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Another step where a potential linkage can be made is in the assessment stage-connecting the assessment of environmental effects during resource conservation and management with the assessment of transportation solutions during the planning stage (see Exhibit E).
During the technical analysis necessary to evaluate potential transportation solutions, agencies need to assess the environmental effects of the different solutions being considered. Assessing the environmental effects is needed for early identification of mitigation strategies for avoidance and minimization, and potential mitigation solutions.
This action would:
The primary analysis tool at the transportation planning level is the travel demand model. The travel demand model uses information such as roadway and transit networks and demographic data to calculate the expected demand for transportation facilities. For use of more qualitative information, other decision support tools or processes may be used. Environmental data could be acquired from natural resource agencies and organizations. Data such as wetland locations, natural heritage sites, and historic properties should be considered.
Traffic analysis that supports solutions for identified needs must meet federal requirements. It is not permissible to use a less technically sophisticated analysis in order to include additional considerations. Therefore, it may be necessary to develop associated processes for analysis of environmental considerations rather than provide a direct interface with the travel demand model. Documentation of analysis results is necessary to support plan adoption as well as to lessen the possibility of repeating analyses in future project considerations.
Indirect and cumulative effects analysis in planning should be documented on a broad regional scale and then carried forward in project development as a reference on a project-by-project basis. A key purpose of performing this analysis in planning is to identify not only effects, but also reasonable mitigating actions. State DOTs and MPOs are not required to mitigate for indirect and cumulative effects as a part of the long-range planning cycle; nevertheless, efficient and effective opportunities to do so, for future projects or historical impacts, may be identified in planning.
A number of state DOTs have chosen to respond to and act on indirect and cumulative effects as part of the transportation agency's environmental ethic and stewardship commitments. This involves documenting the analysis, decision, and action and then following through on the action, which may entail programming non-traditional projects, such as those that ameliorate water quality or restore wetlands, watersheds, or habitats.
State and local transportation planning agencies provide the technical analysis. Policy makers for the MPO endorse the resulting recommendations through plan adoption. Decisions and interagency agreements on effects and advance mitigation document wetland, water quality, habitat, wildlife, and threatened and endangered species strategies and approaches. The parties may agree to implement such strategies on a statewide, ecoregional, watershed, or series of site-specific scales. Local mitigation efforts can be undertaken through ordinances or agreements. For broader reaching mitigation efforts, state DOT and resource agencies may collectively elevate the intention to state-level decision-makers.