Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

THE GALLUP ORGANIZATION

for
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)

FHWA Study - Results
Project Overview

Implementing Performance Measurement in Environmental Streamlining



Submitted to:

Federal Highway Administration
Planning and Environment, 3222 HEPE
400 7th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20590

January 2004



Prepared by:

Alison Simon, Ph.D., AICP
Sameer Abraham, Ph.D.
The Gallup Organization
Government Division
901 F Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Overview of Project

This Executive Summary provides an overview of the Environmental Streamlining Performance Measurement System. In 2001, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) contracted with The Gallup Organization to conduct the project that included a qualitative component involving focus group research, and two quantitative components, a pilot study of Region 5, and a comprehensive national study that was both regional and national in scope.

Focus Group Findings

To construct the questionnaire and obtain insights into the environmental streamlining process, the project began with focus groups conducted in six cities: Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Boston, San Francisco/Sacramento, and Atlanta. Two groups were conducted in each city (except for San Francisco/Sacramento), one with participants from State and Federal transportation agencies, and one with participants from State and Federal resources agencies in the region. For the San Francisco/Sacramento area, one group was conducted in Sacramento with participants from transportation agencies, and one group was conducted in San Francisco with participants from resource agencies.

From the focus groups, a questionnaire was designed for use in the quantitative analysis phase of the process. Survey questions focused on the views of managers and technical staff in both types of organization concerning their overall relationships with counterpart organizations. Technical staff in both types of agencies was also asked about their assessments of the performance of counterpart organizations on recently completed transportation projects.

Discussions from focus group participants revealed common themes concerning relationships among the counterpart transportation and resource permitting agencies. Some of the key findings from the focus groups include:

  • Participants noted that streamlining has focused attention on the fact that agencies need better cooperation and communication
    • What emerged as key to the increased communication was the issue of trust. There was a general consensus among participants that trust among the various key players is critical to the success of streamlining and, conversely, that streamlining, by encouraging cooperation, has in turn cemented trust.
  • Early involvement was mentioned in all cities as a positive impact of the streamlining process by both transportation and resource representatives
  • Participants noted that streamlining, and its press towards efficiency of process, has led to increased levels of commitment in terms of resources (funding in particular) to make sure that highly visible projects fall in line with streamlining initiatives
  • It was noted that while it is common for agencies to get bogged down by the process itself, streamlining serves to provide that process with some focus
  • Comments were made by respondents that the streamlining effort has caused them to internally review and reevaluate their own processes
  • A few agencies mentioned adversarial relationships existing between the NEPA-player agencies. It was whole-heartedly agreed that the streamlining process has the capability of dissolving some of these adversarial relationships through the cooperative threads that are an inherent impact of the process.
  • There is an inconsistent understanding of the term "streamlining" itself
  • There is some past history between agencies causing tension in future interactions
  • A lengthy discussion ensued about efforts that are currently underway to entrench streamlining. Many agencies currently work with agreements or have processes to ensure the streamlining of projects. Many others, however, do not.

Subsequent to the focus groups, two sets of questionnaire items were developed:

  • Items focusing on broad aspects of the relationship between the agencies that develop and extend over considerable time, and
  • Items focusing on specific interactions on a particular project, emphasizing activities over which the agencies are believed to have considerable management discretion and control.

Pilot Test - Region 5 Findings

The primary intent of the survey was to determine which aspects of the relationships and interactions between transportation agencies and resource organizations are working smoothly and productively, and which aspects are viewed as needing improvement to enhance the efficiency of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) process. A second key goal was to establish a baseline measure of stakeholder perceptions against which data from future surveys might be compared to assess progress of inter-agency relationships and performance.

