The National Academies

NCHRP 03-142 [RFP]

Evaluating the Impacts of Real-Time Warnings and Variable Speed Limits on Safety and Travel Reliability during Weather Events

Posted Date: 12/16/2021

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Contract Time: 36 months
(includes 2 months for NCHRP review and approval of the interim report and 3 months for NCHRP review and for contractor revision of the final report)
Authorization to Begin Work: 6/16/2022 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Camille Crichton-Sumners
   Phone: 202/334-1695
   Email: ccrichton-sumners@nas.edu
RFP Close Date: 1/31/2022
Fiscal Year: 2022



Road Weather Management (RWM) has advanced significantly with new sources of road weather data and greater opportunities for more active management of roadways through direct communication with drivers. Pilot RWM applications and strategies have proven effective during weather events. Actively managing the system using variable speed limits (VSL) and real-time motorist warnings (RTW) based upon real-time weather and road condition data have proven to be effective strategies. However, additional research is needed to advance the practice and application of VSL and RTW nationally.


Because the effectiveness of these solutions depends on driver behavior, infrastructure owner operators (IOO) must understand the operational environment and the anticipated responses of drivers. For either VSL or RTW to be effective, the IOOs must know the current and anticipated environmental conditions, understand their impacts on mobility and safety, and formulate effective traffic management strategies to alert drivers. IOOs must understand how drivers receive VSL and RTW messages; interpret and integrate these messages with their own observations of roadway conditions; and react during different types of weather events. IOO’s must also understand the best ways to capture drivers’ attention; learn whether drivers respond differently to advisory or regulatory messaging; and understand the influence of other human factors and driver behaviors. Consistent and effective messaging would help IOOs achieve safer, more reliable transportation during adverse weather.




The objectives of this research are to (1) identify strategies and information needed to formulate effective messaging (including VSL and RTW) to elicit appropriate driver behavior and aid highway safety and mobility; (2) describe how to convey messaging with consideration of message locations, content, platform, and timing; and (3) identify the means to determine the effectiveness of the deployment of real-time messaging, including VSL and RTW, on safety and travel reliability.


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




The NCHRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how 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.


The research plan should: (1) include a kick-off teleconference with the research team and NCHRP convened within 1 month of the contract’s execution; (2) address the manner in which the proposer intends to satisfy the project objectives; (3) be divided logically into detailed tasks necessary to fulfill the research objectives and include appropriate milestones and interim deliverables; (4) include one face-to-face meeting to review the Interim Report at the conclusion of Phase I, and a web-conference meeting (NCHRP will provide teleconference services) to be held at the end of Task 3; and (5) incorporate opportunities for the project panel to review, comment, and approve milestone deliverables.


The research plan should include at a minimum 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.


Task 1.  Conduct a literature review related to real-time weather messaging including any previous research and pilot projects focused on driver behavior.


Task 2.  Describe the state of practice and identify successful practices and challenges encountered by state transportation agencies using road weather related VSL and RTW.


Consideration should be given, but not limited to, the following questions or concepts.

  • What predicted and observed weather characteristics should be used to dictate the use of real-time messaging applications?


  • What real-time messaging applications are appropriate for various roadway and traffic characteristics?


  • How do practitioners currently evaluate the effectiveness of real-time weather messaging?


  • What data sources are accessible and useful for real-time road weather messaging?


  • What Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) requirements are relevant for developing real-time road weather messaging?


Task 3. Prepare a technical report that documents the work completed in Tasks 1 and 2. Include a detailed work plan for Phase II.


Note: NCHRP approval of the proposed Phase II work plan is required prior to initiation. If feasible, this shall occur at a face-to-face meeting to be convened in Washington, D.C. at TRB offices. TRB will cover the costs associated with meetings at TRB facilities, teleconference services, and any approved panel travel.




Task 4. Identify factors that improve practitioners’ understanding of driver perception, acceptance, and behavior associated with road weather related VSL and RTW in various scenarios.


Task 5. Identify strategies and information needed to formulate effective messaging, including VSL and RTW, to elicit appropriate driver behavior and improve highway safety and mobility.


Task 6. Describe how to effectively convey messaging with consideration of message locations, content, platform, and timing.


