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Integration and Streamlining Transportation Development and Decision Making: State of the Practice Synthesis Report

5. Overview of the Current State of Practice

5.1. Process of Developing Transportation Solutions
5.2. What are the Roles and Responsibilities of Each Discipline?
5.3. What are the Successful Factors in Integration Efforts?
5.4. What are the Challenges to Implementing a More Integrated Approach?
5.5. What is Needed to Improve the Integration of Disciplines within Each State?
5.6. Documents Used to Guide Integration

The survey results indicate that the extent of multi-disciplinary coordination in the development of transportation solutions varies by agency and phase of the project development process. The analysis of survey responses from across the State Departments of Transportation (STDs) showed that the responsibilities of each discipline involved in developing transportation solutions can vary a great deal, while the process itself generally follows a similar order.

This section begins with an overview of the development processes employed by STDs, and the range of roles and responsibilities undertaken by staff from the various disciplines. The role of each discipline is discussed within the framework of the transportation development process, as well as in relationship to each other. An analysis of key success factors and challenges associated with the implementation of an integrated approach follows. This section concludes with suggestions provided by survey respondents for improving coordination between disciplines and enhancing the smooth transition from a linear process to a more integrated approach; a list of manuals and handbooks referenced by survey respondents is also provided.

The observations in this section are based primarily on those survey respondents who indicated they would "describe [their] agency's process of developing transportation solutions as a new or non-traditional approach with more integration between any combination of the planning, real estate, engineering and environment disciplines." Even though 43 percent of survey respondents indicated they would not describe their agency's process in this way, a review of comments suggests that some of these agencies' approaches are multidisciplinary and do involve a certain amount of collaboration. Some of these respondents explained that their agency's multidisciplinary approach is their traditional method of developing solutions; therefore, the process is not "new" or "non-traditional," as described in the survey question. Additional respondents commented that while their agency is in the process of moving towards a more integrated approach, the process is not yet fully implemented. Therefore, responses from some agencies that answered "No" to question 5 of the survey are still included in this analysis.

It is important to note that this section is solely based on comments provided by respondents to the FHWA Integration Solutions Survey; all questions referenced in this section are from the survey.

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5.1 Process of Developing Transportation Solutions

Planning and transportation development processes, as documented in the fact books, manuals and handbooks developed by many State Departments of Transportation (STDs) generally follow a similar sequence of steps. The following description of these steps was developed based on a review of survey question 5. This question prompted respondents to describe their agency's project development process with respect to the disciplines involved if their process can be described uniformly regardless of the transportation solution being addressed. It is important to note however, that 47 percent of respondents stated their process cannot be described uniformly. See Section 4.2.2 for a discussion of this survey question.

  1. Planning and programming (funding)
  2. Preliminary Engineering *
  3. Environmental Studies *
  4. Design Detail
  5. ROW Acquisition
  6. Utility Relocation
  7. Project Construction
  8. Operation and Maintenance

* NEPA Process

While these phases are listed sequentially, there is often overlap between activities conducted in various stages. Survey responses indicated that STDs believe concurrent development efforts generally provide for greater efficiency in the project development process as coordination among disciplines increases. The following section provides an overview of activities conducted in each stage listed above.

During the (1) Planning process, staff work with federal, state, and local officials, community groups and other stakeholders to identify transportation issues/needs, determine project limits and develop scopes of work. Some STD Planning divisions are responsible for ensuring all adequate funds are established for design and construction, and all local and federal permits are obtained.

Following the Planning process, (2) Preliminary Engineering is integrated with (3) Environmental processes to assure that the selected alternative minimizes impacts to the environment and provides a solution that can be engineered successfully.

In the (4) Design phase, engineers prepare detailed design plans, specifications and cost estimates. Design of the physical facility begins, field surveys are performed and construction plans are completed. If the project involves acquisition of additional property, (5) Right of Way is purchased or obtained and (6) utility easements which may be affected are assessed. Plans and specifications are reviewed by Department staff, including those from the planning, traffic operations and engineering divisions. Clearances and approved plans are then processed so that projects can be implemented during the (7) Construction phase. Following construction, (8) Operation and Maintenance keeps the project in good working condition.

While the above general process provides the basic sequence utilized by STDs in the development of transportation solutions, transportation agencies have unique ways of describing their agency's approach. Respondents from the Wisconsin and New York STDs, for example, provided particularly detailed descriptions of their uniform development processes using terminology slightly different from the general process described above. The different ways in which these agencies explain distinct phases in their development process provide some insight into the ways in which STDs think about the development process.

