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. These actions advanced a vision for transportation infrastructure that shaped and supported our economy and our communities for decades.
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 departments of transportation (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 that vision, state DOTs have delivered unprecedented mobility and access and thereby contributed to the nation’s prosperity, albeit not without controversies and impact on communities and neighborhoods, the natural environment, land use, social equity, and more.
While notable gaps remain and funding for maintenance and updating is 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 are called upon to help define and realize a vision of this next era and how that vision may be realized.
State DOTs and the public face challenging questions and choices. For example:
- How can the transportation system be designed and operated to make meaningful progress toward Vision Zero?
- How can the shift away from reliance on fossil fuels be accelerated?
- How can the transportation system provide access to health care, education, jobs, and high-quality and affordable housing for asset-limited, income-constrained, employed households?
- How can transportation contribute to stable neighborhoods and communities?
- How will new technologies and new transportation services support system performance improvements?
- How can the transportation system support technological changes in communications and mobility?
- How can the condition and performance of our transportation system contribute to sustained prosperity by efficiently moving people and goods?
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 and many of the challenges can only be addressed through collaboration with partners and stakeholders.
Phase 1 of the project explored the factors and trends likely to characterize the next era of transportation. Through outreach and engagement with state DOT leadership, partners, and thought leaders from other industries, a vision for the next era of transportation was developed. The vision is a community-centered transportation system—focused on connecting communities, moving people and goods, and meeting customer needs at all scales, from local to global—delivered as a partnership between state DOTs and other public, private, and civic sector partners. The vision includes six aspirational goals describing how the system should function:
- Safe and secure;
- Accessible and affordable;
- Seamless and reliable;
- Healthy and thriving;
- Clean and sustainable; and
- Agile and resilient.
In October 2022, the AASHTO Board of Directors unanimously adopted the vision and aspirational goals, further resolving that state DOTs should work toward implementation of the shared vision through individual actions that are appropriate for the context of each state. Several bold ideas—“moonshots”—that support one or more of the aspirational goals were identified in Phase 1 of the project. Research is needed to further refine these ideas, articulate specific opportunities and actions needed to implement them, and directly engage with state DOT leadership to initiate implementation.
The objectives of this project are to explore and articulate specific actions that can be taken by state DOTs both collectively and individually to establish and realize a transformative vision of the next era of America’s transportation infrastructure, by:
- Describing 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 well-being;
- 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 the 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. While the time horizon of the vision is likely to extend several decades, the research products will include 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 2 activities addressed by this request should produce at least (1) ongoing engagement of state DOT leaders and others to refine and expand the bold ideas that can advance the vision; (2) development of a range of actions that align with the specific needs and contexts of the state DOTs and that are feasible for individual and collective action by state DOTs; (3) development of tools and resources for state DOTs to use in initiating and sustaining progress toward the goals; (4) design and delivery of targeted engagement activities to activate and support efforts towards achievement of the aspirational goals; (5) and an assessment of progress towards the vision and plan for potential further phases. This request for proposals is for Phase 2 only.
The Phase 2 research should include at least the following deliverable products and milestones:
- A Phase 2 Amplified Research Plan and a Phase 2 kickoff web meeting with NCHRP staff and project panel members;
- At least five workshops bringing together a representative selection of state DOT Chief Executive Officers and public- and private-sector thought leaders, experts, and provocateurs to identify well-articulated ideas that define pathways toward the vision. Specific actions state DOTs can take to initiate and sustain progress in pursuing the ideas will also be identified;
- Focused, ongoing engagement with leadership of at least 10 state DOTs and their respective partners and stakeholders to initiate and sustain implementation of their prioritized ideas;
- A report outlining a coherent set of bold ideas with well-articulated state DOT roles and a suite of enabling actions that state DOTS can take within a specified time span to advance toward the vision;
- Communication materials suitable for a variety of audiences that describe the findings;
- An assessment of progress toward the vision during Phase 2 and anticipated status by 2030; and
- A plan for building on the Phase 2 work to achieve the research objectives if subsequent phases are undertaken.
STATUS: A response has been received for this RFP. The project panel will meet to determine next steps.