AASHTO Journal, 18 November 2016
The AASHTO Board of Directors approved a sweeping overhaul of the association’s extensive committee structure – the first major changes in more than 50 years for the panels that bring together volunteer experts from member state departments of transportation to work on major issues facing the industry.
Through its numerous committees, officials from across the nation meet to set policy goals and develop a wide range of infrastructure construction, management, and operations standards and guidelines that affect projects in every state.
The board, which is made up of the chief executives of 52 DOTs, voted overwhelmingly Nov. 15 to support a proposed restructuring plan. It passed a resolution to start implementing recommendations that were developed over the past year by a special committee of state agency CEOs.
The basic goal of the restructuring, AASHTO said, is to ensure that the association’s committee structure functions efficiently and effectively on behalf of AASHTO members for today’s transportation system needs.
The AASHTO board had identified a need for such a restructuring when in 2014 they adopted the association’s 2014-2019 strategic plan.
Iowa DOT Director Paul Trombino, AASHTO’s 2015-2016 president, had also made the committee overhaul one of the primary emphasis areas of his tenure, which ended Nov. 15 at the close of this year’s annual meeting.
Trombino and Utah DOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras, AASHTO’s secretary/treasurer, co-chaired the committee review panel and engaged other state DOT chiefs in several rounds of outreach while drafting a proposal during the year and reshaping it throughout the spring and summer.
AASHTO said the board-approved restructuring will do the following:
-It realigns and changes the various panel entities that report to the 52-member AASHTO Board of Directors and enhances the multimodal transportation focus of the association.
-It creates an umbrella “Transportation Policy Forum,” through which six modal councils and a Special Committee on Freight will provide input on policy direction and technical needs.
-It establishes a Strategic Management Committee from within the Board of Directors to provide top-down guidance and direction to the new policy forum.
-It groups committees based on their primary role within a typical transportation agency: Program Delivery and Operations, Enterprise/Cross-Discipline and Administration.
-The revamp will expand the scope of some committees and combine others. It will reduce some of the subject-area overlap that developed over time in the current AASHTO committee structure, and it will introduce some new subject areas as AASHTO members cope with emerging technologies and mobility options.
The committee review panel’s report said the new committee structure achieves several objectives that state CEOs laid out when they launched the effort. AASHTO committees will now be more responsive to state-identified priorities, the report said, and the changed structure will provide for better member engagement on emerging issues through its new Strategic Management Committee.
The new structure will also formalize the multimodal program focus that AASHTO and state DOTs have increasingly embraced.
For instance, AASHTO’s current standing committees that target issues related to highways, public transportation, aviation, rail transportation and water transportation will evolve into modal councils that make up the policy forum. Those councils – Aviation, Highways and Streets, Public Transportation, Water, Rail and Active Transportation (such as walking and bicycling) – will provide the overarching Transportation Policy Forum with a stronger multimodal viewpoint on infrastructure needs.
The committee review panel also maintained that the new structure will allow for speedier and more nimble committee decision-making, as each committee will form its own steering group. Such nimbleness was also a goal that the board set out in its five-year strategic plan.
Finally, AASHTO said it expects the new structure to streamline and simplify the access of its senior leaders to the association’s policy and technical committees.
To go from here, the board-approved resolution calls for the new Steering Management Committee to develop a multiyear implementation plan, which will involve working with the diverse group of existing committees that are responsible for important policies, association products and a broad range of services to the transportation community.
To minimize potential disruption as AASHTO puts the changes in effect, the Strategic Management Committee will also oversee implementation and provide the full board periodic updates on the progress.
Additional committee review materials, including a list of the CCR steering review panel members, timelines, and important documents, can be found on a dedicated AASHTO website.