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Federal Highway Administration Exploratory Advanced Research Program

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Federal Highway Administration Exploratory Advanced Research Program

Broad Agency Announcement

As a result of this BAA, the FHWA intends to award contracts and/or cooperative agreements. Offerors shall propose periods of performance based on individual proposed research efforts in accordance with the guidance in the BAA. The BAA is released on February 3, 2020, and closes on March 20, 2020.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is soliciting for proposals under its EAR Program for research projects that could lead to transformational changes and truly revolutionary advances in highway engineering and intermodal surface transportation in the United States. This program supports scientific investigations and studies that advance the current knowledge and state-of-the-art in the sciences and technologies employed in the planning, design, construction, operation, maintenance and management of the nation’s highways. Strategically, this research will enable and expedite the development of revolutionary approaches, methodologies, and breakthroughs required to drive innovation and greatly improve the efficiency of highway transportation.

The FHWA anticipates sponsoring research addressing the following three topics through the issuance of this BAA including the following:

Topic 1: Blockchain Technology for Highway Transportation

Blockchain is a relatively new information technology that provides for security and privacy of data transactions using peer-to-peer networks.  Blockchain technology may be best known as the underlying technology for Bitcoin.  It also is finding uses in other fields including prediction markets, sharing economy, crowd funding and protection of intellectual property. 

Blockchain technology also has the potential to transform the connected and automated vehicle industry or freight logistics providing a platform to share a variety of information from the infrastructure and vehicles in a secure manner.  With the advent of high speed wireless technology, services for highway transportation based on blockchain technology could provide security and scalability at lower costs than current private network solutions or could provide novel functions that solve needs that technologies currently used in highway transportation do not.

FHWA is seeking proposals that may include but are not limited to investigating secure, real time communication for connected vehicle applications such as (a) traffic operations that could include secure certificate management for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure applications, (b) freight data management that could provide government secure, anonymized data about routing and timing for the pickup, transfer, and delivery of goods to support more effective policy and public investment decisions, (c) secure and dynamic roadway asset information for optimizing routing or geofencing of roadway segments, or (d) highway pricing that could include dynamic and auction-based mechanisms.

Topic 2: Artificial Intelligence for Highway Transportation

In the last decade, there has been an exponential increase in research associated with massive amounts of new data that can be used for machine training, improved computer processing and data storage, and new communications bandwidth, which has allowed for significant commercial artificial intelligence (AI) applications. 

The EAR Program funded efforts in AL applications such as computer vision and in natural language processing.  Information about these projects are located at,, and

Broadly AI applications fall into two areas, one relating to robotics where tools such as machine learning and computer vision are integrated into real time, active control systems, for example in vehicle automation, and a second area where AI application are solely computational.  For highway transportation, much of the private investment and public attention has been on the area relating to control and automation.  This topic focus on computational applications that could substantially increase system safety, mobility, and state of good repair. 

The FHWA EAR Program now is seeking demonstration of AI in new areas of importance to highway transportation that could include and are not limited to (a) integrating traditional and non-traditional highway data to better explain and predict system performance, (b) significantly increasing the ability to process data by reducing or eliminating the need for manual data pre-processing and the need for hard-to-find expertise, (c) improving sensor signal data to assess current conditions of pavements or structures, or (d) providing decision support to assist experts in the design, operations, or management of highway systems.

Topic 3: Compatibilization of waste plastic to enhance mechanical properties of asphalt cement

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2015, approximately 34.5M tons of plastics are disposed each year.   Of this total, 3.14M tons were recycled, 5.35M tons were incinerated, and the remaining 26.01M tons of plastics are landfilled.     Additionally, according to the National Asphalt Pavement Association, approximately 350M tons of asphalt pavement are produced in the US annually.  The most common type of plastics in the municipal waste stream include polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE), low density polyethylene (LDPE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).  Given the ubiquity of asphalt pavements nationwide, there exists an opportunity for significant reductions in landfilled plastics by incorporating these materials into asphalt mixtures.  A few reasons why the inclusion of recycled plastics into asphalt are attractive include: 1) low cost, 2) high availability, and 3) properties that could be beneficial for pavement performance.

There is renewed interest in developing methods to beneficially use post-consumer waste plastic in highway construction.  Previous research and development efforts have focused on addition of waste plastic to hot-mix asphalt pavements.   The results of this prior research and development was not met with great success in the asphalt community primarily due to the incompatibility of common plastic and asphalt cement, which was manifested through poor laboratory performance.  Compatibilization is a term used in polymer chemistry to describe a process where a substance is added to an immiscible blend of polymers to increase stability of the blended system.   Besides creating a stable end-product, the resulting physical properties can be enhanced beyond the properties of each individual material.   For the purposes of this research, compatibilization can be the addition of a third material to two immiscible materials or modification of one or both materials to provide for compatibility.

With interest stimulated by media reports and social media campaigns, use of waste plastic in asphalt has garnered the attention of leaders in public transportation policy, the plastics industry, the chemicals industry, and the pavement industry.  This renewed interest by a broad cross-section of plastics and highway stakeholders, rather than individual parties, presents potential to stimulate a new breakthrough related to compatibilization of waste plastic and asphalt cement.

Additional information along with instructions for submitting proposals/applications in response to the solicitation are provided in the BAA.

Potential offerors/vendors are encouraged to register on to receive any further information in reference to the subject action inclusive of any announcements, and/or amendments to the solicitation after its release.

Any questions regarding this synopsis should be directed to the Contract Specialist, Freida Byrd at or Contracting Officer, Robin Hobbs at

The NC Military Business Center, the NC Community College System, and the State of North Carolina do not officially endorse events. These items are posted strictly for the information and convenience of NCMBC customers.

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