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Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Department of Transportation RD&T Mission

Foster innovations leading to effective, integrated, and intermodal transportation solutions.

The Department of Transportations (DOT) Research, Development and Technology (RD&T) programs foster innovations leading to effective, integrated, and intermodal transportation solutions. This Transportation Research, Development and Technology Strategic Plan 20062010 responds to requirements in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users for a five-year plan to guide transportation RD&T activities. It describes the strategic goals that are the primary purposes for RD&T and the RD&T strategies and emerging research priorities required to accomplish these goals.

For each RD&T strategy, the plan identifies anticipated funding levels and information the Department expects to gain. The plan incorporates the RD&T programs of all DOT operating administrations and considers how research by other Federal agencies, State DOTs, the private sector, academic institutions, and others contributes to Departmental goals and how unnecessary duplication is avoided. The National Research Council's (NRC) Transportation Research Board has reviewed the plan.

The Department, with leadership from the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), developed this Transportation Research, Development and Technology Strategic Planthrough an ongoing coordination process involving all DOT operating administrations. Two crossmodal bodies lead this process: the RD &T Planning Council, composed of the heads of the operating administrations, the Under Secretary for Policy, and other senior DOT leaders; and the RD &T Planning Team, including the operating administrations Associate Administrators for RD&T. The result is crossmodal planning and collaboration of RD&T at the highest levels of the Department.

Transportation Research, Development and Plan Framework

DOT Strategic Goals

  • Safety
  • Reduced Congestion
  • Global Connectivity
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Security, Preparedness and Response
  • Organizational Excellence

Working across the Department, the RD&T Planning Council and RD&T Planning Team have identified the RD&T strategies and emerging research priorities that will guide RD&T investments over the next five years and advance the Department’s strategic and organizational goals: safety; reduced congestion; global connectivity; environmental stewardship; security, preparedness and response; and organizational excellence.


DOT Goal:

Enhance public health and safety by working toward the elimination of transportation-related deaths and injuries.

RD&T Strategies:
  • Understand and address causal factors and risks.
  • Mitigate the consequences of accidents and incidents.
  • Assess impacts of new technologies, vehicles, concepts, designs, and procedures.
Emerging Research Priorities:
  • Human–Automation Interaction. Increase understanding of human-machine interactions.
  • Application of Enhanced Transportation Safety Data and Knowledge. Convert the data produced by digital technology applications into useful knowledge to improve safety.

Reduced Congestion

DOT Goal:

Reduce congestion and other impediments to using the Nation’s transportation system.

RD&T Strategies:
  • Reduce passenger and freight congestion in air and surface modes.
  • Extend the life of the existing transportation system and improve infrastructure durability.
  • Advance use of next generation technologies and combinations of modes.
  • Improve planning, operation, and management of transportation services and assets.
  • Improve transportation services for underserved areas and populations.
  • Advance the Nation’s transportation research capability.
Emerging Research Priorities:
  • Congestion Reduction Policy Research and Technologies. Analyze congestion reduction, congestion pricing, and innovative financing and the effectiveness of intelligent transportation system technologies, products, and services designed to reduce congestion.
  • System Resilience and Global Logistics. Identify freight bottlenecks and changing transportation patterns and develop and implement technologies to enhance cargo flow.
  • Next Generation Air Transportation System. Achieve greater aviation throughput, capacity, and productivity; reduce user and service costs; and ensure a safe, secure, and environmentally compatible aviation system.

Global Connectivity

DOT Goal:

Facilitate an international transportation system that promotes economic growth and development.

RD&T Strategy:
  • Harmonize transportation standards and support leadership for U.S. transportation providers.

Environmental Stewardship

DOT Goal:

Promote transportation solutions that enhance communities and protect the natural and built environment.

RD&T Strategies:
  • Understand and mitigate transportation impacts.
  • Improve the environmental review process.
Emerging Research Priority:
  • Energy Efficiency and Alternative Fuels. Understand the impact of fuel prices on mobility, improve fuel efficiency, identify requirements for alternative fuel infrastructures, and assess safety impacts of alternative fuel vehicles.

Security, Preparedness and Response

DOT Goal:

Balance transportation security requirements with the safety, mobility, and economic needs of the Nation and be prepared to respond to emergencies that affect the viability of the transportation sector.

RD&T Strategies:
  • Reduce vulnerability and improve system preparedness and recovery.
  • Secure hazardous materials shipments and assess the risks of hazmat events.

Organizational Excellence

DOT Goal:

Advance the Department’s ability to manage for results and achieve the goals of the President’s Management Agenda.

RD&T Strategy:
  • Consistently apply the R&D Investment Criteria.

The relationship among the Department’s goals, RD&T strategies, and emerging research priorities is shown in Table E-1.

RD&T Programs 2006-2010

Over the next five years, the RD&T programs in the Department’s operating administrations will advance DOT goals, RD&T strategies, and emerging research priorities while supporting modal priorities and mission requirements. The following DOT offices and administrations have missions that include supporting RD&T:

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
  • Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
  • Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
  • Maritime Administration (MARAD)
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Office of the Secretary (OST)
  • Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
  • Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA)

Safety RD&T

To achieve the Department’s highest priority strategic goal, DOT’s operating administrations will work with stakeholders to develop, make available, and enforce the technologies and techniques necessary to identify and resolve safety issues. Table E-2 lists DOT’s safety RD&T strategies, research areas the Department will focus on over the next five years, and the operating administrations with supporting RD&T programs.

Reduced Congestion RD&T

Growing transportation congestion poses a substantial threat to the economy and to the quality of life of millions of Americans. The Department ’s RD&T programs will seek to reduce congestion and other transportation impediments, to preserve the existing transportation system, and to improve the durability and life of transportation infrastructure. Table E-3 lists DOT ’s congestion reduction RD&T strategies, research areas the Department will focus on over the next five years, and the operating administrations with supporting RD&T programs.

