As public and private partners strive to connect technical knowledge with practical applications, research will play an increasingly important role in the development of efficient, effective transportation systems.
The Idaho Transportation Department embraced the crucial role research plays when it created a full-time research office under the direction of Matt Moore several years ago. The decision was in response to a study by Michael Kyte of the University of Idaho’s National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology.
Moore laid a solid foundation for transportation research at ITD and passed the program to Ned Parrish a month ago after becoming Administrator of the Division of Planning and Programming.
Parrish immersed himself quickly in his new position. Soon after joining ITD, he represented the department at a weeklong meeting of the national Research Advisory Committee, which is part of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. He also represents ITD on the Transportation Research Board that includes representatives from transportation departments throughout the country.
The career transition was relatively smooth. For the past decade, Parrish has worked in the Idaho Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluation where he and about eight colleagues reviewed state departments and agencies to ensure they operate efficiently, meet their administrative charges and abide by legal requirements.
Parrish held a similar performance review position in the Arizona Office of the Auditor General. He led project teams that reviewed how the Department of Environmental Quality issued air quality permits, the case loads of the state’s child protection program, security issues for the Department of Corrections and trends impacting the state’s school for the deaf and blind.
He applies the same principles to research at ITD, looking for ways of improving product delivery. Research projects have been largely related to highways since ITD renewed its commitment to research several years ago.
But Parrish hopes that will change as projects are developed that apply throughout the department.
“In the next few months we will ask for suggestions from throughout the department on new research proposals,” Parrish said. “We also want to establish a broad-based Research Advisory Council that extends beyond highways and Headquarters to other divisions and the districts.”
Parrish hopes the council will be established with about 15 members representing a range of ITD disciplines by mid-September, in time to identify new projects before the federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1. He envisions expanding the council and adding research projects next spring in preparation for the next federal fiscal year.
An oversight committee will be established for each of the department’s funded research projects to monitor progress and keep them on track.
Parrish also wants to form partnerships with the Idaho office of the Federal Highway Administration and the state’s higher education institutions to work on both short-term and long-range projects.
The department engaged in about a dozen projects that were either completed recently or will be in the near future. It also is part of 16 other “pool-funded” projects that involve multiple state transportation departments and/or universities.
Among the internally funded projects are: a study to enhance pavement rehabilitation, causes of cracking on concrete bridge decking and standards for designing and implementing traffic control systems.
Parrish moved to Boise in 1997 along with wife Nysa and son Andrew. He earned a bachelor’s degree in government (1984) from New Mexico State University and a master’s in public administration (1986) from Arizona State University. He worked briefly as an admissions counselor for a private college in New Mexico before beginning his public career.