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FHWA Strategic Plan

The section titled FHWA’s Future Operating Environment was revised in July 2016 to reflect changes and updates since the original document was released in December 2008. For more information, please contact the Strategic Management Team, Office of Transportation Policy Studies at 202-366-9070 or submit your questions and comments here.

Table of Contents

The agency's strategic goals are stated below. The associated long-term objectives are described in the Goals section of the Plan.

Corporate Capacity Defined: 'Organizational resources are optimally deployed to meet today’s and tomorrow’s missions.' FHWA Corporate Capacity relates to both our National Leadership and our Program Delivery. National Leadership defined: 'FHWA leads in developing and advocating solutions to national transportation needs.' Program Delivery defined: 'Federal Highway programs are effectively and consistently delivered through successful partnerships, value-added stewardship, and risk-based oversight.' Both National Leadership and Program delivery contribute to each other as well to FHWA's system performance. System Performance defined: 'The Nation’s Highway system provides safe, reliable, effective, and sustainable mobility for all users.'


Our Nation's transportation community is entering an unprecedented era of change. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is, and will continue to be, a leader in shaping the future of highway transportation in our country. As we look to the future, the FHWA will approach new opportunities with the same optimism and confidence that our organization demonstrated with the successful completion of the Eisenhower Interstate System.

In this dynamic time, we see the importance of developing a clear and strategic direction for the Agency. Based on an assessment of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) in our organization's operating environment, the FHWA Leadership Team met in February 2008 to develop a new strategic plan framework. The conversation continued with the extended Leadership Team including all of our senior executives and division administrators at the annual FHWA Spring Business Meeting in April 2008. Our employees were asked to comment on the proposed strategic plan framework and their feedback was considered by Goal Teams, which consisted of FHWA executives and managers.

The resulting FHWA Strategic Plan provides a flexible framework with four goals that encompass the various dimensions of our organization's role and responsibilities:

As the core of FHWA's mission is to Improve Mobility on our Nation's Highways, a primary focus of the strategic plan framework is improving highway system performance—particularly its safety, reliability, effectiveness, and sustainability. To meet our legislative responsibilities, FHWA resources will be committed to developing and delivering existing and future Federal Highway Programs through successful partnerships, value-added stewardship, and risk-based oversight. FHWA must become a more central contributor and serve as a thought leader in the ongoing policy discussions that aim to address the future of the national transportation system. Underpinning this effort will be a renewed focus on enhancing organizational capacity, which translates into having a skilled workforce and supporting systems that are optimally positioned and equipped to deliver the FHWA's mission.

The FHWA Strategic Plan is used to direct the development of the FHWA's Strategic Implementation Plan and influence Office-level Unit plans.

FHWA's Future Operating Environment

A wide array of considerations and assumptions about current and emerging trends are strategically relevant in assessing FHWA's future operating environment. (Note: This section was revised in July 2016.)

Key Influencing Trends

Population shift is impacting travel patterns. Fueled by immigration, more than 60 percent of population growth between now and 2050 will occur in the Nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. Emerging networks of metropolitan areas, which are sometimes referred to as megapolitan areas, will be the focus for much of the population growth in the coming decade. Growth in inter-metropolitan commuting will continue to increase at a faster rate than intra-metropolitan commuting.

More travel options are becoming available. While use of a private vehicle continues to be the predominate mode of travel, the percent of household trips by walking and bicycling is increasing. Younger Americans are also driving less and increasing their use of car-sharing and ride-sharing. This growing trend is likely to persist with advances in communications and payment technologies. The costs of owning an automobile and more restrictive driver licensing laws may also drive this trend.

Americans are getting older. Over 56 million citizens, representing 17 percent of the population, will be age 65 or older in 2020. By 2050, this group will make up more than one-third of the U.S. population. This group is already placing new demands for safety and mobility in the transportation system.

Trade growth placing new demands on freight movement. Canada, Mexico, and China will continue to be the United States’ top trading partners. U.S. exports are predicted to grow by 6 percent by 2020. This trend is fueling strong growth in freight movement and increasing the link between transportation and the Nation’s economic competitiveness. Trade growth will result in an increase in both shipping container volumes as well as truck freight.

Highways will remain critical to industry productivity. To stay competitive, manufacturers require an efficient and reliable transportation system. Marginal reductions in transportation costs for goods movement are critical to the economic vitality of our Nation. Highways are recognized as an important contributor to industry productivity and competitiveness.