The Facilities Development process in the Wisconsin STD includes five phases:

  1. Concept Definition - The purpose, need and anticipated solution are determined.

  2. Investigation - Physical, environmental, and community information about the project is gathered.

  3. Determination - A final decision is made on the solution to the earlier established need.

  4. Final Design - The plan, specification and estimate (PS&E) is prepared.

  5. Pre-Contract Administration - The PS&E is made ready for letting.

In New York State, the transportation development process is divided into four major phases. Those phases in sequential order are as follows:

  1. Planning - The major output is the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program; individual projects are described in Initial Project Proposals (IPPs). The Planning phase consists of coordination with MPOs, where applicable.

  2. Scoping - On a project development level, IPPs are carried forward into the Scoping Phase, which is still managed by departmental Planning personnel. In the Scoping Phase it is decided whether or not to conduct a corridor study. An Expanded Project Proposal (EPP) documents the project to Design.

  3. Design - The Design Phase consists of compliance with NEPA and permit applications. Design prepares Plans, Specifications and Estimates (PS&E) which along with permits are forwarded to Construction.

  4. Construction - The project is constructed.

Many survey respondents indicated that in their effort to streamline the transportation development process, activities in different phase are conducted concurrently. Ideally, concurrent development leads to a better product as increased collaboration results in a solution that sufficiently addresses concerns of each discipline relative to all proposed alternatives. In response to question 7 of the survey, respondents described overlapping activities that occur between phases of the development process in their respective agencies.

In the North Carolina STD, for example, the planning and design phases overlap at least until the right of way acquisition begins; and permitting and design overlap during right of way acquisition. In the Ohio STD, the right of way acquisitions phase runs concurrent with the final design steps. Following the completion of design and acquisition, the project moves through the estimating and project advertisement process, to the contract awards process and finally out to construction.

A respondent from the West Virginia STD described the extent of concurrent development employed in the state this way, "Once given approval, the project or program is given to the appropriate party for development. Initially, it would be sent to the environmental and historical section for review. It would at the same time be sent to the permitting section for their initiation of the permit work. Project development would begin at the same time and would be completed as much as possible while waiting on the other processes. The right of way would be notified along with the utilities relocation specialists. Discussions occur with the environmental and historical through the permitting sections along with the designers concurrently. At the same time we have designers working with the right of way and utilities."

Even survey respondents who identified their agency as non-integrated noted a certain amount of collaboration between different disciplines throughout different stages in the development process. Table 5.1 below provides a description of how the various disciplines contribute to each phase in the process. The basis for this description was provided by a respondent from the Puerto Rico STD.

Table 5.1 Role of Disciplines in Each Phase in the Project Development Process

Phase Description and Disciplines Involved

(1a) Early Planning (Long-Range)

Mostly transportation planners and some engineers, traffic and environmental study personnel participate in preliminary assessment of transportation needs and the potential impacts of solutions that address those needs.

(1b) Project Programming and budgeting (setting priorities)

Mostly engineers, planners and some financial staff with expertise in budgeting are involved in this process, decisions are influenced by top ranking public officials, politicians, and special interest groups.

(in Oregon and California STD, this process includes environmental specialists)

(2) Preliminary Design & Engineering

Mostly engineers and surveyors are involved in consultation with the environmental study personnel, as well as architects, geologists, hydrologists and others when applicable.

(3) Environmental studies

Involves mostly personnel from the disciplines of engineering, planning, biology, archaeology, and historic preservation, but may also involve personnel with expertise in real property acquisition (i.e. property appraisers) and relocation of families, businesses and institutions, as well as from the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, geologists, lawyers, among others, if applicable (i.e. lead-base paint and asbestos removal and disposal).

(4) Final design

Mostly engineers, who may consult as necessary with those involved in environmental studies (i.e. to address the compliance with environmental commitments or assess mitigation alternatives not previously considered) and real property acquisition.

(5) Property Acquisition

(6) Relocation Assistance

Mostly involves acquisition and relocation assistance personnel such as property appraisers and relocation assistants, but may involve personnel with expertise in civil rights and other areas.

(7) Construction

Mostly involves engineers and engineering assistants, but also involves personnel with expertise in construction safety, accounting, and other disciplines mentioned above (i.e. those with expertise in disciplines associated to environmental studies, particularly in cases where environmental commitments are in effect).

