Mobility is at the heart of America's culture. Americans love the freedom of easily moving where they want, when they want. Mobility is at the heart of our economy, getting goods to market and getting people to work. Infrastructure - roads, bridges, tunnels - provides the foundation that makes mobility possible. During the Interstate construction era, the emphasis was on building highway infrastructure to improve America's mobility. Today, we must focus on improving the performance of the completed highway system in order to enhance America's mobility. Strengthening partnerships, delivering innovative technologies and techniques, and embracing a new way of doing business are the keys to improving the performance of the highway system.
The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Infrastructure works closely with Federal agencies, State transportation agencies, local and tribal governments, industry associations, academia, and others to deliver the Federal-aid highway program, which uses technologies and innovations to achieve a safe, efficient, and long-lasting highway system.
The Office of Infrastructure provides national leadership, sets the direction of the FHWA infrastructure program, and then works in partnership with other FHWA units who have the primary responsibility for different program areas. The Division offices are responsible for delivering the program to the State transportation agencies. The Resource Center is responsible for technical assistance, technology deployment, and training. The National Highway Institute is responsible for training course development and delivery. The Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center is responsible for research and development.
Americans like highway travel and are doing more and more of it. Demand for use of highways is increasing much faster than available capacity. While adding capacity in targeted areas is important, we will not be able to "build our way out" of the challenge of rapidly increasing demand. Rather, we must improve the performance and operation of the existing highway system and the way that system is repaired and replaced. Below are just a few examples of the innovations being used to deliver pavements and bridges that are safe, long-lasting, cost-effective, and easy to maintain and preserve:
The Interstate highway system, much of it built in the 1960s and 1970s, has aged and is in need of rehabilitation and replacement. Yet the driving public doesn't want to see a lot more orange cones and associated delays.
Over the past 2 years, more than half of the States have realized the benefits of accelerated highway construction by participating in the Accelerated Construction Technology Transfer (ACTT) program. At 2-day ACTT workshops, participants identify innovative approaches to reducing time, costs, and congestion for a planned highway project while improving safety, quality, and roadway performance. Most ACTT workshops have resulted in a reduction of planned construction time by 30 percent or more, with millions of dollars and years of delays shaved off of highway projects.
Our customers also want more than convenient travel from their highway system. They want the system to be well integrated with their communities and provide a good quality of life. Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) is a new project development method that aims to make the roadway fit the community. It focuses on community involvement in all phases of a transportation project, from early planning through the completion of construction. CSS uses a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to deliver a project that meets community needs; fits the physical setting; and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic, and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility.
Asset management is a strategic approach to managing our Nation's transportation infrastructure. Through the use of management systems, engineering and economic analysis, and other tools, transportation agencies can more comprehensively view the big picture before making decisions as to how specific resources should be deployed. By strategically allocating resources - dollars, people, and data - for the preservation, operation, and management of the Nation's transportation infrastructure, agencies can maximize the return on their investment, improve system performance, and increase customer satisfaction.
Improving infrastructure performance, accelerating construction, employing context-sensitive solutions, and using asset management all involve a new way of doing business with a more integrated, team-oriented approach. Transportation professionals in all areas (planning, environment, design, contracting, construction, maintenance, operations, etc.) will have to work more closely than ever before and also reach out to involve the public in order to improve our transportation infrastructure and meet America's mobility needs for the 21st century.