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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

HEP Research Quarterly Newsletter

Fall 2013

Message from FHWA's Director of Real Estate Services

Photo of Nelson Castellanos

Welcome to FHWA's Office of Planning, Environment and Realty's (HEP) Quarterly Research Newsletter Fall 2013, under Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).

The MAP-21 research newsletters offer readers up-to-date information about the office's research activities. As I approach my retirement from FHWA, I've observed that research plays a key role in improving transportation decision making and provides solutions through collaboration.

Several research projects underway in the Office of Real Estate Services will streamline acquisition processes, support and promote efforts to develop alternative uses for rights-of-way, and promote State and local agencies use of electronic information management systems for right-of-way activities. You can read more about these projects in the research highlights section.

This issue also features information about new funding for University Transportation Centers (UTCs) for research that ranges from improving health and safety for all users of the transportation system to evaluating how autonomous vehicles affect driver behavior, safety and performance. Other highlights in this issue include:

I encourage you to visit the MAP-21 research website to discover how you can get involved in HEP's research activities.


Nelson Castellanos, Director
Office of Real Estate Services
FHWA Office of Planning, Environment and Realty

RITA Awards $63 Million In Research Grants

DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) recently announced approximately $63 million in grants to 33 UTCs to advance research and education programs that address critical transportation challenges facing our nation.

Five National UTCs, which address national transportation issues in line with DOT's key strategic goals, were awarded grants of $2.8 million each. Eight Regional UTCs, which focus on regional transportation needs, received awards of $2.59 million each. Twenty additional UTCs received awards of $1.4 million each. There were more than 142 applications submitted to RITA under this program.

UTCs work with regional, state, local, and tribal transportation agencies to find solutions to challenges that directly impact their communities and affect the efficiency of the nation's transportation system. The selected universities' research addresses a wide range of transportation-related issues including:

A list of grant recipients is available here. Information about UTC's active and completed research can be found on the US DOT Research Hub.

SHRP2 Update

FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) announced that the application process for round three of the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) Implementation Assistance Program begins January 14, 2014. The program is available to help State departments of transportation (DOTs), metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and other interested organizations deploy SHRP2 Solutions. One product being offered in round three is the Freight Demand Modeling and Data Improvement Strategic Plan (C20). This plan outlines an approach to help planners identify freight modeling and data priority needs. It provides tools and data to evaluate more consistent transportation projects that affect freight movement. The plan provides better data and models to allow State, regional, and local freight planners and decision makers to make more informed project investment decisions. Round two awards for expediting project delivery were announced October 18, 2013. Twelve projects in ten states and two MPO areas will receive funding. For more information about these awards, please visit SHRP2.


FHWA Hosts Bicycle and Pedestrian Design Guidance National Webinar

Green circle with outline of a bicycle

On September 13, 2013, FHWA hosted a webinar to discuss new guidance "expressing support for taking a flexible approach to bicycle and pedestrian facility design." Over 200 people joined the multi-office Workgroup webinar to learn about the latest resources available including two AASHTO Guides: Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, Guide for the Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities. Two additional publications: the Institute of Transportation Engineers', Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach and the National Association of City Transportation Officials', Urban Bikeway Design Guide, were also highlighted. The Workgroup is implementing several initiatives to improve safety and accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists. The memorandum, webinar recording and transcript are all posted at HEP Staff Contact: Dan Goodman, 202-366-9064.

Research Highlights

Included in this section are recent highlights from the Office's research projects that are completed or underway.


Economic Development and Transportation Scan and Primer - This project aims to improve understanding of the current state of the practice in incorporating economic development plans and goals into transportation plans and processes. FHWA Division Offices will be scanned and best practices will be documented. With this information, a primer will be created that highlights basic principles in economic development and how they intersect with transportation plans and programs. HEP Staff Contact: Stefan Natzke, 202-366-5010.

Clip art picture of research in the dictionary

National Highway System Tracker - This project will tie the National Highway System (NHS) to a Geographical Information System to enable document tracking. The final interface will allow both verbal/spatial searches and cataloguing of historical NHS documents. Easy access to NHS historical documentation will allow for better knowledge management and consistency in managing the NHS. HEP Staff Contact: Kevin Adderly, 202-366-5006.

Performance-Based Planning and Programming: Guidebook Series

Performance Based Planning and Programming Guidebook report cover

To address the need for technical information on Performance-based Planning and Programming (PBPP), FHWA along with our partners and stakeholders published the first in a series of three guidebooks. Performance Based Planning and Programming (PBPP) Guidebook is designed to help State DOTs, MPOs, RTPOs, transit agencies, and other partner organizations understand:

The Guidebook builds on existing PBPP resources and tools, including a white paper and a series of workshop discussions that FHWA and FTA have sponsored to encourage dialogue among the transportation community. HEP Staff Contact: Harlan Miller, 202-366-0847.


Cycle Track Planning and Design Resource - The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, under an FHWA task order, is developing a cycle track planning and design resource. Cycle tracks are dedicated bicycle facilities alongside a roadway, typically separated from motor vehicle traffic by a physical barrier. This research will include a detailed safety and mode share analysis, while also highlighting cycle track planning and design considerations. FHWA expects to complete the research in fall 2014. HEP Staff Contact: Christopher B. Douwes, 202-366-5013.

