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Section 4(f)

Section 4(f) Evaluation and Approval for Transportation Projects That Have a Net Benefit to a Section 4(f) Property

This nationwide programmatic Section 4(f) evaluation (programmatic evaluation) has been prepared for certain federally assisted transportation improvement projects on existing or new alignments that will use property of a Section 4(f) park, recreation area, wildlife or waterfowl refuge, or historic property, which in the view of the Administration and official(s) with jurisdiction over the Section 4(f) property, the use of the Section 4(f) property will result in a net benefit to the Section 4(f) property.

Definitions:

"Administration" refers to the Federal Highway Division Administrator or Division Engineer (as appropriate).

"Applicant" refers to a State Highway Agency or State Department of Transportation, local governmental agency acting through the State Highway Agency or State Department of Transportation.

A "net benefit" is achieved when the transportation use, the measures to minimize harm and the mitigation incorporated into the project results in an overall enhancement of the Section 4(f) property when compared to both the future do-nothing or avoidance alternatives and the present condition of the Section 4(f) property, considering the activities, features and attributes that qualify the property for Section 4(f) protection. A project does not achieve a "net benefit" if it will result in a substantial diminishment of the function or value that made the property eligible for Section 4(f) protection.

"Official(s) with jurisdiction" over Section 4(f) property (typically) include: for a park, the Federal, State or local park authorities or agencies that own and/or manage the park; for a refuge, the Federal, State or local wildlife or waterfowl refuge owners and managers; and for historic sites, the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), whichever has jurisdiction under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470f).

Applicability

The Administration is responsible for review of each transportation project for which this programmatic evaluation is contemplated to determine that it meets the criteria and procedures of this programmatic evaluation. The information and determination will be included in the applicable National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation and administrative record. This programmatic evaluation will not change any existing procedures for NEPA compliance, public involvement, or any other applicable Federal environmental requirement.

This programmatic evaluation satisfies the requirements of Section 4(f) for projects meeting the applicability criteria listed below. An individual Section 4(f) evaluation will not need to be prepared for such projects:

  1. The proposed transportation project uses a Section 4(f) park, recreation area, wildlife or waterfowl refuge, or historic site.
  2. The proposed project includes all appropriate measures to minimize harm and subsequent mitigation necessary to preserve and enhance those features and values of the property that originally qualified the property for Section 4(f) protection.
  3. For historic properties, the project does not require the major alteration of the characteristics that qualify the property for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) such that the property would no longer retain sufficient integrity to be considered eligible for listing. For archeological properties, the project does not require the disturbance or removal of the archaeological resources that have been determined important for preservation in-place rather than for the information that can be obtained through data recovery. The determination of a major alteration or the importance to preserve in-place will be based on consultation consistent with 36 CFR part 800.
  4. For historic properties, consistent with 36 CFR part 800, there must be agreement reached amongst the SHPO and/or THPO, as appropriate, the FHWA and the Applicant on measures to minimize harm when there is a use of Section 4(f) property. Such measures must be incorporated into the project.
  5. The official(s) with jurisdiction over the Section 4(f) property agree in writing with the assessment of the impacts; the proposed measures to minimize harm; and the mitigation necessary to preserve, rehabilitate and enhance those features and values of the Section 4(f) property; and that such measures will result in a net benefit to the Section 4(f) property.
  6. The Administration determines that the project facts match those set forth in the Applicability, Alternatives, Findings, Mitigation and Measures to Minimize Harm, Coordination, and Public Involvement sections of this programmatic evaluation.
This programmatic evaluation can be applied to any project regardless of class of action under NEPA.

Alternatives

To demonstrate that there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to the use of Section 4(f) property, the programmatic evaluation analysis must address alternatives that avoid the Section 4(f) property. The following alternatives avoid the use of the Section 4(f) property:

  1. Do nothing.
  2. Improve the transportation facility in a manner that addresses the project's purpose and need without a use of the Section 4(f) property.
  3. Build the transportation facility at a location that does not require use of the Section 4(f) property.
This list is intended to be all-inclusive. The programmatic evaluation does not apply if a feasible and prudent alternative is identified that is not discussed in this document. The project record must clearly demonstrate that each of the above alternatives was fully evaluated before the Administration can conclude that the programmatic evaluation can be applied to the project.

Findings

For this programmatic evaluation to be utilized on a project there must be a finding, given the present condition of the Section 4(f) property, that the do-nothing and avoidance alternatives described in the Alternatives section above are not feasible and prudent. The findings (1, 2, and 3. below) must be supported by the circumstances, studies, consultations, and other relevant information and included in the administrative record for the project. This supporting information and determination will be documented in the appropriate NEPA document and/or project record consistent with current Section 4(f) policy and guidance.

