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September 30, 1998


The Honorable Neal Lane
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Dr. Lane:

At the request of Dr. Fenton Carey, Executive Secretary of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Committee on Technology, the National Research Council (NRC), acting through the Transportation Research Board (TRB), convened the Committee for Review of the Federal Transportation Science and Technology Strategy (Phase 2) (see Attachment 1 for a list of the committee members). The broad purpose of the TRB study committee was to continue the review of the status and progress of the NSTC National Transportation Science and Technology Strategy1 that was initiated by the TRB Committee on the Federal Transportation R&D Strategic Planning Process (Phase 1).2 For Phase 2, the committee was specifically asked to review the following 11 strategic R&D partnerships, formed both to support the five primary transportation goals established by the NSTC—safety, mobility, economic growth, environment, and national security—and to expedite the research process and speed the introduction of new technologies into transportation systems and operations:

The committee was to assess the proposed goals, plans, and status of each partnership; identify the appropriate federal role in each; and suggest supporting strategies the government might adopt. An assessment of the specific technological barriers and identification of suggested research topics for each of the partnerships were beyond the scope and resources of this limited study, but may be part of a more detailed examination of selected partnerships at a later date.

The committee carried out these tasks by reviewing two NSTC documents—the National Transportation Science and Technology Strategy (Strategy) and the Transportation Technology Plan3 (Technology Plan)—and by holding a meeting in Washington, D.C., on July 6–8, 1998. During the open sessions of the meeting, the committee heard presentations by representatives of each of the 11 partnerships. The partnerships were also discussed with two representatives of the NSTC Subcommittee on Transportation Research and Development, Mortimer Downey (Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation [DOT]) and Fenton Carey (Associate Administrator of the DOT Research and Special Programs Administration). (A list of guests who attended the committee meeting is provided in Attachment 2.) The committee then met in executive session to deliberate on what it had learned and to develop this letter report.


Given the enormous impact of transportation on the nation’s economy and environment and on the health and well-being of its citizens, the federal government properly plays a key role in advancing the transportation system as a whole. The government has appropriately turned to transportation technology as a means to achieve its goals of improving safety, mobility, economic growth, and national security across the various modes (and of lessening the environmental impacts of transportation). A critical part of strengthening and promoting the transportation technology base is, and must continue to be, a concentrated R&D effort. The committee therefore believes that the basic concept of coordinating and rationalizing federal transportation R&D that underlies the NSTC’s efforts is meritorious.

To be effective, federal R&D must be focused on key national goals and issues. Because these concerns are almost always interdisciplinary and often transcend the mission of a single agency, they need to be addressed through a special process that allows for the necessary interactions. A strategy that brings federal and state agencies and private groups together is also needed to eliminate redundancy in R&D projects, and provide the combination of expertise and faculties required to identify and address the most critical problems. The letter that was issued by the previous (Phase 1) TRB committee endorsed this type of strategic planning, and this committee reaffirms that recommendation as a critical element of R&D rationalization and focusing. The committee is encouraged to see that Congress has supported this strategic planning process through the recent Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) legislation.4

Coordinating and organizing research for a domain as broad as transportation is an inherently difficult enterprise. The task of convincing a wide range of congressional committees, federal agencies, state governments, and private corporations to pool resources and work together to achieve national goals is a daunting one. Yet despite these obstacles, the committee has seen discernible and useful progress toward the Strategy’s stated goals since last year’s status review. More work is needed, but the National Transportation Science and Technology Strategy is moving in the right direction.

The 11 partnerships differ along a variety of dimensions. Some are relatively well established, while others are in the preliminary planning stage. Annual funding ranges from a low of

$1 million to a high of $200 million. Some partnerships are focused on the deployment of advanced but currently available technologies, whereas others are focused on research. Some are based on specific technologies and others on broader goals. While these differences make direct comparisons difficult, it is still useful and possible to address general themes that relate to all or most of the partnerships. To this end, the remainder of this letter report presents four general observations and five recommendations. Commentaries on the individual partnerships are provided in Appendix A.


Refinement of Partnership Descriptions. The fact that the Strategy and many of its partnerships are in a dynamic state of development made evaluations difficult for the committee. There is a lack of consistency among the descriptions of the initiatives5 in the Technology Plan, the presentations given at the committee’s July meeting, and the direct experience of individual committee members with various elements of the partnerships. As a result, specifically what the committee was being asked to evaluate was not always obvious. The problem was twofold: the partnerships are in a state of evolution, and the briefings at the meeting did not always correspond with the written partnership descriptions provided to the committee before the meeting. It would help if subsequent drafts of the Technology Plan were better articulated (e.g., clearly designating the program budget and funding sources) and were made more explicit as to how the partnerships plan or propose to operate in practice. Such refinement not only would make it easier for outside groups (such as this committee) to understand and evaluate the direction and progress of the Strategy, but also, and more important, would provide those involved in the individual partnerships with a clearer understanding of how their work fits into the national Technology Plan. While the committee stresses the importance of having such long-term, clearly defined descriptions and plans, it also recognizes that short-term results may alter the long-term direction of these programs. Therefore, periodic updating of these descriptions and plans will be necessary.

