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FHWA Liaison Community of Practice
What is the Transportation Liaison Community of Practice Website?

The Community of Practice website connects transportation liaisons and managers, State DOTs, and resource and regulatory agency staff in order to enrich the services and benefits transportation liaisons provide. Join the community today to start building your network, sharing knowledge and information, and learning from other professionals in the field.

This website was established in response to the input and feedback provided by transportation liaisons at the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation during the summer of 2011 and through subsequent webinars and surveys. The website was launched in March 2012 to provide a centralized source of professional support, knowledge sharing, and networking opportunities for transportation liaisons.

Since transportation liaisons are often working among two or more organizations with very different missions, the purpose and potential benefits of these positions can sometimes become blurred by the day-to-day demands of delivering complex transportation projects. Furthermore, many transportation liaisons may not have regular contact with other liaisons or professional mentors due to the dispersed nature and relatively short history of the position.

It is intended that this Community of Practice will help foster a more standardized understanding of the roles and benefits of transportation liaisons, as well as facilitate greater access to and sharing of expertise, resources, and opportunities for innovation and professional development.

Sarah Workman, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington, West Virginia

photograph of Sarah Workman

Name and agency affiliation:Sarah Workman, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District, Huntington, West Virginia

My job title is:  Regulatory Project Manager for the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT)

My office is located in:  Huntington, West Virginia

My favorite thing about my job is:  One of the favorite parts of my job is working on projects that benefit a public need.  To travel anywhere in the State of West Virginia can often be a challenge due to the steep topography and terrain.  Being involved in the process from project conception to full use and utilization has allowed me to develop strong, long-standing relationships with our Federal and State partners.  These relationships help each one of us gain a better understanding of the overall project delivery and permitting processes.  The outcomes of this collaboration allows the public to travel safely throughout this beautiful State while conserving the natural resources visitors come to enjoy.

photograph of Blennerhassett Bridge
The Blennerhassett Bridge spans Blennerhassett Island
and connects West Virginia and Ohio

The project I am most proud of is: One recent project I am proud of is the Blennerhassett Bridge. Part of the larger Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS), this bridge connects the States of West Virginia and Ohio and completes Corridor D of the ADHS.  This particular bridge is located over Blennerhassett Island, a historical Ohio River island.  I worked with both States during the selection of a bridge type that ultimately reduced impacts to the island’s historic viewshed and jurisdictional wetlands.  The Blennerhassett Bridge project resulted in traditional wetland mitigation as well as an island bank restoration project.  This restoration project will provide long-term protection to a historical resource.

What I'd like other transportation liaisons to know about me or my agency's work: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District covers parts of West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina.  The District is responsible for 311 navigable miles of the Ohio River and includes the Port of Huntington, the nation’s largest inland waterway port.  The Huntington District works closely with communities on flood damage reduction projects as well as flood risk management initiatives, navigation, emergency management, and infrastructure activities. 

The Regulatory Division of the Huntington District encompasses portions of West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.  Working in multiple States throughout my 14 years in Regulatory has provided me with experiences and opportunities to make my position as a Water Resources Development Act-funded transportation liaison more effective and efficient.  I continually strive to improve processes and relationships with the State Departments of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and other resource agencies.

Joel Mona, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Tonto National Forest, Arizona

photograph of Joel MonaName and agency affiliation: Joel Mona, U.S. Forest Service (USFS),
Tonto National Forest, Arizona

My job title is: Civil Engineer/Highway Liaison

My office is located in: Phoenix, Arizona, and the Tonto National Forest

My favorite thing about my job is: I work with a wide range of professionals, including construction craftspeople, equipment operators, engineers, biologists, landscape architects, archeologists, environmental planners, USFS land staff, range conservationists, fire and law enforcement personnel, and members of the public. I also enjoy the challenge of working with five different district rangers and balancing each one’s different resource management/protection style with a reasonable amount of forest-wide consistency toward highway projects. I do this by keeping the Rangers informed as a project develops and incorporating their goals for the District into the project planning process as much as possible. Additionally, I hold frequent discussions with them about the economic feasibility of their goals.

