Office of Safety Innovation and Cooperative Research (SICR)

The Office of Safety Innovation and Cooperative Research (SICR) 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

OSICR 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 can cover any topic, our Customers have recently focused on snow fighting efforts, work zone safety, maintenance operations efficiencies, and advanced surveying equipment and methods.

  • Strong Collaboration with Partners
    Typically, we work with the Advanced Highway Maintenance and Construction Technology (AHMCT) Research Center at UC Davis to complete research, and we also work with other California facilities such as Sacramento State University and University of California at Riverside.

  • Research Funding and Management
    Our branch works to secure funding, execute and monitor contracts, and manage research efforts.

  • Research Focus
    Although research can cover any topic, our Customers have recently focused on snow fighting efforts, work zone safety, maintenance operations efficiencies, and advanced surveying equipment and methods.

  • Snow Fighting Efforts
    Snow fighting efforts include developing, evaluating, and implementing new technologies to create safer, more efficient snow removal operations. We have developed a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) fitted to snow removal equipment that helps operators clear the State's seasonally closed snow routes in the spring. Our branch also evaluated and documented the Epoke machine, a sander/spreader truck that increases efficiency in de-icing and anti-icing operations. We are also involved with researching the newest technologies and techniques that help provide safer and more efficient avalanche mitigation strategies.

  • Work Zone Safety
    Work zone safety efforts include developing, evaluating, and implementing safety equipment such as longitudinal crack cleaning, crack sealing machines, and cone placement/pickup machines, and remote control mowers. We are also studying work zone intrusion alarms for implementation into Caltrans’ maintenance and construction operations to increase work zone safety. Our newest research under this topic involves evaluating an autonomous truck mounted attenuator (ATMA) truck which is spearheading efforts to use autonomous vehicle technology to improve worker safety.

  • Maintenance Operations Efficiencies
    One of our goals is to help Caltrans Maintenance improve the efficiencies of their operations. We evaluate new equipment, research operation best practices, and develop relationships with other state Departments of Transportation (DOTs). Our research has included peer exchanges that gather subject matter experts from state DOTs, federal agencies, international agencies, and select organizations to determine best practices on topics such as using automated vehicle location to improve winter maintenance operations and best practices for reducing vehicle and equipment corrosion in winter maintenance operations. Additional research has included evaluating or developing new equipment such as pothole patching machines and litter vacuum machines, and improved equipment and methods for managing low volume access points in work zones with one lane traffic control.

  • Advanced Surveying Equipment and Methods
    Our branch also evaluates and integrates technologies such as Mobile Terrestrial Laser Scanning and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems into Caltrans surveys workflow to reduce exposure risks of field personnel, facilitate rapid project delivery, simplify asset management, and expedite large scale photogrammetric mapping of Caltrans projects. Ongoing efforts include continued support for the systems as we work toward a seamless integration into Caltrans’ operations and the establishment of “research test track” to facilitate ongoing research and calibration efforts that are key to the continued success of the systems.