The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE),
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and their project team successfully streamlined
the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Section 404 Permit for the State
Route (SR) 119 South Improvement Project. By using NEPA process improvements
and implementing alternative media forms, PENNDOT completed their EIS in 22
months. In addition, by encouraging early and active public and interagency
involvement, PENNDOT improved coordination, reduced review time, and avoided
success demonstrates that projects can meet transportation needs, be completed
in shorter timeframes, and protect and enhance the environment. By widening
the highway instead of building a new bypass, PENNDOT will save forest land.
Instead of straightening an impacted stream, PENNDOT will buy adjacent property
so the stream can continue to meander, protecting fish migration habitat. PENNDOT
will also replace five acres of impacted wetlands and develop a pedestrian/bike
path, a Park & Ride facility, and three noise walls.
Technology and NEPA Process Improvements
EISs are comparable to telephone books in length, expensive to produce and distribute,
and difficult to read. In response, PENNDOT referenced most technical support
data, bulleted text, and portrayed multiple environmental features in color
maps, conveying information clearly and in less space. In addition, Pennsylvania
is the first state to develop a CD-ROM version of its EIS. All of these improvements
helped the participating agencies and the public to easily get the information
they needed to address their concerns and review permit actions.
and Active Public Involvement
active public involvement helped address community concerns and accelerate the
NEPA process. Fearing road widening would impact their property, some community
members wanted a bypass built instead. To better understand community concerns,
PENNDOT recruited local residents and businesses to participate in a Community
Advisory Committee (CAC). The CAC evaluated design concepts and took project
plans to other community members for comment. After reviewing alternatives themselves,
the CAC found that a bypass cost more than road widening, affected numerous
properties, and impacted state game and recreation lands. The CAC concurred
with widening the highway, and then reached out to other groups in the community
by inviting them to meetings and distributing information.
Communication and Coordination
Federal and state resource and transportation agencies attend monthly transportation
meetings. Over time, representatives have gotten to know each other as people
rather than agencies with different agendas. This trust and cooperation facilitated
the use of concurrent electronic review and resulted in quicker permit actions
for SR-119. "Everyone worked well together and respected each other's opinions
and abilities," explains Lynn Bortel of the FHWA. "Thus there was little or
no duplication of effort." PENNDOT's efforts to coordinate with Federal and
state agencies reflect its tradition of broad-based decision-making for transportation
projects. Pennsylvania has used its experience through participation in the
Mid-Atlantic Transportation and Environment Streamlining Task Force (MATE) to
help develop regional environmental streamlining approaches. The MATE is comprised
of transportation, natural resources, planning, and other state and Federal
agencies from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Transportation projects can meet transportation needs, be completed in shorter
timeframes, and comply with NEPA.
media forms — such as CD-ROMs and color maps depicting multiple environmental
features — facilitate shorter and clearer Environmental Impact Statements
(EISs.) Agencies and the public are more apt to understand and use these,
lessening permit review time and hastening the EIS process.
an EIS involves many agencies with seemingly diverse agendas. NEPA process
improvements — such as early interagency coordination and concurrent electronic
project reviews — foster better interagency communication and reduce review
underestimate the time needed for building trust and good working relationships.
Early and rigorous agency involvement and communication build respect,
increase cooperation, and improve accountability.
and active public involvement is critical in order to ensure community
concerns are addressed early in the NEPA process, avoiding potential disagreements
$53 million SR-119 South Improvement Project will widen an 8.3-mile section
of two-lane SR-119 between SR-56 in Homer City and the U.S. Route 22 Interchange
near Blairsville in western Pennsylvania. Currently, access is poor to
SR-119, leading to many accidents. Coal trucks make hundreds of trips
daily to a local power plant, impacting road quality. The purposes of
the project are to relieve congestion and improve safety by building new
intersections, widening the roadway, and improving traffic signals.
a long period of environmental review due to the project's large scale
and public controversy involving the highway widening impacting residential
and commercial properties, FHWA and PENNDOT saw an opportunity to test
their new Concise EIS Task Force Guidelines. The environmental streamlining
goals of the project were to reduce delay, create a concise EIS and companion
CD-ROM, involve resource agencies and the public early in the NEPA process,
and protect and enhance the environment. PENNDOT completed their EIS,
which might have normally taken anywhere from six to ten years, in less
than two years. PENNDOT, working with consultants KCI Technologies, Inc.,
began the EIS and Section 404 Permit application in July 1997. The final
EIS was completed in October 1998, and the Record of Decision was received
in March 1999. Highway construction will begin in August 2001 and end
in 2003 or 2004.
of its success, the SR-119 South Improvement Project Team has won several
awards, including the FHWA 2001 Environmental Excellence Award in Environmental
Streamlining, the Consulting Engineers Council of Pennsylvania 1999 Honor
Award for Studies, and the American Association of State Highway Transportation
Officials (AASHTO) 1999 Trailblazer Award for Quality Team Achievement.
Environmental Streamlining Training Workshop for Army Corps of
Engineers Regulatory TEA — 21 Coordinators
Colorado Springs, CO
September 11-13, 2001
Environmental Protection Specialist
228 Walnut Street, Room 536
Harrisburgh, PA 17101-1720
Phone: (717) 221-3442 Fax: (717) 221-3494
Successes in Stewardship is brought to you by the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration Office of NEPA Facilitation.
more information on environmental streamlining, please visit: www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/strmlng/index.asp.
U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Names appear
herein because they are considered essential to the objective of the document