GIS for Transportation: Principles, Data and Applications

4.2 Getting to Know a Transportation Organization


This week, you’ll take some time to get to know the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA), an important agency within the USDOT. The roots of the FHWA trace back to its first predecessor organization known as the Office of Road Inquiry (ORI) which was created by President Grover Cleveland in 1893. In the days before the automobile, interstate travel was dominated by railroad and it was actually a bicycle boom which was largely behind the initial interest in improving America’s roads. An interesting history of the FHWA can be found here. A signature achievement in the advancement of America’s roads was the development of the Interstate system of roadways championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Today, the Interstate system represents about 50,000 miles of highway and is responsible for about one-quarter of the vehicle miles traveled on America’s roadways.

The primary function of the FHWA is to assist states and local governments with the design, construction, and maintenance of roads and bridges and to ensure US roads and highways meet a high standard of safety and quality. The primary mechanism through which the FHWA supports states and local governments is the Federal Aid Program. This program looks to focus federal monies on the nation’s most important roadways.

The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 introduced the concept of the National Highway System, a system of roads and highways deemed critical to America’s economy, defense, and/or mobility. Through the efforts of FHWA working with other federal, state, and local partners, roughly 160,000 miles of roadway were identified for inclusion in the NHS. The National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 signed into law by President Bill Clinton officially designated these roadways as the NHS.

A brief but informative article on the NHS titled The National Highway System: A Commitment to America's Future appeared in a 1996 edition of Public Roads, a bimonthly magazine published by FHWA.

One of the FHWA’s key objectives is to encourage innovation and to provide states and local governments with needed technical assistance. A recent FHWA initiative known as Geospatial Data Collaboration (GDC) is aimed at promoting the use of GIS tools to facilitate data sharing and increased collaboration between transportation agencies and resource agencies, with the ultimate objective of more timely project delivery.

Assignment 4-3 (15 points)

Submit an M.S. Word document (no more than 500 words) to Assignment 4-3 in Canvas which addresses the following items:

  1. What is the primary purpose of the NHS? (4 points)
  2. What are the 5 components of the NHS? (4 points)
  3. Briefly describe the three elements which comprise FHWA’s GDC initiative and address how the GDC fits into FHWA’s broader initiative known as Every Day Counts (EDC). (7 points)