U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content

California Division

Home / About / Field Offices / California Division

FHWA PSR and PR Question and Answer Tidbits (February 9, 2005)

Preface: These Question and Answer "TIDBITS" are provided for guidance to supplement the Caltrans Project Development Procedures Manual (PDPM) for Project Study Reports (PSR) and Project Reports (PR) for projects in which FHWA is involved due to federal-aid funding or other required approval. See Caltrans Guidelines for the Preparation of Project Study Reports dated 12/8/99 http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/oppd/design/psr12-8.htm and for Project Reports http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/oppd/pdpm/apdx_pdf/apdx_k.pdf

I've heard the term FHWA/Caltrans Stewardship Agreement. What is it?

Originally implemented in 1994 and more recently revised in December 2002, the FHWA/Caltrans Stewardship Agreement provides delegated authority to Caltrans to act on FHWA's behalf (stewardship) for certain projects and actions. Projects will either fall under the term "Full Oversight" (FHWA accountability) or "State-Authorized" (Caltrans accountability). At project initiation, the Stewardship determination is one of the first "actions" to establish the level of FHWA involvement. Criteria for determining "stewardship" can be found in Figure 1. Also, see the FHWA California Division website for additional details contained within the Agreement at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/cadiv/docs/stewardship.cfm.

What is the difference between Full Oversight and State-Authorized projects?

Full Oversight projects are where FHWA retains all federal approvals related to design and construction. For "State-Authorized" projects, Caltrans has been delegated authority and responsibility for most engineering approvals during design and construction (excluding NEPA). The Stewardship Agreement contains detailed information on Caltrans responsibilities under the delegations for State-Authorized projects. As a general rule Full Oversight is any project that is considered new or reconstruction on the Interstate greater than $1.0M in construction costs. For "Stewardship," "reconstruction" has been defined to include, but not limited to, certain interchange modifications, addition of lanes, significant change in horizontal or vertical alignment, pavement "reconstruction," in which the structural section is to be removed and replaced. State-Authorized encompasses all other projects, including Interstate 3R and some interchange modifications and all projects not on the Interstate.

On major and complex or unusual projects not on the Interstate, FHWA could be "invited" to provide Full Oversight.

Additional details on FHWA involvement during project development can be found in Caltrans PDPM Chapter 2, Article 7 at http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/oppd/pdpm/chap_pdf/chapt02.pdf.

Now that I have determined the level of FHWA "oversight," how is the determination to be documented?

The PSR is the first and best (earliest in project development) place to document the determination. In this manner, if your project is transferred to another project engineer or project manager, or the responsible FHWA engineer is changed, revisiting the level of oversight is not necessary as long as original scope, purpose and need, and alternatives/assumptions are unchanged. A FHWA "boilerplate" statement regarding the Stewardship determination is suggested below. It should be included in every PSR and PR in the "Project Review" section. Also include a statement pertaining to any other FHWA involvement/coordination that may be needed such as design exception, new/revised Interstate access, etc.

(Insert in the discussion on "Project Reviews and Coordination")

"This project has been reviewed by Name and Title of FHWA Engineer
on (date), this project is eligible for federal-aid funding and is considered to be
(Full Oversight or State-Authorized) under the current FHWA/Caltrans Stewardship Agreement."

Or alternatively,

"This project is determined to fall within the delegated authority
for State-Authorized under the current FHWA/Caltrans
Stewardship agreements" (by the Project Manager or Project Engineer).

What do I do if there is no FHWA involvement, do I document this as well?

There is no FHWA involvement if there is no federal funding and no other required FHWA approval. (There could be a case for no federal funding but a FHWA required approval for new or modified access on the Interstate.) We encourage you to indicate in the PSR and PR that there is no federal funding, no required approval, and therefore, no further FHWA involvement.

If the project I'm working on is considered State-Authorized, do I have to involve FHWA at all?

Where federal funding is involved, FHWA will have involvement through the environmental analysis and documentation through NEPA approval (PA&ED). It is important to understand that there will be some cases, where no federal funds are being used but a federal approval is required, such as Interstate access modification, which invokes NEPA. FHWA will always have approval authority for ANY accompanying NEPA approval, even though the project may not use federal funding.

What about exceptions to mandatory design standards?

On the Interstate, for Full Oversight projects, FHWA exercises approval authority. On the Interstate, for State-Authorized projects, FHWA requests a copy of the approved Fact Sheet for information only. For State-Authorized projects, not on the Interstate, approval of design exceptions is delegated to the State.

What if the project undergoes scope change? Should the stewardship determination be reconsidered?

Yes, the determination will revert to whether the project is new or reconstruction on the Interstate for greater than $1.0M, and "reconstruction" as defined for stewardship purposes.

My project is on the Interstate and is Full Oversight. What important issues do I need to be aware of that FHWA will expect to be addressed or completed before project approval [PA&ED]?

My project is on the Interstate reconstructing an interchange, what approvals do I need from FHWA?

The first step is to contact FHWA to determine if any new/revised access points being proposed require FHWA approval. If it has been determined that a new/revised access point(s) requires approval, the following must be completed. A draft PSR or separate report shall be submitted to FHWA requesting determination of "acceptability" for the change in access. The report format must cover the required information that FHWA needs for making the "acceptability determination." Caltrans Design Information Bulletin (DIB) #77 http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/oppd/dib/dib77.htm outlines the required information. Additionally, there are delegations of approval for some revisions to ramp geometrics, including widening, that do not meet the criteria of "reconstruction."

