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State DOT Product Evaluation Processes (2024)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Synthesis Overview

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Synthesis Overview." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. State DOT Product Evaluation Processes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27809.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Synthesis Overview." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. State DOT Product Evaluation Processes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27809.
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Page 7
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Synthesis Overview." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. State DOT Product Evaluation Processes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27809.
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Page 8
Page 9
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Synthesis Overview." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. State DOT Product Evaluation Processes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27809.
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Page 9

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6 1.1 Introduction The construction, maintenance, and operation of transportation infrastructure use massive numbers of different externally produced products. While departments of transportation (DOTs) engineer, construct, maintain, and operate the state and federal roadway systems, they rely on external suppliers and manufacturers to create products that adhere to project requirements and specifications. Transportation infrastructure has been impacted by the influx of new products, materials, engineered systems, and innovative technologies submitted to state DOTs by suppliers and manufacturers, as well as sometimes by contractors and internal DOT staff. However, not all products meet a DOT’s needs, specifications, and functional requirements. To determine the appropriateness of a product, state DOTs often use Product Evaluation Programs (PEPs). A state DOT PEP includes processes, procedures, and tools for state DOTs to test and evaluate a product and ultimately determine whether it meets specifications, fills a need, is more cost- effective than current products, and does not produce negative side effects or impacts on other aspects of construction, maintenance, and operations (Burke 1982; Carr 2004). The products that DOTs determine to provide value are then approved and added to the Approved/Qualified Products List (A/QPL), and state DOTs create new specifications when needed, which are then provided to DOT staff and associated third-party contractors and consultants. However, there is no standard approach to product evaluations because processes, approaches, and operations differ among state DOTs. State DOTs explore various products and materials that improve transportation services and use taxpayer funds more efficiently (see Table 1). Therefore, state DOTs depend on product evaluation processes, programs, and systems to evaluate products objectively, consistently, and timely for use in the construction, maintenance, and operation of state roadways (Caltrans 2019). With material shortages, high inflation, and dwindling non-renewable resources, state DOT PEPs evaluate new and enhanced products for acceptance that are more readily available, more sustainable, and less expensive. An effective state DOT PEP ensures the continuous availability of high-performance products for transportation construction and maintenance (Smithwick and Mayo 2018). The review of products starts with an application process for consideration of a product, in which a manufacturer or supplier provides a product submittal, followed by rigorous testing and assessment of the product (Gray and Roback 2007). The evaluation may include reviewing product data and safety data sheets (SDSs), performing laboratory or field testing, piloting the use of the product, and conducting demonstrations. Once a product has been evaluated and state DOT personnel determine the applications it provides value to in some operational capacity, the product is then included in the state DOT’s A/QPL. A/QPLs are then published C H A P T E R 1 Synthesis Overview

Synthesis Overview 7   online for agencies and third parties to access and conveniently recognize which products are available for their use in construction and maintenance operations. In addition to individual state DOT PEPs and A/QPLs, AASHTO created the National Trans- portation Product Evaluation Program (NTPEP) in 1994, which supports product evaluations for state DOT PEPs. NTPEP provides an independent data source for many products used nation- ally for the construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure and conducts audits of manufacturing facilities (AASHTO 2021). The goal of NTPEP is to support cost-effective evalu- ations by reducing duplicative testing and auditing done by state DOTs and the effort expended by manufacturers and suppliers in submitting products for evaluation. NTPEP resources include evaluation and audit programs and associated technical committees; DataMine, which is an online repository of data and audit reports for all NTPEP services; and the Unique, Patented, Proprietary Products (UP3), which assists DOTs in the evaluation of innovative and proprietary transportation products. However, NTPEP does not approve any products; that is a decision individual state DOTs make. 1.2 Synthesis Objective The objective of this synthesis was to document the current DOT practices, policies, manage- ment techniques, tools, workflows, and funding of state DOT PEPs. The synthesis addressed the various state DOT PEPs and processes in place for transportation construction and mainte- nance products and materials. The synthesis also investigated A/QPLs and state DOTs’ use of the AASHTO NTPEP and associated resources. The scope of the synthesis is confined to the product evaluation processes and A/QPLs used by DOTs and the current state of practice asso ciated with product evaluation. The following areas were considered for data collection: • Policies and practices regarding product evaluation; • The structure of DOT A/QPLs; • Application requirements and rules, including who may submit or evaluate products; • Tools and workflows used in state DOT PEPs, including, but not limited to, technical work- sheets, typical submittal information, and field or laboratory evaluations; • Categorizations of products submitted for evaluation; • Determining whether a product fits into an existing state DOT A/QPL category, is new or innovative, or is a material; • Process management requirements; Common Product Types for Transportation Construction and Maintenance Adhesives Piping Asphalt materials Right-of-way (ROW) structures Bridge structures Roadway safety Concrete materials Sealants Drainage Signage Environmental Soils/Geotechnical Erosion control Steel Intelligent transportation system (ITS) Technologies Maintenance Traffic control Paint/coatings Work zone safetyPedestrian safety Waterproofing Table 1. Examples of evaluated product types used for transportation construction and maintenance.

