PDF Print File Download Link Icon
Credit: FHWA
complex highway and overpass system

Michigan and North Carolina Win STIC Excellence Awards

State Transportation Innovation Councils (STICs) in Michigan and North Carolina recently received 2021 STIC Excellence Awards for demonstrating success in fostering a strong culture of innovation in their transportation communities.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and Federal Highway Administration sponsor the annual award to promote innovation nationwide. Acting FHWA Administrator Stephanie Pollock announced the 2021 recipients at the National STIC Network Meeting in October.

“Both of these STICs have exhibited strong leadership, involvement by diverse groups, innovation in performance tracking, and promotion of innovation implementation,” Pollack said. She asked attendees to keep sharing ideas, trying new things, and encouraging staff to think outside the box. “We have big challenges on our plate, but the good news is we also have a lot of opportunities to address those challenges, and we have processes and tools in place like STICs to do that.”

Michigan’s STIC Expands Its Reach

The Michigan STIC (MI-STIC) has evolved to enhance representation from leadership at various levels of the State’s highway community. It recently expanded to include individuals from the State’s asphalt pavement, concrete, aggregates, and road preservation associations and the State House and Senate.

Ted Burch, deputy division administrator for FHWA’s Michigan Division, noted that this addition to MI-STIC’s already diverse membership has created a robust group of highway leaders and strong partnerships to implement innovation across the State. “Those partnerships have evolved in a number of outreach events,” said Burch. “They’ve really brought innovation from all aspects of the transportation industry to the table.”

MI-STIC is also continuously evolving the processes and procedures it uses to educate stakeholders on available innovations. A recent concept, which was developed based on ideas shared during a multi-State peer exchange, is Transportation Highlights. Open to all stakeholders, these events allow participants to present and learn about accomplishments, new practices, and emerging topics in transportation and to ask questions and highlight solutions.

Tony Kratofil, chief operations officer and chief engineer for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), said the sessions have proven valuable. “They are really key to the ability to share innovation and promote innovative practices across the whole industry,” he said.

Hear more from Michigan and North Carolina in this video recording of the 2021 National STIC Network Meeting. Learn about the first seven projects awarded under FHWA’s Accelerating Market Readiness program, as well as an overview of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program.

Credit: FHWA

MI-STIC’s engaged leadership has helped get various innovation initiatives adopted and achieve local impacts. Among these is virtual public involvement (VPI). MDOT used VPI to expand its reach to larger target audiences, increasing participation and transparency while decreasing costs from staff time and project delays. MDOT’s VPI tools have been employed on local pilot projects and are being incorporated into the State’s long-range plan.

These and other innovations are captured in an external facing Innovations Dashboard that highlights areas of research, new products, innovative contracts, digital data, and traffic flow and mobility advancements.

North Carolina Diversifies Ideas, Expertise

North Carolina’s STIC expanded over the last few years from a single committee focused on annual projects and Every Day Counts updates to a major program centered on multiple innovation efforts between the North Carolina DOT (NCDOT) and its partners.

The STIC was rechartered in 2019 as the North Carolina Transportation Innovation Council (NC-TIC), with an executive committee led by the State’s Secretary of Transportation. Supporting groups were formed focusing on three areas: internal innovation, academic partnerships, and industry partnerships. Each of these is supported by multi-disciplinary committees with stakeholders from industry, academia, and government. The NC-TIC holds an annual Research & Innovation Summit, now in its third year, to bring the three groups together.

North Carolina FHWA Division Administrator John Sullivan said NCDOT launched the Transportation Centers of Excellence program in 2020 to enhance its academic partnerships. The three Centers of Excellence involve eight universities across the State.

“These academic partnerships built through NCDOT are intended to expand our research capability by being more inclusive, enhancing the relationships between our universities, and including more of our historically black universities in doing highway research for NCDOT,” he said.

Another focus area of the NC-TIC is how to better leverage internal innovation within NCDOT. The agency launched a program called CLEAR (Communicate Lessons, Exchange Advice, Record) to expand its use of knowledge management and innovation tracking tools. Originally conceived to track lessons learned on construction projects, CLEAR is now capturing innovative ideas, solutions, and challenges throughout NCDOT.

NCDOT Secretary Eric Boyette said the NC-TIC has benefited from its efforts to diversify and expand its innovation partnerships and knowledge base. “The biggest thing is when you diversify, when you look around the table and make sure you have good diversity, it actually helps drive things like we’re trying to do here with innovation,” he said. “The more we can do that, the better off we are as an agency.”

New FHWA Innovation and Workforce Office

During the 2021 National STIC Network Meeting, Amy Lucero, FHWA’s Associate Administrator for the Office of Transportation Workforce Development and Technology Deployment, introduced participants to her office’s new structure, which is aimed at strengthening the agency’s focus on innovation.

The recent re-organization united the FHWA offices that manage innovation, workforce programs, deployment training, and technical assistance efforts.

“The goal of this new office is to strengthen innovation deployment and workforce deployment by bringing all the right people to the same table, providing the best coordinated resources in all of these areas for customers, stakeholders, and partners,” Lucero said.

Read more about the new office in FHWA’s Public Roads magazine.


Visit FHWA’s STIC Excellence Award webpage.

Contact Sara Lowry of FHWA’s Office of Transportation Workforce Development and Technology Deployment for information on the STIC Excellence Award.

Notice: The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers’ names appear in this article only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

Recommended Citation: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration - Washington, DC (2021) Innovator Newsletter, January/February 2022, Volume 15 (88). https://doi.org/10.21949/1521806