Definition of "Partnership." Given the centrality of "partnerships" to the Strategy, it would be helpful to develop a working definition of the term. The Strategy provides a list of four criteria for partnerships: (1) they address recognized national needs; (2) they have a technology focus; (3) they could rely on the private sector for implementation; and (4) they require some federal involvement. The committee strongly believes this list should be supplemented with a more specific definition of what a partnership means. The committee was struck by the different concepts of partnership espoused by various presenters at the July meeting. For example (see Appendix A), some partnerships consist of coordination of preexisting federal research projects, while others focus on addressing new societal needs or new technology developments. Some partnerships emphasize R&D, while others address technology deployment. The committee believes a partnership should involve more than simply interagency discussions and interagency collaboration in research. To achieve the goals outlined by the NSTC Subcommittee on Transportation Research and Development, a partnership will ultimately need to bring together many organizations, including federal agencies, private corporations, nongovernmental organizations, state and local authorities, universities, trade and industry associations, and professional societies. All of these partners may not be necessary for every project, but to achieve true cross-cutting research and deployment, a broad group of actors must be involved. True and beneficial participation is the result of close coordination, exchange of expertise, sharing of program goals and responsibility, and contribution to a common budget or program. Partnerships must involve real information exchange and establish mission-critical measures of performance. At present, even some of the more advanced partnerships do not appear to have clear lines of program and budget authority or a specific charter and authority to which they are responsible. Moreover, with notable exceptions, the partnerships do not appear to be visible to, and involved with, the R&D community at large. Partnerships must be based on success in realizing outcomes, not simply in coordinating inputs (see Recommendation 2).

Budget Coordination. The committee recognizes that budget coordination will likely prove one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish. However, as was noted in the Phase 1 letter report, a comprehensive transportation technology plan cannot be fully effective or optimal until it is linked directly to funding, including the federal budget. The current system of statutory funding for each federal department and modal agency through separate congressional committees makes progress toward such united budgeting difficult. With multiple authorization and appropriations committees, each with different agendas and funding different budgets, it is not surprising that these partnerships, and the projects under them, do not form a unified whole.6 The coordinated review of interagency R&D programs begun by the Office of Management and Budget last year is a good first step. Briefing of partnership plans and budgets before joint staff meetings of congressional committees may be an additional approach to explore. Ultimately, the NSTC will need to convince Congress of the advantages and importance of its unified R&D approach through its reporting processes and testimony.

Additional Initiatives. The partnerships presented in the Strategy do not address all of the key transportation issues that should be encompassed by a national research program. Several federal transportation research programs are not mentioned or included in the Strategy. The majority of these efforts are single-mode, single-agency endeavors, but they are nonetheless necessary for the progress of national transportation. Moreover, the list of partnerships itself is changing; two additional partnerships—Maritime Safety Research Alliance and Space Transportation Technology—have been added to the Strategy since this committee was formed.7 As noted earlier, the charge to this committee was to evaluate the original 11 partnerships, so they are the focus of the recommendations below. However, in discussing these 11, the committee noted opportunities for other initiatives that would address the national goals set forth in the Strategy. Among these are the following:

There are likely other areas that would benefit from the establishment of a national partnership

(see also recommendation 4 below).

In all, the committee believes that the Strategy is making good progress, but offers the following recommendations to improve the process.



Recommendation 1: The recommendations of the Phase 1 letter report continue to apply. As noted earlier, the committee believes the federal transportation strategic planning process has made discernible and useful progress since the Phase 1 review. The current DOT effort to develop its own integrated strategic plan for transportation R&D is just one example of this progress. Many of the recommendations made in the Phase 1 letter report still need to be addressed in the continuing development of the Strategy. In particular, the committee reiterates the need to (1) prioritize the R&D activities being fostered by the Strategy, (2) link those activities more closely to the budget process, and (3) significantly broaden constituency participation (this latter point is elaborated further below). The Strategy should also strengthen the linkages between its vision of a transportation system in 20258 and the proposed R&D agenda. The Strategy, and its associated partnerships, need to be more effectively communicated to the transportation R&D community at-large. Many of these suggestions are further elaborated in the checklist for a good federal transportation research agenda that is provided in Appendix B.

Recommendation 2: Descriptions and operations of the individual partnerships need to be sharpened, and specific deliverables and timetables established. To ensure that the partnerships remain on track, responsibility for each needs to be assigned to a particular person or office, with associated budget control and performance accountability. Partnerships need to be committed to specified outcomes. Many have outlined goals, but have yet to chart how those goals are to be achieved. Because developing such plans is a lengthy process and many of these partnerships are relatively new, it is understandable that they are not fully developed. However, concrete schedules and frameworks are essential to achieving the most beneficial results, and must receive priority attention. While this committee can provide an overview of the partnerships at an executive level, each of the individual partnerships would benefit from a detailed, independent review. The review performed by the NRC’s Standing Committee to Review the Research Program of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles is a good example that might be useful to emulate.9

Recommendation 3: The initiatives should involve a wider spectrum of partners. There is a need to broaden the constituency involvement in the partnerships beyond federal agencies to state governments and transportation departments, universities, professional societies, and private-sector users and providers. Constituency involvement will, of course, take different forms across the partnerships. The partnerships as presented to the committee involve primarily intra-federal agency cooperation. The committee believes broader involvement to be vital and encourages additional efforts—and exploration of targeted incentives for involvement—in this regard.

Recommendation 4: Acknowledge that the Strategy is not all-encompassing. The NSTC Subcommittee on Transportation Research and Development needs to acknowledge that its National Transportation Science and Technology Strategy is not, at the present time, as all-inclusive as its name suggests. As noted above, many R&D programs currently being carried out by individual agencies are not referenced by the Strategy documents. The Strategy appears to encompass projects that involve cross-cutting transportation R&D. The relationship between these partnerships and other transportation research programs in the public and private sectors should be made more explicit, since an all-encompassing R&D strategy must be a union of both these partnerships and the research being conducted by individual agencies.

