The FHWA Office of Policy has a long history of supporting the policy decision making efforts of DOT through research and policy analysis studies. In particular, the Office of Highway Policy Information collects, analyzes, and distributes highway-related data from Federal, State, and local sources. The Office of International Programs leads FHWA's efforts to serve the U.S. road community's access to international sources of information on road-related technologies and markets, and to provide technical assistance on road transportation issues to developing countries and economies in transition. The Office of Legislation and Strategic Planning provides support and assistance to the Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation, and Congress on policy development and execution; including coordination of the Agency's legislative program and designs, implements and evaluates national studies; including conditions and performance (C & P) reports. The Office of Transportation Policy Studies develops analytical tools and data systems for policy development and studies; conducts analyses and studies to support the formulation of transportation policy and legislative initiatives; prepares major reports to Congress on highway policy issues; and monitors and forecasts economic, demographic, and personal/commercial travel trends.
Ongoing or planned research within the Office of Policy includes aspects of several of the research needs identified by workshop participants. For example, in support of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission and the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, the FHWA Office of Policy sponsored several research efforts related to travel behavior, mileage-based tax, public private partnerships, and other topics. However, findings from this unique workshop, which consisted of transportation policymakers as well as senior technical and industry leaders, provide FHWA with information on priorities and specific direction for additional research.
As stated in the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, “The surface transportation system of the United States is at a crossroads.” The current Surface Transportation Funding Authorization, commonly referred to as SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act-A Legacy for Users) expires in 2009 and a new surface transportation bill will need to be drafted and introduced in the 111th Congress. This legislation will authorize funding for most of the nation's transportation infrastructure investments for the next six years and will, therefore, serve as a foundation for the emergence of transportation policy and research for many years to come. Collectively, the research needs identified through this process highlight several critical areas where research is needed so that informed decisions can be made as part of the authorization process. In particular, many of the research needs are directly or indirectly related to current government policies regarding energy independence, climate change, and dependence on foreign oil. Implementing the research identified in this issue of Innovations will provide FHWA with increased insight and ability to assist Congress in considering options for the Authorization Bill, as well as the future direction of the transportation system in the United States.