FHWA Policy Memorandums - Office of Research and Development Operations and Support

ACTION: State Planning and Research
Program Administration; Guidelines

Associate Administrator for
Research and Development
Regional Federal Highway Administrators

The new regulations for conducting the State Planning and Research (SP&R) program became effective on August 22. Our goal is to have all States operating under the new procedures by June 30, 1995.

To assist the Regions, Division, and States in implementing Subpart B, "Research, Development, and Technology Transfer Program (RD&T) Management," we have developed the attached guidelines. The guidelines expand on the basic requirements in the regulations and are provided as "guidelines."

A State’s RD&T management process must include as a minimum the items listed in Section 420.207 of Subpart B. Beyond that, we encourage the Regions and Divisions to work with the States to develop the best program possible. Please remember the guidelines are "guidelines" and each State’s management process will be different.

Attached are sufficient copies of the guidelines to provide one copy to each Region and Division Office and State highway agency.

Original signed by:
John A. Clements, P.E.






The Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 instituted a number of substantive changes pertinent to the planning and research program. In addition to retitling it from Highway Planning and Research to State Planning and Research (SP&R) it: (1) increased the set aside of funds apportioned to the States for SP&R activities from 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent; (2) included planning, research, and technology transfer as eligible activities user the National Highway System and Surface Transportation Programs; (3) permitted the use of 23 U.S.C. funds for other modes of transportation planning, research, and technology transfer; and (4) required the expenditure of 25 percent of the State’s annual SP&R funds for research, development, and technology transfer (RD&T) activities, unless the State certifies that it will use more than 75 percent for planning. The ISTEA sets forth the minimum Federal requirements for carrying out RD&T activities using planning and research funds and establishes the foundation under which the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) may allow States increased flexibility for directing and controlling their program initiatives, subject to certain program standards and conditions. Title 23, Code for Federal Regulations, Part 420, Subpart B provides for new procedures pertaining to the management of RD&T activities.

These guidelines have been prepared to assist the FHWA staff and the State highway agencies in implementing the regulations contained in part 420, Subpart B. Guidance is also provided for processing RD&T activities. These are:

  1. Implement a program of RD&T activities for planning, design, construction, and maintenance of highways and public and intermodal transportation systems.

  2. Develop, establish, and implement a management process that identifies and implements RD&T activities expected to address high priority transportation issues.

  3. Agree to peer reviews of its RD&T program and be willing to participate in the review of other States’ programs.

  4. Maintain documentation of its management process.

Each State is permitted to tailor its process to meet State and local needs. However, the process must comply with the above minimum conditions. The following items should be considered in determining a State’s compliance with the above conditions.

  1. Implement a Program of RD&T Activities

In developing its program, a State may include RD&T activities necessary in connection with planning, design, construction, and maintenance of highway and public and intermodal transportation systems. It is not mandatory that a State include all of these areas in its RD&T program. However, when identifying and prioritizing its RD&T activities (see item 2a below), the State should consider all of these areas. Each State should develop a program that addresses its highest priority transportation RD&T needs. The priorities will vary from State to Statedepending on the size of the State, population, size and number of urban areas, etc.

Not less than 25 percent requirement may be requested if a State believes its total expenditures during the fiscal year for transportation planning will exceed 75 percent of the amount apportioned for the fiscal year. The approval authority for a waiver of the 25 percent requirement has been delegated to the FHWA Associate Administrator for Research and Development.

Prior to submitting a request for a waiver, a State shall ensure that:

  1. The additional planning activities are essential and that there are no other reasonable options available for funding these activities.

  2. The planning activities have a higher priority than the RD&T activities in the overall needs of the State for a given year.

  3. The total level by State in RD&T is adequate.

Requests for a waiver along with supporting justification shall be forwarded through the FHWA Divisions and Regions to the Associate Administrator for Research and Development. In reviewing the State’s request, the Associate Administrator’s decision will be based on the following consideration:

If the State’s request for a waiver is approved, it is valid only for the fiscal year in which the waiver is approved. A new request must be submitted in subsequent fiscal years.

  1. Develop, Establish, and Implement a Management Process.

As a minimum, a State’s management process should include procedures for:

  1. Identifying and prioritizing RD&T activities for inclusion in a work program.

  2. Tracking program activities, schedules, accomplishments, and fiscal commitments.

  3. Using the TRIS data base for program development, reporting of current RD&T activities, and input of the final report information.