Recommendation 5: The enabling research and education components of the National Transportation Science and Technology Strategy deserve more emphasis. The enabling research component of the Strategy10 is particularly important, and the committee would welcome the opportunity to review this component next year. Support for enabling research is important to sustaining the nation’s transportation R&D capacity in general and is an appropriate role for the federal government. The Strategy also recognizes the importance of education and training, but the 11 partnerships make little mention of this component. Not only do people need to be ready to use technologies when they are deployed, but researchers must communicate with potential users to ensure that new technologies are developed into useful products. It is also important to educate and train young people to be researchers and technicians and continue the research and implementation of new transportation technologies. This communication should be an important part of each partnership’s plan and integrated into its timetables.

The committee is pleased to have had the opportunity to continue to provide feedback on the National Transportation Science and Technology Strategy and hopes that its comments and recommendations prove useful. The committee believes the Strategy has made important progress in the past year and looks forward to continued advances toward its important goals.


Joseph Sussman
Chair, Committee for Review of the Federal Transportation Science and Technology Strategy (Phase 2)


Attachment 1—Committee for Review of the Federal Transportation Science and Technology Strategy (Phase 2)

Attachment 2—Meeting of the Committee for Review of the Federal Transportation Science and Technology Strategy (Phase 2), Washington D.C., July 6–8, 1998: Guest List

Appendix A—Commentaries on the 11 Individual Partnerships

Appendix B—Checklist for a Good Federal Transportation Research Agenda

cc: NSTC Committee on Technology, Subcommittee on Transportation Research and Development

Attachment 1

Committee for Review of the Federal Transportation Science and Technology Strategy (Phase 2)

Joseph M. Sussman,* Chairman, JR East Professor and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

H. Norman Abramson,* Vice-Chairman, NAE, Executive Vice President (retired), Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas

William G. Agnew, NAE, Director (retired), Programs and Plans, General Motors Research Laboratories, Washington, Michigan

R. Wade Allen,* President, Systems Technology Associates, Inc., Hawthorne, California

Benjamin A. Cosgrove,* NAE, Senior Vice President (retired), Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, Seattle, Washington

James C. DeLong, General Manager, Regional Airport Authority of Louisville and Jefferson County, Louisville, Kentucky

Judith M. Espinosa,* Director, The Alliance for Transportation Research Institute, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Robert E. Gallamore, Assistant Vice President for Communications Technologies, Transportation Technology Center, Inc., Pueblo, Colorado

Margaret T. Jenny,* Director, Airline Business Analysis, US Airways, Arlington, Virginia

C. Ian MacGillivray,* Director, Engineering Division, Iowa Department of Transportation, Ames, Iowa

Henry S. Marcus, Professor of Marine Systems, Department of Ocean Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Clinton V. Oster, Jr., Professor, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

M. John Vickerman, Jr., Principal, Vickerman-Zachary-Miller, a Division of TranSystems Corporation, Reston, Virginia

John J. Wise,* NAE, Vice President of Research (retired), Mobil Research and Development Corporation, Princeton, New Jersey

* Served on the Phase 1 Committee on the Federal Transportation R&D Strategic Planning Process.
NAE: Member, National Academy of Engineering.
Mr. Gallamore is an employee of Union Pacific Railroad on assignment to the Transportation Technology Center Incorporated, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads.

Attachment 2

Guest List for the Meeting of the Committee for Review of the Federal Transportation Science and Technology Strategy (Phase 2), Washington, D.C., July 6–8, 1998

Harvey Bernstein, Civil Engineering Research Foundation

Richard Biter, Office of Intermodalism, U.S. Department of Transportation

Lou Boezi, Louis J. Boezi & Associates, Inc.

Fenton Carey, Research and Special Programs Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation

Steven Ditmeyer, Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation

Mortimer Downey, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation

Charles Huettner, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Richard John, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center

Christine Johnson, ITS Joint Program Office, U.S. Department of Transportation

George Joy, Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, U.S. Department of Commerce

Henry Kelly, Office of Science and Technology Policy

Walter Kulyk, Federal Transit Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation

Clyde Miller, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation

Susan Petty, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation

Mark Safford, John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center

Chris Saher, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation

Herb Schlickenmaier, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Bill Siegel, U.S. Department of Energy

Robert Voss, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation

Richard Wright, U.S. Department of Commerce

Appendix A

Commentaries on the 11 Individual Partnerships

As was noted in the body of this letter, the committee has chosen to provide commentary

on each partnership in this appendix. The following commentaries reflect the committee’s initial impressions based on its review of the documents provided by the NSTC and the partnerships, the presentations and subsequent questions during the committee’s meeting of July 6–8, 1998, and the experience of individual committee members with the initiatives. The depth of the evaluations given varies because the maturity of the partnerships is not uniform. In general, with the time and information available, the committee was not able to analyze each partnership in detail; however, these commentaries can be useful as a guide to future actions.

The partnerships were reviewed in light of five common questions:

  1. Does the proposed partnership relate well to national goals?

  2. Is the research outlined worth doing? Why?

  3. Is there an appropriate and well-defined federal role in the partnership? If so, what is that role?

  4. Is there value added to the project by making it a partnership? Why?

  5. Is the partnership being carried out in an efficient and productive manner?

During its deliberations, the committee found that the purposes and objectives of all 11 partnerships would further the national goals of safety, mobility, economic growth, environment, and national security. The commentaries that follow contain the committee’s responses to the remaining four questions. Each commentary begins with an italicized section that includes a summary of the partnership quoted directly from the Strategy (pp. 17–29) and a brief statement about the partnership’s budget as it appears in the Technology Plan (pp. 13–72). Following each summary is the committee’s commentary.

