It is important for government officials to carefully evaluate the choices available to them when making transportation decisions. Local governments and State DOTs are required to document their transportation funding decisions. This allows the public to base their input on current and accurate materials provided by the MPO or State DOT. Documents are prepared before and after decisions are made, which allows everyone to see why decisions were made and to provide additional input.
In addition to the documentation just mentioned, FHWA and FTA also prepare official documents to meet NEPA and other legal requirements. Since every transportation project is different, and some are more complex than others, FHWA and FTA prepare one or more of the following documents for each proposed project in conformance with NEPA requirements:
Categorical Exclusions (CEs) are prepared for Federal actions that have been determined to not have a significant human and/or natural environmental effect.
Environmental Assessments (EAs) are prepared for Federal actions where it is not clearly known how significant the environmental impact might be. If, after preparing an EA, it is determined that the project's impact is significant, an Environmental Impact Statement is then prepared. If the project's impact is determined to be insignificant, a “finding of no significant impact" (FONSI) is documented.
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is a statement indicating that a project was found to have no significant impacts on the quality of the human and natural environment and that an environmental statement will, therefore, not be prepared.
Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) are prepared for Federal actions that have a significant effect on the human and/or natural environment.
Draft EIS (DEIS) and Final EIS (FEIS) are disclosure documents that provide a full description of the proposed project, the existing environment, and analysis of the anticipated beneficial and adverse environmental effects of all reasonable alternatives.
Record of Decision (ROD) is a concise decision document for an environmental impact statement that states the decision (selected alternative or choice), other alternatives considered, and mitigation adopted for the selected alternative or choice.
In preparing an EIS, CE, or EA for projects, FHWA and FTA must consider all relevant SEE impacts; provide opportunity for public involvement and input; and work with other Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies to consider their interests as well.
Although the size and complexity of the three levels of NEPA documentation are different, they all serve the same purpose -- to achieve better decisions by making the impact of choices known; and by involving you, the public, in making community-sensitive transportation decisions.