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The National Academies

TFPE 06 [Pending]

Evaluation of the Transportation Pooled Fund Program

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Contract Time: 20 months
Staff Responsibility: Patrick Zelinski

BACKGROUND

The Transportation Pooled Fund (TPF) Program is a collaborative program involving state departments of transportation (DOTs), AASHTO, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that has existed for more than 45 years. The program was first defined in 1977 per Title 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 560.3 as a FHWA administered program in coordination with state DOTs. The TPF program creates an opportunity for partners to pool their funds, subject matter expertise, and other resources to conduct high-priority research to meet a wide variety of shared transportation problems. Being able to pool funds allows participants to achieve more from a study than if they conducted a study on their own. By leveraging funds and expertise, participants develop innovative solutions with a smaller investment while extending the reach and impact of their research. Projects that previously could have been cost prohibitive become more achievable through participation in the TPF Program. By offering hundreds of active pooled fund studies, the TPF Program assists partners in finding and funding projects applicable to their agency’s needs.

The FHWA Research & Technology (R&T) evaluation program was initiated in 2013 to assess and communicate the value and effectiveness of FHWA R&T investment. The objective of the R&T evaluation program is to document the impact of the projects, demonstrate accountability to funders and policymakers, and identify lessons learned and best practices that can be applied to future projects/programs, thus completing the innovation lifecycle. The Transportation Research Board (TRB), in collaboration with the FHWA, is overseeing the TRB/FHWA Program Evaluation (TFPE) to evaluate such programs. There is a need to evaluate the TPF to establish the degree of efficiency, implementation, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and attribution to assess and communicate its value.

OBJECTIVE

The objective of this research is to develop and execute an evaluation plan for the FHWA’s Transportation Pooled Fund Program to answer these fundamental questions:

  • Efficiency: Are the TPF Program’s activities conducted with an appropriate use of resources, such as budget and staff time (e.g., research and implementation approach, funding level)? How well is the administration of the program functioning? What is the appropriate level of involvement from the FHWA division office, particularly as it relates to time? Are there best practices from FHWA division offices that can be shared with other division offices?
  • Implementation: Are the results of TPF Program research being applied? Are project areas being adopted by the users (e.g., change in culture, state of the practice)? Is the FHWA TPF providing the tools, support, and outputs that DOTs need to implement? How does the FHWA TPF consider implementation for projects? How does the collaboration between FHWA and state transportation agencies help the state agencies implement the program? How does participation on a TPF affect future implementation of a project’s results?
  • Effectiveness: Is the TPF Program achieving the goals and objectives it was intended to accomplish (e.g., impact)? How satisfied are states with the TPF Program and results?
  • Cost-effectiveness: Does the value or benefit of achieving the TPF Program’s goals and objectives exceed the cost of producing them (e.g., return on investment and cost-benefit ratio)? Should there be a sliding scale for all projects based on the amount of projects states are allocated? How much staff time is needed for administration, especially for larger projects?
  • Attribution: How is the TPF Program helping states address their strategic goals (e.g., outcome)?

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

TASKS

Task 1. Prepare an Evaluation Scoping Report presenting the TPF Program Evaluation team’s understanding of the objective, likely measures of effectiveness, analysis activities, and budget for evaluation. 

Task 2. Prepare an Evaluation Plan, describing the evaluation strategy and specific tasks to be performed, planned calendar schedule, intermediate evaluation products, and the role and activities that each member of the evaluation team will have in the evaluation plan. Include a logic model of the TPF Program. Discuss the sample size of TPF projects and case studies to be included. 

Task 3. Execute the Evaluation Plan and prepare an Interim Report on the TPF Program Evaluation, prepared approximately midway through the Evaluation Plan, describing the evaluation team’s progress on the Evaluation Plan, difficulties encountered in conducting the work, and any preliminary assessment supported by work so far accomplished. 

Task 4. Prepare a TPF Program Evaluation Report documenting the evaluation and presenting the results. Solicit comments on the draft from TRB and FHWA, prepare a memorandum responding to comments, and revise the draft as appropriate to prepare the final Project Evaluation Report. Recommendations shall be prepared and compiled separately for presentation to the Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC) and shall not be part of the final Project Evaluation Report. 

Task 5. Prepare briefing materials as appropriate and participate in an in-person meeting of the RTCC to present the final TPF Program Evaluation Report and recommendations. Discuss the evaluation and its findings. Prior to the RTCC meeting, present the materials to and participate in a virtual meeting with FHWA. The RTCC will review the final report and issue any recommendations to the FHWA the RTCC deems appropriate in the form of a letter report.


STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP. The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.

 

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