Accessibility for Aging and Transportation-Disadvantaged Populations

This partnership focuses on improving the mobility of the elderly and transportation disadvantaged through better management of paratransit, advanced technologies, and livable communities. A major component is developing, deploying, and testing a regional paratransit program that uses selected information technologies, including automatic vehicle location, geographic information systems, computer-aided dispatch, and electronic fare collection. The level and mix of funding for this initiative have yet to be determined.

Because of the nation’s changing demographics, the concerns addressed by this initiative will become increasingly important. The federal role of providing ideas and aid to states is very useful. The absence of the Environmental Protection Agency—and its ongoing effort called "Smart Growth"—from the partnership, however, reduces the partnership’s ability to address its environmental goal of improving mobility through more "livable communities." The partnership does add value, particularly in working to spread ideas among those who will implement them, such as transit officials at the state and local levels.

The initiative has existed for some time at the Federal Transit Administration, which has done well in coordinating efforts among the agencies and local governments involved. Research is an important facet of this initiative and should be continued, but more emphasis should be placed on demonstration projects.

Many technologies that have already been developed could lead to important efficiency gains. The partnership may profit from an inventory of technology applications that are currently being deployed by local and state governments and private and nonprofit concerns around the nation. Considering the aging population as merely disadvantaged, however, will not address all the related issues. For example, older members of the population are getting healthier, may be more affluent in the future, and may be able to rely on personal automobile travel later in life than was previously possible. This may modify the results from projections of transportation needs and patterns of use for aging populations. In addition, the concerns raised by this initiative need to be viewed with respect to intercity as well as local transportation.

Aviation Safety Research Alliance

This effort addresses the need to reduce the aviation accident rate as air traffic doubles over the next decade, as called for by the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. Together with other partners, the FAA, NASA, and DOD will accomplish this through a coordinated program to (1) identify and conduct the research needed to meet the safety goal of reducing the fatal aviation accident rate by 80 percent by 2007 and (2) work with industry to deploy research results in the form of new safety technologies. Funding for FY 1998 totals $140 million (NASA, $100 million; FAA, $40 million). The level and mix of funding for future years have yet to be determined.

If successful, this program would have a positive impact on airplane safety. While the fatal aviation accident rate is very low and has remained relatively constant for the past decade, the current and projected growth in air traffic could lead to a dramatic increase in accidents and flight fatalities, perhaps as many as 4500 fatalities per year worldwide by 2025 if the current accident rate persists. There is an appropriate federal role in this problem of national significance.

This partnership brings together technical expertise from several areas, and the creation of a more unified program would be beneficial. The willingness to anticipate issues, such as aging airframes, before they become serious problems is to be commended. Pilot error is a significant factor in most fatal aircraft accidents. Therefore, a significant portion of this partnership should be refocused on ways of reducing pilot contributions to accidents and enhancing pilots’ ability to recover from dangerous situations, rather than emphasizing purely engineering solutions. (The committee recognizes, however, that some engineering solutions can have synergistic benefits with pilot training and alertness.) Equipment design, component standardization, system cost-effectiveness, and operational complexity are also significant issues to be considered.

In addition to the partnership’s domestic plan, the federal government could promote the partnership and its objectives worldwide, particularly with countries experiencing high rates of airline accidents. Exporting such safety expertise would have benefits not only for other countries, but also for American citizens traveling abroad. A significant amount of safety expertise is already exported through aircraft manufacturers, airlines, and the International Civil Aviation Organization, so the partnership’s added role in this area, if any, would have to be assessed in this context.

The partnership approach for this type of project is appropriate. Successful and efficient deployment of the types of technologies that this partnership seeks to address requires close interaction with airlines, aircraft manufacturers, and inspectors. The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) National Centers of Excellence, which draw upon a number of universities to conduct elements of the research, are useful in this regard, but the FAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) should strive to involve the nation’s best expertise regardless of university affiliation.

At present, the NASA/FAA relationship is not completely defined, and the Department of Defense (DOD) does not appear to be involved. To meet the ambitious goals set forth by the partnership, responsibility and accountability for achieving goals for specific projects need to be defined and allocated. Furthermore, the relationship between the components of this partnership and ongoing efforts of NASA and the FAA (such as the Flight Operations Quality Assurance program) need to be more clearly articulated, and the relationship between this partnership and other initiatives to enhance safety (such as the CNS/ATM Free Flight concept of on-aircraft communication, navigation and surveillance systems linked by data link to a ground-based Air Traffic Management system) need to be explained.

Enhanced Goods and Freight Movement at Domestic and International Gateways

Building on earlier investments in technology, port infrastructure, and freight terminals, this partnership facilitates information exchange and technology demonstrations to promote the deployment of innovative logistics practices and information technologies at freight gateways. Initial efforts will focus on technology applications and demonstrations at the Nation’s border crossings and corridors. The level and mix of funding for this initiative have yet to be determined.

Given the growth of intermodal containerized freight under surface transport deregulation in the 1980s and intermodal freight movement in the wake of trade liberalization (especially the North American Free Trade Agreement), the committee believes that a reexamination of today’s freight transport infrastructure support institutions by national transportation policy makers is warranted. The research outlined for this partnership has the potential to produce significant improvements in freight movement and efficiency and addresses an area that is currently being overlooked and underfunded. Additionally, the federal role in such endeavors should be to remove impediments to current private-sector developments. Efforts at increasing intermodal efficiency are hampered when the federal government regulates and allocates resources in a strictly modal way. A partnership based on freight intermodalism represents a significant step in the right direction. The benefits and efficiencies to be gained from this initiative will not be realized, however, unless there is substantial international and public-private coordination.

