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Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

FY 2008 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 fiscal year 2008 (FY2008) Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP) research projects. These recommendations are based on a review of stakeholder feedback, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), other directives, and other current or planned research activities and research needs.

Table 1, below, lists the total number of research projects that are expected to be carried out in each emphasis area, with the FY2008 STEP Budget. The following pages include summary information about each project within each emphasis area. 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: FY2008 STEP Budget by Emphasis Area

Emphasis Area Number of Research Recommendations FY 2008 STEP Budget
Air Quality and Global Climate Change 4 $1,148,500
Water Wetlands/Vegetation/Wildlife/Habitat/Brownfields 8 $1,070,000
Historic Preservation 2 $225,000
Bicycle/Pedestrian and Health 1 $70,000
Noise 1 $200,000
Outdoor Advertising Control/Realty Program Management 4 $300,000
Environmental Streamlining/Stewardship 5 $1,663,500
Context Sensitive Solutions 2 $500,000
Congestion 1 $750,000
Safety Planning 1 $100,000
Freight Planning 1 $100,000
Public Involvement, Environmental Justice, Visualization in Planning 1 $375,000
Other Activities that Support State/Local/Tribal Planning Capacity Building 9 $2,425,000
U.S./Canada and U.S./Mexico Border Planning 2 $400,000
National Security, Defense and Interstate Planning 3 $300,000
Travel Modeling 1 $730,000
GIS/Spatial Information for Improved Decision Making 6 $400,000
TOTAL 55 $14,500,906

*Includes FY08 Technical Correction Funds

Anticipated Research Efforts in Environment

Air Quality and Global Climate Change

Contact persons:
Research Activity or Project Project Summary STEP Budget
Climate Change: Local Mitigation and Impacts As awareness of the negative consequences of climate change grows, state and local governments have continued to develop climate action plans, set targets for emissions reductions, and adopt a host of measures to assess and reduce carbon footprints. Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP) comments received this year request support for a variety of research activities, including efforts to reduce emissions from transportation sources and assess the impacts of climate change on transportation infrastructure. Our research efforts in this area may include:
  • Updating and expanding existing tools and strategies and developing and testing new tools and strategies to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from transportation sources. Model GHG reduction strategies for local transportation plans may be developed in concert with local and/or state partners.
  • Investigating how national policies or strategies to reduce GHG emissions would potentially affect transportation services, funding and infrastructure, and analyzing the effectiveness of such policies and strategies in reducing GHG emissions. This work could include reviewing or developing national policy or legislative proposals.
  • Analyzing GHG emission reduction strategies using geographic, socio-economic, and demographic variables.
  • Funding US Department of Transportation (DOT) Center on Climate Change, which annually selects projects with advice and concurrence of the Center's Steering Committee. The Center's FY2008 activities will focus on ways to reduce transportation-related emissions and their effects on transportation infrastructure and services.
Air Quality and Global Climate Change Research Outreach and Communication

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will continue to provide research-based mobile-source air quality information to our stakeholders and the public. Ideally, in fiscal year 2008 (FY2008) FHWA will work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Energy (DOE), American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) to conduct new research and communicate completed research findings to both stakeholders and the public. FHWA will use appropriate charts, graphs, illustrations, and other visuals to clearly convey mobile-source air quality information in non-technical terms.

The goals of our outreach and communications are to inform and provide technical assistance to our partners and stakeholders in an easily-accessible format. These efforts include syntheses and compilation of research results and other information. Our outreach and communications take the form of conference presentations, written materials (hard copy and online), webcasts/webinars, web-based communities of practice, teleconferences, video conferences, and public education materials.

In FY2008, outreach and communications could cover development and dissemination of information on:

  • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) investments.
  • Global climate change.
  • Mobile source air toxics.
  • New air quality standards and regulations.
  • Public education.
  • Health implications of transportation services.
  • Sustainable transportation.
  • Energy and emissions implications of activities that reduce congestion and vehicle miles traveled.


Testing, Evaluation and Validation of New Emission Models and Methodologies

In 2007, EPA released a demo version of the new emission model, Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator (MOVES). When the final version is released in 2008, MOVES will replace the existing emissions model. MOVES will also be required for a variety of emissions and air quality analysis for conformity, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and other regulatory purposes. MOVES may also prove useful in analyzing emissions of GHG at the project and regional levels. This research effort would include a number of tasks, including reviewing the MOVES model and identifying issues of concern for the transportation community and evaluating, testing, and validating the model to assure accurate and relevant results. In FY2007, FHWA funded a task to evaluate and test-run the demo version of MOVES. Other tasks may include:

  • Identifying transportation data collection needs (e.g., vehicle fleet data, truck Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and speed, speeds on local roads, start and parking patterns, extended idle, etc.) and gathering relevant data; evaluating the reliability of assumptions used to estimate traffic data.
  • Examining data conversion methodologies to make existing data compatible with the new model.
  • Conducting a needs assessment for uncertainty analysis for MOVES; identifying or developing estimation methods to quantify uncertainty.
  • Identifying model calibration and validation issues related to transportation/traffic data, such as modal activities and traffic operations.
  • Conducting MOVES sensitivity analysis, e.g., testing model sensitivity to speed and congestion levels and its ability to account for emissions benefits of congestion-relief measures.
  • Examining how typical transportation projects change driving cycle and Vehicle Specific Power (VSP) distribution.
  • Developing and conducting training for transportation agencies.

To complete this research effort, a total of about $750,000 would be needed over a 3-year period, starting in FY2008. Research results would be disseminated to our state and local partners in a timely manner to ensure smooth transition to new model implementation. The research results would be instrumental in supporting future rulemaking/guidance.


Research on Conducting Project Level Analysis

In its conformity regulations, EPA acknowledged that the current emissions model is not appropriate for conducting local emissions impact, especially for particulate matter (PM). Although PM local hot-spot analysis has been required since 1993, in the absence of an appropriate model and guidance, EPA has yet to require quantitative emissions analysis until a new emissions model and associated analysis guidance are released. Given the recent interest in project level analysis for Mobile Source Air Toxic (MSAT) emissions and GHG under NEPA, these pollutants should be included in the list of emissions to be analyzed in each of these research tasks.

This research will examine a number of issues related to the project level (hot-spot) analysis. Given the number of issues, it is anticipated that a series of research studies will be conducted over the next three years. The entire research effort will cost about $600,000, and possible research areas may include:

  • Examination of traffic characteristics (volumes, speeds, congestion levels, etc.) and the relationship between these characteristics and local emissions.
  • Collection of background concentration data.
  • Establishment of emissions gradients along transportation corridors to identify impact zones and to locate sensitive receptors.
  • Evaluation and improvement of dispersion models.
  • Development of methodologies to calculate emissions benefits for project level mitigation measures.
  • Conducting "before and after" analysis for emissions impacts of transportation strategies such as ramp metering, High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) and High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, etc.
  • Examination of the impact of intermodal and port facilities on emissions.
  • Documentation of best practices for project level analyses, such as the best models and methodologies to apply in specific situations like modeling protocol.
  • Research to support categorical hot-spot findings.
  • Support of project level quantitative analysis/guidance development.

