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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Basic principles


The basic principles governing Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) Research and Technology (R&T) investments are outlined in Title 23 of the U.S. Code, Chapter 5: Research, Technology, and Education, and reinforced in Division E of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), the latest surface transportation authorization bill.

These guiding principles state that the Federal Government has the responsibility to fund and conduct surface transportation research, development, and technology transfer activities when the work is of national significance and in research areas where there is a clear public benefit and where private investment is not optimal. The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) responsibility is to assure that State and local governments use national resources efficiently, and to present the best means to support Federal policy goals compared with other policy alternatives.


The role of FHWA is to conduct research; to support and facilitate research and technology transfer activities by State highway agencies; to share the results of completed research; and to support and facilitate technology and innovation deployment.


The Research and Technology (R&T) Program includes fundamental, long-term highway research—research aimed at significant highway research gaps and emerging issues with national implications and research related to policy and planning. The FHWA is responsible for addressing the needs of stakeholders and facilitating a competitive approach to grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements for research and development projects and programs.





Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21)

The most recent transportation authorization bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), authorizes and provides funding for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 for three FHWA-administered research, technology, and education programs; the State-administered State Planning and Research Program; and three programs administered by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration.

FHWA-Administered Programs

  1. Highway Research and Development Program funded at $115 million for research and development activities in the areas of:

    • Improving highway safety – using research and development activities from an integrated perspective to establish and implement systematic measures that improve highway safety.
    • Improving infrastructure integrity – using research and development activities to maintain infrastructure integrity, meet user needs, and link Federal transportation investments to improvements in system performance.
    • Strengthening transportation planning and environmental decisionmaking – using research to minimize the cost of and improve transportation planning and environmental decisionmaking processes and minimize the potential impact of surface transportation on the environment.
    • Reducing congestion, improving highway operations, and enhancing freight productivity – using research to address congestion problems, reduce the cost of congestion, improve freight movement, and increase productivity and improve the economic competitiveness of the United States.
    • Conducting exploratory advanced research – using research and development activities to leverage the capabilities of the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center to develop technologies and innovations of national importance and to develop potentially transformational solutions to improve the durability, efficiency, environmental impact, productivity, and safety of highway and intermodal transportation systems.
    • Creating policy – using research and development activities to support the formulation of transportation policy and legislative initiatives and the preparation of major reports to the U.S. Congress on highway policy issues, as well as monitoring and forecasting economic, demographic, and personal/commercial travel trends.

  2. Technology and Innovation Deployment Program (TIDP) funded at $62.5 million. Activities authorized include:

    • Develop tools and methods to accelerate adoption of proven innovative practices and technologies as standard practice, such as the Every Day Counts initiative.
    • Provide technical assistance and training.
    • Establish and perform demonstration programs.
    • Implement research results and products developed under the Future Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) in consultation with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Transportation Research Board (TRB).
    • Establish and implement a pavement technologies deployment program ($12 million per fiscal year).

  3. Training and Education (T&E) funded at $24 million. The training and education includes ongoing programs, such as the National Highway Institute and the Local/Tribal Technical Assistance Program (LTAP/TTAP), plus the Centers for Excellence in the areas of environment, safety, rural safety, and innovative finance.


State Planning and Research Program (SP&R).  States are required to set aside funds for the State Planning and Research (SP&R) Program. Out of four Federal-aid formula program allocations from Division A, Title I of MAP-21, the States must set aside 2 percent for planning and research purposes. At least 25 percent of these funds must be used for research, development, and technology purposes. States use these funds to conduct research aimed at solving specific transportation issues that arise at the State level, or they may leverage these funds by applying them toward Transportation Pooled Fund projects. States can also use these funds as the non-Federal match for Local/Tribal Technical Assistance Program (LTAP/TTAP) centers and for the University Transportation Centers. In addition, States have agreed to contribute 4 percent of SP&R funds for the Future Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) implementation. For more information on the SP&R program, visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/research/partnership/spr/.

Future Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) Implementation.   MAP-21 authorizes FHWA to lead and coordinate SHRP2. The SHRP2 was authorized in 23 U.S.C. 510 and funded through the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), and its extensions from fiscal year 2006 through fiscal year 2012, with the vision to address some of the most pressing needs related to the Nation’s highway system, including:

  • The high toll of highway deaths and injuries.
  • The aging infrastructure that must be rehabilitated with minimum disruption to users.
  • The congestion that stems from inadequate physical capacity and from events that reduce the effective capacity of a highway facility.

The SHRP2 focuses applied research on four crucial areas:

  • Highway safety.
  • Renewal of America’s aging highway system.
  • Restoring highway travel-time reliability.
  • Integrating mobility, economic, environmental, and community needs into the design of additional highway capacity.


The use of funds for the implementation of SHRP2 findings was authorized for fiscal years 2011 and 2012. With the passage of MAP-21, the implementation of SHRP2 findings and results is authorized for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 through 23 U.S.C. 503(c)(2)(C), under the Technology and Innovation Deployment Program (TIDP). In addition to being eligible to receive funding through TIDP, 23 U.S.C. 505(c) stipulates that the States shall make available to the Secretary of Transportation a percentage of apportioned State planning and research funds for SHRP2 implementation that is agreed upon by three-fourths of the States for fiscal years 2013 and 2014.


Finally, MAP-21 also authorizes three programs administered by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration:

  • University Transportation Centers.
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems.
  • Bureau of Transportation Statistics.


For more information on these three programs, visit http://www.rita.dot.gov/offices.


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