The partnership has admirable goals, but does not appear to have a focused plan for their accomplishment. There needs to be a set of quantifiable metrics and a strategy for achieving them, and the charter needs to be broadened to encompass issues such as mitigation of community impacts resulting from rapid growth of freight movement in certain corridors and terminal locations. To be effective, this partnership needs to bring together not only U.S. states, federal departments, and industry, but also other national governments and international societies. Recognizing the decentralized nature of the freight transport industry and the central role of the private sector, it would be useful to organize a high-level public-private technical panel of transportation experts to address these issues and chart an appropriate plan.

The committee applauds the efforts of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to extend the Coast Guard's Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) across the continent for the benefit of all surface transport modes and other users not located on the coastal and inland waterways. Further deployment of this technology by DOT agencies (FRA, Federal Transit Administration [FTA], Federal Highway Administration [FHWA], United States Coast Guard [USCG]) and others (e.g., U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, U.S. Department of Agriculture) appears warranted.

Enhanced Transportation Weather Services11

This technology partnership addresses the problems associated with adverse weather through the development of comprehensive weather information systems. One element is the Weather Information for Surface Transportation project, also known as Foretell. Making use of state-of-the-art weather radars, observing systems, and forecasting methods, Foretell will demonstrate and evaluate an integrated weather information system first within a "pilot" Midwestern region, then over multiple regions, and eventually throughout North America. Total funding required for this initiative’s first phase is $4.45 million, including $1.3 million in FHWA funding. In addition, the initiative is building on the $4 billion National Weather Service modernization effort. The partners anticipate that eventually Foretell services will generate self-sustaining cash flows and subsequent returns on investment.

The research and deployment projects outlined in this partnership are definitely worth doing. Micro-scale weather forecasting will help infrastructure providers, carriers, and users manage the transportation system more effectively and safely. It will help highway departments better allocate deicing strategies and enable carriers and transportation providers (including schools, shippers, truckers, and motorists) to make better decisions about routing and service.

Federal leadership is essential to integrate the available emerging technologies; to cut across institutional barriers; and to present users with a seamless, convenient, consistent interface for use of the system. A healthy partnership is necessary because of the broad range of organizations (e.g., weather services, DOT), local governments, and vehicle suppliers that must be involved to accomplish the project’s goals.

Thus far the partnership has been quite successful. It has leveraged and integrated existing and developing technologies and investments to further the national priority objectives of both transportation (intelligent transportation systems [ITS]) and other domains (National Weather Service Modernization). The partnership appears to be breaking down the divisions among states, and between transportation information and weather information services.

Intelligent Vehicle Initiative (IVI)

IVI is a government-industry program to accelerate the development and commercialization of safety and mobility enhancing driver-assistance systems. Overall emphasis is on four key areas: (1) evaluation of the benefits of IVI products, including collision-avoidance technologies, vision enhancements, and adaptive cruise control; (2) development of industry-wide standards for these products; (3) system prototyping; and (4) field test evaluations for the most promising products. (Funding is uncertain pending funding decisions resulting from recently enacted federal legislation and appropriations [TEA-21].) An estimated $50 million will be required for FY 1998. This includes both fully funded federally sponsored research and cooperative research agreements with industry and academia.

Approximately 42,000 people die in automobile accidents each year. In light of its ability to support the national goal of highway safety, this research is well worth undertaking, but its effect on mobility enhancement is not apparent. While they are part of a coordinated plan, the IVI and the National Intelligent Transportation Infrastructure (NITI) should be integrated eventually since these two technologies can support each other. The demise of the Automated Highway System (AHS) activity conveys the impression that congestion relief has been deemphasized as a goal, even though the metropolitan traffic management effort is continued in NITI. An integrated IVI and NITI should continue to be a major goal of the Transportation Technology Plan12. Congestion relief is a problem of major concern to the public and a responsibility of the government.

Although major technology development efforts in this area are already being carried out by the private sector to the point where some components are actually being marketed, the government can provide added value. The role of the federal government should be carefully considered, however. This role should address precompetitive research and social policy issues, including the following:

Technology development, product cost reduction, and marketing issues are not appropriate for the federal role, except perhaps in the area of highway-rail crossings and generally in the transit area, where public ownership and funds predominate. Many of the difficulties of integrating IVI technologies into the current transportation system can be alleviated if government and automakers work together in partnership.

IVI is still being defined, funded, and organized. The committee suggests that as this process continues, the partnership be extended to universities, professional societies, and the military R&D groups that are working on similar vehicle technology projects. The initiative must also clarify whether partnership participation will be limited to domestically owned manufacturers or extended to international companies producing vehicles in the United States.

Monitoring, Maintenance, and Rapid Renewal of the Physical Infrastructure (in Transportation)

This partnership, also called PAIR-T,13 will create an environment that fosters an unprecedented level of collaboration and synergy on infrastructure research, demonstration testing, evaluation, and technology transfer to State and local agencies. The partners will collaborate both on developing new technologies and accelerating market acceptance of existing products. This initiative will require a total of $55 million per fiscal year for 10 years. (The cost-share for DOT and other Federal and State participants is undetermined, pending decisions on budget priorities and programs in the recently enacted federal legislation and appropriations [TEA-21].)

