DOT Five-Year Research, Development, and Technology (RD&T) Strategic Plan (FY 2018-2022)

The DOT RD&T Strategic Plan presents the Department’s research priorities for five years (FY 2018-2022) and describes the activities undertaken by the Department to address those priorities. This plan is an update to the previous Plan, covering FY 2017-2021, and meets the requirements set forth in Section 6019 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (Pub. L. 114-94), “Research Planning” (49 USC 6503). This updated plan has been developed to ensure alignment with the Department’s strategic goals and priorities as defined in the DOT Strategic Plan (2018-2022).

USDOT Research, Development, and Technology (RD&T) Annual Modal Research Plans

Under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 65 (Research Planning), Section 6501, each modal (operating) administration and joint program office is required to submit an Annual Modal Research Plan (AMRP) to the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology each year for review and approval. The plans are required to provide a comprehensive annual modal research plan for the upcoming fiscal year and a detailed outlook for the following fiscal year. The plans provided at the below link address fiscal years 2021 and 2022 in addition to the plans developed for prior fiscal years.

The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology

This is TRB Special Report #261.

The Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC) was convened in 1991 by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies to provide a continuing, independent assessment of the
Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) research and technology (R&T) program. Funding for the committee is provided by FHWA.

A previous RTCC report describes research, development, and technology transfer in the highway industry (TRB 1994). Since preparing that report, the RTCC has examined many specific aspects of highway R&T, some at the request of FHWA and some under its own initiative and with FHWA’s support. Much has happened to the structure and funding of highway R&T since 1994, especially as a result of passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in June 1998. TEA-21 led to increased awareness among the highway industry that highway R&T is a shared responsibility and that federal highway R&T cannot address all highway transportation issues or serve all potential industry customers. This awareness has brought focus to the need for improved coordination among the various highway R&T activities, an idea this committee has supported in the past.

TEA-21 also called for TRB to establish a study committee to determine the “goals, purposes, research agenda and projects, administrative structure, and fiscal needs for a new strategic highway research program.” That committee proposed a Future Strategic Highway Research Program (F-SHRP) modeled afterthe first SHRP. This program would be focused, time constrained, management driven, and designed to complement other existing highway research programs.

The passage of TEA-21 influenced the formation of the National Highway R&T Partnership Forum in late 1998 by FHWA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and TRB. The purpose of the forum was “to engage the entire highway transportation community in the identification of highway R&T needs and to address the benefits to be realized by forming partnerships to fulfill those needs.” Participation in the partnership effort was completely voluntary but ultimately involved hundreds of individuals and more than 160 organizations. The RTCC assigned a committee member to monitor each of the forum’s working groups. A summary of R&T needs prepared by the forum is included in Appendix B.

As these activities were getting under way, the committee decided to examine whether the focus and activities of the federal highway R&T program are appropriate in light of the needs of the nation’s highway system and the roles and activities of other highway R&T programs. The RTCC worked closely with the F-SHRP committee while carrying out this analysis; indeed, the F-SHRP committee had four members in common with the RTCC. By agreement of the National Academies, the two committees shared draft materials. This report presents the findings resulting from the RTCC’s examination of federal highway R&T and a proposal for a change in direction aimed at strengthening the overall R&T enterprise. The report was prepared as a companion to the F-SHRP committee’s report [Strategic Highway Research: Saving Lives, Reducing Congestion, Improving Quality of Life (TRB 2001)] and is directed toward key federal highway R&T decision makers (Congress and FHWA), as well as the stakeholders in federalhighway R&T.

The term “federal highway R&T program” is used in this report to refer to the combined responsibilities and actions of Congress, the administration, and FHWA in funding federal highway research, determining research needs, setting research program priorities, and executing the research program. Although the recommendations in this report are aimed primarily at FHWA’s R&T program,they are discussed in the context of other programs within the highway R&T enterprise—the state R&T programs, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, and private-sector research. These other programs focus on highway infrastructure issues and are supported by highway industry stakeholders. The committee recognizes that there are other research programs directly related to the highway system, especially those of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition, research undertaken by the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense involves topics of interest to highway agencies and researchers.