Other projects associated with this research effort may include a series of reports documenting findings of each research task.



Contact persons:
Research Activity or Project Project Summary STEP Budget
Supporting Peer Exchange and Research Dissemination at Environmental Conferences and Workshops

There are a number of conferences, meetings, and workshops held around the country throughout the year that encourage and support peer exchange, market new technologies, and bring environmental concerns associated with transportation construction and use into focus. These events include, among others, the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET), the National Mitigation Bankers Conference, Weeds Across Borders, the summer Transportation Research Board (TRB) meetings, the Environmental Excellence Awards, the New England Wildlife Crossing Workshop, and the National Wetlands Awards. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has supported many of these efforts throughout the years. These events provide valuable summaries of scientific research, contribute to peer exchange and information availability on specific environmental and regulatory issues, and disseminate technology and scientific information.

The additional funding requested this year will support the 2009 ICOET, which is scheduled to take place in Minnesota. Since the ICOET is the only conference during which ecological effects of highways are examined in detail, FHWA wishes to remain a major sponsor.

Conferences, workshops, awards programs and peer exchanges are a critical element in disseminating and exchanging scientific data related to transportation and the environment, identifying research gaps, and providing opportunities to partner on research relating to common interests with our stakeholders. FHWA needs to continue supporting these efforts in order to disseminate technical and regulatory information to State Departments of Transportation (DOTs), FWHA field staff, and environmental agencies and consultants. Support of these government and private initiatives will encourage better information use, better methods in environmental assessment and mitigation, productive partnerships in research, and better, continuous information transfers.

Products, documents, or benefits of this research effortwill include:

  • Proceedings that can be used as reference documents for regulatory updates, technical manuals, and general scientific references.
  • The opportunity to exchange ideas or information about operations and new technologies, as well as approaches to environmental problem-solving for field staff.


International Stormwater BMP Database

Although literature exists on stormwater best management practices (BMPs) and their design, maintenance, and overall effectiveness, no information is located in a centralized, easy-to-use repository for use in assessing the appropriateness of BMPs under various conditions. The information contained in the literature has been collected and developed using, at times, inconsistent methods and reporting formats. Such inconsistency has made it difficult to effectively evaluate the data for trends in effectiveness in BMPs for use in scientific assessments of each measure. The Urban Water Resources Council (UWRRC) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) entered into a cooperative agreement with the US EPA to develop a scientifically-based approach and management tool for the data needed to evaluate the effectiveness of stormwater runoff BMPS, regardless of location, climate, and current land uses. The result of their efforts was the International Stormwater BMP Database. The long-term goal is to collect sufficient data to permit improvements in BMP designs and to better match the selection of BMP to an area's local stormwater challenges.

From this point onward, a broad coalition of organizations will be providing financial support for the database. Organizations include: Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), American Public Works Association (APWA), ASCE/Environmental Water Resources Institute (ERWI), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the FHWA. Among these organizations, WERF has taken on administrative and financial responsibility to assume the leadership role. Work consists of entering currently available and newly developed data sets, updating the website and database, providing data analysis, and developing protocols for integrating low-impact development techniques into the database. This work is ongoing and the database is currently accessible through the website at


Research and Innovation Agreements with USFWS, USACE, and USFS

Many FHWA programs and projects depend on timely completion of environmental requirements administered by other Federal agencies. The requirements, which are critical and prevalent on most projects, include the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (all of which are administered by US Fish and Wildlife Service - USFWS), and the Clean Water Act-specifically section 404 and section 10 permits-and is administered by the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE). Furthermore, many projects involve lands managed by the US Forest Service (USFS) and must meet USFS requirements in order to proceed. Pursuant to Section 1309 of Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), FHWA established national transportation liaison programs with the USFWS, USACE, and USFS to conduct research and advance inter-agency innovations in environmental stewardship and environmental streamlining. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) contains a number of provisions that continue and expand the stewardship and streamlining direction of TEA-21.

This effort will provide for continued research into inter-agency coordination on the major environmental requirements that affect the highway program. The results of this research will be used to develop recommendations and prototypes for additional programmatic guidance, facilitate the development of process improvements, and disseminate the results of research through enhanced inter-agency coordination. Research results will also be used to support the development of training capabilities that promote early coordination and process improvement efforts between agencies, FHWA, and State DOTs.

The research and innovation programs used by these agencies provide important data concerning issues developing in the field with each of their areas of jurisdiction. The national liaisons will maintain the lines of communication with state liaisons and collect and summarize information regarding emerging issues, data gaps, research needs, best practices, etc. This information allows FHWA to be proactive in addressing these inter-agency needs. Some important products of these programs are quarterly reports of field issues and activities, notices of impending legislation that will affect the program, assistance in interpretation of agency policy and guidance, and a summary of issues, research needs, and best practices, which can be used to guide national program objectives.


Optimizing Management of Highway Right-of-Way for Environmental Benefit

On the National Highway System (NHS) alone, there are millions of acres of right-of-way that must be managed for multiple goals, including safety, aesthetics, control of invasive species, and water quality. These activities normally fall within the responsibilities of the maintenance offices of the State DOTs. The goal of this research is to determine how vegetation management on the highway right-of-way can support the multiple goals listed above, improve the environment, and allow DOTs to take credit for the improvements in a scientifically credible manner. Research examples include:

  1. Improving water quality using infiltration and native plantings. A limited number of best management practices (BMPs) have been tested regarding their ability to treat and/or enhance water quality from highway runoff in a linear right-of-way. This research would look at compost-amended bioswales, infiltration wetlands, and native plants to evaluate the abilities of these methods to improve stormwater runoff water quality through improved infiltration, metabolic uptake, and transpiration.
  2. Determining methodologies to map and inventory vegetation and other features in the highway right-of-way to establish baseline conditions and document changes. This information will also be useful to:
    • Predict the spread of invasives.
    • Forecast the impact of climate change.
    • Establish benchmarks for cost-benefit of efforts to control invasive species.
  3. Assessing the capacity of native grasses and trees for carbon sequestration on highway rights-of-way in various regions of the country. Research should also evaluate the possible impacts of climate change on these predicted benefits.
  4. Investigating vegetation management techniques within the right-of-way that potentially attract or repel large mammals. This research would cover one of the most common questions in the field: is the vegetation we plant attracting large mammals to the rights-of-way for feeding? Or, is mowing native, non-native invasives, or any vegetation the cause of that attraction? Theories differ, and a study should be documented in both the open vegetation of the West, as well as the forested region of the East. Conclusions would contribute to better decision-making in mowing, seed mixes, and landscaping efforts in both regions. This is important information for decision makers to avoid practices that could increase wildlife vehicle collisions. We need to know more about vegetation management techniques for the safety of human and wildlife travelers, as well as maintenance costs.
  5. Exploring how benefits of reduced mowing relate to issues discussed in point 4) above, as well as control of invasive species. Also related to this research are air quality benefits and energy savings. These benefits would have to be balanced against engineering and safety issues.
  6. Developing methodologies for modeling/documenting the overall environmental benefits of ecologically sound right-of-way management in terms of carbon credits, improved water quality, reduced wildlife collisions, and economic benefits of implementing these vegetation management and native plant suggestions. This research piece would compile the findings of the other 5 projects, and also provide a decision-making tool to allow potential environmental benefits to be balanced against any engineering, safety, or maintenance concerns or costs.


