Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

Successes in Stewardship
Monthly Newsletter
January 2003

At Your Fingertips: State DOT Online Environmental Reference Information

Environmental Websites Help Save Time and Money

Delivering a quality transportation program efficiently requires a thorough understanding of state and Federal requirements and business processes. Information technology is allowing many state departments of transportation (DOTs) to provide transportation and environmental practitioners, resource and regulatory agencies, and the public with online transportation and environmental information quickly and easily. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) also provides online access to transportation and environmental information, including links to state DOT websites. Online manuals, procedures, and policies are helping to improve project delivery and environmental document quality, educate consultants and the public, and inform agency decisions.

image of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Standard Environmental Reference web site
California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Standard Environmental Reference Website

Caltrans' Standard Environmental Reference (www.dot.ca.gov/ser)

The California Department of Transportation's (Caltrans) environmental reference website contains extensive transportation and environmental information to help Caltrans, local transportation agencies, consultants, and FHWA comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the California Environmental Quality Act, and related state and Federal laws and policies for Federal-aid highway projects. Begun in 1999 and continually updated, the Standard Environmental Reference website (SER) helps practitioners plan, prepare, submit, and evaluate environmental documents. SER contains: 1) environmental handbooks, guidance, and forms pertaining to the environmental process at Caltrans; 2) a step-by-step guide to help local agencies through the early stages of environmental analysis; and, 3) a series of environmental topic matrices that make the site user friendly. Environmental and technical experts in FHWA, Caltrans, and local transportation agencies continue to add new information to the site in easy-to-navigate chapters. SER is envisioned as a training tool, a guide to decision making, and an overview of environmental compliance during transportation planning and project development.

Several other states also maintain environmental reference websites.

Website Features User Benefits State DOT Benefits

Arizona's Local Government Section (www.azdot.gov/highways/Localgov/index.asp)

In 2000, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) launched the Local Government Section to guide local agencies through the project development process and to help them prepare Federally required documents for ADOT's review.

  • Project development models and checklists
  • State and Federal requirements and procedures
  • Site user surveys to determine what additional information to post
Instant access to documents has improved performance of:
  • Local governments
  • Design consultants
  • Council of Governments
Reduces costs and staff time associated with updating and distributing information.

Ohio's Environmental Services Information (www.dot.state.oh.us/oes)

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has maintained a website since 1999 in order to provide ODOT staff, consultants, other government agencies, and the public with easy access to information related to project planning and the environmental review of transportation projects, including ODOT's project development process.

  • Contact information by specialized area
  • NEPA handbook
  • Information on training in topics such as NEPA and Categorical Exclusions
  • Cultural and natural resources information
  • Easy to download and print forms and handbooks
  • Links to other state and Federal agencies
  • Online newsletter subscription
  • Access to latest information about environmental and transportation issues
  • Instant access has improved the performance of consultants
  • Reduces time spent mailing materials
  • Reduces paper usage
  • Promotes greater efficiency in project development

Florida's State Environmental Management Office (www.dot.state.fl.us/emo/)

The Florida DOT began putting environmental information online in 1997 to provide all Florida DOT staff and consultants with up-to-date information.

  • Links to state DOT environmental policies, procedures, forms, and manuals
  • Information about Florida's Efficient Transportation Decision Making Process
Performance of consultants improved by access to online information Saves time as files are easy to update

Washington State's Environmental Affairs Office (www.wsdot.wa.gov/environment)

Since 1994, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)'s Environmental Affairs Office has put environmental information online to facilitate communication, improve project delivery, and educate the public.

Information on:
  • State and Federal environmental standards
  • Endangered Species Act (ESA) guidance and WSDOT ESA compliance
  • Procedures required for state permit approvals
Information for a variety of audiences:
  • WSDOT staff and regions
  • Other state and Federal agencies
  • Local governments
  • Consultants
  • General public
Less staff time needed to monitor website for accuracy and timeliness than needed to update and mail printed materials

Other Useful Websites:

Tips for Successful Websites

  • Make the site easy to use and navigate.
  • Use templates and few graphics so pages upload quickly.
  • Create standards for graphics, links, etc.
  • Put information used frequently on one page, ready to print.
  • Break up large documents into smaller pieces that are easier to download.
  • Keep content and contact information up-to-date. Put contact information on each page.
  • Let users know about your website by including its URL in email signatures, business cards, and publications. Add a link to your state DOT homepage.
  • Present policies and procedures in a manual format for easy navigation.
  • Survey users for their information needs and site suggestions.
  • Train staff and subject matter experts who have the time to develop and manage the site in HTML.
  • Keep website staff up-to-date on site content and updating procedures.
  • Look at other environmental reference websites for layout and format ideas.

Lessons Learned

Environmental reference websites can save state DOTs time and money as staff can update and distribute information quickly and easily.

Online manuals, procedures, and policies help inform agency decisions, improve project delivery and environmental document quality, and educate consultants and the public.

Contact Information

Ruth Rentch
FHWA Office of Project Development and Environmental Review
400 7th Street SW, Room 3222
Washington, DC 20590
Phone: (202) 366-2034
Fax: (202) 366-7660
Email: ruth.rentch@fhwa.dot.gov

FHWA-AASHTO Environmental Stewardship Demonstration Projects

Twenty-two states have registered environmental stewardship demonstrations. To learn more about these projects, visit: www.itre.ncsu.edu/aashto/stewardship/projects.asp

For more information on environmental streamlining, please visit: www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/strmlng/index.asp.

"Successes in Stewardship" is a Federal Highway Administration newsletter highlighting current environmental streamlining practices from around the country. To subscribe, contact Cassandra Allwell at (617) 494-3997 or allwell@volpe.dot.gov.

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