The transportation industry will face new and emerging challenges in the future that will dramatically reshape transportation priorities and needs. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recognizes that research can help ensure that transportation practitioners are equipped to deal with future challenges facing the industry over the next 30 to 40 years. These challenges may derive from the impacts of major global trends, such as climate change, changes in the cost of fuels, and new technology, and from domestic trends, such as changing demographics and lifestyle expectations, changes in land use patterns, and limitations in current transportation finance methods. AASHTO has allocated $5,000,000 to examine longer-term strategic issues both global and domestic that will likely affect state departments of transportation (DOTs) and directed $1,000,000 to each of the following projects: (1) Potential Changes in Goods Movement and Freight in Changing Economic Systems and Demand; (2) Framework for Advance Adoption of New Technologies to Improve System Performance; (3) Approaches to Enhance Preservation, Maintenance, and Renewal of Highway Infrastructure; (4) Effects of Changing Transportation Energy Supplies and Alternative Fuel Sources on Transportation; and (5) Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Transportation Infrastructure and Operations, and Adaptation Approaches.
The 2008 report, "Long-Range Strategic Issues Facing the Transportation Industry" prepared by ICF International of Fairfax, Virginia, presents a framework for this effort and identifies future issues and trends, which may create new challenges for the transportation industry, based on a literature scan of work conducted by futurists, demographers, economists, and other experts. Research conducted for this project will focus on a longer timeframe (30 to 40 years) than is typically examined in NCHRP projects. Although some of the future challenges facing the transportation industry are emerging today, the goal of this research is to look beyond and focus on the longer term consequences.
Independently, and in combination, these trends may have significant implications for the transportation system. Many of the trends and forces affecting the future are interrelated and the crosscutting linkages between trends and forces that will affect transportation in the future will be examined. Research conducted for this project should consider the following two goals: (1) anticipate the future issues that may be approaching so that transportation agencies are better prepared to respond to new and emerging challenges; and (2) explore visions of what the future should look like, so that transportation agencies can help shape the future through their decision-making.