Global Connectivity RD&T

The Nation’s continued economic prosperity depends on a strong and interconnected global transportation system. Table E-4 lists DOT’s global connectivity RD&T strategy, research areas the Department will focus on over the next five years, and the operating administrations with supporting RD&T programs.

Environmental Stewardship RD&T

Transportation exerts pressure on environmental resources worldwide. The Department must balance environmental challenges with the need for a safe and efficient transportation network. Table E-5 lists DOT ’s environmental stewardship RD&T strategies, research areas the Department will focus on over the next five years, and the operating administrations with supporting RD&T programs.

Security, Preparedness and Response RD&T

There is a critical need to ensure the transportation system’s rapid response and recovery from disruptions due to attacks, natural disasters, and other major events; to protect the system against terrorism; and to ensure that it remains a vital link for defense mobilization. Table E-6 lists DOT ’s security RD&T strategies, research areas the Department will focus on over the next five years, and the operating administrations with supporting RD &T programs.

Organizational Excellence RD&T

To advance the President’s Management Agenda, the Department seeks to consistently apply the R&D Investment Criteria of relevance, quality, and performance to all RD&T programs. Table E-7 lists DOT’s organizational excellence RD&T strategy and the operating administrations with supporting RD&T programs.

RD&T Partnerships

The Department’s RD&T programs emphasize partnership, coordination, and information sharing—both across the Federal Government and with universities, State and local governments, industry, and other organizations. This approach helps the Department to leverage scarce RD&T resources, prevent unnecessary duplication, and broaden the range of expertise brought to bear on transportation problems.Table E-8 summarizes the Department ’s interagency, university, and cooperative RD&T activities.

Interagency Coordination

DOT leads transportation RD&T in the Federal Government. At the Cabinet level, the Department coordinates transportation research through the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science and Technology Council. In addition, the Department’s operating administrations work directly with agencies in areas of mutual interest to avoid duplication and leverage research investments. Among the agencies with which the Department actively cooperates are the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Interior, and State; the Environmental Protection Agency; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and the National Science Foundation.

University Research

In addition to coordinating research with other Federal agencies, the Department actively pursues partnerships with the Nation ’s academic institutions. The Department’s largest university program supports the University Transportation Centers, which conduct basic and applied research to advance the body of knowledge in transportation; conduct education programs to expand the transportation workforce; and provide capacity building programs to existing transportation professionals.

Cooperative Research and Partnerships

The Department also engages in cooperative research with State and local agencies, industry, not-for-profit institutions, and other key stakeholders. Major activities include the Airport Cooperative Research Program, the Hazardous Materials Transportation Cooperative Research Program, the National Cooperative Freight Transportation Research Program, and the Transit Cooperative Research Program, all of which the NRC administers; the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, administered by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; the Commercial Remote Sensing and Spatial Technologies Program; and the Marine Transportation System initiative.

Evaluation and Assessment of RD&T

To ensure the effectiveness of RD&T, the Department continually assesses its research programs using three primary mechanisms: (1) systematic application of the Administration’s R&D Investment Criteria and Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART); (2) internal annual reviews of operating administration RD&T programs; and (3) external RD&T coordination and review. Table E-9 summarizes the Department’s RD&T evaluation strategy.

R&D Investment Criteria and PART

To guide the planning and management of research across the Federal Government, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has established three broad investment criteria for RD&T: relevance, quality, and performance. These investment criteria incorporate established best practices for research evaluation as identified by the National Academy of Sciences, the Government Accountability Office, and others. One mechanism to assess how well agencies are implementing the criteria is the PART. On the basis of the PART, programs are rated as Effective, Moderately Effective, Adequate, Ineffective, or Results Not Demonstrated. To date, OMB has used the PART to assess RD&T programs in FAA, FHWA, FRA, NHTSA, and PHMSA and found each to be Moderately Effective or better. The PART results for FTA’s research program will be released in February 2007.

Annual RD&T Program Review

Within the Department, the primary mechanism for ensuring implementation of the R&D Investment Criteria and PART is the annual review of modal RD&T programs. Assisted by RITA, the RD&T Planning Team’s Program Review Working Group annually assesses how well each operating administration is applying the investment criteria, particularly whether RD&T programs are evaluated according to established best practices. RITA reports recommendations and conclusions to the RD&T Planning Council at the end of each year’s cycle of reviews. The Program Review Working Group assessed all operating administration RD&T programs in FY 2005 and again in FY 2006.

External Coordination and Review

A key element of the Department’s RD&T evaluation strategy is regular consultation and engagement with stakeholders. Of particular importance is the conduct of regular external program evaluations through modal RD&T advisory committees, peer review, and broad stakeholder outreach. Such efforts avoid research duplication, uphold the technical quality of RD&T, and ensure that modal RD&T programs address critical national needs.


As the Department works to implement and improve this Transportation Research, Development and Technology Strategic Plan it will consult with Congress, the private sector, the NRC, and other stakeholders to ensure that Departmental RD&T remains a wise public investment. When necessary, the Department will revise this plan to reflect changes in DOT and national priorities, operating administration mission requirements, and customer needs. In particular, over the next five years the Department will work with stakeholders to shift some RD&T investments toward support of its emerging research priorities. Each of these priorities addresses identified DOT goals, offers a significant potential return on investment, is an appropriate area for Federal research, and is not likely to be duplicated by other efforts. Moreover, these emerging research priorities will be critical elements in accomplishing the Department’s RD&T mission: to foster innovations leading to effective, integrated, and intermodal transportation solutions.