Environmental Review Toolkit
Planning and Environment Linkages

Environmental Consultation Peer Exchange


Environmental Consultation Peer Exchange

Summary Report

January 27, 2009

Prepared for:
Integrated Planning Work Group

Submitted by:
ICF International
9300 Lee Highway
Fairfax, Virginia 22031

Contact:
Damaris Santiago
(202) 366-2034

Table of Contents
Executive Summary
Program
Background
Summary of Presentations
Peer Exchange Observations
Conclusion
Appendix A: Agenda
Appendix B: Participants

Executive Summary

This report summarizes the results of the Environmental Consultation Peer Exchange held January 27, 2009 at the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters.  The Integrated Planning Work Group for Executive Order 13274 convened the peer exchange to highlight models of successful coordination among environmental resource agencies and State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and/or Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) during the transportation planning process and through project development.  Agencies often face challenges in coordinating the transportation planning and environmental review processes – due to limited staff resources, available funding, or familiarity with their respective agency’s planning process.  The purpose of the Environmental Consultation Peer Exchange was to explore these types of challenges and showcase several approaches that agencies have taken to coordinate on environmental issues and successfully meet the consultation requirements of Section 6001 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), as implemented by the final rule on statewide transportation planning and metropolitan transportation planning.1

Participants at the peer exchange included representatives from State DOTs; MPOs; environmental resource agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and related stakeholders.  Participants included both those in attendance and those participating remotely via Internet web conferencing.

The peer exchange included three presentations, each followed by a facilitated discussion of the information presented.  Each of the presentations illustrated an approach on how resource and transportation agencies are working together to meet Federal environmental consultation requirements.

During the first presentation, representatives from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), USFWS, and Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments presented examples of early collaboration and data sharing, through an initiative known as Planning and Environmental Linkages adopted by CDOT.  This presentation was followed by representatives from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), USEPA, and the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.  This group presented on the benefits of DOT-funded environmental resource positions for transportation planning.  Finally, representatives from USFWS, the Conservation Fund, and on behalf of the Maryland State Highway Administration, presented on the advantages of using a “Green Infrastructure” approach to corridor projects by highlighting work being done on the U.S. Route 301 Waldorf Transportation Improvements Project in southern Maryland.

The peer exchange concluded with a virtual roundtable discussion on lessons learned and recommendations that included attendees, presenters, and remote participants via teleconference.  During the discussion, two major themes emerged: (1) the need for additional collaboration during the decision-making process; and (2) the need for additional information on defining mitigation strategies.  Both resource agencies and transportation agencies want to make informed decisions, which can best be achieved when they are fully aware of decisions made by the other.  For example, the MPOs expressed a strong desire to be involved in conversations regarding land use planning, so that transportation planning decisions could be congruent with land use decisions.  Additionally, all participants expressed an interest in receiving additional guidance and direction for crafting mitigation strategies within the context of a regional transportation plan, in order to comply with SAFETEA-LU Section 6001 requirements.

The virtual roundtable discussion culminated with peer exchange participants identifying strategies for further exploration, including the need to define mitigation strategies in the context of regional planning and identify best practices by which to engage environmental resources agencies and local governments.  Participants also expressed interest in additional peer exchanges on topics such as funding opportunities for dedicated positions.  Participants supported further exploration of these strategies to allow other agencies to benefit from the experiences of these participants and the approaches they have successfully applied – meeting both transportation and environmental protection needs.

Program

The Integrated Planning Work Group (IPWG) convened the Environmental Consultation Peer Exchange to highlight models of successful coordination among resource agencies and transportation agencies during the planning process and through project development.2  Participants at the peer exchange included representatives from State Departments of Transportation (DOTs); Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs); and environmental resource agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).  Participants included both those in attendance (14 individuals) and those participating remotely (an additional 10 individuals).  The remote participants called in via teleconference lines and viewed the presentations through Internet web conferencing.  Both groups of participants led presentations and participated in the facilitated discussion following presentations, as well as participated in the virtual roundtable session which concluded the peer exchange.

The goal of the peer exchange was to showcase examples of how DOTs and MPOs conduct consultations with resource agencies and identify approaches and notable practices that can best facilitate integration of transportation planning and the environmental review process, fully meeting regulatory requirements.

The peer exchange program consisted of three presentations on approaches to environmental consultation.  Facilitated discussion followed each presentation.  The program concluded with a virtual roundtable discussion on lessons learned and recommendations that included presenters as well as remote participants via teleconference.

Background

Executive Order 13274 was issued in September 2002 to promote environmental stewardship in the nation’s transportation system and to streamline the environmental review and development of transportation infrastructure projects.  An interagency Task Force oversees implementation of the Executive Order.  One of the responsibilities of the Task Force is to identify and promote policies that can effectively streamline the environmental review process for transportation infrastructure projects while promoting environmental stewardship.  The Task Force created three work groups to focus on likely opportunities for process improvements and improved Federal coordination regarding aspects of the environmental review process: (1) the Purpose and Need Work Group; (2) the Indirect and Cumulative Impacts Work Group; and (3) the IPWG.

Integrated Planning

Integrated Planning is an approach that recognizes the continuing need to link short, as well as, long-range transportation planning and corridor level planning done by State and local governments to the planning processes performed by resource conservation and management agencies.  The IPWG is focused on identifying lessons learned and best practices for linking planning, project development, and environmental analysis.  The emphasis is on early coordination between transportation planners and resources agencies.  Enhanced early coordination between transportation and resource agencies, including other environmental stakeholders, can better result in opportunities for protection of the environment with better decision-making and less chance for costly delays.

Integrated planning can shorten the time needed for environmental reviews of projects by bringing together the necessary agencies and stakeholders early in the process.  Early coordination has the potential not only to provide better protection of natural and cultural resources, but also to maximize the efficient use of scarce staff and financial resources by flagging potential problems before the narrowing of alternatives options and the completion of detailed design work.  Integrated planning can also enable agencies to examine the resource impacts of multiple projects, thereby providing opportunities to develop more effective environmental mitigation measures.

The idea of an environmental consultation peer exchange was raised initially by the IPWG in its Two-Year Work Plan (June 2007).  The plan advocated that outreach and training opportunities be advanced that would encourage cross-training and relationship-building.  The IPWG established a subcommittee to focus on advancing this work and to consider the best methods by which to do it.  This group decided on the peer exchange workshop and coordinated its planning.

SAFETEA-LU Section 6001

The focus of the peer exchange was on Section 6001 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).  SAFETEA-LU included numerous changes related to transportation planning, including significant new opportunities for consideration of environmental issues in the statewide and metropolitan transportation planning process (as implemented by the final rule).  Section 6001 requires certain elements and activities to be included in the development of long-range transportation plans, including:

  • Consultations with resource agencies, such as those responsible for land-use management, natural resources, environmental protection, conservation and historic preservation, which shall involve, as appropriate, comparisons of resource maps and inventories;
  • Discussion of potential environmental mitigation activities.

Goals of Peer Exchange

The goals of the Environmental Consultation Peer Exchange included:

  • Highlight examples of successful coordination among environmental resource agencies, State DOTs and MPOs during the planning process and through project development;
  • Explore new approaches and identify noteworthy practices for considering the environment during transportation planning;
  • Share experiences and gain insight from peers; and
  • Increase collaboration and consultation.

There are a number of challenges for transportation and environmental resource agencies to overcome to be successful in their consultation.  For transportation agencies, challenges include limited guidance or examples of incorporating mitigation into regional transportation plans and a lack of training on the role and process of resource agency reviews.  For resource agencies, challenges include limited availability of staff and funding to contribute to mitigation plans in a regional transportation plan and unfamiliarity with the transportation planning process.  The peer exchange was designed to help address some of these challenges and showcase strategies and approaches that may overcome them.

Summary of Presentations

This section presents a summary of the major concepts of the presentations given at the Environmental Consultation Peer Exchange.  Each presentation serves as an example of the type of consultation that could occur between resource and transportation agencies given a strong working relationship.

Colorado: Early Collaboration and Data Sharing

Michelle Scheuerman, Colorado Department of Transportation;  Alison Michael, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Craig Casper, Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments
Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has championed a concept known as Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) in order to ease the transition of issues the agency faces during the planning process – from the planning stage to the NEPA analysis stage.  Often within the industry, there is no overlap in personnel between the planning and NEPA stages of a project.  Thus, there is a chance that a portion of the decision-making history could be lost.  Without knowing what stages in planning a project has already gone through, NEPA project teams often re-do work that has already been done.3  CDOT’s history with PEL began with the development of the Strategic Transportation, Environmental, and Planning Process for Urbanizing Places (STEP UP) pilot project.  STEP UP was designed to streamline environmental review and regional planning.  The project is led by a partnership between FHWA, CDOT, USEPA, and the North Front Range MPO.  Since 2003, STEP UP has served as a model for statewide planning and environmental linkage review.

Since implementing STEP UP, CDOT has established a dedicated position, PEL Program Manager, to develop effective relationships with resources agencies.  CDOT has found that this position helps the agency forge a crucial link between transportation planning and project delivery to advance NEPA analysis in the planning process.

CDOT has also designed a Linking Planning and NEPA On-Line Training Guide available to the public.4  The training guide explains how to incorporate planning process elements into project-level environmental review.  For example, the guidance addresses how data, analysis, and products from planning can be incorporated into NEPA decision-making.

CDOT held a Statewide Environmental Forum in March 2007 to bring together local transportation officials and representatives from resource and regulatory agencies to further discuss the linkages between planning and environmental review.  At the forum, representatives from the transportation agencies were organized at tables according to their region, while the different resource agencies rotated from table to table in order to discuss each region with the planners.  CDOT found the forum to be a successful way for both regulatory and resource agencies to share information.  Additionally, within the past two years, CDOT has led five PEL Corridor Studies, including studies in Denver, Pueblo, and Colorado Springs.  Finally, CDOT has created a PEL Questionnaire that raises questions for planners to consider when transitioning from planning to the NEPA Process.  The questionnaire is available at the FHWA PEL website.5

Since adopting a PEL approach, CDOT believes it has strengthened both its environmental and financial stewardship.  CDOT has also built successful relationships with resources agencies which assists the agency with collaboration early in the process, and has helped it document decisions, effectively reducing the need to revisit decisions already addressed during the planning stage.  CDOT plans to continue its education and outreach efforts on PEL, and the agency continues to work on developing additional training materials, partnerships, and a web-based decision tool.

At the conclusion of CDOT’s presentation, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) shared lessons it has learned on data sharing and early collaboration.  The agency emphasized that it was key to have as much data as possible on one map (or set of GIS data layers) in order to have the most comprehensive review of a situation.  PPACG determined that it is essential to conduct iterative re-evaluation across a variety of agencies in order to best collaborate on planning and environmental reviews.

California: DOT-Funded Positions for Planning

Katie Benouar, California Department of Transportation; Connell Dunning, USEPA; and Stacey McKinley, representing Sacramento Area Council of Governments
California has 18 Metropolitan Planning Agencies and 41 State-Designated Regional Transportation Planning Agencies.  To facilitate linking land use and transportation, the State initiated the California Regional Blueprint Planning Program (Blueprint Program).  The Blueprint Program encourages recognition of housing, environment, economic development, and equity in regional plans.  It offers grants to provide more opportunities for collaboration on these issues and promotes consensus on a preferred growth scenario for each region that identifies the impacts of transportation on land use.

Since its initiation, California has seen the Blueprint Program enhance planning and collaboration.  In order for collaboration to be successful however, participating agencies need a common language and understanding of the issues.  To meet these needs, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has provided funding for positions with resource agencies.  Caltrans-funded positions with resources agencies have assisted in this process to foster interagency coordination and information-sharing.  Since 1999, Caltrans has dedicated about $2.25 million per year to fund dedicated transportation positions with resources agencies.  Caltrans currently has about 27 positions with seven different agencies, including USEPA, USFWS, and USACE.

During the peer exchange, Caltrans provided specific information on the recent funding of a USEPA liaison position dedicated to transportation planning for a one-year pilot project for $85,000.  Caltrans is using State Planning and Research Funds to fund the position.  The funded position shares USEPA and resources knowledge to help the Caltrans regions in the planning process.  This position also assists with the Blueprint Program.  The dedicated position has been critical in facilitating interagency coordination and information sharing; this approach has been widely viewed as a success.

When preparing the job description together, Caltrans and USEPA recognized that the pilot year would be an opportunity for both networking and education across the agencies on one another’s planning processes.  The success of this pilot is measured by the opportunity to provide feedback on regional transportation plans, though it may take several years for the process of consultations on mitigation strategies to become truly standardized.

Caltrans has found the dedicated position to be especially beneficial in improving early coordination, identifying potential pitfalls earlier to streamline project decision-making, and creating better working relationships.  The position also allows for a better understanding of each agency’s mission and lends to developing a common language across agencies for the SAFETEA-LU requirements.  Likewise, USEPA has found the planning-focused position at Caltrans to be a successful way for the agency to identify important issues prior to the development of future environmental documents (such as Environmental Impact Statements).  The early involvement of USEPA in planning allows for early consultation that can facilitate the comprehensive integration of environmental factors into transportation planning.

Finally, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) shared the MPO perspective and emphasized that the major challenge is how to engage resources agencies while developing plans.  USEPA encourages the inclusion of resources agencies in transportation planning activities so MPOs can ensure that their regional transportation plans consider all environmental resources.

Maryland: Corridor Transportation Improvements – A Green Infrastructure Approach

Craig Shirk, Gannett Fleming (representing Maryland State Highway Administration; Richard Starr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Kris Hoellen, The Conservation Fund
Maryland U.S. Route 301 is a 13-mile corridor in southern Maryland that has long been recognized as an area in need of transportation improvements related to current and projected traffic congestion in the area.  While the project has been ongoing since the early 1990s, it was put on hold from 1999-2001 due to environmental impact concerns.  The project was restarted in 2005 with a brand new approach characterized as a “Green Infrastructure” approach.

A Green Infrastructure approach can be defined as “Strategically planned and managed networks of natural lands, working landscapes and other open spaces that conserve ecosystem values and functions and provide associated benefits to human populations.”  This approach is similar to that of FHWA’s Eco-Logical approach, which essentially is an approach that values the sustainability of the ecosystem in developing infrastructure projects, and emphasizes a collaboratively developed vision that integrates ecological, economic, and social factors.

Green Infrastructure plans can help both State DOTs and MPOs meet SAFETEA-LU Section 6001 requirements.  By considering ecological boundaries, as well as economic and social factors, transportation planners can expect more streamlined project reviews, ultimately saving time and money.  Ecosystem-based mitigation will lend to predictability, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness in the planning process.  Regions of the country that have green infrastructure plans can also assist State DOTs in identifying potential areas of mitigation during the long-range planning process as required in Section 6001.

As a part of the Environmental Stewardship Initiative for the Maryland U.S. Route 301 study, an Interagency Work Group was formed, as well as three subject-specific work groups: natural resources, community resources, and watershed modeling.  The Natural Resources Working Group for the Route 301 study is independent from the project development team in order to provide scientific validity for agency buy-in and is comprised of representatives from The Conservation Fund, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Natural Resources Working group used a green infrastructure approach to help identify green infrastructure conservation and restoration priorities that went beyond the compensatory mitigation required by law in relation to the Route 301 highway improvements project.  A series of community meetings were convened to obtain input on environmental stewardship priorities from public agencies and local residents.  The public input was combined with ecological analysis to create a green infrastructure network that will assist the Interagency Work Group in selecting a portfolio of mitigation and environmental stewardship projects based on a selected alignment and its associated community and environmental impacts.

This approach is meant to maximize enhancement, protection, and improvement of natural, community, and cultural resources.  While the approach is non-regulatory and strictly voluntary, the end goal is to leave the environment better than it existed prior to the project.  For the Route 301 project, this approach represented a procedural and policy shift.  It stressed a commitment to bridge major stream crossings, develop an Interagency Work Group process, and emphasize environmental stewardship.

USFWS has been involved in the ecosystem-based mitigation/green infrastructure approach for the Maryland U.S. Route 301 project area, specifically on stream corridor evaluation.  USFWS has assessed existing stream conditions and analyzed the restoration potential for those streams.  USFWS assisted in the Green Infrastructure process by developing objectives and making implementation recommendations for potential conservation and restoration sites.  USFWS found the Green Infrastructure approach for the Maryland U.S. Route 301 project to be a successful way for transportation planners to demonstrate commitment to the environment.

In addition, The Conservation Fund is developing an optimization tool for the Maryland State Highway Administration to use as a way for different agencies involved in compensatory mitigation and transportation projects to work together to identify projects that should be prioritized based on a scoring process.  This type of tool can help to determine which projects are most cost-effective to pursue.

A Green Infrastructure approach, as applied in Maryland, allows for early planning, coordination, and effective communication.  The approach also enhances protection and restoration of natural resources while lessening impacts.  After its involvement in the Maryland U.S. Route 301 project, the resource agencies involved stated it would encourage more transportation projects to incorporate the Green Infrastructure approach.

The Green Infrastructure approach used for Maryland U.S. Route 301 has been recognized and even adopted by other agencies interested in ecosystem based mitigation.

Peer Exchange Observations

The peer exchange participants were involved in facilitated discussions after each of the three presentations.  During the discussions, two major themes emerged, including: (1) the need for additional collaboration on decision-making and (2) the need for additional information on defining mitigation strategies.  Both resource agencies and transportation agencies want to make informed decisions, which can best be achieved when they are fully aware of decisions made by the other.  For instance, the MPOs expressed a strong interest in being involved in the conversations about land use planning so that transportation planning decisions can be aligned with land use decisions.  Additionally, all participants expressed interest in receiving additional guidance and examples of mitigation strategies within the context of a regional transportation plan in order to comply with SAFETEA-LU Section 6001 requirements.

