Under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), the Federal Highway Administration's is promoting state-of-the-art technology, such as 3D modeling, by awarding up to 5% additional federal project funding to state transportation departments that use the technology. Other programs under the law require state departments of transportation to have an approved highway asset management plan in place.
"Using innovative technology can take the project from 95% to 100% federal funding," says Steven Stanfill, business development manager, civil engineering, Autodesk Inc., San Rafael, Calif. "That's nothing to sneeze at," he says, adding that a $500-million project can gain $25 million in funding as long as it does not exceed 100% of the total project cost.
A MAP-21 section called "Innovative Project Delivery Methods" states that qualifying innovative methods are "state-of-the-art intelligent transportation system technologies, elevated performance standards, and new highway construction business practices that improve safety and quality, accelerate project delivery, and reduce congestion related to highway construction." Section 1304 will stay in effect unless Congress changes it, says a FHWA spokeswoman.
"Congress got it right in MAP-21 by creating incentives for states to use advanced technologies such as 3D modeling," says Rhonda Faught, former assistant deputy secretary of the New Mexico DOT. She and Victor Mendez, acting U.S. DOT deputy secretary, touted the benefits of the law in a recent webinar.
Other soon-to-be-realized programs under MAP-21 require DOT technology updates. "There's a requirement in MAP-21 for each state to develop an asset management plan for their national highway system," says Travis Brouwer, Oregon DOT federal-affairs adviser. He says the standards will force some states to upgrade systems or adopt new external software.
"Failure to comply may result in a reduction in government funding," says Simon Topp, vice president, North America, for Yotta Ltd., a U.K.-based asset-data management company. In addition, state DOTs must define benchmarks for pavement and bridge conditions and performance management, he says. In the hope his company can help facilitate the process for some states to meet the requirement, Topp is opening the firm's first U.S. branch.
"We're entering the market to try and help companies qualify for more funding," says Topp. He isn't alone in keeping an eye out for new MAP-21 business.
"I wouldn't say I expect a bump in business, but I wouldn't be surprised by it," says Chris Ciriello, senior program manager at Envista Corp. Beverly, Mass. "MAP-21 puts a spotlight on some of the things we address," says Ciriello.
Another MAP-21 technology requirement up for final rule this March has costly implications: A new federal standard would require electronic stability control systems for heavy vehicles, such as "truck tractors and motor coaches, that address both rollover and loss-of-control crashes," states the abstract for the rule proposal. The impetus is to prevent highway fatalities, property damage and driving delay times, it states.
"Annually, we estimate 29 to 66 lives would be saved [along with] $10 million to $26 million in property damage and travel delays," states the abstract. It bases its numbers on a "research program to evaluate the available technologies."