Strategic Planning Document -
II. SUMMARY OF PRIORITY AREAS FOR TRANSPORTATION R&D
The programmatic activities by which these priority research areas are to
be addressed vary widely depending on the nature of the area and the needed
R&D, the Federal role in each area, and the responsibilities and capabilities
of participating agencies. In some cases a single comprehensive and focused
program is appropriate; in others, the goals are better achieved through
coordination and integration of parallel efforts dealing with different
aspects of the subject. Certain broad initiatives addressing particular
objectives are represented in more than one priority area. For example, the
thrust to advance US aeronautics includes both aircraft technology and a
global air traffic control system, which is also a part of the transportation
information infrastructure. Similarly, crash avoidance systems being
developed within the Intelligent Transportation Systems program can be
identified with vehicle research as much as for information infrastructure.
For each priority area the topics to be addressed, broad objectives and
programmatic goals, principal challenges and opportunities, and intended R&D
outputs are described below.
PRIORITY AREA: Transportation Physical Infrastructure
The transportation infrastructure of the US is a vast network of
highways, railroads, waterways, transitways, pipelines and supporting
infrastructures worth some $2.4 trillion. These transportation networks are
the physical systems that bring people and products together, the foundation
on which our economy and society move. The well-being of this infrastructure
are essential to the economic health and vitality and vitality of the Nation.
Maintenance and renewal of our aging and deteriorating infrastructure systems
is more than 80 percent of transportation expenditures. Transportation
infrastructure systems must be incrementally restored, renewed, preserved and
strengthened, and expanded in capacity if the ever growing transportation
needs of our Nation are to be served.
The methods, tools and materials used in transportation infrastructure
construction and maintenance change slowly, limited in part by the need to
manage the risks of unexpected weaknesses or problems which may not become
apparent for years or decades, and by the importance in most decision
processes of minimizing initial cost. Another constraint is that the supply
industries involved may perceive relatively limited initial markets, with
consequent low profits for innovative products. These considerations sharply
reduce private sector motivation toward performance of advanced R&D. The R&D
challenge is in part how to address technologies that have such long operating
lifetimes and diverse environments, and how to overcome institutional barriers
to practical deployment of developed technologies.
However, in other sectors such as defense and consumer products, various
forces have provided a strong incentive for innovation in sophisticated new
materials, structural design concepts, and innovative tools and techniques.
The inventory of advances potentially worthy of infrastructure use grows day
by day, awaiting only the effort to develop specific applications, demonstrate
their effectiveness and long-term viability, and often, reduction of costs to
a competitive level. The reality of this concept is already being
demonstrated by results achieved in Europe, where American highway
professionals observe a much more vigorous program for incorporating new
materials in foreign roads. The degree to which portions of the Nation's
highway system are nearing their design life and much transit system
infrastructure has already exceeded its nominal life, thereby imposing high
maintenance costs and periodic service disruptions, warrants aggressive
examination of means efficient and practical means of improving materials to
renew transportation infrastructure of all types.
Obtaining the best life-cycle performance from the Nation's physical
infrastructure is important to not only the users, but the taxpayers and the
government. Materials used, construction practices, climate and use of the
infrastructure can all vary dramatically and infrastructure lifetime is
normally measured in decades.
- APPLICATIONS OF PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURE RESEARCH
- The approximately 3.5 million miles of surfaced roads in the US carry
one-third of freight ton-miles and nearly 90% of passenger-miles traveled.
DOT data shows that 10% of pavements require immediate repair, and 60% call
for rehabilitation. One third of our bridges are structurally deficient.
Public expenditures for construction and maintenance of the highway system are
approximately $80 billion per year. Obtaining the best life-cycle performance
from aging pavements and bridges that have already exceeded their in-service
design life is essential to the Nation's productivity and mobility.
Defense and consumer sector R&D has produced a rich inventory of high
performance construction materials, structural design concepts, and innovative
tools and techniques. These await specific application to transportation
infrastructure, demonstration of effectiveness and long-term viability, and,
often, reduction of costs to a competitive level. Examples include composite
materials, innovative structural design concepts, advanced corrosion
protection and control, structural composites and adhesives, and new pavement
mixtures. Extending service life through durable pavements by a marginal 1%
would save the nation about $ 20 billion over 20 years.
At the Louetta Overpass on State Highway 249 DOT and the State of Texas
are working on a High Performance Concrete (HPC) bridge that will utilize
advanced materials and concrete casting and processing technology. HPC has
higher strength and durability for the deck and substructure. Innovative U-
shaped beams will be used. HPC is more impermeable to weathering, requiring
fewer pillars to support longer spans and a lighter superstructure.
