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Tools and Practices for Land Use Integration

Linking Planning to the Environmental Review Process

Map of Legacy Parkway, Utah
Legacy Parkway Plan | Utah DOT

Transportation planning agencies are increasingly bridging transportation planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes. The approach, known as Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL), is intended to minimize duplication of effort, promote environmental stewardship, and reduce delays in project implementation by incorporating early stage planning into the NEPA review process. Methods include: Collecting and utilizing regional data on environmental conditions in the long-range transportation planning process; incorporating environmental and community values into transportation decisions early in planning, evaluating combined transportation and land use scenarios; and involving Federal and state resource and regulatory agencies, NEPA practitioners, planning and development partners, legal counsel, and the public in long-range transportation planning (see the Context Sensitive Design/Solutions section).

Environmental Processes

States and MPOs can achieve significant benefits by incorporating environmental and community values into transportation decisions early in planning and carrying these considerations throughout project development process. PEL is a collaborative and integrated approach to transportation decision-making that considers these values early in the planning process and uses this information to inform the environmental review process. To that end, States and MPOs have developed a variety of tools and resources to share information and collaborate across disciplines to inform projects both at conceptual stage and through the multi-year project development and delivery processes.

Examples in Practice

Washington Connected Landscapes Project: Statewide Analysis
WSDOT (Washington DOT) and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

In December 2010, the Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group completed a geographic information system (GIS) analysis of habitat conditions in Washington and portions of adjacent jurisdictions. The statewide analysis incorporated habitat and movement needs for 16 focal species, identified habitat networks of high natural integrity, and produced maps of the largest contiguous habitat blocks and the best linkages for connecting them. In addition to the maps, the Working Group also created a GIS toolkit that planners can use to develop projects that allow for the long-term movements of wildlife while minimizing collisions with the traveling public. The habitat connectivity assessment will reduce time and costs associated with environmental permitting, and can be used as one criterion to determine which highway segments will receive funds for wildlife-friendly improvements. As a result, highway improvement project teams will incorporate options that provide safe passage for wildlife into project plans. The Washington Connected Landscapes Project demonstrates how collaboration can drive the development of tools to help build a transportation system that is sensitive to the needs of wildlife. This project won a FHWA 2011 Environmental Excellence Awards.

Contact: Kelly McAllister WSDOT (360) 705-7426.

Florida Efficient Transportation Decision-Making Process
FDOT (Florida DOT)

The Florida DOT (FDOT) Efficient Transportation Decision-Making Process (ETDM) consists of both a process and a GIS tool that use a PEL approach to bring environmental considerations into the early stages of the statewide transportation planning and project development processes. The ETDM process provides a link between land use, transportation, and environmental resource planning through early and continuous involvement of planning, regulatory and resource agencies. An interagency team reviews projects in the early stages of both the planning and project programming processes. An interactive GIS database assists the team in identifying the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of projects. Information about projects screened through the ETDM process is available to the public on the ETDM public access web site. FDOT is collecting performance measures to assess the effectiveness of the process. FDOT issued a progress report titled, "Florida's ETDM Progress Report #4" regarding the effectiveness of the process in 2009.The progress reports are available by searching the FDOT ETDM library.

Contact: Gwen Pipkin, FDOT (863) 519-2375.

Colorado Planning and Environmental Linkages
North Front Range MPO (Fort Collins-Loveland, CO area, MPO)
With the support of FHWA, FTA, EPA, and the Colorado DOT, the North Front Range MPO (NFRMPO) undertook a pilot project to increase consideration of environmental impacts and resource agency involvement early in the transportation planning process. Known as Strategic Transportation, Environmental and Planning Process for Urbanizing Places (STEP UP), this PEL project included a model planning process with early and continuous resource agency involvement and guidelines for environmental review and prioritization of transportation projects; development of a GIS-based tool for identifying environmental impacts of projects; and a cumulative effects assessment for the regional transportation plan. The Transportation Research Board (TRB) has published a case study of STEP UP, Colorado STEP UP: Environmental Collaboration Supported by Web-Based Technology, in 2010 which includes lessons learned. See also: STEP UP Phase 1 Report (Colorado DOT, 2005).

Contact: Suzette Mallette, NRFMPO (970) 416-2257.

Milwaukee Regional Transportation Corridors, Systems, and Land Use Planning
Southeastern Wisconsin RPC (Milwaukee, WI area, RPC)
The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) serves as both the MPO and regional land use planning agency for the seven-county Southeastern Wisconsin Region. SEWRPC planning activities address transportation, land use, water resources, parks and open space, farmland preservation, and environmental/ natural habitat areas. Transportation planning is based on the regional land use plan, and uses an extensive database of land use and environmental resources to make links to NEPA. The 2035 Regional Transportation Plan was developed with consideration of land use objectives as well as secondary and cumulative impacts of plan alternatives. A key aspect of the process is the involvement of Federal resource agencies to identify critical issues from a regional perspective and to assist in developing transportation and land use projects and policies. SEWRPC expects this involvement to result in streamlined project delivery. See also: Ken Yunker's Presentation at the 2005 Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO) Annual Conference and the 2010 Interim Review and Update of the Year 2035 Regional Transportation System Plan.

