Environmental Review Toolkit
Section 4(f)

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Appendix G. U.S. DOT Response to TRB Phase II Letter Report

The following table provides U.S. DOT's response to the primary methodology comments included in the TRB Phase II Letter Report. Other comments have been addressed through revisions to the report.

TRB Committee Comment U.S. DOT Response
Narrow definition of efficiency
have produced a limited representation of perspectives, mainly those of federal and state transportation officials.
.... The study team chose to define efficiency solely in terms of cost and time savings based on stakeholder input, which disproportionately represented the process orientation of transportation officials.
The Phase II evaluation utilizes the same definition of efficiency that was used in the Phase I report. The definition of efficiency is based on the feedback received from the study participants in Phase I, including transportation and non-transportation officials. In addition to the cost and time outcomes, the Phase II evaluation also evaluated the outcomes of both the de minimis impact provision and revised feasible and prudent standards, in terms of maintaining the current level of Section 4(f) resource protection in the presence of the transportation project.
Inconsistency in units of analysis (project vs. broad experience with the de minimis impact provision ) Survey respondents were asked both about their experience with the de minimis impact provision in general, as well as their specific experience with the projects selected for the study sample.
The study also suffers from an inadequate sample size of nontransportation officials. ... nontransportation perspectives are necessary for the evaluation of both efficiencies and postconstruction effectiveness, especially the latter because transportation officials may be less able than nontransportation officials to evaluate the “post-construction effectiveness of impact mitigation and avoidance commitments.” Following the submittal of the draft report to TRB, the study team attempted to further improve the response rate by again contacting non-responding project sponsors, officials with jurisdiction, and citizen/advocacy groups. First, emails with a request to complete the survey, which was made available as a hard copy attachment or electronically via a web link, were delivered to all previously identified, non-responding persons. After one week, the study team called each of the officials with jurisdiction and citizen/advocacy group non-respondents individually to request participation in the survey. This third attempt at following up with non- respondents yielded four additional project sponsors, one official with jurisdiction, and two citizen/advocacy groups. Others did not respond or declined to participate.
The addition of Section 6009(a) in 2005, and the possibility of a de minimis determination, has changed the Section 4(f) evaluation process, but the changed process is not examined. Section 6009(a) allows a de minimis designation but also requires concurrence from the OWJ. Phase I of the Section 6009 Implementation Study examined how the Section 4(f) determination process changed as a result of the de minimis impact provision, including both efficiency gains as well as the post-construction effectiveness of impact mitigation and avoidance commitments associated with the de minimis impact provision. Findings from the Phase I Implementation Study can be found at http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/4f/Section_6009Study/index.asp.

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