Transportation will continue to be a major source of energy use. Transportation currently accounts for approximately 28 percent of energy consumption including 71 percent of all petroleum usage. Fuel consumption by heavy-duty vehicles is likely to increase as truck travel demand outpaces fuel economy improvements; whereas consumption by light duty vehicles including passenger cars is expected to decline due to an increase in vehicle fuel efficiency. The market for passenger cars using alternate fuels and hybrid-electric or electric vehicles will continue to grow, albeit with some uncertainty in forecasts that are dependent on assumptions about gasoline prices and advances in battery technologies.

Autonomous vehicles will be more widely deployed in the vehicle fleet. Independent autonomous vehicles, including models with functions such as driver alerts and controlled braking or steering, will constitute a much larger portion of the U.S. vehicle fleet in the coming decade. Even more advanced versions of these vehicles that can perform complex and sophisticated communication functions when connected to the Internet are also likely to be more commonly deployed.

Extreme weather events are likely to be more frequent. There is strong evidence that events related to heat, precipitation, and coastal flooding are likely to increase in frequency and severity. An increase in the occurrence and duration of heat waves could cause additional thermal expansion of paved surfaces, which would result in a shorter service life. A greater frequency and severity of flooding or storm surges in low-lying regions could require additional drainage and pumping capacity. Both of these situations will cause an increased rate of asphalt degradation and require more frequent road maintenance.

Highway Transportation Trends

Highway travel is on the rebound Total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is a direct measure of demand and use of U.S. public roads. After peaking at 3.039 trillion in 2007, VMT was stagnant during the recent recession and recovery. Early estimates show that the largest annual increase in VMT during the past 25 years occurred from 2014 to 2015 with likely contributors being sustained growth in the economy and low gasoline prices.

Traffic congestion will continue to worsen. Despite ongoing efforts to minimize congestion through capacity expansion and active transportation and demand management strategies, the impacts are likely to increase through this decade. Traffic congestion worsened from 2013 and 2014 in 95 of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. Congestion is no longer a big city phenomenon, it occurs in cities of all sizes and at all times of the day and week. By 2020, the societal cost of congestion is forecast to increase to $192 B (in 2014 dollars), with delay increasing to 8.3 billion hours and wasted fuel increasing to 3.8 billion gallons.

Condition of highway and bridges will remain a concern. A comparison between road conditions in 1990 and 2008 indicates that while Interstates and other higher order systems have improved, conditions on lower-order systems have generally stayed the same or declined, particularly in urban areas. In general, ride quality is better or roads with higher functional classification, such as the Interstate and principal arterials, than on roads such as collectors carrying less traffic at a lower speed. The number of bridges, as well as the percentage of bridges weighted by deck area, classified as structurally deficient also declined to 6.0 percent in 2014. While about 11 percent of NHS bridges are still classified as structurally deficient, these bridges carry only about 6 percent of annual daily traffic.

Improving traffic safety will remain a priority. In 2014, 32,675 people died and an estimated 3.231 million people suffered injuries in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. The fatality rate was 1.07 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), the lowest fatality rate on record. The total number of fatalities declined slightly from 2013 although pedestrian fatalities increased by 2.2 percent. While the number of fatal crashes decreased slightly, the total number of crashes increased by 6.6 percent between 2013 and 2014 to over 6.064 million largely due to an increase in property-damage only crashes. Our Nation expends $242 billion per year on traffic crash-related costs.

Highway Industry Trends

Highway construction costs will continue to rise. Between June 2013 and June 2015, highway construction prices rose 3.1 percent, maintaining a 30-year trend of increasing prices. While still below peak prices experienced in the mid-2000s, roadway construction costs are likely to maintain an upward trend.

Construction processes and methodologies will continue to evolve. New construction techniques, such as broader use of prefabricated bridges, are creating the need for changes in project development processes. These new techniques offer opportunities for minimizing traffic disruption and congestion, improving work zone safety, and lowering costs. The use of e-Construction techniques will increase efficiencies for some tasks though the use of mobile devices, digital signatures, and secure delivery systems.

Use of recycled materials will continue to grow. In 2014, the use of reclaimed asphalt pavement and reclaimed asphalt shingles saved approximately $2.8 billion in road-building costs compared to using new material. More than 75 million tons of recycled materials were used in hot and warm-mix asphalt. This is a 28 percent increase from 2009 and a 6 percent increase from the previous year.

Alternative contracting approaches and outsourcing will continue. States and partners are increasingly turning to Public-Private Partnerships (P3) and other contracting and project delivery mechanisms (e.g. design-build) to deliver large, complex and higher-cost projects. States and local governments will likely make greater use of federal loan guarantees and P3, in some cases without federal dollars, to finance capital improvements and operate infrastructure.

Real-time travel data and new analysis tools will impact planning, management, and operations. Priority-setting practices in transportation agencies continue to evolve and are becoming more transparent, participatory, interrelated, and complex. Goal setting and performance measures are now being widely used in most States and larger metropolitan planning organizations to provide greater accountability for how public funds are being spent. The increasing availability of real-time travel-related data and the new tools and techniques for analyzing the data will impact how transportation agencies plan, manage, and operate transportation systems.

It will continue to be difficult for agencies to attract and retain a capable workforce. As much as 50 percent of the transportation workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next decade. As these workers depart, they will take valuable knowledge and skills with them. Transportation agencies are experiencing difficulties attracting and retaining capable employees, facing competition from other industries as well as within industry.

Strategic Issues

The FHWA Leadership Team identified four primary issues that were deemed as critical challenges in the future. These deliberations, which are summarized below, had an important influence over the development of the new strategic plan framework.

Leadership — The FHWA is in a unique position to frame the discussion and define the debate on major issues that impact the transportation community nationwide. FHWA can be an agent of change by proactively identifying emerging transportation needs and issues, leading the way in developing and implementing sound national transportation policy, and advancing and promoting the use of innovative approaches to solve those problems that impact the country's mobility. This approach includes collecting meaningful data, undertaking sound analysis, developing strategic approaches with our transportation partners, and working with decision-makers to implement those approaches. National leadership includes guiding and sustaining an ethical agency focused on innovation, customer service, and business results.

Program Delivery Role — FHWA strives to improve our Nation's transportation system by continuously improving the delivery of Federal Highway Programs. In today's business environment, FHWA and our transportation partners are increasingly challenged to deliver transportation projects faster and more efficiently to meet ever increasing transportation needs. FHWA must improve the effectiveness of the delivery of the Federal Highway Programs through risk-based oversight and value-added stewardship. The foundation of this approach is successful partnerships, innovative program delivery, risk management, and performance measurement. Federal Highway Programs encompass all FHWA funded programs, including the Federal-aid and Federal Lands programs.

System Performance — FHWA is committed to improving the performance of the highway system - as part of a fully integrated, multimodal transportation system - to levels needed to help achieve national economic, security, energy, and other goals. This commitment will require us to invest more in collection, analysis, and evaluation of performance information, as well as better understand the link between highway system performance and the achievement of national goals so that appropriate targets can be set. We will also need to define and work with our partners to implement the strategies necessary to achieve national performance objectives. The primary emphasis in this goal area will be on the national priorities including reducing traffic congestion on the higher order elements of the highway system such as the National Highway System (NHS), Strategic Highway Network, and other major arterials and intermodal connectors.

Corporate Capacity— FHWA will emphasize the importance of effectively and efficiently using all resources available to meet current and future missions. The goal emphasizes strengthening our workforce, financial systems, and environmentally friendly business systems and practices. These resources serve as the agency's foundation and provide the support needed to achieve success.

Vision, Mission & Core Values

FHWA Vision

Our agency and our transportation system are the best in the world.

FHWA Mission

To improve mobility on our Nation's highways through national leadership, innovation, and program delivery.
These are our core values that help us define our purpose and our mission.

Public Service

We are committed to the pursuit of professional excellence motivated by serving the public interest and providing high quality products and timely services.


Ethics, fairness, and honesty define the way we do our work and conduct ourselves. We have the courage to be both innovative and make tough decisions.


We value individual diversity and the unique strengths, skills, expertise, and background of our employees. We treat others in a polite and courteous manner.


We support, care about, listen to, and respond to employees and their family needs.


We maximize our collective talents through teamwork and partnerships based on mutual trust, respect, support, cooperation, and communication.

Personal Development

Through a wide variety of learning opportunities, we nurture the development and use of leadership, technical, and professional skills in all of our employees.


The agency's strategic goals and the associated long-term objectives are described below (Note: This section was updated in March 2015):

National Leadership

FHWA leads in developing and advocating solutions to national transportation needs.

Program Delivery

Federal Highway Programs are effectively and consistently delivered through successful partnerships, value-added stewardship, and risk-based oversight.

System Performance

The Nation's highway system provides safe, reliable, effective, and sustainable mobility for all users.

Corporate Capacity

Organizational resources are optimally deployed to meet today's and tomorrow's mission.

Measurement Plan

The goals and performance objectives outlined in this Strategic Plan collectively define the direction that FHWA is taking in the coming decade. The Agency is tracking progress in achieving these goals and objectives. The progress to date is shown in a series of trend charts that are available for download: measurementplandata_january2016.pdf (163 kb). (Note: Results for the measures were updated in January 2016).

Publication Number: FHWA-PL-08-027
October 2008 (Revised July 2016)

Page last modified on July 28, 2016
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