June 20th, 2012

HIGH-VALUE RESEARCH

Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure, Strengthen the Economy, by Catherine Higgins.

The 2012 Research Workshop held on May 10 brought transportation experts together to present, discuss, and then prioritize potential research opportunities.

The UDOT Maintenance group prioritizes problem statements at the Research Workshop

At the workshop, transportation professionals meet to prioritize problem statements in order to select the ones most suitable to become research projects. The workshop serves as one step in the research project selection process and involves UDOT, FHWA, universities, private sector firms and other transportation agencies.

Good communication with all parties is essential before, during and after the workshop. “Success depends on a continuous dialog with UDOT’s technical experts and industry researchers to help determine transportation challenges to solve,” says UDOT Research Director Cameron Kergaye. Recent changes in the project selection process have been aimed at improving that ongoing internal conversation in order to produce:

High-value research – UDOT Senior and group leaders help select technical areas where the benefit-cost ratio is highest.

Timely preparation of statements – sending problem statements to  participants ahead of the workshop helps participants to be prepared for discussions.

Problem statements that address UDOT’s priorities – UDOT staff vote during the prioritization process, and UDOT division leaders also prioritize the problem statements based on organizational needs and available funding.

More research projects – After the workshop, the UDOT Research Division Staff works with division leaders to identify additional funding.

Before the workshop, UDOT Research Division solicits problem statements. This year, six focus areas were identified: Structures and Geotechnical, Environmental and Hydraulics, Construction and Materials, Maintenance, Traffic Management and Safety and Pre-construction. This year, the workshop enjoyed good support from the research community; fifty-two projects were submitted – 7 more projects than last year.

During the Workshop, participants divide into groups to prioritize problem statements. This year, three voting criteria were used:  importance of research, relevance to UDOT, and likelihood of implementation.  All attendees participated in the statement discussions and UDOT staff voted during the prioritization process.

After the workshop, UDOT Research Division staff reviews prioritization and funding for each problem statement with division and group leaders. The outcome of the 2012 workshop is that 17 projects will receive funding; ten projects will be funded through the Research Division, six will be funded by other UDOT divisions and UDOT Research will fund one pooled-fund project solicited  by another state.

Research Project Manager Kevin Nichol who coordinated the workshop explains that the projects enjoyed broad support. “We were excited that a number of projects received funding from other sources.” Many UDOT divisions including Maintenance, Planning, Traffic and Safety and the TOC contributed funding along with University Transportation Centers.

The additional funding support shows that UDOT divisions see the value in the process, according to Kergaye. He believes the strong show of support is a result of problem statements that are more carefully constructed and more closely aligned to UDOT’s priorities.

“We’ve got some good projects,” says Nichol. “Some are extending the scope of existing research and some new projects that are just coming about.”

To see details on the list of final projects, visit the UDOT Research Division website.

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