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Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-14-002    Date:  January/February 2014
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-14-002
Issue No: Vol. 77 No. 4
Date: January/February 2014


Guest Editorial

Fostering a Culture of Innovation

Photo. Headshot of Jeffrey F. Paniati, P.E..The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has a long history and well-established culture of creating, finding, and sharing innovations. This tradition can be traced to the establishment of the agency as the U.S. Office of Road Inquiry in 1893. In the early days of road building, the office supported the Good Roads Movement by identifying best practices in the industry and helped spread those practices from State to State.

Throughout its 120-year history, FHWA has served as an incubator and champion for innovation. Beginning in the late 1980s, the first Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) helped improve winter highway maintenance and revolutionized the design of asphalt pavement by producing the Superpave (SUperior PERforming Asphalt PAVEments) system. FHWA partnered with the Transportation Research Board (TRB) in conducting this research and took a leadership role in encouraging implementation of the SHRP products. A few years later, FHWA created a list of priority, market-ready technologies and innovations, which took ideas and prototypes and turned them into ready-to-deploy products that yielded significant benefits to transportation practitioners and motorists.

In 2009, FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez launched the Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative, which identified and deployed innovations aimed at shortening project delivery, enhancing roadway safety, and protecting the environment. EDC elevated the importance of innovation within FHWA and broadened the reach of innovation among industry stakeholders in the public and private sectors. In EDC’s first round, FHWA chose several proven but underutilized technologies and innovations for priority deployment and encouraged widespread adoption by the transportation industry. The program also built State-based networks to support the deployment of innovations. FHWA recently launched the second round of EDC, which offers additional products and processes to help improve safety and speed project delivery.

All cultures are built on relationships. FHWA’s culture of innovation is founded on collaboration with State and local partners. Working with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and its affiliates, TRB, and various industry partners, FHWA has created an environment in which ideas and research are turned into transportation solutions.

Cultures are constantly evolving, and so is FHWA’s. The agency is moving forward with another program to advance innovation. In partnership with AASHTO and TRB, FHWA is implementing the second round of the Strategic Highway Research Program, called SHRP2.

Like the first SHRP, this new program is turning applied research into a menu of ready-to-deploy products and processes--known as SHRP2 Solutions--that State and local partners can adopt to help them save lives, money, and time in delivering transportation projects.

Further, FHWA and AASHTO established an Implementation Assistance Program to help States and local partners deploy SHRP2 Solutions. This program is the focus of an article titled “Now Is the Time for Innovation,” on page 2 in this issue of Public Roads. The article introduces the various SHRP2 products and explains how to obtain technical assistance and where to find resources to deploy SHRP2 Solutions.

Although these technology and innovation programs have different names, they are actually integral parts of FHWA’s culture of innovation. They all complement and build off each other. State and local agencies can choose which products and processes best meet their needs. This rich menu, and innovations still to come, will help the entire industry improve and evolve to meet the transportation needs of future generations.

Jeffrey F. Paniati, P.E.

Executive Director

Federal Highway Administration




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