Construction and life cycle cost savings relative to conventional structures,
and reductions in erection time, more than offset the higher initial cost of
the materials The bridge also features advanced non-destructive inspection
and testing devices, to monitor strain and performance during and after the
Strategic investment in the an infrastructure research, technology and
deployment program is paramount to the preservation and enhancement of the
Nation's transportation system. There is great potential benefit from R&D
directed toward high performance construction materials, automated tools and
devices, design concepts and construction methods for renewal of
Major program objectives in physical infrastructure research and
development are to:
- Reduce the backlog of needed rehabilitation and renewal of existing
- Improve the performance of transportation infrastructure, as measured by
life-cycle cost, safety, reliability, environmental impacts, transportation
service, capacity, and mobility and access for all.
- Provide the technology base needed for transportation systems of the
future, including innovative vehicles and system concepts, intermodal
integration, and a sustainable environment.
- Assure that the Nation's transportation physical infrastructure maintains
a high level of performance during seismic and other natural disasters and can
recover rapidly from such events.
Challenges and New Opportunities
National leadership is critical in guiding and supporting this area of
research. Many technical advances already exist that are absent or not widely
applied in the United States. The following challenges and opportunities are
critical to the Nation's productivity and economic well being:
- National Renewal: There is great potential from research directed toward
high performance construction materials, automated tools and devices, design
concepts and construction methods for renewal of transportation
- Deployment of Existing Technology and Knowledge: Facilitation of
technology deployment is as important as technology generation, and is a
critical element of R&D in the infrastructure area. Facilities and techniques
for accelerated testing can greatly advance the application of performance
specifications and life-cycle performance.
- Preservation of the Environment: Many serious environmental issues arise
in infrastructure renewal and maintenance activities. Research is needed to
address environmental issues associated with construction and maintenance,
such as the use of recycled materials, minimization and removal of waste, and
reduction of disruption to the affected area.
- Reduction of Costs, Improvement of Performance and Enhancement of Safety:
Application of advanced non-destructive inspection and monitoring technologies
can yield great benefits in the management of physical infrastructure. These
technologies will facilitate development of more efficient maintenance and
renewal strategies and priorities, and can thereby reduce costs, improve
infrastructure performance and enhance safety.
PRIORITY AREA: Transportation Information Infrastructure
Economic vitality and growth depends upon reliable, safe, and efficient
transportation. The economic burden imposed by congested transportation
facilities inhibits job formation and is estimated to cost the Nation over
$100 billion annually due to clogged highway arteries alone. Information
systems and technologies play a critical role. The Nation's air commerce
depends upon advanced air traffic flow control and management systems to
alleviate the adverse consequences of air traffic congestion. Information
technologies and system management techniques are being pursued to alleviate
highway, rail, and vessel traffic congestion, delay, and inefficiencies, but
have yet to be adopted widely in practice. Information technologies also are
viewed as a means to ease the paperwork burden associated with shipping
documentation, payment transactions, record keeping, and regulatory permits
and clearances. It is estimated that motor carriers expend one to two billion
dollars annually simply to collect and report vehicle mileage and fuel usage
information for tax reporting purposes.
Seamless transportation inherently requires a unique public enabling
infrastructure of communication and information technologies as well as
development of comprehensive technology, telecommunications and information
policies and promotion of their application. Information infrastructure R&D
leading toward improved transportation safety and efficiency is a priority
intricately linked to the National goal of job creation and economic growth.
Overlaying the existing transportation infrastructure with a
complementary information infrastructure will dramatically improve
transportation service, cost, safety, and efficiency, while lessening adverse
environmental impacts. Emerging electronic information systems, navigation,
and communication technologies are providing new ways for operators to improve
transportation system performance, and enabling travelers and shippers to make
informed transportation choices. What will emerge is a society infused with
information systems that not only connect all modes of transportation into one
cohesive system, but also link transportation to the National Information
At the core of current Federal efforts in this area is the Intelligent
Transportation System program, currently focused primarily on highway
applications. This is a public-private partnership to develop and apply a
very broad variety of vehicle, roadway, electronics, communications, and
information processing technologies and services to improve the efficiency and
safety of surface transportation systems. This program will generate a wide
array of new products and services, and will contribute to improved mobility
and quality of life. Implementation of a compatible National Information
Infrastructure for Transportation in the US will require the successful
integration of a wide range of technologies, including unique public
infrastructure. The Federal government has an important role to play in this
effort. It will be necessary to establish unprecedented levels of cooperation
among transportation system users; Federal, state, and local governments;
research and academic institutions; and private sector transportation
providers. For its part, the Federal government provides the national
emphasis on safety, congestion relief, mobility enhancement, environmental
impact, energy conservation, productivity improvements, and system standards
necessary to assure a nationally compatible and accessible National
Information Infrastructure for Transportation.
