The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on Sept. 26 announced a landmark decision that will give states the flexibility to use federal highway funds to deploy patented or proprietary technologies on transportation projects. The change will take effect Oct. 28.

The agency formally repealed the 1916-era rule banning utilization of such technologies. 

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) began petitioning for the change in 2018, after researching the issue for years.  "The rule has prohibited state transportation agencies from utilizing patented or proprietary materials, specifications or processes on federal-aid highway projects, subject to some narrow exceptions and potential waivers.  It has had the practical effect of hindering innovation and development of potentially life-saving technologies for use throughout the nation’s highway and bridge system," ARTBA said in a statement. 

FHWA said its decision is intended to “promote innovation by empowering states to choose which state-of-the-art materials, tools, and products best meet their needs for the construction and upkeep of America’s transportation infrastructure.”

John Hillman, creator of the Hybrid Composite Beam, praised the development. "The potential for accelerating innovation in our industry has never been greater," he says.