Task 7. Identify practical, applicable performance measures to assess the effectiveness of road weather related VSL and RTW deployments.


Task 8. Develop a practitioner’s guide that describes strategies, institutional roles and responsibilities, and operational considerations for the effective implementation of VSL and RTW for weather management.


Task 9. Develop a final report that at a minimum includes (1) an assessment of the current state of practice; (2) the requirements necessary to support real-time weather messaging needs; and 3) guidance for state departments of transportation (DOT) officials to plan and design a system that can be efficiently and effectively maintained.


Final deliverables should include, at a minimum (1) a final report documenting the entire research effort; (2) a practitioner’s guide that provides strategies for weather related VSL and RTW; (3) prioritized recommendations for future research; (4) a PowerPoint presentation describing the background, objectives, research approach, findings, and conclusions; (5) a stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” (see Special Note D for additional information); (6) a presentation of findings to two AASHTO committees or councils concerned with VSL and RTW; and (7) a draft article suitable for publication in TR News (information regarding TR News publication may be found on the TRB webpage http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/trnews/info4contributors.pdf).


Proposers may recommend additional deliverables to support the project objective.



1. No commitment to publish a TR News article is implied.

2. Following receipt of the draft final deliverables, the remaining 3 months shall be for NCHRP review and comment and for research agency preparation of the final deliverables.




A. The Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals for the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs were modified in November 2020 to include maximum file size and page limits for all CRP proposals. Proposals must be submitted as a single PDF file with a maximum file size of 10 MB. The PDF must be formatted for standard 8 ½” X 11” paper, and the entire proposal must not exceed 60 pages (according to the page count displayed in the PDF). Proposals that do not meet these requirements will be rejected.  For other requirements, refer to chapter V of the instructions.


B. Proposals should include a task-by-task breakdown of labor hours for each staff member as shown in Figure 4 in the brochure, "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals" (https://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/crp/docs/ProposalPrep.pdf). Proposals also should include a breakdown of all costs (e.g., wages, indirect costs, travel, materials, and total) for each task using Figures 5 and 6 in the brochure. Please note that TRB Cooperative Research Program subawards (selected proposers are considered subawards to the National Academy of Sciences, the parent organization of TRB) must comply with 2 CFR 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These requirements include a provision that proposers without a "federally" Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreement (NICRA) shall be subject to a maximum allowable indirect rate of 10% of Modified Total Direct Costs. Modified Total Direct Costs include all salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract. Modified Total Direct Costs exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract in excess of $25,000.


C.  NCHRP wishes to award the contract for NCHRP Project 03-142 for a fixed price of $400,000. This amount will not be subject to any adjustment by reason of the contractor’s cost experience in the performance of the contract.  In addition to providing a detailed budget, the proposer should provide a proposed schedule of project milestones, deliverables and progress payments tied to the detailed budget and schedule which will be inclusive of specific dates. For budgeting purposes, proposers should assume that (1) NCHRP will provide access to web-enabled teleconference services and (2) 1 in-person meeting with the NCHRP project panel will be held in Washington, DC. NCHRP will pay panel members’ travel costs for the meeting.


D. The NCHRP is a practical, applied research program that produces implementable products addressing problems faced by transportation practitioners and managers. The benefits of NCHRP research are realized only when the results are implemented in state DOTs and other agencies. Implementation of the research product must be considered throughout the process, from problem statement development to research contract and beyond completion of the research. Item 4(c), "Anticipated Research Results," must include the following: (a) the "product" expected from the research, (b) the audience or "market" for this product, (c) a realistic assessment of impediments to successful implementation, and (d) the institutions and individuals who might take leadership in deploying the research product. The project panel will develop and maintain an implementation plan throughout the life of the project. The research team will be expected to provide input to an implementation team consisting of panel members, AASHTO committee members, the NCHRP Implementation Coordinator, and others in order to meet the goals of NCHRP Active Implementation: Moving Research into Practice, available at https://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/docs/NCHRP_ActiveImplementation.pdf.


