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Welcome to FHWA's Office of Planning, Environment and Realty's (HEP) third Quarterly Research Newsletter under Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).
The MAP-21 research newsletters offer readers the most current information about the office's research activities, as well as opportunities to learn how it can be used to improve transportation decisionmaking and promote efficiency, while protecting communities and the environment.
The highlight of this issue is an article about FHWA's new Research and Technology (R&T) website. Over the past year, HEP has worked closely with a team from FHWA Research and Technology group to produce a website that will be informative and encourage feedback about the Agency's research projects and priorities. Please look for the newly designed website at the end of this month.
FHWA supported the seventh biennial meeting of the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET) in Scottsdale, Arizona. Organized by the Center for Transportation and the Environment, and co-hosted by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD), the meeting brought together transportation professionals to share their experiences and learn the most up-to-date information about reducing ecological impacts from transportation projects. This issue also includes:
Acting Associate Administrator
FHWA Office of Planning, Environment and Realty
The Federal Highway Administration's R&T website will soon be sporting a new look that is intended to showcase FHWA's research activities, advance the Agency's strategic direction and engage stakeholders about FHWA's overall research efforts. John Moulden, FHWA's National R&T Partnership Program Manager, said that a key reason for updating the site was the Agency's need to aid stakeholder's understanding of our federal highway research, development and technology program. The new website, which will go live at the end of July, will highlight HEP's research agenda under MAP-21 and feature examples of the office's research activities that achieve each of the agenda's strategic objectives. These objectives include:
Scrolling images will highlight the agenda on the website, with short narratives and links that provide more detail about each project.
According to Moulden, soliciting stakeholder feedback was a key goal of the website's design: "FHWA needs to understand if our research portfolio is addressing the right transportation problems, and if current strategies are the right path to solving those problems."
For more information, please visit https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/research/.
FHWA's Eco-Logical Approach to planning was the focus of a plenary session at the seventh biennial meeting of the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET), held June 23-27, in Scottsdale, AZ. Plenary participants examined the ways that the large-scale approaches offered through the FHWA Eco-Logical approach and the Western Governors' Association's Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) can inform transportation decision-making and conserve critical environmental resources and drew connections between the related efforts. During the five-day symposium, more than 150 technical papers and posters were presented that addressed the conference theme, "Meeting Today's Transportation Challenges with Innovative Science and Sustainable Solutions." Many of the nearly 400 participants, from across the United States and 21 countries, learned about sustainable answers to the ecological impacts of transportation at more than 20 breakout sessions and three optional field trips. To read the full conference proceedings, please visit http://www.icoet.net/.
On May 23, 2013, FHWA's Office of Human Environment sponsored a webinar to help transportation officials better understand why homelessness at public transportation facilities is an important issue to address. Dr. Ellen M. Bassett from the University of Virginia and Dr. Andrée Tremoulet from Portland State University discussed how public and private agencies in Oregon and Massachusetts partnered to find humane solutions to homeless encampments on public facilities. Representatives from these case studies also joined the webinar for a question and answer session.
Other speakers included:
A recording of the webinar is available at: https://connectdot.connectsolutions.com/p6jemor31o7/
Recently, two webinars were hosted that focused on a new program from the Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP2) that offers proven strategies, to accelerate the planning and environmental review of transportation projects, within the context of existing laws and regulations.
The product, known as C19, was addressed at the Transportation Research Board's (TRB) SHRP2 Tuesdays Webinar on June 4, 2013. During the webinar, experts discussed 16 common constraints to transportation project delivery, 24 strategies for addressing or avoiding the common constraints, and implementation opportunities for this product. A recording of this webinar is available at: http://www.trb.org/StrategicHighwayResearchProgram2SHRP2/Blurbs/168845.aspx
On July 23, 2013, FHWA, AASHTO, and TRB also hosted a webinar about this SHRP2 Solution. The webinar provided an overview of the SHRP2 program, a summary of the C19 product, and a description of the planned implementation. The panelists also discussed opportunities that are available to help State DOTs and MPOs implement Expediting Project Delivery (C19) in their work. For more information, please visit https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/goshrp2/. HEP Staff Contact: Gary Jensen, 202-366-2048.
