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Research Programs

The Research Office administers TDOT's research program, which includes its Call for Projects and Quick Response Program. The office also oversees TDOT's role in national research partnerships.  Click on the  programs below to learn more.

State Programs

This program allows states to administer transportation research that is relevant to its needs and to encourage innovations and efficiencies for all transportation users. Research projects are funded under Part B of 23 USC 505, which are supported 80% by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) with a 20% match requirement from states for transportation research. Reporting on these funds is required through the State Planning and Research Work Program as well as through quarterly reporting and other requirements under 23 CFR 420.

Call for Projects Cycle

The Research Office runs the proposal grant program, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and TDOT on a biennial basis currently (starting FY2022). This process requires the solicitation of research ideas, championed by TDOT employees, and the subsequent request for proposals based on chosen research needs. Awarded projects normally last anywhere from eighteen months to three years once they are under contract. More information on what to do to apply can be found in the State Research Process and Submission page.

Other information regarding the lifecycle of the research project is located in the Documentation and Resources page. 

The Research Office has implemented its Quick Response Program in early 2021. This program allows the DOT to complete small projects on a non-competitive basis. Projects qualify when they are approved by a Division Director and the corresponding Executive Leadership and are under $100,000, contingent on current funding.

Any researcher hoping to kickstart a quick response project should be in contact with a State DOT employee who can first reach out to the Research Office for further inquiry on funding availability. Contingent on available funds, TDOT Staff can submit a completed  Quick Response Research Needs Statement to the Research Office for review. The Research Office will reply with further information or justification needed to move the needs statement into the proposal and project stages.

Technology transfer, as defined by FHWA, means "those activities that lead to the adoption of a new technique or product by users and involves dissemination, demonstration, training, and other activities that lead to eventual innovation.” While the Research Office currently does not have a Tech Transfer program, projects from across the DOT that may require additional trainings, etc., may be eligible for SPR Part B funds. If your research project or potential tech adoption could benefit from this type of activity, contact the Research Office through TDOT.Research@tn.gov.

The Research Program supports both the Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) and the Tennessee Technical Assistance Program (TTAP), both housed at the University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK). The programs provide Tennessee’s city and county transportation officials with accurate, relevant, and up-to-date information using a mix of training workshops, technical assistance activities, and technology transfer services. To find more information about the programs, visit UTK’s TTAP website

National Programs

TRB is part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and serves as an independent advisor on national transportation issues to public agencies. TRB currently has over 200 standing committees on various transportation topics. Leading experts help drive transportation innovation and progress through its efforts.

As TDOT is a contributing sponsor to TRB, employees have access to additional benefits. Any TDOT employee can get a free myTRB account to learn more about national research, can become a friend of any committee, and can help TDOT improve its national transportation presence. TRB is also a resource for FREE Professional Development Hours (PDHs) for sponsor employees here at TDOT. Visit the TRB Webinar page and sign up for newsletters and topics of interest to stay informed of upcoming events and PDH opportunities.

TRB’s Cooperative Research Programs Division organizes nationwide panels of experts to provide guidance on technical aspects of current national research priorities. State DOTs can be involved in the selection process through panel representation.

As a sponsoring agency, TDOT’s Research Program most notably assists with and contributes to the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) through its membership with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). NCHRP is overseen by the AASHTO Special Committee on Research and Innovation (R&I), and studies encompass all transportation topics. Other cooperative programs are more focused to specific areas. 

The Transportation Pooled Fund program is a collaborative program, headed by the USDOT, where FHWA or a State DOT can partner with public or private entities to conduct research relevant with widespread interest across multiple states. Only FHWA or State DOTs can solicit studies. Projects are developed on an ad hoc basis, and TDOT AASHTO RAC committee members update the TPF website regarding projects led by the State. TDOT staff interested in being part of a current TPF study or wanting to develop a study must contact the Research Office to determine eligibility and funding availability through State Planning and Research Part B funds at TDOT.Research@tn.gov. Staff must also fill out a TPF Request Form for potential projects for approval by the Research Office.

For more information about the program, use the link below to review Pooled Fund Program Procedures or visit the TPF website.

Pooled Fund Program Procedures

RAC is an advisory committee to the AASHTO Research & Innovation (R&I) committee, "promoting quality and excellence in research and in the application of research findings to improve state transportation systems." This committee is split into four regions; Tennessee is part of Region 2. This committee works with other research programs throughout the nation, sharing best practices, methods, and other resources to improve research capabilities nationwide. The R&I and RAC website for the committees provides a wealth of material on research practices as well as on implementation and innovation.

Three TDOT employees serve on the AASHTO RAC committee: Matt Meservy (voting member), Melanie Murphy (non-voting member), and David Lee (non-voting member). David Lee also serves as a voting member of the AASHTO R&I Committee.

Every Day Counts (EDC) was launched by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to assist with the speedy delivery of highway projects, enhance roadway safety, reduce traffic congestion, and integrate automation. FHWA works with state and local governments, tribes, and industry stakeholders to identify a new collection of innovations every two years that merit accelerated deployment. EDC is a state-based model, aiming to get all stakeholders together to collaboratively select the innovations the state is interested in pursuing, considering market readiness, impacts, benefits and the ease of adoption.

TDOT has taken part in the EDC program since its inception in 2011, successfully pursuing innovations using the EDC model and framework.

TDOT’s State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) aims to bring together public and private transportation stakeholders to foster a culture of innovation within the agency and the State. The STIC evaluates innovations and strategically spearheads their deployment in Tennessee.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) STIC Incentive program provides resources to help STICs establish an innovation culture and help implement it as standard practice within the Department. The STIC Incentive program offers up to $100,000 of federal funding per state per fiscal year to support such efforts, which is administered by the FHWA Center for Accelerating Innovation through the Technology and Innovation Deployment Program (TIDP). This funding may be used to conduct internal assessments; develop guidance, standards and specifications; organize peer exchanges; offset the cost of implementation; or other activities that meet the innovation goals of both TDOT and TIDP.

AASHTO’s Technical Service Programs allow participating state DOTs access to the latest technologies and techniques to plan, design, build, maintain, and operate the highest quality transportation system. Some of these programs have options for being fully funded through SPR Part B projects. State employees looking to use these programs for eligible purposes should contact the Research Office to ensure proper funding is available. Consult with leadership to determine if the program would be useful and can be supported long-term without additional SPR funding.

FHWA has listed which TSPs are eligible for State Planning and Research waivers. Eligibility does not guarantee State funding is available. Check with the Research Office to determine feasibility.