Skip to contentUnited States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration FHWA Home
Research Home
Public Roads
Featuring developments in Federal highway policies, programs, and research and technology.
This magazine is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information.
Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 57· No. 2 > The Pacific Rim TransTech Conference

Autumn 1993
Vol. 57· No. 2

The Pacific Rim TransTech Conference

A Ride Into the Future

by William Zaccagnino

Exhibit displayMore than 1,300 engineers, administrators, and leaders in the transportation industry gathered on July 25 through 28, 1993, in Seattle, Washington, for the Pacific Rim TransTech Conference. The conference, with its "Ride Into the Future" theme, was a unique opportunity for the participants, who came from 37 countries and 43 states, to exchange information on the newest and most technologically advanced solutions to the transportation challenges of the 21st century.

This was no ordinary conference. The attenders were well aware of how quickly technological change is altering existing methodologies and how our shrinking globe is encouraging -- even demanding--that we adopt a more international transportation perspective.

Federal Highway Administrator Rodney Slater told participants in his keynote address, "We are already in the midst of a revolution in transportation technologies that will transform our economy and daily lives as much as the arrival of the railroad, commercial aviation, and the Interstate Highway System. Some amazing new technologies are on display -- ranging from new equipment to measure bridge deck corrosion to a remotely-driven vehicle to protect maintenance crews. But these products from SHRP (Strategic Highway Research Program) are just the tip of the iceberg that DOT (Department of Transportation) is working on."

Mr. Slater described these new technologies as "the seedbeds for new industries that will create high-skilled, high-wage jobs. Clearly, the health of America's economy in the next century depends just as much on our making the right strategic investments now."

"Our country needs the vision and determination to take bold steps -- some of which won't show pay-offs until the next century," Slater said. "President Clinton, Secretary Peña, and our whole Administration are committed to forming partnerships with U.S. scientists, engineers, and companies to develop and manufacture the new transportation technologies of the next century."

Dean Carlson, executive director of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), echoed some of Slater's remarks, and Carlson predicted dramatic changes during the next 10 years:

  • Extending the life and durability of pavements will save hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
  • Automatic vehicle identification will dramatically change the way we collect road user charges.
  • Traffic data will be more accurate and complete.
  • Serious injuries and fatalities in construction areas will be reduced.

The conference program, cosponsored by the Washington State DOT and FHWA, was divided into five concurrent tracks:

  • Intermodal Ties
  • Advanced Technologies
  • Management Systems
  • Propulsion Technology
  • SHRP Products and Findings

Participants were not limited to one track. They could attend any of the sessions, changing tracks at will.

Eight sessions in the intermodal ties track presented international perspectives on the planning, management, and operation of intermodal logistics and transportation systems. Topics included a detailed examination of the Kobe, Japan, development and the planning efforts for multimodal transportation centers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Los Angeles. There also were sessions on applying advanced technologies in the movement of airplane components, perishables, automobiles, and other special cargo. A study of the impact of environmental considerations on intermodal transportation rounded out the program.

The Third American Society of Civil Engineers International Conference on the Application of Advanced Technologies in Transportation Engineering (AATT-3) was held as part of the Pacific Rim TransTech Conference. The AATT-3 examined how emerging technologies in information systems, adaptive control, and telecommunications can advance the planning and operation of surface transportation systems. It emphasized state-of-the-art technology: how it can be applied, what it can achieve, when it is appropriate, and its limitations.

In the management systems track, more than 60 moderators and speakers from the Pacific Rim region and around the world discussed technology, methods, and management systems for pavements, congestion, maintenance, transit facilities, bridges, safety, and intermodalism. At one session, experts discussed new regulations and provided a futuristic look at transportation systems management in the 21st century.

Topics addressed in the propulsion technology track included high-speed ground transportation with complete programs on high-speed rail systems, new applications of high-speed rail, magnetic levitation systems, and tilt-train technology. The sessions on alternative fuels included both light duty and heavy duty applications. Light duty applications concentrated on innovations in hydrogen vehicles, fuel cell, hybrid systems technology, and electric vehicles. Heavy duty vehicles were covered with discussions of electric/battery buses, methanol-powered buses, liquefied natural gas trains and buses, and compressed natural gas buses.

The focus of the SHRP track was on SHRP's research findings that have resulted in over 130 new products, tests, specifications, devices, and methods for improving the quality of highway construction and maintenance. The conference provided an ideal opportunity for FHWA to showcase and demonstrate a wide variety of SHRP products. Speakers at the SHRP plenary session stressed the importance of integrating the new SHRP products and processes, and they discussed the role FHWA, states, and the private sector play in the implementation process.

Also exhibited were a wide variety of products and the services of more than 60 companies from Canada, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

At the conference's closing luncheon, John Naisbitt, author of Megatrends and co-author of Re-inventing the Corporation and Megatrends 2000, spoke about the global trends affecting all transportation systems.

Proceedings of the conference are available for $35, plus shipping. The two-volume set may be ordered from Bill Carr, conference administrator, at the Washington State DOT -- telephone 206-705-7802; fax 206-705-6823. Most of the papers presented at the conference are included.

Cassette tapes made from the conference sessions may be purchased from Tree Farm Communications, 23703 N.E. 4th St., Redmond, WA 98053 -- telephone 206-868-0464.


William Zaccagnino is the chief of the Technology Support Branch, Office of Technology Applications, of the Federal Highway Administration. He has served as a writer-editor and transportation assistant with FHWA's Office of Research and Development and Office of Engineering during his 19-year career with the agency.

ResearchFHWA
FHWA
United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration