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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

Environmental Research: A Decade of Accomplishments 1990 - 2000


Natural Environment

Human Environment

Integrated Decisionmaking

Title Index


Transportation, whether it is the mode of getting from one point to another (automobile, train) or the superstructure that supports it (road, bridge), has impacts on communities, people, and the environment. Research is needed to fully understand the impacts of individual transportation projects and their interactions on the livability and sustainability of the natural and human environment. In recognition of this need, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has supported, over the past 10 years, environmental research activities that totaled more than $30 million and has renewed its commitment to technology transfer and training in this area.

The FHWA Environmental Research Program (ERP) conducts and supports research related to the design, planning, construction, operation, and maintenance of transportation systems and their impacts on the human and natural environments. The research activities of the ERP are designed to provide the most effective and efficient transportation systems possible, while simultaneously protecting, preserving, and enhancing all elements of our environment.

This report documents the completed and ongoing research activities of the ERP and highlights the most significant accomplishments. In addition, it provides information to the transportation and environmental research communities about our program. It is a resource that may be used by the FHWA's many constituencies, such as State Departments of Transportation (DOTs); Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs); environmental organizations; academic institutions; the interested public; and others, including the U.S. Congress.

FHWA's Mission and Vision

The mission of the FHWA is to continually improve the quality of our Nation's highway system and intermodal connections. The FHWA includes, as one of its five strategic goals, the need to carry out its mission in a manner that protects and enhances the natural environment and communities affected by transportation. The FHWA's other strategic goals focus on mobility, safety, productivity, and national security. The goal to protect and enhance the environment and communities affected by transportation requires that principles of environmental stewardship be incorporated in all of the FHWA's policies, procedures, and decisions. This means that the FHWA responsibly considers and evaluates all aspects of the environment throughout the highway design, planning, and development process. Beyond its obligations embodied in environmental stewardship, the FHWA must demonstrate leadership on environmental matters with State and local agencies that implement transportation projects and programs throughout the country.

Over the years, the role of the FHWA has evolved and the Agency has expanded its mission beyond that of constructing a nationwide transportation system that is safe, reliable, and efficient. During the 1990s, the FHWA's role broadened to reflect increasing interest throughout the nation in developing an environmentally sensitive transportation system. This role change occurred for several reasons. The most important was the enactment of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in 1998. In enacting ISTEA and TEA-21, the U.S. Congress emphasized the need for an integrated and multimodal transportation system that reflects environmental sensitivity and community values. The renewed emphasis on the environmental and community impacts of transportation changed the framework of transportation planning and decisionmaking and vastly expanded the number of stakeholders who have an active interest in the FHWA's programs and policies.

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Updated: 10/13/2011
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