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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Exploratory Advanced Research Program

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FHWA Commitment and Corporate Objectives for Advanced Research

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TRB Annual Meeting
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Session 505

FHWA Mission

Enhanced Mobility through Innovation, Leadership, and Public Service

…and Roles

  • Leaders for National Mobility
  • Stewards for National Highway Programs
  • Innovators for a Better Future

Scope of FHWA Role in R&T

  • Conducting research
  • Supporting research by:
    • State DOT’s Universities
    • Private industry
    • Stimulating development and innovation
    • Facilitating technology transfer and deployment
    • Educating the transportation professional of the future

FHWA R&T Focus Areas

R&T in FHWA covers the entire innovation process, including research, development, innovation deployment, education, and training.


  • Safety
  • Infrastructure
  • Transportation System Management and Operations
  • Planning/Environment/Real Estate Services
  • Policy
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)

A Strategic Approach

Corporate Master plan cover FHWA Commitment recognizes the need to focus on high-risk research with high payoff potential.

Advanced Research defined:

"Research that involves and draws upon basic research results to provide a better understanding of phenomena and develop innovative solutions. Sometimes referred to as exploratory research in order to convey its more fundamental character, its broader objectives, and the greater uncertainty in expected outcomes compared to problem-solving research."

Advanced research project leads to licensed technology

  • Southwest Research Institute developed a nondestructive inspection system using magnetostrictive sensing (MsS)
  • “CableScan” is a commercially available service resulting from this study, which originated out of FHWA’s advanced research program.

Authorized Funding for RT&E Programs

Surface Transportation Research, Development and Deployment
Training and Education
Bureau of Transportation Statistics
University Transportation Research
Intelligent Transportation
Systems Research


Note: ITS Deployment receives $122 million under SAFETEA-LU, but only in FY 2005.

SAFETEA-LU Funding for Exploratory Advanced Research

$14 Million for each of fiscal years 2005 - 2009

SAFETEA-LU Program Guidelines

  • Consistent with surface transportation research and technology strategic plan
  • Address long-term, higher-risk research with potentially dramatic breakthroughs
  • Strive to develop public and private partnerships

SAFETEA-LU Research Areas

  1. Characterization of materials used in highway infrastructure.
  2. Assessment of the effects of transportation decisions on human health.
  3. Development of surrogate measures of safety.
  4. Environmental research.
  5. Data acquisition techniques for system condition and performance monitoring.
  6. System performance data and information processing.

Where do we go from here?

drawing of a man in front of a street sign pointing in various directions
Think Tank Recommendations
R&T Leadership Team & Roadmaps
RTCC Recommendations

Program Delivery

  • UTC Program – Universities address identified Adv. Research focus areas
  • NSF - $1.5M leveraged w/ $1.5M match (joint research, NSF-managed)
    • Facilitate TFHRC/University partnerships (principal investigator with lab manager)
  • TRB IDEA Program for AR


Exploratory Advanced Research Program



NRC Postdoctoral Fellows Help EAR Program Solve Transportation Issues

The Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) conducts research across a wide range of topics and disciplines. To supplement the expertise of the permanent staff, it is important to bring in researchers with the appropriate backgrounds to investigate specific problems at short-term basis. Through the Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program, FHWA utilizes the Resident Associates (or Postdoctoral Fellows) program of the National Research Council (NRC) for this purpose. The NRC provides a process for selecting candidates on a competitive merit basis and subsequently for administration of the Resident Fellows during their tenures at FHWA. [More]

Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center | 6300 Georgetown Pike | McLean, VA | 22101