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Linking Assessed Solutions With Alternatives

Note: This information was archived in April 2009. For the current information, see http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/integ/related.asp.

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A third place to link planning and NEPA would be to link the solutions assessment done during planning with the alternatives assessment done under NEPA (see Exhibit J).

Exhibit J
Shows where solutions assessment done during the planning process can be linked with the alternatives assessment done under NEPA.

What Is the Linkage?

Conceptual solutions, including the locally preferred alternative, evaluated in planning keeps the NEPA analysis focused on reasonable and feasible alternatives and eliminates fatally flawed alternatives from further analysis.

Why Make the Linkage?

The intent of this linkage is to:

What to Consider?

What Data Informs This Linkage?

The needs identified earlier in the process provide the data needed to identify potential solutions to the problem.

Analysis and Documentation

Alternatives Recommended for Study Report: an individual report (not necessarily required by NEPA) of alternatives considered during planning that have not been determined unreasonable and therefore need to be carried forward for detailed study during NEPA. This report can be developed for any alternative that the local area recommends be included in the NEPA study process. One of its primary purposes, however, is to assure that the "Locally Preferred Alternative" corridor that is included in Planning is documented for inclusion in the NEPA study. GIS level environmental data is the most likely source for much of what is included in this report.

The following categories of information are included:

Alternatives Recommended for Elimination from Further Study Report: a report similar to alternatives recommended report (again, not necessarily required by NEPA) that must provide detailed data to support elimination of alternatives from further study. Table 2 shows the data elements that can be used to support an unreasonable alternative finding.

Table 2
Questions to Be Asked Regarding "Unreasonable" Alternative(s) Data Needed to Support "Unreasonable" Alternative(s)
Purpose & Need
How does the "unreasonable" solution fail to meet Purpose & Need

Community vision/goals

Economic development

What supporting data justifies that the solution is "unreasonable"?

Modal interrelationships

Modal considerations

What aspect(s) of the Purpose & Need does this solution fail to meet?

Capacity

Transportation demand

Why was this modal solution determined to be "unreasonable" based on Purpose & Need?

Security

Local key priorities

Documentation of adequate public involvement

Safety

System linkage

Transportation system needs

 

Community/Cultural Resources
What impacts to community resources make this solution "unreasonable"?

Established communities and neighborhoods

Locally identified special areas (red flags)

Section 4(f) properties

Section 6(f) properties

Public lands

Transportation system needs

Local long-range plans

Natural Environment
What impacts to the natural environment make this solution "unreasonable'?

Rare natural features

Watershed waters

What physical constraint makes this solution "unreasonable"?

Threatened and endangered species (includes critical habitat)

Mitigation sites

Superfund sites

Mapping

Goals/Values
What creates conflict and makes the transportation solution "unreasonable"?

Adopted plan

Community involvement

Community vision

What Decisions Help Make the Linkage?

The linkage of long-range plan screening and evaluation of both project concepts and overall plan scenarios to NEPA alternatives screening is one of the most important linkages of PEL. This linkage not only has the greatest potential for streamlining the NEPA process, it also shows the local community and stakeholders that the NEPA process is acknowledging and, to the greatest extent possible, accepting the extensive work that was done during long-range planning.

Every NEPA process should accept the long-range plan locally preferred alternative as one of the NEPA alternatives for detailed study unless there is a fatal flaw that emerged since the plan was adopted. The locally preferred alternative is the alternative selected by local decision-makers as the preferred solution to the identified needs of a corridor. This does not mean that this alternative will survive NEPA analysis, but it should be given the full opportunity to be reviewed as a part of the process.

Unreasonable alternatives can also be identified during long-range planning and, if properly documented, can be eliminated from consideration during NEPA. Rationale for eliminating alternatives may include failure to meet Purpose & Need, impacts to community and cultural resources, impacts to the natural environment, and conflicts with community goals and values. Before an alternative is judged unreasonable, a rationale needs to be presented to the public and agencies for their review and comments. Both individual project concepts and overall plan scenarios can be judged as unreasonable.

If sufficiently documented, unreasonable solutions eliminated in planning need to be presented as part of the scoping package, be briefly discussed in the environmental document and the long-range planning analysis, and be incorporated by reference in NEPA. The key to this linkage is the documentation that is provided to support the decision to eliminate an alternative.

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Updated: 12/03/2012
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