The National Academies

NCHRP 20-06/Topic 27-03 [Pending]

Environmental and Planning Law and Transportation
[ NCHRP 20-06 (Legal Problems Arising out of Highway Programs) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $200,000
Contract Time: 12 months
Staff Responsibility: Gwen Chisholm-Smith


The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) plans to award a contract for a study and report. Legal reports sponsored by this project are published in NCHRP’s Legal Research Digest (LRD) series. Publications are available to some libraries and approximately 4,000 transportation lawyers and officials through the TRB distribution network.


Published jointly by NCHRP and TCRP, TRB's Selected Studies in Transportation Law (SSTL) is designed to help state highway departments and public transportation agencies keep abreast of operating practices and legal elements of specific problems in highway and transit law. The SSTL WebResource provides access to the original eight volumes of the series (Construction Contract Law, Eminent Domain, Environmental Law and Transportation, Tort Liability of Highway Agencies, Transit Law, Transit Labor 13(c) Decisions, Transit Charter Bus Service: Decisions and Documents, and Transportation Law and Government Relations) as well as six recent updates of selected material.  

Because the main text of SSTL Volume 3: Environmental Law and Transportation was published in 2003 and a supplement was published in 2010, the entire volume should be rewritten and published in a unified format. The title should be changed to "Environmental and Planning Law and Transportation." A revised volume can incorporate updated statutory authority, new policy initiatives, regulatory changes, and court decisions. New statutory authority comes from the three reauthorizations [Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, and Moving Ahead in Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act] that have been passed since 2010. Policy initiatives include focused investment in disadvantaged areas and the Planning and Environmental Linkages process. Regulatory changes include amendments to the regulations governing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), and a rewrite of 23 CFR Part  771 Environmental Impact and Related Procedures. 

All surface transportation modes (highway, transit, freight and passenger rail, and ports) should be discussed. This research should include the statutes, rules, and guidance that govern Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Surface Transportation Board (STB), and the Maritime Administration. The STB can become important for state DOTs when it approves the purchase of one railroad by another. The resulting shifts in rail traffic often cause delays and the need to construct grade separations. Increased activity at ports can influence the need for highway improvements. Many state DOTs also fund transit projects and passenger rail developments.

This digest will help all involved in the development, construction, and planning of transportation projects, including attorneys, planners, state transportation agencies, metropolitan regional planning organizations, federal personnel, consultants, and contractors.


The objective of this research is to produce a report that updates SSTL Volume 3: Environmental Law and Transportation. The existing outline may be used: 

  1. Environmental Law in Transportation Planning;
  2. Project Environmental Analysis;
  3. Other Environmental Laws;
  4. Acquisition of Sites;
  5. Construction and Operation of Sites; and
  6. Litigation.

Notable initiatives include the following:

  • Climate change (this can be addressed in chapters 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6).  Climate change also affects project development by the need to calculate changes in greenhouse gas emissions and the cumulative effects of multiple projects on greenhouse gases. Climate change initiatives are occurring in many of the long-range plans adopted by metropolitan planning organizations around the country.
  • Environmental justice and transportation equity (can be addressed in chapters 1, 2, and 5). Environmental justice concerns arise because of the location of port and intermodal facilities and often have related litigation issues.
  • Sustainability (can be discussed in chapters 1, 2, and 5).
  • Tribal considerations (should appear in chapters 1 and 3). Many state DOTs build projects on Indian lands. The federal lands program should be included in Chapter 1 since state DOTs often make these projects.
  • Intermodal facilities (should be discussed in chapters 1 and 5. These facilities can often cause highway improvements to be constructed.

This project shall examine the various statutory and regulatory authorities passed since 2010, including the three major reauthorizations (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, FAST Act, and MAP-21). 

Legal research is needed to update and summarize the new applicable federal policy initiatives, and statutory and regulatory changes passed since 2010. Further, litigation has continued, requirements have changed, and the new emphasis on climate change and equity has altered the landscape.


This research will be conducted in four tasks under a firm fixed-price agreement.

Task 1. Develop a research plan and detailed report outline. The consultant will (1) prepare a plan to conduct research and collect relevant material, and (2) propose a detailed report outline. The research plan should be 8-12 pages, including a proposed survey if one is to be used.  The report outline should contain sufficient detail to show the NCHRP project panels what a 75-100-page report will contain and include the estimated pagination for each proposed section and subsection. This material will be submitted to NCHRP for approval.

Task 2. Conduct research. After approval of the work plan, the consultant should conduct additional research, case analysis, and statutory and regulatory analysis.

Task 3. Submit draft report in accordance with the approved work plan (including modifications required by NCHRP).

Task 4. Submit final report. The consultant should anticipate making two revisions to the report before it is finalized. One revision may be required after review by NCHRP staff and members of a subcommittee. Final revisions may be necessary after the full committee has reviewed the report.

FUNDING: $200,000


25% paid upon submission and approval of the Task 1 report.

50% paid upon submission and approval of the Task 3 report.

25% paid upon submission and approval of the final report (following revisions as required by NCHRP).

A response has been received for this RFP.  The project panel will meet to determine next steps.

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