Linking Eco-Logical to Planning and Project Development

In early 2006, FHWA and seven other Federal agencies released the document "Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure projects." As outlined in this document, the ecosystem approach identifies and addresses the greatest conservation needs associated with mitigation for infrastructure projects. Eco-Logical articulates a vision of how infrastructure development and ecosystem conservation can be integrated to harmonize economic, environmental, and social needs and objectives. Applied research is needed to field test the Eco-Logical document. Via a national solicitation, stakeholders and co-funders have been identified to test Eco-Logical principles with a focus on complying with SAFETEA-LU planning and project development provisions. This proposal would continue to make funds available for grants to state and local governments, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), and others to implement the selected pilot projects, to provide technical assistance, and to synthesize the results of the pilots for case studies and best practices. These research efforts are ongoing.

The Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) initiative, an effort involving the Office of Planning, the Office of Project Development and Environmental Review, and the Office of Natural and Human Environment, has focused on promoting PEL concepts through the delivery of customized Linking Planning and the National Environmental Policy Act (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, this research will identify and deliver assistance to support state, regional, and local transportation agencies to move forward with implementing PEL concepts and addressing the environmental-related provisions of SAFETEA-LU Section 6001.

These funds will also be leveraged with STEP funds from other emphasis areas to fund additional Eco-Logical grants.


Improvements to Fish and Wildlife Habitat Connectivity

There continues to be a considerable amount of research being conducted in the areas of design and siting of wildlife crossings, amphibian crossings, and fish passage. This research would provide additional funds to ongoing initiatives to further refine the existing data, monitor use of crossings, and adapt existing wildlife crossing training to reflect current state-of-the-practice. This research would also contribute to current USFS and other Federal and state agencies' fish passage research and would support development and deployment of FHWA HEC 26 ("Design of Fish Passage at Bridges and Culverts").


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:

  • Development of 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.

There are many worthy ongoing research projects that deal with highway impacts to threatened and endangered species. STEP comments suggested several of these types of projects. FHWA will optimize research dollars by supporting current State DOT and Federal agencies' research that improve our knowledge of the effects of Federal aid highway projects on protected species, and on effective ways to mitigate these impacts. In general, efforts will be funded that relate to species of national concern or that affect a number of states' programs.


Environmental Benefits of Using Recycled Materials on Transportation Projects

The use of recycled materials during highway construction can offer measurable environmental, engineering, and economic benefits to states. Conversely, the beneficial reuse of such material can present real challenges. During the past few years, there has been a concentrated effort to elevate the use of recycled products in highway construction/reconstruction, operation, and maintenance activities. One of the hindrances in using recycled materials is a lack of complete understanding of the benefits-particularly the environmental benefits-of using recycled materials.

Ongoing policy and program initiatives are indicative of the importance of using recycled materials and the need to fill existing gaps in knowledge. Research is needed to increase understanding of the environmental impacts and benefits of using recycled materials in highway construction. A greater understanding of the full impacts and expected level of performance of specific recycled materials, as compared to virgin sources, will improve the decision-making process, and aid environmental stewardship initiatives. One of the focus areas of the Green Highways Partnership (GHP) is the beneficial reuse of construction and industrial byproducts. A better understanding of how specific recycled materials perform and interact with the environment will present options to transportation decision-makers that will help them to maximize opportunities to conserve natural resources, increase green space, reduce the amount of wastes being sent to landfills, and minimize the negative impacts of highway construction on the environment.

Following the need to better understand the impacts of recycled and reused materials on green highway construction and maintenance is a need to quantify those impacts. Research done in this area will increase the ability of transportation decision-makers to associate any realized cost savings with a particular recycled product. This research may include the development of a reference document for transportation professionals and decision-makers on the benefits of using recycled materials.


Historic Preservation

Contact persons:
Research Activity or Project Project Summary STEP Budget
Consideration of Historic Preservation in Early Planning

This research effort is focused on better integration of consideration for historic properties/cultural resources early in the planning process. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) intends to seek proactive, inter-agency proposals via a broad agency announcement in order to synthesize best practices in building historic contexts, set up and apply geographic information systems that incorporate cultural resources, integrate historic preservation into transportation planning, engage the various state, local, and tribal preservation interests in early planning, and carry those considerations forward into the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.

The outcome of these efforts should serve to expedite the process of resource identification, thereby identifying problem situations that can demand additional resources before unnecessary time, money, and resources are expended. A secondary benefit of the dissemination of these tools will be to bring greater predictability and consistency to the process of identifying historic resources. Both results support a quicker, smoother path through the Section 106 and 4(f) processes, and will expedite project planning and development while supporting the agency's broad congestion initiatives.


Research and Innovation Agreement with Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) provisions and recent updates to the regulations implementing Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act have created additional opportunities and methodologies for better coordinating historic preservation provisions within the broader scope of NEPA and Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act. These provisions demand the identification and implementation of all possible efficiencies in the environmental review process, particularly as it addresses historic preservation and cultural resources. Tools that support schedule and project management, efficient evaluation and data management techniques, and process improvements such as programmatic agreements, will be in ever-higher demand. These innovative tools need to be identified, evaluated, and marketed to ensure effective integration of historic resources as part of an efficient environmental review process. The objective of this research will be the identification, marketing, and dissemination of best practices for developing innovative approaches and programmatic agreements, achieving early coordination with stakeholders, and gaining efficiencies in project development and review. The results will be captured in the development of best practices and prototypes that facilitate environmental process improvements.


Bicycle/Pedestrian and Health

Contact persons:
Research Activity or Project Project Summary STEP Budget
Improving Data Collection for Walking and Bicycling

Over the past 2 years, much of the stakeholder feedback regarding bicycling and walking has emphasized the need for better data. Key research themes based on the feedback are:

  • Improved procedures for counting walking and bicycling trips.
  • Developing estimates of health improvements, congestion relief, and environmental impacts due to replacing vehicle trips with walking and bicycling.

