TRB program officer spends three days learning
about priorities, research at ITD
Peter Shaw maintained a three-day schedule this week that would rival a CPA’s during tax time – non-stop appointments from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and beyond, with few pauses. The Transportation Research Board (TRB) senior program officer, who is based in Washington, D.C., met with ITD officials and university faculty in Boise on an information sharing mission.
The non-profit research organization, chartered by Congress, dispatches staff members to all state transportation departments to discuss ongoing and proposed research projects.
The purpose, Shaw explains, is to maintain the information exchange process and create topics for conferences, workshops and TRB’s annual meeting that attracts more than 10,000 attendees from throughout the world and offers nearly 600 sessions.
Now part of the National Academy of Sciences, TRB is responsible for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), of which ITD is a member. TRB also operates the Transportation Research Information Service, a database of the world’s largest and most comprehensive bibliographic resources on transportation information. It publishes the TR News and a number of transportation manuals, including highway capacity, access management, transit capacity and quality of service, fuel tax and alternatives for transportation funding and transportation research records.
The board’s activities engage about 7,000 engineers, scientists and other transportation researchers and practitioners from the public and private sectors and academia. Its activities are supported by state transportation departments, federal agencies, including the component administrations of the U.S. Department of Transportation and other organizations and individuals interested in transportation development.
TRB uses the dialogue with states to provide information about research that other states conduct.
He wanted to learn of Idaho’s transportation concerns – current and projected over the next few years, and to talk about sharing those needs with others.
The research board dates to President Lincoln and was created in 1917 out of a need to improve roads in Midwest farm states. Winter rain and snow often left the gravel roads impassable. TRB has expanded beyond roads and highways to include all modes of transportation, from public transit to aviation and water navigation.
During his first two days in Boise, Shaw met with more than two-dozen ITD representatives, including all divisions and major offices, from highway operations and safety, to roadway design, internal review, aeronautics and public transportation.
On the final day of his visit, Shaw met with faculty from Boise State University, the University of Idaho and the Idaho Technology Transfer Center.
He made similar information-sharing visits to New Jersey, Kansas and Oklahoma earlier this year.
What did he discover in his last state visit of the year?
“There are so many good things happening here that can be shared with the rest of the country. The (ITD) staff is quite knowledgeable and has great expertise.
“I can see that the entire state – not just the transportation department – is in transition. The department is quite forward-thinking. The transportation system is a well-used system that’s experiencing many of the same issues the rest of the country is experiencing – more traffic and more demand.
“But the leadership here is very proactive and is thinking ahead. Public agencies have a dual nature of trying to meet today’s needs while trying to plan ahead. That’s the nature of transportation, and the same holds true for private business. It (planning for the future) is just good management.”
Shaw agreed that conducting research is increasingly difficult during times of financial constraints, but the need for research becomes even more important because of financial constraints.
“I wouldn’t want a public function without research – it’s a critical component,” Shaw said.