[Federal Register Volume 73, Number 121 (Monday, June 23, 2008)]
[Notices]
[Pages 35435-35436]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E8-14135]


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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. The STEP is the primary source 
of funds to conduct all Federal Highway Administration research on 
planning and environmental issues. In addition, Congress mandated 
several special studies and STEP will be the funding source for those 
projects.
    The purpose of this notice is to announce revisions to the STEP 
implementation strategy for FY 2009 and to request suggested lines of 
research for the FY 2009 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 September 22, 2008.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Felicia Young, Office of Interstate 
and Border Planning, (202) 366-1263, Felicia.young@fhwa.dot.gov; or Wil 
Baccus, Office of the Chief Counsel, (202) 366-1396; Federal Highway 
Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., 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. The 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.
    SAFETEA-LU established five priority areas for STEP research. These 
priority funding areas include: (1) Develop more accurate models for 
evaluating transportation control measures and system designs for use 
by State and local governments to meet environmental requirements; (2) 
improve understanding of transportation demand factors; (3) develop 
indicators of economic, social, and environmental performance of 
transportation systems to facilitate alternatives analysis; (4) meet 
additional priorities as determined by the Secretary in the strategic 
planning process identified in section 5208 of SAFETEA-LU; and (5) 
refine the scope and research emphases through outreach and in 
consultation with stakeholders.
    Congestion reduction also has been identified as a priority 
research area for the strategic planning process identified in section 
5208 of SAFETEA-LU and is a key element of other STEP priority research 
areas. Therefore, in addition to the aforementioned research 
priorities, the STEP will also address research

[[Page 35436]]

priorities related to congestion reduction.
    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 DOT 
established the National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's 
Transportation Network (the ``Congestion Initiative'').\1\ The 
Congestion Initiative is a bold and comprehensive national program to 
reduce congestion on the Nation's roads, rails, runways and waterways.
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    \1\ Speaking before the National Retail Federation's annual 
conference on May 16, 2006, in Washington, DC, former U.S. 
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta unveiled a new plan to reduce 
congestion plaguing America's roads, rails, and airports. The 
National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation 
Network includes a number of initiatives designed to reduce 
transportation congestion. The transcript of these remarks is 
available at: http://www.dot.gov/affairs/minetasp051606.htm. 
Additional information may be located at: http://
www.fightgridlocknow.gov.
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    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 2005 figures, in 
certain metropolitan areas the average rush hour driver loses as many 
as 72 hours per year to travel delay--equivalent to almost 2 weeks of 
work, amounting annually to a virtual ``congestion tax'' as high as 
$1,374 per traveler in wasted time and fuel.\2\ Nationwide, congestion 
imposes costs on the economy of over $78 billion per year,\3\ more than 
a five-fold increase since 1982, 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 increased gasoline prices.
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    \2\ Texas Transportation Institute (TTI, 2007 Urban Mobility 
Report, September 2007 (http://tti.tamu.edu/documents/mobility_
report_2007_wappx.pdf, Table 1; and http://mobility.tamu.edu/ums/
congestion_data/tables/los_angeles.pdf), Tables 1 and 2.
    \3\ TTI, 2007 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; United States/
Canada and United States/Mexico Border Planning; Safety Planning; 
Freight Planning; Travel Modeling, etc. In addition, the 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 
limitations, rescissions, and congressional designation of Title V 
Research in SAFETEA-LU, it is anticipated that approximately $12 
million of the $16.875 million authorized will be available each fiscal 
year.
    The FHWA is issuing this notice to: (1) to announce revisions to 
the STEP Implementation Strategy for the FY 2009 STEP, and (2) to 
solicit comments via the STEP Web site on proposed research activities 
to be undertaken in the FY 2009 STEP. 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 the proposed FY 2009 STEP including proposed funding 
levels, goals and potential research activities.
    Suggested lines of research activities for the FY 2009 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; improve analysis tools for measuring and analyzing 
environmental impacts of congestion management projects; enhance 
national data resources on operational and environmental effects of 
congestion management projects; 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 the 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 Pub. L. 109-59.

    Issued on: June 11, 2008.
James D. Ray,
Acting Federal Highway Administrator.
 [FR Doc. E8-14135 Filed 6-20-08; 8:45 am]
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