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Surface Transportation Reauthorization
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Statement of
Frederick G. Wright, Jr., Executive Director
Federal Highway Administration
Dennis C. Judycki, Director
Research, Development, and Technology Service Business Unit
Federal Highway Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
On Reauthorization of the Federal Surface Transportation Research Program
Before the Committee on Environment and Public Works
United States Senate
March 15, 2002


Thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation today, and thank you for your leadership in scheduling this roundtable discussion on research and technology in preparation for the reauthorization of the surface transportation program. We are looking forward to working with you to "raise the bar" on surface transportation research.

The strong but flexible multi-modal system developed under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) is working well in supporting our Nation's economic growth and improving the quality of life for our citizens. Highways and intermodal connectors are the critical links in our national transportation system. The challenge is to maintain our high-quality network while achieving our goals to increase safety, ensure national security, improve mobility, and promote environmentally responsible and efficient project delivery. We must keep our infrastructure secure and we must strengthen our commitment to reducing highway injuries and fatalities, even as we squeeze additional capacity from the system. Research and technology are key to meeting this challenge.

FHWA Role and Partnerships

While TEA-21 provides funds for surface transportation research, technology deployment, and training and education, funding for FHWA research and technology (R&T) activities was reduced under TEA-21, as State DOT and university resources increased commensurate with the 40% increase in Federal-aid program authorizations. In addition, the flexibility of Federal R&T funds has been reduced by earmarks and designations.

The decrease in funding for the FHWA R&T program, coupled with the reduced flexibility due to increased earmarks and designations, diminished the FHWA's ability to carry out a national highway research agenda. Overall, highway research is carried out by various levels of government, academia, industry, and professional organizations. The reduced Federal role diminished FHWA's ability to contribute a national perspective to the collective research undertaking, and made us less efficient in conducting that research. Moreover, these factors jeopardize FHWA's ability to remain credible and effective in carrying out carefully conceived multi-year plans, with established product schedules and expectations of delivery by our State and other partners.

In response to the reallocation of funds, FHWA has re-emphasized cooperation, information sharing, and the development of coordinated research agendas within the highway community. The Long Term Pavement Program (LTPP) represents a unique example of a partnership arrangement resulting from TEA-21. Recognizing the limited Federal resources to achieve national objectives, the States have provided, through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), more than $14 million to FHWA to continue what they have identified as critical, high-payoff Long Term Pavement Performance and Superpave research.

The R&T provisions of TEA-21 highlighted the need to formulate and implement a truly collaborative national--not just Federal--R&T agenda. In 1999, the National Highway R&T Partnership was created by FHWA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences (TRB), to engage not just the highway transportation community, but also our many partners in other modes and the environmental, safety, and planning communities, in assessing the needs of highway R&T. This partnership, with representatives of 158 organizations, developed a draft national agenda for highway R&T. This agenda is unprecedented in scope and focuses on Safety, Infrastructure Renewal, Operations and Mobility, Planning and Environment, and Policy Analysis and System Monitoring. The research needs identified in the National Highway R&T Partnership Report will be carried out cooperatively by FHWA and our partners in the States, academia, and private industry. The National R&T Partnership also provides a new framework for programmatic coordination of highway research and technology activities.

TEA-21 also called upon TRB to conduct a study of a future strategic highway research program (FSHRP). This study contains significant recommendations for a special-purpose, time-constrained research program that complements other highway R&T programs by concentrating additional resources on a few strategic focus areas to accelerate solutions to critical problems. FHWA and AASHTO are jointly funding the development of more specific workplans in each of the focus areas.

In the recent TRB Special Report on the Federal role in highway R&T, the Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC) concluded that only the Federal Government has the responsibility and resources to undertake and sustain high-risk, but potentially high-payoff, research. The RTCC recommended that FHWA devote 25 percent of R&T resources to fundamental long-term research; half to research aimed at significant gaps not addressed in other highway R&T programs and on emerging issues with national implications; and the remaining resources to other mission-related R&T activities, including technology transfer and innovation delivery.