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) Section 1807 established a Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program. This program provides four communities (Marin County, CA; Sheboygan County, WI; Columbia, MO; and Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN) with $25 million each to improve connectivity of pedestrian and bicyclist facilities to "demonstrate the extent to which bicycling and walking can carry a significant part of the transportation load, and represent a major portion of the transportation solution, within selected communities."

The Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Project requires two reports to Congress and (FHWA), which must collect data on how improved facilities "...;decrease congestion and energy usage, increase the frequency of bicycling and walking, and promote better health and a cleaner environment." These congressionally-specified goals parallel the types of stakeholder feedback we received.

The FY2008 funds for bicycling and walking will be used to support the ongoing data collection efforts in each of these four communities. In essence, the Pilot Project serves as a large-scale data collection effort that may have a significant impact on the questions that stakeholders have continually posed.



Contact persons:
Research Activity or Project Project Summary STEP Budget
FHWA Traffic Noise Model (TNM) Version 3.0 Development

The FHWA) Traffic Noise Model (TNM) is required by 23 CFR 772 to be used on Federal Aid Highway projects and is also used internationally as state-of-the-art highway traffic noise prediction and noise barrier design. All FHWA TNM work is driven by state acceptance, which requires ongoing software development, verification of satisfactory performance, and guidance on its use.

The FHWA TNM Version 3.0 is anticipated for completion in early 2009. If Version 3.0 is not funded to completion, the FHWA TNM will reach a point where State DOTs can no longer operate the model. The development of TNM Version 3.0 will focus on numerous items, some of which are:

  • Graphical user interface and acoustic algorithm enhancements.
  • Functional enhancements such as the modeling of reflections.
  • Display and view enhancements such as displaying lane widths in the Plan View and improving the 3D visualization in the Skew View.
  • Run development enhancements such as making tables function more like spreadsheets.
  • Noise metric enhancements such as new methods for entering traffic data for LDN computations, providing calculations in L10/L50 and in 1/3 octave bands.
  • Data input and export formats into microstation, GIS, and newer versions of DXF.
  • Diagnostic enhancements such as providing more feedback to users when runs have illegal objects.
  • Contemporize the code to prevent an obsolete model due to platform incompatibility.
  • Re-organizing the code to allow for more efficient future software development and maintenance.


Outdoor Advertising Control/Realty Program Management

Contact person:
Research Activity or Project
Project Summary
STEP Budget
Support of Stakeholder and Partner Outreach and Informational Dissemination Programs

The loss of institutional knowledge and a resultant loss of professional capacity has been a continuing trend through the right-of-way professional community. This trend has necessitated that the FHWA continuously develop innovative methods of providing stewardship and oversight of the Federal-aid right-of-way programs. This research will support the development and implementation of workshops, training, outreach programs, expert panels, and peer reviews to support professional capacity building within the right of way professions. It will also support research that seeks to improve and provide tools to advance the implementation and administration of the Federal-aid right-of-way program and its implementing regulations, which are included in 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 24 and 23 CFR 710. Our involvement provides an opportunity to promote innovative information-sharing among practitioners who implement the Uniform Act. Partnering with stakeholders and supporting these outreach activities provides opportunities to reach larger groups of audiences to promote innovative information-sharing among practitioners who implement the Uniform Act.


Identification and Development of Local Public Agency Stewardship Tools and Techniques

Increasingly, local public agencies (LPAs) are undertaking federally-aided programs and projects. Federal funding for the LPA program flows from State DOTs to LPAs. State DOTs provide programmatic oversight and stewardship for Federal-aid programs and projects in their respective states.

LPAs encounter a variety of challenges in implementing and administering the requirements of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970. A number of these challenges have been noted in FHWA's national review and report, "Administration of Federal-Aid Projects by Local Agencies." The review, in part, suggests that the current oversight activities may be inconsistent from state to state and also ineffective for ensuring that LPA-administered projects meet Federal-aid requirements.

This research program's goal is to identify and evaluate successful LPA stewardship and oversight programs and the common program challenges that are faced by both the LPAs and the State Departments of Transportation (DOTs). Research results will identify best management practices, strategic planning processes, communications, training, and methods for measurement of continuous improvement. The information gathered during this research will be used to develop tools and methods to enhance LPA stewardship and oversight techniques and practices.


Peer Exchange - Use of Incentive Payments in Right-of-Way Acquisition and Relocation Programs

In 2006, the Office of Real Estate Services issued guidance called Right-of-Way Incentive Payments (Voluntary) for Acquisitions and Relocations, The guidance provides flexibility for saving time on acquisitions and relocations. Use of incentive payments is voluntary on the part of the State. A State DOT that determines that it is warranted to use incentive payments on a particular project must address certain factors included in the General Guidance section of this document.

The goal of this research is to identify criteria used by State DOTs or LPAs to determine whether the use of incentive payments for voluntary acquisitions and relocations is warranted. The research will also evaluate the use, documentation, and program results or savings based on data from State DOTs who have implemented an incentive program. Research results will identify and share best management practices, criteria, guides, and tools that can be used by other DOTs and LPAs considering an incentive program.


Neutral assessment of the National Outdoor Advertising Control Program - National Policy Dialogue

Pursuant to an interagency agreement with the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution (US Institute) and FHWA undertook a neutral assessment of the National Outdoor Advertising Control (OAC) Program. The goal was to use a neutral entity to reach out to parties interested in OAC in order to identify: issues that cause controversy, perspectives of the various stakeholders, and the appropriate methods for addressing conflicts and improving OAC program results.

This neutral assessment identified the following issues as important to stakeholders and holding 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 right-of-way around billboards.
  • Inconsistent regulation and enforcement.
  • The organization of the OAC Program within FHWA.

This assessment also recommended the implementation of a National Policy Dialogue to address the aforementioned issues in a well-structured collaborative process.

This research will support efforts to convene a group of representative stakeholders to provide feedback on possible courses of action to address areas of conflict and to improve OAC program results.


Environmental Streamlining / Stewardship

Contact persons:
Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

Planning and Environment Linkages

The Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) initiative, a joint effort between the Office of Planning and the Office of Project Development and Environmental Review, has focused on promoting PEL concepts through the delivery of customized Linking Planning and the National Environmental Policy Act (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. An important component of the research will be to further identify and deliver assistance to support state, regional, and local transportation agencies as they move forward with implementing PEL concepts and addressing the environmental-related provisions of SAFETEA-LU Section 6001. These funds will also be leveraged with STEP funds from other emphasis areas to fund additional Eco-Logical grants.