- APPLICATION OF INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE RESEARCH
- Currently, long-haul trucking operates under a series of Federal, state
and local regulations which cover such issues as cargo weight, fuel taxes and
fuel usage, vehicle safety, driver performance and working hours, and
licensing and registration. As a result, trucks can be subjected to numerous
inspections and stops during the course of a long-distance journey. This
contributes to a reduction in efficiency and an increase in total costs and
time required for a freight movement.
One possible solution can be found in the Commercial Vehicle Operations
(CVO) segment of the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) program, which
applies advances in electronics, communications, and information technologies
to the Nation's surface transportation system. A good example of CVO in
action is the HELP (Heavy Vehicle Electronic License Plate) program. This is
a multi-state, multi-national research effort to design and test an integrated
heavy vehicle monitoring system that combined Automatic Vehicle
Identification, Automatic Vehicle Classification, and Weigh-In-Motion
Use of High Information Containers in intermodal freight movements is now
being applied to assure seamless movement of shipments on to trains, through
ports to ships, back to rail and highway vehicles, and on to the final
recipient. Conrail is now actively pursuing this technology.
Other facets of ITS now being applied include electronic highway toll and
subway fare collection. Toll collection is in active use on the New York
Thruway at the Tappan Zee Bridge, and will soon be applied to other bridges.
The MTA is now introducing a transit fare card that will be a "regional
passport" for all New York-area transportation, potentially even usable in
telephones, taxicabs, and at newspaper stands.
Dramatic transportation benefits and generation of markets will result
from dynamic and vigorous Federal support for the application of
communication, information and navigation technologies to transportation
system design, operation, management and use. While development and use of
specific information technologies and capabilities is primarily a private-
sector function, the Federal government has a substantial interest in public
sector applications, such as highway infrastructure, transit operations, and
air traffic control, and can and should play a critical role in shaping the
deployment of compatible and integrated systems.
Major program objectives in transportation information infrastructure R&D
- Provide essential or enhanced user services at minimum or reduced Federal
cost for transportation system operations, and in ways that accelerate the
establishment of US industry for hardware, software, and services having a
substantial domestic market penetration and strong international market
- Assure that the capabilities of satellite-based communication, navigation
and surveillance technologies are developed to the maximum feasible degree, so
that their full benefits to transportation and other sectors can be realized.
- Develop and generate an overall systems-level understanding of the
transportation information infrastructure, critical system architecture
features, and its relationship to the broader National Information
Challenges and New Opportunities
The US benefits from one of the most efficient, effective, safe, and
modern transportation system in the world. However, there are a number of
areas where improvements could be made that would further enhance Intelligent
Transportation System benefits. These are captured in the following
challenges and opportunities.
- Integrate America's Transportation Systems: While development and use of
specific information technologies and capabilities is primarily a private-sector function, the Federal government has a substantial interest in public
sector applications, such as highway infrastructure, transit operations, and air traffic control. The Federal government should play a critical role in
shaping the deployments of compatible and integrated systems.
- Enhance the Global Air Transportation System: Continued modernization of communications and navigation systems will play a key role in accommodating
air travel growth. Congested airports are undergoing expansion and modernization to meet the ever increasing level of air traffic. Of particular
importance to US airlines and aircraft manufacturers is the internationalization of a worldwide Global Navigation Satellite System,
providing satellite-based communication and navigation. Movement toward such advanced systems will have a significant positive effect on the industry's
competitiveness and market potential as well as open the lucrative market for GPS avionics equipment worldwide.
- Increase Productivity and Improve Customer Service: Substantial advances in railroad signal and control system technologies, particularly with respect
to rail transit, commuter rail, freight tracking and shared passenger-freight right-of-way, are possible. Positive train control could enhance safety, and
better operational information could improve productivity and customer service.
- Develop "Smart" Transportation Systems: Federal investment in evaluation, development and deployment of Intelligent-Vehicle-Highway System applications
and technologies, and support for system integration, warrants high priority to identify and reduce impediments and remove disincentives to deployment of
these technologies. This will greatly assist in bringing about striking transportation benefits in mobility, safety, efficiency, and productivity.
- Improve Logistics: Applications of modern sensing, information processing, display an communications technologies to traffic and logistics management and
other transportation functions on the ground, in the air, and on the sea will have a dramatic impact on transportation and logistics.
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