DOT Releases R&D, Technology Strategic Plan


Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation released its Research, Development and Technology Strategic Plan for the next five years, defining research principles and priorities to help guide the Department’s research investments.

“We recognize that the work of research, development, and technology deployment takes collaborative effort across the public, private, academic and non-profit sectors,” said DOT Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology and Chief Science Officer Dr. Robert C. Hampshire.

“In this time of rapid change and experimentation, research must drive the learning necessary for the public sector to keep pace with technological advancement and to adapt to evolving socio-economic needs. By providing a vision for a future transportation system made possible by research, we seek to foster collaborative innovation to create a better transportation future for all.”  

About the Plan

According to the Department’s release, the RD&T Strategic Plan supports DOT’s mission 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.

Additionally, it provides a long-term vision for how research and technology deployment can help transform our nation’s transportation system, while guiding transportation research, development, and technology deployment activities over the next five years.  

Following the U.S. DOT Strategic Plan priorities and objectives, it also calls for innovation guided by the Innovation Principles that were rolled out last year. These include:

  • Serving policy priorities;
  • Helping America win the 21st century;
  • Supporting workers;
  • Allowing for experimentation and learning from failure;
  • Providing opportunities to collaborate; and
  • Being flexible and adapting as technology changes.

The Plan will guide more than $5 billion in research activities funded through the bipartisan infrastructure law, including:

  • Providing $500 million in funding to the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Program, to kickstart a new generation of smart city innovation;
  • Investing in University Transportation Centers (UTCs) that work on climate, equity, and innovation—including at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions;
  • Establishing an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Infrastructure (ARPA-I) to scale up research and development efforts to keep pace with and to drive innovation; and
  • Authorizing $50 million per year in funding to establish a new Open Research Initiative to accelerate the achievement of the Department’s priorities and goals by funding unsolicited research proposals that yield disruptive technologies with high-impact potential. 

The DOT reports that the bipartisan infrastructure law also includes discretionary grant and formula funding programs that provide billions of dollars across the country targeting challenges such as safety, climate mitigation, equity, eco-nomic strength and global competitiveness through technology deployments, data investments, and new approaches to persistent challenges.

These include programs such as Safe Streets and Roads for All, Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-saving Transportation (PROTECT) Program, charging and fueling infrastructure discretionary grants, and the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program.

“We are entering a transformative era in transportation. Driven by American ingenuity, advances in transportation technology from electric and automated vehicles to drones and commercial space travel are creating new possibilities for how people and goods move,” wrote U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

“With President Biden’s landmark bipartisan infrastructure law (BIL), we have an opportunity to make once-in-a-generation investments in modernizing our transportation system, which will make travel safer and more convenient, allow goods to move more efficiently, drive economic growth, and help to address the climate crisis.

“In pursuing this transformation, we have an obligation to ensure that the transportation system works better for all Americans. We must harness investment and ingenuity to create good paying jobs and ensure that innovative technologies are safe and accessible so that no matter who you are or where you live you will see the benefits of these investments in transportation.”

The full RD&T Plan Strategic Plan can be found here.

Other Recent DOT Programs

At the beginning of last month, the DOT’s Federal Highway Administration announced the latest round of transportation innovations through its Every Day Counts Program. Because of the White House’s Action Plan for Accelerating Infrastructure, the DOT has committed to expanding the EDC model to more modes of transportation.

This year’s innovations are promoted by the FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration, improving project delivery across highway, rail and transit agencies at the state and local level.

Established over a decade ago, the EDC is a state-based program that helps identify and rapidly deploy proven, yet underutilized, innovations that facilitate greater efficiency in project delivery at the state, local and Tribal levels. The goal is to save time, money and other resources to ensure that infrastructure is built better, faster, smarter and more equitably.

Every two years since 2011 the FHWA has worked to identify a new set of innovations to champion that merit accelerated deployment. The first six rounds of EDC have reportedly yielded several innovative project delivery technologies, including prefabricated bridge systems, design-build contracting, project bundling, e-construction (paperless contracting), safety initiatives and more.

According to the FHWA’s release, the program’s success is based largely on FHWA’s close collaboration with states and local partners through a process whereby states select innovations they want to pursue, then establish performance goals for the level of implementation and adoption they want to reach over the upcoming two-year cycle.

Once the selection and performance goals are finalized, they then begin to implement the innovations with the support and assistance of diverse technical deployment teams established for each innovation, including federal, state, and local experts.

EDC Round 8 Innovations include:

  • Nighttime Visibility for Safety;
  • Next-Generation Traffic Incident Management;
  • Integrating Greenhouse Gas Assessment and Reduction Targets in Transportation Planning;
  • Enhancing Performance with Internally Cured Concrete (EPIC);
  • Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for Sustainable Project Delivery; and
  • Strategic Workforce Development.

Accelerated Innovation Demonstration and State Transportation Innovation Council Incentive programs administered by FHWA complement EDC by providing additional funding and resources to help the surface transportation community accelerate the adoption and standardization of innovative technologies in their programs.


Tagged categories: Department of Transportation (DOT); Government; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Research and development; Technology; Transportation

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