The National Academies

NCHRP 20-38 [Completed]

Development of a Manual for State Transportation Research

  Project Data
Funds: $118,000
Principal Investigator: Eugene Reilly and Barbara Harder
Effective Date: 1/1/1994
Completion Date: 6/30/1997

In the past several years, state transportation departments have significantly increased their emphasis on research. In accord with the AASHTO Standing Committee on Research's 1989 recommendation that research activities sponsored by member departments should be expanded to provide for more effective problem solving at the state level, the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act requires that states spend at least 25 percent of State Planning & Research (SP&R) funds for research. To meet this requirement, some states have expanded research activities slightly; others that had been relatively inactive before have expanded their research programs greatly. In some cases, research programs have been created from existing staff, who may not have extensive research training or experience.

At the same time, the FHWA has expressed its desire to allow states more autonomy in developing and conducting their research programs. Proposals under consideration would eliminate federal oversight of individual SP&R-funded studies. Instead, the FHWA would allow states demonstrating sound research procedures to freely conduct research addressing their individual needs. The FHWA issued rulemaking in regard to SP&R activities and states were required to comply by July 1, 1995.

The combination of increased research emphasis, greater state autonomy, and FHWA rulemaking has increased the need for a generic manual for state transportation research. General guidance on research administration, statistical techniques (including experimental design, research project management, research ethics, and implementation), and other basic principles would help states accomplish their more ambitious programs practically and effectively.

Writing a research manual can be time consuming and difficult, especially for states with small staffs. Many states have no research manual; even those that do will probably need to modify theirs to accommodate contemplated changes in FHWA's procedures for administering the SP&R program.

The objective of this research was to prepare a guide document to assist state DOTs in developing transportation research manuals that contain all of the essential elements.

Status: The project has been completed. Two copies and a diskette of the final report have been distributed to each State DOT. Copies for loan or purchase are available on request.

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