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Guidelines for Obtaining NEPA Approval
While Concurrently Developing PI Level (30%) Design Plans

These guidelines are recommended modifications to be incorporated into the normal Project Planning Process.


  1. In accordance with the Project Development Plan Guidelines, the Project Team may solicit guidance/direction from Senior Management at project milestone meetings as to whether to accelerate or streamline a particular project by applying this process.
  2. Team members must be assigned at the start of the project, since their participation will be needed early in the Planning process. In general, participation at team meetings for these accelerated projects should be mandatory, with reminders going out to Division Chiefs stressing the importance of attendance.
  3. As-built utility information should be requested from all utility companies in the project area and plotted on the project mapping early in Project Planning, during the Perform Preliminary Engineering Assessment activity.
  4. Development of the project's basic design parameters, such as typical sections, horizontal and vertical alignments, and design speeds, as well as development of the preliminary concepts, should be done with participation from the design and support divisions (i.e., Highway, Bridge, Landscape Architecture, Environmental Programs, Right-of-Way, etc.) involved in the project during the Identification of Preliminary Concepts activity.


  1. A formal meeting should be held with the entire project team to review the project's basic design parameters at the beginning of the Development of Detailed Alternates activity. See the attached Team Member list for those who should be involved. A report or meeting minutes should be prepared from the meeting and distributed to all team members.
  2. Near the end of the Development of Detailed Alternates activity, a second formal review meeting should be held with all the project team members to go over the detailed plans for each alternate. A thorough review is needed from the design and support divisions to insure that the alternates in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) are buildable. See the attached Team Member list for those who should be involved. A report or meeting minutes describing the design parameters should be prepared from the meeting and distributed to all team members.
  3. Final approval of the project's basic design parameters should be obtained at the Senior Management Review of Detailed Alternates meeting.


  1. The project team should recommend to Senior Management when certain preliminary design activities should start, and Senior Management will decide whether they are comfortable taking the risk or want to wait until they are more confident with the identified preferred alternate. At the earliest, these activities would commence following the Senior Management Review of Detailed Alternates meeting. At the latest, the following activities should start after the Recommend Alternate to the Administrator meeting:
    1. Begin preparation of the PI Plans.
    2. Request soil borings and an Advanced Soil Report, if the Geotechnical Explorations Division believes there may be problem soils in the area, a high water table, etc.
    3. Request pavement sections.
    4. Obtain detailed surveys, as required for Final Design.
    5. Request utility designations.
    6. Establish existing right of way and development property mosaics.
    7. Continue hydraulic studies.
    8. Continue coordination with utilities, railroads, other modal agencies, etc.
    9. Perform test pits for well and septic on properties that could be impacted by the project and would require relocation if their well and/or septic were affected. The Counties should be able to participate in identifying such properties.
    10. Finalize noise wall analysis and design, if applicable.
  2. If issues or problems are encountered during the preparation of the PI plans and design changes are made to the project, then Project Planning should be notified, and if necessary the project team should be assembled to discuss it. The final environmental document should be revised to reflect the changes. This coordination will also ensure that the design changes do not affect commitments made by Project Planning.
  3. Other issues to be considered:
    1. It would be preferable to use the same consultant for both Planning and Final Design. If this is not possible, the consultant doing the final design work should be involved when the preceding advance design activities are starting. If an open-end contract is not being used, and a project specific contract is required, the process to bring the consultant on board should start a year before their involvement is needed.
    2. Since Final Design will begin during the Project Planning phase, it will be necessary to either allocate additional funds in Project Planning's budget or the approval of funding for the Final Design phase must be moved up.
    3. This process was developed assuming there are separate project managers for Project Planning and Final Design. If SHA decides to use one project leader throughout the Planning and Final Design phases of a project, the process may have to be modified.

Project Team Members for Obtaining NEPA Approval While Concurrently Developing PI Level (30%) Design Plans

Office of Planning and Preliminary Engineering
Project Planning Manager
Project Planning Engineer
Environmental Manager
Regional Planner
Travel Forecaster
Public Involvement Unit ADC
Agreements Coordinator
Bike/Pedestrian Coordinator
Access Management
Enhancements Coordinator

Highway Development
Highway Design Engineer
Hydraulics Engineer
Utilities Liaison
Access Permits
Plats and Surveys

Bridge Development
Bridge Design Engineer
Hydraulics Engineer
Remedial Design Engineer

District Engineer
ADE - Construction
Utility Engineer
Right-of-Way Chief
Special Projects Section
Maintenance Section

Office of Traffic and Safety
Traffic Safety
Traffic Development & Support
Traffic Engineer

Environmental Design
Landscape Architect
Environmental Programs

Construction Inspection Division
Regional Construction Engineer

Office of Real Estate
Special Assistant to the Director

Office of Materials and Technology
Geotechnical Explorations Division
Pavement Division

County Planning & Public Works
City Planner(s), if any
MTA Planner
Metropolitan Planning Organization
Federal Highway Administration
Federal Transit Administration

For questions or feedback on this subject, please contact Carolyn Nelson at 202-366-2047.

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