the numerous and often complex factors that drive decisions about pavement rehabilitation. The factors include traffic levels, pavement and climate conditions, available work hours, and treatment performance and cost. The guide offers a step-by-step sequence for weighing the various technical inputs and selecting treatments that are most appropriate for a specific road.
Advancing the State of the Practice
Across the country, State DOTs are turning to SHRP2 for practical solutions and innovations. As agencies experience the benefits and successes of implementing SHRP2 products, some DOTs are moving to deploy multiple SHRP2 Solutions to address various problem areas across their transportation systems. Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are among the early adopters.
Iowa: The Accelerated Bridge Solution
In 2011, as a demonstration project for FHWA’s Highways for LIFE, the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) used SHRP2’s Innovative Bridge Designs for Rapid Renewal (R04) toolkit to help with the replacement of the Keg Creek Bridge near Council Bluffs. The replacement took just 2 weeks, rather than the 6 months normally required for a bridge of this size and type. Although methods for accelerated bridge construction have been used across the United States for more than 15 years, most agencies have applied them on large bridges that have a substantial impact on mobility and require contractors with specialized skills.
The SHRP2 toolkit focuses on applying the same techniques to smaller, more routine bridge replacements, which account for the majority of bridges across the country. Standardized detailing makes designs less complicated and faster, enabling smaller contractors to compete for this type of work and effectively driving costs down.
Using another SHRP2 Solution, the agency has set its sights on significantly improving travel time reliability through development of a new Office of Traffic Operations. The office plans to use methodologies from SHRP2’s Organizing for Reliability Tools (L01/06) to develop model processes and approaches, and establish reliability goals to create a state-of-the-art program from the ground up.
Pennsylvania: Harnessing The Benefits of SHRP2’s Reliability Tools
As a recipient of SHRP2 implementation assistance, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is using three of the strategies identified in SHRP2’s Guidelines for the Preservation of High-Traffic-Volume Roadways (R26) in an effort to revitalize a large number of heavily traveled, aging roads.
“Roads across the State are underfunded for rehabilitation, our maintenance efforts are falling behind the need, and to complicate the situation, most were developed long ago using antiquated infrastructure technology,” says PennDOT’s Deputy Secretary for Highway Administration R. Scott Christie. “If we can extend service life through improved preservation techniques, we can stretch the interval between costly long-term rehabilitation projects, avoiding significant delays for drivers already traveling along busy corridors.”
Like Iowa, PennDOT also is looking to improve reliability with a thorough assessment of operational capabilities, using Organizing for Reliability Tools (L01/06). Approximately 50 percent of the total State-owned mileage that PennDOT is responsible for is part of the “local” functional classification. This mileage typically is associated with lower-traffic-volume roadways but still requires significant funding and resources to maintain, so Christie says the agency is eager to harness the benefits of SHRP2’s reliability tools.
The process will begin with a complete assessment of the agency’s operations capabilities. As part of a corridor modernization program, PennDOT then will develop and identify roadway “tiers” with similar operational needs and establish a performance program to address all types of unexpected congestion. Under this assessment, PennDOT already is embarking on an effort to improve incident clearance through legislative changes and quick-clearance incentives for tow operators. Upon analysis of its program, PennDOT found that Pennsylvania drivers sit longer in backups from traffic crashes and incidents than drivers do in other States, specifically because Pennsylvania lacks the regulations and tow incentives provided elsewhere.
Michigan: Solutions For Complex Projects
Over the next year, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) plans to deploy four SHRP2 innovations on projects statewide. Two of these products are aimed at expediting delivery for complex, large-scale projects.
In 2015, MDOT will begin a 20-mile (32-kilometer) reconstruction on I–75 along Lake Erie. This stretch is the busiest freight corridor in the State, and the project involves impacts on 40 acres (16 hectares) of wetlands, threatened and endangered species, water quality, and impaired streams. Integrated planning with a number of resource agencies will be vital.
To ensure that the needs of all stakeholders are considered without delaying the project, MDOT will use SHRP2’s Implementing Eco-Logical (C06), a process that maps the steps needed to apply FHWA’s ecological approach to highway planning. The steps are outlined in the 2006 publication, Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects (FHWA-HEP-06-011).
Specifically, the project will involve the collaborative work of a number of environmental and community agencies to identify ecological priorities within the region using the methodology outlined in C06’s nine-step Integrated Ecological Framework process. A technical advisory committee composed of staff from MDOT, FHWA, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, The Nature Conservancy, and other community and resource groups will meet at least 12 times over the next 3 years to review the project scope and solicit input to ensure that environmental concerns are addressed early, not just during permitting.
