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Appendix E. Interview Selection Strategy and Interview Recommendation

Purpose

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) Section 6009, Parks, Recreation Areas, Wildlife and Waterfowl Refuges and Historic Sites, requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to study the implementation of and the amendments made by Section 6009 regarding Section 4(f). Phase I of the planned two-phase study will rely on stakeholder interviews to:

  • Identify the efficiencies that may result from implementation of Section 6009 amendments; and,
  • Evaluate the post-construction effectiveness of impact mitigation and avoidance commitments associated with the implementation of the de minimis impact provision.

The purpose of this document is to describe the strategy used in selecting states to interview as part of Phase I.

Selection Strategy

Since August 2005, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) have been collecting and maintaining an inventory of transportation projects for which de minimis findings have been made. As of March 21, 2008 — the cut-off date for projects to be included in the implementation study (per the SAFETEA-LU Section 6009 Implementation Study Plan March 31, 2008 as reviewed in a Transportation Research Board Letter Report, June 9, 2008) — 245 de minimis findings had been made in 41 of 52 states, including Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Of the 245 projects, 22 have been constructed.

To recommend a sampling of projects that adequately captures the range of variation within the 245 projects in the inventory population, first, the following selection characteristics regarding the population were analyzed:

  • Counts of states within four de minimis findings categories. These cohorts include (1) states that have had 0 projects with de minimis findings; (2) states that have have had 1-10 de minimis findings; (3) states that have had 11-15 de minimis findings; and (4) states that have had more than 15 projects with de minimis findings 1
  • Mode (e.g. highway and transit) of project with de minimis finding and, then, project type (e.g. bridge, intersection/interchange, safety, transportation enhancement, widening and other)
  • NEPA Class of action
  • Type of Section 4(f) resource involved
  • Federal Circuit Court District in which the project is located

In order to meet the goals of the study, it was determined that an initial sampling of projects to interview should include all projects constructed as of March 21, 2008. This approach was anticipated to help avoid interviewee responses that depend on anecdotes and expected outcomes instead of actual experience and on-the-ground results. The subset of 23 constructed projects was compared against how the population was proportionally distributed within each of the selection characteristics. The aim was to determine how closely the sample that included all de minimis projects that had completed construction (PCC) matched the population. Table 1 illustrates the comparison. Bold text in shaded cells indicates places where deficiencies in the preliminary sample were recognized.

Table 1. Comparison of Population and Initial PCC Sample

  Total Projects in Inventory PCC Sample
de minimis findings cohorts State Count   Sample Count  
0 11 21% 0 0%
1 — 10 32 62% 11 48%
11 — 15 4 8% 4 17%
> 15 5 10% 8 35%
  52 100% 23 100%
Transportation Project Type Project Count   Sample Count  
Highway: Other 40 16% 7 30%
Highway: Safety 16 7% 2 9%
Highway: Interchange 35 14% 4 17%
Highway: Transportation Enhancement 14 6% 2 9%
Highway: Widening 55 22% 3 13%
Highway: New Alignment 17 7% 3 13%
Highway: Bridge 46 19% 2 9%
Highway: Unknown 14 6% N/A  
Transit 8 3% 0 0%
  245 100.00% 23 100%
Class of Action Project Count   Sample Count  
Categorical Exclusion 186 81% 21 95%
Environmental Assessment 39 17% 2 5%
Env. Impact Statement 4 2% 0 0%
Re-evaluation 4 2% N/A  
Unknown 12 5% N/A  
  229* 100.00% 23 100%
Type of 4(f) Resource Project Count   Sample Count  
Historic Property 158 64.5% 17 74%
Park 50 20.4% 4 17%
Recreation Area 15 6.1% 0 0%
Wildlife Refuge 3 1.2% 1 4%
Historic Property & Park 6 2.4%
Historic Property & Rec. Area 3 1.2% 1 4%
Park & Rec. Area 3 1.2%
Unknown 7 2.9%
  245 100.00% 23 100%
Federal Circuit Court District Project Count   Sample Count  
District 1 21 9% 5 22%
District 2 17 7% 1 4%
District 3 14 6% 0 0%
District 4 30 12% 2 9%
District 5 23 9% 3 13%
District 6 19 8% 2 9%
District 7 5 2% 0 0%
District 8 11 4% 2 4%
District 9 41 17% 4 17%
District 10 43 18% 4 17%
District 11 21 9% 0 0%
  245 100.00% 23 100%

*Re-evaluations and projects with an unknown NEPA class of action were not included in tally.