FHWA Priority Research Areas and Accomplishments

Safety continues to be the agency's most important priority. Motor vehicle crashes killed more than a quarter of a million people in the past six years, an average of 41,000 deaths and over three million police-reported injuries each year. These crashes cost our nation over $150 billion a year, of which Federal taxpayers shared much of the burden through Medicare, Medicaid, and support programs.

Safety research and technology initiatives are paramount in support of our Nation's highway safety improvements. Since 1974, highway safety programs funded with Federal-aid funds have saved more than 119,000 lives and prevented over 2.3 million serious injuries. For each dollar invested in safety infrastructure improvements, $2.80 in benefits are returned in terms of lives saved and injuries prevented.

The National R&T Partnership has produced substantial accomplishments in the safety area. The National Safety Agenda and the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan are the first comprehensive attempts to combine driver behavior and infrastructure and operational highway safety programs.

FHWA is focusing on four major areas to help reach our goal for a 20 percent reduction in highway-related fatalities and injuries: single vehicle run-off-road crashes, intersection crashes, speed-related crashes, and pedestrian/bicyclist crashes.

Recent FHWA Safety R&T accomplishments include: (1) greater use of shoulder rumble strips and improved traffic barriers to reduce the number and severity of run-off-road crashes; (2) use of roundabouts, as an alternative to traditional intersections; (3) more visible signs and markings; (4) development of the Pedestrian/Bike Crash Analysis Tool for traffic and safety engineers; (5) creation of the "National Model for the Statewide Application of Data Collection & Management Technology to Improve Highway Safety" for sharing information, resources, and technology among State and local agencies; and (6) issuance of an Interactive Pedestrian Safety Awareness CD and Night Lights video for the general public which won several national and international awards.

The FHWA has undertaken a significant effort to inform all States of the benefits and costs of using rumble strips. Of eight States surveyed who have used rumble strips, the crash reduction ranged between 18 and 72 percent, and the benefit-to-cost ratio ranged from 30:1 to as high as 60:1.

FHWA has also developed, Roundabouts: An Informational Guide, to assist communities in improving safety and mobility through the elimination of the traffic signal and building of a roundabout. Experiences in the United States show a 37 percent reduction in crashes and 51 percent drop in injury crashes with the use of roundabouts.

TEA-21 requires State and local departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations to consider safety as a planning factor. Using Planning R&T funds, we are promoting, with our State DOT and metropolitan planning organization (MPO) partners, the concept of "Safety Conscious Planning." Safety Conscious Planning means safety can now be addressed in a more comprehensive system-wide, multi-modal context. At least ten States now use this concept to address safety as part of their planning process.

FHWA is partnering with other organizations to implement Road Safety Audit initiatives, to have specialists in highway safety and driver behavior issues review highway projects for potential safety concerns. We are working on a computerized expert system of the audits, the Interactive Highway Safety Design Model.

Highway research and development activities across the Federal, State, and academic levels need to be better coordinated. The limited R&T funding, especially from Federal sources, could be made more efficient by requiring the better coordination of all Federally-funded R&T endeavors. We need better incentives to encourage States and local governments to try new technologies or methods to improve safety. Coordination with the private sector should be improved. Information is critical to the establishment of an effective and efficient safety system at the State or local level. As proposed in the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan, safety and other highway data related to safety need to be better collected, processed, and analyzed.

The Infrastructure R&T program and related deployment activities are improving the performance and significantly reducing the long-term costs of highway infrastructure. The program focuses on the four critical elements necessary for success: information, people, technology, and deployment of that technology. These elements cut across the traditional boundaries of Asset Management, Pavements, and Structures.

The Long Term Pavement Performance (LTPP) program monitors the performance of 2500 test sections located across the U.S. The LTPP data was used to develop a software tool, known as LTPPBind, to more accurately determine the asphalt binder (cement) grade needed for specific environmental conditions. A national review of LTPPBind shows that it helps highway agencies save at least $50 million in construction costs each year. The LTPP data is also being used, and makes possible, the development by NCHRP of the 2002 Pavement Design Guide. Developers of the Guide have estimated that the new procedure could result in a pavement rehabilitation savings of $1 billion per year.

