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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

FY 2010 Research Plan

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 research web site.

Below is information on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) fiscal year (FY) 2010 Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP) research projects.

The STEP is a cooperative research program that reflects national priorities as well as stakeholder input. The STEP also reflects research partnerships and efforts to leverage research funding with other research initiatives that are planned or underway.

Table 1, below, lists the total number of research projects that are expected to be carried out in each emphasis area, with the FY2010 STEP Budget. The following pages include summary information about each project within each emphasis area. Many projects listed in the FY2010 STEP are crosscutting and are implemented in collaboration with one or more emphasis areas or with other FHWA research programs.

The summary information includes the emphasis area, email contact information, the title of the activity, a short summary of the activity, and the funding amount.

Table 1: FY2010 STEP Budget by Emphasis Area
Emphasis Area Number of Research Recommendations FY2010 STEP Budget
Air Quality and Climate Change 4 $1,585,000
Water, Wetlands, Vegetation, Wildlife, Habitat, Brownfields 6 $1,070,000
Historic Preservation 2 $225,000
Bicycle/Pedestrian 2 $375,000
Noise 1 $590,000
Environmental Streamlining/Stewardship 6 $1,663,500
Context Sensitive Solutions 3 $500,000
Congestion 1 $500,000
Safety Planning 1 $100,000
Freight Planning 1 $200,000
Public Involvement, Scenario Planning, and Visualization in Planning 1 $200,000
Other Activities that Support State/Local/Tribal Planning Capacity Building 11 $2,850,000
U.S./Canada and U.S./Mexico Border Planning 3 $700,484
National Security, Defense and Interstate Planning 5 $520,000
Real Estate Program Stewardship 4 $460,000
Outdoor Advertising Control 1 $150,000
Travel Modeling 6 $1,170,000
GIS/Spatial Information for Improved Decision Making 5 $405,000
TOTAL 64 $14,689,434

I. Anticipated Research Efforts in Environment

1. Air Quality and Climate Change

Contact persons:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Air Quality and Climate Change Research Outreach and Communication

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will provide research-based mobile-source air quality, climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, and sustainable transportation information to FHWA staff, stakeholders, and the public. FHWA will work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO), and the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) and other stakeholders.

The goals of this project are to inform and provide technical assistance in an easily accessible format using non-technical terms, appropriate charts, graphs, illustrations, and other mechanisms. These efforts also include syntheses and compilation of research results and other information.

Outreach and communications efforts will be disseminated in the form of presentations at conferences, written materials (hard copy and online), websites, webcasts/webinars, web-based communities of practice, peer exchanges, teleconferences, video conferences, public education materials, newsletters, and other media.

Outreach and communications efforts may cover development and dissemination of information on:

  • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality investments;
  • Climate change mitigation;
  • Climate change adaptation;
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategies and target analysis;
  • Mobile source air toxics;
  • New air quality standards and regulations;
  • Public education;
  • Health implications of transportation services;
  • Sustainable transportation;
  • Activities that reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and congestion; and
  • Person-to-person marketing.



  1. Climate Change and Transportation

As awareness of the dangers posed by climate change grows, State and local governments have developed climate action plans, set targets for emissions reductions, and adopted a host of measures to assess and reduce climate footprints.

Research efforts in this area may include:

  • Developing and testing tools and strategies to understand and reduce GHG emissions from transportation sources. This effort could include updating and expanding existing tools or strategies and developing new methods and approaches;
  • Investigating how national policies or strategies to reduce GHG emissions would affect transportation services, funding, and infrastructure, and analyzing their effectiveness in reducing GHG emissions. This effort could include reviewing or developing proposals for national policies or for legislation;
  • Engaging in a cooperative effort focused on strategies to reduce GHG emissions by reducing VMT and increasing the efficiency of the multimodal transportation system;
  • Conducting a pilot project to investigate GHG emissions reduction potential from the integration of transportation, land use, and climate change;
  • Providing technical assistance to States to develop climate action plans;
  • Developing a methodology for establishing GHG emissions targets; and
  • Funding the Department of Transportation (DOT) Center on Climate Change. The Center annually selects projects with advice and concurrence of the Center Steering Committee.

In addition, FHWA will continue to research the vulnerabilities of transportation infrastructure to climate change impacts and adaptation strategies to avoid and minimize potential impacts. The goal of the research is to assist transportation professionals in adapting the transportation system to continue delivering a safe, reliable, effective, and sustainable transportation system to the public.

Research efforts in this area may include:

  • Developing and refining FHWA's adaptation strategy;
  • Describing key areas related to climate change adaptation on which FHWA intends to focus attention;
  • Providing technical assistance to States that apply FHWA's climate change Vulnerability Assessment Framework; and
  • Disseminating technical assistance on climate change effects.

These efforts will also support a climate change risk and vulnerability assessment for the Gulf Coast region. The purpose of this research is to build on the findings of the Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on Transportation Systems and Infrastructure: Gulf Coast Study (2008) to develop more definitive information about multimodal impacts at the local level. Phase 2 of this research will focus on the Gulf Coast and developing precise tools and guides for State DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), modal planners, and municipalities. These tools and guides will facilitate long-term planning architectures to help communities better adapt to potential climate impacts.


  1. Sustainable Transportation

There is a need to better understand and apply sustainable methodologies and practices in transportation project development and evaluate their effects. Developing a strategic plan for sustainability is essential to help State DOTs and others identify specific approaches and practices to reach sustainability goals. Research on sustainable activities is also needed, such as redeveloping brownfields and increasing their use for transportation projects.

Research efforts may include the following:

  • Developing a strategic plan for sustainability;
  • Developing training and technical guidance on sustainability;
  • Understanding how sustainable solutions may be integrated into transportation;
  • Understanding how to measure the benefits of applying sustainable techniques and methodologies;
  • Building an inventory of brownfields for transportation infrastructure and understanding how brownfields may be used to support sustainability goals and objectives;
  • Conducting conference and meeting support for sustainability programs and brownfields; and
  • Developing and sharing an understanding of the relationship between sustainability and livability.


  1. Transportation and Air Quality Research, Analysis, Tools Development, and Training

FHWA will continue supporting research to advance the understanding of transportation and air quality issues. These efforts will also inform and provide technical assistance to stakeholders to help them meet the transportation requirements of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and other air quality-related requirements of the transportation system. Research efforts will focus on the Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator, project-level and hot-spot analysis, the implications of near roadway monitoring requirements, air quality analyses, and training and communications activities.


