Updates from the Public Lands Team - Spring 2014

SPRING 2014 | www.volpe.dot.gov/publiclands

Updates from the Public

Lands Team

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Map of public lands in Washington and Oregon.

Public lands in Washington and Oregon. (Source: Atkins Global)

Federal Land Management Agencies Find Common Ground in Transportation Planning in the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest is home to a vast network of public lands served by complex, multimodal transportation systems. Federal Land Management Agencies (FLMAs) in Oregon and Washington often have similar partners, geographic and social planning contexts, and interrelated transportation networks. These connections offer the potential for mutual benefits through collaborative transportation planning among FLMAs and with state and local partners. To achieve greater coordination, the Federal Highway Administration Office of Federal Lands Highway (FLH), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and state and local transportation agencies in Oregon and Washington are working together to develop a Collaborative Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) for federal lands in the Pacific Northwest.

This Collaborative LRTP is the first effort for long-range planning that covers multiple states and includes multiple FLMAs. It will help FLH and FLMAs meet planning requirements from the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). MAP-21 requires FLMAs to conduct transportation planning that is consistent with metropolitan and statewide planning processes. MAP-21 also encourages multi-agency collaboration to establish common transportation planning goals and coordinated strategies to reach those goals.

The Collaborative LRTP, which builds on the success of the recently completed Alaska Federal Lands LRTP, will engage the involved agencies in setting joint transportation priorities, collecting data common to multiple agencies, and identifying common strategies to meet transportation needs for the Pacific Northwest’s federal lands. As part of the Collaborative LRTP, the BLM, USFS, and USACE will also create agency-specific templates to use in developing future LRTPs in other regions.

Volpe is helping FLH in this effort by facilitating project meetings and supporting the creation of the project’s work products. These products include a multi-agency LRTP for the Pacific Northwest region; agency-specific drop-down plans; templates for BLM, USACE, and USFS regional LRTPs; and data collection and coordination to support federal lands long-range transportation planning. Volpe worked with FLH to organize a kick-off meeting for project participants in Vancouver, WA, in December 2013, facilitates monthly team meetings by webinar, and will participate in the upcoming multi-agency meeting in Bend, OR, in May.  The project participants expect to develop final Collaborative LRTP work products by 2015.

Project contact: Haley Peckett

NPS Incorporates Climate Change Resiliency into Planning for Transportation Facilities in the Northeast Region

Climate science and recent weather events have pointed to flooding as the most immediate and severe climate threat facing transportation in the Northeast. As part of its first Long-Range Transportation Plan, the Northeast Region Office (NERO) of the National Park Service (NPS) identified “adapting park transportation resources to increase resilience to climate change” as a key objective. To help NPS increase the resilience of its transportation system, Volpe is supporting NERO in identifying and responding to flood-threatened transportation facilities.

Damage to multi-use path at Sandy Hook from Hurricane Sandy.

Damage to a multi-use path at Sandy Hook from Hurricane Sandy. (Source: NPS)

Working with NERO and park units, Volpe is assessing current asset vulnerability using geospatial data and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood zones. The resulting base layer of vulnerability will be of immediate use to regional transportation staff as an additional factor for consideration in their ongoing planning and programming processes. Volpe is also researching techniques and data for modeling future flood vulnerability in the Northeast Region and gathering strategies from peer agencies for managing flood-vulnerable assets. These products will help NERO assess future vulnerabilities that may increase as a result of climate change, and build resiliency into Northeast Region transportation systems.

To make the region’s response to flood vulnerabilities more effective, Volpe is also helping NERO better define its evolving transportation planning and programming processes. The final report will provide information on current and future flood vulnerability at a high level, a compendium of strategies that can be applied under various circumstances, and suggestions on how to systematically incorporate flood resiliency into NERO’s standard practices. The report will also highlight areas in need of further study.