Another software tool, HIPERPAV, helps engineers construct longer-lasting, crack-free, concrete pavements. The tool evaluates a broad array of design and construction-specific variables and flags problem combinations. With this knowledge, the contractor can adjust the construction schedule or process to prevent cracking. HIPERPAV training has been given to over 20 States, and several States including California, Tennessee and Pennsylvania are actively pursuing implementation.

Superior Performing Asphalt Pavements (Superpave), a new mixture and design analysis system developed by FHWA that yields more durable, longer-lasting asphalt pavements, has been adopted by most States. More than 80 percent of the hot-mix asphalt used for highway paving is now designed using the Superpave system.

FHWA's Structures research has produced many significant benefits for the Nation. The almost universal use of epoxy-coated reinforcing steel for corrosion protection of concrete bridges is but one example directly attributable to pioneering research conducted by FHWA. The deployment of this material has resulted in longer-lasting bridges that have saved hundreds of millions of dollars. FHWA continues to lead the world in highway hydraulic engineering research. Every bridge, storm drain and drainage structure in the United States is designed using methods and procedures developed by FHWA. This has resulted in tremendous cost savings. FHWA's award-winning collaboration with industry, academia, and other government laboratories has produced a new generation of high strength and high performance steels. FHWA's High-performance Steel Initiative has resulted in more than 30 States constructing new highway bridges with this new material. FHWA is also developing new, non-destructive evaluation technology for better bridge inspections.

The Operations R&T program is producing key innovations in specific operational areas such as: Incident Management, Freeway and Arterial Management, Work Zones, Emergency Management, Surface Road Weather Management, and Freight Operations. All these innovations are focused on alleviating congestion and improving system reliability, and are coupled with research that is identifying performance measures that system operators and customers can use to gage the effectiveness of the system relative to their specific needs.

FHWA, with our public safety partners, has developed preliminary practices and procedures to assist in incident management. FHWA has developed improved modeling tools, including TSIS 5.0, Traffic Software Integrated System, for relieving traffic congestion. Effective retiming of signals can decrease travel time from 12% to 22%. FHWA is developing adaptive traffic control software that responds to real-time changes in traffic to reduce congestion. We have developed QuickZone, software that gives engineers the ability to test alternative strategies and identify ways to reduce the traffic impact caused by work zones.

Current emergency management research has concentrated on hurricane evacuation coordination procedures and analysis. This research identified critical aspects of an evacuation and is being used by States to improve their evacuation plans. We will expand this research to cover security and emergency transportation operations.

To help States and local agencies keep the system operating under adverse weather conditions, FHWA is conducting research to integrate road weather information systems (RWIS) and traffic management centers, and is completing the development of the Winter Maintenance Decision Support System prototype (MDSS).

In relation to the movement of goods across our Nation, FHWA has completed work on the Freight Analysis Framework and has conducted national and regional capacity and investment analyses. Other tools for State and local level freight analysis will be developed. In addition, FHWA will investigate the needs of freight connectors on the National Highway System; the completion and testing of software analysis systems to support border entry procedure analysis; and the development of an analysis tool to assess the impact of regulations on freight productivity.

FHWA's ongoing Environmental R&T balances concerns for the natural environment with the need to add value to the community. Our noise model is an example. Each year, State and local governments spend more than $100 million on noise walls and other noise mitigation methods. As a result of our investment of just $3.9 million over nine years in research to improve the noise model, it is estimated that States and local governments will be able to save more than $19 million annually in noise mitigation construction costs, while improving community satisfaction. Another example is environmental streamlining. Initial research in this area has allowed FHWA to analyze the time it has historically taken to advance major projects and to identify the principal causes of delay. This has led to a number of process improvement efforts aimed at reducing project delivery times. One such effort is the Florida Efficient Transportation Decision Making process, which uses geographic information systems and linked electronic communication protocols to expedite environmental reviews involving over 20 Federal and State agencies. Our environmental research priorities also include air quality and climate, wetlands, water quality and ecosystems, and Tribal government consultation.