Transportation infrastructure in the public domain is dominated by highway and transit physical assets, and most of the research, testing, evaluation, and technology transfer has been conducted and funded by state DOTs and FHWA. The goals of this activity are vitally necessary for a safe, efficient national transportation system. However, it must be recognized that much work on the transportation infrastructure is continually in progress, largely by the state DOTs with the active participation of FHWA. The recently enacted federal legislation and appropriations (TEA-21) will provide a much-needed boost to these activities at the nonfederal level.

Although the development of new technologies is very important, the primary barriers to meeting the goals of the states are efficient technology transfer and flexible funding institutions. A primary task for both state and federal agencies is to address barriers to innovation in current procurement requirements and to develop incentives for the introduction of new technologies. The proposed partnership does not appear to have the ability to address these issues. The Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) offers lessons in ways to produce new technologies and promote technology transfer.

The proposed PAIR-T activity is imbedded in a larger organization with a much broader agenda. The loose coordination of R&D that this organization would attempt to provide would duplicate other activities that have been reasonably successful over a long period of time. FHWA, together with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and TRB (e.g., through the SHRP), has been working with the states and a wide variety of research organizations to develop new technologies, as well as to evaluate and emphasize areas requiring special attention. In view of the relatively large amount of resources already being dedicated to those efforts, the small incremental funding envisioned by the proposed partnership would probably have negligible impact. Further, a review of the desired outcomes cited in the Technology Plan reveals the primary role of FHWA that must be sustained. Based on these considerations, it is difficult to determine how the PAIR-T organization would provide significant added value. If a partnership is to continue, its added value needs to be more clearly articulated.

National Intelligent Transportation Infrastructure (NITI)

NITI refers to the integrated electronics communications, and hardware and software elements that can support intelligent transportation systems (ITS). It is a communication and information "backbone" that will enable ITS products and services to work together to save time and lives. Analogous to the local and wide area networks used in many workplaces, the NITI will allow surface transportation to be managed as a seamless entity by integrating transportation and management information systems across both modal and jurisdictional lines—within a region and, where appropriate, across the country. Total estimated resources required to implement this initiative are about $250 million. (Funding is uncertain pending funding decisions resulting from recently enacted federal legislation and appropriations [TEA-21].)

The research outlined for this partnership is vital to the continued development of the nation’s transportation system. There are few apparent ways to meet the increased demand for use of the nation’s roads that are politically or economically feasible. Applying computers, electronics, communication systems, and demand management principles to the existing infrastructure could make a valuable contribution to easing the problem. It should be noted, however, that the ultimate realization of the benefits of these technologies will require integration with the vehicle side of highway driving. As discussed above under IVI, the overall strategic planning should develop ties between these two partnerships.

The clear historical federal role in developing infrastructure makes the NITI a logical next federal step. There is value added to the project by making it a partnership because ITS enables an intermodal perspective, as well as integration of transportation services. A well-developed partnership such as NITI is necessary if ITS is to have a significant and beneficial effect.

The DOT Joint Program Office has been effective in reaching out to government agencies. It has worked with AASHTO and ITS America in education projects and professional capacity building for some time. Outreach to the private sector is admittedly more difficult, but is essential if the success of ITS is to continue.

This well-established partnership encompasses all five national transportation goals. Its roots have a long history that has resulted in significant progress. Predecessor initiatives, such as the Mobility 2000 and Intelligent Vehicle-Highway Systems projects, have resulted in a wide array of developed technologies. The focus on deployment at this stage is appropriate considering the state of the technology and the benefits to be gained. If successful, the Model Deployment Initiatives being carried out in Seattle, Phoenix, San Antonio, and New York should prove effective in promoting nationwide deployment. The partnerships with ITS America and the states are strong and have helped the effort progress. Links to DOD would be helpful. The advances being made in tagging and other technologies will make logistics support for mobilization difficult if there is inadequate coordination between the military and the private sector.

Next Generation Global Air Transportation14

Anticipating the future growth in air traffic, this government-industry partnership is developing the air traffic management system required to make "free flight" a reality. "Free flight" refers to an airspace system that greatly increases user flexibility to plan and fly preferred routes, saving both fuel and time and affording more efficient use of airspace. This activity essentially transfers the free flight concept to an operational setting prior to full deployment. In 2002, free flight capabilities will be demonstrated in oceanic airspace over Alaska and Hawaii. For

FY 1998, the total funding required is $110.6 million (FAA, $70.3 million; NASA, $40.3 million). Through FY 2004, the required funding totals $749.9 million (FAA, $402.6 million; NASA, $347.3 million).

Research in this area is definitely needed. Because of the projected increase in air traffic, using airspace efficiently is a goal that will become increasingly important in the coming years. Research into use of the Global Positioning System (GPS), closer aircraft spacing while in flight, and closer runway landing spacing would allow an increase in airspace utilization to accommodate an increase in air traffic.

The federal government’s role in helping to coordinate air traffic control makes the objectives of this project appropriate. Partnering is necessary in this initiative, but it needs to extend beyond NASA and the FAA. Successful and efficient deployment of new air traffic control technologies requires close interaction with airlines, airport authorities, and aircraft manufacturers to ensure that the needs of these groups are met. Private industry is integral to the implementation of new systems and processes and as such must be a major player in coordinating this technology, much of which is already ongoing.

