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Public Roads - Autumn 2022

Autumn 2022
Issue No:
Vol. 86 No. 3
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Guest Editorial

Putting the “World” into a World-Class Highway System

by Leslie J. Wright 
"A woman and man shake hands as a sign of partnership. In the background is a map of the world. Image Source: © / ASDF /"

The mission of the U.S. Department of Transportation is: “To deliver the world’s leading transportation system, serving the American people and economy through the safe, efficient, sustainable, and equitable movement of people and goods.” The Federal Highway Administration’s Office of International Programs (OIP) makes a significant contribution to achieving this mission through facilitating access to technical experts, technological advancements, and best practices abroad—beyond the Nation’s borders. As the gateway to foreign innovations and collaborative relationships that advance the U.S. transportation system, OIP is ensuring that it is truly a world-class highway system in every sense of the word.

Safety, economic strength and global competitiveness, equity, climate and sustainability, transformation, and organizational excellence are USDOT’s strategic goals; OIP ensures that FHWA’s international activities directly support one or more of these objectives. In doing so, the office uses four primary programs or approaches, depending upon the nature of the issue: (1) Multinational Relations Program (especially the World Road Association (WRA)), (2) Global Benchmarking Program (GBP), (3) Binational Relations Program (BRP), and (4) International Visitors Program (IVP). Each of these approaches has helped to identify and disseminate transportation related technologies and best practices in the United States.

WRA is the only intergovernmental international organization focusing on road transportation technology transfer, and FHWA is the lead agency representing the United States. With access to more than 120 international road administrations and associated experts, WRA provides a one-stop shop to access global innovations and best practices.

GBP is a tool for obtaining and adapting specifically identified foreign advances that may accelerate an innovation or bring a practical improvement to U.S. infrastructure. Instead of recreating advances already developed elsewhere, this program concentrates efforts on acquiring and adopting innovations already proven abroad. The ultimate goal is to improve safety and mobility, avoid duplicative research, reduce costs, and accelerate improvements.

BRP includes FHWA’s prioritized bilateral partnerships, covering a range of priority topics. The partnerships and topics are coordinated closely with program offices and are intended to complement or support existing agency activities and priorities. These engagements are mutually beneficial and foster collaborative platforms that result in long-term, strong, practical, and sustained relationships. These cooperative exchanges leverage limited resources to address FHWA’s highest priorities. A sample of our binational collaborations include Australia, Brazil, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Sweden. FHWA is also reaching out to re-engage with a number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa on technology exchange and transfer. 

Finally, IVP, at the request of another country, facilitates the sharing of information regarding U.S. technologies and best practices. While the intent is for the requesting country to learn from this Nation, their visits result in exchanges that are mutually beneficial.

Each program offers a flexible approach to address needs and complement work on the U.S. transportation system, whether it is gathering information, adopting an innovation or practice, or engaging in a technology exchange where benefits are reciprocated. These collaborative approaches work together and cross-pollinate, with developments in one area sometimes leading to opportunities in another. They also work in complementary ways to address different aspects of FHWA’s international efforts, while focusing on U.S. priorities and the objectives of USDOT. Often, these approaches are used as instruments in communicating U.S. developments to the world and can lead to increased market access for U.S. firms and exports, aiding U.S. global competitiveness.
A representative list of technologies and best practices that have been learned through OIP’s international exchanges and successfully implemented and integrated into the U.S. transportation system include road safety audits, anti-icing, lane control signals, and self-propelled modular transporters. This listing is a result of our efforts via the four primary approaches.

OIP makes it easy for FHWA to learn successful practices and emerging technologies from around the world, contributing to the mission of ensuring we have a world-class transportation system. A more in-depth look at OIP’s extensive global efforts is featured in “International Lessons Lead to U.S. Successes” on page 12 in this issue of Public Roads and highlights some of the international lessons that have led to successes in the United States.

Leslie J. Wright 

Director, Office of International Programs 

Federal Highway Administration

"Headshot of Leslie J. Wright, Director of the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of International Programs. Image Source: FHWA."