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Policy Analysis and Strategic Planning

Policy Analysis header image of visualization
Analysts in the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s Policy Analysis and Strategic Planning Division enable transportation planners to understand impacts by producing visualizations such as this example of a digital elevation model using a lidar scanned arial photo of large urban area. (Ungrim/Adobe Stock)

About Us

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s Policy Analysis and Strategic Planning Division provides expertise across all aspects of transportation policymaking and program/project delivery lifecycle, including interpretation, implementation, evaluation, and adaptation.

Our team of experts and specialists, include policy analysts, data scientists, geographic information system (GIS) and geospatial specialists, community planners, geographers, environmental protection specialists, and strategic planners to carry out work on a range of transportation-related topics, building and sustaining high-impact programs. We collaborate with our sponsors, such as FHWA, FTA, and National Park Service, to build strong relationships and yield high-impact outcomes.

The goal of our work is to visualize, analyze, and better understand all aspects of transportation to empower our sponsors to streamline processes and make informed, data-driven management and transportation planning decisions.

Our Capabilities

Economic and Policy Analysis

  • Leverage a variety of techniques to address today’s transportation policy questions with focus areas including National Environmental Protection Act and permitting, infrastructure resilience, sustainability, noise, and air quality.
  • Initiate, facilitate, and implement strategic planning efforts and provide targeted program design support related to policy implementation, rulemakings, and working groups.

Applied Data Science

  • Use cutting-edge skills to gather, manage, visualize, and analyze data.
  • Translate, simplify, and effectively communicate the data to a wide audience.
  • Use numerous forms of mapping to advance spatial analysis and tools.

Impartial Investigations and Program Evaluations

  • Conduct research, analysis, and evaluation on a range of project components, including interview and survey design, policy analysis, statistical analysis, qualitative data analysis, surveying and forecasting, and GIS.
  • Build, sustain, and evaluate impactful programs by incorporating strategic planning into everything we do.

 

Meet Our Team

View selected staff biographies.

Rachel Strauss McBrien

Strauss McBrien headshot

Chief 

Rachel Strauss McBrien is chief of the Policy Analysis and Strategic Planning Division at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center in Cambridge, MA. She was formerly a community planner in the Program Development and Capacity Building Division where she worked with a range of federal agencies, including FAA, FHWA, FTA, National Park Service, and the U.S. DOT Office of the Secretary for Policy, to promote strategies and activities that advance the work of their offices and support efforts that encourage information-sharing and foster dialogue.

McBrien has extensive experience in facilitating interagency coordination to achieve a common goal. In addition, she develops and delivers products, including written materials, workshops, and webinars, that showcase best practices in transportation planning and project delivery across the United States. McBrien’s current work includes projects related to transportation planning capacity building, air tour management planning, scenario planning, and environmental streamlining and stewardship.

McBrien holds a master’s degree in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA), with a concentration in sustainable transportation and infrastructure planning, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Boston College (Newton, MA) with a BA in English. She is also a member of the American Planning Association (APA), serving on the APA Massachusetts Chapter’s Transportation Committee. She is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Zachary T. Bergeron

Bergeron HeadshotTransportation Policy Analyst
MS Sustainability Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst
MS Biology (Visual Ecology), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
BS Biology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Zachary Bergeron has worked as a policy analyst at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center since 2022. He provides research and policy support focused on micromobility, pedestrian safety, and asset management. His work has supported FHWA, FTA, the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and other federal agencies. Bergeron holds a master’s degree in sustainability science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (Amherst, MA), a master’s degree in visual ecology from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, IL), and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (Baltimore, MD).

Gina Filosa

Filosa headshotPolicy Analyst
Master’s Degree in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University
BS Environmental Studies, Providence College

Gina Filosa joined the U.S. DOT Volpe Center in 2006, where she leads technical research and policy analysis efforts focused on climate mitigation, resilient transportation, and environmental stewardship. She has also led several evaluations to assess the effectiveness of federal transportation policies and programs related to resilience, environmental review and permitting, and transportation safety.

Filosa recently led a programmatic assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from transit projects and developed a greenhouse gas estimator tool that enables users to estimate the partial lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions generated from the construction, operations, and maintenance phases of projects across select transit modes.

Filosa holds a master’s degree in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tufts University (Medford, MA) and a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Providence College (Providence, RI).

Sandy Hoover

Hoover HeadshotEnvironmental Protection Specialist
Master’s Degree in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University
BS Environmental Science, Indiana University
Pronouns: she/her

Sandy Hoover is an environmental protection specialist who joined the U.S. DOT Volpe Center in 2023. She specializes in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance and began her career in transportation as an environmental manager with the Indiana Department of Transportation. Since then, Hoover has acted as a NEPA subject matter expert in both private and public sectors, aiding in the development of NEPA documentation including Categorical Exclusions, Environmental Assessments, and Environmental Impact Statements on behalf of, and in cooperation with, such federal agencies as FHWA, FTA, PHMSA, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Maritime Administration. She particularly enjoys the challenge of drawing on knowledge from a broad array of disciplines to balance transportation needs, environmental effects, and public interest during project delivery.