Advancing Innovations in FHWA's Environmental Review Process

FHWA continually pursues innovation in the environmental review process. SAFETEA-LU contained a number of new important environmental provisions aimed at improving efficiency in highway program and project delivery. These funds will continue a number of ongoing research efforts as well as initiate several new activities, including:

  • Monitoring and documenting the impact of the SAFETEA-LU Environmental Review Process provisions. Best practices and case studies will be developed to facilitate technology transfer on the new provisions. FHWA will assess and report out on the implementation of the new provisions.
  • Continued development of performance measurement systems, including the Environmental Document Tracking System, to gather relevant data.
  • Support for interagency efforts, such as the Mid-Atlantic Green Highways Partnership, that promote innovation and training on issues related to sustainable highway infrastructure development and the environment.
  • Development of a workshop highlighting exemplary Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Visualization practices in NEPA, with an emphasis on applications that aid scoping.
  • Compilation of state-of-the-practice information on incorporating freight needs, impact analysis, and alternatives selection in NEPA.
  • Support for environmental aspects of Project Delivery Management Domestic Scans to identify best management practices in project management and program delivery.


Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining Outreach and Technology Transfer

The efficient and effective coordination of multiple environmental reviews, analyses, and permitting actions is essential to meeting the Environmental Streamlining and Stewardship mandates for highway and transit projects under SAFETEA-LU. FHWA has made substantial investments in developing methods, tools, and techniques to improve the quality and efficiency of environmental decision-making. Support for ongoing initiatives as well as the development of new mechanisms is necessary. This research effort will result in the following technology transfer and outreach deliverables:

  • Maintenance and update of the Environmental Review Toolkit available on the FHWA website.
  • Continuance of Re: NEPA, FHWA's community of practice for environmental professionals.
  • Promotion of conflict resolution tools and techniques.
  • Publication of Successes in Stewardship.


Executive Order 13274 Implementation Activities

Executive Order (EO) 13274-Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Review was issued in 2002. The Task Force, which was established by the EO, has identified three emphasis areas where federal coordination and decision-making should be better integrated or where there are opportunities for process improvements. These emphasis areas include: (1) purpose and need; (2) indirect and cumulative effects; and (3) integrated planning. This research project will include: management and logistical support; support for EO priority projects such as conflict resolution services; funding for innovative practices and pilots; preparation of the required report to the President; and support for specific work group activities.

Activities to support all three of the emphasis areas are currently being advanced through the Integrated Planning Work Group. Efforts supported by this research will include: outreach and inter-agency training on the new FHWA planning regulations; outreach and training on Eco-Logical principles and overcoming implementation barriers; and compilation of best practices in corridor, sub-area studies, and tiering.


Environmental Competency Building

Maintaining knowledge and expertise at the level of the FHWA, State DOTs, resource agencies, and the consulting industry is essential to the effective delivery of an environmentally sensitive transportation program. The FHWA's Environmental Competency Building (ECB) program is an ongoing research effort focused on current and future multidisciplinary professional development needs of transportation and environmental professionals. The ECB serves the transportation and environmental community by providing access to relevant information, guidance, training, and recommendations that will assist the long-term development and maintenance of environmental and transportation professionals. This research effort will support the following activities: continued development of ECB, development of a new Section 4(f) training course with the National Highway Institute, and development of improved tools for travel and land use forecasting during the NEPA process.


Context Sensitive Solutions

Contact persons:
Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

Context Sensitive Solutions Clearinghouse

Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that involves all stakeholders to develop a transportation facility that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility. The purpose of this research is to provide immediate access to and provide a mechanism that facilitates the exchange of information on CSS related issues and topics nationally through the CSS clearinghouse. The CSS clearinghouse serves as an important community of practice within the industry.

The intended audience of the CSS clearinghouse is any practitioner who may be responsible for, or engaged with, any activity that involves integrating CSS within his/her agency or during any phases in the life cycle of a roadway facility. These users may include transportation planners, roadway design, construction and maintenance staff, traffic engineers and technicians, transit planners, public information specialists, landscape architects, regulatory reviewers from public agencies, consultants and contractors, resource agencies, colleges or universities, non-governmental organizations and research institutions. This research will provide the assistance, administrative support, and services to support this clearinghouse.

The CSS clearinghouse will save agencies and practitioners' time while providing access to the information they need. CSS activities, resources and information to be disseminated through the clearinghouse will include: technical resources; state and local CSS exemplary projects; inventory of current agency CSS practices, policies, and programs; and CSS training courses.


Targeted Technical Assistance

The purpose of this research is to support, facilitate, and enable the implementation of CSS among transportation agencies through the active exchange and delivery of best professional practices and results of existing research. Through this effort, FHWA will provide specialized technical assistance to states that have indicated a need and have requested assistance. Technical assistance products to be developed and delivered may include presentations, workshops, webinars, and other related activities.


Anticipated Research Efforts in Planning


Contact person:
Research Activity or Project
Project Summary

STEP Budget

Congestion Planning This research will continue to promote activities to support the "National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation Network" (Secretary's Congestion Initiative) as well as support other initiatives to link operations and planning. Research could focus on road/congestion pricing and private sector involvement in transportation investment, and management and operations. This research will support work to advance and improve Congestion Management Processes (CMP) and the evaluation of operational improvement strategies. The research will coordinate congestion research with other STEP emphasis areas such as climate change. This research could result in the development of new tools and programs for understanding, analyzing and responding to congestion problems. It will support activities such as: websites, publications, and brochures for information dissemination, training and technical assistance, toolkits, case studies, site visits, peer exchanges, conferences and workshops.


Safety Planning

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Research Activity or Project
Project Summary

STEP Budget

Safety Planning

Transportation safety planning must become an integral part of the transportation planning process. Transportation safety affects the lives of millions of people daily. In 2003, over 40,000 people died and almost 3 million people were injured in crashes. Research is necessary to change the perception of highway safety, increase the awareness of the problem, and understand what can be done in the planning process. Complacency exists. The fatality and injury statistics prove that more must be done.

Integrating safety into all aspects of planning will require educating transportation planners, stakeholders, and the public about the safety issues and potential solutions. Research activities might include:

  • Safety Planning educational programs for planners, stakeholders, and communities.
  • Training seminars for transportation planners.
  • Integration of safety, traffic operations, and planning to ensure that safety is an integral part of maintenance and operations.
  • Transportation safety planning case study booklet.
  • Safety and security integration with operations and planning.
  • Marketing campaign of transportation safety planning.
  • Using safety data for cost benefit analyses to prioritize projects.


Freight Planning

Contact person:
Research Activity or Project
Project Summary

STEP Budget

Freight Planning

Across most of the country, freight movements are growing as a share of transportation system volumes. The objective of this coordinated research approach will be to promote the integration of freight into the transportation planning and programming processes at the state and metropolitan levels. Freight transportation issues are complex and involve many stakeholders who have different perspectives on the freight transportation system.Educating and training a skilled and knowledgeable workforce is crucial to increasing freight transportation productivity. Research could focus on how to effectively engage the private sector freight community into the state and metropolitan planning processes; how parameters such as price, travel time, permitting, and user fees affect modal shift; what elasticities are inherent in these parameters; and cost benefit analyses of freight projects. Research could also develop new tools and programs such as freight analytical techniques, freight modeling improvements, methods of innovative freight data collection and data sharing, as well as pilot projects. 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.