Contact: Ken Yunker, SEWRPC (262) 547-6721.

Environmental Permits and Plans

Successful project delivery depends on compliance with NEPA. When achieving one project vision depends on the delivery of many small project or when one or when a series of unrelated project cumulatively impact the environment, States and MPOs employ a variety of approaches to coordinate efforts and improve environmental outcomes.

Examples in Practice

Utah Legacy Parkway and Nature Preserve
The Legacy Parkway is a 14-mile, four-lane, limited access divided highway that provides an important alternate route for Northern Utah commuters to I-15, Veterans Memorial Highway. A collaborative design team working with the public incorporated many unique and innovative features into the final parkway design. Some of the features included observation points and trailheads along with roadside pull-off lots, landscaping with native species, use of vegetated berms for screening, connections to other trails and communities and designing narrower paved portions of the roadway. The project resulted in a unique environmental mitigation project: the Legacy Nature Preserve. The Legacy Nature Preserve prevents future development from encroaching the Great Salt Lake ecosystem and also restores wetland and other natural habitats. UDOT found that they could meet safety standards while designing a roadway that meets aesthetic needs of local communities and protects the environmental integrity of the area. The Legacy Nature Preserve restores and preserves over 2,100 acres of important wetland and wildlife habitat from encroaching development and provides buffers that are important to the survivability of wildlife along the Great Salt Lake. This project was a winner of the FHWA 2007 Environmental Excellence Awards.

Contact: Eric McCulley, UDOT (801) 965-4000

Charlottesville Area Places29
Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (Charlottesville (VA) area MPO)

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), partnered with Virginia DOT and Albermarle County in an effort to combine land use and transportation planning. The resulting project, Places29, incorporated the work done on TJPDC's US29N Corridor Study to establish a vision for accommodating growth along US Route 29, incorporating placemaking and transportation solutions into the MPO and Albemarle County master plans. TJPDC also used an FHWA Eco-Logical grant to integrate transportation planning with environmental resource management. To accomplish this, TJPDC gathered existing resource data and assigned weighted values, resulting in a regional Ecological Value Map, including a "Least Environmental Cost Alignment" analysis for a new roadway proposed in Places29.

Contact: Harrison Rue, TJPDC (434) 979-7310

North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program
NCDOT, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
The Ecosystem Enhancement Program (EEP) is a compensatory mitigation system that was established in 2003 by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR), the North Carolina DOT (NCDOT) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The purpose of EEP is to speed project development and delivery while protecting the environment. Rather than focusing on individual highway project impacts, the EEP operates programmatically, using watershed plans and considering cumulative impacts associated with a given watershed. The program funds highway project mitigation activities, such as stream and wetlands protection and restoration, in advance of the actual project work. By taking the watershed level approach, sometimes the mitigation activities take place at other locations within the same watershed and not on the main project site. Funding is provided from Federal and state transportation sources through the statewide transportation improvement program (STIP).

Contact: Bill Gilmore, NCEEP (919) 715-1412.

Colorado I-70 Mountain Corridor Programmatic EIS
CDOT (Colorado DOT)
The Colorado DOT (CDOT) has undertaken a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to identify solutions for the I-70 Mountain Corridor between Denver and Glenwood Springs. The PEIS examined the indirect impacts of alternatives, including land use and development patterns, and the resulting impact on various environmental indicators. The project includes as Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) guidance website designed to support project managers and Project Leadership Teams in guiding a project through the CSS decision-making process. FHWA and CDOT issued a Record of Decision (ROD) in June 2011 which is the final step in this Tier 1 NEPA process. CDOT is currently in the Tier 2 NEPA process.

Contact: Wendy Wallach, CDOT (303) 757-9008.

Seattle WA I-405 Corridor
WSDOT (Washington State DOT)
The I-405 Corridor Program is a partnership among communities, elected officials, agencies, and advocacy groups to define a 20-year transportation vision for the 30-mile I-405 corridor in east suburban Seattle. Led by the Washington State DOT (WSDOT), the program undertook a streamlined EIS approach to reach consensus on a $7 billion transportation package to address mobility and access needs. Obtaining input from permitting agencies at an early stage allowed for timely decision making and generated "buy-in" for a multi-modal mix of solutions with broad-based support. The solution package has "smart growth" principles at its core and includes $95 million for land use strategies. The I-405 Corridor Program was incorporated into the Metropolitan Transportation Plan in 2002. The first funded components of the Corridor Plan are three distinct segments of general purpose lane additions to I-405, two of which have been completed. Known as the "Nickel Projects," due to their funding source from the five-cent gas tax-to expand highway capacity, these three improvements underwent individual environmental assessments, which involved community meetings to identify areas of particular concern, using the Tier 1 EIS for background. See the Seattle, WA: I-405 Corridor Program Case Study.

Contact: Kim Henry, WSDOT (425) 456-8539.


Updated: 10/20/2015
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