Department of Transportation


What is your agency’s mission and how does supporting research in the Arctic advance that mission?

The mission of the U.S. DOT is to “ensure our nation has the safest, most efficient and modern transportation system in the world; that improves the quality of life for all American people and communities, from rural to urban, and increases the productivity and competitiveness of American workers and businesses.” Supporting research in the Arctic improves domestic transportation policymaking that ensures all modes of transportation in Arctic regions are safe and efficient.

Where would one go to find out what research is being funded by your agency in the Arctic?

DOT Office of Research, Development & Technology Programs and Activities

Where would one go to read about scientific research results from your agency?

DOT Research Hub 

In terms of budget, approximately how big is your agency’s investment in Arctic research?

The budget is small and an estimation of the range is still under development.

What are your agency’s funding priorities over the next 2 years?

DOT prioritizes Arctic research that addresses innovation, technology development and breakthrough knowledge. This includes policy and technologies associated with control of invasive species, alternative fuels, transportation effects on climate change, unmanned systems, liquefied natural gas, etc.

How does your agency coordinate and collaborate with other agencies to advance your mission in the Arctic?

DOT is an active member on multiple White House Policy Coordinating Committees, whose purpose is to advance research and public policy that affects the Arctic. Additionally, DOT is a member of the Arctic Executive Steering Committee and the Interagency Arctic Research and Policy Committee. DOT also sponsors the U.S. Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS), which is a Federal interagency maritime policy coordinating committee with membership from over 25 agencies and offices. The Maritime Administration, within USDOT, co-chairs the CMTS Arctic Maritime Transportation Integrated Action team with NOAA and Coast Guard.

Activities in Alaska 

Does your agency have office(s) in Alaska?

DOT has a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Division Office in Juneau. They provide leadership, guidance, and direction the State Department of Transportation in the project development and delivery of transportation projects. Working collaboratively with Alaska state partners, they ensure that roads and bridges are safe and continue to support economic growth and environmental sustainability. 

DOT also has an FAA Alaska Regional Office in Anchorage with a mission to provide guidance and leadership in the planning, development, and operation of the airport system in Alaska and to enable air transportation services to be delivered in a safe and efficient manner, incorporating community and environmental needs.

The Maritime Administration’s Pacific Northwest Gateway (PNWG) in Seattle covers Alaska, including the Alaska Marine Highway System. The PNWG Office serves as an expert on all regional and local issues in the AOR and is a subject matter expert for Ferry Systems, Infrastructure Development, Project Management, and Department of Defense Strategic Mobility. In addition to coordinating with the private sector, the Gateway Office also serves as the regional liaison to peers in federal, state and local governmental agencies.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), Office of Pipeline Safety, Western Region office is based in Colorado, and the Office of Hazardous Materials Safety, Western Region office is based in California; Alaska falls within the responsibility of both of these offices.  PHMSA also has a Pipeline Field Office in Anchorage. PHMSA's activities in the Arctic include:

  • PHMSA’s Pipeline Safety Research Program has funded more than $20 million in research projects addressing challenges with Arctic pipeline operations.  Since 2002, PHMSA has significantly funded research on advancing higher strength steel materials and strain-based design approaches to safely operate pipelines in the Arctic. In addition, PHMSA funded research in leak detection to investigate how technologies can operate safely and reliably in Artic regions and snow-covered areas.  For further information on Artic topics related to pipeline research, please visit PHMSA website, select “Arctic” under the Infrastructure Location feature, and hit Submit Query. 
  • PHMSA-funded research projects on strain-based design have informed our decisions on Special Permit (SP) applications:
    •  On June 5, 2018, PHMSA issued a SP to Donlin Gold, LLC for its proposed 315-mile, 14-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline from Cook Inlet, Alaska, to the proposed Donlin Gold mine site in Western Alaska. PHMSA’s SP allows for the use of strain-based design for segments of the buried pipeline in areas of discontinuous permafrost, and was concurrently developed and considered within the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Donlin Gold Project.
    • In 2019, PHMSA issued a SP for strain-based design to the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) for the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Pipeline.  The Alaska LNG Pipeline is an 807-mile, 42-inch-diameter natural gas transmission pipeline that AGDC has proposed to build extending from the AGDC's proposed gas treatment plant on the North Slope of Alaska to the liquefaction facility on the shore of the Cook Inlet near Nikiski, Alaska, including an offshore pipeline section crossing the Cook Inlet.

The Federal Railway Administration Region 8 Office located in Washington State is responsible for rail safety in Alaska. The Federal Railroad Administration’s mission is to enable the safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods for a strong America, now and in the future. 

Do those offices support research?

The Alaska FHWA Division develops, tracks and analyzes activities and recommends innovative techniques and strategies to improve the performance of the transportation system. 

FAA works with universities and research programs in Alaska on programs using unmanned aircraft systems to support wildlife surveys in the region.

FAA Office of Environment and Energy Research & Development performs research activities that encompass climate, air quality, noise and energy aspects of aviation. These are done from a global perspective and are not specific to the Arctic, although Arctic impacts are included in the overall research given the number of flight paths that cross the Arctic as part of global aviation connectivity. 

Maritime Administration assists in providing information to private and public partners on infrastructure and maritime development which may include research and development projects in the region.

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) work in the Arctic:

  • Liberty Pipeline has proposed pipe-in-pipe design that offers protection from the Arctic environment, by encasing a pipe inside another pipe.  However, the casing blocks typical corrosion protection from the pipeline. Corrosion protection is used to prevent rust. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) granted a special permit with additional safety requirements for the Liberty Pipeline.
  • On June 5, 2018, PHMSA issued a Special Permit (SP) to Donlin Gold, LLC for their proposed 315-mile, 14-inch-diameter, natural gas pipeline from Cook Inlet, Alaska to the proposed Donlin Gold mine site in Western Alaska.  PHMSA’s SP allows for the use of strain-based design for segments of the buried pipeline in areas of discontinuous permafrost, and was concurrently developed and considered within the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Donlin Gold Project.
  • In the wake of the November 30, 2018 7.0 magnitude Anchorage earthquake, PHMSA’s Alaskan team immediately went out in the field with potentially affected Operators for integrity checks and spoke with the potentially affected Operators about future plans for investigating system integrity.  PHMSA’s Alaskan team continues to follow-up with the Operators, especially those who have planned integrity inspections for summer 2019.

Where can one go to learn more about your agency’s presence in Alaska?


Alyson Azzara, Ph.D.
International Trade Specialist
Office of International Activities
Maritime Administration, USDOT

Jacki Holzman
Deputy Regional Administrator
FAA Alaskan Region

External Links

IARPC Collaborations Links