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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-14-004    Date:  May/June 2014
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-14-004
Issue No: Vol. 77 No. 6
Date: May/June 2014


Internet Watch

by Carrie Boris

A New Home for Innovation

Increasing the use of innovative technologies and processes is critical to improving the Nation’s highways. Recognizing this, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) established the Center for Accelerating Innovation in 2012. Then, in fall 2013, FHWA launched an umbrella Web site for the center, www.fhwa.dot.gov/accelerating. The new site makes it easier for a variety of audiences to find information and resources about innovations in highway design and construction.

Kathleen Bergeron, an FHWA marketing specialist with the Center for Accelerating Innovation, says the overarching goal is “to cover everything about innovation within the agency in one place.” The new site brings together multimedia, publications, interactive opportunities, and the center’s Highways for LIFE and Every Day Counts (EDC) initiatives. Information is centralized and organized by type and topic to improve the user experience.

One of the challenges in promoting technologies is finding effective ways to answer users’ questions, Bergeron explains. “We need to focus on the site’s visitors and how they are looking for information, not on ourselves and our internal structure,” she says.

An array of audiences use the site, ranging from the public to the media to State and local highway agencies. “However, the emphasis is on getting information out to the highway community about what the innovations are and, more important, how to use them,” says Bergeron. To this end, the site provides a variety of supporting materials, such as case studies, related articles, videos, and more.

Streamlining Information on Innovations

The Web site’s home page offers five tracks to explore information: Find an Innovation, Apply for a Grant, Get Engaged, Every Day Counts, and Highways for LIFE. The existing “Highways for LIFE” and “EDC” Web sites were integrated into the new “Accelerating Innovation” site but retained their original look with their own home page under the new site.

A new “Media” section at the bottom of the “Accelerating Innovation” home page provides links to videos, photos, and publications, as well as the center’s popular “Innovator” newsletter and FHWA media contacts. Previously, these materials were distributed into the content by topic. “However, some users were looking for types of materials,” says Bergeron. “We wanted to be sure these ‘buckets’ were easy to locate.” The media materials are also organized by topic, with multimedia pages linked from the right side of many innovation-specific pages.

The Get Engaged section pulls together scattered materials, offering links to meetings, webinars, training, and social media. This section is where users will find the EDC Exchange, a series of information exchanges intended to introduce visitors to FHWA’s EDC initiatives. The series is distinctive because it is focused locally but features national experts. State agencies host a meeting featuring a webinar with subject experts speaking on a particular topic (for example, adaptive signal control), followed by a question-and-answer session. The local group then has a face-to-face discussion about the topic--the “exchange” portion of the meeting. This mix of in-person discussion along with insight from nationally recognized experts is very popular, according to Bergeron.

Getting the Word Out

The “Accelerating Innovation” site offers a number of communication tools for users interested in staying on top of the latest information about innovations in highway design and construction and how they are being implemented. “EDC News,” linked from the EDC section of the site, is a short weekly newsletter that gleans EDC-related items from FHWA reports submitted by the agency’s offices. The newsletter provides a snapshot--to an audience of more than 7,000 subscribers--of new technologies and other innovations that FHWA divisions and States are implementing.

The “Innovator,” a bimonthly newsletter originally devoted to the Highways for LIFE initiative, has been relaunched as the flagship publication for the center. It recently moved entirely online and was redesigned from a static PDF document to a fully dynamic resource with embedded videos and other interactive content.

The goal of enabling users to find what they need faster has proven popular, with a general increase in visitors to the site. “We are always looking for ways to improve,” says Bergeron. “The new ‘Accelerating Innova-tion’ site provides stakeholders with one place to find the information they want about innovation deployment, quickly and simply.”

Screen capture from FHWA’s “Accelerating Innovation” Web site.


Carrie Boris is a contributing editor for Public Roads.




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