photograph of Webber Creek Bridge
Webber Creek Bridge is one of seven USFS bridges replaced
with a design-build contract in the spring of 2012. The seven bridges are on the
Control Road north of Payson, Arizona.
The project I am most proud of is: The Control Road Bridges Project north of Payson, Arizona, completed in 2012, replaced seven bridges utilizing the design-build project delivery method. This was a new delivery method for the Central Federal Lands Division of FHWA. A balance between protecting wildlife and cultural resources and meeting engineering and construction challenges was achieved through a dedicated team effort. As the project liaison, I facilitated expedited decisions since design and construction were occurring at the same time. There was some adjustment involved as partners and the public learned that environmental mitigation needs had to be established before the final design was underway, but ultimately the completed project was delivered very rapidly.

What I’d like other transportation liaisons to know about me or my agency’s work: When we work closely with our partner transportation agencies, better projects and better value for the public are achieved. The value is derived from understanding and incorporating land managers' needs into the planning and design process, which in turn drastically reduces the chance of costly delays during construction. The public cares about projects that balance economics with resource protection, particularly when they understand the reasons behind environmental mitigation requirements. As a transportation liaison I am frequently asked by engineers, inspectors, construction contractor staff, and the public, "Why do we have to do this?" By taking the time to explain the reasons behind each step – whether it is to comply with the law, protect a watershed, or help preserve a valuable resource – people usually end up supporting and/or implementing the mitigation efforts because they want to, not just because it is required.

David J. Paulson, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass DFW)

photograph of Dave PaulsonName and agency affiliation: David J. Paulson, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program,
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass DFW)

My job title is: Endangered Species Review Biologist

My office is located in: Field Headquarters, Westborough, MA

My favorite thing about my job is: One of my favorite parts of the job is the ability to work collaboratively with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Highway Division (MassDOT) and other state and Federal agencies. Through collaboration and early coordination, we are able to streamline the regulatory review process, develop innovative environmental mitigation solutions, and implement proactive conservation measures. My role is to review projects for potential wildlife impacts and provide expertise and guidance to MassDOT in order to help them focus their efforts. Being the only state liaison for Massachusetts, I am able to work with a range of species, develop an understanding of the challenges associated with roadway engineering, and foster a positive working relationship with MassDOT. I enjoy educating and collaborating with my colleagues at MassDOT on road ecology and finding new ways to incorporate it into the everyday planning process, from design to maintenance.

photograph of Dave Paulson 
                and Tim Dexter digging a trench for a chain link fence along Route 119 in Littleton, MA
Dave Paulson (right) works with Tim Dexter of MassDOT to install
chain-link fencing to reduce turtle crossing mortalities
along Route 119 in Littleton, MA.
The project I am most proud of is: In 2008, MassDOT and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (MassWildlife) entered into an Interdepartmental Service Agreement to streamline transportation-related project reviews under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) and to collaborate proactively in the field of road ecology. Outside of the regulatory review process, MassDOT and MassWildlife in 2010 launched Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife (LLMW), administered in conjunction with the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, to mitigate the effects of transportation infrastructure on wildlife and ecosystems throughout the state.

Through LLMW, MassDOT and MassWildlife conduct a series of research, planning and project implementation initiatives in the field of road ecology in Massachusetts. During the first three years, these initiatives included a “citizen science” research effort to identify and monitor turtle roadway mortality; the development of a wildlife mortality database; wildlife vehicle collision planning; the installation of peregrine falcon nest boxes on bridges; wildlife passage and fencing efforts; and habitat management and stream restoration. LLMW is currently entering its fourth year, and will include more enhanced citizen science surveying techniques. It will be utilizing a new electronic reporting system developed by MassWildlife known as the Vernal Pool and Rare Species Information System, or VPRS, as well as an initiative to install nesting boxes on the back of highway road signs for American kestrels.