2. Water/Wetlands/Vegetation/Wildlife/Habitat/Brownfields

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Advancing Tools Used for Decision Support and Impact Analyses for Transportation, Wildlife, and Ecological Systems

This research project will continue to advance tools to streamline processes related to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), such as the Federal FHWA biological assessment (BA) tool and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Information, Planning and Consultation (IPaC) tool, both of which are web-based applications. These efforts seek to make the BA and IPaC tools compatible with the NOAA Consultation Information Record System.

Specific tasks that will be undertaken may include:

  • Combining known locations of species with preferred habitat information, resulting in an inductive tool that predicts the probably of species presence. This effort would add "layers" into the web-based tool and pilot its use in four States with the intent of expanding the use of this approach nationally if it proves successful;
  • Adding capabilities that allow preparation of categorical exclusion by utilizing a template, a mapping tool, and electronic notification, archiving, tracking, and file drawer mechanisms;
  • Identifying and compiling existing and emerging successes and advancements in methods and tools for wildlife and ecosystem impact analysis and mapping. This effort would support decisions development of transportation best management practices;
  • Continuing national deployment of the BA tool;
  • Developing written summaries of research results, advancements, successes, processes, lessons learned, and recommendations regarding improvements to the BA and IPaC tools;
  • Delivering results through professional conferences and other forums; and
  • Incorporating new needs and advancements identified as research proceeds.


  1. Low Impact Development (LID) and Linear Transportation Projects

There has been a strong research emphasis on stormwater management and utilizing best management practices to maintain water quality. Many of the practices that have been designed, monitored, and studied have been developed for sites that have large footprints and/or for areas in which to place stormwater management facilities. Highway agencies tend to have linear projects, which usually cross through watersheds and have limited space for implementation of large stormwater management facilities.

LID is an ongoing, developing stormwater management strategy in which the designer attempts to maintain the natural hydrologic functions of an area. In doing so, LID includes features that reduce the volume and rate of stormwater runoff. In reducing runoff, streams can be preserved and, in some cases, restored to their natural condition.

This research will:

  • Investigate which LID practices are suitable and practicable for use in highway settings;
  • Study short- and long-term costs of reducing flows and how LID practices impact load sources in comparison to traditional stormwater management methods;
  • Investigate the lifecycle costs and the performance of LID or natural solutions in comparison to traditional stormwater management methods;
  • Develop best practices for utilizing LID in a transportation corridor; and
  • Incorporate LID best practices in the Stochastic Empirical Dilution Model.


  1. Study of Ecosystem Corridors in the U.S. Northern Rockies

Ecosystem connectivity has become increasingly important in the face of ecosystem fragmentation, estimated rates of species loss and extinction, and anticipated global climate change. The concept of corridors requires blocks of suitable habitat for species to be linked together, so that meta-population elements can survive catastrophic local events and disturbed habitat elements can be repopulated.

The principles of Eco-Logical, the result of interagency efforts led by FHWA to develop a landscape-scale approach to mitigation of infrastructure impacts on ecosystems, require assessing the potential for ecosystem fragmentation due to transportation infrastructure and providing for mitigation where needed. Eco-Logical recognizes the importance of corridor conservation, particularly at potential fracture zones such as highways.

In support of Eco-Logical principles, this research effort will involve studying an area from Yellowstone National Park northward to the Canadian border, where substantial tracts of unmodified habitat remain that contain sensitive populations of both large and small mammals, as well as relatively intact general fauna (birds, amphibians, fish).

Previous research has helped define some potential linkage zones in this area; however, complete habitat and land cover type mapping and analysis has not been conducted. Additional integrated mapping (through geographic information system (GIS) data) of vegetation community types, infrastructure, and land ownership will be conducted. The goal of the mapping effort is to identify potential locations of connectivity structures at highways or other fracture points/zones and develop and apply effective, appropriate, structural, and other conservation countermeasures.

This effort has several immediate- and long-range objectives. In the immediate future, provision of wildlife connectivity structures at highway fracture zones will enhance public safety and protect short-term public, economic, and recreational benefits from stable, productive wildlife populations. On a long-term basis, enhancing connectivity through structural solutions and conservation of important land cover types may prove critical to allow wildlife populations of national significance to adjust to anticipated global climate changes.


  1. Research and Innovation Agreements with USFWS and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

This research effort will support continued research into interagency coordination on the major environmental requirements that affect the highway program.

Many FHWA programs and projects depend on the timely completion of environmental requirements administered by other Federal agencies. Among the most critical and prevalent requirements on most projects include compliance with the ESA, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, and the CAA, specifically Section 404 and Section 10 permits administered by USACE.

Pursuant to Section 1309 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), FHWA established national transportation liaison programs with USFWS, USACE, and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to conduct research and advance interagency innovations in environmental stewardship and environmental streamlining. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) contains provisions that continue and expand the stewardship and streamlining direction of TEA-21.

Important products of this research include quarterly reports of field issues and activities, notices of impending legislation that will affect the program, technical assistance in interpretation of agency policy and guidance, and a summary of issues, research needs, and best practices, all of which can guide national program objectives.


  1. Specific Research to Address Threatened and Endangered Species Concerns on Regional and National Bases

Research within this category will focus on emerging program needs that may include:

  • Developing an analytical approach for assessing the potential effects of highway stormwater runoff on threatened and endangered species (e.g., salmonids and freshwater mussels);
  • Conducting regional studies on the Indiana Bat, studies on the effects of pile driving on fish, and studies on the effects of highway noise on migratory birds; and
  • Developing environmental market tools, platforms, and crediting systems, such as the Arkansas endangered species recovery credit pilot program.

STEP comments suggested several projects that deal with highway impacts to threatened and endangered species. FHWA will optimize research dollars by supporting current State DOTs' and Federal agencies' research that improves knowledge of the effects of Federal-aid highway projects on protected species and effective ways to mitigate these impacts. In general, research efforts will relate to species of national concern or involve programs in several States.


  1. Supporting Peer and Research Exchange at Conferences, Workshops, and Technical Panels

Research efforts may include collaborating and exchanging technical expertise at conferences, workshops, awards programs, and peer exchanges, as well as identifying research gaps and providing opportunities to partner on research of common interest to stakeholders. These initiatives will encourage better methods in environmental assessment and mitigation, productive partnerships in research, and better, continuous information transfer.

