Environmental decisions related to long-range transportation planning, priority programming, project development, operations, and maintenance are among the most difficult facing transportation decision makers. Contributing factors to this situation include the following:
- The complexity of technical issues;
- The myriad of laws and regulations;
- The cost and time required for environmental reviews;
- The large number of interested parties with different viewpoints and priorities;
- The diversity of impacts; and
- The scarcity and lack of precision of environmental and other critical data.
In addition, agencies are not consistent in executing their particular mandates. The combination of these factors confounds efforts to achieve timely consensus, compromise, and decisions.
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) requires state Departments of Transportation (DOTs), Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), and other transportation agencies to consider and reduce a wide-range of environmental effects and impacts of transportation plans, programs, operations, and decisions. Furthermore, state DOTs are seeking transportation-development decisions and operations that provide greater mobility while protecting important human and natural environmental resources. In order to achieve these important objectives, agencies and practitioners need a central, cohesive, and integrated system to facilitate rational decisions through cost-effective coordination of environmental information and data management. The system should facilitate collecting, organizing, analyzing, archiving, and coordinating information and data necessary to support technical and policy transportation decisions. It should foster integration of environmental considerations into transportation decision making such as overall policy development, systems planning, corridor planning, priority programming, project planning and development, permitting, and ongoing compliance requirements. Primary users will be planners, project designers, project managers, environmental practitioners, and facilities/maintenance staffs.
In response to these needs, under NCHRP Project 25-23, a concept was developed for an Environmental Information Management and Decision Support System (EIM&DSS) to address all modes and all levels of decision making---planning, priority programming, project development, operations, and maintenance. The concept is presented in NCHRP Report 481: Environmental Information Management and Decision Support System-Implementation Handbook. Research is needed to develop, test, and demonstrate a prototype software program to reflect the concepts presented in NCHRP Report 481.
The objective of this research was to design, test, and demonstrate a prototype software program for an environmental information management and decision support system (EIM&DSS) that builds on the concepts presented in NCHRP Report 481. The EIM&DSS prototype software program shall be designed to support decisions in long-range transportation planning, priority programming, project development, operations, and maintenance. The functionality of the prototype software program will be tested and demonstrated in selected transportation agencies. The project entailed completion of the following tasks:
(1.) Making full use of information developed as part of NCHRP Project 25-23, including NCHRP Report 481 and unpublished appendixes, conduct a review of current information on environmental information management in transportation. Develop a summary of notable practices, key problems, issues, and deficiencies related to environmental information management and decision support in long-range transportation planning, priority programming, project development, operations, and maintenance. (2.) Develop a design document for the prototype software program for the EIM&DSS that builds on the concepts presented in NCHRP Report 481 and considers the information developed in Task 1. The design document should describe the prototype software program, including its proposed architecture, anticipated modules, expected functionality, and the probable users it is intended to serve. (3.) Based on the information developed in Tasks 1 and 2, develop a test and demonstration plan that includes criteria for selecting representative state DOTs, MPOs, or other transportation agencies for testing the prototype software program functionality; approaches for obtaining necessary data; anticipated issues associated with testing the program functionality in the areas of long-range transportation planning, project development, and maintenance. (4.) Prepare and submit Interim Report #1 that documents the work performed and findings from Tasks 1, 2, and 3. At a meeting with the NCHRP panel, discuss the information in the interim report, respond to panel comments, and recommend revisions to the work plan for subsequent tasks. NCHRP approval is required before proceeding with subsequent tasks. (5.) Based on the guidance provided by the NCHRP panel, develop the prototype software program. (6.) Meet with the selected transportation agencies that will participate in the testing and demonstration of the functionality of the prototype software program to obtain agreement on their participation, the data and information that they will provide, and the level of cooperation and resources that will be required. (7.) Conduct the testing, revision, and demonstration of the functionality of the prototype software program and prepare documentation of the results. (8.) Prepare and submit Interim Report #2 that documents the work performed and findings from Tasks 5, 6, and 7. At a meeting with the NCHRP panel, discuss the information in the interim report, respond to panel comments, and recommend revisions to the work plan for subsequent tasks. (9.) Based on the results of the Task 7 functionality test and demonstration and the panel comments provided in the Task 8 interim report and meeting, make final revisions to the prototype software program and related documentation. (10.) Prepare a transition plan for further development of the prototype software program into production software, including needed future work, anticipated requirements, and estimated costs. (11.) Prepare and submit for panel review and approval, a final report including the final prototype software program, the results of the Task 7 functionality test and demonstration, user documentation, and the Task 9 transition plan.
Status: This project is completed.
Products Available: The final report has is available online as NCHRP Web-Only Document 103. A description of the efforts to design, test, and demonstrate a prototype software was published as NCHRP Research Results Digest 317.
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