What I’d like other transportation liaisons to know about me or my agency’s work: The formalized partnership between MassDOT-MassWildlife has improved the ability of both agencies to fulfill their missions through regulatory streamlining and conservation planning. The partnership also allows for greater landscape level planning for the Commonwealth’s natural resources and infrastructure. I strongly encourage other state agencies to development and implement their own transportation liaison partnerships.

Jamie Higgins, Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, NEPA Program Office

Name and agency affiliation: Jamie Higgins, Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, NEPA Program Office

My job title is: Life Scientist-Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Liaison

My office is located in: Atlanta, GA

Existing conditions at the I-55/Crump Boulevard Interchange
Existing conditions at the I-55/Crump Boulevard Interchange in Memphis, TN,
showing the Front Fort neighborhood.
Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation

My favorite thing about my job is: One of the favorite parts of my job is working with other Federal agencies and also other programs within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) practitioner, I must work closely with other EPA programs such as wetlands, water quality, monitoring, groundwater, air quality, and sometimes even the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act program. I’m always learning new things and it keeps my work fresh and interesting.

The project I am most proud of is: Before becoming a GDOT Liaison, I was the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) liaison for three years. One of the projects that I’m most proud of working on is the I-55/Crump Boulevard interchange in Memphis. The interchange was needed to alleviate traffic in the very congested downtown area. Originally, the interchange was to connect to a road that went through an environmental justice community, the Front Fort neighborhood, which would have increased traffic for local residents. I worked with others to request that TDOT work with to this community to solicit their feedback and to address their concerns. I am proud of TDOT for following up on our recommendations and changing the design and location of the interchange to reduce its impact on the local community.

What I'd like other transportation liaisons to know about me or my agency's work: I am a strong believer in the power of collaboration and the power of interagency problem-solving. I think liaisons provide resource agencies with the opportunity to influence projects from the very early stages. Rather than writing letters at the end of the process, liaisons can encourage State DOTs to avoid sensitive areas and, if necessary, construct transportation features in a way that lessens the future impact on those resources. I am very proud to help form and lead EPA Region 4’s innovative internal teams to respond to more complex and controversial projects as they arise. As a transportation liaison, I also enjoy helping other EPA programs (such as wetlands, groundwater, air quality, etc.) coordinate with State DOTs in avoiding and mitigating resource impacts for transportation projects.

Stephanie Jane Hall, Senior Project Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

a picture of Stephanie HallName and agency affiliation: Stephanie Jane Hall, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District, Regulatory Division, Transportation & Special Projects Branch

My job title is: Senior Project Manager, Environmental Protection Specialist

My office is located in: South Pacific Division, Los Angeles District, California

My favorite thing about my job is: I thoroughly enjoy the interaction and outreach activities associated with the local transportation Districts, resource agencies, and the Federal Highway Administration. I especially enjoy providing training opportunities for the local transportation Districts covering various topics such as: Emergency Permitting Procedures, California Rapid Assessment Methods (CRAM), and how to successfully incorporate guidance from the Corps' 2008 Mitigation Rule. I'm generally a pretty patient person, and I enjoy walking applicants through the permitting process. I let them know that there is no such thing as a "foolish question," and they seem genuinely comfortable knowing that they will get the help and support they need to successfully complete their 404 permits. The applicants appreciate the time I take with them and my responsiveness to any questions they may have.

State Road 79 Realignment Project
Map of the State Route 79 Realignment Project
The project I am most proud of is: I was honored as part of a team that won the National 2010 Transportation Environmental Excellence Award for the State Route (SR) 79 Realignment Project. The U.S. Department of Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service presented the award in recognition of my inter-agency team's commitment to identify a cost-effective project that promotes ecosystem sustainability and meets the nation's transportation needs.

