Cooperative Research Programs Division
The Cooperative Research Programs Division of the TRB, led by Director Christopher Hedges, administers a number of major research programs sponsored by other organizations.
National Cooperative Highway Research Program
Sponsored by the member departments of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, the NCHRP was created in 1962 as a means to accelerate research on problems that affect highway planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance nationwide. All of the state highway and transportation departments contribute to an annual cooperative pool to fund the program’s activities. AASHTO committees and member departments and the Federal Highway Administration recommend research topics each year, and the AASHTO Standing Committee on Research (SCOR) determines both the projects to be funded and the levels of funding for those projects. A close working relationship with AASHTO during execution of the projects and the participation of experienced practitioners on project panels help ensure the application of completed NCHRP study results.
Transit Cooperative Research Program
The TCRP was initiated in 1992 by three cooperating organizations: the Federal Transit Administration, the program sponsor; the Transit Development Corporation, a nonprofit educational and research organization established by the American Public Transportation Association, which provides program governance through the TCRP Oversight and Project Selection (TOPS) Committee; and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, acting through TRB, which serves as program manager. Under TCRP, the transit industry develops innovative near-term solutions to operating problems and adapts appropriate new technologies and approaches to help meet the demands placed on the nation’s public transit systems. The program’s research covers topics relating to all aspects of public transportation, including planning, service configuration, equipment, facilities, operations, human resources, maintenance, policy, and administrative practices. Each year, the TOPS Committee selects a program of research from the large number of candidate research problem statements submitted by organizations and individuals in the transit community.
Airport Cooperative Research Program
The ACRP was authorized in federal aviation legislation and funding is made available through the annual federal appropriations process. ACRP, which began in 2006, is an industry-driven applied research program that develops near-term, practical solutions to problems faced by airport operators. The program is sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Research topics are selected by an independent governing board appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation that includes individuals from airports, universities, FAA, and the aviation industry.
National Cooperative Freight Research Program
The NCFRP carries out applied research on problems facing the freight industry that are not being adequately addressed by existing research programs. The program, which began in late 2006, is sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology (formerly Research and Innovative Technology Administration) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. NCFRP covers a range of issues to improve the efficiency, reliability, safety, and security of the nation's freight transportation system. The NCFRP was not reauthorized in the MAP-21 surface transportation legislation. However, work on previously approved projects will continue until completed.
Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program
The HMCRP is a stakeholder-driven, problem-solving program, researching real-world, day-to-day operational issues in hazardous materials transportation with near- to mid-term time frames. The program, which began in late 2006, is sponsored by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The HMCRP was not reauthorized in the MAP-21 surface transportation legislation. However, work on previously approved projects will continue until completed.
National Cooperative Rail Research Program
The NCRRP, initiated in Spring 2012, conducts applied research on problems that are shared by freight, intercity passenger (including high speed rail) and commuter rail operators. Authorized in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, the NCRRP undertakes research and other technical activities in a variety of rail subject areas, including design, construction, maintenance, operations, safety, security, policy, planning, human resources, and administration. The program is sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), with program oversight provided by an independent governing board (the NCRRP Oversight Committee) appointed by the Secretary, U.S. DOT. One year of funding was provided for the program, with no additional funding thereafter. Work on previously approved projects will continue until completed.
Under all of these programs, TRB organizes panels of experts to provide guidance on technical aspects of the research and to translate the problems into project statements with well-defined objectives. Research proposals are then solicited from private and public research organizations with capability and experience in the problem areas to be studied. The technical panels review the proposals, recommend contract awards, monitor research in progress, provide technical guidance, and determine the acceptability of the final reports. More than 3,000 experienced practitioners and research specialists currently serve on Cooperative Research Program panels. TRB also manages programs of smaller studies focused on synthesizing current practices and analyzing legal issues in the NCHRP, TCRP, and ACRP programs. Findings and publications from these synthesis and legal research projects have been well received by highway, transit, and airport practitioners.