(8) Operation and Maintenance

Mostly involves personnel with expertise in transportation facility maintenance, traffic counting, auditing, and other disciplines. For cases in which environmental or other commitments are in effect, personnel with expertise in those fields, as applicable.

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5.2 What are the Roles and Responsibilities of Each Discipline?

The survey revealed generally the duties and responsibilities of staff within each discipline as well as the extent of integration between the disciplines. It was found that certain activities including holding and attending public participation meetings, and acquiring and negotiating permits require the participation of all disciplines. Whereas collaboration between the disciplines of planning, engineering, environment and right of way traditionally occurs when determining the preferred transportation solution, a more integrated approach emphasizes coordination throughout all phases of the process. With this emphasis, STDs have undergone organizational changes such as integrating the planning and environment divisions, combining design and project development, and enhancing input from the ROW discipline throughout the entire process. The extent of integration was also noted by several respondents to be proportional to the size of the project. As stated by one survey respondent, "the process is mostly integrated only when projects are large, otherwise it's a wasted of effort."

The four subsequent sections provide a description of the typical role of staff from each of the four disciplines as described by respondents who identified their agencies as having an integrated process. As noted in the introduction to this chapter, there is a certain amount of collaboration between disciplines even in agencies identified in the survey as non-integrated. Consequently, a few descriptions are provided by survey respondents who consider their agencies' approach to transportation decision-making as non-integrated.

5.2.1 Planning

Throughout all activities conducted as part of the transportation development process, planning acts as a liaison to the public and elected officials. Planners serve as project points of contact with the community to keep community stakeholders notified of project status. Responsibilities of the Planning division generally run from the early, long-range planning efforts through to the project development process.

In the integrated agency, the Planning division takes the lead in developing long-range transportation plans. At this level of involvement, planners are responsible for identifying major project purpose and need, as well as identifying transportation investment goals, objectives, and directions.

Planning staff also arrange the process for developing and selecting the transportation solution. They collaborate with the disciplines of engineering, environment and right of way in order to identify solutions and potential alternatives to address the needs identified in the long-range planning process. A team approach is also utilized to determine the costs and investment plan for the system. Planning staff generally work with the public, local governments, MPOs, and others to verify the need and develop potential solutions. When projects are prioritized based upon need and funding availability, the Planning division works with community groups, the public and local governments to develop the final list of priority projects.

Planning is particularly involved in the initial phases of project development, conducting feasibility studies, and participating in corridor and concept selection. In the Michigan, Connecticut and District of Columbia STDs, Planning divisions are responsible for conducting environmental analyses and clearances, and obtaining required permits and approvals. Planners may also coordinate with the Department's project implementation teams to ensure proper design and construction.

5.2.2 Engineering

Engineers are responsible for the design of the transportation structure, which includes conducting photogrammetry activities, developing pavement, roadway, hydraulic, geotechnical and structure design, setting the proposed horizontal and vertical alignment, identifying right of way to be secured, attending and holding field inspections, and participating in public involvement or public hearings.

As preliminary engineering and environmental studies are conducted to meet NEPA requirements, the Design division is often responsible for all work completed during this initial phase. Engineers provide geometric layout assistance to ensure that a safe facility with minimal impact to the surrounding environment can be built. In the Colorado STD, for example, engineers have ultimate authority during the NEPA process in a new system called Total Project Leadership (cradle to grave). In the Minnesota STD, engineers are responsible for providing liaison activities between the Districts and other agencies during the environmental documents preparation and approval process. In the Nevada STD, the Design division is responsible for securing permits and approvals for various project elements, as well as certifying project compliance with certain State and Federal mandates.

An engineer from the Ohio STD highlighted the importance of "true preliminary engineering in the early phases of planning and environmental development [as] a critical component" to the success of an integrated approach. The respondent stated that the division's current insufficient level of PE work results in a lack of understanding of the real impacts and design complications, which are often not discovered until the detailed design phase.

Management level engineers are responsible for oversight of a range of project development activities, from detailed design to construction. In the Delaware STD, project development and design units are combined into a single unit. Engineers in the Minnesota STD have developed a Project Management System that lays out each job activity for that particular type of project, with duration times so the District knows if it is on track to meet its scheduled letting. In the South Dakota STD, engineers participate in long range transportation planning, but take the lead role during the scoping process after projects are identified. The office is responsible for distributing project information for review by staff from other disciplines, scheduling meetings to determine the best solution for a particular project, and refining the initial scope as more issues are identified and/or resolved. In the West Virginia STD, transportation engineer responsibilities include managing and providing engineering guidance to the design and construction of the proposed project. This includes securing right of way and permits, managing construction, participating and conducting public input meetings, and supervising plan development for some projects.