  4. Determining the effectiveness of the State’s management process in implementing the RD&T program and determining the utilization of the State’s RD&T outputs.

  5. Documenting RD&T activities through the preparation of final reports.

The specific details concerning these procedures need to be developed on a State-by-State basis. However, the following guidance is provided to assist in developing the management process.

  1. A procedure for identifying and prioritizing RD&T activities for inclusion in a work program.

The procedure for identifying RD&T activities should involve the other offices (highway, transit, intermodal) within the transportation agency, the FHWA Division Office, and the universities within the State. Within the State Highway agency, problems should be solicited from the various offices (design, construction, maintenance, etc.). It would be desirable to use a standard form to solicit problem statements (Attachment No. 1). Criteria for prioritizing the problem statements should be developed. A single committee or several committees (i.e., pavements, structures, traffic, safety, etc.) for States with large SP&R programs can be used to prioritize and rank the problem statements. FHWA Division Office participation in this process and on this committee(s) is strongly encouraged.

The problem statements selected for funding using the above process could then be expanded to add the research approach, time required, and cost estimate (Attachment No. 2). These expanded problem statements plus the financial summaries, could be combined to constitute the State’s work program.

A State work program may be either annual or biennial. The work program, as a minimum, shall include:

The work program would be submitted to the FHWA Division Office for approval and authorization. Copies of the approved work program should be forwarded to the Regional Office (number of copies to be determined by each region) and two copies should be forwarded to the Associate Administrator for Research and Development (HRD-10).

Work Program Changes

Administrative requirements for grants and cooperative agreements to State and local governments are covered under 49 CFR part 18. Under 49 CFR 18.30, a State may make budget transfer among individual RD&T activities without FHWA prior approval unless the total of such transfers over the period of the work program will, or is expected to, exceed the larger or $100,000 or 10 percent of the total approved work program budget. For example, if an RD&T work program totals $2,000,000, a State may transfer $200,000 among RD&T activities included in the work program without prior FHWA approval requirement may be waived.

A budget change that involves an increase in the total funds authorized for the work program still requires prior FHWA approval and authorization. Similarly, programmatic changes (adding a line item, contracting out, etc.) specified in 49 CFR 18.30 (d) require prior FHWA approval.

After approval and authorization of the work program, it is not necessary for a State to submit to the FHWA individual, detailed work statements or proposals for review and approval. A State, at its discretion, may wish to submit specialized or highly technical proposals or work statements to the FHWA for comments or technical assistance. These requests may be forwarded through the Division and Regional Offices to the Associate Administrator for Research and Development (HRD-10). HRD-10 will coordinate the review with the appropriate R&D Division.

  1. Procedures for tracking program activities, schedules, accomplishments and fiscal commitments.

A quarterly or semiannual progress reporting system, using a standard format for the reports, should be developed. Progress reports should indicate work completed, plans for the next period (quarter or semiannual), results (if any), problems, and fiscal expenditures. Copies should beprovided to the FHWA Division Office.

  1. Procedures for using the TRIS data base for program development, reporting for current RD&T activities, and input of final report information.

The State should develop procedures for using the TRIS data base when developing their work program to determine if similar work is under way or has been completed by someone else. A process for the timely entering of new studies, updating ongoing studies, and reporting completed studies also needs to be developed.

Under a cooperative agreement between the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and the FHWA, a standardized system will be created for managing summaries of past, current, and future State and Federal RD&T activities. The system will integrate document management with the TRIS system by providing each State with a compatible data entry and text retrieval system tant permits uploading of research summaries. The FHWA Region and Division Offices will be able to read and download summaries, but will not be able to input data. Each State will be provided with a dedicated computer and software to access TRIS.

  1. Procedures to determine the effectiveness of the State’s management process in implementing the RD&T program and to determine the utilization of the State’s RD&T outputs.

The effectiveness of an RD&T management process and program is difficult to quantify. The State’s process should include periodic reviews of the results of its RD&T program. A follow up process to determine if the RD&T results have been incorporated into a State’s standard plans, specifications, practices, or procedures should be included in a State’s plan. A more detailed process may involve benefit/cost ratios or other effectiveness measures. The development and distribution of an annual activities/achievement report is encouraged.

  1. Procedures for documenting RD&T activities through the preparation for final reports.

A process should be designed to ensure that a final report is prepared, in a timely manner, for each RD&T activities, whereas others will require a more detailed report. The final report, as a minimum, should document the data collected, analyses performed, conclusions, and recommendations. It is also strongly recommended that a plan for implementing the research findings and documenting the benefits be developed.

