Maryland: U.S. 301 Waldorf Area Transportation Improvements Project
U.S. 301 ecological rankings
In order to promote actions that extend beyond required mitigation and to establish a replicable process to meet the agency's environmental stewardship (ES) objectives for other projects, the Maryland State Highway Administration (MDSHA) developed a new ES approach for the U.S. 301 Waldorf Area Transportation Improvements Project.
The U.S. 301 project is located in a rapidly growing suburban area close to two of the State's most ecologically important watersheds. Recognizing the need to balance transportation improvements with the agency's ES goals, MDSHA developed a list of priority opportunity areas for restoring or sustaining natural systems with a focus on regional watersheds. Permitting agencies agreed to utilize this same opportunity list in selecting required, compensatory mitigation actions for transportation projects, and MDSHA can select additional projects from this same list for voluntary actions to restore, protect, and sustain priority systems.
Typical environmental resources in Southern Maryland
To develop the opportunity list, MDSHA funded an independent Natural Resources Working Group comprised of non-profit and agency partners to perform "green infrastructure" analysis (building on Maryland's Green Infrastructure Assessment), conduct field work, and develop field assessment protocols as a separate initiative from the National Environmental Policy Act compliance. The Working Group used GIS to assign an ecological score to particular locations based on ecosystem values and functions and aid in the identification of opportunity areas. An optimization model was used to assist in the prioritization of the areas given project constraints, such as budget, so that the "best buys" could be highlighted.
The U.S. 301 project demonstrates how a state department of transportation can collaborate with multiple stakeholders to apply a regional context to required mitigation and voluntary stewardship, thereby maximizing the protection and enhancement of sensitive landscapes.
For more information, contact Greg Slater at email@example.com.