U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations
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Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-08-069
Fact Sheet: Office of Infrastructure R&D (FHWA-HRT-08-069)
PDF version of Fact Sheet (108 kb)
The Office of Infrastructure Research and Development (R&D) conducts and administers infrastructure R&D programs and projects for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that address problems of national priority within the U.S. highway system.
The Office of Infrastructure R&D approaches its mission with emphasis on strong stakeholder involvement and an interdisciplinary approach founded on recognition of the following:
The goals of the FHWA's Office of Infrastructure R&D are as follows:Conduct research to develop knowledge, guidelines, analytical and physical tools, and test methods and procedures that:
Provide specialized technical assistance to address infrastructure issues of national importance requiring research capabilities and technical expertise uniquely available at the FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center.
Research and Development Strategies
The FHWA Office of Infrastructure R&D focuses on the needed research and development where there is an appropriate Federal role by virtue of national needs, scope, duration, or risk. This role is reflected in the following overarching strategies:
Long-Term Infrastructure PerformanceThis strategy is to conduct, build upon, and integrate the current Long-Term Pavement Performance and Long-Term Bridge Performance Programs to answer critical questions concerning the long-term performance of our Nation's highway infrastructure. Activities included in this strategy include development of the following:
Durable Infrastructure Systems
Within this strategy, durable and resilient infrastructure systems and elements are developed to improve in-service performance, reduce maintenance needs and costs, reduce life-cycle costs, and significantly improve safety during normal service and extreme hazard events. This will require that infrastructure durability and deterioration-prevention be addressed in a more systematic manner by developing the following:
Accelerated Highway Construction
This strategy aims to develop accelerated construction, rehabilitation, and reconstruction methodologies for highway systems and structures. This strategy directly addresses the Nation's congestion and safety needs, as well as the impending crisis due to an aging infrastructure.1 The research and development to be pursued as a part of this strategy includes:
Environmentally-Sensitive Highway Infrastructure
This strategy addresses the need for technologies to enable an environmentally-sensitive highway infrastructure. This strategy will reduce detrimental environmental impacts arising from construction and maintenance of highway infrastructure, as well as the physical, chemical, and aesthetic attributes of highway transportation. Elements of this strategy include the following:
With this strategy, researchers will work toward comprehensive performance-based specifications. Such specifications are needed to: (a) balance risk between agencies and industry (contractors), (b) encourage innovation, (c) provide greater consistency between design expectations and actual performance, and (d) support innovative contracting procedures and construction practices. This strategy is dependent on the ability to accurately predict future performance; it will build on outcomes from the Long-Term Infrastructure Performance and Durable Infrastructure Systems research. Specific examples of performance-based specifications follow:
Comprehensive and Integrated Infrastructure Asset Management
This strategy builds on and integrates the outcomes from the previous strategies: Long-Term Infrastructure Performance, Accelerated Highway Construction, Durable Infrastructure Systems, Environmentally-Sensitive Infrastructure, and Performance-Based Specification to deliver the tools and technologies needed to achieve fully integrated processes and systems for asset management, including infrastructure planning, design, contracting, construction, preservation, and maintenance. Activities included in this capstone strategy include development of the following:
In pursuing the research and development program described herein, the FHWA Office of Infrastructure R&D works closely and collaboratively with other FHWA offices and with the broader community of highway stakeholders to ensure that the program:
The outcomes delivered through pursuit of these strategies will benefit the American public by enabling improvements in the safety, performance, and cost effectiveness of the Nation's highway infrastructure, while minimizing the environmental impacts of highway construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation. The results will make possible reductions in highway congestion, improvements in highway safety, and enhancement of the overall driving experience for the American public.
The FHWA is charged with ensuring minimum standards of safety for the public as it travels on the Nation's roads and highways. While there are many other organizations and agencies that conduct highway infrastructure research, the FHWA Office of Infrastructure R&D is uniquely positioned to address the continuum of highway infrastructure research from high risk, exploratory, and advanced research, through the highly applied, problem-specific research that is necessary to address current issues and immediate problems. This broad range of research capability provides a high likelihood of success that is so critical for sustaining the Nation's economy in the near and long terms.
1 According to the FHWA National Bridge Inventory, the Nation's bridges have an average age of 43 years, and the majority of pavements on the National Highway System have surpassed their original design life.
Publication No. FHWA-HRT-08-069