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Section 2: Research Program Overview

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Cooperative Research Program

The Cooperative Research Program is research and related efforts conducted by Texas state-supported universities for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). It focuses on technical transportation issues. Cooperation with applicable universities is reflected through close coordination between TxDOT users of research findings and university researchers, and participation of the universities in the partial funding of some projects.�

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Importance of the Research Program

The program is important to TxDOT because:

  • the development and application of advanced technology, new knowledge and improved methods and procedures are critical to future TxDOT service quality and operational cost-effectiveness,
  • top-quality university researchers are available to help solve important transportation problems, and
  • university students working on TxDOT research projects may be attracted to TxDOT careers upon graduation.

The program is important to universities because:

  • a continuing, adequately-funded research program allows them to build and maintain a high-quality faculty and staff of researchers, and
  • it offers graduate students the opportunity to work on and learn from research projects.

The program is important to the State of Texas because:

  • it contributes to the high quality of Texas transportation facilities and services,
  • it assists the state in meeting needs created by growth and changing technologies,
  • it ensures that transportation research funds are available to Texas universities to maintain the high quality of education at those institutions, and
  • it ensures that high-quality transportation talent is available in Texas.
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Types of Research Involved?

Topical areas — Chapter 150 of the Education Code, provides for research relating to transportation, including:

  • economics,
  • planning,
  • design,
  • construction,
  • maintenance, and
  • operation of transportation facilities.

Transportation facilities are defined as:

  • highways,
  • turnpikes,
  • airports,
  • railroads (including high-speed railroads),
  • bicycle and pedestrian facilities,
  • waterways,
  • pipelines,
  • electric utility facilities,
  • communication lines and facilities,
  • public transportation facilities,
  • port facilities, and
  • facilities appurtenant to other transportation facilities.

Applied and Basic Research — The program has traditionally been drawn from problems that need solutions, and concentrates on achieving results that can be applied rapidly to improve procedures and materials. Basic research, to understand underlying processes and phenomena, is also important and is supported in the research program.

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Research Involving Information Technologies

Many research projects include the development of simple automated tools to be delivered to TxDOT, much like an advanced end-user might develop for themselves.

While automated tools and applications are a natural outcome of some research projects, the purpose of the research program is not to fund projects whose sole or predominant objective is the acquisition, development, maintenance, or enhancement of new or existing hardware or software.

Projects with IT are discouraged. No project with IT will be executed unless approved by TxDOT’s Executive Director.

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Performing Research for TxDOT

Any Texas state-supported senior college or university performs Research — It is TxDOT policy that research projects be open to competition among all Texas state-supported senior colleges, universities, and research agencies, referred to collectively in this manual as universities, that have an interest and expertise in a specific project.

The Research and Technology Implementation Office maintains a list of Texas state-supported universities who have named research liaisons, and sends requests for proposals (RFPs) and other program announcements to those liaisons. Joint projects, in which two or more universities pool expertise on a single project, are encouraged.

Other Texas state and local agencies — Texas state and local agencies may conduct projects for which they have expertise, if the expertise is not otherwise available at a Texas state-supported university.

Federal agencies — Federal agencies may conduct research projects for TxDOT.

Private firms, private universities, and other private entities — Private sources are rarely requested to conduct research projects for TxDOT. The Texas Legislature provided for the development of the cooperative programs between TxDOT and Texas state-supported universities. The intent was to develop a program that would benefit the State of Texas as a whole through the strengthening of both TxDOT and the participating universities. Therefore, it has been TxDOT policy to honor the intent of the legislature and restrict the majority of the program to our university partners.

If expertise is not available at a Texas state-supported university, or at a Texas state agency, TxDOT Administration may approve contracting with the private sector, under provisions for consultant or professional services contracts, or other procurement procedures.

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Federal Regulations�

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides program-level oversight of TxDOT’s research program, because it is federally funded. FHWA employees also serve on several of TxDOT’s research project teams, providing federal oversight and technical expertise.�

Federal regulations, 23 CFR Section 420.209, include the requirement that each state periodically conduct a review, termed a “peer exchange”, of its research program, and that the state participate in similar reviews of other states' programs.�

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