Office of Safety Innovation and Cooperative Research

The Office of Safety Innovation and Cooperative Research is Caltrans’ representative on national committees such as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), among many others. Our office researches and tests roadside safety technology such as barriers, guardrails, crash cushions, bridge rails, sign supports and other hardware. We manage research projects for Caltrans’ Divisions by evaluating new equipment, researching operation best practices, and developing relationships with other State Departments of Transportation (DOTs). Our goals are to reduce exposure risks of field personnel, facilitate rapid project delivery, simplify asset management, and expedite large scale photogrammetric mapping of Caltrans projects. We also support Caltrans’ Legal Division by offering technical support such as product research, potential crashworthiness, crash testing guidance, and expert testimony.

Joe Horton, Office Chief
Email Joe Horton
(916) 227-9305

What We Do

  • AASHTO, TRB, and NCRRP Standing committee
  • Roadside safety technology
  • Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America)
  • Exchanges dialogue and information with other professionals
  • Tests the crash worthiness of roadside safety technology
  • Run full-scale crash tests
  • Enhance Lean Construction
  • Work Zone Safety, Maintenance Operations Efficiencies, Survey Equipment Advancements, and Snow Fighting Efforts for Caltrans
  • Legal Division expert witness testimony
  • Technical support to Caltrans' Divisions and Districts

Office of Safety Innovation and Cooperative Research Branches

National Cooperative Research Programs

Pete Zaniewski, Chief
Email Pete Zaniewski
(916) 227-0701

  • National Research Programs Participation
    The Cooperative Research Programs Branch is the focal point for Caltrans' participation the following National Programs:

    • Transportation Research Board (TRB);
    • Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP2);
    • Standing Committee on Research (AASHTO SCOR);
    • Research Advisory Committee (AASHTO RAC);
    • National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP);
    • Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP);
    • Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program (HMCRP);
    • National Cooperative Railroad Program (NCRRP);
    • Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP);
    • National Cooperative Freight Research Program (NCFRP);
    • Innovational Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA);
    • AASHTO Innovation Initiative (AII);
    • Transportation Pooled Funds (TPF); and
    • TRB's Synthesize Information on Highway Practices.
  • National Programs Participant
    We are the contact point for Caltrans for TRB, NCHRP, pooled fund, and other nationwide programs. We coordinate Caltrans' participation in the annual Washington, D.C., TRB Meeting as well as other TRB-sponsored conferences and workshops. These include standing committees and task forces; electronic databases, networking, and field visits. The branch works with management to form official opinions on various national research issues that are objective, interdisciplinary, and multimodal.

  • Dialogue and Information Exchange Among Researchers
    We are involved in various programs and activities to support transportation information exchange among researchers, transportation professionals, and other transportation interested participants. Our extensive portfolio of services include cooperative research management, research programs, national transportation policy analyses, issues on Federal and other research programs; and access to publications and research information from around the world.

Roadside Safety Research Branch

Bob Meline, Chief
Email Bob Meline
(916) 227-7031

Our responsibilities include evaluating the crash worthiness of roadside safety technology such as barriers, guardrails, crash cushions, bridge rails, sign supports and other hardware. We also offer legal analysis and support.

  • Full-scale Crash Tests
    As part of evaluating the crash worthiness of roadside safety technology, the branch conducts full-scale crash tests on Caltrans' roadside safety hardware designs to assure that they comply with applicable crash performance criteria.

  • ISO 17025 Accredited Lab
    Our Roadside Safety Research Group Laboratory is ISO 17025 accredited, as required by the Federal Highway Administration.

  • Hardware Developed by Others
    We evaluate the crash worthiness of proprietary hardware developed by others to assure that such hardware is acceptable for use on state highways.

  • Roadside Safety Research Organizations
    We coordinate with other roadside safety research organizations such as Pooled Fund and NCHRP projects on national and international roadside safety topics.

  • Legal Support
    We provide support to Caltrans Legal in tort liability cases by conducting crash tests and providing technical assessments and expert witness testimony, as well as technical support to other Caltrans divisions and districts.

Crash Testing Operations

John Jewell, Chief
Email John Jewell
(916) 227-5824

  • Evaluate Roadside Safety Hardware
    Our branch evaluates roadside safety hardware for crashworthiness on behalf of the Highway Safety Features New Products Committee. The evaluations are done through the comparison of test results (or lack of test results) with various crash testing guidelines. Products are also compared to each other in order to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Crash Testing Quality and Integrity
    Coordinating with management of the Roadside Safety Research Group, our branch works to confirm that the quality of the deliverables for each crash test project is done to as high a standard as possible.

  • Caltrans' Legal Division Support
    Our branch offers technical support in the form of product research, potential crashworthiness questions and answers, guidance on crash testing for Caltrans Legal, and we offer expert advice and testimony.

Safety and Infrastructure Research

Justin Unck, Chief
Email Justin Unck
(916) 227-6319
  • Safety and Infrastructure Research (SIR)
    The SIR branch manages research projects for the Divisions of Right of Way and Land Surveys, Maintenance, and Equipment. We work with our customers to identify research needs and develop plans for conducting the research. We also work to secure funding, execute and monitor contracts, and manage research efforts. Typically, research is performed by the Advanced Highway Maintenance and Construction Technology (AHMCT) Research Center at UC Davis, but we also work with other California facilities such as Sacramento State University and University of California at Riverside. Although research may cover any topic, our Customers have been focused on snow fighting efforts, work zone safety, maintenance operations efficiencies, and advanced surveying equipment and methods.