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STEP Frequently Asked Questions

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Planning, Environment and Realty's (HEP) Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP) ended on September 30, 2012. For current HEP research information, please see HEP's MAP-21 research web site.


  1. What is the STEP?
  2. How much STEP money is there?
  3. What is STEP money used for?
  4. Who gets STEP money?
  5. Is there a match requirement for STEP funds?
  6. Can University Transportation Center or State Planning and Research funds be used as a match to STEP funds?
  7. How are STEP projects selected?
  8. How are stakeholders involved once the STEP Plan is approved?
  9. What mechanisms are used to award STEP funds?
  10. Where do I go to get more information about STEP?
  11. What is the STEP Timeline?
  12. Where can stakeholders go to see which STEP projects were awarded based on stakeholder feedback?
  13. Why is the STEP Stakeholder Feedback still required since MAP-21 repealed the STEP?
  14. What happened to HEP's STEP Research Program?

1. What is the STEP?

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2. How much STEP money is there?

SAFETEA-LU authorized $16.875 million per year for FY2006-FY2009 to implement this new program. Due to obligation limitations, rescissions and the over-designation of Title V Research in SAFETEA-LU, it is anticipated that approximately $12.8 million of the $16.875 million authorized will be available each year. STEP will also be the sole source of SAFETEA-LU funds available to conduct all FHWA research on planning and environmental issues. In addition, Congress mandated several special studies, i.e., Report on Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program (Section 1807 of SAFETEA-LU) and the Annual Report for the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Pilot Program [Section 6005(h) of SAFETEA-LU]. STEP will also be the funding source for these projects. The FY2011 STEP budget totals $14.6 million. The FY2012 funding levels are subject to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) appropriations process. The anticipated FY2012 STEP research efforts are preliminary and subject to change.

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3. What is STEP money used for?

Funds are used to identify, address and reassess national research priorities for planning, environment and realty related to the implementation of the Federal Aid Highway Program under Chapter 1 of Title 23 United States Code. These research efforts also help achieve national objectives for streamlining, congestion reduction, safety and security.

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4. Who gets STEP money?

STEP funds can be awarded to the same entities that are eligible for other Federal Aid funds including:

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5. Is there a match requirement for STEP funds?

Yes, for grants and cooperative agreements. Congress mandated that there be a 50 percent non-Federal match for research funded under Title V of SAFETEA-LU, including STEP. This "non-Federal match" requirement does not apply to funds that are awarded via contracts or Federal Interagency Agreements.

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6. Can University Transportation Center or State Planning and Research funds be used as a match to STEP funds?

No. SAFETEA-LU does not allow University Transportation Center or State Planning and Research funds to be used as the non-Federal match for STEP.

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7. How are STEP projects selected?

Projects are selected using a rolling, yearly process. Each fiscal year, an announcement is published in the Federal Register requesting suggested lines of research. Stakeholders submit feedback regarding research. This feedback is used by the contact persons identified for each research emphasis area to coordinate and develop the annual STEP Plan. The FHWA Associate Administrator for the Office of Planning, Environment and Realty makes final funding decisions and approves the annual STEP Plan. The annual STEP Plan can be found on the website at www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/step/index.cfm.

Emphasis area contacts lead implementation of STEP research within an emphasis area. They work with staff and other partners to develop and implement specific projects and initiatives.

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8. How are stakeholders involved once the STEP Plan is approved?

Stakeholders are involved in a variety of ways.

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9. What mechanisms are used to award STEP funds?

A variety of procurement mechanisms are used to award STEP funds including indefinite quantities contracts, grants, cooperative agreements, small purchase contracts, interagency agreements, etc. Broad Agency Announcements are also used to obtain broad and diverse perspectives and options for advancing particular research initiatives. Information regarding requests for proposals is posted on the STEP website as it becomes available.

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10. Where do I go to get more information about STEP?

Information regarding the STEP is available at: www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/step/index.cfm. Contact persons for each research emphasis areas are also listed on the STEP website. These contact persons are the best source of information regarding the status of research in a particular area.

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11. What is the STEP Timeline?

December Post current fiscal year plan on STEP Website.
Winter Begin to implement current fiscal year, through appropriate procurement methods, agreements and partnerships.
(May shift depending on appropriations)
Spring/Summer Refine STEP Implementation Strategy/Goals/Emphasis Areas. Publish Federal Register Notice and update website information to solicit feedback on next fiscal year STEP activities. Conduct outreach for next fiscal year by emphasis area, review research needs, and identify gaps.
Spring/Summer Develop priorities for and fund critical research. Develop next draft fiscal year STEP Plan for comment.
Fall/Winter Post current fiscal year plan on STEP website.
(May shift depending on appropriations)
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12. Q:Where can stakeholders go to see which STEP projects were awarded based on stakeholder feedback?

A: Project information can be found at the Transportation Research Board's Research In Progress (RIP) Database.

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13. Why is the STEP Stakeholder Feedback still required since MAP-21 repealed the STEP?

The surface transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), extends SAFETEA-LU, including the earlier authorized cooperative research programs (e.g. the Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP)), through the end of the Federal fiscal year (September 30, 2012). As a result, STEP has an ongoing requirement to collect stakeholder feedback and recommendations. The data being collected is included in the STEP Annual Report to be posted online. The current FY 2013 STEP Stakeholder Feedback Period runs from June 28, 2012 to September 28, 2012. The anticipated research recommendations from the FY 2012 STEP Annual Report will be available for use and consideration in the research program that replaces STEP.

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14. What happened to HEP's STEP Research Program?

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Updated: 08/21/2014
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