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Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-17-006    Date:  September 2017
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-17-006
Issue No: Vol. 81 No. 2
Date: September 2017


Hot Topic

by John V. Moulden

Evaluating Research and Technology

The Federal Highway Administration’s research results--when implemented appropriately--can save money and lives, extend the life of highway infrastructure, reduce congestion, improve travel time, and increase productivity. Through the FHWA’s Research and Technology (R&T) Program, FHWA partners with State departments of transportation, local agencies, industries, and academia to conduct research on issues of national significance and to accelerate adoption and deployment of promising research products. FHWA’s R&T Evaluation Program seeks to assess these R&T efforts and to ensure the efficient and effective use of public resources.

Congress and stakeholders want hard evidence that FHWA is accomplishing its goals. The R&T Evaluation Program is designed to provide that evidence. Though small compared to the Federal-aid funding for highway construction and maintenance, Congress has authorized $125 million a year for FHWA’s R&T activities each fiscal year from 2017 to 2020. Real money is at stake, and the innovations that have come from these activities must demonstrate that they can improve the safety and efficiency of the Nation’s highways and continue to do so.

“FHWA’s Research and Technology Program strives to ensure transparency, accessibility, and responsiveness of R&T for all stakeholders,” says Michael Trentacoste, associate administrator for R&T at FHWA.

The Details

FHWA developed the R&T Evaluation Program with the encouragement of the Transportation Research Board’s Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC), and the program has benefited greatly from the expertise and oversight of the RTCC.

Completed and Ongoing
Evaluations as of June 2017


  • Adaptive Signal Control Technologies
  • Eco-Logical
  • Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil–Integrated Bridge System
  • Gusset Plates
  • National Household Travel Survey
  • Public-Private Partnership Capacity Building
  • Roadside Revegetation
  • Roundabouts


  • Agent-Based Simulation Models
  • eNEPA
  • High Friction Surface Treatments
  • High Recycle Warm Mix Asphalt
  • Managing Risk on Rapid Renewal Projects
  • Precast Concrete Pavements
  • Traffic Incident Management Training
  • Vehicle Operating Costs


Michael Quinn, National Park Service
Roundabouts, like this one in the Grand Canyon National Park, are a widely used innovation, encouraged by FHWA research.
Roundabouts, like this one in the Grand Canyon National Park, are a widely used innovation, encouraged by FHWA research.


The guiding structure of the FHWA R&T Program is expressed in the FHWA R&T Agenda, which presents the mission and priorities of research and technology activities. The R&T Agenda identifies six high-priority highway challenges: (1) advancing safety toward zero deaths, (2) improving the mobility of people and goods, (3) maintaining infrastructure integrity, (4) enhancing system performance, (5) promoting sustainability, and (6) preparing for the future.

Accomplishing these challenges is the responsibility of FHWA offices focused on disciplines from infrastructure, safety, and operations to policy, planning, and environment. The R&T Evaluation Program assesses the effectiveness of research in each of these areas.

In fiscal year 2014, the R&T Evaluation Program, with assistance from the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, worked with 9 FHWA offices to identify and scope 16 projects for evaluation across all program areas. As of June 2017, eight projects are complete with eight more ongoing. FHWA will complete most of the projects this year or next, with the remainder accomplished by 2020.

Summary of Findings

The eight completed evaluations have documented both program successes and challenges. In addition to the assessment of individual project outcomes and impacts, FHWA collected lessons learned regarding R&T program management and operations.

Individual evaluation reports are going through the FHWA editorial and management review process. When finalized, the reports for the completed evaluations will be available on FHWA’s R&T Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/research/fhwaresearch/agenda/resources.cfm. Periodic summary reports on the R&T Evaluation Program are also available on this site.

Future articles will focus on the results and recommendations from individual project evaluations.

John V. Moulden is the manager of the FHWA R&T National Partnership Program.



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