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Innovator Reaches 100th Issue Milestone

The 100th issue marks more than 16 years of sharing innovation news and resources.

More than 20,000 subscribers turn to the Innovator newsletter to learn about innovative technologies and processes in the highway community. Launched by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 2007 under Highways for LIFE (HfL) and continuing under Every Day Counts (EDC), the bimonthly publication now consists of 100 issues chronicling innovation success stories, highlighting notable practices, and advancing the implementation of innovative technologies and processes.

Supporting Highways for LIFE

Innovator began under FHWA’s HfL initiative, a pilot program established by Congress in 2005. HfL advanced the design and construction of highways and bridges to make the process safer, faster, and more cost-efficient by accelerating the adoption of proven innovations.

FHWA developed a technology deployment process that enlisted dedicated teams to reach State and local agencies through a variety of methods such as workshops and demonstration showcases, and Innovator helped expand that reach by highlighting notable deployments, sharing best practices, and promoting new resources to readers throughout the country.

Innovator Timeline

Scroll through Innovator's Milestones

Event & Acquisitions Timeline




First Issue

The first issue of Innovator is printed and mailed to subscribers and posted online.


Innovator Issue 1


Innovator highlights importance of marketing to deploy innovation.


EDC Summits

Innovator introduces Every Day Counts and reports on the first EDC Summits.


Innovator Issue 22

The States Innovate! Debut

The States Innovate! section, a regularly occuring feature with short innovation highlights from agencies across the country, debuts in issue 33.


STIC Incentive Program

Issue 39 of Innovator introduces the STIC Incentive Program.



FHWA converts Innovator to all-electronic delivery.

Issue 45 announces the first projects to receive grants under FHWA’s AID Demonstration program.


Innovator Issue 45

STIC Excellence Awards

Innovator reports inaugural STIC Excellence Awards.



A newly redesigned Innovator helps kick off EDC-5.

Innovator Issue 68

Innovator becomes weekly feature on FHWA social media channels.


Web-Based Publication

Innovator becomes a web-based publication.

Innovator Issue 75

Homegrown Innovations

Innovator adds a State and local Homegrown Innovations feature.

Innovator announces the first round of awards from FHWA’s Accelerating Market Readiness program.


Mobile User Growth

25% of subscribers now use a mobile device to read Innovator.


100th Issue

FHWA publishes the 100th issue of Innovator.

Spreading the Word on Innovations
that Work

Early Innovator issues reported on the first innovations promoted by HfL, which included prefabricated bridge elements and systems (PBES), road safety audits (RSAs), and techniques for making work zones work better.

PBES are structural components of a bridge that are built offsite then brought to the project location for installation. This method shortens onsite construction time, minimizing traffic impacts and increasing traveler and worker safety, and it can also offer superior durability.

Innovator highlighted a notable PBES deployment by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) in its first issue and, in future issues, featured deployments by agencies across the country. Later stories on PBES helped spread the word on an advanced construction material called ultra-high performance concrete that offered stronger, more durable PBES connections. In 2019, Innovator reported that PBES is today’s most widely used accelerated bridge construction technology. FHWA now considers PBES to have advanced to mainstream, widespread use and practice.

RSAs are safety performance reviews of existing or proposed roadways or intersections by an independent, multidisciplinary team. RSAs qualitatively estimate and report potential road safety issues and identify opportunities for safety improvements. While traditional safety reviews often concentrate on motorized traffic, RSAs consider all potential road users, including road user capabilities and limitations.

Innovator first featured RSAs in issue 4, highlighting RSA deployment as a standard practice by the South Carolina DOT, and pointed readers to training courses, workshops, and other resources on how to conduct RSAs. In 2012, Innovator reported that conducting audits to improve road user safety was picking up momentum as transportation professionals learned more about the process, with 34 States having made audits part of their Highway Safety Improvement Program.