Amy Plovnick

Plovnick headshot

Community Planner
Master of City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MCP Environmental Policy and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BA Political Science and Environmental Studies, Washington University in St. Louis

Amy Plovnick has expertise at the intersection of transportation and climate change policy and has worked at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center since 2016. She leads the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s support to the climate change teams at the U.S. DOT Office of the Secretary and FHWA, with research and policy projects focused on climate resilience and decarbonization. Plovnick manages a team supporting implementation of the PROTECT discretionary grant program, the first significant U.S. DOT funding program focused on climate resilience. She also supports the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation in providing technical assistance to states and communities on implementing electric vehicle charging.

Previously, Plovnick worked on renewable energy and energy efficiency policy at two nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C. She holds a master’s degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) and a bachelor’s degree in political science and environmental studies from Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, MO).

GIS Team

Gary M. Baker

Baker headshot

Senior Geospatial Analyst/Developer
MA Software Engineering, Harvard Extension School
BS Geography, University of Massachusetts

Gary Baker joined the U.S. DOT Volpe Center in 1996. He provides expertise in geographic information systems (GIS), complex spatial analysis, tool and model development, custom web mapping application development, and all things geospatial. Baker applies these skills to better understand various aspects of transportation, including Infrastructure, movements and traffic, crashes, and impacts. During his tenure at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, he has worked on a wide array of diverse projects involving all modes of transportation from the local to the global scale.

Alison Link

Link HeadshotGeospatial Analyst
Master of Geographic Information Science, University of Minnesota
MA Multicultural College Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota; Graduate minor, Program Evaluation
BA International Relations, Grinnell College

Alison Link joined the U.S. DOT Volpe Center in 2023 as a geospatial analyst in the Policy Analysis and Strategic Planning Division. She works on a wide range of projects involving geospatial data cleaning, transformation, visualization, and web applications. Link’s technical expertise includes tools like Python, R, SQL, as well as data management and data governance support. Prior to joining the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, she worked as an academic technologist and data analyst at the University of Minnesota.

Alex Oberg

Oberg headshotGeospatial Analyst
Certificate in GIS, Pennsylvania State University
BA Geography and Environmental Studies, Middlebury College

Alex Oberg joined the U.S. DOT Volpe Center as a geospatial analyst in 2016. He has an extensive background in mapping, geographic information systems (GIS) analysis, and spatial developer support, with a particular focus in Python. Oberg assists in the development, maintenance and analysis of national multimodal transportation network datasets which support policy and operational decisions, including road, rail, water, pipeline, and intermodal facility datasets. He delivers geospatial support to a variety of federal offices and agencies both inside and outside U.S. DOT, including the FHWA, FRA, BTS, U.S. DOT Office of Policy, FAA, Department of Energy, National Park Service, and Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Prior to joining the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, Oberg was a GIS support associate for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries and an environmental consultant working for a variety of federal agencies. /p>

Sara Secunda

GIS Specialist
MA Geography, Portland State University
BS Geography, University of Vermont

Sara Secunda joined the U.S. DOT Volpe Center as a GIS specialist in 2000. She has been involved in GIS-based analyses and developing customized GIS solutions for various modes of transportation. As project lead for FHWA’s HEPGIS mapping website, Secunda assisted in development of the interactive mapping application, which serves maps and provides an analysis tool for transportation planners. She is currently the website manager, updating and maintaining the website’s functionality, maps, and data.

Since joining U.S. DOT, Secunda has provided GIS analysis and support for the National Park Service and FAA’s National Park Air Tour Management Plans (ATMP) program. This support includes mapping air tour and air flight layers, and generating various input to noise models. She also provides GIS analysis and mapping for FHWA’s Alternative Fuel Corridors project.
Before joining the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, Secunda worked for 11 years as a GIS specialist in federal and local government and private industry.

Caitlin Willoughby

Willoughby Headshot GIS Specialist

Caitlin Willoughby is an environmental geospatial/ National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) professional with more than twenty years’ experience in technical, analytical, and geospatial project experience, respected for her analytical, research, and communication skills, and attention to detail. She is knowledgeable in all aspects of planning for and applying environmental and geospatial science technologies, from problem identification, requirements gathering, methodology, analysis, results evaluation, cartography, and other visual communication. Willoughby has experience in planning and helping to develop custom geospatial solutions for analyses and visualization, including storymaps, dashboards, data management, data creation and manipulation, and cartographic solutions for environmental and NEPA support.

Willoughby has been at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center since 2021, providing geospatial analytical and technical support, program management, and environmental support to the FAA, FMCSA, the Federal Permitting improvement Steering Council (FPISC), FHWA, and National Park Service. She leads GIS support to the FAA’s Unstaffed Infrastructure Sustainment (UIS) Program, where she oversees the effort to update all Air Traffic Operations National Airspace System facilities across the country in the Geospatial Event Management System (GEMS) hosted within the FAA’s firewall. This effort has seen ~90% verification of ATO facilities via latitude and longitude locations using authoritative data and imagery to validate the site. GEMS is being used as the latitude and longitude database for many other FAA databases, including the Facility Service and Equipment Profile (FSEP), which now hosts GEMS’ lat/longs. This effort has been a long time coming and she is happy to have been a part of this important work!

Prior to joining the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, Willoughby was a contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton for 17 years, providing project management and technical environmental, geospatial, and NEPA support for many federal agencies, in both defense (e.g., Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, OSD) and civil government (e.g., BLM, DOT, EPA, FAA, NPS). Before Booz Allen, she worked as a GIS/Information Scientist at a non-profit environmental breast cancer research organization, Silent Spring Institute. There, she helped research and analyze geospatial data for environmental factors and breast cancer incidence.