The FHWA's Planning R&T focuses on providing quality data, analysis and information for transportation planners and decision-makers to make better decisions and address community concerns. An example is our investment in metropolitan capacity building. Because MPOs obligate over $15 billion in Federal aid funds annually, even a 1% improvement in their ability to make better decisions has the potential to result in savings of millions of dollars. Another example is our research in rural planning techniques and consultation practices between State DOTs and local elected officials. A new training course will be available this summer that deals specifically with rural transportation planning. Our transportation planning research priorities also support smart growth and transportation land use, statewide and intermodal planning, and forecasting transport demand and system changes.

Policy research analyses are undertaken to provide a unique and crucial perspective not found in any one program area. Information on economics, demographics, highway travel and spending trends provide an understanding of the interrelationships between highway programs, systems, services, and institutional relationships. These analyses provide the basis for assessing relationships between highway investment levels, the condition and performance of the highway system, and the revenues that will be available now and in the future to support the Federal-aid highway program. Highway revenue issues will be increasingly important since technological advances and growing use of alternative fuels will slow the growth in revenues to the Highway Trust Fund. The Policy research program also produces data, analytical tools, and policy studies that are used by States and local governments in the management of their own highway programs. For example, research in the area of innovative finance has resulted in new techniques for financing projects that have helped leverage Federal funds, encouraged public-private partnerships, and enhanced economic growth.

One of the keys to the success of all of our transportation programs is assuring we have a well-developed workforce for the future. Providing transportation professionals with training and educational opportunities not only helps us to implement new technologies, but also improves the overall quality of our transport systems. This is particularly critical since so much of America's surface transportation workforce is expected to retire in the next five years. Last year, the National Highway Institute (NHI) presented over 500 technical courses to nearly 15,000 transportation professionals. Likewise, our 57 Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) Centers delivered training to over 135,000 students in State and local agencies.

Another important element is our partnership with universities. The University Transportation Centers (UTC) and the Eisenhower Fellowships programs not only provide a vehicle for attracting some of the nation's brightest students into transportation, but also give them an opportunity to conduct research to address transportation issues. In FY 2001, Eisenhower Fellowships were awarded to 98 students and faculty, representing 55 universities and colleges from 25 States and territories. The University Transportation Centers, managed by DOT's Research and special Programs Administration, annually enroll over 3,300 degree students and reach over 25,000 practicing transportation professionals through courses and outreach activities through the UTC network. The UTC network consists of 84 universities in 40 States and Puerto Rico.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)

Under TEA-21, FHWA also provides leadership for the ITS R&T program, a Department-wide program that is administered by FHWA through the ITS Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) and includes the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Maritime Administration (MARAD). The ITS JPO provides the strategic direction for this program and coordinates ITS activities across the modal administrations. The ITS Program is focused on producing innovative technology in support of improved surface transportation security, safety, and mobility. During TEA-21, the ITS Program has focused on accelerating the deployment of existing ITS systems while developing the next generation of technologies through research and development.

Significant progress has been made in ITS deployment. From 1997 to 2000, we have experienced a 37 percent increase in the number of freeway miles with real-time traffic data collection technologies, a 55 percent increase in the coverage of freeways by closed circuit television, a 35 percent increase in the number of buses equipped with automatic vehicle location systems, and an 83 percent increase in traveler information dissemination.

Research and operational tests conducted through the Federal ITS program have broken new ground in the use of advanced technologies and have paved the way for the widespread use of these technologies. The National ITS architecture and standards have created a framework for guiding integrated ITS deployment. More than 200 architecture development efforts are underway or completed at the local level, and more than 50 standards have been approved and published. Training made available through this program has reached thousands of practitioners in both the public and private sectors. Technical assistance and technical guidance have assisted State and local agencies in making informed decisions on ITS investments.

As a result of the leadership of the U.S. DOT, America has begun the adoption of a new, easy to remember, traveler information telephone number--511. It provides information about highways, as well as the status of transit buses, ferries, light rail, and other public transportation in local communities. Currently, 511 service has been launched in 4 locations. Twenty additional systems are under development, with six preparing to begin operation in early 2002.