Events will include, among others, the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation, the National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference, Weeds Across Borders, the summer Transportation Research Board (TRB) meetings, the Environmental Excellence Awards, and the National Wetlands Awards.

Products, documents, or benefits of this research effort include proceedings that can be used as reference documents for regulatory updates, technical manuals, and general, scientific references.


3. Historic Preservation

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Research and Innovation Agreement with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP)

The objective of this research will be identifying and disseminating best practices for:

  • Developing innovative approaches and programmatic agreements;
  • Achieving early coordination with stakeholders; and
  • Gaining efficiencies in project development and review.

Results will be captured in the development of best practices that facilitate environmental process improvements, including identification of program alternatives allowable under the ACHP's regulations that implement the National Historic Preservation Act. Research results will also support the development of training capabilities that promote early coordination and process improvement efforts between FHWA and State DOTs.


  1. Historic Roads Best Practices for Identification, Management and Preservation

The objective of this effort is to identify best practices and disseminate results of current model efforts to identify, manage, and preserve historic roads through peer exchanges, webinars, and presentations.


4. Bicycle/Pedestrian

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Improved Data for Walking and Bicycling Trips

Better walking and bicycling data procedures are essential to improving planning efforts for walking and bicycling. It is important for transportation agencies to inventory and identify gaps in their walking and bicycling networks so that cost effective improvements can be made. Many STEP stakeholders commented on the need for a better understanding of the health implications of walking and bicycling. This project will examine air quality impacts on health, such as the effect of code red air quality days on nonmotorists' health. This research effort will be conducted in conjunction with the Air Quality and Climate Change STEP emphasis area.


  1. Outreach and Best Practices on Bicycle And Pedestrian Issues

The STEP Bicycle/Pedestrian topic area seeks to "provide technical knowledge and products needed by State and local officials in developing and implementing bicycle and pedestrian projects." This information will be provided in a multifaceted approach. Primary in this approach is the continued operation of the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse. Transportation Enhancements have been the largest funding source for pedestrian and bicycle projects since the program began in 1992. Maintaining this clearinghouse is a key activity because the clearinghouse is used by many stakeholders at the national, state, regional and local levels. Other anticipated activities in this research effort will include dissemination of best practices related to walking and bicycling infrastructure through the Exemplary Human Environment Initiative.


5. Noise

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Highway Traffic Noise: Research, Training and Communication

FHWA will provide research on highway traffic noise to stakeholders and the public. The goals of this effort are to provide technical assistance in traffic noise prediction modeling, as well as provide training on how to comply with 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 772 and how to use the FHWA Traffic Noise Model. These efforts may also include support of the Office of the Secretary of Transportation's Livability efforts and initiation of other noise-related livability efforts in FHWA's Office of Planning, Environment and Realty (HEP).


6. Environmental Streamlining/Stewardship

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Guidance on Considering Adaptation to Climate Change in Project Development and Environmental Review

Adapting transportation infrastructure to the effects of climate change will require changes in planning, designing, constructing, and managing highway infrastructure. As part of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process, considerations of climate change effects could impact a project's purpose and need, environmental context, preliminary engineering, and feasibility of alternatives. Additional guidance is needed to help State DOTs and FHWA Division Offices determine how to consider climate change effects as part of the environmental review process. This research effort will provide technical assistance, logistics services, and training development to facilitate the development and delivery of FHWA guidance on adaptation in the NEPA process.


  1. Linking Eco-Logical to Project Development

In early 2006, FHWA and seven other Federal agencies released Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects. As outlined in the Eco-Logical document, the ecosystem approach identifies and addresses the greatest conservation needs associated with mitigation for infrastructure projects. FHWA awarded 14 grants to implement Eco-Logical principles as part of the planning and project development process. This research project continues past efforts with a focus on implementing Eco-Logical principles during project development and environmental review processes, including permitting.


  1. Improving Project Delivery Through the Every Day Counts Initiative

FHWA has a longstanding commitment to improve the environmental review process for transportation projects and ensure meaningful stewardship of human and natural resources.

As part of the "Every Day Counts" Initiative (EDC), FHWA has a renewed focus on improving project delivery. FHWA established this initiative to develop and study procedural innovations in the transportation project development process. The objective of the initiative is to apply these innovations to specific projects and measure the resulting time savings. The initiative aims to assist State DOTs in meeting the following objectives on selected environmental impact statement (EIS) projects:

  • Building teams designed to meet specific project needs;
  • Assessing potentially controversial impacts and mitigation issues early;
  • Addressing potential conflicts through the use of conflict resolution techniques;
  • Identifying opportunities to apply Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS);
  • Building public trust through an effective public involvement process;
  • Identifying opportunities to integrate innovative technology and data tools;
  • Establishing an agreed-upon timeframe for the environmental review process;
  • Improving project impact documentation; and
  • Identifying a process for compiling a strong administrative record.

The EDC will consist of two separate efforts. The first effort is a demonstration program involving up to eight focus States with projects where a Notice of Intent (NOI) has not yet been issued. Best practices will be applied to these projects to facilitate improvements in transportation project delivery. Outputs of the first effort will include NOIs that better incorporate planning analyses, development of State-specific EIS documentation management plans that can be applied to other projects and States, a series of peer-to-peer exchanges, and documentation of best practices and improved processes.


  1. Environmental Streamlining Outreach and Technology Transfer

The efficient and effective coordination of multiple environmental reviews, analyses, and permitting actions is essential to meet SAFETEA-LU environmental streamlining and stewardship mandates for highway and transit projects and to improve the quality and efficiency of environmental decision-making.

This research effort will result in the following technology transfer and outreach deliverables:

  • Maintenance and update of the Environmental Review Toolkit, which is available on the FHWA website;
  • Support for various conferences and workshops to improve the timeliness and quality of the environmental review process;
  • Continuation of Re: NEPA, FHWA's community of practice for environmental professionals; and
  • Publication of Successes in Stewardship.


  1. Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL)

The PEL initiative, a joint effort between offices in the FHWA's Office of Planning, Environment and Realty (HEP), focuses on promoting PEL concepts through delivering customized Linking Planning and NEPA workshops and targeted initiatives in focus states. This research will support additional focus state efforts to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of PEL activities. It will continue ongoing efforts to identify and deliver assistance to State, regional, and local transportation agencies as they implement PEL concepts and address the environmental-related provisions of SAFETEA-LU Section 6001.