5.2.3 Environment

Responsibilities of staff within the Environmental division stem from the early stages of planning, to concept development, project development, and finally design and construction. Environmental staff provides input into the development of the long-range transportation plan. In the Maryland STD, for example, the environmental division is responsible for identifying potential issues such as Smart Growth and assisting in the development of the purpose and need statement. In the Louisiana STD, the reorganization of environmental specialists from the design to planning division has provided the environmental division with greater oversight on project solutions. In this way, environmental considerations occur on the front end of the process before more detailed design is accomplished.

Environmental staff tasks include preparing environmental inventories, leading the NEPA process for the development of the EIS, and ensuring environmental compliance with all pertinent state and federal environmental laws and regulations. Environmental staff are also responsible for addressing cultural issues, and applying for and negotiating permit issues with resource and regulatory agencies.

Public involvement includes participating in public meetings (advisory task force meetings, workshops, public informational meetings, public officials meetings, etc.), resource agency meetings, in-house project review meetings, etc. Environmental staff conduct public hearings, coordinate issues and concerns with affected property owners and local governments, and generally work to gain public support for a project.

Survey respondents who identified their agencies as having non-integrated processes also described the responsibilities of environmental staff as continuing beyond completion of the Record of Decision (ROD), a document that presents the basis for selecting and approving a specific transportation proposal. In Wyoming, the environmental division is responsible for establishing advisory teams to ensure EIS obligations are met during the design phase; providing construction expertise for environmental compliance in the field; providing post construction monitoring of all mitigation sites; and working with maintenance for maintaining with environmental compliance. In the New Mexico STD, environmental staff help develop solutions to minimize and mitigate impacts during final design if environmental, community, and/or cultural resource impacts have been identified. As in Wyoming, the New Mexico environmental division ensures the fulfillment of environmental commitments as determined by the EIS, during the construction phase.

5.2.4 Right of Way

A survey respondent from the Right-of-Way (ROW) discipline described the division's role as "looking at the design in regards to the human factor." ROW specialists address questions such as: Who does the project impact? What amenities are affected? Can these amenities be replaced? How much will relocations cost? Can we assure that everyone is treated fairly and equitably in this process?

The tasks of the ROW division include identifying limits of existing right-of-way, determining right-of-way needs of the proposed project, and identifying property needed for permanent acquisition or temporary occupancy during construction. Upon determining ROW needs, the division contacts private owners or government agencies with jurisdiction over the involved property and initiates the acquisition process or negotiates a lease or right-of-entry.

In an integrated agency, ROW participation in project development decisions begins in the early phases of concept development, feasibility assessment and scope development. As members of cross-functional scoping teams, ROW input identifies significant impacts in terms of cost and relocation, and recommends mitigating alternatives. These alternatives can vary from avoiding certain parcels, to acquiring lesser property interests, or in the case of necessary major impacts, acquiring entire properties instead of partial takings. These alternatives and supporting information are useful during environmental and public hearing processes.

ROW staff involvement continues during preliminary engineering and environmental scoping in order to identify any issues that may affect the design and schedule for the project. In the Florida STD, ROW is involved in the review of project plans at several milestone stages including pre-plan, 30 percent, 60 percent, and 90 percent of plan completion.

Participation of ROW staff during public meetings to describe processes and answer questions is an integral component of the discipline's responsibilities. Currently, the Idaho STD is transitioning to an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach. On major projects, headquarters ROW staff conducts both pre- and post-acquisition meetings with design, environmental, district staff, and consulting engineers. These meetings identify project layout and all right of way related issues. Problems are anticipated and schedules are coordinated so that right of way activities can proceed in tandem with other activities instead of sequentially.

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5.3 What are the Successful Factors in Integration Efforts?

This section provides examples from the survey of activities, processes and strategies used by STDs in achieving an integrated approach to transportation decision-making. There are key factors that appear to contribute to a successful implementation of an integrated approach. Agencies currently evaluating their approach consider implementing a combination of factors in achieving the desired goal. A respondent from the New York STD noted the agency's recent incorporation of Context Sensitive Design philosophy, environmental ethics, and asset management principles to improve and attain a more integrated, rather than stove-piped, analysis and decision making approach. Several other states, as mentioned in the section below, have also developed and implemented unique concepts and processes to improve their development process. However, as stated by a New York STD respondent, the process is one of continuous evaluation and improvement.

