Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

Successes in Stewardship
Monthly Newsletter
June 2003

33 Months or Less: FHWA Study Highlights Common Sense Streamlining

New FHWA Study Showcases Streamlining Techniques

Before construction on US 113 in Maryland (dirt road) - one of the case study projects in FHWA's new study (MSHA image). After construction on US 113 in Maryland (paved highway) - one of the case study projects in FHWA's new study (MSHA image).
Before (left) and after (right) construction on US 113 in Maryland:
one of the case study projects in FHWA's new study (MSHA image).

Communities, interest groups, and Congress often question why it can take so many years to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a highway project. For Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) projects completed in the 1990s, the mean length of time to complete the EIS process was approximately five years (60 months). FHWA recently studied eight projects from across the country that completed the EIS process in only 33 months or less. FHWA's new study "Successful Efforts in Environmental Streamlining: Eight Case Studies in Project Development" showcases the techniques each of these projects used to achieve streamlining success. Each of the projects used common sense approaches that other states can replicate easily and affordably to streamline project development. These approaches included using studies and analyses performed prior to the formal NEPA process, actively involving the community and political leaders to garner project support, and fostering interagency coordination through frequent meetings, concurrent reviews, and formal and informal interagency agreements.


Lessons Learned

  • Capitalize on planning and early studies and analyses to build momentum for the NEPA decisionmaking process.
  • Initiate NEPA-type studies in advance of the formal NEPA process.
  • Promote interagency coordination and cooperation via formal and informal memoranda of understanding.
  • Foster early and continuous public involvement.
  • Obtain high-level political support for projects.
  • Use state-initiated streamlining programs, where available.
  • Implement procedures for facilitating document preparation and review.

What's Inside FHWA's New Study

FHWA used the following criteria to select projects as case studies:

  • Projects must have identifiable lessons learned that other states can use.
  • Projects must have had a full EIS prepared and completed. Environmental streamlining measures can make the most difference on EIS projects as they normally take longer than those requiring other levels of environmental documentation.
  • Projects must have completed the EIS process (the time between the issuance of the Notice of Intent and the signing of the Record of Decision (ROD)) in less than three years. FHWA chose this period because it is below the average mean time for EISs for FHWA projects (determined from earlier research) and because a reasonable number of projects that met this time criterion already existed.
  • Projects must have had RODs issued between 1998 and 2000.

For each of the eight case study projects, The Louis Berger Group reviewed draft and final EIS documents and other project reports and interviewed FHWA Division staff, state department of transportation staff, and project consultants. FHWA's final study contains detailed project information, a discussion of how project development advanced through NEPA, a summary of lessons learned, and a list of project references.

For a copy of "Successful Efforts in Environmental Streamlining: Eight Case Studies in Project Development" on CD-ROM, contact Kreig Larson at Kreig.Larson@fhwa.dot.gov. Or view it online at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/strmlng/casestudies/index.asp

The Eight Case Studies

While several projects used similar streamlining techniques, each tailored those techniques to their unique project circumstances and needs. Likewise, other states can learn from the following case studies.

Project EIS Process Lessons Learned
Transportation Expansion (T-REX) Multi-Modal Transportation Project in Colorado to improve travel time and enhance safety along Interstate 25 and Interstate 225.
  • 25 months.
  • Expect construction to be completed in 2008.
  • Used transportation planning and other early project analyses to assist the NEPA process.
  • Actively involved the community and political leaders.
  • Involved EIS consultant in interagency coordination activities.
  • Co-located project team members.
SR 423 (John Young Parkway) in Florida to improve levels of service and relieve congestion.
  • 28 months.
  • Over half of final design completed.
  • Used transportation planning and other early project analyses to assist the NEPA process.
  • Used state's Advanced Notification Process to involve other agencies in early project planning and to share information.
  • Promoted interagency coordination.
US 113 Planning Study in Maryland to improve levels of service, reduce congestion, and enhance safety.
  • 15 months.
  • All northern study area construction expected to be completed in 2003. Southern study area survey and design begun in 2003.
  • Initiated NEPA-type studies in advance of the formal NEPA process.
  • Used state's streamlining process called "Maryland Streamlined Environmental and Regulatory Process."
  • Actively garnered community and political support.
Airport Parkway and MS 25 Connectors Project in Mississippi to improve levels of service and relieve congestion.
  • 10 months.
  • Final design underway with construction expected to begin in late 2003.
  • Used transportation planning and other early project analyses to assist the NEPA process.
  • Implemented an extensive public involvement program.
  • Promoted interagency coordination.
  • Obtained political support at all levels.
Route 19 Missouri River Bridge Project in Missouri to correct structural deficiencies and enhance safety.
  • 24 months.
  • Design of approach roads completed in 2002. Design of bridge ongoing.
  • Implemented an extensive public involvement program.
  • Promoted interagency coordination.
US 95 Improvement Project in Nevada to improve mobility and address future congestion.
  • 33 months.
  • Construction ongoing and expected to be completed in 2006/2007.
  • Used transportation planning and other early project analyses to assist the NEPA process.
  • Implemented an extensive public involvement program.
  • Promoted interagency coordination.
  • Conducted concurrent reviews of draft EIS sections.
Judd Road Connector in New York to improve levels of service, reduce congestion, and enhance safety.
  • 31 months.
  • Some construction completed, some in final design.
  • Used transportation planning and other early project analyses to assist the NEPA process.
  • Promoted interagency coordination.
  • Leveraged political support.
Interstate 29 Reconstruction in North Dakota to improve levels of service and access and relieve congestion.
  • 33 months.
  • Construction begun in 2002 and expected to be completed in 2005.
  • Used transportation planning and other early project analyses to assist the NEPA process.
  • Promoted interagency coordination.
  • Developed EIS in-house.

Contact Information

Kreig Larson
FHWA Office of Project Development & Environmental Review
400 7th Street, SW
Room 3222
Washington, DC 20590
Phone: (202) 366-2056
Fax: (202) 366-7660
Email: Kreig.Larson@fhwa.dot.gov

Look What's New!

  • FHWA-sponsored "ADR Collaborative Workshops: Improving Transportation Project Development and Environmental Reviews" are being held in each of the standard Federal regions. For more information, contact Ruth Rentch at (202)-366-2034 or Ruth.Rentch@fhwa.dot.gov.

  • GAO Report "Highway Infrastructure: Perceptions of Stakeholders on Approaches to Reduce Highway Project Completion Time," available in Text and PDF. (GAO-03-398, April 9) To view PDF, download the Adoboe Acrobat viewer at www.adobe.com.

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.

To provide feedback, suggestions, or comments for this page, contact Ruth Rentch at Ruth.Rentch@fhwa.dot.gov.

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