A pilot study was conducted between April and June 2002. Specific findings from the study included:

  • Although overall satisfaction is rated high by both transportation and resource officials (81% and 66%, top two boxes respectively) a considerable difference in satisfaction levels between transportation and resource reviewers exists.
  • In terms of problems encountered, the problem mentioned most frequently by transportation officials was the analysis of alternatives. Resource officials mentioned analysis of impacts most frequently. The specific problems mentioned in association with the analysis of alternatives by transportation reviewers were communication issues, coordination issues, and compromise issues.
  • Concerns with the overall relationship were with a lack of effort on everyone's part to improve the process (expressed more by transportation agencies) and transportation agencies' lack of appreciation of the resource agencies.
  • Communication between the two agencies was quite positive in terms of participation at meetings. Also, both groups expressed an ability on the part of the other group to respond to requests in a timely manner and expressed agreement that there was a sufficient level of communication.
  • Problems within the area of communication were expressed in terms of keeping each other informed of progress and willingness to compromise.
  • When respondents were asked about general project-specific dimensions, several commonalities and differences appeared between the two groups. Both transportation and resource agencies agreed that their counterpart had competent staff and that they did have an ability to stay organized. For both quality and completeness of information, both agencies gave few "5's" but quite a number of "4's" showing a positive view. However, there is clearly some room for improvement in these dimensions.
  • Opinions differed on the level of resources devoted to the project. Resource agencies believed that transportation agencies devoted a reasonable amount of resources to a project while transportation agencies gave resource agencies one of the lowest scores for this item. Resource agencies did not believe that transportation agencies did a lot for protecting the environment, which could be an opportunity for image improvement in the future.
  • Clearly issues existed with showing a willingness to compromise, being committed to either the environment (a problem that resource agencies saw among their transportation counterparts) or to transportation improvements (a problem that transportation agencies saw among their resource counterparts), and to caring about their sister agency's mission. The final issues expressed overall by both agencies were a lack of commitment to making the environmental review process perform efficiently.

Abridged National Report Findings

Based on findings from the pilot test, the questionnaires were modified slightly prior to conducting the full-scale survey in the remaining nine DOT regions using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) technology. To accommodate respondents who wished to respond to the survey but were not able to schedule a telephone interview during the survey period, the CATI questionnaires were adapted for self-administration using an electronic survey form on the World Wide Web (the CATI and Web questionnaires were identical in content).

For the national study, technical staff who served as Reviewers on recently completed NEPA projects were asked a series of 40 questions about specific dimensions of their experience on a recently completed NEPA project on which they had the most interaction with counterpart organizations (transportation agency Reviewers were asked for their perceptions about resource permitting organizations and vice versa). Technical Reviewers were also asked for an overall assessment of their satisfaction with the performance of their designated counterpart organization on all aspects of that project.

For the nationwide study telephone interviews were conducted with over 700 senior officials in Federal, State, and local government transportation agencies and with over 600 senior officials in both government and private resource permitting organizations. All survey participants were either agency managers or senior technical staff directly involved in the completion of environmental review of large-scale transportation projects under the requirements of NEPA, as amended.

Key findings from the Abridged National Report include:

  • Overall satisfaction levels of Reviewers, both transportation and resource are relatively high. However, fully one-third of both groups are between very dissatisfied and neutral with the overall process.
  • With regard to relationships, it is clear that a difference of opinion exists. Transportation Reviewers are much less likely to believe that resource Reviewers are helping to improve the NEPA review process, whereas resource Reviewers are highly likely to believe that transportation Reviewers are making efforts to improve the process.
  • Resource Reviewers are substantially more likely than transportation Reviewers to believe that communication between the two agencies is strong with respect to participating in meetings and being informed of the progress of the project.
  • From this one timeliness question, it is clear that a strong difference of opinion exists between resource and transportation Reviewers with respect to "fixing" or shortening the NEPA review process: one-third of resource Reviewers believe that their transportation counterparts can do something to shorten the process while over one-half of transportation Reviewers believe that something can be done.
  • The strong belief from both sets of reviewers in their counterpart's level of competence indicates a building block for future interaction. Nonetheless, transportation Reviewers are much less likely to believe that their counterparts are devoting an adequate level of resources to the project.
  • Transportation Managers are much less likely to believe that the resource agencies understand what they are doing; more so than resource Managers, resource Reviewers, and their own transportation Reviewers. It is unclear what causes transportation Managers to be so negative about this item but is a pattern that is seen again in this analysis.
  • Transportation Managers are again more negative (over twice the level of disagreement seen from resource Managers) with respect to believing their counterpart agencies are willing to compromise.
  • Another building block is found by resource Managers and Reviewers who believe that their transportation counterparts are committed to protecting the environment.