E. Proposals are evaluated by the NCHRP staff and project panels consisting of individuals collectively very knowledgeable in the problem area. Selection of an agency is made by the project panel considering the following factors: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related problem area; (4) the plan for ensuring application of results; (5) how the proposer approaches inclusion and diversity in the composition of their team and research approach, including participation by certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises; and, if relevant, (6) the adequacy of the facilities.


Note: The proposer's approach to inclusion and diversity as well as participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 11 of the proposal.


F. Copyrights - All data, written materials, computer software, graphic and photographic images, and other information prepared under the contract and the copyrights therein shall be owned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The contractor and subcontractors will be able to publish this material for non-commercial purposes, for internal use, or to further academic research or studies with permission from TRB Cooperative Research Programs. The contractor and subcontractors will not be allowed to sell the project material without prior approval by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. By signing a contract with the National Academy of Sciences, contractors accept legal responsibility for any copyright infringement that may exist in work done for TRB. Contractors are therefore responsible for obtaining all necessary permissions for use of copyrighted material in TRB's Cooperative Research Programs publications. For guidance on TRB's policies on using copyrighted material please consult Section 5.4, "Use of Copyrighted Material," in the Procedural Manual for Contractors.


G. If the research approach includes human subjects testing, proposers should be aware that contracts will be subject to approval by an Institutional Review Board (IRB). This review may be conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s IRB, but NASEM will delegate the review to the contracting agency’s IRB if that agency’s process meets all federal requirements for the protection of human subjects.


H.  Proposers are expected to be familiar with the following resources and to take them into account when developing the proposed research plan.


  1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/24865.


  1. Strategic Highway Research Program II, http://www.trb.org/StrategicHighwayResearchProgram2SHRP2/Public/Blank2.aspx


  1. Xu Qu, Mofeng Yang, Junyi Ji, Linheng Li, Bin Ran, "Analyzing the Safety Impacts of Variable Speed Limit Control on Aggregated Driving Behavior Based on Traffic Big Data", Journal of Advanced Transportation, vol. 2021, Article ID 8823292, 9 pages, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/8823292


  1. Buddemeyer, Jenna, Young, Rhonda K. Dorsey-Spitz, Brendan, "Rural Variable Speed Limit System for Southeast Wyoming", In Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, TRB, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2010; 2189(1):37-44. https://doi.org/10.3141/2189-05.


  1. Promothes Saha, Mohamed M. Ahmed, and Rhonda Kae Young, "Safety Effectiveness of Variable Speed Limit System in Adverse Weather Conditions on Challenging Roadway Geometry.", In Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, TRB, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2015; 2521(1):45-53. doi:10.3141/2521-05

Proposals should be uploaded via this link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/qE75HfcT93tJgl9g2zVi
Proposals are due not later than 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on 1/31/2022.

This is a firm deadline, and extensions are not granted. In order to be considered for award, the agency's proposal accompanied by the executed, unmodified Liability Statement must be in our offices not later than the deadline shown, or the proposal will be rejected.

Liability Statement

The signature of an authorized representative of the proposing agency is required on the unaltered statement in order for TRB to accept the agency's proposal for consideration. Proposals submitted without this executed and unaltered statement by the proposal deadline will be summarily rejected. An executed, unaltered statement indicates the agency's intent and ability to execute a contract that includes the provisions in the statement.

Here is a fillable PDF version of the Liability Statement. A free copy of the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader is available at https://www.adobe.com.

General Notes

1. According to the provisions of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 21, which relates to nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, all parties are hereby notified that the contract entered into pursuant to this announcement will be awarded without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.

2. The essential features required in a proposal for research are detailed in the current brochure entitled "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals". Proposals must be prepared according to this document, and attention is directed specifically to Section V for mandatory requirements. Proposals that do not conform with these requirements will be rejected.

3. The total funds available are made known in the project statement, and line items of the budget are examined to determine the reasonableness of the allocation of funds to the various tasks. If the proposed total cost exceeds the funds available, the proposal is rejected.

4. All proposals become the property of the Transportation Research Board. Final disposition will be made according to the policies thereof, including the right to reject all proposals.

5. Potential proposers should understand that follow-on activities for this project may be carried out through either a contract amendment modifying the scope of work with additional time and funds, or through a new contract (via sole source, full, or restrictive competition).

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