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A Citizen's Guide to Transportation Decision Making


Citizens Advisory Committee--representative stakeholders that meet regularly to discuss issues of common concern, such as transportation, and to advise sponsoring agency officials. These groups effectively interact between citizens and their government.

Categorical Exclusion (CE)--an action that does not individually or cumulatively have a significant impact on the human environment. This Categorical Exclusion does not require an Environmental Assessment nor an Environmental Impact Statement.

Enhancements--activities that assist communities reach social, cultural, aesthetic and environmental goals as well as help harmonize the transportation system with the community. Enhancements are part of the mitigation for project impacts and can include bike and pedestrian trails, renovating streetscapes, and scenic beautification.

Environmental Assessment (EA)--an interim decision document prepared for an action where the significance of social, economic, or environmental impact is not clearly established. If the action is determined to have significant impact, an Environmental Impact Statement is then prepared. If no significant impact is determined, a finding of no significant impact is prepared.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)--a document, required under the National Environmental Policy Act, prepared for an action that is likely to have significant impact. This document summarizes the major environmental impacts, outlines issues, examines reasonable alternatives, and arrives at a record of decision, identifying the selected alternative for the project.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)--a branch of the United States Department of Transportation that administers the Federal-aid Highway Program, providing financial assistance to states to construct and improve highways, urban and rural roads, and bridges. The FHWA also administers the Federal Lands Highway Program that provides access to and within national forests, national parks, Indian reservations and other public lands. The FHWA is headquartered in Washington, DC, with field offices across the country, including one in each state capital.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA)--a branch of the United States Department of Transportation that is the principal source of federal financial assistance to America's communities for the planning, development, and improvement of public or mass transportation systems. FTA provides leadership, technical assistance, and financial resources for safe, technologically advanced public transportation to enhance mobility and accessibility, to improve the nation's communities and natural environment, and to strengthen the national economy. The FTA is headquartered in Washington, DC, with regional offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)--a statement indicating that a project was found to have no significant impacts on the quality of the human environment and for which an environmental statement will therefore not be prepared.

Long-Range Transportation Plan--a document resulting from a regional or statewide process of collaboration and consensus on a region or state's transportation system. This document serves as the defining vision for the region's or state's transportation systems and services. In metropolitan areas, the plan indicates all of the transportation improvement scheduled for funding over the next 20 years.

Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)--a forum for regional planning, collaboration, and decisionmaking, MPOs are designated agencies for metropolitan areas larger than 50,000 in population that conduct regional transportation planning.

Mitigation--means to avoid, minimize, rectify, or reduce an impact, and in some cases, to compensate for an impact.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)--a law enacted in 1969 that established a national environmental policy requiring that any project using federal funding or approval, including transportation projects, examine the effects the proposal and alternative choices have on the environment before a federal decision is made.

Project Development--the phase a proposed project undergoes once it has been through the planning process. The project development phase is a more detailed analysis of a proposed project's social, economic, and environmental impacts and various project alternatives. What comes from the project development phase is a decision reached through negotiation among all affected parties, including the public. After a proposal has successfully passed the project development phase, it may move to preliminary engineering, design, and construction.

Public Hearing--a formal event held prior to a decision that gathers community comments and positions from all interested parties for public record and input into decisions.

Public Meeting--a formal or informal event designed for a specific issue or community group where information is presented and input from community residents is received.

Record of Decision (ROD)--a concise decision document for an environmental impact statement that states the decision (selected alternative or choice), other alternatives considered, and mitigation adopted for the selected alternative or choice.

State Department of Transportation (State DOT)--a statewide agency that is responsible for conducting transportation planning activities in non-metropolitan areas of the state, and assisting MPOs in transportation planning for the metropolitan areas. State DOTs are also responsible for developing, designing, and constructing most of the projects on major highways in most states.

Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP)--prepared by the State DOTs, the STIP is a staged, multiyear listing of projects proposed for federal, state, and local funding encompassing the entire state. It is a compilation of the TIPs (see TIP) prepared for the metropolitan areas, as well as project information for the non-metropolitan areas of the state and for transportation between cities.

Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21)--a law enacted in 1998, TEA-21 authorized federal funding for transportation investment for the time period spanning fiscal year 1998 to fiscal year 2003. Approximately $218 billion in funding was authorized, the largest amount in history, and is used for highway, transit, and other surface transportation programs.

Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)--a staged, multiyear (typically three to five years) listing of surface transportation projects proposed for federal, state, and local funding within a metropolitan area. MPOs are required to prepare a TIP as a short-range programming document to complement its long-range transportation plan. TIPs contain projects with committed funds over a multiyear period.

Transportation Planning--a collaborative process of examining demographic characteristics and travel patterns for a given area. This process shows how these characteristics will change over a given period of time, and evaluates alternatives for the transportation system of the area and the most expeditious use of local, state, and federal transportation funding. Long-range planning is typically done over a period of twenty years; short-range programming of specific projects usually covers a period of three to five years.

Updated: 3/28/2012
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