Public Involvement, Environmental Justice, and Visualization in Planning

Contact Person:
Research Activity or Project
Project Summary

STEP Budget

Public Involvement, Environmental Justice, and Visualization in Planning

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

Ongoing research and new research started in this area will include (1) development and training of visualization tools for transportation planning; (2) evaluation of multimedia engagement techniques; and (3) translation of research results for state and local agencies and other stakeholders on mobile-source air toxins and cumulative health risks.


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

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Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

Finance Issues

Financial planning, fiscal constraint, cost estimating, revenue forecasting, and innovative finance issues are all important areas of concern for State Departments of Transportation (DOTs), Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), local and regional project sponsors, and the public. In order to ensure transparency, integrity, and accuracy in the transportation planning process, metropolitan transportation plans, transportation improvement programs (TIPs) and statewide transportation improvement programs (STIPs) must contain realistic estimates about project costs and be based on realistic assumptions about future revenue. Plans and programs should not simply be "wish lists" for a community's projects. 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 practice on finance and financial planning issues.


Improved Planning Process/Process Management

Transportation planning recognizes the critical links between transportation and other societal goals. This research will improve the transportation planning process by focusing on specific concepts that can effect change, such as Asset Management, Performance Measures, Certification Review Tools, and Data/Modeling. The Office of Planning will select research areas based on STEP feedback and assessment of national state-of-the-practice. Through this research topic, the Office of Planning will also support improved tools for the required Transportation Management Area Federal certification reviews.


Information Dissemination

This research will support the overall efforts of STEP and the FHWA/Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program (TPCB) by disseminating the results of research programs to the transportation planning community, decision-makers, stakeholders, and the public. This research will support the continuation of existing FHWA and stakeholder websites, training, national and regional conferences, and case studies on transportation planning. The information included in these efforts will be based on STEP research as well as relevant transportation planning research by other FHWA offices, other DOT and Federal agencies, the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), and transportation planning stakeholder groups. This research will also support the Planning Excellence Awards and updating popular FHWA information products that are used throughout the planning community, such as the Briefing Book, Citizens Guide, etc.


Land Use Planning

Land use and transportation research is needed to promote the concepts of the integration of land use and transportation into the planning process at a regional level. This research will support activities such as: web sites 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, as well as pilot projects using themes. 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 community street systems, lively main streets, and increasing consideration of the benefits of lasting transportation investments.

From a transportation perspective, linking land use and transportation regionally includes planning that better coordinates land use and transportation, reduces congestion, increases safety, accommodates pedestrian and bike safety and mobility, provides and enhances public transportation services, and improves the connectivity of road networks, considers freight movements. Such planning may also take a multi-modal approach to transportation by emphasizing supportive land use development patterns to create a variety of transportation options. Creating a holistic process means that each mode cannot be planned or analyzed according to its independent facilities alone. Finally, planning activities may include efforts that will lead to regional planning that is state-of-the-art, strongly multi-modal, integrated with community settings, and supports early planning and coordination.


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.

This research will focus on issues unique to the over 380 MPOs throughout the country. Given the importance of MPOs and their variety and variability, research, technical assistance, and information dissemination expressly for MPOs is important to ensure successful continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive planning processes.

Research activities will be based on stakeholder needs as expressed by: 1) the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO); 2) the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC); 3) research needs identified at the 2006 TRB Conference ("The Metropolitan Planning Organization, Present and Future: A Conference"); and 4) other stakeholders.

Research will focus on the collaborative nature of MPOs, MPO functionality and will identify opportunities for MPOs to coordinate and/or link with other planning and transportation activities and/or organizations.


Planning and Environment Linkages

The Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) initiative, a joint effort between the Office of Planning and the Office of Project Development and Environmental Review, has focused on promoting PEL concepts through the delivery of customized Linking Planning and National Environmental Policy Act (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 and to further identify and deliver assistance to support state, regional, and local transportation agencies as they move forward with implementing PEL concepts and addressing the environmental-related provisions of SAFETEA-LU Section 6001. These funds will also be leveraged with STEP funds from other emphasis areas to fund additional Eco-Logical grants.


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 do 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 (RPO America). 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.


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 and design-build initiatives, as well as the State DOT's interaction with other Federal, state, and local agencies and other transportation planning organizations. 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. This research will also support a TRB conference sponsored by the Statewide Multimodal Transportation Planning on "Conference on Best Practices in Meeting SAFETEA-LU Requirements in the Statewide Transportation Planning Process."


Tribal Planning

Transportation planning enables communities to identify broad goals to meet transportation needs through informed decision-making. The objective of this coordinated research approach will be to promote the integration of tribal issues into the transportation planning and programming processes at the state and metropolitan levels through the 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 and projects between tribal, local, state, and Federal governments, as well as early outreach and coordination with tribes.

Research could focus on developing resource/reference materials on effective tribal consultation practices in the statewide and metropolitan transportation planning process, implementing "Information Tools" modules for use by tribes, establishing a Tribal Technical Working Group, as well as developing a Frequently Asked Questions document on tribal planning. This research will 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.


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

Contact Person:
Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

U.S./Mexico Transportation Joint Working Committee

The objective of these projects is to support and promote the following: U.S./Mexico Joint Working Committee (JWC) meeting and translation and three JWC work plan activities: Lower Rio Grande Border Congestion Study, U.S./Mexico Border Wait Time Study, Nogales Intermodal Congestion Relief Study.

Support the JWC Activities:
This activity will support the US-hosted JWC meeting, communication between JWC members, and the management and review of research activities associated with the development of the JWC Work Plan. The JWC two-year work plan is supported by the JWC pooled fund study, which is currently funded at approximately $850,000.00 (TPF-5 (125)) by the US members of the JWC.

Support the Lower Rio Grande Border Congestion Study:
One of the major problems in the southern border region is the congestion in the cross border transportation system in the lower Rio Grande area. There is a need to evaluate transportation alternatives to address the growing congestion. This study will evaluate the transportation needs for the next twenty years that can be used to plan for future transportation needs, improve the cross border transportation system, and evaluate future Presidential Permit applications. This study is a cooperative effort between the Texas Department of Transportation (DOT), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), General Services Administration (GSA), US State Department, Mexico Secretary of Communication and Transport (SCT), and local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). The product will be a bi-national evaluation of traffic flow for future traffic growth that can be used by all agencies to plan for future transportation improvements.