8 State DOT Product Evaluation Processes • Typical evaluation timelines, including the time to review and approve products once they are submitted and to re-evaluate products once they expire; • Relevant procurement policies for various products; • Follow-up processes, including periodic re-evaluation and addressing performance issues; • Use of other states’ A/QPLs or subunits of government use of DOT A/QPLs; and • DOT usage of the AASHTO NTPEP and associated resources. 1.3 Study Approach The synthesis began with a literature review to develop the initial understanding of the cur- rent state of research and practice for PEPs at state DOTs. Although the literature review yielded limited academic references, a vast amount of information in the form of reports, documents, manuals, and websites from state DOTs, FHWA, and AASHTO was found, reviewed, and used in this study. The findings of the literature review are presented in Chapter 2. The existing literature and previous discussions with DOTs assisted with the development of the survey questionnaire. The facilitation of the survey questionnaire captured the state of practice in DOT PEPs, A/QPLs, and the use of the AASHTO NTPEP and associated tools. The survey began with general questions regarding PEPs and associated processes and agency staffing and then captured the materials, evaluation, and testing methods; who can submit a product for evaluation; timelines for evaluating and approving products; and the policies for conducting product evaluations. Next, the survey collected information on A/QPLs, including the length of time products are approved for and the re-evaluation processes for expired or rejected products. Lastly, the survey collected information on resources for product evaluations, including the AASHTO NTPEP, DataMine, and UP3 tools. In addition, an analysis of relevant documents obtained from the survey respondents is included as information that supports the findings. The survey was devel- oped using the Qualtrics online survey platform and was electronically distributed to members of the AASHTO NTPEP Technical Services Program and the AASHTO Committee on Materials and Pavements (COMP). This distribution included representatives from all 50 state DOTs and the Washington, DC, DOT. The findings of the survey are based on 42 state DOT respondents and are presented in Chapter 3. The complete survey is presented in Appendix A, with itemized state DOT survey question responses provided in Appendix B. Figure 1 shows the map of state DOTs that responded to the survey. Following the analysis of the survey responses, case examples were conducted to gather fur- ther detailed information on product evaluations, A/QPLs, and NTPEP. Initially, 12 state DOTs were determined to be candidates for case example interviews based on the survey responses and were contacted. Seven state DOTs participated: Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Tennessee. The individual interviews are outlined in Chapter 4, and the interview questions used are presented in Appendix C. The synthesis concludes by providing a summary of the information collected through the literature review, survey, and case examples. The summary is presented in Chapter 5 and, beyond the synthesis findings, highlights potential future research efforts that could support state DOTs and their PEP efforts.

Synthesis Overview 9   Figure 1. Map of state DOTs that responded to the survey.

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The construction, maintenance, and operation of transportation infrastructure requires immense amounts of products and materials. New products, materials, engineered systems, and innovative technologies are presented to state departments of transportation (DOTs) by suppliers and manufacturers, as well as sometimes by contractors and internal DOT staff.

NCHRP Synthesis 616: State DOT Product Evaluation Processes, from TRB's National Cooperative Highway Research Program, documents current state DOT practices, funding, policies, management techniques, tools, and workflows of product evaluation processes.

Supplemental to the report is a dataset of various administrative documents from different state DOTs.

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