The following sections summarize observations from the discussions:
MPOs and State DOTs face different challenges and opportunities in addressing the new SAFETEA-LU requirements

  • State DOTs often have more of a “big picture” view of planning and better access to technical infrastructure than MPOs.  Since MPOs often are more regionally focused, it can be challenging to look more broadly at statewide needs.
  • SACOG offered to help deploy modeling tools for those MPOs with limited technical infrastructure.
  • A participant also recommended using the Congressional Research Service for assistance with data and modeling for those MPOs with limited funding.6  (The Congressional Research Service, a part of the Library of Congress, conducts research and analysis for congressional committees and members of Congress.  Those interested should contact their congressional representatives for additional information.)

A variety of tools and resources are available for agency coordination, and for planners to engage local government and resources agencies in the consultation process

  • There was an interest in more cross-education and training among transportation agencies and resource agencies.  There was interest in broadening the audience for training and cross-education by including local government in the process.
  • There was a consensus that additional funded positions would facilitate interagency coordination.  For example, there is Section 214 funding for U.S. Army Corp of Engineers positions at transportation agencies.
  • Participants recognized that it is helpful to be aware of an agency’s mission when thinking about partnerships and deciding how to best accommodate the needs and incentives for collaboration for both agencies.
  • General coordination meetings can be great launching points for formal relationships between resources and planning agencies.  Colorado DOT’s STEP UP program evolved out of a simple coordination meeting between CDOT and USEPA.
  • While transportation planners have to conduct consultations in order to comply with SAFETEA-LU, there is not always a reciprocal onus on behalf of the resource agency.  Planners need help identifying the best contact in a resource agency to work with in order to meet the consultation requirements.
  • MPOs are the planners, typically not the implementers.  The question therefore remains, how can planners make sure the results of the consultations will actually be implemented?
  • MPOs and State DOTs expressed difficulty in engaging State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO) in the planning process.  There was interest in identifying strategies to involve SHPO in the planning process in order to protect historic and cultural resources early in the process.

There are successful strategies available to help make decisions “stick” so that planning decisions are aligned with NEPA.

  • Some participants suggested Memoranda of Understanding or other agreements to detail a timeline of decisions and agreements.
  • Another participant suggested encouraging entities to agree on the decision-making process itself and ensure buy in on the methodology of reviewing resources before trying to reach consensus on the mitigation strategies.
  • Another participant thought there should be a process by which all resource agencies can review any changes to a strategy selected for mitigation.  All changes to a mitigation strategy also need to be carefully documented.

Tracking decisions made during the planning process is a helpful way for resources agencies to understand how their comments are incorporated into decisions.

  • Participants expressed a need for more information sharing in order to determine who is using data and how it is being used.
  • Participants also expressed a need for more narrative about project selection made during the planning process for the sake of the public and resource agencies.  Resource agencies want to know that their consultations matter.
  • Ideally, all data for resources agencies would be on one map (or set of GIS data layers) so tradeoff options would be clearer.

Conclusion

Based upon the facilitated discussion and observations that followed, participants at the Environmental Consultation Peer Exchange recommended that the IPWG explore the following strategies:

  • Define Mitigation Strategies.  Through pilot projects, or best practice case studies, IPWG should consider providing resources to help define a mitigation strategy for the purposes of a regional transportation plan.  Both resources agencies and transportation agencies are looking for assistance in identifying what this sort of mitigation strategy would look like in order to comply with SAFETEA-LU Section 6001 requirements.  There are limited examples and resources available on the subject.
  • Identify best practices for engaging State Historic Preservation Offices.  Through best practices, IPWG should consider identifying how best to engage SHPO in the transportation planning process.  Some MPOs and State DOTs are having trouble engaging SHPO in the transportation planning process and want to know how other entities are better able to engage the agency.
  • Organize additional peer exchanges.  IPWG should consider providing additional peer exchanges on the following topics:
    • Optimization Tool used for Maryland U.S. Route 301 project to identify “best buys” for a transportation project.
    • Funding opportunities available for dedicated positions (for example, EPA Region IX experience in California can be shared with other EPA Regional Offices and State DOTs).
  • Identify best practices for making decisions “stick.”  Through lessons learned or best practices, IPWG should consider examining the best ways to make decisions “stick.”  Participants expressed concern over figuring out how to align planning decisions and NEPA in order to make sure decisions are implemented.
  • Identify best practices for engaging local government and resource agencies.  Through lessons learned or best practices, IPWG should consider identifying the best ways for MPOs and State DOTs to engage local government and resource agencies and come up with strategies to keep those entities committed to the process.  Participants expressed concern over figuring out ways to keep local government and resource agencies involved in the planning process, especially if the resources most important to those agencies cannot be prioritized.
  • Continue training and cross-educational opportunities.  IPWG should consider offering additional training and educational opportunities for resource agencies and planners to learn more about the processes at each other’s agencies.  IPWG should also consider broadening the scope of the audience receiving training and include local government in training courses.

Exploration of these strategies is a logical next step following this peer exchange.  Addressing these issues would allow other agencies to benefit from this peer exchange and the successful approaches exhibited by its participants in meeting both transportation and environmental needs.

