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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
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|Publication Number: Date: Sept/Oct 2000|
Issue No: Vol. 64 No. 2
Date: Sept/Oct 2000
Hitting the Curves
In many ways, life is like baseball. Although we'd prefer all the pitches (opportunities) to be "right down the middle," every good hitter has to be able to hit a curve ball. To be consistently successful, a hitter has to anticipate what is going to be thrown at him/her, be ready to take a swing, be willing to take a risk, be talented enough to hit the ball, and be strong enough to hit it hard.
If you don't swing at the good pitches because you're waiting for the perfect pitch, you'll strike out. And there's another danger. One can become so lulled by letting all the pitches go by that he won't recognizes the perfect pitch until it's too late to take a swing.
It is necessary to swing hard to get a solid hit and, in particular, to hit a home run. Of course, sometimes you miss. But even the most prolific home run hitters strike out sometimes, and I believe that in life -- just as in baseball -- you gain more respect by taking a healthy swing and missing than by accepting a "called" third strike with the bat on your shoulder.
So, what's this have to do with the business of the Federal Highway Administration and with highway research and technology? Recently, I have recognized that all around me there are people who are anticipating the future, who are willing to take a reasonable and calculated risk, and who are taking a hard swing with the confidence that they are talented enough to hit the pitch. These folks include colleagues at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center who are accepting new challenges and researchers who are putting a tremendous effort into doing the most good with their limited budgets. These are people who are courageous enough to attempt new things or to do things differently even though they know that new ideas usually disturb the status quo.
The articles in this issue of Public Roads are about successful programs and people taking a swing at the status quo. Bob Skinner of the Transportation Research Board takes a turn in the batter's box by anticipating "Transportation in the 21st Century." Skinner presents a broad view of transportation as a driver of change, and then he makes "some observations about proposals, options, and alternative visions that have been offered for transportation in the future." Several articles discuss developments and innovations that resulted in improved air quality and strategies for continuing the progress. Mark Swanlund's article lays out FHWA's efforts "to significantly improve the measured smoothness of the major highways in this country by 2008." LANI, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative, is a program that is using transportation projects to help revitalize old neighborhoods. "Measuring Economic Impacts of Federal-Aid Highway Projects" explains the direct, indirect, and induced employment effects of the economic stimulus provided by federal-aid projects. "ITS Peer-to-Peer Program" describes a new way of providing technical assistance, and Richard Weingroff tells us why the two men who conceived the Interstate Highway System -- Thomas H. MacDonald and Herbert S. Fairbank -- believed it could resolve many urban problems.
As you can read in Weingroff's article, things didn't work out exactly as MacDonald and Fairbank planned; nevertheless, they were men of great vision and courage. They are among the great transportation all-stars because they swung at the good pitches and they were able to hit the curve balls thrown at them.