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Section 4(f) Evaluation
The Section 4(f) statute does not establish procedures for preparing, circulating, or coordinating Section 4(f) evaluation documents. The statute does not require the preparation of any written document, but the FHWA has developed procedures for the preparation circulation, and coordination of Section 4(f) documents. The purpose of these procedures is to establish an administrative record of the basis for determining that there is no feasible and prudent alternative, and to obtain informed input from knowledgeable sources on feasible and prudent alternatives and on measures to minimize harm.
Section 4(f) states that land from a publicly owned park, recreation area, wildlife or waterfowl refuge, or land of a historic site can be used for a transportation project only if:
For an alternative to be considered "feasible and prudent," it must not create any "truly unique problems." Truly unique problems are unusual factors, costs of extraordinary magnitude, community disruption of extraordinary magnitude, or an accumulation of the above factors. This test is often referred to as the "Overton Park Criteria," after a court case in the 1970's in Memphis, Tennessee. Consideration of these factors is made in light of the significance and importance of the Section 4(f) resource itself.
The Section 4(f) evaluation should consider the net impact of all alternatives, including the "no-build" alternative, on the Section 4(f) property and surrounding areas. Net impact to the resource is a function of the:
In all cases project sponsors must first look at avoiding the use of a Section 4(f) resource altogether. If avoidance is not feasible, then examination of the net effect of each impact and usage of all possible planning to minimize harm, including all practicable mitigation measures, must be pursued. Analysis must consider the effects of the impact after mitigation, the severity and location of the use, and the probability that the remainder of the property will continue to serve the same functions as before.
Documentation Needs for a Section 4(f) Evaluation
Section 4(f) Evaluation Format
For Categorical Exclusions or, in come cases, for EA's or EIS's, the Section 4(f) evaluation may be a separate document.
Additional information on section 4(f) evaluations can be found in the FHWA Technical Advisory.