The National Academies

NCHRP 20-123(10) [Active]

AASHTO Committee on Bridges and Structures Strategic Plan, Operating Guidelines, and Research Roadmap Development
[ NCHRP 20-123 (Support for AASHTO Committees and Councils) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $120,000
Staff Responsibility: Ahmad Abu-Hawash
Research Agency: Clough, Harbor & Associates LLP
Principal Investigator: Mr. Mike Culmo
Completion Date: 6/7/2022

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Committee on Bridges and Structures (COBS) is responsible to develop and keep current all major engineering standards, specifications and principles pertaining to the methods and procedures of bridge and structural design, fabrication, erection, construction, inspection, and maintenance, including geometric standards and aesthetics as appropriate for bridges, tunnels and ancillary structures; make recommendations for testing and investigating existing and new materials of construction, and determine areas of needed study and research in the area of bridge engineering; and develop and maintain such standards and procedures as are appropriate for rating and evaluating existing in service structures (COBS Charter is available to download at https://bridges.transportation.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2020/05/Bridges-Structures-Charter-5-2018.pdf). The committee has been successful over the years in supporting the bridge community by maintaining and improving its strategic plan, and working closely with NCHRP to obtain research funding and implementing the research results.
The current strategic plan was developed under the NCHRP Project 20-07 Task 335, “Updating the Strategic Plan for the AASHTO Highway Subcommittee on Bridges and Structures” in 2014 and reorganized by AASHTO in 2018 (AASHTO COBS Strategic Plan is available to download at
Given the rate at which technology is advancing, how learning continues to change, and that bridge design and construction innovations constantly affect the industry, the COBS strategic plan needs to be re-evaluated and revised to meet the needs of today, and include a research roadmap that provides direction and prioritizes the committee’s research needs. Additionally for the committee members to successfully implement the strategic plan, operating guidelines shall be developed.
The objectives of this research are to (1) refine and refocus the AASHTO COBS strategic plan reorganized in 2018; (2) develop operating guidelines including a new member onboarding checklist; and (3) develop a research roadmap for short- and long-term goals that can be used by COBS to focus its efforts to foster, support, monitor, disseminate, and implement research.
The strategic plan will build upon the existing plan and should be publication-ready (i.e., AASHTO template) with a purpose statement and a charter. At the minimum, the research shall include the following:
  1. a review and strategic alignment of COBS structure and its 20 technical committees to refresh the COBS structure including the technical committees’ area of interest and activities;
  2. engagement activities for the COBS’ technical committee stakeholders, practitioner community, and other AASHTO committees and councils to solicit their feedback and input; and
  3. an implementation plan for the proposed strategic plan, operating guidelines, and research roadmap.

Accomplishment of the project objectives will require at least the following tasks.

Task descriptions are intended to provide a framework for conducting the research. The NCHRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objectives. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objectives.
PHASE I—Planning
Task 1. Participate in a kick-off web-enabled meeting with the NCHRP project panel to be held within 2 weeks of the contract’s execution date.
Task 2. Review the existing COBS documents. These will be provided after the contract execution (purpose statement, charter, current and old strategic plans, operating guidelines, technical committee research roadmaps, and other related documents). The review shall include the technical committee activities and accomplishments since 2013.
Task 3. Develop a comprehensive methodology, to be executed in Phase II, to achieve the research objectives based on the results from Tasks 1 and 2. At a minimum, the methodology shall include the following:
  • a step-by-step process to develop and deploy the essential elements of standard strategic plan;
  • a step-by-step process to identify the COBS short- and long-term goals;
  • a process to develop operating guidelines;
  • a step-by-step process to review the committee’s current structure (i.e., 20 technical committees) and the restructuring process;
  • a process to identify and engage internal and external stakeholders to identify the important issues, gaps, and concerns; and
  • a step-by-step process to identify, assess, and prioritize the COBS research needs and develop a research roadmap. The research roadmap shall align with the COBS’ strategic plan. 
Task 4. Developed annotated outlines of the proposed strategic plan, operating guidelines, and research roadmap to be developed in Phase II.
Task 5. Prepare Interim Report No. 1 that documents Tasks 1 through 4 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the research. This report must be submitted no later than 3 months after contract execution. The updated work plan must describe the process and rationale for the work proposed for Phase II.
Note: Following a 1-month review of Interim Report No. 1 by the NCHRP, the research team will be required to meet in person with the NCHRP project panel to discuss the interim report. Work on Phases II of the project will not begin until authorized by the NCHRP. Phase I shall be limited to $40,000.
PHASE II—Development and Final Products
Task 6. Execute the developed methodology according to the approved Interim Report No.1. Submit Task 6 Report for review and approval by NCHRP no later than 3 months after approval of Phase II.
Note: Following a 1-month review of Task 6 Report, the research team will be required to participate in a web-enabled meeting with the NCHRP project panel to discuss the report.
Task 7. Develop the draft final deliverables according to the approved annotated outlines in Interim Report No.1. The draft final deliverables are due no later than 6 months after approval of Phase II and include the following:
  1. a final report that documents the entire research effort;
  2. the proposed AASHTO COBS strategic plan, purpose statement, and charter;
  3. the operating guidelines including the new member onboarding checklist;
  4. the research roadmap; and
  5. a stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products.” See Special Note C for additional information.
Task 8. Prepare the final deliverables listed in Task 7 that reflect consideration of the NCHRP’s review comments.
Note: Following receipt of the draft final deliverables according to Task 7, the remaining 2 months shall be for NCHRP review and comment and for research agency preparation of the revised final deliverables. Phase II shall be limited to $80,000.
STATUS: Research in progress.

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