Evaluating the Performance of Environmental Streamlining:
Development of a NEPA baseline for Measuring Continuous Performance
Section 1309 of the
Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) directs the
Department of Transportation to develop and implement a coordinated review process
for highway construction projects. The review process would be applied to projects
that require either the preparation of environmental impact statements (EISs)
or environmental assessments (EAs) under the National Environmental Policy Act
(NEPA), or the conduct of any other environmental review, analysis, opinion, or
issuance of an environmental permit, license, or approval by operation of Federal
law. Section 1309 is entitled "Environmental Streamlining", and its charge for
a coordinated environmental review process reflects the concern over delays in
implementing transportation projects.
The perception that NEPA
results in delays and additional costs to the delivery of transportation projects
is a common one; projects for which the preparation and approval of EISs have
taken several years to complete are well known. Much of the information available
concerning the time required to complete this phase of the project development
process has come from anecdotal sources, generally focused on individual projects.
What has been missing from the discussion about project delay is an analysis
of the direct effect that compliance with the requirements of NEPA has on the
ultimate schedule and cost of delivering a completed transportation project.
With this comparison in
mind, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Louis Berger Group undertook
a research study whose purpose was to provide a better understanding of the
impacts of the NEPA process on the total time involved in completing a Federal-aid
highway or bridge project for use by the public. The results of this study,
entitled "Evaluating the Performance of Environmental Streamlining: Development
of a NEPA Baseline for Measuring Continuous Performance" examines a) the
true schedule implications of the NEPA process upon the total project delivery
process; and b) the individual factors influencing the amount of time required
for the NEPA process for individual projects.
The descriptive statistics
on the length of the NEPA process form the core of the research study's findings.
The results of the study indicated that, for the projects in the sample and
over the course of approximately 30 years, the average time to complete an EIS
for a transportation project was approximately 3.6 years. By comparison, the
mean length of time for the completion of the project was approximately 13.1
years. Put another way, for the sample's projects, completion of the NEPA process
accounted for approximately 28% of the overall time for project development.
Comparisons were made for
the time to complete EISs that were prepared during the three decades examined
in the NEPA Baseline study. Analysis of the sample projects indicated that
EISs completed in the 1970's required significantly less time to prepare than
did those completed in either the 1980s or '90s: for 1970s EISs the mean time
for completion was 2.2 years, versus 4.4 and 5.0 years for the 1980s and '90s,
The Study follows this
brief summary, and is organized in the following manner:
1.0 is the Introduction, containing
the Background and Purpose of the research effort.
2.0 provides a Summary of Related Research that has been conducted
in recent years, specifically in terms of establishing NEPA timeframes and costs.
3.0 provides a detailed discussion of the Research Approach used
for this study. Specific aspects of the Research Approach addressed include:
an Overview; Description of Data Sources; Limitations of Available Data; Selection
of the Research Sample; Data Collection Methodology; and Statistical Analysis
4.0, Results of Research, provides the basic findings of the
study. These findings include: Descriptive Statistics on the Length of the
NEPA Process; Descriptive Statistics on Other Factors Considered; Statistical
Relationship of Length of the NEPA Process with Other Factors; and Use of Results
as a Baseline for Evaluating Future Environmental Streamlining Initiatives.
5.0 provides a discussion of Conclusions and Recommendations.
This section presents a summary of the findings and offers recommendations for
continuing related research in the future.
6.0 provides a List of Preparers.
NOTE: A series of
Appendices, denoted A through T, that assist in illustrating
details of survey sample development, data collection, use of data sources,
and statistical analysis of the data are included in the complete copy of the
Baseline Study. These appendices, however, have not been included in the web-version
of the Study. For details, contact Kreig Larson at 202-366-2056, or by email