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  • Writer's pictureKristin Cooper

Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis Programs - Transportation

IDEA Program Announcement 2021 -

The Highway IDEA program conducts two review cycles each year with proposal due dates of March 1 and September 1. The Transit IDEA and the Rail Safety IDEA programs will have one review cycle each in 2021. Transit IDEA proposals will be due May 1 and Rail-Safety IDEA proposals will be due September 15. Please keep checking the IDEA website ( for the most updated information.

SUGGESTED FOCUS AREAS IDEA projects are initiated by investigators whose innovative concepts have potential to advance the general goals of improving the safety and efficiency of the nation’s surface transportation network. While specific research problems are not defined by the sponsoring transportation agencies, the following topics are illustrative of areas in which proposals may be submitted. Highway IDEA Topics for Investigation The Highway IDEA program is managed by the NCHRP and is sponsored by the state departments of transportation. The program seeks advances in the construction, safety, maintenance, and management of highway systems. Suggested topics warranting investigation in areas of interest to the program are listed below. Projects addressing safety on the roadway are particularly encouraged.

Highway Operations ■ Deployment of improved or advanced technologies for systems operations; ■ Incorporation of reliability estimation into planning and operations modeling tools; ■ Means for reducing inappropriate driver response to adverse weather, roadside distractions, traffic incident scenes, and queues; ■ Driver behavior and informed drivers, including ITS solutions; ■ Data gathering and processing technologies; ■ Real-time data fusion to support traveler information systems; and ■ Advanced queue and incident scene management techniques.

Highway and Worker Safety ■ New concepts for automated identification and warning of hazardous conditions; ■ Advanced technology to reduce highway workers’ exposure to hazardous conditions and to warn them of impending hazards; ■ New concepts for highway infrastructure systems and vehicles, including ITS advances to improve highway safety; and ■ Worker safety in night construction.

Security of Highway Facilities and Services ■ New technologies and concepts for security warnings and assessments, ■ Advanced materials and techniques for hardening the infrastructure, and ■ New information technology for crisis response and evacuation procedures. Highway Design, Construction, and Quality Control ■ Innovative concepts for incorporating initial and life-cycle design features, constructability, durability, and maintainability; ■ Low-cost design concepts for enhancing the dynamic damage resistance of bridges, pavements, and structures to natural hazards such as earthquakes, wind, and floods; ■ Design concepts using advanced composites, steel, and hybrid materials in pavement and bridge constructions; ■ Automated systems for monitoring and controlling construction quality of highway pavements, earthworks, and structures; and ■ Accelerated construction methods and techniques. Maintenance and Renewal of Service Life ■ Advanced diagnostic technologies to enhance early detection of deterioration and repair technologies that reduce the time between repair and resumption of service; ■ Modern materials and composites to improve the service life of pavements and bridges with reduced maintenance; and ■ Advanced coating materials and corrosion protection processes to increase the service life of highway structures, including steel and reinforced concrete structures.

Pavement and Bridge Performance and Management ■ Innovative systems for pavement and bridge management, including advanced application of remote sensing, communication, and information processing technologies to enhance collection, analysis, and data management processes; and ■ Innovative methods to manage and analyze data from long-term pavement performance studies.

Environment and Resource Conservation ■ Advanced monitoring methods to rapidly measure the environmental impacts of highway construction and operation, ■ Advanced technologies for recycling and reusing materials and waste products, and ■ Advanced and alternative methods for conformance with environmental requirements in highway construction.

Transit IDEA Topics for Investigation The Transit IDEA program, which is funded by the FTA as part of the Transit Cooperative Research Program, seeks innovations to improve the efficiency, safety, security, maintenance, and ridership of transit systems. Proposers are encouraged to work with transit agencies in developing IDEA proposals and to include participation by transit agencies in proposals, such as in testing innovative methods. Evidence from transit agencies that they would want to use the proposed concepts and products and to participate in testing prototypes strengthens proposals. Any letters from transit agencies confirming their participation in Transit IDEA proposals should be addressed to the proposer and should briefly describe what that participation would be. Possible areas of investigation are described on the next pages. High-Priority Innovation Areas The panel that reviews Transit IDEA proposals is encouraging proposals for innovative methods that address one of the following five high-priority focus areas.

The panel developed these focus areas in cooperation with FTA and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA):

1. Improving transit relevance in the context of mobility management;

2. Satisfying current and anticipated customer needs;

3. Improving transit safety, security, and viability;

4. Delivering equitable, accessible, and environmentally responsible services; and

5. Improving transit patron and employee environment for heaty and safety.

Other Possible Areas of Investigation Transit IDEA proposals may also be submitted in other areas with application to transit practice, including— but not limited to—the examples identified below.

Capital Assets ■ Cost-effective concepts for design, construction, maintenance, and restoration of physical infrastructure, such as terminals, transfer facilities, maintenance facilities, and stations to improve operations of transit systems; ■ Design implementation; ■ Maintenance, restoration, and replacement; ■ Big data, cloud computing, data interfaces, communications, data gathering, data processing, data dissemination, and information technologies; ■ Track stations; and ■ Train control. Capital assets refer to the following: fixed facilities, operating infrastructure, vehicles, and systems.

Mobility ■ Methods for improving customer experience and environment (e.g., reduce trip times and enhance access to amenities); ■ Methods for helping the industry transform and adapt innovative mobility solutions; ■ Methods for improving transportation agency ability to satisfy transportation demand; ■ Methods for improving smart community partnerships with transit agencies incorporating new technologies; and ■ Mode integrations and managing multiple modes. Service Configuration ■ Innovative concepts for advancement in planning, marketing, and service delivery, and ■ Methods and concepts that integrate urban development and travel patterns, level of travel abilities and disabilities, neighborhood demographics, and intermodal systems connections.

Transit Operations ■ Asset management, state of good repair, and continuity of operations; ■ Cybersecurity; ■ Improved safety and security; ■ Innovative methods for collecting and analyzing operations data, including methods that are currently unavailable or inaccessible; ■ More reliable service; ■ New tools to educate and train transit personnel to enhance productivity and performance; ■ Quick delivery of timely information; and ■ Safety management systems and crew resource management. Transit Vehicles and Equipment ■

Automated vehicles; ■ Vehicle and equipment improvements to enhance passenger safety, comfort, and mobility, including essential services; ■ Innovative elements of the vehicle platform; and ■ Integration of autonomous operations into transit. Transit Vehicle Maintenance ■ Improved methods for repairing and maintaining transit vehicles and equipment, and ■ Innovative concepts to address critical problem areas such as vehicle maintenance, inspection, equipment failure diagnostics, and maintenance management.

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