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 is 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 are 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.
The primary audience for products of this work is the executive leadership of state DOTs, but leadership of other public agencies, users and other stakeholders in the systems for which state DOTs are responsible, and the general public are likely to have an interest as well. The time horizon of vision statements or narratives must be suited to the rates of change of the factors under consideration and is likely to extend decades, but the research products will ideally include suggestions of specific ambitions, targets, or objectives that may be adapted to guide development, jointly or individually, of state DOT mission and culture within 10 years.
The Phase I activities addressed by this request should produce at least (1) a comprehensive analysis of available research on emerging social, technological, and economic trends and evolution of community values and priorities influencing transportation’s contribution to prosperity and wellbeing and of state DOTs as mediators of that role, (2) one or more workshops or peer exchanges of thought leaders and state DOT leaders to discuss the project’s objectives and anticipated products, (3) a well-developed concept of the final products of this project if subsequent phases are undertaken, and (4) a preliminary plan for achieving the overall project objectives.