The Transportation Research Board in 2019 published two documents presenting wide-ranging perspectives on matters of importance to the future of the nation’s transportation system and its capabilities to support the nation's continued prosperity. The first of these documents, Renewing the National Commitment to the Interstate Highway System: A Foundation for the Future (CIHS), the product of a Congressionally mandated study, presented a series of recommendations for government actions needed “to upgrade and restore the Interstate Highway System to fulfill its role as a crucial national asset, serving the needs of people, cities and towns, businesses, and the military while remaining the safest highway network in the country.” (CIHS, p. viii) The second document, Critical Issues in Transportation 2019 (CIT2019), was prepared by the TRB Executive Committee to frame high-level questions that can be addressed during the next 5 to 10 years through research, policy analysis, and debate to help society prepare for potentially unprecedented changes likely to affect the transportation system’s service to individuals and society. (CIT2019, p. 2)
Together the two documents comprise a thought-provoking but complex basis for the leadership of state transportation agencies to gain insight into the challenges their agencies will face in coming decades and to formulate strategies for meeting these challenges. These strategies will likely be influenced by the specific geographic, demographic, economic, social, and political character of each state and multi-state regions but will certainly have in common their intent to ensure that the transportation system for which the state transportation agency is responsible continues to support the prosperity and wellbeing of the states’ citizenry. Formulations of strategy will draw on the wealth of information that has been produced through experience and previous research, but new questions inevitably will call for new research and development efforts, particularly regarding technologies employed in our transportation systems and the relationships of these systems to our communities. CIHS and CIT2019 provide a context for identifying research needed to advance the state of practice in stewardship of our investment in our transportation systems, developing practical, effective tools and procedures state transportation agencies can use in planning and management decision making in coming decades.
The objective of NCHRP Project 20-126 overall is to conduct research to assist state transportation agencies and others to understand and address the issues raised by CIHS and CIT2019 as they relate to a state transportation agency. As a first phase of this research, NCHRP 20-126(01) is intended to draw on CIHS and CIT2019 to present:
1. A unified framework for characterizing the interests of state transportation agencies represented by the issues and recommendations contained in CIHS and CIT 2019;
2. A descriptive listing of substantial threats to transportation system performance and agency effectiveness that state transportation agencies are likely to face in the next 10 to 20 years, as implied in CIHS and CIT2019 and drawing on the contractor’s knowledge;
3. A descriptive listing of opportunities for advancing transportation system performance and professional practice in system development and management that state transportation agencies could realize within the next 10 to 20 years, as implied in CIHS and CIT2019 and drawing on the contractor’s knowledge;
4. A critical review of TRB and other literature to determine whether current research and development efforts are adequately addressing the issues, threats, and opportunities identified in CIHS, CIT2019; whether new or redirected efforts may be warranted at a national level; and
5. An analytical procedure, presented in a useable form (for example, a guidebook or workbook tool) that state transportation agencies and others may use individually or in self-organized groups (for example, multi-state corridor coalitions) to assess the relative significance of threats and opportunities identified here and to establish their own priorities for agency programmatic initiatives.
In addition, the project will apply the analytical procedure to identify high-priority research needs and develop a selection of research problem statements for additional NCHRP research to advance the objectives of the NCHRP Project 20-126 project series.