Appendix A: Agenda

Environmental Consultation Peer Exchange
U.S. Department of Transportation, Conference Room 7
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC
January 27, 2009

8:30 a.m. Welcome and Introductions Rob Ritter (FHWA)
Raja Veeramachaneni (FHWA)
8:45 a.m. Overview of Peer Exchange Janet D’Ignazio (ICF)
9:15 a.m. Example #1: Early Collaboration and Data Sharing Michelle Scheuerman (CDOT)
Alison Michael (FWS)
Craig Casper (PPACG)
9:45 a.m. Facilitated Discussion Janet D’Ignazio (ICF)
10:30 a.m. Break
10:45 a.m. Example #2: DOT-Funded Positions for Planning Katie Benouar (Caltrans)
Connell Dunning (EPA)
Stacey McKinley (SACOG)
11:15 a.m. Facilitated Discussion Janet D’Ignazio (ICF)
12:00 p.m. Lunch
1:00 p.m. Feedback on morning discussions Janet D’Ignazio (ICF)
1:15 p.m. Example #3: Corridor Transportation Improvements –
A Green Infrastructure Approach
Richard Starr (FWS)
Kris Hoellen (Conservation Fund)
Craig Shirk (Gannett Fleming)
2:00 p.m. Facilitated Discussion Janet D’Ignazio (ICF)
2:45 p.m. Break
3:00 p.m. Virtual Roundtable Discussion
  • Other Model Examples
  • Opportunity for Remote Participant Input
  • Common Challenges and Opportunities
  • Recommendations for Future Activities
Janet D’Ignazio (ICF)
4:30.m. Wrap-Up
  • Related Activities
  • Emerging Issues
Mike Culp (FHWA)
Spencer Stevens (FHWA)
Gina Barberio (Volpe Center)
5:00 p.m. Adjourn

Appendix B: Participants

In-Person

Name Agency Email
Michelle Scheuerman Colorado Department of Transportation michelle.scheuerman@dot.state.co.us
Alison Michael U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service alison_michael@fws.gov
Craig Casper Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments ccasper@ppacg.org
Katie Benouar California Department of Transportation katie_benouar@dot.ca.gov
Connell Dunning U.S. Environmental Protection Agency dunning.connell@epa.gov
Stacey McKinley The McKinley Group stacey.mckinley@gmail.com
Richard Starr U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rich_starr@fws.gov
Craig Shirk Gannett Fleming cshirk@gfnet.com
Laura Bachle U.S. Environmental Protection Agency bachle.laura@epa.gov
Dan Johnson Federal Highway Administration danw.johnson@dot.gov
Shana Baker Federal Highway Administration shana.baker@dot.gov
Spencer Stevens Federal Highway Administration spencer.stevens@dot.gov
Raja Veeramachaneni Federal Highway Administration raja.veeramachaneni@dot.gov
Carol Legard Advisory Council on Historic Preservation clegard@achp.gov
Gina Barberio U.S. DOT Volpe Center gina.barberio@dot.gov

Remote Participants

Name Agency Email
Jennifer Moyer U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jennifer.a.moyer@usace.army.mil
Nelson Castellanos Federal Highway Administration nelson.castellanos@fhwa.dot.gov
Tamara Hollowell North Central Texas Council of Governments thollowell@nctcog.org
Jean Riley Montana Department of Transportation jriley@mt.gov
Buddy Cunhill Florida Department of Transportation buddy.cunhill@dot.state.fl.us
Chuck Weinkam Coastal Resources chuckw@coastal-resources.net
Bill Haas Federal Highway Administration william.haas@fhwa.dot.gov
Jimmy Travis North Carolina Department of Transportation jtravis@dot.state.nc.us
Kris Hoellen The Conservation Fund khoellen@conservationfund.org
Lisa Pool Mid-America Regional Council lpool@marc.org

 

1 Federal Highway Administration 23 CFR Parts 450 and 500; Federal Transit Administration 49 CFR Part 613.
2 Resource agencies include Federal, State, and tribal agencies responsible for land use management, natural resources, environmental protection, conservation, and historic preservation.
3 See information provided by FHWA, Colorado Division, Planning and Environmental Linkages Questionnaire at http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/integ/case_colorado2_quest.asp
4 Training guide available at http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/environmental/planning-env-link-program
5 http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/integ/case_colorado2_quest.asp
6 http://www.loc.gov/crsinfo/

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California DOT Perspective

Slide 1

California DOT Perspective
Environmental Consultation Peer Exchange
January 27, 2009

Katie Benouar
Planning and Modal Programs
California Department of Transportation

Slide 2

California MPOs and RTPAs
This slide shows a map of California’s MPOs and RTPAs.

Regional Transportation Planning Agencies: 18
18 MPOs

  • FTA 5303 funds $14 million in FY 2008/09
  • California (PL) funds $42 million per year

41 State-designated Regional Transportation Planning Agencies

  • 26 receive State Rural Planning Assistance (RPA) funds
  • $4-6 million per year

Slide 3

California Regional Blueprint Planning Program
A State initiative to promote:

  • Linking land use, transportation, housing, environment, economic development, equity
  • Consensus on preferred growth scenario – “Blueprint” – for each region identifies transportation impacts of land use
  • A more efficient and effective transportation system
  • Sufficient housing supply to accommodate population growth in each region

Slide 4

Regional Blueprint Planning
This slide shows a graphic of coordination extending from Land Use Planning, to Transportation Planning, to Environmental Planning, to Housing Planning, to Public Involvement, ending in the Regional Blueprint Plan.

  • Regional Blueprint Planning Comprehensive, Collaborative, Integrated

Slide 5

Enhance Planning and Collaboration: Make It Real

  • Collaboration requires time and effort
  • Need common language and understanding
  • Focus on the early planning process, not project
  • Participation in statewide and regional transportation planning activities
  • Foster interagency coordination through networking
  • Information-sharing
  • Education process goes both ways

Slide 6

Contact Information
Katie Benouar
Planning and Modal Programs
California Department of Transportation
(916) 653-3362
Katie_benouar@dot.ca.gov

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Colorado: Planning and Environmental Linkages

Slide 1

Colorado: Planning and Environmental Linkages
Integrated Planning Work Group Peer Exchange
Washington, DC - January 27, 2009

Slide 2

SAFETEA-LU

  • Consideration of potential environmental mitigation activities
  • Consultation with resource, regulatory and land management agencies, and Tribal governments
  • Transportation planning studies

