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EDC-1 Innovations

Poor or outdated traffic signal timing contributes to congestion, excess fuel consumption, and loss of productivity. Conventional systems use pre-programmed daily signal-timing schedules that do not adjust automatically to accommodate variable and unpredictable traffic demands. Updating the timing of traffic signals in these systems is time-consuming and requires substantial amounts of manually collected traffic data, software modeling, and fine-tuning. ASCT automates data collection, analysis, and signal timing updates, aligning signal timing settings with current traffic conditions.

By collecting and analyzing data from strategically placed sensors, ASCT can modify the duration of red and green lights to continuously distribute green-light time equitably for all traffic movements, improving travel time reliability and reducing congestion by creating a smoother traffic flow. Implementing ASCT can maximize the capacity of existing systems, ultimately reducing costs for both users and operating agencies.

For more information: https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/arterial_mgmt/tst_ops.htm

For transportation projects, preliminary design is the stage in which general project location and design concepts are determined. On federally funded projects, highway practitioners often consider preliminary design to involve only the activities needed to make a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) determination, viewing everything else as part of final design. This overly cautious approach can create unnecessary project delays by postponing other planning. By identifying the acceptable preliminary design activities allowable prior to NEPA completion, agencies can employ a much wider range of highway planning efficiencies.

The various types of preliminary design work allowable under current regulations and statutes, such as soil borings, guardrail length/layout, grading plans, and traffic control plans, are listed in Appendix A of FHWA Order 6640.1A. Conducting these prior to or during the NEPA process can expedite overall project delivery without jeopardizing NEPA requirements and intent, providing a time- and cost-effective way to address both transportation and environmental needs.

For more information: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/legsregs/directives/orders/66401a.cfm

CM/GC is an alternative contracting method (ACM) used by many State highway agencies to accelerate project delivery and reduce costs and risks for project owners. CM/GC is an ACM to the traditional design-bid-build or design-build (D-B) methods, and it offers certain benefits over those approaches. In CM/GC, the owner hires a contractor to act as a consultant during the design phase (CM). The CM will offer suggestions to the owner’s designer (internal or hired consultant) based on industry experience with innovations, successful construction practices, constructability issues, cost projections, and project schedule. When the owner and the contractor determine enough design is complete and critical risks addressed, the owner will work with the contractor (GC) to establish a price for the construction contract. The owner may bid the project in the open market if an acceptable price cannot be established.

Use of CM/GC offers the potential for lower project costs primarily because risks are identified early in project development before construction begins. The process also encourages the owner and contractor to form a more effective project management team to look at all options, including use of innovative techniques or approaches, to reduce time and cost. The combined knowledge of the owner, designer, and contractor fosters a partnership that can result in improved project designs, greater cost certainty, and optimized construction schedules.

For more information: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/contracts/acm/cmgc.cfm and https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/cqit/cm.cfm

D-B is an alternative contracting method (ACM) for improving project delivery that is now used by the majority of State highway agencies, especially for shortening overall completion time and gaining early “cost certainty.” In D-B, the project owner typically hires a design-build firm, which enhances communication and sharing of expertise between the designer and contractor. Various D-B options are commonly used for public-private partnerships (P3s), where special public and private sector funding can be leveraged to advance important projects or for operations and maintenance. D-B is an ACM to the traditional design-bid-build or construction manager/general contractor (CM/GC) methods, and it offers certain benefits over those approaches. Progressive D-B is an emerging form of D-B that offers an option to the CM/GC ACM.

Using the design-build (D-B) ACM, an agency identifies what it wants constructed, accepts proposals, and selects a D-B team to assume the risk and responsibility for the design and construction phases. Often, alternative technical concepts (ATCs) are solicited by the owner to allow proposers the opportunity to bring innovative ideas to the project’s design or construction that can save money, time, or increase safety. The design and construction phases can be coordinated and overlapped effectively by the team to provide efficiencies and reduce the overall delivery time. The D-B process provides the contractor with flexibility in selecting the design, materials, and construction methods. The contractor also works closely with the designer, sharing expertise to reduce the risk of design errors that can add to project costs and delays. This collaboration between the designer and contractor allows for greater innovation and can improve project quality.

