Equivalent Approach: Louisiana DOTD Program Development and Project Delivery System Manual
On September 1, 2005, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LDOTD) launched a new streamlined project delivery process that included a six stage process:
- Stage 0: Project Feasibility/Preliminary Planning Analysis
- Stage 1: Planning/Environmental
- Stage 2: Funding Project Prioritization
- Stage 3: Final Design Process
- Stage 4: Letting
- Stage 5: Construction
- Stage 6: Operation
During Stage 0, project sponsors must conduct a feasibility study to determine if the project is suitable to move forward in the LDOTD project delivery process. In an effort to assist project sponsors in the development of the feasibility study, LDOTD created a Stage 0 Manual, which included the Stage 0 Preliminary Scope and Budget Checklist and the Stage 0 Environmental Checklist. Both of these checklists are completed for most projects and are included in the feasibility study report as appendices. They are also used as an outline for the feasibility study. Both checklists are beneficial, as they attempt to prevent the duplication of tasks in the planning and environmental stages of the project delivery process. In addition, they assist in making potential environmental impacts known early in the project delivery process.
In support of FHWA's goal to implement the PEL Questionnaire nationwide, the Louisiana Division Office and LDOTD Planning and Environmental staff collaborated to edit the existing Stage 0 Preliminary Scope and Budget Checklist and Stage 0 Environmental Checklist to incorporate the goals of the PEL Questionnaire, beginning in January 2011 and completed in May of 2011. The new revised checklists then began being used immediately on all new projects in LDOTD's program. The Louisiana Division Office and LDOTD believe that the inclusion of the best practice PEL questionnaire items and questions in the Stage 0 Preliminary Scope and Budget Checklist and Stage 0 Environmental Checklist was the most practical and efficient way to integrate the PEL Questionnaire into LDOTD's project development process.
Purpose of Document and Capture of PEL Efforts
The purpose of this document is to highlight the state of Louisiana's EDC/PEL efforts thus far. Most importantly, the incorporation of PEL questionnaire goals into the LDOTD Stage 0 Preliminary Scope and Budget Checklist and Stage 0 Environmental Checklist to satisfy the following criteria:
Criteria 1: The equivalent should be institutionalized within the department (i.e. it is a formal process or tool available statewide).
The Stage 0 Preliminary Scope and Budget Checklist and Stage 0 Environmental Checklist are used statewide during the feasibility stage of most projects. They are used as an outline for the feasibility study and the completed checklists are included in the feasibility study report as appendices. The LDOTD has dedicated a computer server to store all Stage 0 report electronically, so that the information in the checklists can be easily accessed, referenced, and used as a resource during the Environmental process.
Criteria 2: The equivalent must provide information on how to consider and document the following:
- The early and continuous coordination with Federal, Tribal, State, and local transportation, environmental, regulatory, and resource agencies.
In Section C (Agency Coordination) of the Stage 0 Preliminary Scope and Budget Checklist, project sponsors are to provide a brief synopsis of coordination with federal, tribal, state, and local environmental, regulatory, and resource agencies. In addition, identify what transportation agencies and other stakeholders/agencies were involved in the coordination effort. Concluding, project sponsors must identify what steps they will take with each agency during the NEPA scoping.(See attachment A)
- Coordination efforts with the public and stakeholders.
In Section D (Public Coordination) of the Stage 0 Preliminary Scope and Budget Checklist, project sponsors are to provide a brief synopsis of the coordination effort with the public and stakeholders; include specific timelines, meeting details, agendas, sign-in sheets, etc. (See attachment A)
- Description of planning scope, vision statement, and steps needed to scale the vision statement to a project-level purpose and need statement.
In Section B (Purpose and Need) of the Stage 0 Preliminary Scope and Budget Checklist, project sponsors are to state the purpose and need/corridor vision and outline the project scope. In addition, any additional goals and objectives for the project are to be identified. (See attachment A)
- Alternatives that were considered, selected and rejected; criteria and process used for selecting and rejecting alternatives.
In Section E (Range of Alternatives - Evaluation Screening) of the Stage 0 Preliminary Scope and Budget Checklist, project sponsors must give a description of the project concept for each alternative studied. In addition, a description must be provided of the screening criteria used to compare alternatives and from what agency the criteria were defined. In regards to alternative elimination, project sponsors must provide an explanation for alternatives eliminated based on the screening criteria. (See attachment A)
- Explanation of planning assumptions, including forecast year, traffic volumes, policy, and data as well as consistency of those planning assumptions with the long-range transportation plan.
In Section F (Planning Assumptions and Analytical Methods) of the Stage 0 Preliminary Scope and Budget Checklist, project sponsors must provide an explanation of planning assumptions and analytical methods including: study forecast year, method used for forecasting traffic volumes, and what future year policy and/or data assumptions were used in the transportation planning process. In addition, project sponsors must identify whether the planning assumptions and corridor vision/purpose and need is consistent with the Long Range Transportation Plan. (See attachment A)
Criteria 3: The equivalent may also provide information on how to consider and document the following:
- Analysis of the affected environment and environmental consequences. Document those resources reviewed and not reviewed, and the level of detail.
On the Stage 0 Environmental Checklist, project sponsors must address many preliminary environmental concerns consisting of but not limited to: adjacent land use (tribal, wetland reserve program, and other wetlands), community elements, Section 4(f), historic properties, hazardous material, relocations, and impacts on minority/low income populations. In addition, the checklist highlights the importance of each environmental concern and provides further information. (See attachment B)
- Potential strategies for broad-scale mitigation.
The purpose of the Stage 0 Environmental Checklist is to conduct a preliminary analysis of impacts from a proposed project on the human and natural environment. This information will be useful for the purposes of mitigation if the project moves on in the project delivery process. The LDOTD Environmental staff will use the information provided in the Checklist to determine potential strategies for broad-scale mitigation during the NEPA process. They are the most qualified to do this work.
- Description and/or analysis of potential cumulative effects.
Environmental concerns addressed in the Stage 0 Environmental Checklist will generate any cumulative impacts if they exist. The LDOTD Environmental staff will use the information provided in the Checklist to determine potential cumulative effects during the NEPA process. They are the most qualified to do this work.
- A method of documenting FHWA's acknowledgement, in order to support the use of planning information in NEPA, that indicates that PEL principles were applied to FHWA's satisfaction.
In support of the national EDC/PEL efforts, the Louisiana Division Office planning and environmental staff and LDOTD staff collaborated to revise the Stage 0 Preliminary Scope and Budget Checklist and Stage 0 Environmental Checklist to incorporate the goals of the PEL Questionnaire in October 2011. This initiative was an ongoing process of revisions that took place over a 5 month timeframe.
The update of the 2 checklists was completed to the satisfaction of the FHWA Louisiana Division Office and LDOTD at the end of May 2011.
LDOTD and the Louisiana Division staff are currently in the process of updating the LDOTD Stage 0 Manual to incorporate the 2 revised Checklists. This work should be completed by the end of January 2012.