All new RD&T activities should require the use of metric units in the final reports. Existing contracts and agreements for RD&T activities should be amended to include metric units in the final reports, if it can be done at no or minimal cost.

The final report serves as evidence of work performed. As part of the review process for draft final reports, the FHWA Division Office should have an opportunity to determine if the contents of the report are supported by the work performed, since the published report will include a credit reference to the FHWA. If the FHWA Division Administrator is satisfied that priorreview is unnecessary, this requirement can be waived. A waiver may be granted for an indefinite period of time, annually, or any other appropriate period. It may also be granted for all reports or selected categories.

Draft final reports are not required to be submitted to the FHWA Headquarters for review and approval. The State, at its discretion, may request FHWA Region and/or Washington Office review and comments. When a State requests a technical review of a report, copies should be forwarded through the Division and Regional offices to the Associate Administrator for Research and Development (HRD-10). HRD-10 will coordinate technical review in the Washington Headquarters Office.

The State will be responsible for submitting final printed reports to the National Technical Information Services (NTIS) and the Transportation Research Information Services Network (TRISNET) repositories. Addresses for NTIS and the TRISNET repositories are included in Attachment 4.

Each FHWA Division and Regional Office should determine the number of copies of final reports that it needs for its use. Five copies of each final report should be submitted to the Associate Administrator for Research and Development (HRD-10).

Whether or not a waiver is approved, appropriate reports that document work performed with FHWA planning and research funds must be prepared. The reports must included a credit reference and a disclaimer statement, and copies must be provided to the FHWA as evidence of work performed.

  1. Peer Review.

The peer review is not intended to be a compliance review. Peer reviews are intended to help in identifying, reinforcing, and conveying effective program approaches across the country. They provide a nationwide sharing of successful practices and policies.

Each State should conduct a peer review of its RD&T program at least once every 3 years. The State is responsible for selecting and organizing the peer review team. The peer review team may consist of other State highway agency research personnel; university researchers; FHWA Division, Region, or Washington Headquarters staff; and AASHTO and TRB staff, if available. At least two members of the peer review team shall be selected from the FHWA list of qualified peer reviewers.

The Associate Administrator for Research and Development (HRD-10) will develop and maintain a list of qualified peer reviewers. When a State is preparing to conduct a peer review of its program, it may request the list from HRD-10. Requests for the list may be phoned (703/285-2100) or faxed (703/285-2379).

Travel and other costs associated with peer reviews of a State’s program may be identified as a line item in the State’s work program and will be eligible for 100 percent Federal funding. In commenting on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, several States indicated that they wouldhave administrative difficulties in paying travel and other costs associated with peer reviews. The Office of Research and Development (HRD-10) will consider establishing a national pooled-fund project if there is sufficient interest from the States.

The State’s program documentation (item no. 4 below) and any other pertinent information should be made available to assist the peer review team.

At the completion of its peer review, the team will prepare a report of its findings and submit it to the State. The State will forward, for information purposes, a copy of the report to the FHWA Division Administrator with a written response to the peer review findings.

  1. Management Process Documentation.

Documentation that describes the State’s process and procedures for managing its RD&T programs should be developed and maintained. The documentation outlines the process that the State follows in item no. 2 above, explaining how the process works, who is responsible for each phase, committee(s) makeup, and annual schedule of events. An organizational chart and flow diagram may also be appropriate. Preferably, the process and procedures will be outlined in a "stand-alone" document. This would greatly facilitate peer reviews and revisions to the management process and procedures.

The documentation will be submitted to the FHWA Division Administrator for approval. Upon approval by the Division Administrator, the State may implement its management process for RD&T activities.

Significant changes in the management process require the Division Administrator’s approval. Significant changes might include adding or deleting review/selection committees or a plan to solicit external (outside the State and FHWA) input for the RD&T program.


After a State’s management process for its RD&T program has been approved, the State shall certify by June 30, 1995, that it is complying with the requirements of 23 CFR Section 420, Subpart B. For those States unable to meet full compliance by June 30, 1995, the regulations permit the FHWA Division Administrator to grant a conditional approval.

Every effort should be made by the State and the Division Office to comply with the

June 30, 1995, date. In those instances where as State is unable to meet the date, the FHWA Division Administrator will review the status of the State’s efforts and may grant conditional approval of the RD&T management process. A conditional approval will cite those areas that are deficient. All deficiencies must be corrected by January 1, 1996. A copy of the conditional approval should be forwarded to the Regional Administrator and the Associate Administrator for Research and Development (HRD-10).