Project contact: Kevin McCoy

Volpe Completes Alternative Transportation Feasibility Study for Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

In April, Volpe delivered the final report for an alternative transportation feasibility study at Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (MBSNF) in Washington State. MBSNF, located northeast of Seattle, is one of the most visited National Forests in the country and faces heavy parking lot congestion due to popular summer and winter recreational opportunities. Forest Service staff also seek to provide better alternative transportation access to MBSNF sites for the growing, diverse populations of Seattle and the Puget Sound region.  To address these concerns, Volpe has worked closely with MBSNF staff and the Western Federal Lands Highway Division since 2011 to study alternatives to manage parking congestion and expand alternative transportation access at the Forest. Volpe’s final report focuses on improvements to traveler information as well as transit opportunities in the Interstate 90 corridor in King County, Washington.

A robust traveler information system allows visitors to make informed decisions based on traffic and road conditions, facility closures, weather conditions, parking, and alternative transportation options. While sources of traveler information related to the Forest are abundant, the project team identified several gaps in the system. The final report recommends a set of strategies to address these gaps and improve traveler information. Volpe also developed a new way for MBSNF to show when roads and trails are opened or closed using web-based interactive maps.

In addition to traveler information strategies, Volpe’s report provides three preferred alternatives for transit service in the I-90 corridor. The preferred alternatives will help MBSNF manage visitation at some of its most popular sites. They are also designed to work with existing transit service to form a regional transit system that serves many unique recreational destinations along I-90, including those outside MBSNF.

As an alternative to traditional transit, Volpe also investigated the concept of a shared-use vehicle program. This type of program involves multiple non-profit organizations working together to acquire and share a van or bus for excursions to the Forest and elsewhere. MBSNF hopes to promote this concept as a way to increase access for underserved populations who may be more likely to visit the Forest as part of an organized outing.

Project contact: Benjamin Cotton

NPS Develops a Traffic Safety Plan for the Baltimore-Washington Parkway

Stakeholders discuss safety on the B-W Parkway this April in Landover, Maryland.

Stakeholders discuss safety on the B-W Parkway this April in Landover, Maryland. (Source: Volpe)

Built as an alternative to U.S. Route 1, the Baltimore-Washington (B-W) Parkway opened in 1954 as a limited-access scenic highway owned and operated by the National Park Service (NPS). Today, the B-W Parkway serves as both a scenic gateway to the nation’s capital and a major commuter corridor. Increased commercial development accessed by the Parkway has resulted in significant daily traffic volumes and associated congestion and safety issues. The Parkway averages multiple accidents every day, and an average of seven traffic fatalities occurred annually on the Parkway over the past five years. For this reason, the NPS National Capital Region (NCR) has identified the B-W Parkway as a top priority for safety improvements.

Volpe is supporting NCR to develop the B-W Parkway Traffic Safety Plan, which will identify opportunities to improve safety on the B-W Parkway. This plan will incorporate the “4Es”—Enforcement, Education, Emergency Services, and Engineering—as strategies for traffic safety. The goal for the plan is to develop a list of actionable items and projects to reduce fatalities and serious injuries.

In February and April, Volpe assisted NCR at two outreach sessions for stakeholders from NPS, the Federal Highway Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, regional governments, the Maryland State Highway Administration, local employers, and organizations involved in traffic safety advocacy, enforcement, and policy. The most recent activity was an in-person workshop this April in Landover, Maryland, which was attended by over 25 stakeholders. Breakout sessions during the meeting resulted in a number of innovative ideas that the team will summarize for the Plan.  The B-W Parkway Traffic Safety Plan is expected to be finalized in late summer 2014.

Project Contacts: Susan Smichenko and Ryan Yowell

Volpe Supports Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Transit Planning Study

Refuge visitors use the bus to access scenic areas along Black Point Wildlife Drive, Merritt Island NWR.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, located in Titusville, Florida, serves as a regional destination for approximately 1 million visitors annually. Home to over 500 species of wildlife and 1,000 species of plants, the Refuge is unique for its proximity to the Kennedy Space Center and Canaveral National Seashore. A major birding destination, the Refuge experiences seasonal congestion at high-use visitor sites, most notably Black Point Wildlife Drive. Refuge staff also recognize the opportunity to expand access to new user groups and serve visitors in a more sustainable manner through transit service.