Slide 3

PEL Concept
This slide shows a graphic of Planning and Environment Linkages

  • Considerations in planning process and use decisions in NEPA later
  • Ecosystem vs. project perspective
  • Early and better coordination
  • Progression from just NEPA focus

Slide 4

Benefits of PEL

  • Common sense
  • Early and continuous coordination with agencies
  • Better decisions result in:
    • Environmental stewardship
    • Financial stewardship
  • Ultimately save time, money and effort
  • Relationship-building

Slide 5

History of PEL in Colorado

  • STEP UP
  • Linking Planning and NEPA (LPN) On-line Training
  • LPN Guidance
  • Statewide Transportation Plan Process
  • CDOT PEL Program Manager
  • PEL Corridor Studies
  • FHWA PEL Questionnaire

Slide 6

STEP UP – Environmental Streamlining
This slide shows a screen shot of STEP UP

  • New Planning Process:
    • Identify environmental issues early
    • Establish early and continued involvement by resource agencies
    • Create a better link between transportation, environmental, and land use planning
    • Evaluate and rank projects using environmental data
  • Web-based GIS Tool

Slide 7

Linking Planning and NEPA Training
This slide shows a graphic of Planning and Environment Linkages

  • On-line training
  • Provides guidance to integrate planning and NEPA
  • How to incorporate planning process elements into project-level environmental review

Slide 8

CDOT LPN Guidance

  • For use by CDOT staff and regional transportation planning partners
  • Addresses how data, analysis, and products from planning can be incorporated into NEPA
  • Meets SAFETEA-LU requirements

Slide 9

Statewide Transportation Plan Process

  • Developed Corridor Visions, Goals and Strategies
  • Environmental Forum with Resource Agencies
  • Environmental Tabs
    • Resource Management Plans

Slide 10

CDOT PEL Program Manager

  • Develop effective working relationships with FHWA, CDOT and MPOs
  • Form the link between transportation planning and project delivery to advance NEPA analysis into the planning process
  • Assure environmental data are available to planning staff and their consultants and are appropriately utilized and interpreted
  • Be available to furnish expertise and institutional knowledge

Slide 11

PEL Corridor Studies

  • Arapahoe Road – Denver, 2007
  • 56th Avenue – Denver, 2008
  • Parker Road – Denver, current
  • US 50 West – Pueblo, current
  • US 24 East – Colorado Springs, current

Slide 12

FHWA PEL Questionnaire

  • Consistent with 23 CFR 450 Appendix A
  • Submitted with PEL Study Document
  • Consists of 13 Questions:
    • Corridor Vision/ Purpose and Need
    • Range of Alternatives and Screening Criteria
    • Agency and Public Coordination
    • Resources
    • Relationship to Future NEPA Document

Slide 13

Barriers

  • Money
  • Database development
  • Different perspectives between land use, transportation and environmental planning
  • Coordination with various disciplines (engineers, environmental, regulatory agencies, etc.)
  • Time and staffing
  • Carry forward into NEPA

Slide 14

Statewide Environmental Forum

  • Bring together
    • Local Transportation Officials
      • 10 rural areas
      • 5 “urban” areas
    • Resource and Regulatory Agencies
  • Goal: Better understanding of the resources and issues
  • Best meeting ever!

Slide 15

CDOT’s Statewide Environmental Forum
This slide shows a picture of participants attending the statewide environmental forum.

Slide 16

This slide shows a marked-up map as a product of the statewide environmental forum.

Slide 17

Results

  • Question 1: Was this an effective tool for sharing information between agencies about programs and activities?  87% said yes.
  • Question 2: Was there sufficient time for conversations?  30% said yes.  A majority of evaluations requested between 5 and 15 minutes more for each conversation.
  • Question 3: Did you feel you were able to effectively communicate with other parties?  91% said yes.
  • Question 4:  Should CDOT host similar events in the future as transportation plans are developed?  89% said yes.

Slide 18

What’s Next?

  • Developing a more refined process of moving from planning through NEPA
  • Ensuring that planning decisions are recognized in a NEPA study
  • Education and outreach on planning process
  • Current CO PEL efforts include:
    • Partnering agreement with Transportation Environmental Resource Council (TERC)
    • PEL web-based decision tool
    • PEL training
    • Chartering CDOT transportation and environmental planning processes

Slide 19

Questions for You

  • Success with alternatives elimination in planning?
  • Moving into NEPA and how much is revisited?
  • How much time between a planning study and NEPA?

Slide 20

FHWA letter responding to a PEL Study
This slide shows a letter received from FHWA as an example of PEL engagement.

Slide 21

Colorado PEL Contacts
This slide lists contact information for individuals involved in Colorado’s PEL program

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Environmental Consultation Peer Review

Slide 1

Environmental Consultation Peer Review
Early Collaboration and Data Sharing
Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments
Tools and Process for Strategic Assessment

Slide 2

Environmental Consultation Peer Review
Thanks to FHWA for funding; Along with

  • Placeways community viz
  • Natural Heritage Program (Colorado)
  • NatureServe

Slide 3

Purpose
Develop a Strategic Multi-Criteria Assessment Process to facilitate Adaptive Planning Processes

  • The tools to evaluate or forecast progress towards goals must be available and rigorous
  • Cross discipline acknowledgement of rigor is necessary for buy-in.

Slide 4

Purpose
This slide shows a graphic of Diagonal Collaboration.  Running along the Y-Axis are Federal, State, Regional, Local, and Project.  Running along the X-Axis are Air Quality, Transport, Land Use, and Economic Develop

Slide 5

Setting
The Pikes Peak Area COG is responsible for transportation, military impact, air quality, and water quality planning, along with administering a one-cent sales tax for transportation and demographic and economic forecasting.

Slide 6

Setting
PPACG is involved in several other disconnected but related efforts that staff desires to harmonize, including:

  • MPO Regional Transportation Plan
  • Plkes Peak Sustainability Indicators
  • Fountain Creek Watershed Crown Jewel
  • Ft. Carson Regional Growth Plan

Slide 7

Setting
This slide shows a map of the Transportation Planning Regions in Colorado.