Support the U.S./Mexico Border Wait Time Study:
This project will support a border wait time study in the Texas border region that will provide a baseline for the measurement of congestion in the border area. This will be used to measure the impact of transportation improvements and changes in processes in the border region. This study is being done in cooperation with Texas DOT, GSA and DHS/CBP. The product will be a documentation of wait time by individual border crossings entering the United States along the Texas border. The result can be used to measure the performance of the strategies implemented at the border over time as we look for ways to reduce congestion at the border.

Support the Nogales Intermodal Congestion Relief Study:
CBP indicates that by late 2008, the Nogales rail port of entry is predicted to be the second busiest rail crossing on the southern border. Shipments from Ford and CEMEX account for 70 percent of the rail traffic at this port. CEMEX, on average, crosses 140 rail cars a day. This amount exceeds the capacity of the Nogales route and must be split by directing shipments to Calexico. Both Ford and CEMEX are Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT)-certified and have agreed to participate in the pilot program. The concept is to link low-risk companies identified by CBP, technology such as electronic seals, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and break detectors, and efficient process implementation (for example changing of schedules and processes so low risk cargo can be given priority). By combining these elements, a C-TPAT rail pilot project could be launched. The challenge is the coordination of multiple roles to fulfill security for CBP, safety for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and efficient enforcement for private sector partners. The participants include C-TPAT certified companies, DHS, CBP, Union Pacific, FRA, DHS Private Sector Office, Ferromex, NTMI, CANAMEX and the Border Trade Alliance.


U.S./Canada Transportation Border Working Group

The objective of these projects is to develop, support and/or promote the following: U.S./Canada Transportation Border Working Group (TBWG) meeting, Local Area Border Workshops, Northern Border finance workshops, Northern Border Data Workshop, National Freight and Passenger Border Data Workshop and Economic Impact of the Border on Transportation.

Support the TBWG Activities:
This activity will support the US-hosted TBWG meetings, communication between TBWG members, and the management and review of research activities associated with the development of the TBWG Work Plan. The TBWG two-year work plan is supported by the TBWG proposed pooled fund study that is currently estimated at $500,000.00 (Solicitation #1146) by the US members of the TBWG.

Develop and host a Northern Border Finance Workshop and Conference:

  • The Northern Border Regional Workshop will target a small region to include the States of New York, Maine, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota and the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The workshop will highlight current issues and identify both short and long term solutions. The first of these workshops was held in September and hosted by New York DOT and the Province of Quebec. The result was a work plan of items to be implemented.
  • The Northern Border Regional Finance Workshop will build on the experience of the Regional conference and address innovative financing and Public Private Partnerships for specific issues at specific crossings. The first workshop has been requested by Michigan DOT. The conference will highlight various innovative financing techniques including public private partnerships, tolling, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), and other financing techniques that can be used on specific projects. The emphasis will be to highlight lesson learned and experience from organizations that have implemented public private partnerships. The goal is to explore all possible alternatives to improve the transportation system in the border region.
  • The Northern Border Data Workshop will be building on the US Pooled fund study to support the Canadian Border Truck Roadside survey, the three years of data collected on the border travel time by both FHWA and Ontario and the need for improved information. A previous data workshop was held in 2003. This workshop is currently scheduled for March 2008.

Support the TBWG work plan activity - Economic Impact of the Border on Transportation:
This study would build on previous studies, such as the Taylor study, to address the economic cost of current border wait time and the economic savings from reduced wait time due to the Free and Secure Trade Program (FAST), NEXUS and other innovative improvements. The study will quantify the regional and national economic opportunities missed because of current and projected traffic congestion along the US land borders. The study will examine the economic effects of congestion on the two primary forms of cross border movement including personnel trips and cross border freight operations. The study will examine the economic interdependence between the two sides of the border and the potential impact of changes in the cross border transportation system. The result will be a better understanding of the border economics and the impact of changes on the transportation system in the border region and the impact of future investments.

Support the TBWG work plan activity - Canadian Truck Roadside Survey (border portion):
The National Roadside Survey (NRS) is a data collection effort underway by the Canadian Government to collect data from Commercial vehicles along major corridors in Canada. The NRS is conducted every five to seven years, with the last NRS being conducted in 1999. Part of the proposal for this year's NRS is to have a Border Survey component, where data will be collected at the major border crossings. Data from this effort will provide a rich data set useful to many transportation stakeholders for a variety of planning and project related analyses. The US stakeholders have been partnering with the Canadians in discussion of the development of the survey questions and the actual data that will be collected. In addition, the technology that is also being deployed (WIMs) will remain out in the field, so future data collection activities will continue.


National Security, Defense and Interstate Planning

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Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

Highway System and Corridor Support

This work supports research related to several specific activities in Title 5 of SAFETEA-LU, such as sections 5504 for the Center for Transportation Advancement and Regional Development and 5513(f) for Rural Transportation Research by the New England Transportation Institute. It also supports FHWA response to Section 502(e) of Title 23 of United States Code (USC), research and work involving the National Corridor Planning and Development Program (NCPD program) and the Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program (CBI program) programs (section 1118 and 1119 of TEA-21), the Delta Region Transportation Development Program (section 1308 of SAFETEA-LU), the Delta Assets and Needs Study (Section 1923 of SAFETEA-LU), and research related work based on National Highway System and Interstate designation activities. Finally, this work supports FHWA's participation and service to the Transportation Research Board (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. The activities are ongoing. Typical activities 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 management of databases used to support research.


National Highway System Designation and Product Development

The National Highway System (NHS) is 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 (STRAHNET), and intermodal connectors. Roads on the NHS are eligible for NHS apportioned program funds. To record the official extent of the NHS, FHWA uses digital spatial databases and maps to record and maintain the current system extent and all subsequent modifications to the highway designations.

The objective of this research is to support mapping activities necessary for recording 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-a geo-spatial digital highway network that FHWA uses to produce maps posted on the official NHS web page. The activities for the NHS web site are ongoing activities. An additional product of this research will result in a new release of an NHS network coding CD, anticipated in Summer 2008. The NHS web site has, for many months, ranked in the top 10 visited FHWA websites and is used for research by a number of institutions (not just government).


Monitoring of Case Studies; Interstate and NHS economic development

FHWA has invested considerable time and funding into developing case studies of the economic development associated with rural Interstates and other NHS routes. However, it is generally accepted that economic development is not a static impact of highway improvement but an evolving impact. Specifically, it may take a decade or more for the economic development impacts of a specific improvement to be manifested.

FHWA has done studies, or had studies done, of a variety of highway improvements or proposed improvements but does not have the staff to monitor these cases to see if substantial new developments have taken place subsequent to the studies.

This research would consist of a contractor reviewing publicly available data, e.g., Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment levels by county, local Chamber of Commerce publications, etc., and occasionally calling individuals to get more information. This would be done in the counties identified in previous FHWA studies. See:

The information might result in additional content posted as a supplement to these websites. The objective of this work would be to improve the current content. The initial audience of this monitoring is FHWA but if content is added to the website it will be available to all practitioners. We are aware of a number of such practitioners from phone calls, emails, etc. which specifically ask for updates on existing content.