The PCCs on their own did not provide a sample entirely representative of the population. Additional projects were added to address the following deficiencies:

  • Lack of two or three projects in states with zero de minimis findings
  • Lack of a transit project
  • Lack of two environmental assessment (EA) projects and an environmental impact statement (EIS) project
  • Lack of a project involving a park resource
  • Lack of projects located within Federal Circuit Court Districts 3, 7, and 11, respectively

These disparities were addressed by consulting the remaining inventory population of 223 projects with incomplete construction status (245 population minus 22 construction completed = 223) and/or no de minimis findings. Projects recommended for interview from this group were chosen based on the number of criteria these projects satisfied. In other words, the projects that individually met the most target criteria were identified for interview. As an example, an ideal project using this approach — and given resource constraints on the number of interviews that can be conducted — would have been an EIS transit project in Federal Court District 3, 7, or 11 with potential effects to a park resource; it filled four out of five of the criteria where the preliminary sample of PCCs failed to mirror the entire population.

Figure 2. Comparison of Population, Initial PCC Sample, and Final Sample

  Total Projects in
Inventory
Construction
Completed Original
Sample
Final Sample
de minimis findings cohorts State Count   Sample Count   Sample Count  
0 projects 11 21% 0 0% 3 7%
1 — 10 projects 32 62% 11 45% 13 44%
11 — 15 projects 4 8% 4 18% 4 15%
> 15 projects 5 10% 8 36% 9 33%
  52 100% 23 100% 29 100%
Transportation Project Type Project Count   Sample Count   Sample Count  
Highway: Other 40 16% 7 32% 7 28%
Highway: Safety 16 7% 2 9% 2 8%
Highway: Interchange 35 14% 4 18% 4 16%
Highway: Transportation Enhancement 14 6% 2 9% 2 8%
Highway: Widening 55 22% 3 9% 5 16%
Highway: New Alignment 17 7% 3 14% 3 12%
Highway: Bridge 46 19% 2 9% 2 8%
Highway: Unknown 14 6% 0 0% 0%
Transit 8 3% 0 0% 1 4%
  245 100.00% 23 100% 26 100%
Class of Action Project Count   Sample Count   Sample Count  
Categorical Exclusion 186 81% 21 95% 21 84%
Environmental Assessment 39 17% 2 5% 4 12%
Env. Impact Statement 4 2% 0 0% 1 4%
Re-evaluation 4 2% 0
Unknown 12 5%  
  229 100.00% 23 100% 26 100%
Type of 4(f) Resource Project Count   Sample Count   Sample Count  
Historic Property 158 64.5% 17 74% 18 69%
Park 50 20.4% 4 17% 6 22%
Recreation Area 15 6.1% 0 0% 0 0%
Wildlife Refuge 3 1.2% 1 4% 1 4%
Historic Property and Park 6 2.4%
Historic Property and Rec. Area 3 1.2% 1 4% 1 4%
Park and Rec. Area 3 1.2%
Unknown 7 2.9%  
  245 100.00% 23 100% 26 100%
Federal Circuit Court District Project Count   Sample Count   Sample Count  
District 1 21 9% 5 22% 5 17%
District 2 17 7% 1 4% 1 3%
District 3 14 6% 0 0% 1 3%
District 4 30 12% 2 9% 2 7%
District 5 23 9% 3 13% 3 10%
District 6 19 8% 2 9% 2 7%
District 7 5 2% 0 0% 1 3%
District 8 11 4% 2 9% 3 10%
District 9 41 17% 4 17% 5 17%
District 10 43 18% 4 17% 5 17%
District 11 21 9% 0 0% 1 3%
  245 100.00% 23 100% 29 100%

Interview Process

The interview team anticipates that the FHWA Division Office staff responsible for submitting de minimis findings data to FHWA Headquarters will be the team's primary point of contact for scheduling and coordinating the interviews. The FHWA Division Office will be asked to identify the state Department of Transportation (DOT) or transit agency lead for the associated project.

For each of the projects selected, interviews will be conducted with relevant stakeholders from the following:

  • FHWA Headquarters and Division Office staff
  • FTA Headquarters and Region staff
  • State DOT staff
  • Transit agencies
  • State Historic Preservation Offices
  • Tribal Historic Preservation Offices
  • Official with jurisidiction over the park, recreation area and/or wildlife and waterfowl refuges

To supplement and better set the context for the telephone interviews, a pre-interview questionnaire will be provided to interviewees in advance of the calls. Expected completion date of all interviews is September 17, 2008.

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1 The mean number of projects with de minimis impact findings is 4.5, with a standard deviation of 5.4. The ranges represent one standard, two and three deviations from the mean.
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