Section 3. Research, Development, and Technology Priorities

Section 3. Research, Development, and Technology Priorities

Through RD&T efforts, the Department strives to improve the benefits of transportation while consistently reducing risks to the health and well-being of the public, the environment and the economy.

The DOT Strategic Plan 2003-2008 identifies five objectives that are the purpose for all RD&T in the Department:

  • Safety: Enhance public health and safety by working toward the elimination of transportation-related deaths and injuries.
  • Mobility: Advance accessible, efficient, intermodal transportation for the movement of people and goods.
  • Global Connectivity: Facilitate a more efficient domestic and global transportation system that enables economic growth and development.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Promote transportation solutions that enhance communities and protect the natural and built environment.
  • Security: Balance homeland and national security transportation requirements with the mobility needs of the Nation for personal travel and commerce.

The Strategic Plan also defines a number of broad strategies to achieve these objectives, many of which are priorities for RD&T. These priorities, and the FY 2006 programs that support them, are identified in Tables 3-2, through 3-6. Several programs address more than one strategy or objective, such as the UTC program described on the next page. DOT's total FY 2006 budget request is shown in Table 3-1. (For more detailed budget and program information, see Appendix A and the 6th edition of DOT's Research, Development, and Technology Plan.)

The next DOT Strategic Plan is due to Congress in September 2006. As DOT revises the plan, RITA will work with the RD&T Planning Council, RD&T Planning Team, DOT operating administrations, and stakeholders to reassess RD&T priorities. These priorities will span the same period as the revised Strategic Plan (2006-2009).


Safety is DOT's primary objective. Through RD&T efforts (e.g. Human Factors Coordinating Committee), the Department strives to improve the benefits of transportation while consistently reducing risks to the health and well being of the public, the environment, and the economy. Working with stakeholders, DOT ensures that the technologies and techniques necessary to identify and resolve safety issues are developed, made available, and enforced. The Strategic Plan names the following RD&T priorities for safety:3

  • Conducting, supporting, and publishing research in all modes on safety-enhancing technologies and on topics related to safety such as human performance, differing cultural norms, behavior, and unsafe trends
  • Developing, promoting, and supporting public education and information activities that advance safe behavior, safe operations, and best safety practices
  • Providing training and technical assistance to industry and state and local government agencies on safety issues and safety management practices
  • Working with stakeholders to build safety into the transportation infrastructure and operational procedures through research, planning, design, engineering, incentives, and incorporation of safety-enhancing technologies
  • Mitigating the consequences of safety incidents through more effective response, technology, and coordination with private transportation providers and state and local government
  • Increasing implementation of infrastructure and operational improvements focused on enhancing drivers' abilities to remain on the roadway, reducing the adverse consequences of roadway departure, improving intersection safety, and protecting pedestrians in the roadway environment

Table 3-2 shows the major FY 2006 RD&T activities that will support these priorities.


A nation's mobility is intertwined with its economic growth. The transportation system connects people with work, school, community services, markets, and other people. DOT's aim is to maintain and advance an affordable, reliable, and accessible transportation system. Toward this end, DOT RD&T (e.g. Intelligent Transportation Systems) addresses the following priorities:4

  • Exploiting web-enabled and other secure information technologies to share information on best practices in all modes
  • Examining ways to encourage cargo transport by water to improve the capacity of the intermodal transportation system5
  • In consultation with public and private sector partners, conducting research and expediting the deployment of technologies that improve system efficiency and infrastructure durability
  • Providing technical assistance and training to improve intermodal transportation planning and effective system management and operation

The RD&T efforts addressing DOT's mobility priorities are shown in Table 3-3.

Global Connectivity

The increasingly global economy hinges on smooth supply chains and just-in-time manufacturing. Transportation is critical to both. An intermodal approach is central to DOT's role in promoting global connectivity. The following are the Department's RD&T (e.g. National Freight Action Agenda) priorities:6

  • Encouraging and facilitating intermodal transportation planning worldwide
  • Supporting and conducting research on issues concerning the intersection of passenger and freight transportation
  • Accelerating the use of ITS and other technologies that reduce delays at key intermodal transfer points, in significant freight corridors, and at international border crossings

Table 3-4 presents the RD&T that supports these priorities.

Environmental Stewardship

Transportation exerts pressure on environmental resources worldwide. The DOT Strategic Plan calls for a balance between environmental challenges and the need for a safe and efficient transportation network. Among the RD&T (e.g. Crossmodal Initiatives) priorities for achieving this vision are:7

  • Supporting the President's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative through research on fuel distribution and delivery infrastructure, transportation of associated hazardous materials, and vehicle safety
  • Supporting interdisciplinary research on connections among transportation, energy, and the environment
  • Adopting transportation policies and promoting technologies that reduce or eliminate environmental degradation
  • Collaborating with Federal agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector to support and conduct research on technologies that improve energy efficiency, foster the use of alternative fuels, and reduce vehicle emissions
  • Working with transportation partners to mitigate the adverse environmental effects of existing transportation systems

The RD&T programs that address these priorities are listed in Table 3-5.


The Nation's transportation system has vulnerabilities that need to be guarded against attack. The DOT Strategic Plan identifies strategies for working with the DHS and with state, local, and private sector partners to elevate security while improving safety and efficiency. RD&T (e.g. Critical Infrastructure Protection) priorities are:8

  • Monitoring the transportation system 24/7 to provide real-time reports and help ensure rapid response and recovery from disruptions to transportation throughout the Nation
  • Implementing cybersecurity programs to adequately protect DOT systems integrated with the national critical infrastructure
  • Employing advancements in information and communications technology to improve the accuracy, speed, and simplicity of exchanging information on security, emergency response, and defense deployment with Federal, state, and local governments and with the private sector

Supporting RD&T is presented in Table 3-6.

3DOT Strategic Plan 2003-2008, pp. 22-23.

4 ibid., pp. 32-33.

5 The Maritime Administration does not have funding considered as RD&T. However, it does have RD&T-related efforts, which it undertakes in close cooperation with the maritime industry, academia, and other Federal agencies.

6 ibid, pp. 44-45

7 ibid., pp. 54-55.

8 ibid., pp. 62-63.