5.3.1 More involvement, earlier in the process

In describing the most successful points of an integrated approach, many survey respondents stated that increased involvement of disciplines earlier in the development process would lead to better solutions. Along these lines, the California STD supports the concept of "change control" in which there is more up front involvement by the various disciplines with, ideally, less repetition further along in the project. This concept is based on the idea that after the environmental document is approved, only design and construction remains. This means that traffic, structure design, substructures design, geometrics etc. would be known to such detail that no design changes would require revisions to environmental documents or permits. As stated by one California STD respondent, "this requires a great deal of multi-disciplinary integration."

Agencies also utilize the "concurrent engineering" approach which sets requirements for all design disciplines to be involved much earlier in the process. Under Virginia STD's traditional approach, design plans were generally approved at approximately 65-70 percent plan completion and any "late stage" design changes required a significant amount of rework. With this approach, many of the disciplines including Environmental, Real Estate, and Utilities would do only minimal work until after design approval. Under Virginia's new process, the objective is to approve the design at approximately 40 percent plan completion. This requires all of the disciplines to be involved much earlier in the process.

5.3.2 Concurrent development and milestones

As described in a previous section, concurrent development of traditionally sequential operations such as detailed design, environmental clearance and ROW acquisition is expected to effectively shorten the critical path towards successful project delivery. Although parallel development does present the risk of some duplicate work or more work on what are ultimately rejected alternatives, the overall process is often expected to be more efficient in the end.

The Ohio STD recognized the lack of overlapping involvement between planning, environmental and design in the state's former development process. A member of the Ohio STD described that under their traditional approach, independent decisions were often made without the full knowledge of impacts. In addition, complications were sometimes created for operations downstream of planning (i.e. environmental and design). The Ohio STD currently has a strategic initiative underway which addresses the concern of producing a streamlined development process that involves disciplines from planning, environmental, design, construction and maintenance at the appropriate times to ensure equitable solutions are addressed. The state's former, linear process often lacked the necessary overlap and communication efforts between different disciplines to maximize the overall best solution.

To ensure that all staff is knowledgeable about and in accordance with the project's status and progress, integrated STDs require agency concurrence at project milestones. Concurrence eliminates or greatly reduces "surprises" late in a project. The Maryland STD , for example , requires agency concurrence at 3 key milestones during the Planning phase: (1) Purpose and need; (2) Alternatives retained for detailed study; and (3) Selected alternative and conceptual mitigation. The agency is also developing a process where, for certain projects, 30 percent of the final design is completed at the same time as Location Approval is received.

5.3.3 Multidisciplinary core teams

For many STDs, a multidisciplinary team approach is integral to the development of transportation solutions. With input from various disciplines throughout the different phases of project development, problems that could potentially stall or halt a project could be identified and resolved earlier in the process, before final design and construction. The complexity of a given project and the extent of social, economic and environmental issues and impacts dictate the level of involvement from various team members. There are a number of different ways in which these teams are organized:

A member of the Nevada STD described the state's recent establishment of a Project Team concept as a way to better define a project prior to preliminary design being commenced. The Nevada respondent stated, "by having more input from the various divisions throughout the entire process, it is hoped that fewer problems due to lack of input will be encountered along the way." The state is also developing a multi-disciplinary team to review newly recommended projects for feasibility, cost, scope, etc. before they are added to the STIP.

5.3.4 "Cradle to Grave" Approach

"Cradle to grave" describes one approach to project development in which a single person, or a team of persons, is responsible for managing the project from inception to completion. Such an approach ensures that staff working in each phase of the process is aware and supportive of project commitments and decisions. It also provides an opportunity for staff to conduct a review of the process, discuss alternative solutions to problems encountered, and share best practices after project completion. A member of the Missouri STD stated, "While it was intended that the project team stay intact cradle to grave, this has not always been the case. I believe we've lost some of the benefits of the team involvement when the construction personnel don't know what commitments were made earlier, or reasoning behind certain features. It also prevents folks from learning from their mistakes and sharing best practices when the final result of the project isn't reviewed by the team that developed it."

The assignment of a single project manager provides a central contact for members of the community, as well as internal agency staff on the project. In major projects that involve numerous complex issues, a single project manager is integral to tracking concurrent activities and monitoring the project schedule. In the Texas STD, a staff member described the single project manager cradle to grave process as one that provides everyone from agency personnel, to the general public, to the press, with a contact who can access the best and most accurate information on all project details. The Texas STD member also stated that a "higher degree of trust evolves between the many involved parties as most get to know one another on a more personal basis."

