Technical Advisory Groups and the Research Process

To ensure that the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT’s) federally funded research best serves the needs of the department, IDOT makes use of Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs).

IDOT has TAGs in nine focus areas:

  • Construction
  • Environment
  • Pavement Design, Management, and Maintenance
  • Planning
  • Public and Intermodal Transportation
  • Safety Engineering
  • Structures, Hydraulics, and Geotechnical
  • Sustainability
  • Traffic Operations and Roadside Maintenance

Each TAG consists of IDOT and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) subject-matter experts, industry representatives, and academic representatives from the Illinois Center for Transportation (ICT) to guide the overall research program.

These experts met earlier this summer, in June and July, to discuss the most pressing needs and concerns that they face in their work to plan, build, and maintain the state’s infrastructure, and to identify which of these issues can best be addressed through research. The research needs identified by the TAGs will be posted to ICT’s website by August 15th, allowing potential researchers to respond to these needs and to submit other potential research ideas by October 1, 2015. To ensure that IDOT has access to the expertise of academic and industry experts, any researcher from public or private educational institutions or from companies with the necessary expertise and resources may participate in submitting research ideas for consideration by the TAGs.

The TAGs will meet in October and November to review the research ideas submitted—and to select those that best meet the needs of the department. These meetings are lively, with intense discussion of submitted proposals, their merits, and any concerns raised. TAG members work together to tweak the proposals as needed, ensuring that they provide a clear framework of the TAG’s expectations for the selected research ideas. To make sure that the research is beneficial to the department, Technical Review Panels (TRPs) with representatives from each impacted IDOT division and bureau, as well as FHWA, outside agencies and industries, are identified.

Projects selected by the TAGs are then submitted to the ICT Executive Committee, comprised of IDOT’s office and division directors, as well as TAG chairs, FHWA staff, and the director of ICT. The Executive Committee typically meets in February each year. They review all of the proposed projects through the lens of IDOT’s mission, making the final selection of projects that will be funded in the coming year. ICT then coordinates the identification of a principal investigator for each project, with projects starting both in July and in January of the following year.

IDOT encourages all potential participants in its federally funded research to visit the ICT website to review research needs and submit proposals for consideration by the TAGs. By working together, we are able to continually improve the state of practice in Illinois and nationally, providing the best service to the taxpayers of Illinois and fulfilling the department’s mission to provide safe, cost-effective transportation for Illinois in ways that enhance quality of life, promote economic prosperity, and demonstrate respect for our environment.

—Megan Swanson, Technical Research Coordinator,
IDOT Bureau of Materials and Physical Research