It is not apparent from the description of this initiative or from the presentations to the committee whether important related R&D being conducted by the FAA has been integrated into the effort. Many of these projects are vital to the success of the partnership and its goals. The presentation noted that NASA is committed to goals that are outcome-oriented; however, the partnership includes no mechanism for facilitating the aggressive movement of technologies from the laboratory to the field. The FAA and NASA could go along way toward filling this gap by moving aggressively to complete the research, development, and deployment activities needed to effect deployment of current products of years of research (e.g., the Center-Terminal Radar Approach Control [TRACON] Automation System [CTAS], a set of tools designed to help air traffic controllers manage the increasingly complex air traffic flows at large airports). The committee also believes the program would have a greater chance at success if accountability for outcomes and clear metrics were better defined for both NASA and the FAA.

The presentation focused only on the work of the Air Traffic Management (ATM) interagency integrated product team, which is directed primarily at near term (i.e., 1998–2002) ATM decision support. The presenters were unable to answer questions about research in next-generation communications, navigation, and surveillance. Research should be ongoing in these areas, as well as in determining how the ground (controllers) and the cockpit (pilots) will interact with one another using advanced technologies such as GPS in the future. The partnership would be more effective if it leveraged NASA’s air-side expertise and FAA’s ground-side expertise in true joint research projects.

Next Generation Surface and Marine Transportation Vehicles

This partnership addresses the problems of petroleum dependence, global warming, and pollution through research leading to the development of highway vehicles, locomotives, and ships that are better designed and more efficient. It has three major thrusts: (1) continue the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) and Advanced Technology Transit Bus (ATTB) activities and supplement them by also focusing on improvements in medium and heavy duty vehicle fuel efficiency; (2) support the development, test, and demonstration of non-electric high-speed rail technology; and (3) demonstrate and develop the marine application of fuel cells. The level and mix of funding for this initiative have yet to be determined.

In light of the ability to address national goals, the research outlined is worth doing; however, it appears uneven across vehicle classes. PNGV is well established, but other projects and modes are still fairly nascent. The benefits to be gained from addressing marine vehicles, freight locomotives, and nonlocomotive train research are sufficiently important that they should comprise a not insignificant portion of this partnership.15 In view of widely publicized concerns about global climate change, the stated outcome of "reduced energy consumption" should be supplemented with research aimed at cost-effectively mitigating growth of known greenhouse gas emissions.

In the case of highway vehicles, the major effort is with PNGV. In this partnership, the government role appropriately includes providing funding and some enabling research at the national laboratories. It might also include finding ways to provide incentives for consumers to buy the proposed vehicles. It appears that PNGV is being carried out efficiently and productively; it may well be the model by which other partnerships are judged. However, it still could benefit from some clarifications. The PNGV goals16 refer to domestically produced motor vehicles; clarification is needed as to whether foreign companies involved in fuel-efficient vehicle development, such as Toyota, Honda, and Daimler, are to be included in the partnership. The claim that one outcome of this initiative will be "increased occupant protection and net transportation system safety" appears unwarranted, since the primary focus is on fuel efficiency, and it will require a major effort even to maintain current safety with the contemplated reductions in vehicle weight. Cost reduction needs considerably more attention in the partnership. PNGV will also find it difficult to meet all of its technical goals within the program schedule of 2000 and 2004.17

Plans for other highway vehicle research in this partnership are not yet developed enough to permit a significant assessment, but addressing these technologies with a partnership or partnerships appears to be of value. The program for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that is proposed is appropriate, but it is not clear why the partnership does not include existing programs that address alternative fuels and electric vehicles. The national efforts in these technologies might well meet some of the stated national goals.

The links between the highway vehicle research partnerships and research in the other modes—rail and marine—are not apparent and should be elaborated if they exist. Partnership activities in these other modes have not yet been defined and cannot be assessed. However, some facets of the research being carried out by DOD on fast ships and agile ports and other marine projects might be useful additions to this overall initiative. The commercial viability of marine application of fuel cells, one of the partnership’s major thrusts, is not obvious.

Total Terminal Security18

This partnership is developing and implementing measures to improve the security of transportation information systems, passenger and freight terminals, and other infrastructure, as well as of the people and cargo using or transiting them. At a minimum, it addresses (1) the physical security of transportation terminals; (2) the security of vital communication and information systems; and (3) the development and dissemination of information about security incidents and assessments of threats to transportation facilities and operations. The level and mix of funding for this initiative have yet to be determined.

Continuing research in the area of terminal security is necessary if the level of safety and efficiency attained by the nation’s transportation facilities is to be maintained. Terminal security is a concern to all users of all kinds of terminals, such as the flying public, and R&D is an important part of the response to this concern. Terrorism is a national problem and should be addressed by the nation as a whole; therefore, the federal government must be a major player in speaking to this issue and, perhaps, in providing financial support for high-priority, critical infrastructure protection activities. Drawing upon the expertise and abilities of a wide variety of parties—including terminal users, law enforcement agencies, and technology developers—will be crucial if any significant progress is to be achieved, and matching funds or other positive incentives may be needed.

The approach this partnership has taken is useful, but there are two additional key issues to be addressed. First, transportation facilities must be approached as a total system. Increasing security in transportation terminals alone will not solve the problem. At an airport, for instance, a strategy for protecting against terrorism must also address the hangers, cargo buildings, catering facilities, baggage-handling facilities, and perimeter fences. A breach in security in any one of these areas would render terminal security improvement meaningless.

Second, the cost of implementing new technologies and processes and any resulting increases they might create in travel time must be considered. To avoid adverse effects on the industry as a whole, there should be a focus on lowering costs and increasing throughput. Cost-benefit analyses must be an important part of any project that seeks to increase terminal security. Moreover, the partnership should keep in mind that as the security threat to transportation changes, the R&D undertaken and technology employed may need to be reassessed.