The certification is a "one-time certification" unless the State significantly revises its management process, the revision must be approved by the FHWA Division Administrator and anew certification must be submitted to the Division Administrator.

A copy of the State’s certification should be forwarded through the Regional Office to the Associate Administrator for Research and Development (HRD-10).


The FHWA Division, at the discretion of the Division Administrator, will make periodic compliance reviews of the State’s RD&T management process. If a State is not complying with the requirements of 23 CFR Part 420, Subpart B, or is not performing in accordance with its RD&T management process, the Division Administrator shall issue a written notice to the States of proposed determination noncompliance. A copy should be forwarded through the Regional Office to the Associate Administrator for Research and Development (HRD-10).

The notice shall outline the reasons for the proposed determination and inform the State that it has 30 days to reply. The State’s reply should address the deficiencies cited in the notice and should provide any necessary documentation. The Division Administrator will review the State’s reply and, within 30 days of receipt, will make a determination of compliance.

If the State and the Division Administrator cannot resolve the differences, Regional Office assistance should be requested. Every effort should be made to resolve any difference at the Division and Region levels. If the differences cannot be resolved, the State may request an appeal to the Federal Highway Administrator. Appeals should be submitted through the Division and Regional Offices to the Federal Highway Administrator. The Federal Highway Administrator’s action will constitute the final decision of the FHWA.

An adverse decision results in immediate withdrawal of approval of FHWA planning and research funds for the State’s RD&T activities until the State is in full compliance.


Current RD&T activities can be acclimated into a State’s process at their present stage. The SP&R studies that have been previously submitted to the Office of Research and Development for review and comment have been entered into the Highway Technology Information Management System (HTIMS). The data in HTIMS will be transferred to the TRIS data base; therefore, the States will be able to update those studies in the data base and add any current studies that are not in the data base.

Draft reports on current studies do not need to be submitted to the Office of Research and Development for review and comment. These reports can be processed using the procedures proposed in State’s management process for handling reports. Similarly, final printed reports can be handled in the same manner as the State proposes to handle new studies under its management process.


The final regulation was published in the Federal Register on July 22, 1994. The intent is to have all States operating under the new SP&R regulations no later than June 30, 1995. However, a provision for conditional approval has been added to the regulation that, in essence, provides a 6-month extension to those States that are unable to meet the June 30 deadline.

The Regional Offices are requested to provide quarterly reports on the progress of their States in implementing this regulation. The first quarterly report is due on December 31, 1994. These reports will be forwarded to the Associate Administrator for Research and Development (HRD-10). The reports should briefly indicate, for each State, the progress in implementing the regulation and any problems encountered. E-mail may be used for submitting the reports.









1. TITLE: Brief, but descriptive.

2. PROBLEM STATEMENT: Brief description of the problem to be solved.

3. ABSTRACT:A concise description of study objectives, proposed research approach, etc.

4. DURATION: Expected length of study.

5. FUNDING REQUIREMENTS: Include total funds required and indicate whether a large percentage of the funds will be needed at any particular point in the study.

6. PERFORMING ORGANIZATION: Staff effort or planned contract.

7. EQUIPMENT: Identify equipment costing over $5,000.

8. EXPECTED BENEFITS:Briefly state what benefits may be derived from conducting the study.



Additional Federal Funds Division Office Approval Required
Transfer of Funds Among
RD&T Activities
Division Office May Waive Approval
Purchase of Equipment-
Cost in Excess of $5,000
Division Office Approval Required*
Revision of Scope or
Division Office May Waive Approval
Changes of Key Persons When
Specified in the Work Program
Division Office May Waive Approval
Contracting Out, Subgranting,
or Otherwise Obtaining the
Services of a Third Party
Division Office Approval Required*
Adding a New RD&T Activity Division Office Approval Required
Prior Approval for Report
Division Office May Waive Approval
* If not previously approved in the work program



National Technical Information Service
5285 Port Royal Road
Springfield, Virginia 22161
University of California
TRISNET Repository
Institute of Transportation and
Traffic Engineering
Berkeley, California 94720
Northwestern University
TRISNET Repository
Transportation Center Library
Evanston, Illinois 60201
Transportation System Center
TRISNET Repository
Kendall Square
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142
Department of Transportation Library
400 7th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20590
* Number of copies

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