To help address these concerns, Volpe is supporting the Refuge and its partners to develop a transit planning study. The study will identify transit service options using the Refuge’s current 14-passenger bus and evaluate the potential for enhanced transit access to the Refuge over the next 20 years. As of April 2014, the Refuge and Volpe have met with local and regional stakeholders and drafted a short-term transit plan, and are currently crafting scenarios for long-term transit. Funded by a grant from the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks program, the final report is expected in the summer of 2014.

Project contacts: Haley Peckett and Ryan Yowell

BLM Develops Vision for Travel and Transportation Management Planning

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) owns and manages 247 million acres of land across the western U.S., which contain over 400,000 route miles of motorized and non-motorized travel routes. Many of these routes intersect with critical regional transportation networks and provide access for diverse users on BLM lands. These routes also have the potential to impact sensitive species. However, most of these routes have not yet been inventoried. The BLM uses Travel and Transportation Management Plans (TTMPs) for each of its field offices to inventory, document, and map existing and planned transportation facilities and routes and identify future needs. As of 2012, however, the BLM had only completed 131 TTMPs (out of 633 total) due to staff and funding limitations. The BLM has a need for a prioritized plan to complete these TTMPs and connect them to the BLM’s larger transportation program mission.

To help the BLM complete its TTMPs, Volpe recently supported the BLM to develop its 2020 Travel and Transportation Management Vision. The Vision provides the BLM with a strategy for completing all of its TTMPs by providing the status of each state office’s plans and setting a goal to complete 75 percent of all TTMPs by 2020. The BLM’s strategies for completing TTMPs include setting targets for each state and improving coordination among BLM divisions. One chapter of the Vision lists state-by-state partners and critical issues, like sage grouse and energy development. The BLM hopes to use the Vision document to communicate its need and priorities for transportation planning to its staff and partners across and the country.

Project contact: Haley Peckett

Transportation Assistance Group Identifies Ways to Enhance Access to Great Dismal Swamp

In March, Volpe facilitated a Transportation Assistance Group (TAG) meeting at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).  The refuge is nestled between historic Williamsburg, Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It offers many natural and historic resources, as well as activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, bird watching, and hunting. The Great Dismal Swamp is also the only National Wildlife Refuge designated as an important landmark on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Although the refuge lies between the growing cities of Chesapeake and Suffolk, Virginia, the majority of the 60,000+ annual visitors are from outside of the local area. The difficulty of access to the refuge has been identified as a potential barrier to higher local visitation rates. The Chesapeake side of the refuge is particularly isolated due to the Dismal Swamp Canal, which is part of the Intracoastal Waterway operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The goals of the TAG are to identify transportation issues affecting the Great Dismal Swamp NWR and opportunities to enhance access to and within the refuge. TAG participants included Volpe, FWS staff, FHWA Eastern Federal Lands staff, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and representatives from the Cities of Suffolk and Chesapeake.  Together, the group developed a number of promising ideas for enhancing alternative transportation access to the refuge, such as bicycle access improvements, communications strategies for the local population, and opportunities to partner with the Cities of Suffolk and Chesapeake. Volpe is currently drafting a report that will summarize the recommendations from the TAG meeting and provide information about resources for implementation.

Project contact: Heather Richardson

Welcome to our newsletter!

The Public Lands Team shares Updates twice a year to highlight recent activities and news.

In this newsletter

About the Public Lands Team

Primarily organized within Volpe's Center for Transportation Policy and Planning, our team helps federal land management agencies resolve complex transportation challenges at both the program and project levels.

Our work draws on expertise in a variety of fields, including policy and program development, multimodal systems planning, alternative fuels and vehicle selection, environmental compliance, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

You can read more about our team here.

About the Volpe Center

The Volpe Center, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, develops transportation innovations for the public good. Part of the U.S. DOT’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, Volpe partners with public and private organizations to assess the needs of the transportation community, evaluate research and development, assist in the deployment of transportation technologies, and inform decision- and policy-making.

Contact the Public Lands Team

For questions, general information, or to speak with us about getting started on a new project, please contact Eric Plosky at (617) 494 - 2785 or volpepubliclands@dot.gov.

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