103-Year-Old FHWA Rule that Prohibits Innovation Repealed


For the past century, states were not allowed to use “proprietary” products on their federally funded projects. In other words, states could not use federal aid to use or buy patented or propriety products  and also limited specifications or processes for bridge and highway projects eligible for funds under the federal-aid highway programs –even if those technologies could be life-saving, reduce congestion, or extend a roadway’s life. Late last week, that rule since changed.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced the repeal of “proprietary products rule” –  a decision that will provide state DOTs flexibility to use innovative technologies that could provide a safe, more efficient bridge and highway system.

Earlier this year, ASCE had submitted public comments demonstrating our support for repealing the rule, given that it prohibits innovation and stifles safety improvements on federal-aid highway projects. Furthermore, the Society states that prohibiting a patented or proprietary product may prevent timely development and implementation of transformative solutions in designing, building, and maintaining highway assets that could save lives.

ASCE members hold paramount public health, safety, and welfare and have long supported the principles of Vision Zero, which is based on the premise that traffic deaths and injuries can be prevented; therefore making none acceptable. Innovation and safety go hand and hand, and innovation should thus be a hallmark of federal transportation policy because it can enable federal-aid highway projects to be built as safely, efficiently, and cost-effective.  It is through this repeal that we are better able to meet the goal of the ‘Grand Challenge,’ by ensuring we have an infrastructure system that can meet the demands of our 21st century roadways.

The rule will be effectively repealed on October 28, 2019.


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