Equivalent Approach: Advanced Project Planning Report (APPR) Process
The APPR process has been under development in South Carolina since 2007. With the dominance of EDCand PEL, in 2011, SCDOT finalized the integration of its APPR process with the development of formal bridge between planning and NEPA processes. The APPR is an overarching guidance/policy applied to MPO/COG projects as SCDOT advances projects through the planning and project delivery process. The APPR was developed for improving the level of documentation during the planning process for long-range plan projects, specifically widening and new location projects. Defining the project and its boundaries during the planning phase helps to ensure that viable projects progress to the project development phase. Implementation of the APPR process “links” the project planning and delivery processes, progressing efficiency in the identification and coordination of South Carolina's transportation program.
Equivalence Criteria Met
- Institutionalized Process
- The early and continuous coordination with regulatory and resource agencies
- Public and stakeholder coordination
- Description of planning scope and vision statement
- Alternatives that were considered, selected, and rejected
- Explanation of planning assumptions
- Analysis of the affected environment and environmental consequences
- Potential strategies for broad-scale mitigation
- Description and/or analysis of potential cumulative effects
- A method of documenting FHWA approval
This APPR is a preliminary evaluation conducted within a study area to identify the potential benefits, impacts and areas of concern to the human and natural environment by the potential roadway improvement project. The APPR provides a definition of the project and includes the project's goals and objectives. Additionally, the Plan serves as an agreement between the following parties: Project Sponsor (MPO or COG), Steering Committee, Project Manager, Project Team, and other personnel associated with and/or affected by the project. The APPR process also involves several state and federal agencies in the planning phase of project development rather than waiting for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to begin.
Alignment with equivalence criteria
The APPR process meets all of the FHWA required equivalence criteria and several of the optional criteria. The following information describes the components of the APPR process that align with the criteria.
South Carolina's APPR process has been implemented and institutionalized for MPO and COG projects in South Carolina. The revised APPR process is standardized and formally documented through the Advanced Project Planning Report Development Process created by SCDOT in July 2011.
Required: Early and Continuous Coordination with Regulatory and Resource Agencies
The APPR process includes early coordination activity with several liaison groups including US Army Corps of Engineers, South Carolina Department of Archives & History, FHWA, and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Each agency is sent detailed maps and text that describes the project and asked for specific input concerning the proposed action. The information provided by each groups is as follows:
- US Army Corp of Engineers provides information concerning wetlands.
- South Carolina Department of Archives & History provides information concerning historic location or areas of archaeological significance.
- FHWA provides information on any concerns with the Purpose & Need and logical termini of the project.
- South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control provide information concerning wetlands, water quality, and environmental hazards.
Required: Public and Stakeholder Coordination
SCDOT has a model public involvement policy that provides numerous opportunities for citizen involvement. All projects coming through the APPR process have been publicly vetted and showcased during the Long-Range Transportation Planning (LRTP) process. As the sponsor for the project the MPO/COG are the stakeholders for these projects and are intimately involved with the field reviews, purpose and need development, document reviews, and signatory approval of the final APPR document.
Required: Description of Planning Scope and Vision Statement
This is achieved through the development of purpose and need statement, which then will follow the project through to NEPA process. The MPO/COG is responsible for crafting these preliminary statements within the LRTP document. The purpose and need section in the APPR provides a project overview, goals, and current funding priority.
Required: Alternatives that were Considered, Selected, and Rejected
Multiple alternatives are most often evaluated in APPRs that are looking at new location facilities. In all APPRs, there is essentially a comparison between what exists today with projected future volumes as the “no-build” and a potential improvement such as “widening from a 3-lane section to a 5-lane section.” Alignment and design are not finalized at this stage as the purpose of the APPR is to alert the sponsor to any “red flag” issues before the NEPA process is initiated. The Existing Facility section of the APPR includes documentation of the following: Roadway description, cross-sections, traffic data, crash data, right-of-way, pavement condition, bridges and other structures, and mass transit accommodations. The Proposed Improvement section includes documentation of the following: design criteria, congestion management strategies, potential cross-section, traffic data, and potential right-of-way needs.
Required: Explanation of Planning Assumptions
Planning assumptions are well documented in the APPR document and its appendices.
Recommended: Analysis of the Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences
Human and natural environmental impacts are documented in general terms in the Corridor Assessment of Social, Economic, and Environmental Concerns section of the APPR. The following are evaluated: Noise, Water/Wetlands, Air Quality, Archeological/Historical, Endangered Species, Relocations, Farmlands, Parks/Public Lands/Potential 4(f), UST/Hazardous Waste, Socioeconomics, School/Hospitals, Minority Populations, and Low-Income Populations. All of this information is carried forward into the development of the Environmental Document.
Recommended: A Method for Documenting FHWA Approval
FHWA participates in the APPR process through the following:
- Review of purpose and need/logical termini
- Invitation to participate in the field review with other liaison agencies
- Invitation to review and comment on Draft APPR document
- Review and approval of the Regional LRTPs and the STIP
- Invitation, identification and coordination of agencies to participate in the NEPA decision making process in the Preliminary Engineering/NEPA Decision Phase
- Confirmation of the NEPA Class of Action in the Preliminary Engineering/NEPA Decision Phase
- Invitation to participate in the Screening Field View as identified in the Preliminary Engineering/NEPA Decision Phase
- Review and approval of the Environmental Decision for CE, EA (FONSI), EIS (ROD)
- Guidance, input, review and oversight during the Final Design and Construction Phase