Example Research Proposal
Example Research Proposal
Problem Title. Can the aquatic toxicity or ecologic impacts of untreated highway runoff (“hot
spots”) be identified through rapid assessment methods using highway/receiving water/land use
characteristics rather than through direct testing?
Problem Statement. Regulators in Washington State generally assume that all highway runoff
is toxic, although historic research has shown that, in general, highway runoff does not present
direct acute toxicity, as determined from field-based bioassays or bioassessments (FHWA open
file report 98-630, An Overview of Factors Involved in Evaluating the Geochemical Effects of
Highway Runoff on the Environment). Since stormwater flow events are intermittent, chronic
effects are not particularly relevant since chronic levels of exposure do not exist. On the federal
level, NCHRP project 25-20(01) “Evaluation of Best Management Practices for Highway Runoff
Control”, funded for fiscal year 2003 by AASHTO, included this element as part of their scope
It would be useful to be able to delineate which stormwater outfalls would be the most
appropriate candidates for “enhanced” treatment for dissolved metals or retrofits to maintain
aquatic health without having to conduct extensive field testing and/or elaborate modeling.
Literature Search. Two relevant studies are listed above. Additionally, the Transportation
Research Board has identified the topic of highway runoff toxicity, its bioavailability, and
suitable rapid assessment methods as a priority for funding for ’02-’07 planning period.
Research Methods. Continue searches of published and “gray” literature for related studies. It
may be an appropriate topic for development of a “white paper” that summarizes the current
state of research.
Partnering Opportunities. Many DOTs, particularly those in states with rigorous NPDES
requirements, would be interested in rapid assessment procedures so that they can justify
stormwater management decisions.
Estimate of Costs and Research Duration. Estimated costs not developed, but expected to be
greater than $50,000.
Urgency, Payoff Potential, and Implementation. Payoff potential is substantial, as research
results could lead to a rapid assessment method that could reduce monitoring costs.
Research Monitor. (to be assigned, as needed, by the research program administrator)
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