Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration

Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
PlanningEnvironmentReal Estate

HEP Events Guidance Publications Awards Contacts

Case Studies

A Transportation and Environmental Justice Case Studies booklet is now available. The introduction to the case study booklet is available as HTML and PDF (252 KB). Case studies have been posted on this website as they have been completed. Below are summaries of selected case studies that were screened and selected for the booklet. The full studies are available in HTML and Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®

Case studies illuminate effective practices on how to better promote environmental justice principles. They profile how various transportation agencies have integrated environmental justice considerations in their activities to improve transportation decision making. The case studies detail both analytical and procedural issues relevant to a diverse community including: FHWA, FTA, State DOTs, MPOs, transit providers, other partnering government agencies, community organizations, environmental interest and environmental justice advocacy groups, businesses, academic institutions, and the public. Use the matrix and links below to help find summaries of case studies of interest.

Case Study Name

Community Impact Assessment

NEPA ROW Public Involvement Geography Mode
  1. Verona Road and West Beltline Needs Assessment Study, Madison, Wisconsin
x       x urban Road
  1. Job Access and Reverse Commute Planning, Northern New Jersey and Statewide
x         urban and rural Transit
  1. East-West Expressway Environmental Impact Statement, Durham, North Carolina
  x x x   urban Highway
  1. Southern California Regional Transportation Plan, Southern California
x         urban Highway & Transit
  1. Cypress Freeway Replacement Project, Oakland, California
  x x x   urban Highway
  1. Fruitvale BART Transit-Oriented Development Project, Oakland California
        x urban Transit
  1. MPO EJ Analysis, Columbus, Ohio
x       x urban Road and Transit
  1. South Park Avenue Improvement Project Tucson, Arizona
        x urban Bike, Ped. and Transit
  1. Cordes Junction Interchange Environmental Assessment, Yavapai County, Arizona
    x x x rural Highway
  1. South Carolina 72 Environmental Assessment
  x x x   rural Highway
  1. Verona Road and West Beltline Needs Assessment Study, Madison, Wisconsin (PDF 3.9 MB)
Verona Road and West Beltline Needs Assessment Full Case Study (PDF 2.8 MB)

Description: In 1997, Wisconsin DOT initiated a needs assessment study process focusing on two heavily used arterials in Madison. The study examined how the two corridors presently served traffic and how they could be expected to serve traffic in 2020. Wisconsin DOT carried out the analysis with a high degree of sensitivity to the needs of minority and low-income residents. A predominantly minority community is located adjacent to the study area and is isolated from the rest of Madison by several major road corridors, including those that are the focus of the study. The project strategy included community meetings, workshops, neighborhood open houses, and other efforts to involve all stakeholders as a means of addressing the segregation of neighborhoods by major highways.

Key Concepts: This case study illustrates several effective practices from an environmental justice standpoint, including public involvement and the incorporation of environmental justice principles into the transportation planning process. The needs assessment study process featured several innovative practices, including the involvement of youth in the identification of pedestrian and bicycle needs and the use of a community workshop (charrette) using a format typically used for land-use planning and visioning.

Click for top of pageTop of Page

  1. Job Access and Reverse Commute Planning, Northern New Jersey and Statewide (PDF - 1.9 MB)
Regional Job Access and Reverse Commute Program--Workfirst Full Case Study (PDF 1.9 MB)

Description: The NJ Department of Human Services carried out an assessment to examine the potential use of the state's bus transportation network in serving WorkFirst participants (welfare clients) reentering the workforce. The study was carried out with a high degree of sensitivity to factors affecting this population group, including known locations of jobs held by the WorkFirst participants, child care facilities, job training centers, and location of bus routes. Findings indicated that the NJ bus transportation network could meet the needs of many of WorkFirst participants trying to reenter the workforce: statewide, 94 percent of the participants resided within a half mile radius of an existing bus route. Over 90 percent of job training centers and 77 percent of registered family day cares were also within half mile radius of transit. Therefore, the state's bus transit could be used as an arm in assisting the state's health and social services agency attain their goal of increasing the number of welfare recipients reentering the workforce.