To support the finding, adverse factors associated with the no-build and avoidance alternatives, such as environmental impacts, safety and geometric problems, decreased transportation service, increased costs, and any other factors may be considered collectively. One or an accumulation of these kinds of factors must be of extraordinary magnitude when compared to the proposed use of the Section 4(f) property to determine that an alternative is not feasible and prudent. The net impact of the do-nothing or build alternatives must also consider the function and value of the Section 4(f) property before and after project implementation as well as the physical and/or functional relationship of the Section 4(f) property to the surrounding area or community.

  1. Do-Nothing Alternative.
    The Do-Nothing Alternative is not feasible and prudent because it would neither address nor correct the transportation need cited as the NEPA purpose and need, which necessitated the proposed project.
  2. Improve the transportation facility in a manner that addresses purpose and need without use of the Section 4(f) property.

    It is not feasible and prudent to avoid Section 4(f) property by using engineering design or transportation system management techniques, such as minor location shifts, changes in engineering design standards, use of retaining walls and/or other structures and traffic diversions or other traffic management measures if implementing such measures would result in any of the following:
    1. Substantial adverse community impacts to adjacent homes, businesses or other improved properties; or
    2. Substantially increased transportation facility or structure cost; or
    3. Unique engineering, traffic, maintenance or safety problems; or
    4. Substantial adverse social, economic or environmental impacts; or
    5. A substantial missed opportunity to benefit a Section 4(f) property; or
    6. Identified transportation needs not being met; and
    7. Impacts, costs or problems would be truly unusual, unique or of extraordinary magnitude when compared with the proposed use of Section 4(f) property after taking into account measures to minimize harm and mitigate for adverse uses, and enhance the functions and value of the Section 4(f) property.

    Flexibility in the use of applicable design standards is encouraged during the analysis of these feasible and prudent alternatives.

  3. Build a new facility at a new location without a use of the Section 4(f) property. It is not feasible and prudent to avoid Section 4(f) property by constructing at a new location if:
    1. The new location would not address or correct the problems cited as the NEPA purpose and need, which necessitated the proposed project; or
    2. The new location would result in substantial adverse social, economic or environmental impacts (including such impacts as extensive severing of productive farmlands, displacement of a substantial number of families or businesses, serious disruption of community cohesion, jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or resulting in the destruction or adverse modification of their designated critical habitat, substantial damage to wetlands or other sensitive natural areas, or greater impacts to other Section 4(f) properties); or
    3. The new location would substantially increase costs or cause substantial engineering difficulties (such as an inability to achieve minimum design standards or to meet the requirements of various permitting agencies such as those involved with navigation, pollution, or the environment); and
    4. Such problems, impacts, costs, or difficulties would be truly unusual or unique or of extraordinary magnitude when compared with the proposed use of the Section 4(f) property after taking into account proposed measures to minimize harm, mitigation for adverse use, and the enhancement of the Section 4(f) property's functions and value.

    Flexibility in the use of applicable design standards is encouraged during the analysis of feasible and prudent alternatives.

Mitigation and Measures To Minimize Harm

This programmatic evaluation and approval may be used only for projects where the Administration, in accordance with this evaluation, ensures that the proposed action includes all possible planning to minimize harm, includes appropriate mitigation measures, and that the official(s) with jurisdiction agree in writing.

Coordination

In early stages of project development, each project will require coordination with the Federal, State, and/or local agency official(s) with jurisdiction over the Section 4(f) property. For non-Federal Section 4(f) properties, i.e., State or local properties, the official(s) with jurisdiction will be asked to identify any Federal encumbrances. When encumbrances exist, coordination will be required with the Federal agency responsible for such encumbrances.

Copies of the final written report required under this programmatic evaluation shall be offered to the official(s) with jurisdiction over the Section 4(f) property, to other interested parties as part of the normal NEPA project documentation distribution practices and policies or upon request.

Public Involvement

The project shall include public involvement activities that are consistent with the specific requirements of 23 CFR 771.111, Early coordination, public involvement and project development. For a project where one or more public meetings or hearings are held, information on the proposed use of the Section 4(f) property shall be communicated at the public meeting(s) or hearing(s).

Approval Procedure

This programmatic evaluation approval applies only after the Administration has:
  1. Determined that the project meets the applicability criteria set forth in Applicability section;
  2. Determined that all of the alternatives set forth in the Findings section have been fully evaluated;
  3. Determined that the findings in the programmatic evaluation (which conclude that the alternative recommended is the only feasible and prudent alternative) result in a clear net benefit to the Section 4(f) property;
  4. Determined that the project complies with the Mitigation and Measures to Minimize Harm section of this document;
  5. Determined that the coordination and public involvement efforts required by this programmatic evaluation have been successfully completed and necessary written agreements have been obtained; and
  6. Documented the information that clearly identifies the basis for the above determinations and assurances.

[FR Doc. 05-7812 Filed 4-19-05; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4910-22-P

For additional information, view the Preamble on the Federal Register's website http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/05-7812.htm.

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