The recommendations in this report are aimed at the current focus of FHWA’s R&T program. This focus is similar to that of the other highway R&T programs. Nevertheless, the committee believes there are significant
opportunities for fundamental, long-term research that would be beneficial to the national R&T enterprise and that FHWA, as the mission agency responsible for the nation’s highway program, is well positioned to both promote and undertake. Although this report presents recommendations that involve some changes in FHWA’s program, it also recognizes FHWA’s past R&T accomplishments and suggests the continuation of many of the agency’s activities in support of the nation’s highway R&T programs.

The Federal Investment in Hghway Research, 2006-2009: Strengths and Weaknesses

This document is TRB Special Report #295.

Since 1992, the Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC) has served as an independent advisor on national and federal
highway research. Its work over the past 15 years has been supported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). During the years in which it has advised FHWA and other highway research sponsors, the committee has issued a number of reports addressing highway research topics, funding, and research management. It has also issued two previous reports addressing highway research at the national and federal levels.

In Special Report 244: Highway Research: Current Programs and FutureDirections (1994), RTCC described and analyzed for the first time the wide range of highway research activities funded through government and industry and made recommendations regarding funding levels for research and development and priority areas for future investment. In 2001, RTCC issued Special Report 261: The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology. In that report, the committee assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the federal program and made recommendations with respect to funding levels and priorities. In particular, the committee stressed the need for improved stakeholder involvement in the FHWA program and urged that research funding be allocated through merit review of competitively solicited proposals. In both of these reports, RTCC emphasized the importance of allocating a greater share of the federal investment in highway research to longerterm, higher-risk research and made recommendations regarding priority areas for future highway research investment.

In 2007 RTCC’s statement of task was renegotiated with FHWA and was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council.
It states:

This project will provide an ongoing review of the FHWA research program. It will also analyze the federal investment in highway research made in the 2005 reauthorization of surface transportation programs and make recommendations to enhance the value of that investment. The criteria to be used for the committee’s analysis will be those articulated by Congress in the eight basic principles for research and technology innovation in Section 5201 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

This report continues RTCC’s tradition of periodically assessing the state of highway research and making recommendations to policy makers. In this report, and consistent with its statement of task, the committee evaluates the investments made in highway research through SAFETEA-LU.

The committee conducted its work over a 3-year period, during which it invited and received briefings from research program managers in
FHWA and the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), as well as from a broad range of stakeholders in highway research. Appendix A lists the many people who made presentations on and discussed various highway research programs. This report reflects the committee’s analysis of the information gathered and its collective, consensus judgment.

Airport Design and Construction Narrative Research Roadmap

TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Web-Only Document 40 outlines the key research gaps and areas of topics of interest for airports in the design and construction field over the next five years.

The research ideas generated as part of this project are organized into seven high‐level themes that represent the main areas and challenges of interest to airports in design and construction.

While design and construction are designated as their own research areas within the ACRP program, the roadmap takes a consolidated approach and combines the two in both the report and the visual representation.

The roadmap includes 40 research ideas that are categorized into seven high‐level themes: Customer Service; Integrating Advanced and/or Disruptive Technologies; Project Management, Delivery and Finance Models; Safety and Security; Sustainability and Resiliency; General Design and Construction; and Workforce Development.

The research ideas are further categorized into twelve subtopics: 1) Passenger Experience; 2) Integrating Technology and Data; 3) Finance and Revenue Development; 4) Alternative Approaches to Project Delivery Mechanisms; 5) Sustainable Design and Construction; 6) Innovative Approaches to Security / TSA Operations; 7) Construction Best Practices / Guidance and Tools; 8) Modernizing and Retrofitting Airport Facilities; 9) Construction Materials; 10) Accommodating Changing Demographics; 11) Curbside, Roadways and Vehicles; and 12) Unmanned Aerial Systems.