Later RSA articles continued highlighting successful practices, including a 2017 feature describing how the Missouri DOT used RSAs to identify cost-effective countermeasures on a busy highway corridor and a 2020 highlight of Johnson County, Iowa’s success in using RSAs to identify and recommend solutions for a location where lane departures where occurring. Since that time, DOTs have also developed new RSA resources and practices, including additional considerations for equity and the growth of active transportation and micro-mobility.

Early Innovator issues also highlighted FHWA’s Making Work Zones Work Better program, which encompassed several strategies for improving traffic flow and safety with a goal of reducing the number of work zones needed, reducing how long work zones are in place, and enhancing work zone safety. Current issues continue coverage of these focus areas, including recent features on technologies being piloted in Missouri that can make work zones safer and use of crowdsourcing for work zone management and traveler alerts.

Looking ahead in 2024, Innovator will include an article series exploring how several innovations in these categories and others progressed from state of the art at the time the newsletter first reported on them to current standard practice at DOTs around the country.

Making Every Day Count

In 2010, Innovator introduced readers to the EDC program, which built upon the HfL pilot, assembling implementation teams for each innovation to expand market penetration to a national scale. Innovator was key in helping raise awareness of FHWA’s innovation initiative and continues to be a tool to transfer technology to the transportation community.

Information dissemination is an essential component of expanding awareness of transportation innovations and helping agencies use them effectively. During the first EDC regional summits, Innovator introduced readers to the innovations advanced during round one (EDC-1) and has since served as the window into EDC for innovation champions who have not been able to attend the in-person EDC summits.

Innovator has really helped keep readers abreast of developments and successful deployments,” said Jeff Zaharewicz, Director of FHWA’s Center for Accelerating Innovation, “and the inclusion of stories like those found in the recurring States Innovate and Homegrown Innovations features demonstrates that Innovator covers both transformative innovations and the everyday-type innovations that also make a difference.”

Building a Culture of Innovation

In addition to effective communication, technology deployment also requires engaged and collaborative leadership. FHWA encouraged the formation of State Transportation Innovation Councils (STICs) to bring the diverse highway community in each State together to identify the best innovations for their program and help lead the way in deployment. Innovator boosted awareness of STIC activities and successes as each council was formed, and in issue 56, Innovator reported that the STIC network was complete—all 50 States plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Federal Lands Highway had signed STIC charters.

Innovator also spreads the word to the highway community on the FHWA funding opportunities designed to help move innovative technologies and processes to widespread use and practice, including the STIC Incentive, Accelerating Market Readiness (AMR), and Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) Demonstration award programs. Innovator is one of FHWA’s dedicated platforms to recognize STIC Incentive, AMR, and AID Demonstration, as well as recipients of the STIC Excellence Awards.

Over the past 16 years, Innovator has chronicled a nationwide movement to deploy innovation that is improving the way highways and bridges are built and making the Nation’s transportation system more adaptable, sustainable, equitable, and safer for all and will continue as a trusted resource to assist agencies in building a culture of innovation.

Highway Innovations Then & Now

What’s the latest deployment news on prefabricated bridge elements, road safety audits, and work zone safety technologies? Stay tuned for upcoming issues with articles on how these and other innovations have evolved from when they were first reported on in Innovator until now.


Visit the Innovator archive to access past issues for articles you may have missed or want to newly explore.

Send future issues of Innovator to your mobile device by texting “FHWA Innovation” to 468311.

Contact Julie Zirlin, FHWA Program Manager for Every Day Counts, for more information.

Disclaimer: The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers’ names appear in this document only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document. They are included for informational purposes only and are not intended to reflect a preference, approval, or endorsement of any one product or entity.

Except for the statutes and regulations cited, the contents of this document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the States or the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide information regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.

Recommended Citation: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration - Washington, DC (2023) Innovator Newsletter, January/February 2024, Volume 17 (100). https://doi.org/10.21949/1521769