Detailed Regional Report Findings

A regional analysis was undertaken with these data as well. However, due to the few number of cases per region, the regional finding should be considered carefully. The population of NEPA reviewers and managers across the nation is small; when considered by region, it is even smaller. When small cell sizes are analyzed, changes of one or two individuals can have a strong effect on results. Nonetheless, we believe that some information by region is better than none for the NEPA reviewers and managers in their efforts to improve and therefore, have supplied the results herein. The regional analysis that follows was undertaken when only a given regional cell size contained at least 27 responses.

Each region was considered uniquely. A quadrant analysis was completed based on two criteria 1) to what extent did an attribute correlate with the respondent's perception of an efficient process (measure of efficiency importance) and 2) how is that region rated on performance of that attribute (performance). Based on this analysis, two quadrants are listed: opportunities-where an attribute is highly correlated with a respondent's belief in efficiency and the region is performing poorly; and optimal-where the attribute is highly correlated with a respondent's belief in efficiency and the region is performing well. The following tables summarize these results by region. N/A cells indicate too small of sample size for analysis.

RESOURCE REVIEWERS
OPTIMAL OPPORTUNITIES
Region 1-Reviewers
cell size=20
N/A N/A
Region 2-Reviewers
cell size=11
N/A N/A
Region 3-Reviewers
cell size=32
  • Agency has competent staff
  • Agency committed to quality work
  • Agency adhered to schedules
  • Agency responded in timely way
  • Ability to stay organized
  • Willingness to consider range of mitigation
Region 4-Reviewers
cell size=33
  • Agency appreciated our contribution
  • Agency gave your agency enough time to accomplish tasks
  • Committed to quality work
  • Sufficient level of trust
  • Agency cares about your mission
  • Agency adhered to schedules
Region 5-Reviewers
cell size=32
  • Agency has competent staff
  • Agency was open and honest
  • Understanding of your requirements
  • Agency committee to protecting environment
  • Agency willing to compromise
  • Agency cares about your mission
Region 6-Reviewers
cell size=33
  • Competence of agency staff
  • Agency helped move the project forward
  • Provided my agency w/materials, information needed
  • Willingness to consider range of mitigation
  • Agency adhered to schedules
  • Agency made efforts to improve the process
Region 7-Reviewers
cell size=21
N/A N/A
Region 8-Reviewers
cell size=30
  • Ability stay organized
  • Agency responded in a timely way
  • Agency adhered to schedules
  • Agency cares about your mission
  • Sufficient level of communication
  • Good of a job protecting the environment
Region 9-Reviewers
cell size=37
  • Agency responded in a timely manner
  • Agency gave clear explanations
  • Sufficient level of communications
  • Agency willing to compromise Region 10-Reviewers
    cell size=32
  • Agency wanted to play an active role
  • Provided my agency with materials, equipment needed
  • Ability to stay organized
  • Completeness of information provided
  • Committed to protecting environment
  • Agency will to compromise