  1. Research and Innovation Agreements with Resource Agencies and Development of a Liaison Community of Practice

The passage of SAFETEA-LU in 2005 increased Federal requirements for greater coordination and collaboration among Federal and State agencies involved in environmental review without a corresponding increase in Federal agency staff. The substantial increase in project coordination highlights the need to improve how environmental reviews are conducted and the execution of planning and project development processes.

This research effort will support existing FHWA research and innovation agreements with Federal resource agencies, including USEPA, that are involved in reviewing transportation projects. The research effort will also include the development of a new community of practice for transportation liaisons in funded positions within State and Federal resource agencies. The community of practice will help to share best practices on project reviews and structuring of agreements.


7. Context Sensitive Solutions

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) Case Studies

This research effort will produce case studies that demonstrate how the use of context sensitive approaches can improve the cost effectiveness of Federal transportation programs and streamline their delivery. The case studies will highlight the wide-ranging benefits of CSS to advance high-quality transportation projects.


  1. Influence of CSS Practices on Maintaining Landscaping

This research effort will evaluate the performance of landscaping mitigation implemented through CSS practices. This effort will also analyze the successes or failures of past landscaping mitigation projects and develop recommendations for future efforts.


  1. Integrating CSS Approaches into University Curricula

This research will expand on existing efforts to develop an academic network of CSS training to undergraduate and graduate academic institutions. This network of training will target civil engineering and planning students enrolled in colleges and universities throughout the country.


II. Anticipated Research Efforts in Planning

1. Congestion

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Congestion Planning

This research will promote activities to support the National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America 's Transportation Network initiative and other initiatives to link operations and planning. Research may focus on road congestion pricing and private sector involvement in transportation investment, management, and operations.

This research will support:

  • Work to advance and improve congestion management processes and the evaluation of operational improvement strategies;
  • Development of new tools and programs for understanding, analyzing, and responding to congestion problems; and
  • Activities such as websites, publications, and brochures for information dissemination, training and technical assistance, toolkits, case studies, site visits, peer exchanges, conferences, and workshops.


2. Safety Planning

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Safety Planning

This research will focus on changing the perception of highway safety, increasing awareness of the problem, and promoting a better understanding of how to address safety in the planning process. Current fatality and injury statistics indicate that more must be done. Providing planners, stakeholders, and the public with better information would help to integrate safety into transportation decision-making processes. Integrating safety into all aspects of planning will require educating transportation planners, stakeholders, and the public about safety issues and potential solutions.


3. Freight Planning

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Freight Planning

This research will promote integrating freight into the transportation planning and programming processes at the State and metropolitan levels. Freight transportation issues are complex and involve many stakeholders with different perspectives. Educating and training a skilled and knowledgeable workforce is crucial to increasing freight transportation productivity.

This research will include some of the following efforts:

  • Effectively engaging the private sector freight community into the State and metropolitan planning processes;
  • Studying how parameters such as price, travel time, permitting, and user fees affect modal shift, as well as the elasticities that are inherent in these parameters;
  • Conducting benefit/cost analyses of freight projects to improve project selection by states and MPOs.;
  • Support development of new tools and programs such as pilot projects, analytical techniques, travel modeling forecast improvement and methods of innovative data collection and data sharing related to freight activities and analysis to improve State and MPO project selection; and
  • Supporting additional activities, such as websites for information dissemination, training and technical assistance, toolkits, peer exchanges, sharing of best practices, conferences, and workshops.


4. Public Involvement, Environmental Justice, and Visualization in Planning

Contact Person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Public Involvement, Environmental Justice, and Visualization in Planning

This research will build on a foundation of public participation, professional capacity and community impact assessment research to incorporate emerging issues of environmental justice and visualization for transportation planning into professional practice through research, demonstration, and technical transfer.

This research will support some of the following efforts:

  • Developing visualization tools for transportation planning and training stakeholders in the use of these tools;
  • Evaluating multimedia engagement techniques; and
  • Translating research results for State and local agencies and other stakeholders on mobile-source air toxins and cumulative health risks.


5. Other Activities that Support State/Local/Tribal Planning Capacity Building

Contact Person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Finance Issues

Financial planning, fiscal constraint, cost estimating, revenue forecasting, and innovative finance issues are all important areas of concern for State DOTs, MPOs, local and regional project sponsors, and the public. Metropolitan transportation plans, transportation improvement programs, and statewide transportation improvement programs must contain realistic estimates about project costs and be based on realistic assumptions about future revenue in order to ensure transparency, integrity, and accuracy in the transportation planning process.

This research will focus on a wide variety of financial issues and will provide case studies, peer exchanges, workshops, and other examples of effective statewide and metropolitan transportation planning practices on finance and financial planning issues.


  1. Improved Planning Process/Process Management

Transportation planning recognizes critical links between transportation and other societal goals. This research will improve the transportation planning process by focusing on specific concepts that can affect change, such as asset management, performance measures, certification review tools, and data/modeling. This effort could support improved tools for required transportation management area Federal certification reviews.


  1. Information Dissemination

It is essential to continue research dissemination efforts to ensure that appropriate practitioners can access information and implement research recommendations.

This research effort will support the overall efforts of STEP and the FHWA/Federal Transit Administration Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program by disseminating the results of various research programs to the transportation planning community, decision-makers, stakeholders, and the public. This research will also support existing FHWA and stakeholder websites, training, national and regional conferences, and case studies on transportation planning. Finally, this research will support the Planning Excellence Awards and updating existing FHWA information products used throughout the planning community.


  1. Land Use Planning

Research is needed to promote integrating land use and transportation into the planning process at a regional level.

This research will support activities such as websites for information dissemination, training and technical assistance, toolkits, peer exchanges, conferences, use of scenario planning, and workshops. Research could also develop new tools and programs such as land use and transportation models or pilot projects. Furthermore, research could provide examples to promote understanding of the benefits of connected local streets, sensible land use patterns that are conducive to safe and walkable street systems, lively main streets, and viable transportation investments. Finally, planning activities might include efforts leading to regional planning that is state-of-the-art, multimodal, integrated with community settings, and supportive of early planning and coordination.

From a transportation perspective, linking land use and transportation on a regional basis will achieve planning that reduces congestion, increases safety, accommodates pedestrian and bike safety and mobility, provides and enhances public transportation services, improves the connectivity of road networks, and considers freight movements. Such planning may also take a multimodal approach to transportation by emphasizing supportive land use development patterns to create a variety of transportation options.


