The National Academies

NCHRP 20-58(3) [Final]

Detailed Planning for Research on Providing a Highway System with Reliable Travel Times (

  Project Data
Funds: $288,652
Research Agency: Cambridge Systematics
Principal Investigator: Richard Margiotta & Timothy Lomax
Effective Date: 12/14/2005
Completion Date: 4/15/2006

Background: In the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), Congress requested the Transportation Research Board (TRB) to conduct a study to determine the goals, research agenda and projects, administrative structure, and fiscal needs for a new strategic highway research program. In response to this request, TRB formed a committee of highway industry leaders to develop recommendations. The committee engaged in an extensive outreach process to gather input from throughout the highway community regarding strategic priorities and promising research approaches. A Future Strategic Highway Research Program (F-SHRP) has been recommended that focuses on the following areas: (1) Accelerating the Renewal of America's Highways; (2) Making a Significant Improvement in Highway Safety; (3) Providing a Highway System with Reliable Travel Times; and (4) Providing Highway Capacity in Support of the Nation's Economic, Environmental, and Social Goals. It is hoped that the program will be authorized in the next surface transportation authorizing legislation due in October 2003.

The overall research program goal for the third topic, Reliability, is to provide highway users with reliable travel times by preventing and reducing the impact of nonrecurring incidents. Highway usage and congestion are growing in many areas of the country. Congestion makes the highway system more susceptible to unforeseen variations in travel time while users have become much more sensitive to such variations. Nonrecurring incidents, such as crashes, broken-down vehicles, spills, work zone, and special events, are a major cause of this unreliability. F-SHRP will develop strategies and tactics for reducing the impacts of nonrecurring incidents by studying incident characteristics and user impacts, and by developing and applying tools and technologies for incident management and response.

Objective: The objective of this project was to develop a specific research plan for the Future Strategic Highway Research Program (F-SHRP) Reliability Topic: Providing a Highway System with Reliable Travel Times. The scope of this effort, as well as the overall F-SHRP, is described in TRB Special Report 260, Strategic Highway Research: Saving Lives, Reducing Congestion, Improving Quality of Life (available at https://trb.org/trb/publications/sr/sr260.pdf or the TRB Bookstore).

Product Availability:
The final research plan is available as F-SHRP Web Document 3.

Tasks: To accomplish the project objective, the following tasks are envisioned: (1) Characterize the factors that reduce the reliability of travel times and estimate the impact of each. (2) Develop a draft research plan for review by the oversight panel. (3) Conduct a stakeholder workshop to gather additional feedback on the draft research plan. (4) Revised the plan based on the panel comments and workshop results. Meet with the panel to review the revised plan. (5) Submit the draft final research plan for panel review. (6) Revise the research plan and submit the final version.

Description of the Plan: The research plan shall delineate the specific research projects and other activities required to achieve the overall goal of the research program area. Individual projects are defined as those parts of each research program area that can be performed efficiently under separate contracts. The research plan shall contain a detailed description of each research project, including the tasks, levels of effort, required resources and special expertise, schedules, budgets, and anticipated deliverables. The plan shall also include activities necessary to address nontechnical issues or potential barriers to implementation and shall show the interrelationships of the projects, the timing and sequencing of each, and the assumptions and dependent conditions for each project. A work-flow diagram shall be used to further describe the sequencing and relationships of the projects. TRB staff will work with the contract agency to identify relationships among the four F-SHRP program areas regarding research projects, schedules, and resources.

The research plan should include and reflect an in-depth review of relevant efforts in the United States and abroad and should incorporate promising technologies, including technological solutions that may be productively transferred from other industries. It may be necessary to modify some of the suggested approaches and technologies indicated in Special Report 260.

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