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A Guide to Transportation Decision Making


Advisory Committee
A group of representative stakeholders who meet regularly to discuss issues of common concern, such as transportation, and to advise sponsoring-agency officials. These groups effectively interact between residents and their government. Advisory committees are usually housed within MPOs and State DOTs.
Categorical Exclusion (CE)
A document prepared for Federal actions that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant human and/or natural environmental impact. This Categorical Exclusion requires neither an Environmental Assessment nor an Environmental Impact Statement.
Activities that assist communities in reaching social, cultural, aesthetic, and/or environmental goals; and harmonizing the transportation system with the community. Enhancements make projects fit better into the community and can include context - sensitive solutions, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, streetscape renovations, scenic beautification, historic preservation related to transportation, and wetland and wildlife protection.
Environmental Assessment (EA)
An interim decision document prepared when the significance of social, economic, or environmental impact has not yet been 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 FONSI 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)
An agency of the United States Department of Transportation. FHWA administers the Federal-aid Highway Program, which provides financial assistance to States to construct and improve highways, urban and rural roads, and bridges. FHWA also administers the Federal Lands Highway Program, which provides access to and within national forests, national parks, Indian Tribal lands, and other public lands. FHWA is headquartered in Washington, DC, with field offices across the country, including one in or near each State capital.
Federal Surface Transportation Legislation
Federal laws that authorize funds and programs for highway, transit, and other surface transportation programs. These funds historically have been derived primarily through the gas tax you pay at the pump.
Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
An agency of the United States Department of Transportation. FTA 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 that enhances mobility and accessibility, improves the nation's communities and natural environment, and strengthens the national economy. 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 and natural environment and that, therefore, no environmental statement will be prepared.
Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)
A document resulting from a regional or Statewide process of collaboration and consensus regarding 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 covers all of the transportation improvements scheduled for funding over the next 20 years.
Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)
A forum for regional planning, collaboration, and decisionmaking in metropolitan areas of at least 50,000 in population. MPOs conduct the regional transportation-planning process.
A means of avoiding, minimizing, rectifying, or reducing an impact, and, in some cases, compensating for an impact.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
A law enacted in 1969 that established a national environmental policy. For any project using Federal funding or requiring Federal approval, including transportation projects, NEPA requires the examination of the environmental effects of the proposed project and alternatives, and to complete this process 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. During this phase, all affected parties, including the public, reach a decision through negotiation. 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 for the purpose of gathering community comments and positions from all interested parties. Comments are entered into public record and, as appropriate, incorporated into decisions.
Public Meeting
A formal or informal event designed for a specific issue or community group during which planners present information and receive input from community residents.
Record of Decision (ROD)
A concise decision document for an environmental impact statement that states the decision (i.e., selected choice or alternative), other alternatives considered, and mitigation adopted for the selected choice or alternative.
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 projects on major highways in their 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/rural areas of the State and for transportation between cities.
Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)
A staged, multiyear (typically 4 year) 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 the long-range transportation plan.
Transportation Planning
A collaborative process of examining demographic characteristics and travel patterns for a given area. This process examines how these characteristics will change over a given period of time, and evaluates alternatives for the area's transportation system as well as the most effective use of local, State, and Federal transportation funding. Long-range planning is typically done over a period of 20 years; short-range programming of specific projects usually covers a period of 4 years.
Updated: 3/22/2012
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