  1. Livability

Livability can help transform the way transportation serves the American people and transportation's contribution to communities' quality of life. Livability elements are important to both urban and rural communities. These elements might include a transportation system that provides reliable and safe access to jobs, education, health care, as well as goods and services. This research will support activities such as websites for information dissemination, training and technical assistance, peer exchanges, conferences, workshops, and sharing notable practices through case studies on livability.


  1. Metropolitan Transportation Planning Issues

Metropolitan transportation planning is the process of examining travel and transportation issues and needs in metropolitan areas. In metropolitan areas that contain over 50,000 people, the responsibility for transportation planning lies with designated MPOs. Activities will be based on stakeholder needs, including those expressed by the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations and the National Association of Regional Councils, as well as research needs identified at the 2010 TRB Conference. Research will also focus on the collaborative nature of MPOs and MPO functionality and will identify opportunities for MPOs to coordinate with other planning and transportation activities or organizations.


  1. Performance-Based Planning

A performance management process at the national level can help to better define a national transportation vision and mission, focus Federal resources to emphasize transportation needs of national significance, and address new public policy priorities. This effort will support activities such as information dissemination, training and technical assistance, peer exchanges, conferences, workshops, and sharing notable practices through case studies on performance-based planning and programming.


  1. Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL)

The PEL initiative focuses on promoting PEL concepts through the delivery of customized Linking Planning and NEPA workshops and targeted initiatives in focus states. This research will support additional focus state efforts to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of PEL activities. In addition, the research will identify and deliver assistance to support State, regional, and local transportation agencies as they implement PEL concepts and address the environmental-related provisions of SAFETEA-LU Section 6001. Finally, research funds will be used to support additional Eco-Logical grants.


  1. Rural Transportation Planning Issues

Rural transportation planning is the process of examining travel and transportation issues and needs in non-metropolitan areas. In small communities and rural areas, there is no Federally designated body to conduct transportation planning. In some states, the State DOT undertakes planning for non-metropolitan areas. In other states, rural planning organizations or local governments perform these functions.

This research will focus on issues and problems in rural areas and the rural community's interaction with the statewide transportation planning process. Research activities will be based on stakeholder input and on coordination with major rural transportation planning stakeholder associations such as the National Association of Development Organizations, the National Association of Counties, and Rural Planning Organizations of America, etc. This research will support activities such as websites for information dissemination, training and technical assistance, toolkits, peer exchanges, sharing of best practices, conferences, and workshops.


  1. Statewide Transportation Planning Issues

The statewide transportation planning process is a forum through which transportation decisions are made to address planning issues. States are required to conduct continuing, comprehensive, and collaborative intermodal statewide transportation planning that facilitates the efficient economic movement of people and goods in all areas of the state, including metropolitan areas. This research will focus on statewide transportation planning issues, including statewide travel and economic models, managed lanes, public private partnerships (PPPs) and design-build initiatives. Research will also focus on enhancing partnerships between Federal, State, regional and local partnerships to advance statewide transportation planning initiatives.

This research will further support activities such as websites for information dissemination, training and technical assistance, toolkits, peer exchanges, sharing of best practices, conferences, and workshops.


  1. Tribal Planning

Transportation planning enables communities to identify broad goals to meet transportation needs through informed decision-making. This research will promote integrating Tribal issues into the transportation planning and programming processes at the State and metropolitan levels through statutory and regulatory requirements of consultation and public involvement. Several factors have heightened the need to assist Tribal governments, including effective governmental participation in transportation programs and projects affecting Tribal government interests, cooperation on mutual transportation issues, projects between Tribal, local, State, and Federal governments, as well as early outreach and coordination with Tribes.

Research will develop resource/reference materials on effective Tribal consultation practices in the statewide and metropolitan transportation planning process, including information tools modules. This research will further support activities such as websites for information dissemination, training and technical assistance, peer exchanges, conferences, workshops, and sharing Tribal planning notable practices through case studies.


6. U.S./Canada and U.S./Mexico Border Planning

Contact Person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. U.S./Mexico Transportation Joint Working Committee (JWC)

The objectives of these projects are to support and promote U.S./Mexico JWC meetings and translation as well as high priority JWC work plan activities. These activities will include: the Lower Rio Grande border congestion study, the U.S./Mexico border wait time study, border master plan studies, and the Nogales intermodal congestion relief study.

This activity will support JWC meetings hosted by the U.S. , communication between JWC members, and management and review of research activities associated with the JWC work plan.

U.S./Mexico JWC activities include:

  1. Border Travel Time Studies (as baseline information)

    Commercial vehicles are often delayed at border crossings. Trip delays increase transportation costs and impact national security and the environment. Several agencies have undertaken efforts to improve processes (e.g., inspection, queuing, and just-in-time delivery) as well as programs to fund and improve infrastructure at ports of entry (POEs) to reduce delays and increase security. The objective of these studies are to provide a baseline of border crossing delay by measuring border crossing times for commercial trucks. These data will help measure the success of improvement projects and strategies and develop a baseline for a commercial vehicle border wait time. The studies include:

    1. El Paso border wait time study, continuing;
    2. San Diego border wait time study, continuing;
    3. Nogales border wait time study, beginning;
    4. Pharr border wait time study, continuing;
    5. Laredo border wait time study - World Trade Bridge , new;
    6. Laredo border wait time study - Columbia Bridge , new; and
    7. Brownsville border wait time study, new.
  2. Safety Initiatives

    Road Safety Audit (RSA) training with the following primary objectives:

    1. Provide conclusions and recommendations for improving road safety along POEs/international border crossings;
    2. Include participation of Mexican state and Federal representatives. After learning RSA techniques, the Mexican participants can implement RSAs on a wider basis throughout Mexico; and
    3. Use training as a template for similar studies.
  3. Bottleneck Studies (Phase II)

    The Mariposa study was recently completed. Using the methodology developed in the earlier study, additional bottleneck studies will be completed along the Nogales/Nogales and Texas/Mexico border.

  4. Improved Travel Demand Modeling in the Border Region

    To provide accurate short-, medium-, and long-term traffic projections for cross-border travel, select traffic studies are being conducted that will provide information to populate travel demand models. Existing cross-border and POE travel demand forecast modeling techniques will be discussed and evaluated to produce solutions for improved cross-border modeling and better understanding of future travel demand at the border.

