Statement of the Problem C40-A
The Eco-logical signatory agencies are making progress in implementing ecological principals and are at various stages of developing and releasing national-level tools to assist in transportation planning. However, such evolving tools and data sets are works in progress. When trying to apply ecological principals in the planning and programming phases of transportation project or program delivery, transportation agencies face the following problems:
1. Lack of geospatial screening tools and readily available natural resource data (i.e., threatened and endangered species, sensitive species, habitats, wetlands, and aquatic resources) needed to incorporate natural resource conservation into the planning phases of highway projects or programs.
2. Reaching agreement on conservation priorities in advance of challenges from transportation or other development projects. The federal, state, and local agencies with jurisdiction need to develop a regional information and collaboration structure, similar to steps 2 and 3 of the Integrated Ecological Framework, that can support regional cumulative effects assessment and effective, pro-active mitigation planning. Agreement on priorities is Step 5 of the IEF. Geospatial screening tools alone cannot achieve agreement, but they are an essential element.
3. Many geospatial tools are becoming available from public and private agencies – EPA, USFWS, FHWA, USGS, the USACE, state Natural Heritage Programs, and local agencies developing their own geospatial capabilities. Most of the national-level tools are new, not populated with data in all states, or not yet widely available. The timing is ripe to develop a tool that leverages these products and targets them for transportation planning. There is a clear demand for something as close as possible to a one-stop-shopping solution that supports transportation planning and decision making.
4. Scale of available data – Many geospatial data sets that are currently available nationally are sometimes perceived to lack the level of resolution considered adequate for transportation planning. Conversely, data of a fine resolution do not generally exist for large geographic areas and their development would be cost-prohibitive.
The primary objective of this project is to develop an integrated, geospatial ecological screening tool for early transportation planning that produces results of a quality that can carry through and inform the environmental review process. This should be accomplished through development of a geospatial tool accessed on the Web that draws much of its data and perhaps analytical capabilities from existing tools largely through Web services. This will leverage, possibly through portals established by others, existing and emerging tools and data sets for efficient and effective environmental analysis in transportation planning, corridor planning, and programming. There are many emerging tools, but none appear to meet this objective. The tool will, at a minimum, help users investigate, identify, and obtain data and other information useful for environmental screening in transportation planning.
A secondary objective is to support collaborative decision making as embodied in the Integrated Ecological Framework.
Status: The project is complete.
This page was last modified on August 15, 2014.