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Key Terms

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Policy Paper

FHWA’s Section 4(f) Policy Paper explains how Section 4(f) applies in general and to specific situations where properties meeting the Section 4(f) criteria may be involved. It is based on court decisions, experience and on policies developed by FHWA and U.S. DOT over the years. The Section 4(f) Policy Paper serves as a guide for the applicability of Section 4(f) for common project situations often encountered by FHWA Division Offices, State Departments of Transportation and other partners.

Programmatic Evaluation

Programmatic Section 4(f) evaluations can be used in place of individual evaluations for highway projects where uses are considered minor. The primary advantage of a programmatic evaluation is that it saves time. Unlike an individual evaluation, a programmatic evaluation does not require a draft, a comment period, or circulation, because its framework and basic approach has already been circulated and agreed upon by the US Department of the Interior (DOI). Project specific details are then applied to the programmatic to determine whether or not it can be used. Programmatic evaluations are usually assessed and approved by the Division Offices much faster than individual evaluations.


(See Feasible and Prudent.)

Public (Accessibility)

Public use entails visitation for more than a select group of the public at any time during normal hours of operation.

Public Easement

A public easement includes any interest in land that is not possessory and that may be owned by another person, is reserved by the department or granted to the state for use by or the benefit of the public, including an access easement, survey easement, and utility easement.

Publicly Owned

Property that is owned by a government authority via either fee simple ownership or permanent easement. In some cases, private lands that are leased by government authorities may also be considered publicly owned for the purpose of Section 4(f) depending upon the terms of the lease (length, cancellation clauses, etc.).