The Northern New Jersey MPO, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, also championed this issue with its recent preparation of a Regional Job Access and Reverse Commute Plan. The study was funded by a Job Access Challenge Planning Grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The purpose of the plan is to identify opportunities for cooperative efforts, or linkages, between counties to coordinate county-based services across borders and to implement a prioritization method for evaluating future job access/reverse commute projects.

Key Concepts: There are several noteworthy aspects to this case study. The study creatively employed geographic information system tools alongside highly current data sources on residential locations of welfare recipients, potential work sites and significant facilities essential to encouraging workforce participation. While the study was initially sponsored by a non-transportation agency, the state's largest MPO has recognized its importance in a subsequent initiative. The study profiles an important funding tool available to MPOs to target transportation spending as a way of identifying and addressing the needs of low-income and minority populations.

Click for top of pageTop of Page

  1. East-West Expressway Environmental Impact Statement, Durham, North Carolina (PDF - 7.9 MB)
East-West Expressway Plan, Durham, North Carolina Full Case Study (PDF 7.9 MB)

Description: The 10-mile limited-access highway was designed to serve as a connector between I-85 and I-40 in the area now known as the "Research Triangle". Half of the project was completed when the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), required the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to prepare an EIS in compliance with NEPA. The remainder of the planned Expressway traversed a small African-American neighborhood known as Crest Street. Although 40 percent of the households in this community were under the Federal poverty limit, Crest Street was a stable, cohesive community. Acquainted with the unpleasant experiences of other neighborhoods displaced by various segments of the Expressway, the community began voicing its opposition to this project. Community residents worked closely with professionals from FHWA, NCDOT, the City of Durham, Duke University, HUD and others to develop a comprehensive mitigation and enhancement plan to preserve the cohesiveness of the Crest Street community. This case study expands upon some elements initially described in the FHWA Report, Community Impact Mitigation Case Studies.

Key Concepts: This case study offers several lessons applicable to successfully addressing environmental justice related to project development (NEPA), community impact assessment initiated by active community involvement, and effective mitigation measures. The case also explains how the Title VI Administrative Complaint review process was used during the process as well as how the "housing-of-last-resort" provision supported mitigation and the development of nearby replacement housing.

Click for top of pageTop of Page

  1. Southern California Regional Transportation Plan, Southern California(PDF - 4.4 MB)
Souther California Associate of Governments 1998 Regional Transportation Plan

Description: This case study presents the goals and methods of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) 1998 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), Community Link21. Developed after three years of dialogue and discussions with the community in the Southern California Region, this 20-year transportation plan sets goals, objectives and policies to address equity and accessibility issues in transportation planning. The regional plan employs the use of performance indicators (accessibility, environment, reliability, safety, livable communities, equity and cost-effectiveness) each with a quantifiable objective. The RTP is noteworthy because of SCAG's effective use of performance measures to address not only its transportation mobility and air quality measures, but also social policy objectives.

Particularly noteworthy is the RTP's method for measuring benefits and burdens by income quintile--thereby, introducing an additional "equity" dimension into a study method more traditionally focused upon "efficiency." The user benefit methodology explores the stratification of automobile and transit trips by income level as well as an individual's ability and "willingness to pay" characteristics. The case study also details how accessibility measures can be used to assess the impacts of transportation strategies for promoting improved access to jobs and other essential opportunities for various low-income and minority populations.

Key Concepts: This case study highlights a transportation planning analysis that extends the traditional user benefit methodology by assessing the benefits and burden impacts by income segment. The plan explicitly incorporates equity performance measures to meet transportation goals. The case study is targeted to engage transportation planners who rigorously employ transportation economics into their decision-making processes as part of the metropolitan and statewide transportation planning process. The case study illustrates how data sources and methods can integrate environmental justice considerations into transportation decision-making.