For more information: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/cqit/desbuild.cfm

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal agencies to prepare environmental impact statements (EISs) for major Federal actions, including those that use Federal land, Federal funding, or are under Federal agency jurisdiction, that significantly affect the quality of the human environment. This collaborative process can take years to complete, depending on a variety of project-specific factors.

FHWA has identified major challenges that can result in a lengthy EIS—one in which at least 60 months has elapsed since issuance of the Notice of Intent without issuance of a Record of Decision—and developed resources to help resolve delays where feasible. FHWA’s focus is on facilitating interagency coordination and collaboration to resolve outstanding issues.

For more information: https://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/

Some highway projects require real property acquisition in order to complete construction. This real property is commonly referred to as right-of-way (ROW). The Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (Uniform Act) is the Federal statute that governs acquisition of real property and must be followed when acquiring real property for a project or program that receives Federal financial assistance. State and local agencies may also have statutes and regulations that must be followed. The Uniform Act and applicable statutes and regulations spell out legal requirements intended to ensure property owners and tenants receive constitutionally required just compensation for their real property and other required benefits and assistance. Using the ROW flexibilities provided for in statute and FHWA regulations can help agencies save time and money on the acquisition process while meeting legal requirements.

ROW flexibilities include appraisal waiver valuations with clearly defined thresholds, incentive payments to advance acquisition and relocation, conditional ROW certifications, appraisals and negotiations of property acquisition (up to $10,000) by the same individual, functional replacement in acquisition and relocation of public facilities, and advancement of a project to construction under right-of-entry for Federal lands transfer.

For more information: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/real_estate/

About half of all highway and bridge projects eligible for Federal funding involve relocating utilities or making adjustments to accommodate them, which can increase construction time and costs. Flexibilities exist under Federal laws and regulations that can help State departments of transportation (DOTs) deliver projects faster. These include master agreements with utility owners, which can be used to specify the terms and conditions for accommodating, designing, completing, operating, and maintaining utilities on an area-wide or statewide basis, and individual agreements, which can be made on a case-by-case or project basis.

In addition, State DOTs may use Federal funds for utility relocation costs and design-related activities. Opportunities also exist to adjust the level of Federal reimbursement based on the type of utility and transportation facilities impacted.

For more information: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/utilities/

GRS-IBS technology can help meet the country’s demand for small, single-span bridges by reducing construction time and cost. GRS-IBS delivers low-cost, strong, and durable structures that can be built in weeks instead of months due to ease of construction and use of readily available materials and equipment. The reduced construction schedule translates into less exposure around work zones, improving safety.

GRS-IBS bridges employ a simple design that can be adapted to suit environmental or other needs and modified easily in the field to adjust to unexpected site conditions. Once built, GRS-IBS bridges are durable and easy to maintain. The construction creates a smooth transition from the roadway to the bridge, alleviating the bump normally caused by differential settlement between the bridge abutment and the approaching roadway. Decreasing the impact loads normally caused by the bump reduces maintenance needs. GRS-IBS bridges can be designed for a wide range of loading conditions, such as in seismic areas and rapidly changing water elevations.

For more information: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/engineering/geotech/

PEL is a collaborative, integrated approach to transportation project planning that considers environmental, community, and economic goals early in the process, then uses the resulting information and analysis to streamline environmental reviews. The PEL approach encourages resource and regulatory agencies and the public to get involved in the early stages of planning, giving them an opportunity to help shape transportation projects. This early collaboration can minimize potential duplication between planning and environmental review processes.

