The National Academies

NCHRP 20-83(04) [Final]

Preparing State Transportation Agencies for an Uncertain Energy Future
[ NCHRP 20-83 (Long-Range Strategic Issues Facing the Transportation Industry) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $1,000,000
Research Agency: RAND Corporation
Principal Investigator: Paul Sorensen
Effective Date: 1/12/2010
Completion Date: 3/31/2013



Long-Range Strategic Issues
For the fiscal year 2009 program, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) allocated $5,000,000 to examine long-range strategic issues, both global and domestic, that will likely affect state departments of transportation (DOTs) and directed $1,000,000 to each of five projects. These projects were selected based on the 2008 report, Long-Range Strategic Issues Facing the Transportation Industry, funded by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP). This request for proposals is for one of those projects.
Major trends affecting the future of our nation and the world will dramatically reshape transportation priorities and needs. The transportation industry must be ready for the challenges or benefits created by these trends and resulting scenarios. AASHTO recognizes that research can help and wants to ensure that transportation practitioners are equipped to deal with possible futures that may emerge 30 to 50 years out. Consequently, the research being requested here differs from other research administered by the Transportation Research Board in its various cooperative research programs and the Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP 2).
The objective of this series is to provide guidance to state DOTs that will prepare them for possible futures so DOTs can act, rather than react. This is in contrast to current research in similar subject areas that focuses primarily on improving and building on existing conditions to make advances. Each project panel will be looking for that long-range vision in evaluating the submitted proposals. In addition, these requests for proposals have been prepared as more outcome-oriented, allowing proposers flexibility in the design of a research plan.

Increases in global energy consumption, especially within the transportation sector, are expected to increase demand for oil. Fossil fuel emissions and greenhouse gases from all sources may continue to increase, contributing to air pollution and climate change. As the effects of climate change become more evident, there will be a continual push to move toward energy efficiency and alternative fuels in the transportation sector. Given that the entire transportation sector accounted for more than 90% of all liquid fuel consumption in 2006, it is clear that changes in energy infrastructure and energy sources will affect transportation activities. World population growth and energy demand are inexorably linked, but the fossil-based energy supply is finite. Alternative technologies are emerging in the marketplace and may have the potential to require enormous changes over time in how state departments of transportation (DOTs) operate. Implementation of alternative fuels will also necessitate a change in highway funding strategies. Most of the revenue that DOTs use for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the highway system comes from federal and individual state gas taxes assessed on traditional motor vehicle fuels. The ability to finance future transportation programs has already been negatively affected by various technological, economic, and social changes, and these affects will be magnified over time.
The objectives of this research are (1) to determine how the mandate, role, funding, and operations of DOTs will likely be affected by future changes in long-term energy supply and demand and (2) to identify strategies and actions that can be used by the DOTs to plan and prepare for these effects.

The research is complete and has been published as NCHRP Report 750, Volume 5.  The report is available HERE.

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