The challenge of fully deploying ITS across the United States is significant. Despite the investments made during TEA-21, only 22 percent of the freeways in major metropolitan areas are instrumented for real-time monitoring. Road weather data collection stations exist at an average spacing of over 130 miles on the National Highway System. Only a minimal amount of information is available on major surface streets or outside of metropolitan areas. Systematic monitoring of critical infrastructure or key evacuation routes and military corridors for security purposes is almost non-existent.

Since 1997, there have been several accomplishments in the ITS program for commercial vehicle operations (CVO), which is administered by FMCSA. There are 34 States that have deployed electronic screening systems for trucks at weigh stations where safety information about the truck and the motor carrier company is checked at highway speeds. Safe and legal motor carriers support the electronic screening systems because the electronic checks allow them to continue past the stations without stopping. There are 49 States that have developed strategic business plans to manage the deployment of ITS/CVO technologies. Motor carrier companies have estimated a potential 19:1 benefit-cost ratio in savings from the States' deployment of e-government systems for motor carrier registration and fuel tax applications.

Security is now a major emphasis of the current ITS program and is expected to be a critical component of future ITS investments, particularly in the area of intermodal freight. The Department is conducting several ITS operational tests that are designed to improve the efficiency and security of the intermodal movement of freight. These tests include examination of "smart cards" and biometric identifiers to identify the shipment, vehicle and driver during transportation from shipper through the air cargo terminal. Additional research and testing in the areas of container security and hazardous material shipment security are also being pursued.

Safety continues to be a primary focus of the ITS R&D program. The centerpiece of this effort has been the Intelligent Vehicle Initiative (IVI). This effort focuses on preventing driver distraction due to in-vehicle technology and facilitating the development and deployment of crash avoidance systems. IVI is truly an intermodal program, involving FHWA (vehicle/highway cooperative systems), NHTSA (passenger vehicle systems), FMCSA (commercial vehicle systems), and FTA (transit vehicle systems). By tapping into the research expertise from these modes, and by partnering with vehicle and equipment manufacturers, the Department has been able to develop, test, and evaluate a wide range of smart vehicle technologies, and is developing safety systems to warn drivers of dangerous situations, recommend actions, and even assume partial control of vehicles to avoid collisions.

The IVI program is a long-term effort, but designed to produce products that can be quickly brought to market. Federal IVI research activities facilitated development of products that include infrared-sensing systems to improve night driving, drowsiness detection systems, rear-end collision warning systems, lane departure warning systems, and truck rollover stability systems. Research into driver distraction and workload is also underway. Studies of cellular telephone, in-vehicle computing and integrating vehicle-based information systems have been conducted, and driver workload measures are being developed in partnership with industry.

Through the ITS Public Safety program, work is also underway to improve crash response times. Through a Secretarial initiative the ITS program is working to facilitate the deployment of wireless E-911. Over half of all fatal crashes involve a single vehicle and most of these are on rural roads. Deployment of wireless E-911- automatic location of wireless calls - is essential to assist emergency dispatchers. E-911 also provides the foundation for advanced emergency communications systems such as automatic collision notification. A recent study indicates that widespread deployment of automatic collision notification could prevent more than 500 traffic fatalities each year.

Future R&T Program

In conclusion, the Federal surface transportation research program can play a key role in the Department's ability to address the significant transportation challenges that face our Nation today: increasing safety, enhancing security of infrastructure and operations, improving mobility, promoting economic growth, and providing environmentally responsible and efficient project delivery. To accomplish these goals, we see reauthorization of FHWA's R&T program focusing on:

  • The development of a national highway R&T agenda, in cooperation with our partners in State and local government, academia, industry, and professional organizations.

  • The conduct of long-term fundamental research, research aimed at significant highway research gaps not addressed in other highway R&T programs, and research on emerging issues with national implications.

  • The dissemination of research results to be placed into practice by the transportation community.

  • The development and identification of new technology, innovative practices, and advanced methods, both nationally and internationally.

  • The investigation and development of new and innovative practices and policies to improve environmental analysis and planning practices by all levels of government.

  • The application of new technologies through training and education programs, and the development of tomorrow's workforce.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this discussion of reauthorization of the Federal surface transportation research program. We will be pleased to address any questions you may have.