You are here

Planning and Data-Sharing Partnerships Between Governments and Public Land Management Agencies Research Study


Recreational travel to the country’s public lands has been increasing for the past several years. This trend is expected to continue in both urban and rural areas in the coming decades, even following COVID-19 impacts. Increasing visitation means increased use of the transportation infrastructure that gets visitors both to our national parks, forests, refuges; state parks; and other recreational sites and lets them travel within these public lands.

FHWA, State Departments of Transportation (DOTs), local governments, and Public Land Management Agencies (PLMAs) share a common interest in ensuring the public enjoys safe, efficient access to and through public lands. Visitation to and resource management activities on these lands also generate local, regional, and state economic benefits. At the same time, the traveling public is not concerned with the jurisdictional boundaries, and instead wants to get from their origin to their desired outdoor recreation site as quickly and easily as possible.  As a result, state DOTs and PLMAs bare the impacts of congestion and crowding, which can adversely affect efficient access, economic activity, natural resources, and safe travel.

While state DOTs and PLMAs recognize the potential benefits of coordinating on data, several barriers hinder these partnerships, including:

  • Staff capacity and agency missions;
  • Incompatible data platforms;
  • Challenges related to data collection and sharing;
  • Lack of staff awareness of available data, and
  • How to use available data in a recreational context, especially for PLMAs;
  • Urban or Rural context of public lands and the surrounding state and local transportation networks.

There are an increasing number of available data sources, including spatial and demographic data, that can help PLMAs to better understand which transportation facilities and systems are being used for public lands access, local commuting and recreating, and longer-haul travel. Additionally, these data can help PLMAs identify which individuals are using the systems, seasonal variations in use, and patterns in use by day of the week and time of the day.


This project uses case studies to examine best practices for PLMA partnerships with state DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), local governments, and interested stakeholders to coordinate information/data sharing for planning, delivering, and managing transportation systems on and near public lands. Identified best practices and partnering methods may be applicable in a range of contexts, including location, geography, climate, and mode of transportation system. The specific goals of this project are to:

  1. Identify examples of cross-agency information coordination between PLMAs and transportation partners that result in process efficiencies, cost savings, and more effective transportation system delivery and/or management. Examples will focus on corridor- or regional-scale collaboration that translate to efficient access, economic activity, natural resources, and safe travel.
  2. Develop a suite of tools, resources, and usage guidelines to aid PLMAs and their partners in improving data coordination for better transportation systems.


The Study is guided by a cross-USDOT project management team and a Research Panel composed of local, state, federal, and non-profit groups interested in planning and data-sharing opportunities. The key tasks are to:

  1. Review Background Literature
  2. Develop Study Methodology
  3. Collect Relevant Data
  4. Develop Data Coordination and Sharing Toolbox
  5. Prepare Findings
  6. Develop Final Report
  7. Implement Findings

How to Engage

The Study’s anticipated timeline is almost two years (September 2020 through June 2022), with engagement opportunities throughout. To stay up to date on the project, visit this project page regularly and contact the Project Manager, Cole Grisham, for more information. The primary ways to engage with this Study include:

  • Volunteer to serve on the Research Panel
  • Propose a case study of best practices and/or lessons learned
  • Submit recommended reading and related research
  • Submit questions you hope this research will address

Project Documents

For a printable version of the information on this page, click the link below. As the Study progresses, new documents and materials will be added here. Check back regularly for new document.