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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

2009 Annual Report

Section I: Background

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.

Background - Conducting Research that Links to Practice

Since 2006, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has administered the Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP) to encourage new, strategic and applied research on the relationship between surface transportation planning and the environment. Federal, State, and other stakeholders are involved throughout the STEP process to shape, refine, and implement research agendas.

This publication provides an overview of the STEP program's accomplishments during Fiscal Year (FY) 2009. Detailed information about outreach activities and specific research projects can be found in the appendices.

Linking Research to Practice

STEP funding allows researchers to carry out timely investigations and analyses, translate and synthesize research from other initiatives into practice, and fund quick turn-around efforts that advance key strategies to address national priorities.

Pie chart: FY2009 Research Budgets by Category: Environment 5,953,500; Planning 4,975,000; Tools to Support Environment and Planning 1,575,000; Program Management and Outreach 1,000,000; HEP Associate Administrator 1,185,934.

*Includes funds that were provided in supplemental apprpriations via technical corrections late in FY 2009.

Figure 1: FY2009 Research Budgets by Category

STEP funds support projects with three different, but interrelated functions:

STEP's Legislative History

Section 5207 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) established the STEP program for 2006-2009. Congress mandated a 50 percent non-Federal match to encourage collaboration with partners and increase the scope of research that can be undertaken. In cases where projects are funded through a competitive bid process, the requirement may be waived.

Efficient Management of a Successful Program

SAFETEA-LU authorized $16.875 million annually to implement the STEP. After adjusting for obligation limitations, rescissions and the over-designation of Title V Research in SAFETEA-LU, $14.5 million was available for the FY2009 STEP.

Through STEP, FHWA invests in projects in 17 "emphasis areas" that fall into three broad research categories: environment, planning, and tools to support environment and planning (see figures). The 67 projects funded in FY2009 enhance the state-of-the-art and practice in planning, environment, and realty.

STEP Emphasis Areas

Chart showing areas for Environment, Planning, and the overlap of the two. Click image for text description.

Figure 2: STEP Emphasis Areas

Highlights of FY2009 STEP Research

STEP projects include short-term initiatives and ongoing multi-year programs; they may be carried out by FHWA staff, or by a collection of professionals in many different agencies. The FHWA uses STEP funds and the STEP process to build partnerships that encourage collaboration, leverage diverse funding sources, and offer a fresh perspective on emerging research topics. FY2009 STEP projects reflect stakeholder feedback and collaboration.

Notable projects from each emphasis area are highlighted below with respect to their core function:

Conducting Research Studies

Developing and Deploying Tools, Technologies and Practices

Connecting the Community and Transferring Knowledge

Stakeholder Collaboration

"This is an excellent program to identify research and training needs."

- Arizona Department of Transportation stakeholder

Stakeholder outreach, feedback, and participation in research efforts are critical to successful implementation of the STEP. Throughout FY2009, FHWA collaborated with Federal, Tribal, and State partners, representatives of national associations, members of the academic community, private sector professionals, and individual citizens. Together they assessed research needs, identified potential funding sources, and designed appropriate research plans and activities. For the past four fiscal years, FHWA has also collected stakeholder feedback through a Web-based system. Using this system, stakeholders can target their feedback towards one of the 17 emphasis areas or submit general comments. Additionally, hundreds of individuals were reached through email communication or meetings, conferences, and other events.

Updated: 9/30/2012
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