U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
All federal actions, including Federal-aid highway projects, potentially affecting the human environment must comply with the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires Federal agencies to take a hard look at the potential consequences of their decisions, and to incorporate into their actions measures to, as appropriate and to the maximum extent possible or practicable, avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse environmental impacts resulting from such actions.
The vast majority of highway projects in Washington, as well as in the rest of the Country, can be determined at their inception to have no substantial impact on environmental or cultural resources. Projects such as pavement resurfacing or reconstruction and the installation of traffic signals fall under this group and are normally "categorically excluded" from the NEPA requirement to prepare a comprehensive environmental evaluation. Projects that are expected to result in significant environmental impacts require the preparation of a formal document following strictly prescribed format and procedures (an environmental impact statement). Projects that do not fit the definition of "categorical exclusions" and whose anticipated impacts have not been established to be significant require the preparation of a less formal, simpler, document (an environmental assessment) The environmental documents explain the purpose and need for a project, present project alternatives, analyze reasonably foreseeable impacts of each alternative, explain the choice of a preferred alternative, and discuss measures to be taken in order to mitigate adverse impacts of the project. The environmental assessment (EA) would be followed by a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) or by the preparation of a formal environmental impact statement (EIS), depending on the significance of the impacts identified in the assessment. The EIS would be followed by a record of decision (ROD) detailing the alternative chosen and the mitigation measures that will be implemented as part of the project.
EA’s and EIS’s are made available for public review and comments following approved public involvement procedures. Public hearings are often part of these procedures. The FHWA considers appropriate public involvement an integral, necessary part of an effective, responsive, environmental process.
Contact for Project-Specific Questions and Issues
Contact for Program or Statewide Issues
Washington State Environmental Programmatic Agreements
NEPA Categorical Exclusions Memorandum of Understanding (PDF 233 KB)
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FHWA Policy and Guidance
Links to Washington State DOT Environmental