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Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-06-006    Date:  September/October 2006
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-06-006
Issue No: Vol. 70 No. 2
Date: September/October 2006


Internet Watch

by Ellen Schweppe

FHWA Launches "Corporate Research And Technology" Web Site

Thomas Edison once said, "The value of an idea lies in the using of it." At the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), researchers work every day to come up with new ideas and turn them into successful projects and innovations for use by transportation agencies around the world. Until recently, however, it was difficult for practitioners to learn about FHWA's ideas and use them in their own work because no central access point existed on the Internet for information or updates about FHWA's research and technology (R&T) activities.

To solve this problem and ensure that practitioners around the world can learn about the agency's efforts, FHWA launched the new "Corporate Research and Technology" Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/crt/. The site provides an umbrella portal for stakeholders, such as research directors from State departments of transportation and other individuals interested in highway technology, seeking direct access to updates on FHWA's R&T activities and initiatives.

"The purpose of the site is to give people a better understanding of the integrated and comprehensive nature of FHWA R&T activities," says John Munro, an R&T systems analyst at FHWA. The site is an outgrowth of the Corporate Master Plan for Research and Deployment of Technology & Innovation (FHWA-RD-03-077), which calls for FHWA to communicate its R&T program and projects effectively to stakeholders "consistently and with the appropriate level of detail."

Innovation Life Cycle: An Information Lifeline

To organize information, the site uses an "innovation life cycle" concept with five phases: agenda, ongoing research, technologies, deployment, and impacts. The life cycle concept illustrates that highway R&T deployment is neither linear nor finite. Instead, each phase supports another phase. When site visitors click on a phase on the circular life cycle illustration on the homepage, they are connected to documents and links corresponding to that phase.

By clicking on the "Agenda" phase of the life cycle, users can learn about the R&T agenda-setting process. This section also includes links to information about and results from recent workshops on advanced research. When users click on the "Ongoing Research" phase of the life cycle, they find a summary of FHWA's research portfolio and links to other sites containing information on highway research. In this section of the site, for example, users can read about FHWA's efforts to find ways to improve the design of the pedestrian environment for people with disabilities. Or, users can learn about what FHWA is doing to develop new materials for use in the Nation's highway system.

The "Technologies" phase of the life cycle highlights the 24 priority, market-ready technologies and innovations that FHWA is encouraging transportation agencies to deploy, such as cable median barriers and the air void analyzer. In the "Deployment" section, users are introduced to a new framework for tracking the progress of technology deployment to improve decisionmaking and performance measurement. The "Impacts" section provides examples of how FHWA evaluates R&T benefits, including the Long-Term Pavement Performance program and the National Model for the Statewide Application of Data Collection and Management Technology to Improve Highway Safety.

By clicking on the middle of the life cycle, users can access examples of program roadmaps and information about opportunities to participate in planning activities. FHWA will add new roadmaps as they are updated and revised over the next several months.

FHWA anticipates several other changes to the site in the future. According to Munro, "We plan to develop a Web-based Corporate R&T report that will provide site users with a comprehensive picture of FHWA's R&T portfolio." FHWA also will post more information about the Advanced Research Agenda and Highways for LIFE programs.

Collecting Your Thoughts

Rather than simply providing new channels for the one-way flow of information, FHWA designed the site to enable technical experts and the public to participate in the development, deployment, and evaluation of its R&T projects and programs.

"One of the most interesting features of the site is interactive Web tools and features that enable stakeholders to get involved in scientific peer reviews and national conversations about technology and research," says Munro.

The "Get Involved" section of the site, for example, provides portals that visitors can use to submit ideas for new R&T initiatives or to comment on current activities and products. Visitors also are encouraged to provide suggestions through the "We Want Your Feedback" section. FHWA plans to respond to comments and suggestions in a timely manner.

A screen shot of FHWA's 'Corporate Research and Technology' Web site.
FHWA's "Corporate Research and Technology" Web site.

Ellen Schweppe is a contributing writer for Public Roads.



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