“By working with all stakeholders to identify and implement mitigation prior to needing resource agency permits, we expect to save time and money, while building trust for project implementation,” says MDOT Director Kirk Steudle, past president of AASHTO, who also chairs AASHTO’s implementation task force and the SHRP2 implementation advisory committee.
MDOT also plans to use the SHRP2 Solution, Innovative Strategies for Managing Complex Projects (R10), on two massive rehabilitation efforts, one of which is a 6.7-mile (10.8-kilometer) section of I–94. Built in the 1950s, I–94 is one of the oldest urban interstates in the country, and it intersects I–96, SR–10, and I–75 within a 1.2-mile (1.9-kilometer) segment. Average annual daily traffic in the project area currently ranges from 120,000 to more than 160,000 vehicles and is expected to grow by more than 35 percent by the year 2025.
The purpose of the I–94 rehabilitation is to improve mobility, safety, pavement, and bridges, while separating local traffic from I–94 traffic. One lane of traffic will be added in each direction on I–94 to provide needed capacity, and continuous service roads will be constructed adjacent to the freeway to reconnect neighborhoods and facilitate transit service.
Planners for the I–94 rehabilitation will need to address a number of project complexities, including the following:
MDOT will address these issues with the help of SHRP2’s next-generation methodology for project management, which adds financial and context considerations to more traditional project management models that consider only technical, schedule, and cost dimensions. The Innovative Strategies for Managing Complex Projects (R10) suite includes 13 project execution tools as well as case studies. Agencies can use the suite to develop comprehensive plans for project management, create maps to display project complexities visually, control costs, and allocate resources efficiently.
“We first piloted SHRP2’s five-dimensional project management methodology in 2012 and immediately recognized the value of the approach in helping us develop project plans and identify barriers to success,” says Steudle. “By applying it to the I–94 rehabilitation project, we expect to develop a more comprehensive project plan that will reduce the risk of unexpected delays and costs during construction.”
Meeting Tomorrow’s Needs Today
One of the most significant and widespread challenges facing highway agencies is the loss of vital, individual and institutional knowledge due to the retirement of experienced professionals. Many SHRP2 products address this challenge by collecting case studies and best practices in various areas and presenting them in ways that can be easily accessed through online applications or Web sites. For example, SHRP2’s product Expediting Project Delivery (C19) collates the results of a comprehensive literature review and interviews with State DOT personnel to identify the 16 most common causes of delays in project planning and environmental reviews, and recommends 24 mitigation strategies. Through the implementation of C19, critical information and experiences addressing common constraints will be documented and shared to benefit transportation agencies in minimizing the effects of losing individual and institutional knowledge.
SHRP2 Solutions are as diverse as the challenges they seek to solve. Although some point to specific methodologies, others address critical issues through longer term, but scalable, organizational and process changes. Organizing for Reliability Tools (L01/06), for example, provides a methodical approach that helps agencies design business processes to improve responses to unexpected events that cause congestion, such as weather, special events, and traffic incidents. The process begins with a workshop on improving systems operations and management that assesses an agency’s current capabilities by evaluating business processes, technologies, staffing, and organizational culture.
The product’s guidebook and online tool then help identify key gaps and strategies for improving reliability through the systematic upgrading of operational processes. Actual changes to the operational structure may take years to implement, but the agency benefits from a thorough assessment of its current capabilities, particularly in relation to how similar DOTs are operating throughout the country.
SHRP2 will continue to launch proven innovations as research and pilot projects are completed. By implementing SHRP2 Solutions, the transportation community will strengthen the highway system to serve the Nation efficiently and effectively throughout the 21st century.
“We consider what is best for the country, where we are moving as an industry, and what would best serve all the citizens in the United States,” Steudle says. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to identify a set of new innovations that will benefit our fellow transportation departments.”
Judith Johnson is a national marketing specialist with FHWA’s Office of Technical Services, specializing in strategic marketing, communications planning, and technology deployment. She has an executive certificate in strategic marketing management from Emory University, graduate studies in journalism and public relations from the University of Missouri, and a bachelor of arts in English from Fisk University. She is a certified mediator and trained facilitator.
Laurie Butts is a senior communications specialist who works with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to help Federal, State, and local agencies promote transportation safety programs and innovations. She has a bachelor’s degree in corporate communications from James Madison University and a master’s degree in marketing from Westminster College in Utah.
For more information, contact Judith Johnson at 404–562–3682 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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