With the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this is a historic time in transportation. It is now even more important to provide opportunities to collaborate and foster partnerships to move research and innovation forward to meet the Nation’s diverse transportation needs. For more than 45 years, the Transportation Pooled Fund (TPF) Program has enabled public and private entities to combine resources to conduct high-priority research on a variety of shared, highway-related problems.
In this issue of Public Roads, one of the feature articles, “Transportation Pooled Fund Program: Advancing Research through Innovation,” showcases how the TPF Program helps produce research and innovation on a variety of important transportation topics.
The TPF Program provides a mechanism to allow agencies to partner together to invest in multiple research efforts at a fraction of the cost of conducting the research alone. A unique benefit of the TPF Program is that it encourages and allows for a variety of partners, including State departments of transportation (DOTs), the Federal Highway Administration, other Federal agencies, regional and local agencies, academic institutions, industry trade associations, private industry, and foreign entities. The TPF Program allows those with limited research or innovation funding to participate in large-scale efforts. By pooling funds and expertise, participants maximize their return on investment.
FHWA’s Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center Office of Corporate Research, Technology, and Innovation Management manages the TPF Program. Since 2003, the TPF Program has processed over $600 million in collaborative funding between partnering agencies. As of February 2022, there were 172 active projects and 10 open solicitations. Of these projects, 116 were State DOT led, and 56 were FHWA led. TPF research topics span safety, pavements, bridges, design, equity, climate, sustainability and much more!
The TPF Program also allows for knowledge transfer across partners. In addition to an assigned FHWA technical liaison, each study forms a Technical Advisory Committee, which includes agency representatives and subject matter experts from all participating agencies. Participants learn from others’ experience and form connections that not only assist with that specific research but can benefit their work in other areas as well.
Many of the research or innovations produced by TPF studies have been used to advance the state of practice in their respective fields. For example, TPF-5(317), Evaluation of Low-Cost Safety Improvements (ELCSI), works with more than 40 participating agencies to help improve safety and reduce traffic-related fatalities. In this study, rigorous before and after testing is used to evaluate how low-cost, implementable countermeasure approaches reduce safety risks. One example of a low-cost safety improvement is the use of high friction surface treatments. With one-quarter of highway fatalities in the United States occurring at or near horizontal curves, high friction surface treatments studied under ELSCI have shown significant reduction in wet pavement crashes after treatments. The low-cost safety improvement approaches have been documented in more than 60 publications and 800 crash modification factors.
There have been several other TPF studies that have helped to transform the transportation industry. TPF-5(165), TPF-5 (217), TPF-5(366), and TPF-5(468) have all researched different topics related to the performance of Ultra High-Performance Concrete (UHPC). UHPC is the most technologically advanced concrete available today. It is five times stronger and 10 times more durable and longer lasting than bridges built using conventional concrete. There are over 200 bridges in the US built with UHPC. These studies have helped to provide further research to bring this technology to the forefront of US bridge engineering design and construction.
The TPF Program has produced high value research and innovations that have been adopted and institutionalized by partners and agencies around the world. It is a great resource to leverage limited funds to address important issues. For more information on how to participate in this exciting, high value research program see “Transportation Pooled Fund Program: Advancing Research through Innovation,” on page 24.
Dr. Kelly Regal
Associate Administrator for Research, Development, and Technology
Director, Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center
Federal Highway Administration