Click for top of pageTop of Page

  1. Cypress Freeway Replacement Project, Oakland, California (PDF - 7.4 MB)
Cypress Freeway, Oakland, California Full Case Study (PDF 7.4 MB)

The Cypress Freeway was originally built in the 1950s, driving a wedge into the community of West Oakland. When it collapsed in 1989 during the Loma Prieta earthquake, Caltrans' original plan was to simply rebuild the highway in its existing location. In response to pressure by the West Oakland community, however, the roadway was moved west to a location along the path of the Southern Pacific railroad that is less disruptive to the community. Caltrans has said that residents were more involved with this replacement road than any other project undertaken by the agency. Caltrans and the City of Oakland signed a Freeway Performance Agreement that included a provision for minority set-asides in the awarding of contracts for highway construction and a number of additional mitigation measures.

Key Concepts: This project illustrates effective environmental justice practices related to project planning and development, evaluating "right-of-way," mitigation and enhancement activities, and public involvement. The case describes several ways in which the concerns and needs of low-income and minority community were incorporated into planning, design and construction activities.

Click for top of pageTop of Page

  1. Fruitvale BART Transit-Oriented Development Project, Oakland, California (PDF - 11.0 MB)
Fruitvale BART Transit-Oriented Development Project, Oakland, California Full Case Study (PDF 11.0 MB)

Description: The Fruitvale community in Oakland is a primarily low-income Latino neighborhood with sizable African-American and Asian populations. In 1991, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) proposed the construction of a multi-level parking facility adjacent to the Fruitvale BART station. BART held a community meeting to receive input on the proposal. Many people were concerned that the parking facility would do little to promote economic development in the area. Community members wanted a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere between the station and the nearby commercial district to encourage BART users to patronize local businesses. BART abandoned the parking garage proposal and agreed to work with a local community development corporation, the Unity Council, to create a pedestrian plaza connecting the station and the nearby commercial district. Since then, the Unity Council and its partners have competed successfully for local and federal planning grants and engaged in various efforts to involve community members in project planning and design.

Key Concepts: This project illustrates several effective environmental justice practices, including public involvement; the creation of partnerships to overcome legal, financial, and regulatory hurdles; and the use of mass transit as a lever for revitalizing an urban community.

Click for top of pageTop of Page

  1. MPO Environmental Justice Analysis, Columbus, Ohio (PDF - 7.8 MB)
MPO Environmental Justice Analysis Full Case Study (7.8 MB)<

Description: Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) around the country have begun developing methodologies to assess the impacts of their transportation plans and planning processes on low-income and minority populations. One such agency is the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), the MPO for the greater Columbus, Ohio region. In January 2000, MORPC convened a task force to develop a process intended to assess and ensure compliance of the agency's transportation planning efforts with environmental justice requirements of Title VI. This process contained four key steps: identify and map locations of low-income and minority populations; identify transportation needs of target populations; document and evaluate the agency's public involvement process; and quantitatively assess benefits and burdens of transportation plans with respect to target populations. The analysis was published in a draft Environmental Justice Report released in March 2000.

Key Concepts: MORPC's efforts are noteworthy both in terms of use of analytical techniques and public involvement. The agency made effective use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping to identify locations of low-income and minority populations within the Columbus metropolitan area. This information was incorporated into a travel demand forecasting model to assess the benefits and burdens of existing and planned transportation system investments on target populations. MORPC also undertook significant steps to publicize its efforts and involve the public, including hosting an open house to provide opportunities for public comments on the draft Environmental Justice Report.

Click for top of pageTop of Page

  1. South Park Avenue Improvement Project, Tucson, Arizona (PDF - 3.8 MB)
South Park Avenue Improvement Project, Tucson, Arizona Full Case Study (PDF 3.8 MB)

Description: During 1995 and 1996, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded the City of Tucson, Arizona, $1.5 million to carry out a series of transportation enhancements along a one-mile stretch of South Park Avenue southeast of downtown Tucson. The South Park area, located within Tucson's federally designated Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community, is a low-income, minority community originally settled by African Americans during the 1940s. It is an area rich in cultural and historical significance because, during its early days, it was one of the few places in Tucson where African Americans could purchase land, build homes, start businesses, and create a community.