Performance-Based Planning and Programming Workshop - In MAP-21, performance based planning is a key element to performance management. That is why FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration are working in partnership with transportation industry stakeholders to host workshops on performance-based planning and programming (PBPP) and Performance Management. The fourth workshop was held from June 20-21, 2013 in Raleigh, NC. During the workshop, participants shared existing practices and challenges on the use of performance measures and PBPP approaches that the State Departments of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Regional Planning Organizations and transit agencies are undertaking within their agencies. HEP Staff Contact: Harlan Miller, 202-366-0847.
Multi Species Programmatic Consultations - FHWA is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Washington State Department of Transportation to expand two existing programmatic Endangered Species Act consultations. After 13 years of use, the Agencies identified more effective and efficient approaches to incorporate into the agreements. These innovative concepts will increase Programmatic Biological Assessment utility while providing conservation benefits to additional ESA-listed species and including more activities over a greater area. HEP Staff Contact: Michael Lamprecht, 202-366-6454.
The Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model (SELDM) - SELDM was developed by FHWA in coordination with U.S. Geological Survey to replace the FHWA runoff-quality model (Driscoll) published in 1990. The model uses information and data about a highway site, water quality of upstream receiving waters, precipitation events, storm-flow, and the performance of mitigation measures, to produce a stochastic population of runoff-quality variables. FHWA is hosting a series of training sessions to help practitioners learn how to use the model in the field. See the upcoming events section for more information. HEP Staff Contact: Susan Jones, 202-493-2139.
Implementing Quality Environmental Documentation (IQED) under Every Day Counts 2 - The IQED initiative aims to improve the quality of NEPA documents, by making them more effective in disclosing the information for making project decisions to the public and participating agencies, including regulatory agencies who have permitting or review responsibilities. IQED recently moved to the implementation phase following summit discussions this spring. Several states will be developing pilot documents and standard operating practices, as well as incorporating IQED principles into their documents. The focus of the implementation is the three core principles of the initiative: tell the story; keep the document brief; and ensure legal sufficiency. The initiative is placing special emphasis on having a good solid Purpose and Need statement and Alternatives Analysis discussion to lay the foundation for the document overall. HEP Staff Contact: Tricia Harr, 202-366-9214.
Work Plan for the Center for Environmental Excellence - The FHWA recently approved the 2013-2014 Work Plan for the Center for Environmental Excellence (CEE). A collaborative effort between the FHWA Office of Planning, Environment and Realty and the CEE's Advisory Board, the 2013-2014 Work Plan is comprised of numerous emerging, complex or hot topic tasks such as stormwater, expediting project delivery, extreme weather impacts on transportation infrastructure, air quality/CMAQ practitioner peer exchange, environmental compliance at highway maintenance facilities, and NEPA/Section 404 merger. The Advisory Board is comprised of members from many of AASHTO's Standing Committees. The full Work Plan will be posted on the Center's website: http://environment.transportation.org/. HEP Staff Contact: Mark Ferroni , 202-366-3233.
FHWA recently released the Project and Program Action Information (PAPAI), a new Web-based application designed to help FHWA offices track project information.
PAPAI is the result of nearly four years of research and development activities. In March 2009, the Division Administrator IT Advisory Committee requested submissions of Applications/Tools that FHWA's Division offices were using to help standardize business processes. The working group examined what types of tracking systems were in place and considered options for providing Division offices a one-stop shop. PAPAI was soon developed to provide a user-friendly, standardized, automated means for tracking highway projects and their related actions, as well as non-project related actions. PAPAI also incorporated the Environmental Document Tracking System (EDTS) that tracked pre-construction environmental requirements.
Correspondence, suspense items, project and program-related action items, and environmental documents - environmental impact statement, environmental assessment (EA), and categorical exclusion (CE) - are all part of the web-based system. Since the new system went online in March, over 200 active EAs are being tracked through PAPAI; and 32 CEs, which previously were not part of the EDTS, are now in PAPAI.
Although using the system is not mandatory, MAP-21 environmental documents and reporting requirements are easily tracked through the system. Through this application, FHWA is moving forward in its efforts to streamline environmental project delivery under MAP-21. PAPAI is an example of the evolution of clunky, difficult to use databases, to user friendly, streamlined systems. HEP Staff Contact: Mary Frye, 202-366-0524.