Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

Successes in Stewardship
Monthly Newsletter
November 2002

Building Capacity for State Departments of Transportation:
AASHTO's Center for Environmental Excellence

Quick and Easy Access for States to Environmental Tools

Benefits for State DOTs

  • Quick and easy access to training, technical assistance, on-call experts, and other services.
  • Centralized location for tools, best practices, and information that can be tailored to meet a state's unique needs.
  • Improved interagency communication.
  • Environmentally sound transportation projects, processes, and programs.
  • Savings of time and resources as no need to "reinvent the wheel."
To provide environmentally responsible transportation improvements, state departments of transportation (DOTs) need quick and easy access to innovative and up-to-date transportation and environmental methods, tools, and information. The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) launched its Center for Environmental Excellence (the Center) in July 2002 in order to increase the capacity of state DOTs to deliver environmentally sound transportation projects and programs. The Center 's primary goal is to make state DOTs' jobs easier by providing them with a "virtual center" (a centralized, online location) for technical assistance, on-call experts, and up-to-date information on training, innovative tools, and best practices.

Bridge spanning a valley with a farm with a red barn in the foreground

AASHTO's Center for Environmental Excellence builds the capacity of state DOTs to pursue innovative projects like this test bridge in Virginia, which is specifically designed to measure weather conditions and driving performance. (AASHTO image)

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) entered into a cooperative agreement with AASHTO to help support the Center. In addition to providing the start-up funds for the Center, FHWA is assisting the Center in developing partnerships, collaboration, and information sharing with Federal agencies and stakeholder groups. FHWA anticipates its support will allow the Center to provide state DOTs with hands-on, expert technical assistance in the implementation of environmental streamlining and stewardship activities.

The Center's activities are concentrated around transportation project and program delivery, capacity building, and environmental stewardship and streamlining. The goals of the Center are to:

  • Promote environmental leadership and stewardship in transportation.
  • Effectively and efficiently mainstream environmental considerations into transportation planning, design, construction, maintenance, and operations.
  • Encourage environmental enhancement.
  • Build productive partnerships and working relationships among AASHTO members, metropolitan planning organizations, local public agencies, state and Federal resource and transportation agencies, advocacy groups, and consultant and trade organizations.
  • Exchange expert transportation and environmental knowledge and information among transportation and environmental agencies and interest groups.

Development of the Center

In 2000, AASHTO sought input on the concept for the Center from member states, other transportation organizations, Federal and state resource and regulatory agencies, and trade, consultant, and environmental organizations. AASHTO also surveyed these groups in order to target the Center's services, user fees, and roster of experts.

The Center is being developed in three phases. In 2001, on-site strategic analyses were conducted of the environmental programs of the California DOT, the Maryland State Highway Administration, and the North Carolina DOT. The AASHTO Environmental Stewardship Demonstration Program was placed under the Center's direction, and partnerships with state and Federal agencies were developed. Phase One activities were funded through an AASHTO/FHWA cooperative funding agreement.

Phase Two began in 2002. The Center is developing technical assistance, training, and information sharing activities that will complement on-going activities by FHWA and others. In addition, the Center is recruiting new on-call experts in process improvement, environmental stewardship, environmental streamlining, historic preservation, EMS, and endangered species.

During Phase Three, the Center hopes to provide services to new partners, including state and Federal resource agencies and local transportation agencies.

Information Sharing, Problem Solving, and Training

Currently in development, the Center's Internet-based website will provide state DOTs with best practices, training, contacts, links, programmatic approaches, and related materials. At the request of and in partnership with FHWA, the Center is working with national experts to develop environmental management system (EMS) templates. After facilitating a "how-to" EMS workshop for state DOTs, the Center will provide attendees with these templates, which the states can then tailor to meet their needs and use on a pilot basis. In addition to EMS training, the Center is sponsoring an environmental stewardship best practices competition for state DOTs. The Center will award those states with innovative best practices and produce a best practices report to share information. Throughout the next year, the Center will also host several facilitated problem-solving sessions on topics to be determined and develop a toolkit of presentations and materials on how to develop programmatic approaches.

Technical Assistance: On-Call Expertise of Leading Practitioners

The Center is developing a pre-screened roster of on-call experts who can quickly provide state DOTs with hands-on assistance on immediate project issues and long term program and process needs. The experts may be on loan from state and Federal agencies or part-time contractors from consulting firms, academia, and the growing pool of retired transportation agency employees. Some expert services fees are subsidized, which provides agencies with quality expertise at a low cost. In addition to helping state DOTs perform environmental audits and peer reviews, program and project assessments, and other services, these qualified professionals can also assist in coalition-building, partnering, and dispute avoidance and resolution. To request the services of an expert, states should contact Kris Hoellen, Director of the Center.

Support for Environmental Stewardship

In 2002, the Center assumed responsibility for AASHTO's Environmental Stewardship Demonstration Program. This program allows states to share information on environmental stewardship activities. The Center will host a videoconference on stewardship lessons learned for the states participating in the program's first year, followed by an introductory stewardship videoconference for states participating in the second year. The Center is also developing methods for measuring and reporting on the progress and effectiveness of stewardship efforts. By acting as a focal point for communication and coordination on environmental stewardship activities, the Center helps state DOTs build stronger partnerships with Federal agencies and other stakeholders.

Contact Information

Kris Hoellen
Director of Environmental Programs
AASHTO
444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 249
Washington, D.C. 20001
Phone: (202) 624-3649  Fax: (202) 624-5806
Email: khoellen@aashto.org

FHWA-AASHTO Environmental Stewardship Demonstration Projects

Twenty-two states have registered environmental stewardship demonstrations. To learn more about these projects, visit: http://www.stewardship.transportation.org

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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