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Public Roads - Mar/Apr 2007

Mar/Apr 2007
Issue No:
Vol. 70 No. 5
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Guest Editorial

Research That Is Essential, Indispensable, and Connected


The U.S. surface transportation system is critical to the continued growth of the Nation's economy and the American way of life. Despite the successes of the past, vehicle miles traveled are growing twice as fast as the population, and concerns over land use and the environment are driving new approaches to address infrastructure needs.

Increasing demands, limited resources, and greater expectations will be the driving themes for transportation in the new century. To meet the challenges ahead, transportation managers will need the benefits of technology and innovation development and deployment that only a carefully considered, well-developed, and clearly communicated research and technology (R&T) program can provide.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) plays a crucial leadership role in shaping and executing a national R&T program. FHWA's leadership role in R&T begins with the Agency mission of "enhancing mobility through innovation, leadership, and public service," and grows from the role that FHWA defined for itself to be "innovators for a better future." Taking a leadership role does not exempt FHWA from working collaboratively with its partners. In today's customer-driven atmosphere, leadership implies an even greater responsibility to work with partners in developing the roadmaps needed to achieve results, especially because often the partners will be implementing the technologies and innovations.

Highway research has provided substantial benefits and has yielded a number of advances and innovations that have contributed to improvements in all aspects of the highway system, such as longer lasting pavements, structurally sound bridges, and advanced traffic systems. Such research is crucial to advances that will save lives, time, and money.

At FHWA's research facility, Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC), infrastructure researchers manage projects that predict and optimize pavement performance by pursuing an indepth understanding of asphalt and concrete materials, construction processes, and the mechanisms that limit the useful life of highways. For example, the Long-Term Pavement Performance program evaluates why some pavements outperform others.

Structural researchers use a systems approach to integrate design, construction, durability, maintenance, inspection, long-term performance, safety, and reliability into the highway bridges of the future. One example is the possible application of high-performance steel—a collaborative government-industry effort—to reduce susceptibility to fractures and corrosion on bridges. And among other focus areas, the advanced research program is looking at nanoscience technology and computational structural mechanics to improve highway materials and structural performance.

Pavement researchers at the Office of Infrastructure Research and Development (R&D) are working on more than 50 infrastructure projects to develop performance models, improved design procedures, construction processes, and test procedures. This issue of Public Roads highlights two testing methods developed by researchers at FHWA. One method enables transportation professionals to determine for the first time in history whether hot mix asphalt contains lime. The second is a new twist on an existing testing method: The repeated creep and recovery test (RCRT) can streamline testing for the presence of elastomer in polymer-modified asphalt binders and also yield valuable information on the binder's likely performance. The RCRT could provide a standardized protocol for testing polymer-modified binders, enabling pavement designers, highway agencies, and industry personnel across the United States to perform the test quickly and easily, using familiar equipment.

As director of the Office of Infrastructure R&D, I am proud to lead the talented team of researchers at TFHRC as they perform research that solves transportation problems and is essential, indispensable, and connected to our customers across the Nation.



Gary L. Henderson


Office of Infrastructure R&D