Through a new partnership, the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Official are pooling resources to help states and local agencies deploy innovative but proven technologies that help deliver infrastructure projects faster, and often at less cost.
Leaders of the two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding May 25 at AASHTO's spring meeting in Des Moines, Iowa. That accord formalizes a cooperative structure between their existing initiatives, which already focus on new ways to spread emerging best practices and technologies that can also improve environmental sustainability and roadway safety, and congestion.
FHWA Administrator Greg Nadeau (left) and AASHTO's Wright sign the memorandum of understanding.
"This agreement is another example showing how states – in partnership with organizations like FHWA – are committed to creatively solving the difficult challenges of building and maintaining transportation systems," said Bud Wright, AASHTO's executive director.
The FHWA has its Center for Accelerating Innovation, or CAI, which takes the lead in implementing the agency's "Every Day Counts" push to move more projects through the pipeline faster and spread the economic benefits sooner.
Separately, the association representing state departments of transportation has itsAASHTO Innovation Initiative – formerly called the Technology Implementation Group – that operates under AASHTO's Standing Committee on Highways. http://aii.transportation.org/Pages/AIIBackground.aspx
Those two programs have already worked with each other on a number of efforts, such as promoting the "e-Construction" concept of paperless workflow and digital data transfer through software on mobile devices that can be taken onto project sites. It is part of the FHWA's Every Day Counts initiative.
Using the electronic forms can save state DOT officials and other stakeholders valuable time compared with going back into the office and filling out long-form paperwork; making project changes and signature approvals electronically means that contractors save many days or even weeks in accessing new information and adjusting their plans.
The memorandum says the Innovation Initiative will be AASHTO's point of contact for the FHWA's overall Every Day Counts push, and "will foster the EDC pipeline by evaluating innovations and identifying market-ready technologies for potential deployment."
The FHWA has long designated an agency official to serve as secretary of the AASHTO Innovation Initiative. Going forward, the agreement specifies that the director of the FHWA's center will be secretary of the Innovation Initiative. Currently, Richard Tetrault of the Vermont Agency of Transportation chairs the Initiative's executive committee, and CAI Director Thomas Harman is secretary.
The accord also says the FHWA will provide up to $200,000 a year in funding to the AASHTO program to support testing and pilot or demonstration projects to evaluate potential innovations of mutual interest.
That federal funding is subject to availability, and the two organizations will need to first produce formal cooperative agreements to obligate the funds and outline more terms of the partnership – such as setting out conditions for work performed and progress reporting, and the federal cost share.