  5. Innovative Finance/Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)

    This research effort will involve border projects in which specific technical assistance in structuring the finances would advance the project. This task will offer continuing technical assistance and guidance as needed. Two projects (the State Route 11/Otay Mesa East- Mesa de Otay II/Tijuana and the PPP study with the Arizona DOT) have been identified and will continue.

  6. Regional Border Master Plans

    The JWC will create a compendium of border-wide regional master plans with a comprehensive and prioritized assessment of transportation needs along the border, including at POEs, beginning with a recently completed pilot project for the San Diego/Tijuana area.

    The border master plan will go beyond the binational transportation infrastructure needs assessment study II to gather land use, environmental, demographic, and socioeconomic data. These data will be used to evaluate growth and future capacity needs at the border and more realistically forecast future conditions in the border region. Additionally, these data can help evaluate the existing binational transportation and POE system, its current and forecasted demand, and the infrastructure necessary to handle expected growth. This effort would help foster consistency among individual agency planning processes and create documentation for periodic updates of individual agencies' plans. The comprehensive list and prioritized assessment of transportation and POE needs will support international trade and improve cross-border travel and quality of life for the regions' residents and visitors. The border master plans should be incorporated as a component of Federal, State, and local strategic plans. The compendium would be regularly updated (every three to five years) with new data, policy issues, and economic and infrastructure changes.

  7. Impact of Border Crossings on Regional Transportation Plans and Local Transportation Networks

    Border crossings are case examples of conflicting interests and needs of communities and involve the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, multimodal transportation users, and operators/planners. This research will improve the border planning mechanism, particularly where there is a large GSA footprint for a reconfigured POE, because community needs and regional transportation needs are not addressed through the GSA POE planning process.

  8. Peer Exchanges

    Peer exchanges will be coordinated to facilitate the exchange of information and methodologies. Ongoing peer exchanges have centered on traffic studies, transportation modeling, and a similar Nogales traffic study peer exchange.

  9. Website Enhancements/Web Tools

    This research effort will provide ongoing, general support to JWC websites, including upgrades, new document uploads, and posting studies and minutes from meetings.


  1. U.S./Canada Transportation Border Working Group (TBWG)

The objectives of these projects are to develop, support, and promote the following U.S./Canada TBWG meetings and activities in support of U.S./Canada border efforts.

This activity will support TBWG meetings hosted by the U.S. , communication between TBWG members, and overall management and review of research activities associated with the development of the TBWG work plan.

U.S./Canada border efforts include:

  1. Support TBWG Work Plan Activities and Enhance TBWG Compendium of Border Infrastructure

    This binational effort will make the current compendium of border and major transportation infrastructure planned in the next five years (within 100 miles of the border) more useable to Federal, State, and local agencies using the database. More specifically, this effort will update the compendium and convert the information into an electronic database. The result will be a common location of data that can help coordinate infrastructure investments between Canada and the U.S. within the border region.

  2. Develop and Host a Northern Border Workshop and Conferences

    The northern border regional workshop will improve coordination for infrastructure planning, highlight current issues, and identify potential short- and long-term solutions.

    Planned events include:

    1. A regional workshop in Spokane , Washington ;
    2. A regional master plan workshop in Fargo , North Dakota ;
    3. General support for a biannual TBWG meeting; and
    4. Other activities.
  3. U.S./Canada Border Wait Time Pilot Program

    American and Canadian agencies are partnering to test automated border wait time measurement technologies. This research effort will support testing technology to measure border wait time for vehicles and develop systems to share that information in real time with transportation and border agencies. The proposal includes a pilot test at two proposed locations, subject to respective agency approvals and funding availability.

    The result of this research effort will be the use of a common binational wait time performance measure distributed in real time and used by all agencies at the border to make better use of limited resources.

  4. Data Access Study

    A data access study was recently completed. The effort will implement study recommendations.

  5. Peer Exchange

    Peer exchanges will be held as needed to support 11 States bordering Canada . Potential topics include: innovative finance, intelligent transportation systems (ITS), improved operations, border wait times.

  6. DOT Congestion Border Relief Program

    This research effort will support and assist three selected transportation border congestion relief projects, including providing technical assistance, workshops, peer exchanges, and other activities. The three selected projects were Cascade Gateway (Washington), State Route 11/Otay Mesa East ( California ), and the East Loop bypass railroad border crossing ( Texas ). Support will focus on the Cascade Gateway project, which is a partnership with Canada , the Washington State DOT, and the FHWA Office of Operations to study ITS applications at Washington State border crossings and along corridors.


  1. Border Research Common to Both U.S./Canada and U.S./Mexico Borders

The objectives of these projects are to support and promote research common to the U.S./Canada and U.S./Mexico borders. These activities include an infrastructure needs analysis, a green border initiative, research on the economic impact of land border POEs and congestion, and communication of border wait time data.

Common border activities will include:

  1. Binational Infrastructure Needs Analysis

    This effort will examine needs on a multi-State basis and develop needs analysis tools to support planning efforts.

  2. Greening the Border Initiative

    This effort will involve working with USEPA and interested government and non-government parties to coordinate a green border workshop. The workshop will be developed around the border transportation themes of green technology, performance/reliability measures, livability/sustainability, and green financing/industry.

  3. Economic Impact Studies

    This research will develop studies that define the contributions of land POEs and the contributions of costs associated with capacity and congestion at POEs, as well as impacts on the local, regional, and national economies.

  4. Communicate Border Wait Time Data

    This effort will develop, test, and evaluate communication strategies for border wait time data. Areas of emphasis will include border operators, freight shippers, and the traveling public.


7. National Security, Defense and Interstate Planning

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Highway System and Corridor Support

This work supports FHWA's efforts to provide information to decision-makers on relationships between transportation and economic development. Efforts will include analyzing and tracking research results, formatting images for use in research and research-related products, and managing databases used to support research.

This work supports a variety of ongoing and sun-setting research authorized in Title 5 of SAFETEA-LU and previous authorization acts. These projects include those authorized in Section 5504 (the Center for Transportation Advancement and Regional Development), Section 5513(f) (Rural Transportation Research by the New England Transportation Institute), and Section 1923 (the Delta Assets and Needs Study). The work also supports research that is based on National Highway System (NHS) and Interstate designation activities. Finally, this work supports FHWA's participation and service to the TRB, especially the Committee on Transportation and Economic Development. The work on this committee is fairly broad and potentially responsive to the comments made to the STEP website. Typical activities, which are ongoing, include analyzing and tracking research results, developing material to support comments to grantees during the course of the grant, formatting images for use in research and research-related products, and managing databases used to support research.


