NCHRP Project 8-38, "Consideration of Environmental Factors into Transportation Systems Planning," identified several examples in the United States where environmental factors were being incorporated into systems planning and described the tools that are currently being used to accomplish this. For example, Riverside County, CA, Tucson, AZ, and Colorado DOT have conducted extensive multispecies habitat studies that have become important components of transportation planning for those areas. Florida DOT has implemented a statewide systems planning and project development decision making process that considers environmental factors earlier in the planning effort (and which includes early acceptance of a needs and purpose statement by resource agencies). It is likely that similar types of efforts will become more common in the future. Although NCHRP Project 8-38 provided an important foundation for understanding the concept, specific guidance to state DOTs on the data items or information formats used in systems planning that might satisfy some elements of the NEPA process was not provided. There is an important need for such guidance.
The objective of this project is to provide guidance to state DOTs on how information currently produced in the systems planning process can be made more useful for addressing and resolving NEPA-level issues. Such information might include: the statement of purpose and need, record of public involvement, documentation of range of alternatives, identification of significant environmental and community impacts, and similar identification of indirect and cumulative impacts in conjunction with local land use planning. If appropriate, the guidance will be specific to certain types of environmental issues (e.g., multispecies habitat preservation), but generic enough to provide overall direction of these types of efforts. Specifically, this study should:
- Identify the type of information/data produced in the systems planning process that might be used in the NEPA process.
- Highlight existing examples of where states have successfully considered such information/data in the NEPA process.
- Recommend the appropriate level of documentation and the form that data produced in systems planning should be carried into the NEPA process.
- Recommend additional products that should be added to systems planning to answer NEPA-level questions.
- Identify barriers to the implementation of these recommendations and techniques for overcoming them.
- Develop guidance to state DOTS on actions that could be taken to foster a closer linkage between information produced in systems planning and that needed in the NEPA process.
The contractor's final report is available here.