Stormwater Quality Banking and Trading - FHWA is undertaking a research project to document the available frontier undertakings in stormwater quality banking and trading. The research is intended to gather information to determine the advantages, disadvantages and/or risks associated with water quality offsets/trading to satisfy water quality requirements set by State and/or federal environmental regulatory agencies. This analysis and framing of the structure and vehicles for a potential credit system will serve to drive pilots that can influence national stormwater management and programs. HEP Staff Contact: Marcel K. Tchaou, 202-366-4196.

Real Estate Services

Alternative Uses of Highway Right-of-Way Pilot Implementation - The FHWA, with State Departments of Transportation, is exploring uses of highway right-of-way (ROW) to accommodate renewable energy technologies. Together with the Volpe Center, the FHWA selected State DOTs to plan, develop, and advance projects that accommodate renewable energy technologies and/or alternative fuel facilities (e.g., solar installations, wind turbines, bioenergy crop/biomass production) within the highway right-of-way (ROW). The new FHWA alternative uses of highway right-of-way webpage, scheduled to go live at the beginning of November2013, will highlight project examples and recently released research information. HEP Staff Contact: Bruce Bradley, 202-493-0564.

Photo of solar panel array along the highway.

Examining and Clarifying Reimbursable State Funded Early Acquisition and Statewide Planning Requirements - The FHWA and the VOLPE Center are analyzing actions State DOTs can take to meet the early acquisition reimbursement requirements under MAP-21, Section 1302. The focus of the study is to share several State DOTs existing practices and challenges related to the comprehensive and coordinated land use, environment, and transportation planning process under State law. HEP Staff Contact: Bruce Bradley, 202-493-0564.

Implementation of "Notices and Offers" by Electronic Methods: Process Streamlining - This research will provide FHWA with technical information aimed at improving how internet based systems can be used to streamline the acquisition process. The FHWA will feature an option to allow property owners or occupants to use current technology to receive right-of-way acquisition offers and notices by "electronic means," when an agency can demonstrate secure receipt of the acquisition information. HEP Staff Contact: Bruce Bradley, 202-493-0564.

Implementation of Electronic Data/Recordkeeping Systems versus Paper Records - This research will provide FHWA with tangible and easy to understand documentation for transportation professionals in public agencies, at the state and local levels, to use in support of implementing electronic information management systems for ROW and related activities. HEP Staff Contact: Rosemary Jones, 202-366-2042.

Other Research

Wireless Camera Systems for Environmental Monitoring of Transportation Corridors - The University of California is conducting a research project to create web-connected, wired and wireless camera systems for wildlife detection along transportation corridors. The wired and wireless camera systems will represent an advance over traditional remote cameras in that their output will be viewed almost instantly on the web as compared to weeks or months later and only by select staff. The project was awarded under the FHWA's Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program. Legislation established FHWA's EAR program to spur innovation and focus on high risk and high pay-off research. EAR is a bridge between basic and applied research. HEP Staff Contact: Mary Frye, 202-366-0524.

Featured Research Project

e-NEPA Tool Streamlines Transportation Environmental Review Process

Minimizing environmental impacts of transportation projects requires careful coordination among public and private organizations. Transparency is a key component of the process, but coordinating document review is cumbersome and unwieldy due to the scores of documents required for permitting and oversight by federal, state and local agencies.

To streamline this process, FHWA's Office of Project Development and Environmental Review began development of the e-NEPA collaboration tool in 2011. The tool allows State DOTs and other transportation agencies to share documents, track comments, schedule tasks with participating agencies, and perform concurrent reviews for Environment Impact Statements and Environmental Assessments.

Photo of a road with trucks and cars.

The national roll-out of the online e-NEPA tool began in September with three webinars that introduced the tool to Division Offices, several federal agencies, and States. Upcoming meetings with the Federal Transit Administration, other modal agencies, and the AASHTOWare Special Committee on Joint Development will further showcase the streamlined, solution oriented process that e-NEPA provides. The roll-out follows a three month pilot phase where five states: Arizona, North Dakota, Washington, Utah and Wisconsin tested the tool in real time. All five states and Arkansas are currently managing projects with the tool.

FHWA is also retaining rights to disseminate the tool to other Federal agencies such as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the U.S. Coast Guard to adapt to their particular NEPA processes.

The FHWA e-NEPA team, Mary Frye, Bill Ostrum, and Kreig Larsen, are working with AASHTO to transfer the tool to AASHTO for inclusion as a part of the AASHTOWare suite of management tools. HEP Staff Contact: Mary Frye, 202-366-0524.

Clip art of a calendar page

Upcoming Events





The Office of Human Environment's Research and Financial Services Team administers research programs and financial support to HEP for research initiatives under MAP-21. They provide leadership, coordination, support and implementation of research activities. They also work toward improving outreach, communication and partnerships between Federal, State, and local stakeholders in managing the research programs. For more information, please contact HEP's Primary Research Coordinator: Patricia Cazenas, 202-366-4085.

Updated: 11/12/2015
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