  1. NHS Designation and Product Development

The NHS includes approximately 160,000 miles of roadway important to the nation's economy, defense, and mobility. The NHS includes the Interstate, other principal arterials, the Strategic Highway Network, and intermodal connectors. FHWA uses digital spatial databases and maps to record and maintain the current system and all modifications to highway designations.

The objective of this research is to support mapping activities necessary to record the extent of the NHS and to correlate and/or coordinate the official map record against NHS coding in the Highway Performance Monitoring System's database. The map sets are coded onto the National Highway Planning Network (NHPN)-a geospatial digital highway network that FHWA uses to produce maps posted on the NHS website. Activities for the NHS website are ongoing. An additional product of this research will be the annual release of an NHS network coding compact disc (CD).


  1. Economic Development in Highway Corridors

Recent research has illuminated a continuing global trend for populations and economic activity to agglomerate into megaregions. As megaregions develop, grow, and are influenced by changing demographics, there is a need to develop knowledge of the infrastructure and economic aspects of these interlinked regions. Previous and ongoing research, along with input from stakeholders, highlights a need for research on the interconnections among population centers (including megaregions) and other regions (including rural areas).

Research into the location and usage of NHS terminals and connectors is also warranted. The role of NHS connectors in the nation's economy can be illuminated through exploratory research in a multi-State study area. Significant and positive economic development outcomes are possible from Interstate and rural highway projects and there is a growing interest in using economic analysis tools (including benefit-cost analysis) for planning and programming transportation projects. These tools allow for quantifiable and repeatable results to be estimated for new area investments.

This project seeks to examine interconnections among regions and megaregions. In addition, the project will use alternative economic analysis tools and data to study economic development effects resulting from highway investments. Finally, this project will measure the public benefits of transportation facilities and the economic development benefits of sustainable highways, livability, and shrinking cities.

All of these areas will provide guidance to transportation decision-makers and staff on the impacts of highway corridor investments on a local and global scale.


  1. Facilitating Electronic Dialogue on Transportation and Economic Development

This project will foster discussion among transportation officials and economic development professionals by establishing an electronic forum. Development of the electronic forum will be accomplished through creating and operating a transportation and economic development listserv or blog.

This forum will advance the state of the art in understanding economic development impacts of transportation investments. The forum will also support exploration of future trends by providing practitioners with practical, real word advice from peers and experts on data sources, analytic methods, and information one economic development projects across the country. Key discussions will focus on identifying the appropriate costs and benefits to consider in analysis and how similar projects are negotiated, including approval processes and other procedures.


  1. Web-Based NHS Actions Tracking Tool

FHWA maintains the official record of the NHS, which must be kept updated for transportation planners, policy-makers, and the general public. Modifications to the NHS require the coordination of numerous departments both within and outside of FHWA. A key component of this coordination is tracking correspondence between stakeholders, including correspondence on the background on the proposed action and the official letter/memorandum stating FHWA's decision. It is also important to know when an action occurred in order to answer questions about past actions on the same facilities.

This project will provide a framework for tracking the status of proposed actions on the NHS and will provide a repository for past actions. A web-based interface will allow uploading and retrieving supporting documentation for inputted actions on the NHS.

This framework will enhance knowledge management and succession planning for all stakeholders involved with NHS actions. Through standardizing document storage and retrieval, older actions can be more easily tracked and recovered.


III. Anticipated Research Efforts in Real Estate Services

1. Real Estate Program Stewardship

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Support of Stakeholder and Partner Outreach and Informational Dissemination Programs

The loss of institutional knowledge and a resulting loss of professional capacity has been a continuing trend throughout the right-of-way (ROW) professional community. This trend has necessitated developing innovative methods to provide stewardship and oversight of Federal-aid ROW programs.

This research effort will involve several new components, including:

  • Website support and development. Websites are key tools in disseminating information and reaching stakeholders.
  • Support for the realty competency building navigator. The purpose of the realty competency building program is to develop and maintain a high level of ROW and outdoor advertising control expertise for transportation agencies and partners.


  1. Voluntary Acquisition Best Practices and Implementation

This research will identify the benefits and possible consequences of carrying out voluntary acquisition of ROW for a Federally aided project or program. The effort will involve researching the use, implementation, and best practices of the voluntary acquisition requirements of 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 24.101(b)(1)-(5). Research results could be used to help increase consistency in interpreting and implementing the voluntary acquisition requirements of the Uniform Relocation Act (URA).

The research will further support project development and streamlining goals through working with other Federal agencies to expedite and clarify decision-making processes and develop better guidance on appropriate use of voluntary acquisitions. It also supports FHWA local public agency (LPA) stewardship efforts in providing State DOTs and LPAs with best practices and information on the appropriate implementation of voluntary acquisition activities. Results could be used to assess whether additional guidance or rulemaking should be considered.


  1. Coordination with Railroads to Facilitate Acquisition of ROW

This research will identify methods to implement the findings and recommendations of the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) 2 Research Implementation for R16: Strategies to Improve Institutional Relationship between DOTs and Railroads. It is responsive to stakeholder requests regarding the need for improved communications with railroads and Amtrak. Coordination will take place between the Federal Railroad Administration, multiple FHWA offices and programs, FHWA Division Offices, and State DOTs. Meetings among stakeholders in the northwest and northeast will be conducted to identify areas of consensus and mutual interests. The expected outcome of the meetings will be the development of a memorandum of understanding to facilitate future acquisitions of railroad property/ROW for Federally aided projects and programs.


  1. Relocation of Residences and Businesses for Federally Funded Projects on Tribal Lands

The overarching goal of the URA is to ensure fair and consistent treatment of those whose property is acquired for a project or program that receives Federal financial assistance. Consequently, tools should be provided that help to minimize the adverse impact of displacement and help to maintain the economic and social well-being of communities.

This research will identify how Tribal realty staff resolve relocations of residences and businesses when acquiring ROW. This effort will include researching Tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs realty sources to identify sovereign legal issues related to relocation of Native Americans or special provisions or exemptions to URA. This effort will also identify training needs for Tribal realty personnel who are acquiring ROW on Tribal or private land for Federally funded projects administered by a Tribe.

