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Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.


For many years, U.S. highway research and technology (R&T) programs were funded at very modest and relatively constant levels. In fact, program funding was actually decreasing because of inflation factors. Over the years, some agencies have had to reduce the size of their R&T programs, including making reductions in staff.

Support for our Nation's highway R&T programs took a turn for the better with the enactment of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1987. This Act provided for the strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP). The SHRP provided an influx of funds to carry out research and development (R&D) work on highway problems that could not otherwise be fully addressed because of insufficient resources in the highway community.

On December 18, 1991, President Bush signed into law the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991. This 6-year authorization Act will significantly shape the future of the Nation's highway program for the remainder of the this century. Like the 1987 Act, the 1991 ISTEA reflects the growing support of Congress and the President for highway research and technology.

The ISTEA provides the impetus for an intermodal perspective and performance-based criteria that place strong emphases on efficiency, contributions to productivity, and environmental responsibility. More specifically, the ISTEA of 1991 will affect the Federal Highway Administration's R&T programs through:

* Greater program visibility and resources.

* Strong support for intelligent vehicle-highway systems.

* Collaborative research.

* Emphasis on commercial motor vehicle safety.

* International outreach.

* Expanded education and training programs.

This article summarizes key R&T efforts established or continued by the ISTEA in the above areas.

Program Visibility and Development

The Act provides for the establishment of a National Council on Surface Transportation Research. This council will make a complete investigation of current surface transportation R&T developments both in the United States and internationally. It will identify gaps and duplication in these efforts and will determine R&D areas that could increase efficiency, productivity, safety, and durability in the Nation's surface transporation systems. The council will be composed of seven members appointed by Congress and the President. These members will report their findings to Congress by September 30, 1993. The council will be dissolved by March 30, 1994.

The Act also establishes an independent surface transportation Research Advisory Committee that will provide ongoing advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation on surface transportation R&D. The committee will be composed of 20 to 30 members appointed by the Secretary and will include representatives from universities, corporations, associations, consumers, State Government agencies, and Federal agencies other than Transportation.

The Act requires the Secretary to develop an integrated National Surface Transportation Research and Development Plan. This plan will provide appropriate funding levels and a schedule with milestones, preliminary cost estimates, work plans, personnel requirements, and estimate costs and goals for the next 3 years for each R&D area. The plan will also include a 10-year projection of long-term research and development.

Also within the program visibility and development area, the Act provides a minimum of $108 million to implement the products of the completed SHRP and to continue the Long-Term Pavement Performance Program.

Intelligent Vehicle-Highway Systems

The Act established an IVHS Program, authorizing approximately $660 million over the 6-year authorization period. The IVHS Program will include research, development, and operational tests of innovations and technologies that will enhance the mobility, efficiency, and safety of the Nation's surface transportation system. The Act also establishes goals to use IVHS to:

* Help improve air quality.

* Develop and promote an IVHS industry.

* Reduce the societal, economic, and environmental costs of traffic congestion.

* Enhance industrial and economic competitiveness and productivity.

* Develop a technology base and establish the capability to perform demonstration experiments at national laboratories.

* Transfer the technology to the private sector.

The Act directs the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other involved Federal departments and agencies to promote maximum involvement by the private sector, universities, and State and local governments.

The Department is also directed to develop and implement standards and protocols that will ensure compatibility in implementing IVHS techonolgies. It also requires evaluation guidelines for IVHS operational tests and the establishment of an information clearinghouse.

Within the first year of the Act, the Department will develop and implement a strategic plan for IVHS and submit it to Congress. This plan will include the goals, objectives, and milestones of the IVHS Program, and will provide for accelerated use of advanced technology to reduce traffic congestion.

Under the Act, a completely automated prototyped highway and vehicle system must be developed for future fully automated IVHS systems. The goal is to have the first fully automated roadway or test track in operation by the end of 1977. An IVHS Corridors Program will be established to provide for operational tests under "real world" conditions. Corridors that meet certain transportation and environmental criteria can participate in developing and implementing IVHS technologies.

Other provisions relating to IVHS include (1) the use of advisory committees to carry out the IVHS Program and (2) planning grants to State and local governments for studying the feasibility of IVHS development and implementation.

Collaborative Research

Within the highway community, substantial support has been demonstrated for additional R&D and the effective application of innovative technologies to solve highway problems. An important Act provision that supports this initiative is new authority for collaborative research and development with other public and private entities, with a Federal share of up to 50 percent of the activity costs. The IVHS Program has already released requests for proposals that suggest establishing consortia with public and private institutions to both share the costs and implement R&T projects.

Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety


The ISTEA directs the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a study to evaluate technology designed for installation on a commercial motor vehicle. This technology will provide the vehicle operator with a warning if a turn, lane change, or other vehicle operator movement will place the vehicle in the path of an adjacent object or vehicle. This study's report will be submitted to Congress no later than December 18, 1993.

International Highway Transportation

Outreach Program.

A new International Highway Transporation Outreach Program will inform the United States highway community of foreign transportation innovations. The program will also promote U.S. highway transportation expertise internationally, and increase the use of United States highway transportation technology in foreign countries.

Education and Training

National Highway Institute

Under the New Act, the National Highway Institute (NHI), in cooperation with the State transportation or highway departments, will expand its highway education and training programs to include not only Federal, State, and local highway agencies, but also U.S. private sector citizens and foreign nationals involved in highway work of interest to the United States. The Act sets aside 1/16 of 1 percent of all surface transportation funds provided to a State to pay for up to 80 percent of the cost of training and education for State and local highway employees, excluding travel, subsistence, and salaries.