Anticipated Research Efforts in Tools to Support Planning and Environment

Travel Modeling

Contact person:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

Travel Modeling

This research will support the outreach component of the Travel Modeling Improvement Program (TMIP). TMIP outreach helps planning agencies build their institutional capacity to perform transportation planning technical analyses. This technical capability of planning agencies is critical in providing solutions to or support for policies, projects, and initiatives contained in the regional transportation plans and Transportation Improvement Programs (TIP). Such technical capability also plays an important role in analyzing traffic safety improvements, impacts of land use and economic development on transportation, and air quality. Assistance to planning agencies is achieved by:

  • Facilitating information dissemination via maintenance of the TMIP website, the transportation-related information clearinghouse, and building a technical library of modeling practice.
  • Delivering technical assistance and training through the Technical Peer Review Program (TPRP), which provides outside travel for forecasting experts for a review of agency travel models and provides recommendations for travel model improvements, NHI travel model-related courses, and TMIP travel-model related workshops.
  • Providing a forum for knowledge exchanges via maintenance of the TMIP Email List, hosting web knowledge exchanges, sponsoring peer exchanges on specific travel modeling topics, developing case studies on Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) with exemplary technical analysis capabilities, and publishing periodic newsletters on travel model-related topics, an annual summary of the TPRP, and an annual report on the TMIP Program.

Furthermore, the research will support addressing the findings and recommendations in the National Academies of Science Special Report 288 entitled "Metropolitan Travel Forecasting: Current Practice and Future Direction."


GIS and Spatial Information for Improved Decision-Making

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Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

GIS Outreach and Promotion

The objective of this research will be to market and promote new technology and innovative and effective uses of geospatial technology. Specific tasks may include:

  • The enhancement of our Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Transportation website-adding examples of geospatial applications from State Departments of Transportation (DOTs), Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), and other transportation agencies.
  • Providing information regarding training workshops and peer reviews, links to literature and data, and general GIS resources.
  • The research of effective data-sharing strategies and agreements; handbooks for marketing the benefits of GIS and geospatial technology.
  • Outreach will combine technical discussions of advanced technology, documentation of benefits, and broader information directed at improved decision-making.


Best Practices and Case Studies

This project will identify and document best practices and benefits of GIS at all levels of government in a variety of transportation-related professions, e.g., transportation planners, information technology professionals, safety, law enforcement, operations, maintenance, etc. While determining best practices (according to certain criteria, guidelines, quality, etc), the project will also evaluate and measure benefits of GIS technology. The project will also include a series of case studies focused on geospatial technology applications of advanced capabilities for improved decision-making in transportation areas, such as design, maintenance, the environment, and safety. Candidate states may include Michigan, Oklahoma, Arkansas, California, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.


Peer Exchanges

The project is to generate, facilitate, and participate in peer exchanges focused on specific transportation topics in environment, planning, and realty. Each peer exchanger will produce reports capturing and summarizing the knowledge exchanged at these gatherings and potential research areas. These reports will be a critical part of our outreach activities.

Proposed Peer Exchanges:

  • GIS and Realty, Part II
  • GIS and 3D Geospatial Visual Analysis
  • GIS and Rural Transportation Management
  • GIS and Environmental Streaming
    • Habitat Linkages
    • Habitat Assessment
    • Land Cover and Decision Support Tools
    • Vegetation Inventory
    • Support Decision Making Tolls for 3E's (Environment, Equity and Economy)
    • River Reach Analysis and Management
  • GIS and Improved Decision Making
  • Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for Environmental Data Collection
  • Transportation for the Nation Implementation - Gathering the Data


Spatial Integration of Local Agency Inventory Information

Federal program development requirements have placed an increased emphasis on using information across states, MPOs, and local agencies in developing the transportation program and transportation decision-making. Within SAFETEA-LU, an example of such information-gathering is the requirement of states to annually identify the top 5% of locations exhibiting the most severe safety needs, which include both state and local agency jurisdictions. Policy-level planning decisions often involve the analysis of transportation needs across agencies and modes.

The objective of this research is to develop a framework with proposed methodologies to incorporate spatial information from local agencies into state transportation program development activities. This framework will address major categories of data, metadata, common sources and formats of spatially-related information; procedures for incorporating spatial information; and guidelines to assist local agencies in packaging spatial information for other agencies' use.


Development of the Transportation for the Nation Concept

This effort is a partnership with National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) to develop the concept of a comprehensive inventory of all transportation assets in a state that can support, enhanced safety, security, Emergency 911 and transportation decision-making using existing transportation networks and data sources. A framework will be identified to pull together existing networks and make transportation-related information accessible in common data formats. The objectives are:

  • Identify the lead organization/person in each state for transportation information.
  • Encourage each state transportation coordinator to develop a comprehensive transportation inventory of transportation networks and information within the state.
  • Encourage states to identify best practices for providing access to comprehensive transportation information and coordination with transportation information providers.
  • Encourage state transportation coordinators to meet in order to identify common needs, how to best coordinate between the states, and the needs for standards and filling gaps in the transportation information available for Transportation for the Nation.
  • Develop data-sharing protocols between local, city, county, and state transportation agencies as identified by the state transportation coordinators.
  • Create a statewide transportation information clearinghouse that can provide comprehensive information on all transportation networks and information.
  • Develop a national portal into the state transportation clearinghouse to provide a comprehensive look at the nation's transportation system.
  • Identify ways to enhance safety, security, and transportation decision-making based on comprehensive transportation information at the state/national level.

The result will be Transportation for the Nation program that can address global and nation transportation needs and be a common base for all transportation-related spatial applications that will result in considerable cost-savings.


Future Directions of the National Highway Planning Network

The National Highway Planning Network (NHPN) is a 1:100,000 scale network database that contains line features representing just over 450,000 miles of current and planned highways in the US The NHPN consists of interstates, principal arterials, and rural minor arterials and is used to keep track of the National Highway System, Eisenhower Interstate System, and the Strategic Highway Network. Other than attribute updates, the network has not been updated since 2005. This effort will focus on evaluating the current state of the NHPN. This effort will also help determine the most desirable path in terms of utility, accuracy, and ease of maintenance in meeting the FHWA's national objectives, as well as providing a useful tool for stakeholders.


Program Management and Outreach

Contact persons:

Research Activity or Project

Project Summary

STEP Budget

STEP Program Management and Outreach

Some of the specific products for the STEP program outreach efforts will include the following: STEP feedback system, peer review, and FY2008 STEP research plan, reports, and other outreach activities and materials.


Website support for HEP Research and Programs

Website support for the Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty (HEP) research and programs.


Financial Management Support

Financial management support for STEP, and planning and environment research and program initiatives.


Updated: 9/30/2012
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