Research outcomes may include development of guidance material specific to Tribal acquisition practices and a training workshop for Tribal realty staff engaged in ROW acquisition.


2. Outdoor Advertising Control

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Neutral Assessment of the National Outdoor Advertising Control (OAC) Program: National Policy Dialogue

This research will involve conducting outreach through a neutral entity to parties interested in the OAC. The objective is to identify issues that cause controversy, provide perspectives of the various stakeholders, and identify appropriate methods for addressing conflicts and improving program results. Vehicles for carrying out this research may include facilitated workshops or national listening sessions.

The following issues are important to stakeholders and have significant potential for agreement:

  • The use of new technology;
  • Abuses of signage in commercial and industrial areas;
  • The future of nonconforming signs;
  • Control of vegetation in public ROW around billboards;
  • Inconsistent regulation and enforcement; and
  • The organization of the OAC program within FHWA.

To address these issues, a well-structured collaborative process may be conducted. A potential approach is a "National Policy Dialogue" involving representative stakeholders from around the country. FHWA held two such dialogues with useful results. FHWA will also convene a group of representative stakeholders to provide feedback on possible courses of action to address additional areas of conflict and improve program results. FHWA anticipates that at least two additional stakeholder meetings will be held to further pursue these areas of potential agreement. Possible outcomes could be additional FHWA guidance or rulemaking.


IV. Anticipated Research Efforts in Tools to Support Planning and Environment

1. Travel Modeling

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Advancement of Treatment of Non-Motorized Travel in Existing Models

This research will develop an effective representation of non-motorized behavior within an existing regional travel demand model to capture the effects of urban form, facility improvements, safety, demographics, and transit connectivity.


  1. Census Transportation Planning Package (CTTP) Technical Assistance

This project will provide technical assistance, staff support, and research to States and MPOs on CTPP and American Community Survey data.


  1. Data Collection

This research will fund demonstrations of innovative data collection methods.


  1. Support Ongoing Travel Modeling Improvement Program (TMIP) Efforts

This research will support TMIP outreach to help planning agencies build institutional capacity to perform transportation planning technical analyses. This technical capability is critical to provide solutions or support for policies, projects, and initiatives contained in regional transportation plans and Transportation Improvement Programs. Such technical capability also plays an important role in analyzing traffic safety improvements and the impacts of land use and economic development on transportation, air quality, and other emerging transportation issues.


  1. National Travel Forecasting Steering Committee

This research will support a partnership effort with the National Academies of Sciences to develop community infrastructure, a travel forecasting resource, and an oversight group.


  1. Peer Review Program and Peer Exchange

Independent peer reviews of travel models are critical to ensure the quality of travel forecasts. TMIP has an ongoing peer review program to support travel modeling practice in transportation planning agencies. Peer exchanges will summarize current travel modeling-related practices and identify gaps and research needs.


2. GIS and Spatial Information for Improved Decision-Making

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Case Studies

This project will identify and document best practices and benefits of geospatial information systems (GIS) at all levels of government and in a variety of transportation-related professions (e.g., transportation planners and information technology, safety, law enforcement, operations, and maintenance professionals).

While determining best practices according to certain criteria and guidelines, the project will also evaluate and measure the benefits of GIS technology. A series of case studies will focus on advanced capabilities in using geospatial technologies for improved decision-making in areas such as:

  • Travel demand modeling;
  • Integration with computer-aided design operation in ROW;
  • Section 106 (historic preservation) and NEPA; and
  • Workable data-sharing agreements.


  1. Peer Exchanges

This research effort will generate and facilitate peer exchanges focused on transportation topics in environment, planning, and realty. Each peer exchange will produce reports to capture and summarize knowledge shared at these gatherings and potential future topics for research. Specific peer exchange topics will include:

  • GIS and environmental streamlining;
  • GIS and livability initiatives;
  • GIS and safety in transportation;
  • GIS application in Section 106 (historic preservation) and NEPA; and
  • Developing workable data-sharing agreements, especially with resource agencies.


  1. National Highway Planning Network (NHPN) Maintenance

This project involves updating and maintaining spatial and attribute information in the NHPN, a geospatial database that depicts all principal arterial and rural minor arterial roads in the U.S. The NHPN is currently used to maintain the NHS, Eisenhower Interstate System, and the Strategic Highway Network as well as to model freight (truck) flows in the Freight Analysis Framework.


  1. Enhancement of the GIS Screening Tool (GISST)

GIS-based tools like GISST provide a way for planners and environmental staff to quickly screen for environmental issues as they plan or prepare NEPA documents. These tools save time and resources and can help direct the use of limited resources, such as time, staff, and funds.

The Texas DOT and USEPA Region 6 successfully conducted a technology transfer of the GISST in 2005. As a result of several workshops and conferences, the transportation community believed that increasing the resolution of the tool from the current 1 kilometer (km)2 grid to a 0.25 km2 grid (depending on data resolution) would be more helpful in urban settings. In addition, the original GISST used National Land Cover Data (NLCD) from 1992 and now more recent (2000) NLCD is available.

The calculated grids for Arkansas , Oklahoma , Louisiana , New Mexico , and the recalculations for Texas would be incorporated as a web service into NEPAssist, a separate web-based application. Currently, GISST is not incorporated into NEPAssist because the grids portion of GISST is limited to Texas .

As part of this project, staff from FHWA Divisions and State DOTs will have access to NEPAssist, provided that staff can attend a training event.


  1. National Highway Institute (NHI) Course 151039 Update

This effort will update the NHI course, Applying GIS and Spatial Data Technologies to Transportation, which was developed in 2003. The majority of the course content is still relevant; however, examples reflecting current uses of technologies need to be updated. Chapters pertaining to more recent web mapping technologies and national geospatial efforts will be added.


V. Program Management and Outreach

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

  1. Program Management and Outreach

The Program Management and Outreach category of funding supports the FHWA Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty's (HEP) overall research and other programs. This category provides funding for STEP program outreach, website support for FHWA HEP research and programs, financial management support for STEP, support of the STEP stakeholder feedback system, FHWA HEP research efforts, and marketing, outreach, and program initiatives.

Some specific products will include the following: STEP outreach, the fiscal year (FY) 2010 STEP research plan, reports, brochures, webinars, newsletters, workshops, and potentially a national research conference.


Updated: 06/27/2017
Updated: 9/30/2012
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