Environmental Analysis in Transportation Committee
Martin Palmer, Washington State Department of Transportation
Meredith Morgan, WSP
U.S. Highway 85 Environmental Impact Statement: A Case Study in Stakeholder Engagement
Michael P. Huffington, KLJShow Abstract
Mikayla J. Boche, KLJ
Jennifer Turnbow, KLJ
Matthew G. Linneman, North Dakota Department of Transportation
Stakeholder engagement is a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for all projects requiring the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Minimum requirements and procedural regulations are identified in NEPA; however, the scope and methodology of stakeholder engagement efforts are largely left to the discretion of the lead federal agency, and often vary based on project scope and complexity. The US Highway 85 EIS is a regionally significant project with a diverse range of project stakeholders. Throughout project development, the FHWA and North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) devised and implemented several unique stakeholder engagement efforts with the goal of obtaining and retaining stakeholder involvement throughout the life of the project. This case study outlines those efforts, which include scoping mailings, a variety of agency and public meetings, formation of a stakeholder group, resource-specific engagement, and innovative tools to communicate project information to stakeholders.
An Evolutionary Change to Transportation Impact Analysis
Ronald Milam, Fehr & PeersShow Abstract
Kwasi Donkor, Fehr & Peers
Project Objective: The authors have developed a suggested practice for implementing California’s Senate Bill (SB) 743. This law fundamentally changes the basis of transportation impact analysis for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Instead of analyzing the impacts of land use and transportation projects on driving, the impact of driving itself is measured by switching metrics from vehicle level of service (LOS) to vehicle miles of travel (VMT). While VMT has been used for decades in air quality and greenhouse gas (GHG) impact analysis, a recommended practice does not exist for its use solely in identifying transportation impacts. In response, the authors developed a recommended approach to SB 743 implementation working closely with multiple local and regional agencies.
Notable Practices: To successfully implement SB 743, every lead agency in California needs to answer three foundational questions.
The authors have evaluated local, regional, and statewide models; published research and resource documents; and various big data sources to determine the most defensible approaches to the methodology and mitigation questions. The second question is much more difficult to address especially when not viewing impact significance through an emissions lens. As a result, the authors consulted legal opinions, case law, and a variety of adopted state and regional transportation plans to develop options for threshold setting.
Current Outcomes: The project studies and research conducted by the authors has led to the development of suggested practices for SB 743 implementation that would benefit practitioners and lead agencies.
Significance of the Outcomes: Absent published guidance on how to perform VMT analysis, each lead agency in California will have to independently address each of three questions noted above. Formally recognizing the work completed to date will accelerate the VMT analysis learning process for practitioners and lead agencies.
Recommendations for Future Research: One of the most challenging questions related to VMT impact analysis for transportation purposes is what level of change constitutes a significant impact. Since VMT changes associated with air pollutants and GHGs are already addressed in other environmental impact sections, how should a change in VMT be viewed solely for determining potential transportation impacts? Should effects on public health and safety be considered or are there other secondary effects that should be recognized? These are important questions for future research.
Applying NCHRP Research Report 860: Assessing the Environmental Justice Effects of Toll Implementation or Rate Changes
Lawrence Pesesky, Louis Berger Group, Inc.Show Abstract
Kerri Snyder, Louis Berger Group, Inc.
Provide a set of tools to enable analysis and measurement of impacts of tolling on low-income and minority populations.
Notable practices, approaches or lessons learned:
Notable practices, i.e., analytical tools, were identified during a series of interviews and case studies covering an array to recent tolling projects. Included are practices related to impact measurement, community engagement, and mitigation of impacts of tolling on low-income and minority communities.
A step-by-step approach framework was developed to organize the application of the tools within a typical project planning or project development process, such as, statewide or metropolitan long-range transportation planning and NEPA processes. The framework recognizes 11 distinct tolling actions ranging from new toll facilities to introducing tolls on existing facilities, and changing toll rates on existing toll facilities.
The framework then relates impact-causing aspects, e.g., change in transportation system user costs or change in transportation system access, associated with each type of tolling action. Understanding the impact-causing aspects then enables identification and assessment of direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the toll project or action.
The study also identifies applicable laws and regulations for environmental-justice/tolling assessment, methods for study area demarcation; approaches to providing full and fair participation of affected low-income and minority populations in evaluating the impacts of the proposed toll project and mitigation of the impacts; analytical methods for measuring the potential impact; a menu of mitigation options; and techniques for post-implementation monitoring.
The key lessons learned are (1) that there is no one-size-fits-all analysis tool for assessing environmental justice impacts of tolling and (2) addressing environmental justice and tolling requires both sound analytical tools and an inclusive process of engagement.
Current or anticipated results or outcomes:
The result of this research study is a Guidebook and Toolbox for assessing the environmental justice effects of toll implementation or rate changes.
Significance and implications of the results or outcomes:
Having a consistent and replicable approach and toolbox of analytical methods helps practitioners and decision-makers better understand how to address the effects of proposed toll implementation and rate changes on low-income and minority populations.
Recommendations for future research:
To facilitate information exchange on this topic in the future, it would be beneficial for a data clearinghouse for Environmental Justice and Tolling to be established and maintained. Also, it is suggested that guidance be developed for analyzing and evaluating regional effects of tolling akin to FTA Title VI guidance for transit projects for service equity.
MDOT MTA’s Customized Document Management System and Interactive GIS-Based Map Developed to Facilitate Review of Environmental Documentation
Lauren Molesworth, Maryland Transit AdministrationShow Abstract
Kelly Lyles, Maryland Transit Administration
The goal of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process is to document the decision-making processes through an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impacts Statement (EIS). EAs and EISs define a project’s purpose, capture potential environmental consequences and establish coordination with relevant public and regulatory agencies. Developing efficient and effective tools for navigating the NEPA process is becoming increasingly important as Federal and State agencies have limited resources (staff and funding) and are required to review and process documents in an expedited fashion. To carry a project through the NEPA process, a skilled team with tools to streamline the interagency review process is highly beneficial.
The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) has developed a custom interactive GIS-Based map and web application to allow Federal, State and local agencies to review and comment on environmental documents. Agencies are presented with a simplified, web-based view of the document where they can add comments tied to specifics portions of the document, such as wetlands or cultural resources. The application also provides administrators with a suite of intuitive tools to manage, review, and respond to comments received, as well as export an errata document in Excel format. MTA developed the tool and is currently testing the application with the Superconducting Magnetic Levitation (SCMaglev) Alternative Report and Draft Environmental Impact Statement.