For more information: https://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/env_initiatives/PEL.aspx

PBES are bridge components constructed offsite then brought to the project location, ready to erect. With traditional bridge construction, foundations for piers and abutments must be built first. Pier columns and caps must be built before beams and decks are placed. With PBES, these components can be fabricated concurrently and then shipped in as needed. In addition, traditional onsite construction exposes work crews to moving traffic and to working over water or near power lines. Using PBES shortens onsite construction time so that fewer workers need to be exposed to traffic control. It results in durable bridges that can be built faster, more safely, and with fewer traffic delays.

For more information: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/abc/

While environmental requirements for transportation projects are typically accomplished on an individual basis, many projects have common components or actions that are appropriate for review at a programmatic level. PAs can streamline the process for handling commonly encountered project actions and types. These interagency agreements set procedures for consultation, review, performance, and compliance with one or more Federal laws and can also address Tribal, State, and local laws. Using PAs, agencies can increase efficiency and provide appropriate consideration for the environment, which leads to better project delivery with enhanced environmental outcomes.

PAs may be developed on a watershed, landscape, ecosystem, State, regional, or national scale. They are part of a larger collection of programmatic approaches (including regional permits, programmatic consultations, landscape-scale approaches, etc.) to environmental process reviews, data collection, and regulatory compliance, including performance standards and adaptive management. FHWA has promoted PAs through initiatives such as EDC, Eco-Logical, and the Red Book and through regular environmental program implementation. PAs have also been promoted through Federal legislation, including the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) Section 1304(k).

For more information: https://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/env_initiatives/initiatives_home.aspx

For projects that will impact waters of the United States (wetlands, for example), the permitting process under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act constitutes a major component of the project development and delivery process. The use of in-lieu fee (ILF) and mitigation and conservation banking programs, along with other innovative mitigation approaches, provides an efficient way to meet environmental mitigation requirements and manage project expectations, resulting in expedited project delivery.

State departments of transportation (DOTs) can often fulfill their mitigation obligations by purchasing credits from an ILF provider or mitigation bank. Risk transfers to the bank or ILF sponsor (not including banks owned by State DOTs or local agencies). Regulatory agencies often prefer banks and ILF programs because they protect and restore larger blocks of habitat, improve habitat connectivity, and award credits based on satisfying approved performance criteria.

For more information: https://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/env_initiatives/initiatives_home.aspx

Pavement edge drop-off on highways has been linked to many serious crashes and fatal collisions. Drop-offs occur when conventional paving techniques result in vertical or nearly vertical pavement edges. For drivers who inadvertently leave the road—even just one tire over the edge—returning to the pavement can be challenging if vertical edge drop-offs are present.

SafetyEdgeSM is a simple and effective solution for mitigating pavement edge-related crashes. This safety countermeasure, which is installed with a commercially available shoe that attaches to existing paving equipment, involves minimal time and cost to implement. It can be installed on pavements during paving or resurfacing projects, shaping the pavement’s edge to eliminate the vertical drop-off. SafetyEdgeSM provides a strong, durable transition so that even at high speeds, vehicles can return to the paved road smoothly and easily. A rigorous analysis showed a 35% reduction in drop-off related crashes and an 11% reduction in overall injury crashes on two-lane rural roads.

For more information: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/safetyEdge/

The traditional process for mixing, hauling, placing, and compacting asphalt pavement mixtures uses hot mix asphalt (HMA). Warm mix asphalt (WMA) technologies reduce the temperatures needed for this process. WMA can be placed successfully in cooler weather versus HMA, extending the paving season and making night paving more feasible. Additionally, WMA is a compaction tool that can help achieve proper density and improve pavement performance goals. Because WMA makes compaction easier, cost savings can be achieved by reducing time and labor spent compacting the mix. WMA’s lower temperature also permits more asphalt mix to be hauled for longer distances, reducing transportation costs. The lower temperature of the mix can also improve working conditions by reducing exposure to fuel emissions, fumes, and odors both at the production plant and on the construction site.

For more information: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pavement/asphalt/wma.cfm

Page last modified on March 6, 2022
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