Slide 8

Setting
This slide shows a map of El Paso and Pueblo counties.

Slide 9

Setting
This slide shows a map of El Paso and Pueblo counties, plus a graph showing the percent growth the two counties have had and the expected growth they will have.

  • Percent Growth: 2005-2035
  • Pueblo County – 54%
  • El Paso County – 66%
  • Combined – 64%
  • Colorado – 34.7%
  • U.S. – 33.7%

Slide 10

Level of Analysis
This slide repeats information on Slide 9 but also shows a landscape photo of the two counties.

Slide 11

Baseline
This slide shows a land use map of the two counties, displaying the following types of use:

  • Agriculture
  • Commercial
  • Community and Public Buildings
  • Exurban to Rural
  • Government
  • High Density Urban
  • Industrial
  • Infrastructure and General Urban
  • Large Military Installation
  • Low Density Urban
  • McCulloch Ranch
  • Medium Density Urban
  • Mixed Use
  • Office
  • Park or Greenbelt
  • Private
  • Protected Open Space
  • Residential Mixed Use
  • Suburban to Exurban
  • Undeveloped Private

Slide 12

Baseline
Determine compatibility of land-uses with long-term viability of indicator species.
Fifty-nine Indicator Species Chosen

  • 23 plants
  • 12 mammals
  • 10 birds
  • 5 insects
  • 3 fish
  • 3 reptiles
  • 2 amphibians
  • 1 mollusk

Slide 13

Baseline

  • 15 of 59 have current long-term viability conflicts – Four (4) candidate species found in the region have no viable habitat left in the region.

Slide 14

Forecast Future
Three Future Land-Use Scenarios Developed

  1. Business as Usual (TELUM)
  2. Conservation
  3. Enhanced Transportation

Slide 15

Business as Usual Growth
This slide shows a map of the two counties with Population Increase Weighted by Area.

Slide 16

Baseline vrs Business as Usual
This slide shows a map of the two counties comparing the baseline projection of land use with the business as usual projection.

Slide 17

Baseline vrs Business as Usual
29 species have long-term viability conflicts with the current land-use plans in the region.
Other goals unmet.

Slide 18

Conservation
This slide shows a map of the two counties with the amount of land selected in order to meet conservation goals.

Slide 19

Conservation
Development “leap-frogs” protected lands, resulting in changing species that are impacted, not enhancing conservation.
28 species have long-term viability conflicts.
Other goals unmet.

Slide 20

Enhanced Transportation
Using information from transportation planning roundtables expressing desire for more transit, existing multi-use overlay zoning and planned BRT routes, increase density along proposed routes to level FTA suggests is needed to make transit a viable transportation mode.

Slide 21

Enhanced Transportation
This slide shows a map of the two counties with Population Increase Weighted by Area.

Slide 22

Enhanced Transportation
This slide shows four charts displaying Residential Energy use, Annual CO2 Auto Emissions, Residential Water use, and Annual Hydrocarbon Auto Emissions.
28 species have long-term viability conflicts.
Other goals unmet.

Slide 23

Lessons Learned
Some success and some failures:

  • More data and information shared resulting in enhanced Fountain Creek Mitigation
  • Pristine Site Bull-dozed

Slide 24

Summary

  • This process and information proactively highlight potentially future issues and allows incorporation of the issues early by cognizant agencies.
  • Iterative reevaluation by diagonal agencies should become a standard practice.

Slide 25

Other Findings
Institutional and political barriers to collaboration between diagonal agencies are difficult to overcome.
Accumulated stressors and effects from previous activities will be exposed, so:

  • How should a transportation agency communicate this information to the agencies causing or receiving the impacts?
  • Should some constraint on new actions of other agencies be recommended in order to reduce or mitigate impacts?
  • If we don’t then how can a rational planned future ever be realized?
  • Can consent for an action be denied because it could set a precedent that over time would result in an unwelcome future?

Slide 26

Summary recommendations

  • Develop a comprehensive resource dataset;
  • Establish measurable goals and benchmarks against which to evaluate the effects of actions;
  • Initiate / improve intergovernmental coordination;
  • Collaborate to develop life-cycle causal chains of effects resulting from past, present, and foreseeable actions.

Slide 27

2005 Households
This slide shows a regional map of household distribution in 2005

Slide 28

2035 Households
This slide shows a regional map of household distribution in 2035.

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A Green Infrastructure Approach

Slide 1

A Green Infrastructure Approach
FHWA Peer Exchange – January 27, 2009

Slide 2

A Green Infrastructure Approach

  • Craig Shirk, AICP

Gannett Fleming, Inc.

  • Kris Hoellen, Director of Conservation Leadership Network

The Conservation Fund

  • Richard Starr, Division Chief
    Habitat Restoration Division
    US Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay Field Office

Slide 3

A Green Infrastructure Approach

  • Transportation improvements to address current and projected traffic congestion around the Waldorf, MD area
  • Three major alternatives:
    •   Upgrade of existing US 301
    •   Eastern Bypass
    •   Western Bypass

Slide 4

A Green Infrastructure Approach

  • Upgrade alternatives:
    •   Substantial business community displacements & impacts
    •   Complex and lengthy construction process
    •   Increases separation of community
  • Bypass alternatives:
    •   Substantial natural resource impacts
    •   Potential growth management implications
    •   Potential business community impacts from traffic diversions
    •   Potential community impacts from tolls

Slide 5

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Project History

  • Long recognized need for transportation improvements
  • 1993 – 1996 Governor’s Task Force developed improvement concepts
  • 1999 – 2001 project planning study placed on hold due to agency concerns with environmental impacts

Slide 6

A Green Infrastructure Approach

  • 2005 restart of project with new procedural approach and policy changes to address important resource issues
    •   Commitment to bridge major stream crossings
    •   Interagency Work Group process
    •   Environmental Stewardship Initiative

Slide 7

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Environmental Stewardship

  • Maximize enhancement, protection and improvement of natural, community and cultural resources
  • Non-regulatory, voluntary
  • Stewardship actions provided “above and beyond” compensatory mitigation
  • Goal – Leave environment better than existed prior to project

Slide 8

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Environmental Stewardship Initiative

  • Interagency Working Group (IAWG)
    •   Federal, state and local representatives involved in all aspects of project development
  • Natural Resources Working Group (NRWG)
    •   Independent from project development team to provide scientific validity for agency buy-in
    •   The Conservation Fund, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Community Resources Working Group (CRWG)
  • Watershed Modeling Working Group (WMWG)

Slide 9

Conceptual Environmental Stewardship Process
This slide shows a flowchart of the nine-step environmental stewardship process.

