The National Academies

NCHRP 20-24(138) [Final]

Collective and Individual Actions for State Departments of Transportation Envisioning and Realizing the Next Era of America’s Transportation Infrastructure – Phase I
[ NCHRP 20-24 (Administration of Highway and Transportation Agencies) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $472,894
Research Agency: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Kirk Steudle
Effective Date: 10/12/2021
Completion Date: 12/30/2022

NCHRP Research Results Digest 404: Collective and Individual Actions to Envision and Realize the Next Era of America’s Transportation Infrastructure summarizes the findings and activities of the initial phase of NCHRP Project 20-24(138), “Collective and Individual Actions for State Departments of Transportation
Envisioning and Realizing the Next Era of America’s Transportation Infrastructure—Phase 1.” This work was conducted to explore and articulate what state departments of transportation
(DOTs) can do collectively and individually to support the nation’s continued prosperity and well-being. The digest describes the research and outreach activities that supported the
development of a visionary framework for the coming decade, which was adopted by the Board of Directors of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
(AASHTO). Cambridge Systematics was the contractor for this study; Kirk Steudle was the principal investigator and John Kaliski was the project manager. The responsible senior program officer was Ann M. Hartell and Waseem Dekelbab is the manager for NCHRP. This Research Results Digest is accompanied by 11 appendices.
The creation of the Interstate Highway System, like development of the first intercontinental railroad a century earlier, was transformational, ushering in a new era of transportation, economic development, and social change in the nation’s history. President Eisenhower’s signing of the Interstate Highways and Defense Act in 1956 and the driving of the "Last Spike" at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869 were symbolic moments—comparable to landing a person on the Moon—in establishment of bold vision and the infrastructure backbone that supported and shaped our economy and communities for decades. Development and management of the Interstate System and its expanded realization in the National Highway System have also shaped the cultures and missions of state departments of transportation (DOTs) and these agencies’ partners at local and national levels of government. 
The aim of the Interstate System was focused and succinctly stated: "…to connect principal metropolitan areas, cities, and industrial centers, serve national defense, and connect with Canada and Mexico," and this statement became foundational to the culture and missions of the state DOTs. These agencies have evolved in response to changes in the nature of the work, from planning to construction to operation and maintenance of increasingly mature networks. In realizing the vision, the DOTs have delivered unprecedented mobility and access and thereby contributed to the nation’s prosperity, albeit not without controversies and impact to communities and neighborhoods, the natural environment, land use, social equity, and more.
While notable gaps remain and funding for maintenance and updating are a perpetual challenge, observers suggest the goals and objectives of the Interstate era have largely been achieved. Today, social, economic, and technology trends place the nation at the cusp of a new era for transportation, one engaging new technologies, interactions among transportation modes, interdependence of private and public interests, and a broadening range of partners and stakeholders in our transportation system’s performance. State DOTs will be called upon to help define and realize a vision of this next era and how that vision may be realized in diverse settings.
State DOTs and the public face challenging questions and choices. For example, how can air pollution and reliance on fossil fuels be drastically reduced? How can the transportation system provide equitable and safe access to health care, jobs, high quality and affordable housing, education, and stable neighborhoods for all segments of our communities? How will new technologies and new transportation services support system performance improvements? How can the condition and performance of our transportation system be maintained to ensure its continued support of the nation’s prosperity, high living standards, and community values and priorities?
While each state DOT must address such questions, individual agencies also must harmonize perspectives and strategies with others: our transportation networks do not end at political borders, even when facilities are located entirely within a single jurisdiction. Research was needed to explore the factors and trends likely to characterize the next era of transportation; articulate the vision, goals, and objectives that can inform and guide agency management as we enter this next era; and develop a compelling narrative to embolden stakeholders’ and state DOTs’ continuing contribution to the nation’s prosperity and wellbeing.
The objectives of this project were to explore and articulate what state DOTs can do collectively and individually to establish and realize a transformative vision of the next era of America’s transportation infrastructure, a vision and infrastructure to support the nation’s continued prosperity and wellbeing, by: 
  • Describing through scenarios or other means the social, technological, and economic trends and evolution of community values, problems, and priorities now and in coming years that are likely to influence the role of transportation in local, regional, and national prosperity and wellbeing;
  • Articulating a set of evocative state DOT ambitions and goals that, if pursued, would respond to evolutionary trends and shape an agency’s culture and mission to maintain and enhance transportation’s contribution to prosperity and wellbeing;
  • Presenting a visionary narrative and supporting insights, projections, and aspirational ideas to inform state DOT leadership; and
  • Providing resources and tools that state DOT leaders can use to tailor their own efforts to shape their agency’s culture and mission and craft meaningful and motivating targets, achievements, objectives, and narratives or vision statements to communicate with stakeholders.
In addition to NCHRP RRD 404, supplemental deliverables are available to download here. These deliverables are:

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