FTA's Livable Communities Initiative, the primary funding source for the South Park Avenue Improvement Project, was established to assist transit-dependent communities with economic recovery. From 1995 through 1999, Tucson Department of Transportation (TDOT) worked with residents and businesses in the South Park neighborhood to plan and implement a series of improvements that increased transit, improved pedestrian and bicycle safety and accessibility, enhanced commercial district aesthetics along South Park Avenue, and reinforced the community's sense of pride in its unique history and culture.

Key Concepts: From an environmental justice standpoint, the South Park Avenue Improvement Project is noteworthy for three principal reasons: first, it demonstrates an effective use of partnerships to leverage funds and other key resources for transportation enhancements in a low-income, minority community; second, it illustrates the use of context-sensitive design as a tool for reawakening a community's sense of identity and pride; third, it provides examples of highly creative and effective public involvement strategies.

Click for top of pageTop of Page

  1. Cordes Junction Interchange Environmental Assessment, Yavapai County, Arizona (PDF - 5.2 MB)
Tribal Consultation for the I-17/Arizona Highway 69 Interchange Environmental Assessment Full Case Study (PDF 5.2 MB)

Description: The interchange between Interstate 17 and Arizona Highway 69 is being evaluated for reconstruction because of capacity issues. As part of the environmental assessment (EA) for this project, the Arizona DOT used its staff archaeologists to evaluate cultural resources potentially affected by the project. Several historic aboriginal-use sites were identified. Relevant tribal governments were formally informed of the project and the types of historic sites involved. They were given an opportunity to comment on the project and to send representatives to a site visit to examine the particular archeological sites in question. Two tribes (the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community and the Hopi) asked to visit the site. The case study describes the process of contacting the tribes, conducting the site visits with tribes that expressed an interest, and conducting follow-up discussions. When the EA is completed, these discussions will form the basis of a memorandum of agreement between the tribes and state and federal agencies.

Key Concepts: This case study provides examples of environmental justice in project development (NEPA), environmental justice in evaluating right-of-way, and effective development and use of methods. It demonstrates the importance of consistent and well-documented communication with tribal representatives, and shows how formal and informal contacts can work together to build trust between agencies and tribes. Important issues and potential pitfalls in Native American consultation are discussed.

Click for top of pageTop of Page

  1. South Carolina 72 Environmental Assessment (PDF - 5.4 MB)
South Carolina Route 72 Widening and Bypass Project Full Case Study (PDF 5.4 MB)

Description: South Carolina Department of Transportation and its engineering and environmental consultants are studying various alternatives for the widening of approximately 15.5 miles of South Carolina 72. The project includes several options for a bypass of Calhoun Falls, a village of 2,500 persons. Local officials were concerned that improvements would damage the downtown area. Several build alternatives - including alternatives with apparent disproportionate, high and adverse impacts on a low-income, African-American community - were put forward by local officials for technical engineering and environmental study as potential alignments for the bypass. Public meetings were held, but were not widely attended by residents of Bucknelly, the potentially impacted minority community likely to suffer residential displacements and damage to community institutions and neighborhood character. Additional public involvement activities were determined to be necessary in order to ensure citizen input from the minority community. To support a special meeting, a strategy was followed that required separate notice mailings, hand-delivery of notices and the selection of a more safe and proximate venue--a local neighborhood community center. The meeting was well-attended and the public in attendance offered often candid input about their distrust of the decision making process.

Key Concepts: This case study provides examples of environmental justice in project development (NEPA), evaluating right-of-way, community impact assessment and public involvement. It illustrates how important it is to adapt public involvement to the unique conditions and characteristics of a particular community. The case study highlights the essential connection between responsive public involvement and effective community impact assessment as well as the role that community impact assessment can play in meaningful alternatives analyses and the selection of alternatives to avoid significant social impacts and cumulative impacts.

Click for top of pageTop of Page

Updated: 8/25/2011
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000