The NHI will develop and present wide range of education and training programs related to highways on planning, environmental factors, acquisition of rights-of-way, relocation assistance, engineering, safety, construction, maintenance, contract administration, motor carrier activities and inspection. The Institute will continue to assess and collect fees to defray the cost of developing and administering its education and training programs. Fees for private agencies and individuals will reflect the full cost of the education and training received; others will be assessed a reduced amount. The Act also authorized the NHI to grant training fellowships.

Expanded Rural Technical Assistance Program

The Act establishes an education and training program that expands the existing Rural Technical Assistance Program (RTAP). The new program may include urban areas of up to 1 million population as well as the rural areas already covered under the RTAP. The program is authorized at $6 million for fiscal years 1992 through 1997.

The expanded program develops a transportation assistance program that will include grants and contract for education and training, technical assistance, and related support services. These grants will assist rural local transportation agencies in develiping expertise; improving roads and bridges; enhancing programs for moving passengers and freight; and preparing and providing training packages, guidelines, and other material. The grants will also develop a tourism and recreational travel technical assistance program.

In addition, the grants may identify, package, and deliver usable highway technology to assist urban transportation agencies to resolve road-related problems. The grants may also establish--in cooperation with State transportation agencies and universities--urban technical assistance centers programs in States with two or more urbanized areas of 50,000 to 1,000,000 population, and rural technical assistance centers.

University Transportation Centers Program/Research


The Act establishes five additional centers under the University Transportation Centers Program. These will perform the following activities:

* The National Center for Transportation Management, Research, and Development at Morgan State University will focus on research, training, and technology transfer activities that will encourage highly skilled minority individuals and women to enter the transportation workforce.

* Through the use of transportation management systems, the Center for Transportation and Industrial Productivity at the New Jersey Institute of Technology will conduct R&D activities to increase surface transportation capacity and reduce congestion and costs for transportation system users and providers.

* The James and Marlene Howard Transportation Information Center at Monmouth College, New Jersey, will coordinate its work on transportation-related instruction and research in computer science, electronic engineering, mathematics, and software engineering with the Center for Transportation and Industrial Productivity at th New Jersey Institute of Technology.

* The National Rural Transportation Study Center at the University of Arkansas will conduct research, training, and technology transfer activities in the development, management, and operations of intermodal transportation systems in rural areas.

* The National Center for Advanced Transportation Technology at th University of Idaho will operate in partnership with private industry and will conduct industry-driven R&D activities focusing on transportation-related manufacturing and engineering processes, materials, and equipment.

The Act also creates five University Research Institutes. These are:

* Institute for National Surface Transportation Policy Studies.

* Insfrastructure Technology Institute.

* Urban Transit Institute.

* Institute for Intelligent Vehicle-Highway Concepts.

* Institute for Research and Education.

Each of these institutes will specialize in an aspect of transportation research vital to the advancement of U.S. technology and innovation.

Other Programs

Other initiative established by the Act include the following.

* A new Applied Research and Technology Program is required to provide accelerated testing, evaluation, and implementation of technologies designed to improve the durability, efficiency, environmental impact, productivity, and safety of highway, transit, and intermodal transportation systems. Program guidelines from the Secretary are required within 18 months, and a total of $240 million is authorized over the next 6 years.

* A Seismic Research Program will be established to study the vulnerability of highways, tunnels, and bridges on the Federal-aid system to earthquakes and implement cost-effective methods to reduce such vulnerability. The program will cooperate with the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research and agencies participating in National Hazards Reduction Program.

* A Bureau of Transportation Statistics will be created in DOT to enhance date collection, analysis, and reporting, and to ensure the most cost-effective use of transportation monitoring resources. A total of $90 million is provide over the 6 years of the Act. The Bureau will publish a Transportation Statistics Annual Report by January 1, 1994.

* A National Transit Institute will be established to conduct training programs for all involved in Federal-aid transit work. Funding is $18 million over the 6 years of the authorization.


The ISTEA of 1991 will significantly shape the future of the Federal Highway Administration's R&T program in four ways. First, the Act will give the program visibility and development by establishing a National Council on Surface Transportation Research to investigate current surface transportation research and technology here and abroad. In addition, an independent Research Advisory Committee will be created and an integrated National Surface Transportation Research and Development Plan developed.

Second, the Act establishes and funds an IVHS Program with approximately $660 million. Among other things, the Act requires compatible standards and protocols to promote widespread IVHS technologies, both establishes IVHS evaluation guidelines for operational tests and an information clearinghouse and mandates a prototype IVHS.

Third, the ISTEA authorizes collaborative R&D with other public and private entities to improve, implement and cost-share research, development, and technology transfer projects.

Fourth, the Act creates a new International Highway Transportation Outreach Program, an education and training program to expand RTAP to urban areas and adds American Indians to the program, an Applied Research and Technology Program, a Seismic Research Program, a Bureau of Transportation Statistics, a National Transit Institute, and five additional University Transportation Centers and University Research Institutes. In addition, the Act expands the NHI program.

Together, these efforts will broaden, enhance, and improve the R&T projects and initiates of the Federal Highway Administration, enduring the U.S. ability to meet the transportation challenges of the next century.

Charles L. Miller is the Associate Administrator for Research and Development, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). He is responsible for the FHWA's research and development program, which is administered from the FHWA's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, in McLean, Virginia. A major element in FHWA's program is the Intelligent Vehicle-Highway Systems; other reseach efforts are in the areas of highway safety, improved pavements and structures, increased producivity, environmental interactions, and investigating better ways to market and deliver new technology to the States and to the highway community. Prior to joining FHWA, Mr. Miller was Director of the Arizona Department of Transportation. A registered professional engineer in Arizona and in West Virginia, Mr. Miller has a B.S.C.E. from West Virginia University and has done post-graduate work at West Virginia State College.
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Author:Miller, Charles L.
Publication:Public Roads
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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