What if the project is constructing a new interchange on the Interstate?

The process is the same as described in the question above concerning reconstructing an interchange. For new point of access to the Interstate, FHWA will coordinate the approval through the Washington, DC FHWA Headquarters Office.

What type of information will FHWA be looking for in the traffic analysis that justifies the project?

DIB #77 addresses the traffic analysis requirements. It is important to understand that if the traffic analysis assumes future additional lanes, aux lanes, etc. to justify the project, those assumptions must be identified within the report and included in the "cost-constrained" Long Range Plan and Program for urban areas. For non-urbanized areas, the assumptions must be consistent with the current California State Transportation Improvement Plan.

Does the traffic analysis have to use the Highway Capacity Manual methodology?

Caltrans, local agencies, and consultants may use any traffic analysis method they deem appropriate, however, FHWA will use the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) 2000 to independently verify the conclusions of the traffic analysis. If the traffic analysis or any part of the analysis is accomplished by other than the HCM 2000 methods, the submittal must include sufficient data so FHWA can independently analyze and compare the results using the HCM 2000 methods.

I've heard that obtaining approval for new access or modifying existing access to the Interstate is a "two-step" process. What exactly is the "two-step" process?

The two-step process requires FHWA to first determine "acceptability" of the design and step two is final "approval" of the design. The FHWA determination of "acceptability" is required prior to circulating the NEPA document to the public. Once the environmental (NEPA) process is completed, FHWA will concurrently provide approval of the environmental document and final approval of the modified access/design.

What environmental issues do I need to address in the PSR?

When NEPA is applicable to the project the PSR should include a statement that FHWA is the lead agency for NEPA. Also, include a brief discussion, as applicable, of other environmental resources and related impacts/mitigation with associated costs/scheduling estimates. Exhibits/plans should reflect logical termini/independent utility based on coordination with District environmental planning staff, and FHWA as appropriate. The PSR should also include an environmental scoping document known as the Preliminary Environmental Analysis Report, guidance for which is located at http://www.dot.ca.gov/ser/pear.htm. For local assistance projects not on the State highway system a PES form may be sufficient documentation, and is available at http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/lam/forms/msword/p06forms.doc.

Now I am ready to start processing the PR, do I need to document the level of FHWA involvement again?

Yes. Before the District approves the PR (and any supplement, if applicable) the Stewardship determination should be verified and documented just as it was documented in the PSR. Also include the status of any FHWA approval action(s), such as Interstate access approval, design exceptions, etc. The Stewardship responsibilities carry forward to PS&E approval (RTL) and funding request E-76 construction authorization.

What planning issues do I need to be aware of and address in the PR?

The planning concept for the ultimate facility as envisioned in the Transportation Concept Report (TCR) or draft TCR, as well as that contemplated in any freeway agreement, is important for understanding the longrange planning concepts. FHWA will review the draft PSR to gain an understanding of how the project scope meets that ultimate planning concept or freeway agreement, or how it falls short in meeting that goal.

In urban areas, you need to make sure that the project is fully-funded, and in the "cost-constrained" Regional Transportation 20-year Plan (RTP). As you have documented the level of involvement, we also suggest that this planning requirement also be included in the PR. We suggest the following wording:

"The project is in the MPO'S 200X-202X Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) (page XX, amendment # if applicable) which was fullyfunded and found to be conforming by FHWA and FTA on (date). The project is also in the MPO's 200X/0X Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP) (page XX, amendment # if applicable) which was found to be conforming by FHWA/FTA on (date). Project is fully-funded in the amount of $$$ with its design concept and scope being consistent with the project description in the above RTP and FTIP."

Resources on the WEB

FHWA Environmental Guidebook:http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/guidebook/index.asp

FHWA Environmental Flow Charts:http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/guidebook/vol2/doc7m.pdf

FHWA California Division NEPA Checklist: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/cadiv/pre/nepa_ck.cfm

NEPA/404 Memorandum of Understanding & Q's/A's: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/cadiv/pre/environment.cfm

Purpose and Need in Environmental Documents: http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/projdev/tdmneed.asp

Development of Logical Project Termini: http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/projdev/tdmtermini.htm

Caltrans Traffic Noise Analysis Protocol:http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/env/noise/

FHWA California Division Noise TIDBITS:https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/cadiv/docs/noise_tidbits.cfm

FHWA Homepage:https://www.fhwa.dot.gov

FHWA Financing Federal-aid Highways: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/reports/finfedhy.htm

FHWA Guide to the Federal-aid Programs and Projects: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/covert21.htm

FHWA Contract Administration Manual:https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/contracts/coretoc.cfm

FHWA 23 Code of Federal Regulations: http://www.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/cfrassemble.cgi?title=200123

FHWA Federal-aid Policy Guidance (FAPG): https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/legsregs/directives/fapgtoc.htm

FHWA Policy Memorandums:https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/legsregs/directives/policy/

FHWA Emergency Relief (ER) Manual: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/reports/erm/

Image of figure 1 flowchart.  Click here for description of process.

Page last modified on January 31, 2017
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000