WASHINGTON, D.C. – Innovations that minimize the impact of vehicle crashes and increase the visibility of road signs are among hundreds of cutting-edge products that will now be more easily available to states due to new guidance released by the Federal Highway Administration.
Industry groups and members of Congress have long criticized implementation of the regulations prohibiting the specifications of better-performing innovative products on federal-aid projects simply because the products were patented or proprietary. Under the new guidelines, state transportation departments will be better able to determine when it is in the public's best interest to use proprietary products when no equally suitable alternative exists.
"AASHTO is delighted that the FHWA has delivered on President Obama's mandate to get unnecessary government restrictions out of the way," said John Horsley, AASHTO executive director. "With this additional flexibility, states no longer have their hands tied. They can now turn to innovative, better performing, and longer lasting solutions to complete projects faster and smarter – saving lives, time, and money."
The new guidance – which involves FHWA's regulations (23 CFR 635.411) covering the use of patented and proprietary products – clarifies the process whereby states may certify that no suitable alternatives exist and when a public interest finding by FHWA is required. It also encourages the posting of FHWA's approval of public interest findings on the administration's website and encourages the posting of state DOT certifications on the AASHTO Product Evaluation List website. The APEL site will also provide manufacturers an opportunity to submit proprietary products for independent evaluation by AASHTO. The evaluation reports will be posted for all states to use in their certification reviews.
The APEL website will be fully functional for posting product certification and submittal of products for evaluation on Jan. 1.
"Innovation is critical to our work at FHWA, and we not only encourage it but will work with our state partners every step of the way to make it happen," said FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez. "Under the new guidelines, state transportation departments will be better able to use the existing certification process to use proprietary products when no equally suitable alternative exists.
The guidance continues to support the principle of competition in the selection of materials whenever more than one equally suitable product exists to fulfill project requirements. However, it also clarifies that additional approvals are not required when proprietary products are evaluated in FHWA-sponsored programs such as Highways for Life, the Innovative Bridge Research and Deployment Program, and the Innovative Pavement Research and Deployment Program.
Learn more about 23 CFR 635 411 at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/contracts/011106qa.cfm.