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State Planning and Research (SP&R) Guide

Oversight & Stewardship

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is charged with managing entrusted public funds efficiently and effectively while ensuring that Federal highway programs are conducted in compliance with Federal laws, regulations, and policies.

View FHWA Deputy Administrator J. Richard Capka's memo on Stewardship and Federal Highway Programs (January 8, 2003). FHWA also issued a June 22, 2001, memo on Policy on Stewardship and Oversight of the Federal Highway Programs. Other FHWA documents released by the Stewardship and Oversight Committee also can be found on FHWA's Web site.

States may use SP&R funds for planning and research. This guide addresses SP&R funds that may be used to research new knowledge areas; adapt findings to practical applications by developing new technologies; and transfer these technologies, including the process of dissemination, demonstration, training, and adoption of innovations by users. The use of SP&R funds by States and subrecipients is authorized by Title 23, U.S. Code, Section 505, and regulated by Title 23, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 420; State departments of transportation (DOT) are responsible for monitoring activities performed by staff of subrecipients that use SP&R funds.

One of the requirements for using SP&R funds is that the State DOT must develop its own unique management plan, which establishes a process for conducting its research and technology (R&T) program. The FHWA Division Administrator must certify the plan. The Transportation Research Board's (TRB) National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) report, "Guide for Developing a State Transportation Research Manual" is a support document for developing a management plan.

The process that State DOTs use to manage their research programs varies considerably. Procedures vary from State to State for developing the plan and selecting the projects. Most States work with universities and other stakeholders.

The Standing Committee on Research (SCOR)/Research Advisory Committee (RAC) Web site has posted a survey on research programs in State DOTs. Information about research policies, research oversight committees, project selection processes, and the presence of the Local Technical Assistance Program can be found in the survey.

Each management plan must include a provision for a periodic peer exchange; periodic has been defined as every 3 years. (See the Robert Betsold September 20, 1996, memo and the Dennis Judycki July 13, 2000, memo).

Some States have posted their management manuals online, providing some examples of how different States have organized their transportation research programs.

Although States tailor their management process to fit their individual needs, FHWA established minimal requirements for this process. The FHWA Division office must certify a State's management process before it is implemented.

The proposed use of planning and research funds must be documented by DOTs and subrecipients in a work program acceptable to FHWA. Title 23, CFR, Section 420.207 states that the State DOT's research, development, and technology (RD&T) work program must, at a minimum, consist of a description of RD&T activities to be accomplished during the program period, estimated costs for each eligible activity, and a description of any cooperative activities, including the State DOT's participation in any transportation pooled fund studies, technology transfer activities, and NCHRP. A list of the major items with a cost estimate should be included, as should any study funded under a previous work program, until a final report has been completed for the study. During the development of the work program, States are required to search TRB's Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) database to ensure that another State is not already conducting the planned research.

Each work program must include a record of the FHWA certification of the State's management plan. Upon receiving approval of the work program from their FHWA Division office, States are required to post their new research in the Research in Progress database. If changes occur during the work program year, States must update the work program, and their Division office must approve the changes. To address progress in the program, the State must prepare an annual report of activities detailed in the work program.

States also should post information on any resulting research reports in TRIS and make them available to the research community for further implementation. For example, the Wisconsin DOT manages a database of online research reports in full text for State, national, and international research reports.

NCHRP addressed State research needs by releasing a report titled "Synthesis of Highway Practice 231: Managing Contract Research Programs" in 1996. Although the report was issued a few years ago, the information still can be used to guide contract research programs.

At times, States will have questions about using SP&R funds for specific purposes. To address these concerns, FHWA issued Guidance on Use of FHWA Planning and Research Funds for Travel and Training on January 29, 2004. On March 11, 2004, FHWA clarified the FHWA, State DOT, and Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Rights to Copyrighted and Patented Items Developed with FHWA Planning and Research Funds.

 

 

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