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Remarks by Greg Nadeau, Deputy Administrator, FHWA (delivered by Hari)

Panel on Providing Leadership in Transportation Innovation

Monday, January 13, 2014 at 1:30 PM

We’re in the middle of a transition at FHWA, with Victor becoming the Department’s Acting Deputy Secretary and I’m stepping in as Acting Administrator at FHWA.

But there’s NO transition when it comes to our commitment to innovation and the state-based approach to innovation deployment.

That commitment is as strong as ever!

Having said that, I want to spend a few minutes on how we view our role in innovation from the federal point of view.

More than four years ago, Victor worked with the transportation community to launch the Every Day Counts initiative as a way to speed project delivery and deploy proven technologies that deserved to be more widely used.

I was honored to be asked by Victor to head up the initiative.

From the start, EDC was seen as a stakeholder-based program.

Most of our highway network is owned and operated by state and local agencies, and so we rely on them to embrace and deploy innovation.

And we rely on the private sector because in many cases that’s the breeding ground for innovations.

Even then, getting people – even our own people at FHWA – to adopt a new way of doing things can be difficult. People get comfortable and successful with a certain way of doing things.

But the old ways will no longer “do.”

We need to make more efficient and effective use of the taxpayers’ money.

And we need to deliver the benefits of new projects and new technologies to the public sooner in order to improve safety, reduce congestion and keep America moving and competitive.

That calls for widespread use of innovation, whether it comes from EDC, SHRP2 or anywhere else.

We recognized from the start that building and nurturing a state-based network would be critical to our success in deploying innovation.

We encouraged each state to put together an innovation deployment council made up of people from throughout the highway community, with representatives from FHWA, the state DOT, county and city agencies, the construction industry, and the design consulting folks.

Each council is a little bit different from state to state.

But we believe this type of diverse, well-rounded council is the best way to learn about new technologies, build off each other’s insights and figure out which innovations work best in their respective state.

It’s the heart of what we call the state-based approach to advancing innovation, and it’s the cornerstone on which the success of Every Day Counts is built.

Many of the states have adopted this model and created what we call State Transportation Innovation Councils or STICs.

But the name is not as important as the purpose.

While EDC and SHRP2 provide a NATIONAL innovation forum, the state councils are essential to ensuring that innovation deployment stays a STATE-BASED effort.

These Councils affirm a state’s continuing commitment to identifying, choosing and deploying the innovations that meet the unique needs of the state.

And they ensure that innovation deployment remains a permanent part of the state’s business plan as new governors and CEOs come and go.

If you’re looking for a way to summarize the role of these innovation councils, try this: We hear the phrase, “All politics is local.” Well, all innovation is local, too. And the innovation councils are the engines behind that.

Building this state-based network is one of my top priorities, and FHWA is doing everything possible to support these organizations and the work they’re doing to deploy innovations.

Right now, about half the states have STICs up and running. And we continue to work to bring the others onboard.

We have a couple of programs to encourage STICs to institutionalize innovations.

We’re offering up to $100,000 to each STIC to fund activities that make innovation standard practice in their state.

And, I’m pleased to announce that the Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) demonstration program is also now available.

This applies to specific projects, for example, if a state wants to replace a bridge using new technology and needs a grant to help make it happen.

State DOTs, Federal Land Management agencies, and tribal governments are eligible to apply.  MPOs and local governments may apply through State DOTs as sub recipients.

We’ll consider projects in all aspects of highway transportation including planning, financing, operations, structures, materials, pavements, environment, and construction.

The amount of the award may be up to the full cost of the innovation in the project, to a maximum of one million dollars.  

I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to advance innovations.

Finally, I want to highlight a couple of things that have been critical to the success we’ve had so far with EDC.

Along with the state-based approach, we believe these factors will help lead to more success in the future.

First, EDC isn’t built around the premise that we need to invent the “next big thing.”

Instead, we want to take things that we know WORK – whether it’s a strategy to shorten project delivery or a new technology – and move them to widespread use.

Second, we look at every potential EDC initiative from a singular perspective: Will it help our customers fill a need?

We start each round of EDC by asking what our customers want and need. Then we try to choose innovations that helped address those questions.

We make our choices within a few parameters. The innovations have to be tried and tested, proven to work in diverse parts of the country, and been used successfully by a few early adopters.

By the way, we’re currently looking for your suggestions for proven processes or technologies to promote in the next round of EDC.  We’re collecting ideas through a Request for Information until February 15.

Third, we established a standard deployment process. We put together our own team around each innovation and held summits across the country to introduce the innovations to the different stakeholder groups. The state councils make the final “call” on which innovations to pursue.

And, finally, we created a sense of urgency.

After all, the name is EVERY DAY COUNTS. We set clearly defined and aggressive two-year goals for each initiative.

So, how are we doing? In fact, we’re pleased with our success so far.

For example, 50 states and our Federal Lands Highway Division are using Warm Mix Asphalt and 40 states have adopted Safety Edge as standard practice – two technologies from EDC Round One.

29 states are using Design-Build to shorten project delivery, and it’s now been codified into law in MAP-21.

Those numbers signify a point I want to leave you with in conclusion.

It’s important to remember that we don’t see Every Day Counts as an FHWA program.

It’s an initiative by the entire transportation community. And so, we’re interested in your thoughts and comments, including – as I mentioned – your ideas for Round Three.

You can share your thoughts by going to our FHWA website, and you’ll also find the site helpful to get more information about the incentive programs I mentioned.

Thank you again for inviting me to be part of this panel and for your interest in innovation!

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Page posted on May 21, 2015.
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