The National Academies

NCHRP 20-83(03)A [Completed]

Long-Range Strategic Issues Affecting Preservation, Maintenance, and Renewal of Highway Infrastructure

  Project Data
Funds: 499,999
Research Agency: WSP USA, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Jagannath Mallela
Effective Date: 5/18/2015
Completion Date: 8/31/2018


Long-Range Strategic Issues


This project is one of seven projects conducted to examine long-range strategic issues, both global and domestic, that will likely affect state departments of transportation (DOTs). 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). The objective of this project series is to provide guidance to state DOTs that will prepare them for possible futures that may emerge 30 to 50 years out so DOTs can act, rather than react. Six of these projects have been completed; reports are available on TRB Website (https://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=2628). Work on the seventh project started under NCHRP Project 20-83(03) and completed under NCHRP Project 20-83(03)A. 


BACKGROUND: The transportation industry will continually face new challenges that may influence transportation priorities and needs, particularly with regard to the preservation, maintenance, and renewal of the highway infrastructure. These challenges will result from long-range changes in many areas, including the following:

  • Environment (e.g., climate change and sustainability);
  • System performance (e.g., snow and ice control, accelerated deterioration and accountability);
  • Safety and security;
  • Natural resources availability;
  • Finance and budget (e.g., global economics, contracting methods, and costs);
  • Human resources (e.g., skills, education, and training);
  • Coordination (e.g., among transportation modes and related industries);
  • Regulations and policies (e.g., environmental regulation and changing role of governmental identities);
  • Demographics (e.g., population characteristics, including urban/rural differences);
  • Customer needs and expectations; and
  • Traffic (e.g., loading and volume).

Over the past decade, numerous advances in the materials, technologies, and processes that favorably affected preservation, maintenance, and renewal of highway infrastructure emerged, and others will certainly emerge in the next 30-50 years. For example, improved asphalt and concrete mixtures, LiDAR (light detection and ranging), global positioning system (GPS)-controlled snow plows, innovative contracting and financing methods, and accelerated bridge construction are often used in preservation, maintenance, and renewal of highway infrastructure; the next generation could see the application of nanotechnology and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). However, affordability and cost-effectiveness of these innovations will depend largely on future economic, social, political, and technology trends.     


There is a need for a research effort to anticipate future issues; explore the potential role of new and emerging materials, tools, approaches, and technologies in developing and preserving highway infrastructure; and develop guidance on how they can be used to enhance system preservation, maintenance, and renewal in response to anticipated challenges. This guidance will help highway agencies better anticipate and deal with the future.


Recent work completed under NCHRP Project 20-83(03) provided further review of some of the long-range strategic issues affecting preservation, maintenance, and renewal of highway infrastructure (see Special Note A). Research is needed to develop guidance on the use of emerging and innovative materials, tools, and approaches, and technologies to address these and other issues.  


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this research is to develop guidance for transportation stakeholders on the application of emerging and innovative materials, tools, approaches, and technologies to deal with long-range (30 to 50 years) highway infrastructure maintenance, preservation, and renewal needs and ensure enhanced system condition and performance.


STATUS:  The final report, including the Practitioner's Guide and Leadership Guide has been published as NCHRP Research Report 750, Volume 7: Strategic Issues Facing Transportation: Preservation, Maintenance, and Rehabilitation of Highway Infrastructure available as https://www.trb.org/main/blurbs/180449.aspx. NCHRP Web-Only Document 272: Existing and Emerging Highway Infrastructure Preservation, Maintenance, and Renewal Definitions, Practices, and Scenarios provides appendices, available at  https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25795/existing-and-emerging-highway-infrastructure-preservation-maintenance-and-renewal-definitions-practices-and-scenarios


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