The completed Research Roadmap in the Area of Design and Construction of Airport Facilities includes the following products:
• An interactive version of Appendix B: Visual Research Roadmap.
 Appendix C: Research Ideas Database, which is a searchable Excel file containing ideas generated during the project.
• A PowerPoint presentation: Summary of Airport Design and Construction Research Roadmap, which describes the roadmap and related products.

Research Roadmap on Safety Issues

With the airport industry’s introduction and early adoption of safety management systems (SMS), safety processes are taking on a more proactive way of doing the business while continuously improving safety. This shift in approach will drive safety research in the near and long-term future.

The TRB Airport Cooperative Research Program’s ACRP Web-Only Document 50: Research Roadmap on Safety Issues reveals evidence of this shift, with input from the industry clearly indicating that more detailed guidance on, and the sharing of lessons learned regarding the elements and processes falling under the SMS umbrella, is needed.

Two supplemental files accompany this web-only document, including a Safety Research Topics Database and a Visual Research Roadmap.

Airport Environment Research Roadmap


As an industry-driven research program, ACRP relies on a flow of quality research ideas. Traditionally, ACRP primarily has used a bottom-up approach for these ideas, expressed as formal problem statements. ACRP’s Oversight Committee has adopted a strategic plan for the program that includes as a priority ensuring “that problem statements are of the highest quality and greatest relevance to the airport industry.” As a key step to achieving this strategic priority, ACRP is developing a series of research roadmaps, one for each of its 10 topic areas. The goal of these research roadmaps is to identify gaps in knowledge and practice, uncover key opportunities and challenges, and outline and prioritize specific research ideas needed to address these gaps. The roadmaps will also produce research ideas to be entered into ACRP’s IdeaHub, its online collaboration platform for turning ideas into problem statements to be considered for funding.

Airports face unique, numerous, and ever-evolving environmental challenges and opportunities. Common environmental topics have focused on noise, water quality, and air quality. More recently, issues related to sustainability and resiliency have emerged. A research roadmap is needed to help airport industry practitioners identify and prioritize research needs related to environmental issues.


The objective of this research is to develop an airport environmental research roadmap. The roadmap should recommend priorities and timing, set a strategy, and provide a rationale for the recommendations. In addition, the roadmap should:

  • Focus on airport environmental research needs to be undertaken within the next 5 years;
  • Consider existing relevant environmental roadmaps and research recommendations;
  • Consider the needs of airports of all sizes, geographies, levels and types of activity, and resource constraints;
  • Recognize airports are a component of communities and intermodal transportation systems;
  • Address potential positive environmental effects that airports can generate;
  • Reflect priorities of a broad group of stakeholders;
  • Prioritize research with consideration to ACRP’s strategic plan;
  • Create environmental research ideas to be entered into ACRP’s IdeaHub for further development into problem statements; and
  • Include a long-range (i.e., beyond 5 years) environmental research needs assessment that accounts for uncertainty, data limitations, emerging technologies, and evolving policies.


Research is complete.  Results are provided in ACRP Web-Only Document 45, a Dataset, and an Interactive Roadmap.

Research Roadmap for the AASHTO Council on Active Transportation

STATUS: Research is complete.
The Research Roadmap, with prioritized research needs, is available here:

The Research Review summarizes existing and ongoing research in 22 topic areas:
The Continuity and Implementation Plan provides the Council on Active Transportation (CAT) with tools and steps to implement the Roadmap:

A spreadsheet for tracking research is available for download here (xlsx format):


In November 2016, the AASHTO Board of Directors adopted a new committee structure for the organization that included creating the CAT as part of the Transportation Policy Forum. The Council addresses issues related to bicycle, pedestrian, and other active transportation modes, including non-motorized access to the multi-modal network.
The objective of this project was to develop a research roadmap that can be used by the Council to focus its efforts to foster, support, monitor, disseminate, and implement research on active transportation. The roadmap will builds upon existing research and is informed by outreach to the active transportation practitioner community. In addition to identifying research gaps and prioritizing research needs, the roadmap aligns with the Council’s strategic plan for future Council activities, including collaboration with other AASHTO committees and councils.