Transportation and Sustainable Communities

This initiative explores how sustainable transportation and land use can help to achieve a balance among the often conflicting goals of economic growth, environmental quality, and sustainability. It will further Federal agencies’ efforts to work with each other and with other governments, the private sector, and the public to expand understanding of the consequences of transportation choices; develop better forecasting, planning, and assessment tools; conduct technology research; and develop sustainable community and transportation initiatives. This initiative is still in the development phase and does not yet have a budget. The level and mix of funding for this initiative have yet to be determined.

"Sustainability" is a frequently used concept whose exact meaning is not well established. An oft-quoted definition reads: "a sustainable condition for this planet is one in which there is stability for both social and physical systems, achieved through meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."19 However, this definition is difficult to express in objective terms, and there is no consensus on the specific policies that flow from it.20 Nevertheless, the government as a whole has determined that promoting a sustainable environment and sustainable communities is a key objective, although there are almost no deployable strategies available to the communities most affected by gridlock, air pollution, grade-crossing accidents, and other localized problems that result from the surge of interstate commerce. The partnership goals of developing better forecasting, planning, and assessment tools are appropriate for a multiagency partnership. This is an important and necessary first step to help policy makers determine the impact of future policy options on the economy, the environment, and sustainability. It will be particularly important for any efforts to control greenhouse gases since about one-third of all such gases come from the transportation sector, and since existing transportation operations will be dramatically affected by some of the greenhouse gas reduction methods being proposed.

The partnership’s second set of goals—conducting technology research and developing sustainable community and transportation initiatives—appears to be more vague and may overlap with other ongoing programs. Concentrating on the first set of goals would appear to be an appropriate program for now.

The program is just starting; it is too early to judge its effectiveness. However, the importance of this program in influencing potential future policy actions is so great that it deserves serious attention and much greater priority in decision making.

Appendix B

Checklist for a Good Federal Transportation Research Agenda21


  1. National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Technology, Subcommittee on Transportation Research and Development, National Transportation Science and Technology Strategy (Draft), June 30, 1998.
  2. The report of the Phase 1 committee can be found at <>.
  3. National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Technology, Subcommittee on Transportation Research and Development, Transportation Technology Plan, May 1998.
  4. Title V, Section 5108 (c), Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), "Surface Transportation Research and Technology Development Strategic Plan," H.R. 2400-330.
  5. Throughout this report, the committee has used the terms "partnership" and "initiative" interchangeably.
  6. For further discussion of this problem, see the NRC report Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology at <>.
  7. Because the formation of these two additional partnerships had just begun as of this writing, they are not covered in this report.
  8. National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Technology, Subcommittee on Transportation Research and Development, National Transportation Science and Technology Strategy (Draft), June 30, 1998, p. 3.
  9. See that committee's latest report: Review of the Research Program of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles Fourth Report, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1998.
  10. The NSTC's Transportation Science and Technology Strategy describes three components, and types, of federal science and technology activities: partnership initiatives, education and training, and enabling research. Enabling research is defined as research that "supports long-term national transportation goals whose benefits are too widely spread for any one company to recover its investment, whose cost or risk is too great for one company to bear, and whose benefits are too far in the future to meet private investment criteria." The Strategy identifies six areas of enabling research: human performance and behavior; advanced materials; computer, information, and communication systems; energy and environment; sensing and measurement; and tools for modeling, design, and construction.
  11. Committee member Ian MacGillivray's employer, the Iowa Department of Transportation, is taking a lead role in this partnership.
  12. For further explanation see TRB Special Report 253, National Automated Highway System Research Program: A Review, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., p. 12.
  13. The Partnership for the Advancement of Infrastructure and its Renewal (PAIR) is operated by the Civil Engineering Research Foundation (CERF). PAIR-T is the transportation component of this program.
  14. It was difficult to review this initiative because the materials presented to the committee did not match the description of the partnership in the Plan. The Plan discussed Flight 2000, and the presentation focused mainly on the process used for coordination between NASA and the FAA. The Flight 2000 Program identified in the Plan is not the focus of the joint NASA/FAA research. The comments that follow, therefore, pertain to the presentation, which did focus on the partnership, rather than on the write-up in the Plan.
  15. The TRB Committee for Review of the FRA Research and Development Program is involved in an examination of nonelectric high-speed rail technology. Therefore, this aspect of the partnership is not addressed here.
  16. Goal 3 of the PNGV program is to "develop vehicles to achieve up to three times the fuel efficiency of comparable 1994 family sedans." This means development of an 80 mpg production prototype vehicle comparable to today's Concorde/Taurus/Lumina by 2004, with equivalent cost of ownership adjusted for economics. The other two goals of the PNGV program are to "significantly improve national competitiveness in manufacturing for future generation of vehicles" and "implement commercially viable innovations from ongoing research on conventional vehicles."
  17. See Review of the Research Program of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles Fourth Report, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1998, pp. 11-12.
  18. Since the committee was formed, the name of this initiative has changed to "Transportation Infrastructure Assurance."
  19. As adopted by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) (the Brundtland Commission). See WCED, Our Common Future, Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 43.
  20. See Toward a Sustainable Future: Addressing the Long-Term Effects of Motor Vehicle Transportation on Climate and Ecology (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1997).
  21. A previous version of this checklist was included in the September 1997 letter sent by the Phase 1 TRB Committee on the Federal Transportation R&D Strategic Planning Process. It may be useful as a guide to further development of the Strategy.

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