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Meeting the Challenge: Planning, Environment, and Realty

When developing projects, transportation professionals must consider the complex relationships among a variety of factors affecting individuals, communities, the economy, and the environment. FHWA's Planning, Environment, and Realty research supports this work by assessing new tools and processes that make better decisions, leading to improved outcomes.

FHWA provides tools, technical assistance, proven processes, and data so that State and local agencies can perform effective project planning as well as environmental and realty decision-making. Enhanced coordination across disciplines leads to more efficient project delivery and better resource conservation. The result is a safer, more reliable, and accessible transportation system that is environmentally sound and responsive to the public's needs.

FHWA's research promotes techniques and processes that help society to adapt to extreme weather and climate change by constructing or renovating infrastructure to withstand these events. It also evaluates projects based on sustainability principles. FHWA is also researching project impacts on adjacent communities from air quality and noise changes.

FHWA helps transportation professionals strengthen their processes by providing new tools and strategies. Expanded geographic information systems (GIS) technologies incorporate livability principles into transportation planning. Environmental impact mitigation allows better coordination with climate change adaptation.

Additional areas of focus include:

  • Context sensitive solutions.
  • Economic development.
  • Nondiscrimination and environmental justice.
  • Community improvements.
  • Community impact assessment.
  • Pedestrians and bicyclists.

Following the principles of integrated transportation decision-making, FHWA forms partnerships with professionals in the fields of transportation planning, resource conservation, and realty to refine its research priorities. Together, they are identifying opportunities and developing new approaches that advance the practice.

Objective 1: Promote More Informed Transportation Decisionmaking to Improve Transportation Planning


  • Help transportation agencies build institutional capacity to support transportation planning, programming, operations, and management decisionmaking.
  • Identify and promote cutting-edge technologies that support stakeholders in meeting Federal planning, environmental, and realty requirements.
  • Research, develop, and promote strategies that improve surface transportation system planning, operation, and management, as well as environmental, planning, and realty decisionmaking.

Showcase Activities

  • Mapping the National Highway System
  • Integrating Demand Management into the Transportation Planning Process: A Desk Reference
  • Asset Sustainability Index
  • Performance-Based Planning and Programming: Guidebook Series
  • Option Contracts Research Study
  • Implementation of Electronic Right-of-Way Management Systems Versus Paper Systems
  • Early Acquisition: Statewide Land Use, Environment and Transportation Planning Requirements

 Visit the Objective 1: Showcase Activities page for more details.

Objective 2: Promote Integrated Planning that Improves Transportation Safety and Addresses Environmental Needs


  • Investigate and promote strategies that integrate safety into the planning and project development processes.
  • Investigate and promote strategies that facilitate transportation coordination among diverse stakeholders and improve the exchange of information.
  • Investigate and promote strategies to facilitate cross-border transportation planning, decisionmaking, and coordination.
  • Research and promote strategies that support environmental streamlining and stewardship for transportation projects, and improve projects' environmental sustainability.
  • Research, develop, and improve models, indicators, and tools to evaluate the economic, social, and environmental performance of transportation systems.
  • Conduct research and provide technical assistance to transportation stakeholders to help them incorporate environmentally sustainable practices in transportation project development, programming, and planning.

Showcase Activities

  • National Transportation Liaison Community of Practice
  • Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool
  • United States/Canada and United States/Mexico Binational Planning and Operations
  • Metropolitan Area Transportation Planning for Healthy Communities
  • Transportation Scenario Planning
  • A Performance-Based Approach to Addressing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Transportation Planning

Visit the Objective 2: Showcase Activities page for more details

Objective 3: Accelerate the Project Delivery Process


  • Research and promote available strategies and tools to accelerate project delivery and evaluate how to accomplish project delivery under a range of circumstances.
  • Provide technical assistance to support stakeholders in improving project delivery processes.

Showcase Activities

  • e-NEPA Tool
  • Eco-Logical
  • Center for Environmental Excellence
  • Public Involvement Reference Tool

 Visit the Objective 3: Showcase Activities page for more details.

Objective 4: Minimize Environmental Impacts of Transportation Investments


  • Develop and promote strategies, tools, and capacity-building opportunities that improve mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change, and improve stakeholders' understanding of the effects of climate change on transportation.
  • Conduct research to develop and promote strategies that improve transportation stakeholders' abilities to address transportation-related air quality issues.

Showcase Activities

  • Assessing Transportation Impacts on Air Quality
  • Near Road Studies
  • The Gulf Coast 2 Study
  • Near Road Air Quality Pooled Fund Study
  • Transportation Air Quality Selected Facts and Figures
  • Air Quality and Congestion Mitigation Measure Outcomes Assessment Study
  • Greening Transportation at the Border: Analysis of Air Quality

 Visit the Objective 4: Showcase Activities page for more details.

Objective 5: Improve the Way Transportation Contributes to Economic Development and Communities' Quality of Life


  • Identify and promote strategies that strengthen national security and economic development through transportation planning, programming, operations, and management.
  • Identify and promote strategies that address congestion reduction efforts to improve quality of life and economic development.
  • Identify and promote strategies that support equity, access, and public engagement to strengthen the ability of communities to respond to citizens' needs.
  • Research and promote strategies to advance livability and improve transportation planning, programming, operations, management, and decisionmaking in rural areas and small communities.

Showcase Activities

  • Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model
  • Assessment of the National Highway System (NHS) Passenger Connectors
  • Uniform Act Public Discussion Group
  • Transportation and Health Tool
  • Newtown Pike Case Study Video

 Visit the Objective 5: Showcase Activities page for more details.

Objective 6: Promote Transportation Policy that Supports Multimodal Transportation


  • Help transportation agencies build capacity to support an integrated, safe, and convenient transportation system for all users.
  • Identify, share, and promote effective and successful tools and information necessary to assess and bridge the gaps in multimodal transportation connectivity.
  • Research, develop, and promote strategies that improve multimodal transportation connectivity.

Showcase Activities

  • Multimodal Conflict Points
  • Flexibility in Pedestrian and Bicycle Facility Design
  • The Strategic Agenda for Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation
  • Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center

Visit the Objective 6: Showcase Activities page for more details

Updated: Tuesday, August 7, 2018