Slide 10

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Environmental Stewardship Opportunities

  • Conservation of high quality lands
  • Watershed protection efforts
  • Wetland protection and restoration efforts
  • Reforestation protection and restoration activities
  • Stream protection and restoration activities
  • Stormwater management retrofits
  • Extension/development of pedestrian/bicycle paths
  • Protection/enhancement of locally important historic resource
  • Improved wayfinding infrastructure

Slide 11

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Green Infrastructure – What Is It?
“Strategically planned and managed networks of natural lands, working landscapes and other open spaces that conserve ecosystem values and functions and provide associated benefits to human populations”

Slide 12

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Green Infrastructure Networks

  • Hubs – anchor the system
  • Links – tie the system together
  • Sites – smaller areas, may not be attached
  • Lands – public, private & non-profit
  • Scales – statewide, regional & community
  • Landscapes – urban, suburban, rural & wild

Slide 13

A Green Infrastructure Approach
This slide shows a conceptual model of the GI network.

  • Core areas contain fully functional natural ecosystems, and provide high-quality habitat for native plants and animals.  These are the nucleus of the ecological network.
  • Hubs are slightly fragmented aggregations of core areas, plus contiguous natural cover.  Hubs are intended to be large enough to support populations of native species, and serve as sources for emigration into the surrounding landscape.
  • Corridors link core areas together, allowing wildlife movement and seed and pollen transfer between them, and thereby promoting genetic exchange.

Retaining source habitat, and allowing movement between these, is much more important for metapopulation persistence than retaining small patches that serve as sinks.

Slide 14

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Green infrastructure analysis area
Broader analysis area

  • Charles County
  • Entire Piscataway Creek watershed
  • Entire Mattawoman Creek watershed
  • Potomac tidal watershed between Piscataway
  • Creek watershed and Charles County
  • Entire Gilbert Swamp watershed

Project study area

  • Piscataway Creek watershed
  • Mattawoman watershed
  • Zekiah Swamp watershed
  • Port Tobacco watershed

Slide 15

A Green Infrastructure Approach
This slide shows a picture of Eco-Logical.

  • USFWS
  • Dept of the Army
  • US EPA
  • US Forest Service
  • NPS
  • BLM
  • NMFS
  • FHWA

Slide 16

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Eco-Logical: “An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects”

  • Collaboratively developed vision
  • Integrates ecological, economic and social factors
  • Geographic framework defined by ecological boundaries
  • Transportation Benefits:  ecosystem based mitigation = predictability, efficiency, cost-effectiveness

Slide 17

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Transportation Planning and Green Infrastructure

  • GI Plans can inform Transportation Plans, and vice versa
  • GI plans can help transportation planning organizations (State DOTs and MPOs) meet 6001 requirements
  • GI Plans can save Transportation staff time and lead to more streamlined reviews
  • For Conservation interests – the focus is on how the ‘grey’ can further promote ‘green’ goals

Slide 18

A Green Infrastructure Approach
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Involvement

  • Stream Corridor Evaluation
    •   Assess existing stream physical condition – rate streams as geomorphically stable, unstable, or recovering
    •   Assess stream restoration potential – develop potential restoration solutions for priority stream restoration and conservation sites identified through GI process and provide potential benefits, feasibility, potential success, and restoration costs.
    •   Develop protocols to conduct existing stream physical conditions and stream restoration potential assessments.
    •   Assist in GI process - develop objectives and screening criteria, select potential conservation and restoration sites, and make implementation recommendations

Slide 19

A Green Infrastructure Approach
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Perspective

  • Demonstrates Commitment to Environment
  • Early Planning and Coordination
  • Enhances protection and restoration of natural resources and lessens impacts
  • Effective Communication
  • Agency Support
  • Community Support
  • Encourage Continued GI Approach to Future Transportation Projects

Slide 20

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Environmental Stewardship Initiative - Connections
Chesapeake Bay Program

  • Addresses each of the program goals: Living Resource Protection and Restoration; Vital Habitat Protection and Restoration; Water Quality Protection and Restoration; Sound Land Use; and Stewardship and Community
  • Identified and implemented ES actions can contribute to meeting state/regional Bay Program targets

EPA Region 3 Watershed Resource Registry –Pilot Project

  • Use results of GI process and ES opportunities for identifying watershed-based mitigation strategies

Slide 21

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Environmental Stewardship Initiative - Connections
Maryland Department of Natural Resources

  • Educates/supports Program Open Space
  • Rural Legacy Program
  • Office of Sustainability    

Maryland State Highway Administration

  • Process can educate project development, mitigation commitments, maintenance activities
  • Initiative can be considered for other “mega-projects” in sensitive environmental settings

Slide 22

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Environmental Stewardship Initiative - Connections
Charles County

  • Incorporate into county land use planning, implementation of capital projects (including local transportation improvements), and protection of important ecological areas (Mattawoman Creek watershed)

Prince George’s County

  • Supplements existing GI program – further support for MWCOG regional transportation planning work

Tri-County Council of Southern Maryland

  • Opportunity to incorporate 6001 requirements into regional transportation plans through agency coordination and consideration of priority environmental enhancement/mitigation opportunities

Slide 23

A Green Infrastructure Approach
Thank You

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For questions or feedback on this subject matter content, please contact Jody McCullough or Marisel Lopez-Cruz.

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