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Conflict Resolution

FHWA is working with the Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution (IECR) and National Policy Consensus Center (NPCC) to address collaborative problem solving techniques and develop a collaborative problem solving system. Information on resources and activities includes:

Transportation Collaboration in the States

Transportation Collaboration in the States, a Report prepared by the National Policy Consensus Center (NPCC) for the Federal Highway Administration, Office of Project Development and Environmental Review, June 2006, can be downloaded at the NPCC website.

The project had four primary objectives:

  • develop increased awareness among state officials of opportunities for the use of collaborative processes and collaborative governance systems in the transportation arena;
  • identify one or more transportation collaboration opportunity in at least two states;
  • identify collaborative training opportunities;
  • develop and test a detailed assessment tool for use in identifying and designing transportation collaborations.

The NPCC team developed and tested an assessment tool/questionnaire to use in interviewing state officials and other stakeholders during site visits. The assessment questionnaire was designed to collect information in four areas of interest: (1) issues, barriers and obstacles to transportation planning and project development; (2) current communication and coordination methods; (3) use of collaborative approaches; and (4) future opportunities for collaboration and training. The project team made site visits to four states: Utah, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Virginia. For more information contact Ruth Rentch at FHWA, 202 366-2034.

University Network for Collaborative Governance Guide to Collaborative Competencies

The University Network for Collaborative Governance (UNCG) and the Policy Consensus Initiative (PCI) jointly published the UNCG Guide to Collaborative Competencies to help build collaborative competencies within the private, public and civic sectors. The guide is intended primarily for use by public officials and managers who are seeking to improve their own or their staff's collaborative competence through continuing education and training. Professional trainers within and beyond UNCG and university faculty may also find this guide useful in preparing the next generation for public service.

The UNCG Guide to Collaborative Competencies draws on a number of sources, including guidance from the federal Office of Personnel Management, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, as well as professional associations and university leadership development programs. From these sources, the authors developed a framework of five collaborative competencies that encompass ten specific skill sets and together constitute collaborative competence. The guide presents a description of these competencies and associated skill sets and a self-assessment tool for taking stock of your collaborative competence. The guide also contains a catalogue of available training programs, useful web links, and references.

To download an excerpt from the guide or to purchase the full guide, visit the NPCC website.

Collaborative Problem Solving Guidance

FHWA worked with the IECR, Federal transportation and resource agencies, and state departments of transportation to develop the guidance, "Collaborative Problem Solving: Better and Streamlined Outcomes for All," finalized in 2002. This guidance presents strategies for managing conflict and identifying issues that may arise during transportation project development and environmental process review under NEPA and related laws. This guidance was developed to be broad based and to offer options for problem solving among agencies that have varying roles and responsibilities under NEPA.

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Procedures for Elevating Disputes to the Secretary of the U.S. DOT

All Federal agencies participating in a transportation action should cooperatively develop agreed upon project review timelines for individual projects. If a participating agency fails to render its review, opinion, or analysis, or fails to make a decision on issuing a permit within the agreed-upon time period, such failure may be elevated to the Secretary. Most disputes are settled at lower levels and never require higher elevation. However, the U.S. DOT Secretary may become involved when the disagreement is prolonged, has not been resolved through other methods, or is of such a serious nature that the failure of the project is imminent.

DOT Order 5611.1A, U.S. Department of Transportation National Procedures for Elevating Highway and Transit Environmental Disputes

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Regional Interagency Workshops

To strengthen Federal agencies' efforts to successfully meet the mandates of TEA-21 Section 1309: Environmental Streamlining and Executive Order 13274: Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Reviews, FHWA in partnership with the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution (IECR), has developed a series facilitated workshops that promote the understanding of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and the use of collaborative problem solving in the transportation development and environmental review process.

These customized workshops, presented in each of the standard Federal regions, educate front line staff involved in the preparation, oversight, and review of environmental documents and the issuance of environmental permits to use collaborative problem solving skills and ADR techniques to improving transportation decisionmaking and expediting environmental reviews. The workshops are based on the FHWA conflict management guidance and structured to reinforce working relationships, including the relationship among the Federal-Tribal-state teams involved in the NEPA review process for transportation projects. An important part of each workshop is a discussion of negotiating timeframes for the environmental review process, as directed by TEA-21 Section 1309, the Executive Order 13274, and also as part of one of the FHWA Vital Few Goal for Environment. A discussion of each agency's mission and responsibilities, and also discussions of topics of specific concern and interest to that region are also parts of each workshop.

  • Improving Transportation Project Development & Environmental Reviews Through Collaborative Problem Solving. An Interagency Regional Workshop Series: Final Report.

    - Click here to view the HTML version of this report.
    - Click here to view the PDF version of this report.

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National Roster of Environmental Dispute Resolution and Consensus Building Professionals

As part of its National Roster of Environmental Dispute Resolution and Consensus Building Professionals, the Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution has included over 40 qualified dispute resolution specialists who have experience in transportation cases and are familiar with NEPA, ADR, the objectives of environmental streamlining, and the transportation development and environmental review processes. The National Roster can be searched for experienced "transportation and urban infrastructure" to find these specialists.

This roster provides state and Federal agencies with access to a list of qualified neutral facilitators and mediators who can facilitate problem solving on controversial transportation projects. These professionals can provide services such as conflict assessment, facilitation of interagency partnering agreements, design of conflict management processes, and mediation of disputes. The Roster is an optional tool project sponsors can use to minimize project delays, resolve conflicts, and avoid the costs of potential litigation. When all parties agree to use qualified neutral facilitators and mediators, transportation and resource agencies can improve working relationships and shorten the time it takes to reach interagency consensus. The use of qualified neutral facilitators and mediators allows involved agencies to focus on the pertinent issues and arrive at joint solutions. Facilitators enter into contracts with project sponsors on a case-by-case basis, and their fees are part of the project cost.

To review the roster, follow the ‘Practitioner Referral Services’ link at www.ecr.gov.

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Annual Environmental Conflict Resolution Reports

The Environmental Conflict Resolution (ECR) Policy Memorandum directs all Federal departments and agencies to document their ECR planning and implementation efforts in an annual report submitted to OMB and CEQ by the end of the calendar year. The first ECR Annual Reports were submitted to OMB and CEQ on December 15, 2006. To view all of the report visit the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution website.

For questions or feedback on this subject, please contact Tricia Harr at 202-366-9214. For general questions or web problems, please send feedback to the web administrator.

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