I served as the Regulatory Senior Project Manager/Transportation Liaison as part of the Interagency Working Group for the SR-79 Realignment Project. The group worked together early in the permitting process to identify an alternative road alignment for this four-lane highway to protect sensitive habitat areas within the Salt Creek Seasonally Flooded Alkali Vernal Plain. The Salt Creek Plain is the most significant remaining vernal pool area in Riverside County, due to its high diversity, large size, and abundance of rare endemic biota, including five Federally-listed species. The locally-preferred alternative would have bisected the Salt Creek Plain, severely altering the hydrologic regime upon which the vernal pool habitat and associated species depend. The realignment project also includes four new bridge under-crossings and six new culverts to facilitate wildlife movement and provide connectivity to maintain critical ecosystem functions.

What I’d like other transportation liaisons to know about me or my agency’s work: The Los Angeles District Regulatory Program is dynamic and high-intensity! The District Regulatory Program seeks to protect aquatic resources within a highly diverse geographic range that includes coastal, mountain, and desert areas. Regulatory Project Mangers take their role of "Environmental Stewardship" very seriously. We also foster and maintain collaborative long-term partnerships with various Federal, State, and local resource agencies through Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) Section 214-funded liaisons, some of which have been in place for as long as ten years!

I perform duties in many different roles, including senior project manager, team leader, and transportation liaison for Caltrans Districts 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, and 12, which covers most of southern California. My 30+ years of public service, and specifically my time spent as a regulator, have given me great joy and satisfaction in terms of project diversity and interaction with the public! Over the years I worked in the Engineering (13-years), Planning (8 years) and Regulatory (10 years) Divisions in varying capacities. The Corps has been my family and the best nurturing environment for which I could ever have wished. Working in an environmental stewardship capacity in particular has been a dream come true and I never tire of sharing my experiences.

Alison Michael, Transportation Liaison, USFWS

Name and agency affiliation: Alison Deans Michael, USFWS a picture of Alison Michael

My job title is: Transportation Liaison, CDOT/USFWS

My office is located in: Lakewood, CO

My favorite thing about my job is: Because I am the only liaison for the State of Colorado, and habitats range from shortgrass prairie to high desert to alpine tundra, I get to deal with a variety of species with a variety of needs, and to travel across the State to conduct species surveys or to do site visits.

East Plum Creek bank
East Plum Creek Bank
Photo courtesy of Rich McEldowney, PBS&J
The project I am most proud of is: CDOT has initiated a couple of innovative advance mitigation projects, with another in the works, and it's hard to decide which is the most interesting.

The Shortgrass Prairie Initiative mitigated impacts of some types of transportation projects on listed as well as unlisted, at-risk species through land purchases for habitat preservation. My involvement in this project included helping select the mitigation sites and writing the combination Conference/Biological Opinion.

The East Plum Creek Preble's meadow jumping mouse Conservation Bank improved and protected riparian habitat to be used as a mitigation bank for the threatened mouse. The work that CDOT conducted to create the bank caused some initial impact to habitat; even though in the long term the bank would be beneficial, a Biological Opinion was required.

We are also currently working on an in-lieu fee program to help ameliorate transportation's impacts to the Canada lynx. My work on this initiative to date has involved gathering information on similar projects across the country, and discussing potential mitigation projects suitable for the program. We also anticipate conducting a programmatic Section 7 consultation, which I will be writing.

What I’d like other transportation liaisons to know about me or my agency’s work: I have the longest running tenure of all of the transportation liaisons with the USFWS! It's been easy to work with CDOT and FHWA - Colorado Division because they are open to doing more than the bare minimum, and are often the instigators of forward-thinking, cool projects.

For more information, please contact Marlys Osterhues (marlys.osterhues@dot.gov, 202-366-2052) or Tricia Harr (tricia.harr@dot.gov, 202-366-9214).

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