Transportation projects in which the study area contains cultural resources in need of identification and analysis often struggle to meet project delivery schedules, particularly with respect to federally funded projects that fall under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The now-rescinded Executive Order (EO) 13807 of 2017 first established goals of 2-year completion of environmental impact statements and 1-year completion of environmental assessments under NEPA. While EO 13807 and One Federal Decision (OFD) requirements have been rescinded, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Council of Environmental Quality regulations codified these required timelines. Additionally, state laws and other factors may also put pressure on agencies to conduct more efficient cultural resources identification and analyses in project delivery.
State departments of transportation (DOTs) and other transportation agencies employ various approaches to meet the project delivery timelines established in NEPA, including Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) studies; early project scoping; simplified review and application of historical context for common resource types; and programmatic agreements. NEPA and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) regulations are not triggered until there is a programmed, funded project for which environmental compliance studies are conducted. However, cultural resource analysis is critical for safeguarding cultural resources protected in federal, state, and tribal law. Research is needed to identify and analyze methods and strategies to achieve efficiencies and avoid delays in project delivery when cultural resources are affected.
The objective of this research is to prepare tools with guidelines for completing effective cultural resource analyses in a time-constrained project delivery context. At a minimum the research should:
- Provide the regulatory and practical benefits of implementing efficient and timely cultural resources analyses in project delivery;
- Identify and address specific agency challenges to completing efficient cultural resources analyses, particularly in time-constrained project delivery processes such as those mandated by NEPA; and
- Advise agencies on the selection and implementation of proven methods and tools for conducting timely and effective cultural resources analyses of a range of specific resources.
The research plan should: (1) include a kick-off teleconference with the research team and NCHRP to review the amplified research plan; (2) address the manner in which the proposer intends to satisfy the project objective; (3) be divided logically into detailed tasks that are necessary to fulfill the research objective, including appropriate milestones and interim deliverables; (4) include one in-person meeting (convened by NCHRP) to review the interim report and other deliverables; (5) a final teleconference to review draft final deliverables; and (6) incorporate opportunities for the project panel to review, comment, and approve milestone deliverables.
Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.
PHASE I – Data Collection and Analysis
Task 1. Literature Review. Conduct a literature review that frames the problem and potential solutions from inside and outside the transportation industry. Document the results of the literature review in a technical memorandum that provides an annotated review of the documents examined.
Task 2. State of Practice Analysis. The contractor should plan and execute stakeholder engagement to understand and document the state of practice within the transportation industry. The proposal should identify an engagement strategy using methods such as surveys, workshops, or interviews. The engagement shall comprise a variety of agency executives, managers, and practitioners that include:
- State DOT transportation planners, environmental staff, and cultural resource experts;
- State historic preservation officers;
- Tribal historic preservation officers;
- Federal program officers;
- Advisory Council on Historic Preservation representatives;
- Other federal agencies that participate in NEPA; and
- Other agencies or groups recommended by the research team.
The engagement process should at a minimum generate information on:
- The challenges agencies face to complete cultural resources analyses and consultation within the time constraints codified for projects developed under NEPA;
- Case examples of projects in which cultural resources analyses were expedited, modified, or phased to reduce the project delivery timeline, including whether and why those experiences were (or were not) successful;
- When cultural resource consultation and identification are typically initiated, and why;
- Programs, practices, methods, tools, and funding sources used to complete earlier cultural resources identification and analysis; and
- The information, tools, methods, etc., that agencies identify as needed to improve cultural resources analysis in project delivery.
Task 3. Prepare an interim report that comprehensively documents the research conducted to this point. The report should:
- Summarize the data collection process from Tasks 1 and 2;
- Present and analyze the data and lessons learned;
- Present specific recommendations for tools to be developed and evaluated in Phase II;
- Present a Phase II work plan of tasks to achieve the project objective that builds on the data collected and lessons learned in Phase I; and
- Provide detailed outlines of the proposed tools and guidelines.
PHASE II – Development of Deliverables
Task 4. Execute the approved work plan as presented in the final interim report.
Task 5. Develop draft tools and guidelines that support efficient implementation of cultural resources analysis, consistent with mandated (or preferred) project delivery timeframes for NCHRP review and comment.
Task 6. Develop the remaining deliverables of this project, to include:
- A report that documents the entire research effort;
- One or more communications tools such as PowerPoint presentations, fact sheets, videos, or infographics targeting state DOT executives, managers, and practitioners; and
- Implementation report specifying opportunities for promoting implementation of the research by the state DOT community.
STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP. The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.