A third-party facilitator has helped the ADOT, BLM, and FHWA team improve communication in order to better streamline the environmental review and project development process.
In April 2003, after three years of facilitation by a neutral third party, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Operating Agreement focusing on National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and right-of-way (ROW) procedures for US Code Title 23 projects. Since 2000, a facilitator has helped the interagency team and its subgroups improve communication, address common areas of concern, and streamline the environmental review and project development process for transportation projects on or near public lands. As working relationships have improved, ADOT, BLM, and FHWA have successfully reduced duplication of work and minimized project delays in the ROW, materials acquisition, NEPA, and abandoned roads processes.
How Facilitation Fosters Progress
Though ADOT, BLM, and FHWA had been partnering on streamlining initiatives since 1997, both a lack of understanding of the agencies' missions and personnel constraints hindered progress. By organizing interagency meetings, taking notes, and keeping agencies on track, a facilitator has allowed agency staff to focus their valuable time on pertinent issues.
The facilitator has helped the ADOT, BLM, and FHWA team formalize a more collaborative approach to streamlining. The team's successes include:
- Defining and creating a glossary of common terms — While ADOT, BLM, and FHWA use many of the same terms, they often define these terms differently. The facilitator helped the agencies improve communication by agreeing on definitions and creating a glossary of terms.
- Improving discussions regarding current processes and agency needs — With a better understanding of each other's needs, obligations, and roles, the agencies were able to overcome preconceived ideas and begin to better integrate their planning, environmental review, and documentation efforts throughout the transportation project development process, from project planning to maintenance.
- Developing an electronic distribution system — With this system, key documents are submitted and stored electronically, providing ADOT project managers, contractors, and BLM decisionmakers with the information needed to make timely decisions.
- Developing training as a tool to improve interagency understanding — A future goal is for ADOT staff to be trained on the BLM's automated record system and to use the BLM's Geographic Information System technology to assist with their ROW processes.
Benefits of Using Facilitators
- Improve interagency coordination and working relationships
- Resolve conflicts early and shorten the time it takes to reach interagency consensus
- Overcome preconceived notions about other agencies
- Quickly and effectively focus on pertinent issues to streamline processes and arrive at joint solutions
- Improve interagency communication by helping define common terms
A Streamlined ROW Process Expedites Project Development
As a result of exploring the needs, obligations, and current ROW processes followed by ADOT, BLM, and FHWA, the ROW subgroup was able to develop an expedited ROW process. Since November 2000, a facilitator has supported the ROW subgroup in addressing the backlog of ROW applications for ongoing projects. In areas where it was unclear how to meet all three agencies' ROW needs, the facilitator was also instrumental in leading the subgroup through a problem solving process. By combining the documentation needs of ADOT with the planning process of BLM, in April 2003 the subgroup was able to develop a standardized acquisition request package and deed format for ROW, as well as an improved document distribution system. To formalize agency responsibilities under the new ROW process, the subgroup's work products were documented in the Operating Agreement. The ROW subgroup has reduced Arizona's ROW process from 4 months to 45 days or less.
An Evolving Relationship: ADOT, BLM, and FHWA
1997 — ADOT, BLM, and FHWA form partnership on streamlining initiatives
2000 — Agencies begin using neutral, third-party facilitator to address common concerns
2002 — Facilitator helps agencies create revised ROW process
2003 — Agencies sign MOU and Operating Agreement
The Culmination of an Interagency Collaboration
On April 23, 2003, three years after ongoing facilitation began, the interagency collaboration between ADOT, BLM, and FHWA culminated in the signing of an MOU and Operating Agreement. The MOU outlines, in general terms, how each agency operates and how the agencies agree to work together. The Operating Agreement more specifically addresses how the three agencies agree to coordinate their activities. At present, the Operating Agreement focuses on NEPA and ROW procedures for Title 23 projects, but will soon be expanded to include procedures for non-Title 23 ROW projects. Future additions to the Operating Agreement will include procedures establishing how the agencies will work together in their long-range planning efforts. The agencies anticipate that implementing this Operating Agreement will reduce processing time for receiving an appropriation from roughly 4 months to 45 days or less.
For more information on ADOT's MOU and Operating Agreement, visit:
Arizona's History of Facilitated Progress
ADOT, BLM, and FHWA interact when ADOT builds roads using Federal funds on BLM-managed land. Project delays sometimes occur due to various issues, including ROW and material source decisions. In 1997, to address these and other issues, the three agencies signed an MOU outlining their working relationship for transportation projects on or near public lands. The goals of the MOU were to standardize methods for communication and coordination, minimize the duplication of work, and streamline the environmental review process.
In 2000, ADOT's Kingman District invited a third-party facilitator to help the district improve working relationships with the BLM and FHWA on a particular corridor. Building off the successes of this facilitated work, ADOT, BLM, and FHWA headquarters office also engaged the facilitator in helping them improve relationships statewide in April 2002. The facilitator met with each agency separately and then together as a working group to define each agency's needs and the issues at hand. In addition to addressing issues surrounding ROW and materials, the agencies agreed to discuss other pertinent issues, including native plant salvage guidelines and the NEPA process. Additional issues are being considered further by various subgroups of the ADOT, BLM, and FHWA team and include planning, materials, abandonment, and access.
For more information on Arizona's facilitated streamlining efforts, visit: http://www.dot.state.az.us
Arizona Department of Transportation
206 S. 17th Ave., MD 100A
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Phone (602) 712-7550
Fax (602) 712-6941
Look What's New!
This month the FHWA-sponsored facilitated workshop for conflict resolution of the environmental review process is being held in Nebraska City, Nebraska. Three more scheduled workshops are planned through March 2004. Contact Ruth Rentch for more information at 202-366-2034 or Ruth.Rentch@fhwa.dot.gov.
"Successes in Stewardship" is a Federal Highway Administration newsletter highlighting current environmental streamlining practices from around the country. To subscribe, call (617) 494-6352 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.