TRANSPORTATION REVIEWERS
OPTIMAL OPPORTUNITIES
Region 1-Transportation
cell size=20
N/A N/A
Region 2- Transportation
cell size=24
N/A N/A
Region 3- Transportation
cell size=39
  • Agency adhered to schedules
  • Agency responded timely
  • Level of resources devoted
  • Open to suggestions
  • Agency kept us informed
  • Agency cares about your mission
Region 4- Transportation
cell size=41
  • Sufficient level of communication
  • Agency helped move the project forward
  • Agency adhered to schedules
  • Understanding of your requirements
  • Agency kept us informed
  • Level of resource devoted
Region 5- Transportation
cell size=36
  • Gave your agency enough time to accomplish tasks
  • Adhered to schedules
  • Gave clear explanations if did not agree
  • Understanding your requirements
  • Helped move the project forward
  • Agency kept us informed
Region 6- Transportation
cell size=52
  • Willingness to consider range of mitigation measures
  • Provided agency with materials needed
  • Agency open to suggestions
  • Agency adhered to schedules
  • Willing to compromise
  • Level of resources devoted to project
Region 7- Transportation
cell size =29
  • Responded in timely way
  • Competence of staff
  • Agency adhered to schedules
  • Agency gave reasonable suggestions
  • Willingness to consider range of mitigation measures
  • Understanding of your requirements
Region 8- Transportation
cell size =47
  • Sufficient level of communication
  • Agency adhered to schedules
  • Responded in timely way
  • Provided my agency with materials needed
  • Ability to stay organized
  • Willing to compromise
Region 9- Transportation
cell size=60
  • Sufficient level of communications
  • Responded in timely way
  • Agency adhered to schedules
  • Helped move this project forward
  • Level of resources devoted to project
  • Sufficient level of communications
Region 10- Transportation
cell size=40
  • Competence of agency staff
  • Sufficient level of communications
  • Invited our participation
  • Ability to stay organized
  • Agency helped move the project forward


RESOURCE MANAGERS
OPTIMAL OPPORTUNITIES
Region 1-Resource Mgr
cell size=30
  • Committed to quality work
  • Committed to protecting the environment
  • Cares about your mission
  • Willing to compromise
Region 2- Resource Mgr
cell size=27
  • Committed to quality work
  • Sufficient level of trust
  • Cares about your mission
  • Committed to protecting environment
Region 3- Resource Mgr
cell size=37
  • Understands your mission
  • Sufficient level of trust
  • Sufficient level of communication
  • Committed to protecting the environment
  • Willing to compromise
Region 4- Resource Mgr
cell size=32
  • Committed to doing quality work
  • Agency has competent staff
  • Committed to protecting the environment
  • Willing to compromise
Region 5- Resource Mgr
cell size=21
N/A N/A
Region 6- Resource Mgr
cell size=40
  • Committed to protecting the environment
  • Committed to doing quality work
  • Sufficient level of communication
  • Willing to compromise
Region 7- Resource Mgr
cell size=44
  • Sufficient level of trust
  • Sufficient level of communication
  • Agency willing to compromise
  • Committee to protecting the environment
  • Cares about your agency's mission
Region 8- Resource Mgr
cell size=20
N/A N/A
Region 9- Resource Mgr
cell size=38
  • Committed to quality work
  • Sufficient level of trust
  • Committed to protecting the environment
  • Willing to compromise
Region 10- Resource Mgr
cell size=44
  • Committed to quality
  • Sufficient level of communication
  • Sufficient level of trust
  • Committed to protecting the environment


TRANSPORTATION MANAGERS
OPTIMAL OPPORTUNITIES
Region 1-
Transportation Mgr
cell size=41
NONE
  • Sufficient level of trust
  • Committed to transportation improvements
  • Cares about your mission
Region 2-
Transportation Mgr
cell size=41
  • Agency has competent staff
  • Understands your agency's mission
  • Willing to compromise
  • Cares about your agency's mission
Region 3-
Transportation Mgr
cell size=34
  • Committed to doing quality work
  • Agency has competent staff
  • Sufficient level of trust
  • Willing to compromise
  • Cares about your agency's mission
  • Sufficient level of communications
Region 4-
Transportation Mgr
cell size=38
  • Sufficient level of communications
  • Committed to transportation improvements
  • Cares about your agency's mission
  • Sufficient level of trust
Region 5-
Transportation Mgr
cell size=18
N/A N/A
Region 6-
Transportation Mgr
cell size=27
  • Committed to doing quality work
  • Understands your agency's mission
  • Cares about your agency's mission
  • Committed to transportation improvements
Region 7-
Transportation Mgr
cell size=25
N/A N/A
Region 8-
Transportation Mgr
cell size=33
  • Sufficient level of trust
  • Cares about your agency's mission
  • Willing to compromise
  • Sufficient level of communication
Region 9-
Transportation Mgr
cell size=20
N/A N/A
Region 10-
Transportation Mgr
cell size=41
NONE
  • Sufficient level of trust
  • Committed to transportation improvements
  • Cares about your mission
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