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Updated 8 February, 2004

Department of Transportation









The Department of Transportation (DOT) has multiple missions that contribute to its environment and natural resources R&D portfolio. Contributions to overall DOT research and development are provided by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), the Maritime Administration (MARAD), the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Types of Environment and Natural Resources Research Supported

  • Highways and Air Quality: Modeling and analytic compliance research is supported, including travel, emission, and dispersion modeling techniques to provide information and technical guidance to Federal, State, and local officials as well as the public at large on the new requirements and methods for compliance.

  • Highways and Water Resources: Previous research sponsored by FHWA has provided tools to State and local transportation officials for assessing potential water quality impacts of transportation improvements, and has developed mitigation techniques to lessen the pollution effects of stormwater runoff. Ongoing studies and those planned for the future address the continuing concern over nonpoint water pollution from highway facilities and the ever-present need to meet statutory and regulatory requirements. Research is being supported to develop improved methods, techniques, tools, models, and procedures to evaluate the water quality impacts of highway development and operation activities, particularly stormwater runoff and changes in hydrology, and to identify and develop innovative best management practices, devices, and other mitigation measures.

  • Improving Knowledge of Wetland Resources: The construction, use, and maintenance of highway systems have potential primary and secondary impacts on wetlands resources and other ecosystems. Research is supported to develop improved methods, tools, and techniques to identify and delineate wetlands, to assess wetland impacts, and to evaluate wetland functions; to improve the effectiveness of compensatory mitigation through better techniques of wetland restoration, enhancement, and creation; and to improve and enhance the use of mitigation banking as a viable, effective tool of choice in situations where compensatory mitigation is necessary.

  • Historic and Archeological Preservation and Aesthetics: Historic and archeological preservation research addresses the procedural, technical, and legal issues associated with resource identification, evaluation, and rehabilitation in the highway and transportation context. Research is supported to provide the tools necessary to meet technical and procedural requirements for historic preservation, as well as visual impacts and their associated assessment techniques. Information will be developed to identify the viability and the manner in which the various methods can be used to effectively determine the visual impact of highway project proposals. Also, this program includes the various cultural practices of roadside maintenance that can benefit visual quality such as the use of wild flowers and other native plant species.

  • Alternative Fuels: FTA conducts R&D to support the transit industry use of alternative fuels. This effort has included support for the development of various alternative fueled heavy duty engines for transit bus applications. It also includes support for the development of guidelines for the safe operation, maintenance, and storage of alternative fueled vehicles.

  • Electric Vehicle Program: FTA conducts R&D in the application of electric propulsion technologies to transit bus applications. Electric and hybrid electric transit buses offer significant emissions reduction potential. Electric and hybrid electric also offer the potential for greater operating efficiency and lower maintenance costs.

  • Fuel Cell Transit Bus Program: FTA conducts R&D toward the commercialization of fuel cell powered transit buses. Two fuel cell technologies are being developed and evaluated -- phosphoric acid and proton exchange membrane. Preliminary results indicate that an entire fleet of fuel cell transit buses would have the equivalent emissions of one current diesel transit bus.

  • Pipeline Safety Research: RSPA provides technical competence to assess pipeline integrity, to determine ways to rehabilitate pipelines, and to set long-term goals for improvement. Ultimately, these activities contribute to the safety of pipeline operations, and reduce the danger of environmentally damaging accidents and spills.

  • Hazardous Materials Research: RSPA provides the technical and analytical foundation necessary to support DOT's regulatory, international standards development, compliance, and emergency response programs that deal with hazardous materials transportation safety. Overall, this research is part of a comprehensive effort to protect the Nation from risks to life, health, property, and the environment inherent in the transportation of hazardous materials by water, air, highway, and railroad, and to protect the environment from damage by oil and other pollutants.

  • Emergency Transportation Research: This effort focuses on the ability to assess the effects of a natural disaster on the national transportation system, as well as effective tracking of the flow of critical relief supplies during the response phase.

  • Innovative Tools in Response Training and Preparedness Evaluation: Research is being conducted to develop training methods for oil and hazardous material spill response teams, as well as measurement methods to evaluate response team performance. Research is also supporting development of a portable pollution incident control and evaluation system.

  • Oil Spill Countermeasures: Researchers are attempting to improve methods to mitigate oil spills, with a focus on improving mechanical collection systems and alternative countermeasures, such as in situ burning, and on the use of sensing technologies (e.g., infrared) to detect accidental and deliberate spills. Research is also conducted on weathering effects on spilled oil to improve predictive capabilities, thus enhancing input to response strategies.

  • Prevention Through People: Research has shown that up to 80% of marine accidents are attributable to human activity. Research is being conducted on human factors and performance (e.g., crew size, bridge design, fatigue).

  • Waterways Safety: This focus area seeks to provide improved navigational capabilities and navigation resources for the mariner, including positioning methods and aids to navigation.

  • Pollution Prevention: DOT funds research on methods to minimize the use of hazardous materials, to reduce the amount of solid and hazardous materials generated by Coast Guard units, to determine the most cost-effective and efficient methods for hazardous materials management, and to identify the best technologies for remediation of Coast Guard hazardous waste sites.

  • Non-Indigenous Species: Research is being conducted on the introduction of non-indigenous aquatic nuisance species into U.S. waters through shipping activities, and various control options.

  • Aircraft Noise Reduction and Control: The FAA researches technology advances in source noise reduction. This includes engine design parameters, advanced acoustic absorption materials, and active noise control devices. Aircraft technology advances will include high-lift devices and methods to reduce airframe-generated noise.

