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Interim Guidance on the Application of Travel and Land Use Forecasting in NEPA

Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQ's for release of Interim Guidance on the Application of Travel and Land Use Forecasting in NEPA
April 6, 2010

  1. What is the motivation and purpose of the guidance?
    Travel and land use forecasting is critical to project development and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes. Forecasts provide important information to project managers and decision-makers, and provide foundations for:
    • Determining purpose and need,
    • Evaluating the performance of alternatives, and
    • Estimating environmental impacts such as noise, safety, emissions, induced land development, and indirect and/or cumulative effects.

    Forecasting methodologies and their applications are often a source of significant disagreement among agencies and interest groups, and are frequently the focus of project-level litigation. Also, there is a large variation in practice and experience among transportation and resource agencies and consultants, and assessments of standards of practice are difficult.

    The purpose of this guidance is to encourage improvement in the state-of-the-practice in relation to how project-level forecasting is applied in the context of the NEPA process. While technical guidelines for producing forecasts for projects have been documented by others, little has been published on the procedural or process considerations in forecasting (how to apply forecasting in the context of NEPA). This guidance attempts to fill that gap.

  2. Who is the intended audience?
    The primary audiences are NEPA project managers, FHWA staff, forecasting groups at Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and State Departments of Transportation (DOTs), as well as consultants that support MPOs and DOTs in conducting corridor and NEPA studies.

  3. Is following the guidance mandatory?
    No. Following this guidance is strictly voluntary. The guidance is based on lessons learned and best practices and does not constitute the establishment of an FHWA standard. Not all studies are the same; therefore this guidance is intended to be non-prescriptive, and its application flexible and scalable to the type and complexity of the travel analysis to be undertaken.

  4. Was there previous guidance on this topic and is it superseded by this guidance?
    No. This guidance is the first to be released from FHWA on this topic, and therefore does not supersede any previous guidance.

  5. Is the guidance only for large scale projects or projects that require an environmental impact statement?
    No. However certain sections of the document are more applicable to large projects, particularly when addressing large scale effects and impacts, such as changes in land development patterns. The guidance attempts to specify when sections are more appropriate for larger, more complex projects.

  6. What does "interim guidance" mean?
    Interim guidance means that the guidance is effective when released, but is not "final." A time period has been established when feedback on the interim guidance will be received, prior to making the guidance final. This process is discussed in more detail below.

  7. Is there training or technical assistance available to help my state or metropolitan area better understand the guidance?
    Yes. FHWA is conducting three webinars to help explain the guidance and answer questions that practitioners may have on its implementation. The dates of the webinars are as follows:
    • 4/23/2010, 1:00 to 2:30 PM Eastern
    • 4/30/2010, 1:00 to 2:30 PM Eastern
    • 5/6/2010, 10:00 to 11:30 AM Eastern

    Also, a limited number of state-focused workshops will be held in the next year to help implement the guidance and find ways to improve forecasting practice as it is applied to the NEPA process. Contact Michael Culp for more information (contact information below).

  8. What if I have questions or want to provide feedback on the guidance?
    Feedback on the guidance will be accepted until September 30, 2010. Feedback and any questions on the guidance should be directed to Michael Culp in the FHWA Office of Project Development and Environmental Review at michael.culp@dot.gov, or 202-366-9229. The guidance will then be finalized and subsequently released.

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