U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
|Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations|
Publication Number: FHWA-SA-98-027
Date: November 1998
When the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (known as TEA-21) was signed by President Clinton in June, a collective sigh of relief could be heard from State departments of transportation (DOTs), contractors, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and others responsible for building, maintaining, and operating the Nation's transportation system. TEA-21 not only provided much-needed funds for highway construction and maintenance, but also significantly upped the amount of funds allocated to State Planning and Research (SP&R) programs.
Upon closer reading of the Act, however, some of that relief turned to consternation: TEA-21 included no funding specifically designated for the continuation of the SHRP implementation program and less than two-thirds of the funds needed to continue the long-term pavement performance (LTPP) studies.
The previous highway bill (1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act or ISTEA) had included $108 million for SHRP implementation activities and the LTPP studies. Those designated funds had allowed FHWA, in partnership with the States, to support an extensive program of showcase workshops, continued refinements of the Superpave system, deployment and staffing of the concrete and Superpave trailers, activities of the Lead States teams, monitoring of the LTPP test sites, analysis of LTPP data, technology exhibits, training courses, and other activities aimed at putting SHRP's products into the hands of those who would benefit most.
Speaking at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Task Force on SHRP Implementation meeting in July, AASHTO Executive Director Francis B. Francois stressed the importance of securing funding for SHRP and LTPP activities, stating, "The future of SHRP implementation is on the table. If we can't find a way to bring money to the table, we will see 10 to 15 years of work go up in smoke."
Task Force member Don Lucas, from Indiana DOT, agreed, adding, "We can't let the money go down the drain. Our guys are starting to use and benefit from the LTPP data, and we've got to find a way to take the LTPP studies to their 20-year conclusion."
Concerns about the funding shortfall have led to a series of resolutions drafted by several AASHTO committees-all with the goal of ensuring continued funding and support for the LTPP studies and SHRP implementation activities, including the Lead States program.
The first of the series of resolutions was presented at the August meeting of the Mississippi Valley Conference of State Highway and Transportation Departments. It reads, in part, as follows:
...Whereas, under TEA-21 FHWA funding for the LTPP program has been reduced by one-third, and funding for supporting SHRP implementation has been curtailed to the point where continuing support for the federal-state effort is jeopardized, and
Whereas, the SHRP program is of great importance in improving the nation's highway infrastructure...
Now, therefore, be it resolved, by the Mississippi Valley Conference State Highway and Transportation Departments Executive Committee, that each state should dedicate a portion of its SP&R funds into a SHRP pooled fund directed by the states in partnership with TRB and FHWA...
According to Joe Mickes, chief engineer for Missouri DOT, "It was clear to us that something needed to be done. We had to step up to the plate to ensure that we would continue to reap the benefits of SHRP."
In short order, a number of related resolutions were drafted, debated, and passed at subsequent AASHTO meetings. The first to do so was the AASHTO Subcommittee on Materials, which endorsed the Mississippi Valley resolution, but added the word voluntarily in the phrase "should voluntarily dedicate a portion of its SP&R funds."
A month or so later, the AASHTO Subcommittee on Construction took up the cause, passing a resolution that called for each State to "voluntarily dedicate a portion of its SP&R funds into a SHRP pooled fund program directed by the States, leveraged with additional funds from the (National Cooperative Highway Research Program) NCHRP, FHWA, and any other available sources to be managed by AASHTO in partnership with the FHWA and TRB."
At about the same time, the AASHTO Research Advisory Committee (RAC) passed a resolution calling for the AASHTO Board of Directors to call on the Task Force for SHRP Implementation, FHWA, and others to identify "time-critical, high-priority national research needs that are in danger of being negatively impacted" if additional funding is not found. RAC recommended that the most critical needs be funded for at least 1 year by "additional TEA-21 funds that will be flowing to NCHRP" and by the establishment of an "aggressive" national, voluntary pooled-fund study.
In September, the Southeastern Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (SASHTO) endorsed RAC's recommendations, calling for a voluntary pooled fund approach and use of NCHRP to fund "critical national transportation research needs."
Meanwhile, the Task Force on SHRP Implementation created a special panel to investigate the impacts of TEA-21 on the SHRP follow-on programs, prioritize the critical elements at risk, and draft recommendations for further consideration. The panel was chaired by Gary Hoffman, chief engineer of the Pennsylvania DOT, and included Douglas Rose, chief engineer of the Maryland State Highway Administration, and Joseph Deneault, the State highway engineer for West Virginia. Staff from AASHTO, FHWA, and the Transportation Research Board provided technical background and analysis to the panel.
According to John Conrad, Task Force chairman and assistant secretary for Washington State DOT, "A lot of hard work went into preparing that report, but we now have the materials to build a foundation that will preserve the critical elements of the SHRP follow-on research and technology programs."
Shortly thereafter, and with the benefit of recommendations from the earlier resolutions, the Task Force on SHRP Implementation drafted its own resolution, which Conrad presented to the Standing Committee on Research (SCOR).
SCOR used the Task Force resolution as a starting point for yet another resolution, recommending that all fiscal year 1999 funding for SHRP and LTPP activities come from the unallocated NCHRP funds for fiscal years 1998 and 1999.
The AASHTO Joint Task Force on Pavements also submitted a letter to SCOR, warning that interruptions to the Superpave support and performance models management, WesTrack, and LTPP projects would "greatly impact the progress we have targeted through the past several year's investments put forth" through SHRP, the States, and FHWA.
Conrad says the Task Force "is gratified by the overwhelming level of support for SHRP and LTPP, which reflects States' strong support for programs that yield innovative technologies that can help us serve our customers better."
The SCOR resolution (Administrative Resolution PAR-98AM-3A) will be discussed at the AASHTO Standing Committee on Highways meeting this month; the committee's recommendations will then be forwarded to the AASHTO Board of Directors for consideration this month.
FHWA officials have also voiced support for continuing the strong partnership for SHRP that had been solidified throughout the ISTEA years. While recognizing that Federal funding flexibility is significantly limited under TEA-21, FHWA Executive Director Tony Kane reiterated at the recent Mid-Atlantic States SHRP Technology Exchange Conference that the agency has no intention of withdrawing from this partnership, stating that "I want to assure you that research and technology deployment remains a core mission of our organization."