Checklist of Major Project Questions for DAs to Use During Planning / Environment Stages
Major Projects take shape during the Planning and Environmental stages; consequently, Division oversight of Major Projects needs to start during the Planning and Environmental stages. The ROD is too late for Divisions to begin focused, structured Major Project oversight.
Below are the kinds of questions that DAs should be asking early in Planning, as soon as they become aware of a Major Project taking shape in their states. Early in Planning, the Division's ability to answer these questions may be rudimentary and speculative, so the DA should revisit these questions periodically, as the project becomes refined throughout the Planning and Environmental stages.
Major Issues: What planning and environmental issues could significantly affect the cost and schedule for the project?
- Natural environment issues - wetlands, runoff, endangered species, air quality, habitat, etc?
- Community and human environment issues - community opposition, impacts on 4(f) properties, environmental justice, expectations for signature bridges, significant takings of residences, businesses, or hazmat sites?
- Intermodal issues - to accommodate freight, transit, and bike/ped requirements?
Staffing Capability: Do the Division and the state have the staff capability to manage the Planning and Environmental aspects of the Major Project? If not, what steps do the state and Division need to take to provide adequate staff capability?
- Travel demand forecasting?
- Environmental process management?
- Specialized environmental issues associated with the Project?
- Credible, effective public involvement during planning and environmental stages?
- ROW staff to advise decisionmakers during the Planning/Environment stages, and to manage the ultimate ROW takings effectively?
Relationships: Do the Division and state have good, trusting relationships with other key players, both at the personal and the organizational level? If not, how can relationships and communication procedures be put in place as early as possible with other key players?
- Federal and state environmental agencies that will play a major role?
- Affected local governments and local elected officials?
- The relevant MPO(s)?
- Environmental and community NGOs with a major interest in the Project?
Multimodal Issues: How will other modes be affected? What opportunities are there to incorporate multimodal benefits into the Major Project? Does the state have a plan to coordinate and consult with other modal players early and frequently in the planning and environment stages?
- Bus and rail transit?
- Freight rail, intermodal terminals, and freight shippers?
- Bicycle/pedestrian users?
Public Involvement and Awareness: Has the state developed a well-thought-out, effective strategy to educate and involve the public during planning and the environmental process? And a media strategy?
Fiscal Constraint: For each STIP, TIP, and Metro plan that contains the project, have the state and MPO adequately met FHWA/FTA's fiscal constraint requirements? (The Division should review STIPs, TIPs, and Metro Plans carefully to ensure that costs and revenues are adequately documented, for the Major Project, for all other Federal and regionally significant capital projects, and for operating and maintaining the existing highway and transit system.)
Documentation Procedures: Do the state and Division have adequate procedures to document each step in the project and build a project file, so as to withstand future litigation?
FEIS: Does the Major Project FEIS meet all NEPA requirements? Does the FEIS contain a credible cost estimate, vetted by FHWA? Are the preferred alternative and the cost estimate in the FEIS consistent with the Project shown in any contemporaneous TIP, STIP, and plan?