Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

Successes in Stewardship
Monthly Newsletter
July 2005

A New Tool for Managing Environmental Reviews: the Negotiated Timeframe Wizard

The Wizard allows agencies to set project-specific timeframes for completing requirements, track the progress of meeting timeframes, and maintain a history of events.

The Wizard allows agencies to set project-specific timeframes for completing requirements, track the progress of meeting timeframes, and maintain a history of events.

The Negotiated Timeframe Wizard

Coordinating the multiple environmental reviews, analyses, and permits for a transportation project is a project in itself; it demands collaboration and flexibility as well as timeliness and accuracy. Recognizing the challenges inherent in the Environmental Streamlining requirements, the FHWA has set goals, measures, and methods for improving the environmental review process. The newest element of the streamlining toolkit is the Negotiated Timeframes "Wizard," designed to help meet FHWA's "Improved Timeliness" objective.

Wizard Supports FHWA's Expedited Timeframe Goals

The need to conduct a coordinated environmental review process with concurrent interagency reviews and established time periods was highlighted in Section 1309 of TEA-21. FHWA has selected the establishment and meeting of timeframes as a measure of improved timeliness under its Environmental Vital Few Goal (VFG). The Wizard was developed as a timeframe management tool to help transportation agencies comply with the FHWA. FHWA's Performance Plan calls for the following:

  • Establish timeframes for Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and meet the schedules for 90 percent of those projects by September 30, 2007;
  • Decrease the median time to complete an EIS from 54 months to 36 months by September 30, 2007; and
  • Decrease the median time to complete an EA from approximately 18 months to 12 months by September 30, 2007.

Ambitious but realistic and achievable schedules are critical to achieving these expedited timeframe goals. While most State DOTs develop schedules and use project management software, there is considerable variability in scheduling practices involving FHWA Division Offices and/or resource and permitting agencies. The Wizard will help transportation and resource agencies coordinate their efforts. It lets agencies establish timeframes for their EAs and EISs, and for other Federal requirements that may be affected by a transportation project; it also provides tools, such as reports and Gantt charts, to help them manage their timeframes. The Wizard encourages collaboration among lead and resource agencies, which leads to improved efficiency and effectiveness in decision making during the project development process. Additionally, the Wizard contains a mechanism for documenting any changes made to the negotiated project schedule. The changes then become a part of the project history tracked by the Wizard.

The Benefits of Negotiated Timeframes

Negotiated timeframes can provide goals and structure for the environmental review process. Timeframes are developed in consultation with lead, consulting, and cooperating agencies at or near the beginning of a project, and are reexamined on a continuing basis and readjusted if necessary. Establishing timeframes can lead to efficiencies that:

  • Improve timeliness of the process;
  • Identify issues early;
  • Encourage early participation of environmental resource and permitting agencies; and
  • Recognize resource limitations upfront.

The Wizard facilitates the development and management of these timeframes by serving as a tool for inter-agency collaboration, helping agencies to identify and overcome bottlenecks and to monitor progress on their EAs and EISs.

Wizard Development: Based on User Needs and Feedback

The Wizard was developed over the past year based on requirements identified by FHWA's Office of Project Development and Environmental Review, FHWA Division Offices, and State DOTs. In February and March 2005, Division Office volunteers tested the prerelease version. The Wizard went through a final phase of development and testing in April and May, and was released on June 3, 2005. Improvements to the application will continue based on user feedback.

Getting Started with the Wizard

FHWA is encouraging Division Offices and environmental departments in State DOTs to use the Wizard. The FHWA has reviewed and approved the Wizard for use. Here's how to get started.

  • Download the Wizard: Visit the Vital Few Environmental Goal section of the Environmental Streamlining website.
  • System Requirements: Windows ME/2000/XP.
  • Registration: Agencies can register online to receive software updates and Wizard news.
Tell Us What You Think!

Users are asked to send feedback on what they like about the Wizard, what they do not like, what needs to be improved, and which features and functions need to be added. Submit feedback online by filling out the Feedback Form found in the Help>Feedback section of the Wizard.

Wizard 101: How the Wizard Works

The Wizard is a MS Windows-based software program. Like any other Windows-based software, the Wizard sits with the other software programs in the Windows start menu. The user opens the Wizard to either create a new project for an EA or EIS or to open an existing project. The basic steps for working with the Wizard are:

  • An agency enters project contacts, project type, cooperating and consulting agencies, and identifies which Federal requirements will likely be applicable to the project. Based on this information, the Wizard creates the selected EA or EIS project (a Wizard project).
  • The Wizard automatically generates a default negotiated timeframe for the EA or EIS based on the project start date entered by the agency. Default periods are 12 months for an EA and 36 months for an EIS (the VFG for 2007).
  • As the project moves forward, the lead agency may renegotiate timeframes for the EA or EIS, and for Federal requirements. The agency also documents reasons for schedule changes in the Wizard. Agencies can share Wizard project files (similar to other word processing or spreadsheet files) with others, helping to improve project coordination and shorten the review period.
  • The Wizard generates a variety of project reports to support project management. These reports include the Renegotiation History (displays renegotiation dates for a requirement), the Negotiated Timeframe (displays the negotiated timeframe for a requirement, listing all agencies involved in the review of the requirement), and the Gantt chart (displays timeline[s] for a single or multiple requirements).

A comprehensive Help Section describes these processes and report features in detail.

Learn More about the Wizard

FHWA and the Volpe Center will be conducting a webinar on the Wizard in August 2005 to help users better navigate the Wizard and to address questions and comments. If you are interested in participating and would like more information, please contact Gerry Flood at 617-494-3848 or Gerry.Flood@volpe.dot.gov.

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

Look What's New!

The following practices have been recently added to the State Environmental Streamlining and Stewardship Practices Database:

  • Learn about Maine's new fish passage policy and design guide.
  • Explore Wisconsin's new partnership agreement with Native American tribes.
  • Read about Illinois Department of Transportation Statewide Implementation Agreement on negotiated timeframes.

"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 esnewsletter@volpe.dot.gov.

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