23 U.S.C. § 502 - Surface transportation research, development, and technology

Cite as23 U.S.C. § 502


(1) APPLICABILITY.-The research, development, and technology provisions of this section shall apply throughout this chapter.

(2) COVERAGE.-Surface transportation research and technology development shall include all activities within the innovation lifecycle leading to technology development and transfer, as well as the introduction of new and innovative ideas, practices, and approaches, through such mechanisms as field applications, education and training, communications, impact analysis, and technical support.

(3) FEDERAL RESPONSIBILITY.-Funding and conducting surface transportation research and technology transfer activities shall be considered a basic responsibility of the Federal Government when the work-

(A) is of national significance;

(B) delivers a clear public benefit and occurs where private sector investment is less than optimal;

(C) supports a Federal stewardship role in assuring that State and local governments use national resources efficiently;

(D) meets and addresses current or emerging needs;

(E) addresses current gaps in research;

(F) presents the best means to align resources with multiyear plans and priorities;

(G) ensures the coordination of highway research and technology transfer activities, including through activities performed by university transportation centers;

(H) educates transportation professionals; or

(I) presents the best means to support Federal policy goals compared to other policy alternatives.

(4) ROLE.-Consistent with these Federal responsibilities, the Secretary shall-

(A) conduct research;

(B) partner with State highway agencies and other stakeholders as appropriate to facilitate research and technology transfer activities;

(C) communicate the results of ongoing and completed research;

(D) lead efforts to coordinate national emphasis areas of highway research, technology, and innovation deployment;

(E) leverage partnerships with industry, academia, international entities, and State departments of transportation;

(F) lead efforts to reduce unnecessary duplication of effort; and

(G) lead efforts to accelerate innovation delivery.

(5) PROGRAM CONTENT.-A surface transportation research program shall include-

(A) fundamental, long-term highway research;

(B) research aimed at significant highway research gaps and emerging issues with national implications; and

(C) research related to all highway objectives seeking to improve the performance of the transportation system.

(6) STAKEHOLDER INPUT.-Federal surface transportation research and development activities shall address the needs of stakeholders. Stakeholders include States, metropolitan planning organizations, local governments, tribal governments, the private sector, researchers, research sponsors, and other affected parties, including public interest groups.

(7) COMPETITION AND PEER REVIEW.-Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, the Secretary shall award, to the maximum extent practicable, all grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements for research and development under this chapter based on open competition and peer review of proposals.


(A) IN GENERAL.-To the maximum extent practicable, all surface transportation research and development projects shall include a component of performance measurement and evaluation.

(B) PERFORMANCE MEASURES.-Performance measures shall be established during the proposal stage of a research and development project and shall, to the maximum extent possible, be outcome-based.

(C) PROGRAM PLAN.-To the maximum extent practicable, each program pursued under this chapter shall be part of a data-driven, outcome-oriented program plan.

(D) AVAILABILITY OF EVALUATIONS.-All evaluations under this paragraph shall be made readily available to the public.

(9) TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION.-The programs and activities carried out under this section shall be consistent with the transportation research and development strategic plan under section 6503 of title 49.


(1) RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT, AND TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER ACTIVITIES.-The Secretary may carry out research, development, and technology transfer activities with respect to-

(A) motor carrier transportation;

(B) all phases of transportation planning and development (including construction, operation, transportation system management and operations, modernization, development, design, maintenance, safety, financing, and traffic conditions); and

(C) the effect of State laws on the activities described in subparagraphs (A) and (B).

(2) TESTS AND DEVELOPMENT.-The Secretary may test, develop, or assist in testing and developing any material, invention, patented article, or process.

(3) COOPERATION, GRANTS, AND CONTRACTS.-The Secretary may carry out research, development, and technology transfer activities related to transportation-

(A) independently;

(B) in cooperation with other Federal departments, agencies, and instrumentalities and Federal laboratories; or

(C) by making grants to, or entering into contracts and cooperative agreements with one or more of the following: the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, any Federal laboratory, Federal agency, State agency, authority, association, institution, for-profit or nonprofit corporation, organization, foreign country, or any other person.

(4) TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION.-The programs and activities carried out under this section shall be consistent with the transportation research and development strategic plan under section 6503 of title 49.

(5) FUNDS.-

(A) SPECIAL ACCOUNT.-In addition to other funds made available to carry out this chapter, the Secretary shall use such funds as may be deposited by any cooperating organization or person in a special account of the Treasury established for this purpose.

(B) USE OF FUNDS.-The Secretary shall use funds made available to carry out this chapter to develop, administer, communicate, and promote the use of products of research, development, and technology transfer programs under this chapter.


(A) COOPERATION.-To promote effective utilization of available resources, the Secretary may cooperate with a State and an appropriate agency in funding research, development, and technology transfer activities of mutual interest on a pooled funds basis.

(B) SECRETARY AS AGENT.-The Secretary may enter into contracts, cooperative agreements, and grants as the agent for all participating parties in carrying out such research, development, or technology transfer activities.

(C) TRANSFER OF AMOUNTS AMONG STATES OR TO FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION.-The Secretary may, at the request of a State, transfer amounts apportioned or allocated to that State under this chapter to another State or the Federal Highway Administration to fund research, development, and technology transfer activities of mutual interest on a pooled funds basis.

(D) TRANSFER OF OBLIGATION AUTHORITY.-Obligation authority for amounts transferred under this subsection shall be disbursed in the same manner and for the same amount as provided for the project being transferred.


(A) IN GENERAL.-The Secretary may use up to 1 percent of the funds made available under section 51001 of the Transportation Research and Innovative Technology Act of 2012 to carry out a program to competitively award cash prizes to stimulate innovation in basic and applied research and technology development that has the potential for application to the national transportation system.

(B) TOPICS.-In selecting topics for prize competitions under this paragraph, the Secretary shall-

(i) consult with a wide variety of governmental and nongovernmental representatives; and

(ii) give consideration to prize goals that demonstrate innovative approaches and strategies to improve the safety, efficiency, and sustainability of the national transportation system.

(C) ADVERTISING.-The Secretary shall encourage participation in the prize competitions through advertising efforts.

(D) REQUIREMENTS AND REGISTRATION.-For each prize competition, the Secretary shall publish a notice on a public website that describes-

(i) the subject of the competition;

(ii) the eligibility rules for participation in the competition;

(iii) the amount of the prize; and

(iv) the basis on which a winner will be selected.

(E) ELIGIBILITY.-An individual or entity may not receive a prize under this paragraph unless the individual or entity-

(i) has registered to participate in the competition pursuant to any rules promulgated by the Secretary under this section;

(ii) has complied with all requirements under this paragraph;


(I) in the case of a private entity, is incorporated in, and maintains a primary place of business in, the United States; or

(II) in the case of an individual, whether participating singly or in a group, is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States;

(iv) is not a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of his or her employment; and

(v) has not received a grant to perform research on the same issue for which the prize is awarded.



(I) IN GENERAL.-A registered participant shall agree to assume any and all risks and waive claims against the Federal Government and its related entities, except in the case of willful misconduct, for any injury, death, damage, or loss of property, revenue, or profits, whether direct, indirect, or consequential, arising from participation in a competition, whether such injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence or otherwise.

(II) RELATED ENTITY.-In this subparagraph, the term "related entity" means a contractor, subcontractor (at any tier), supplier, user, customer, cooperating party, grantee, investigator, or detailee.

(ii) FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY.-A participant shall obtain liability insurance or demonstrate financial responsibility, in amounts determined by the Secretary, for claims by-

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