TRB Unveils Critical Issues Report

Transportation Road Map Identifies Areas That Need Further Research, Debate
Victoria Sheehan of TRB
"We’re going to have to work differently to achieve our goal,” TRB Executive Director Victoria Sheehan told conference attendees during a panel discussion Jan. 7. (Transportation Research Board)

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WASHINGTON — A guiding document outlining issues deemed highly important across transportation modes was unveiled for the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting. In “Critical Issues in Transportation for 2024 and Beyond,” TRB officers sought to spotlight themes they insisted are shaping the country’s connectivity landscape. The report aims to highlight topics of relevance as well as promote areas in need of further research and debate.

To realize transformative policy initiatives, “we’re going to have to work differently to achieve our goal,” TRB Executive Director Victoria Sheehan told conference attendees Jan. 7 during a panel titled “Designing the Transportation Agency of the Future.”

Sheehan further explained that upon operating in reimagined transportation agencies, “we can restructure our thinking and how we organize the work that we do.”

The “issues” report expounded this theme: “Understanding the complex interactions among the articulated societal goals, transportation itself and the foundational factors and policy levers is essential for transportation to be successful in contributing positively toward a thriving society.”

TRB logo 2024

Paving the way for the adoption of transformational services and technologies also is examined in TRB’s expansive document. The report determined, “At some point in the future, autonomous vehicles may improve safety. In the nearer term, the filtering of available crash-avoidance technologies through the vehicle fleet may reduce the U.S. fatality rate. These technologies may also help reduce the rising number of fatalities among nonoccupants.”

“Shifting demand to less carbon-intensive modes and building public and political support for doing so will be just as challenging and just as necessary as the [electric vehicle] transition itself,” per the report.

TRB’s annual conference was held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center this month.

Shailen Bhatt


Other topics examined by TRB’s leadership include infrastructure systems, governance, land use, funding and finance, workforce and innovation. As the report concluded, “Successfully addressing these challenges through transportation programs and policies is highly dependent on aligning governance; land use regulation; funding and finance; a diverse, skilled workforce; and innovation toward serving societal goals. Doing so requires addressing the multifaceted critical issues outlined in this publication and how they influence transportation.” Also participating in the panel was Shailen Bhatt, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. The agency chief is leading a key role in advancing safety initiatives as part of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law. For Bhatt, transportation agencies from all levels will play central roles in the adoption of technologies, such as automation and artificial intelligence.

After describing the technology on the horizon as “transformative,” Bhatt emphasized, “Transportation is a place where you can make a big difference.” The administrator has explained the agency is administering about 1,500 grants totaling about $10 billion.

Areas of Emphasis

“Critical Issues in Transportation for 2024 and Beyond" emphasizes five subjects:

• Climate change

• Equity and inclusion

• Safety

• Public health

• Economy

Source: Transportation Research Board

The Biden administration recently announced $623 million in grants meant to establish the foundation for a national electric vehicle charging network. The funding for EVs was approved in 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In a statement accompanying the announcement, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, “America led the arrival of the automotive era, and now we have a chance to lead the world in the EV revolution — securing jobs, savings and benefits for Americans in the process.”

Added Bhatt, “The Federal Highway Administration is pleased to announce these grants that will bring EV charging and alternative fuels to people and communities all across the nation.”

“These investments through the [Charging and Fueling Infrastructure] program will grow our national EV charging network, support President Biden’s goals of achieving net-zero emissions for the nation by 2050 and promote opportunity for all Americans to enjoy the benefits of EV charging,” Bhatt said.

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