  • Aircraft Engine Emissions Control: In collaboration with other agencies, DOT investigates the aviation effects on the atmosphere. The results of these studies are used in developing future engine emissions regulations and international standards.

  • Aviation Environmental Analysis: Research is supported to develop various tools and methods used to evaluate the environmental impact from alternative aviation policies and strategies. Projects include continually updating and improving the integrated noise model, the heliport noise model, the emissions and dispersion modeling system, and other models to assess the impacts from FAA policies and actions.

Research Funding Opportunities

Federal Highway Administration

To fulfill its statutory mandates, FHWA has goals to develop improved tools for assessing highway impacts on air quality, wetlands, hazardous waste sites, and water quality; more effective and innovative avoidance, detection, mitigation, and enhancement techniques; and environmental expertise within FHWA and State and local transportation agencies that will significantly contribute to a more efficient environmental and project development program and to an enhanced environment in accordance with DOT's Strategic Plan and the FHWA's Environmental Policy Statement. Generic enquiries about funding to support the FHWA mandate should be sent to the following address:

FHWA University Coordinator
National Highway Institute (HHI-1)
901 N. Stuart Street, Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22202
703.235.0500 (voice)

Federal Transit Administration

FTA is the principal source of Federal financial assistance to U.S. communities for the planning, development, and improvement of public transportation systems. FTA has been working in cooperation with the transit industry to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which support the national goals of reducing vehicle emissions and petroleum imports. FTA provides decisionmakers at all levels with a better understanding of the technologies necessary to meet these requirements, and provides the necessary technical assistance and support to the transit industry to make a safe and successful transition to new technologies.

Grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts are standard instruments used by FTA to execute R&D projects. An annual directory of FTA's R&D projects is available, and the information therein is regularly updated on the FTA Home Page ( In addition, FTA accepts unsolicited proposals. A Technical Advisory Committee provides identifies priority technology development areas and establishes guidelines for project development, cost sharing, and execution.

Mr. Shang Hsiung/FTA
202.366.0241 (voice)
202.366.3765 (fax)

Research and Special Programs Administration

Some work on surface transportation-related environmental topics is conducted by DOT's competitively selected University Transportation Centers; however, annually funded research programs carried on by these consortia are not typically competed. Research priorities are set by the schools involved based on the needs of the specific regions of the country they serve. Subcontracts from these centers may or may not be competed to other universities and research providers. More information on RSPA programs can be obtained as follows:

RSPA Office of Research Policy
and Technology Transfer (DRT-1)
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590
202.366.4208 (voice)

RSPA Office of University Research
and Education (DUR- 1)
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590
202.366.5442 (voice)

Maritime Administration

MARAD environmental research activities are generally performed in cooperation with other Federal agencies, particularly the Coast Guard, EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NOAA, the Navy, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of State. Ongoing or recently completed interagency cooperative research efforts include the following projects: Marine engine air pollution monitoring and control; U.S. implementation of MARPOL 73/78 Annex V (Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships); remediation and management of contaminated marine sediments; shipboard ballast technologies and practices for controlling introductions of non- indigenous aquatic organisms; and environmentally sensitive shipbreaking in the U.S. More information on these projects can be obtained as follows:

MARAD R&D Coordinator (MAR-820)
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590
202.366.1921 (voice)

U.S. Coast Guard

The mission of the Coast Guard's Marine Safety, Security, and Environmental Protection Program is to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests through the prevention and mitigation of marine incidents. The Coast Guard is also committed to the institution of measures to reduce its own consumption and production of solid waste and hazardous materials.

The Coast Guard has grant authority authorized under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. A series of regional grants to colleges, universities, and nonprofit research institutions were provided in the mid-1990s; however, no further grants of this type are anticipated.

The vast majority of future projects will be conducted competitively. The Coast Guard has established networks with academia, other Federal and State agencies, industry, and international partners to conduct joint research and technological information exchange. Requests for information on upcoming competitive opportunities should be forwarded to the Chief of the U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Staff:

U.S. Coast Guard R&D Chief (G-SIR)
2100 Second Street, SW
Washington, DC 20593
202.267.0912 (voice)

Federal Aviation Administration

FAA provides a safe, secure, and efficient global aviation system that contributes to national security and the promotion of aviation. As the leading authority in the international aviation community, FAA is responsive to the dynamic nature of customer needs, economic conditions, and environmental concerns. The future aviation system envisions one that is a "good neighbor." The challenges revolve around issues associated with how this good neighbor policy is implemented. The FAA's goal is to provide strong leadership in mitigating aviation's adverse impact on the public consistent with an effective aviation system. FAA is participating with NASA in a series of joint noise and emission reduction research initiatives, including continued implementation of the joint subsonic airplane noise reduction technology research program and assessment of quiet aircraft technology for propeller-driven airplanes and rotorcraft. FAA also participates in the NASA Atmospheric Effects of Aviation Project to develop a scientific basis for assessment of the impact of aircraft emissions, particularly on the ozone layer and global climate change. FAA and NASA also began a cooperative program for the development of engine exhaust emissions certification standards and procedures for future subsonic turbojet engine technology. Information on these joint programs and other FAA research funding opportunitites should be directed to the Director of the Office of Environment and Energy:

FAA Office of Environment and Energy (AEE-1)
400 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20590
202.267.3576 (voice)

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