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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-10-005    Date:  July/August 2010
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-10-005
Issue No: Vol. 74 No. 1
Date: July/August 2010


Guest Editorials

Putting FHWA in Its Global Context

Photo. Head shot of Ian Saunders.The recent global recession has left little doubt about the connections among economies worldwide. Efforts undertaken in re-sponse have demonstrated the contributions that transportation, especially roads, can make to restoring economic vitality. Here in the United States, using funding provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is helping State departments of transportation create new jobs and advance much-needed road and bridge projects nationwide. Meanwhile, road administrations in other parts of the world also have mobilized to improve transportation networks as a way to support near-term and long-term economic growth.

The similarity of the challenges facing FHWA and its international counterparts and the urgency of their responses based on economic and other imperatives are striking. And considering the transnational nature of some of the issues facing the world—economic stimulus, safety, climate change, sustainability, efficiency—it's important to look at what FHWA is doing in a global context.

For some time, FHWA's overseas outreach has used the International Technology Scanning Program and other information exchange missions to better understand technologies and practices that have the potential to favorably impact highway transportation in the United States. These programs have proven valuable in a number of areas, some of which relate to the topics covered in this issue of Public Roads. For example, in 2007, FHWA organized a scan to survey several European countries' use of warm mix asphalt; the article "From Hot to Warm" (page 23) reports on continuing work linked to that study. Similarly, less formal information exchange activities in Poland and the Czech Republic have revealed practices of potential value to the United States, as described in "Transportation Lessons From Central Europe" (page 2).

Another aspect of FHWA's international program involves sharing U.S. expertise in support of other countries' efforts to develop, enhance, and maintain effective and efficient road networks. Transportation agencies in the United States and their peers in other countries encounter a range of issues—from creating new capacity to maintaining existing infrastructure to adapting road networks to changes in the natural or human environment. These issues are all areas in which FHWA has and continues to develop a strong knowledge base. In establishing relationships to exchange information, FHWA helps to resolve transportation issues that have impacts beyond any single set of borders. Just as important, the flow of knowledge often works in reverse too, bringing new ideas back home.

This issue of Public Roads touches on several other issues of worldwide import: Support of intelligent transportation systems to improve safety and combat congestion can help satisfy global health and economic objectives. Demonstrating measures to mitigate flooding damage to infrastructure is critical in the context of changing weather patterns around the world. And sharing ideas to make transportation more accessible makes sense in any country—perhaps especially in developing areas where motorized and nonmotorized modes of transport compete for safe use of roadway facilities or in developed countries where driving populations are aging.

The challenges facing the road sector are many and complex. But the link between roads and the economy is clear. By re-maining aware of the global setting in which FHWA operates and by engaging with international partners, the agency will continue to make mutually beneficial exchanges possible and help address some of the most pressing issues confronting the U.S. and global highway community.

Ian C. Saunders

Director, Office of International Programs

Federal Highway Administration




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