[Federal Register Volume 72, Number 121 (Monday, June 25, 2007)]
[Notices]
[Pages 34738-34739]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E7-12127]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Highway Administration


Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative 
Research Program (STEP)

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: Section 5207 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient 
Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) established 
the Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative 
Research Program (STEP). The general objective of the STEP is to 
improve understanding of the complex relationship between surface 
transportation, planning and the environment. SAFETEA-LU provides 
$16.875 million per year for fiscal years (FY) 2006-2009 to implement 
this new cooperative research program. STEP is the primary source of 
funds to conduct all Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) research on 
planning and environmental issues. In addition, Congress mandated 
several special studies and STEP will be the funding source for those 
projects. STEP will also address priorities identified in the U.S. 
Department of Transportation Research and Development Strategic Plan 
(section 508 of title 23 U.S.C.) including those related to highway 
safety benefits and congestion reduction.
    The purpose of this notice is to announce revisions to the STEP 
implementation strategy for FY 2008 and to request suggested lines of 
research for the FY 2008 STEP via the STEP Web site at http://
www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/step/index.htm.

DATES: Suggestions for lines of research should be submitted to the 
STEP Web site on or before August 24, 2007.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Felicia Young, Office of Interstate 
and Border Planning, (202) 366-1263, Felicia.young@fhwa.dot.gov; or 
Grace Reidy, Office of the Chief Counsel, (202) 366-6226; Federal 
Highway Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590. 
Office hours are from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., e.t., Monday through 
Friday, except Federal holidays.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Access

    An electronic copy of this notice may be downloaded from the Office 
of the Federal Register's home page at http://www.archives.gov and the 
Government Printing Office's Web site at http://www.access.gpo.gov.

Background

    Section 5207 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient 
Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (Pub. L. 109-59, Aug. 10. 
2005), established the Surface Transportation Environment and Planning 
Cooperative Research Program. STEP is a new cooperative research 
program for environment and planning research created in section 507 of 
Title 23, United States Code, Highways (23 U.S.C. 507). The general 
objective of the STEP is to improve understanding of the complex 
relationship between surface transportation, planning, and the 
environment.
    Congestion reduction is an important element of the STEP. 
Transportation system congestion is one of the single largest threats 
to U.S. economic prosperity and the American way of life. In response 
to the challenges of congestion, in May 2006, the U.S. Department of 
Transportation (DOT) established the National Strategy to Reduce 
Congestion on America's Transportation Network (the ``Congestion 
Initiative''). The Congestion Initiative is a bold and comprehensive 
national program to reduce congestion on the Nation's roads, rails, 
runways and waterways.
    Traffic congestion affects virtually every aspect of peoples' 
lives--where people live, where they work, where they shop and how much 
they pay for goods and services. According to 2003 figures, in certain 
metropolitan areas the average rush hour driver loses as many as 93 
hours per year to travel delay--equivalent to more than 2 weeks of 
work, amounting annually to a virtual ``congestion tax'' as high as 
$1,598 per traveler in wasted time and fuel.\1\ Nationwide, congestion 
imposes costs on the economy of over $65 billion per year,\2\ a figure 
that has more than doubled since 1993, and that would be even higher if 
it accounted for the significant cost of unreliability to drivers and 
businesses, the environmental impacts of idle related auto emissions, 
or increase gasoline prices.
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    \1\ Texas Transportation Institute (TTI--, 2005 Urban Mobility 
Report, May 2005 (http://ttiltamu.edu/documents/mobility_report_
2005.pdf), Tables 1 and 2.
    \2\ TTI, 2005 Urban Mobility Report, p. 1.
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    The STEP directly addresses congestion reduction efforts as part of 
the Planning Focus Area. Other STEP emphasis areas include goals and 
objectives that relate to congestion reduction. These include: 
Congestion; Air Quality and Global Climate Change, Bicycle/Pedestrian 
and Health, Environmental Streamlining/Stewardship; U.S./Canada and 
U.S. Mexico Border Planning; Safety Planning; Freight Planning; Travel 
Modeling, etc. In addition, STEP outreach efforts continue to seek 
partnerships that can leverage limited research funding with other 
stakeholders and partners in order to increase the total amount of 
funding available to meet the Nation's surface transportation research 
needs including congestion reduction.
    SAFETEA-LU provides $16.875 million per year for FY 2006-2009 to 
implement this new cooperative research program. Due to obligation

[[Page 34739]]

limitations, rescissions, and congressional designation of Title V 
Research in SAFETEA-LU, it is anticipated that approximately $11.7 
million of the $16.875 million authorized will be available each fiscal 
year.
    On March 1, 2006, FHWA published a notice in the Federal Register 
(71 FR 10586) announcing the creation of an FHWA Web site to provide 
information regarding STEP and to solicit public input on the 
implementation strategy for this program. After reviewing the comments 
received in response to this notice, FHWA published a notice in the 
Federal Register on August 4, 2006 (71 FR 44348), announcing the 
posting of the final STEP Implementation Strategy on the STEP Web site. 
Additionally, this notice requested suggestions be submitted via the 
STEP Web site for the lines of research that should be undertaken in 
the STEP program.
    The FHWA is issuing this notice: (1) To announce revisions to the 
STEP Implementation Strategy for the FY 2008 STEP, and (2) to solicit 
comments on proposed research activities to be undertaken in the FY 
2008 STEP via the STEP Web site. The STEP Implementation Strategy was 
revised to: update information on the graph and chart regarding 
historical planning and environment research funding, and to add 
information about proposed FY 2008 STEP including proposed funding 
levels, goals and potential research activities.
    Suggested lines of research activities for the FY 2008 STEP may 
include potential research ideas related to highway safety and the 
Congestion Initiative. Research activities related to the Congestion 
Initiative could specifically include ideas to relieve urban 
congestion; unleash private sector investment resources; promote 
operational and technological improvements and target major freight 
bottlenecks and expand freight policy outreach.
    We invite the public to visit this Web site to obtain additional 
information on the STEP, as well as information on the process for 
forwarding comments to FHWA regarding the STEP implementation plan. The 
URL for the STEP Web site is http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/step/
index.htm. The FHWA will use this Web site as a major mechanism for 
informing the public regarding the status of the STEP.

    Authority: Section 5207 of Public Law 109-59.

    Issued on: June 8, 2007.
J. Richard Capka,
Federal Highway Administrator.
[FR Doc. E7-12127 Filed 6-22-07; 8:45 am]
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