The Federal Highway Administration has awarded a total of $8.8 million to eight states and the District of Columbia for demonstration projects that propose to use state-of-the-art technologies for highway and bridge infrastructure durability, safety and asset management. The awards, announced Aug. 22, went to 10 projects and come from FHWA’s Accelerated Innovation Deployment Demonstration program, known as AID.

AID was initiated in February 2014. Since then, FHWA has awarded 127 grants, totaling more than $95.7 million. The program ”provides incentive grants and other resources to offset the risk of implementing a transportation innovation,” FHWA said.

For the new batch of grants, the agency used Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds. FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt said in a statement that the grants and IIJA funds “will bring more innovations to America’s road, highway and bridge projects."

Four projects received $1-million grants, the largest amount awarded. The Iowa DOT won two grants. DOTs in Arizona, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington, D.C., each received one grant.

The new group of winners reflect a wide range of project types and technologies. For example, D.C. DOT will use its $1-million grant for ultra-high-performance concrete to repair a bridge over Suitland Parkway in the District’s Anacostia neighborhood.

Montana, which also received a $1-million award, will use the funds to begin an asset management program for retaining walls along the 12,923 miles of state routes that are now undocumented. According to an FHWA summary, the new program will create a database to track, inspect and rate the retaining walls.

Texas DOT’s $1-million grant will go for deploying traffic speed deflection device technology in some of the department’s districts. It will collect data on pavements’ structural condition, using a non-contact doppler laser.

For one of its $1-million grants, Iowa DOT will team with Buena Vista County to use validated intelligent compaction and geospatial data collaboration technologies to map the state’s gravel road network.

Iowa’s other $1-million grant will go toward using e-ticketing, digital-as-builts and other technologies for part of an asset management pilot project to schedule repairs that are timely and critical, according to FHWA.

Dr. Chris Hendrickson, an emeritus professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, said via email, "Pursuing innovation is essential to make transportation more cost-effective and efficient."

Hendrickson added that the AID program "is critical funding to incentivize and reinforce a new innovation culture in state DOTs."

He also said that besides the FHWA program, State Transportation Innovation Councils are promoting advances in the field,

For example, Hendrickson noted that the council in Pennsylvania "has enabled a fast track for scaling innovations identified by state employees, industry and academia."

The latest AID awards came through a multi-year solicitation that closed Sept. 28, 2021. There were 36 submissions, which sought a total of $31 million. According to FHWA, 21 of the 36 applications were deemed eligible. 

The 10 winners also met eligibility requirements, addressed criteria for technical merit successfully and were rated "exceptional," FHWA said.

FHWA said it plans to announce a new round of AID Demo funding soon.

Story updated on 8/24/2023 with comments from Carnegie Mellon Professor Emeritus Chris Hendrickson.