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Public Roads - November/December 2013

November/December 2013
Issue No:
Vol. 77 No. 3
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Internet Watch

Introducing FHWA’s Research And Technology Agenda

by John V. Moulden

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) conducts research to help address highway problems of national scope and importance. In the process, Federal staff works with partners to define distinctive areas of research and to develop the roadmaps needed to achieve results. The current highway authorization, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), provides FHWA with the flexibility to structure a comprehensive research and technology (R&T) program that aligns with highway transportation needs.

In a substantial change from the previous authorization, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), MAP-21 gives FHWA’s R&T program greater ability to respond to stakeholder needs. To improve visibility into the agency’s R&T priorities and increase stakeholder input and collaboration, FHWA recently launched the R&T Agenda Web site available at

“We see the FHWA R&T Agenda Web site as a critical element in our efforts to make the program more transparent and receptive to the needs of the States and other stakeholders,” says Michael Trentacoste, FHWA’s associate administrator for research, development, and technology.


From Objectives to Results

The R&T program is based on objectives and strategies defined by the offices that oversee FHWA’s major disciplines and topic areas--such as infrastructure, operations, and safety. The offices accomplish their objectives through innovative strategies that guide research planning on high-priority topics. Activities or projects align with and support the objectives and strategies.

For example, one of the Office of Safety Research and Development’s goals is to support the systematic planning, management, and evaluation of roadway safety. To meet this goal, the office employs several tactics including developing and deploying tools, processes, and guidance to support evidence-based safety decisionmaking. The new Roadway Data Improvement Program, which will help transportation agencies increase the quality of their data to support safety initiatives, is a specific example of an activity that supports this goal.

Telling the R&T Story

Site developers aimed to improve the accessibility of the FHWA R&T portfolios to stakeholders across the country. Toward that end, the site details what the R&T Program does and why, providing a high-level overview and showing the crosscutting work of the research and program offices. The site presents each office’s objectives and strategies and showcases some of the follow-on activities and projects. These features illustrate how the R&T agenda stimulates development of new technologies, practices, and policies that can result in safer, more efficient, and more sustainable roadways across the United States.

The Web site presents FHWA’s R&T agenda from two perspectives. First, it explains how the FHWA research and program offices address the six major, national-level R&T challenges facing U.S. highways:

  • Advancing highway safety
  • Enhancing system performance
  • Improving the mobility of people and goods
  • Maintaining infrastructure integrity
  • Promoting environmental sustainability
  • Preparing for the future

The site also organizes information by traditional discipline and topic areas--infrastructure, operations, safety, policy, planning and environment, Federal lands, exploratory advanced research, and innovative program delivery--and describes how each office’s strategic objectives drive their respective R&T portfolios. This dual structure enables visitors to find information by challenge or by office while highlighting the crosscutting nature of FHWA’s work and the multiple offices that share responsibility for addressing highway concerns.

The site also includes a Web-based mechanism by which visitors can submit comments and suggestions related to the R&T agenda. In the future, FHWA officials will post new showcase activities from the R&T portfolio and expand the feature to collect stakeholder feedback and help the agency shape the future of R&T at the national level.

For more information, visit or contact John Moulden at 202–493–3470 or

John V. Moulden is the manager of FHWA’s R&T National Partnership Program.