Some STDs assign more than one project manager to each project, in conjunction with multi-disciplinary teams. In the Iowa STD, a team leader is assigned to guide a multi-disciplinary team with "cradle to grave" responsibilities for the project during all phases of development. However, the team leader changes as the project moves from corridor-concept selection to the detailed design phase.

In the New Jersey STD, there is an effort by the department to keep cross-functional scoping teams together from design through construction in order to provide continuity of decision making as projects mature through the process. A staff member indicated that previously, teams were largely disbanded once the project entered the design phase.

A lack of connection between earlier and later, particularly construction, phases, in the development process is a concern among other agencies as well. A member of the Ohio STD described the agency's previous process as one that "lacks a connection between construction and design as a means to identify and recycle changes to design methods, thus improving appropriate construction opportunities." While Ohio did monitor preventable and non-preventable construction change orders, the agency did not under their previous system, have the mechanisms in place to recycle the successful results and educate those on the design mistakes made. The Ohio STD plans to include such mechanisms in the project development process currently under development.

To assist single-point project managers on especially large or complex projects, STDs have developed software programs for tracking the status of the project. These systems indicate exactly how much work has been completed, who is involved and what still needs to be done in a project. A respondent of the Tennessee STD noted the state's utilization of a new project planning and resource management software package that not only tracks a project, but has the ability to flag problems and change the project schedule.

5.3.5 Combine Project Development with Asset Management

For the past several programming cycles, the Michigan STD has integrated its project- and program-development process with its asset management approach. Michigan has set pavement-condition goals, and the annual program is developed in accordance with strategies chosen by each region for achieving the goals. Michigan has benefited from combining the usual disciplines of project development (planning, engineering, environmental, and real estate) with the budgetary function and the maintenance/accounting science of pavement and bridge management. As a result, the agency is now exporting this approach to Michigan's city and county road agencies, with a unified asset management program and centralized data repository for the entire state. The agency's future efforts will focus on integrating user-benefits measures into the process, such as travel speed and predictability.

5.3.6 Integration of Land Use and Transportation Planning

Land use planning and transportation planning are conducted in concert within the state of Oregon. All Oregon communities with a population of 10,000 or more must have a Transportation System Plan as part of their required Comprehensive Land Use Plans. As a result, Oregon STD's corridor system planning for regional and statewide highways must be negotiated with the local Transportation System Plans for compatibility and incorporation into local plans. Incorporation into local plans is required before approval to do final design and construction. Although discussed as an ideal multi-disciplinary approach, a survey respondent from the Nevada STD described the difficulty of coordinating transportation planning with land use planning because land use decisions are controlled by local governments.

5.3.7 Public Involvement

Early and continuous communication with the public is integral to ensuring that a project satisfies the needs of the users and preserves the environmental, scenic, aesthetic, historic and natural resource values of the community. Consequently, it is an important feature of an integrated approach to transportation decision making. The Connecticut STD, for example , has implemented a public participation program. During the development of the STIP, public information meetings are held to solicit local input. At 30 percent completion of design, an informational meeting or formal public hearing is held to introduce the proposed project design to the public and to again solicit input. All further public contact results from public inquiry; however, for some large or politically sensitive projects, additional meetings are offered including meetings dedicated to the Rights of Way process. Although survey respondents from other agencies do not make specific references to public involvement programs, many emphasize the importance of public participation throughout the development process. Respondents from the Kentucky, South Carolina and Utah STDs identified early and continuous public involvement as one of the most successful points or practices in an integrated transportation solution development process.

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5.4 What are the Challenges to Implementing a More Integrated Approach?

Survey responses indicated there are some challenges and difficulties in the implementation of a more integrated approach. One such challenge is that an integrated approach necessitates more communication and a greater understanding of the different development phases and roles of each discipline. According to one member of the Texas STD, for example, the level of detailed knowledge required in all segments of the process precludes any significant integration; "Rather, our disciplines are schooled and guided to ask for key input from other disciplines when needed." Qualitative comments from a number of survey respondents show a certain degree of frustration in some of the processes and requirements of an integrated approach. This section provides a description of some opinions by survey respondents regarding the challenges of a more integrated approach.

5.4.1 NEPA and Planning

The NEPA process requires collaboration between disciplines and public involvement as agencies develop transportation solutions. With its provisions for the assessment of secondary and cumulative impacts, analyses of projects require context sensitive solutions and commitments on the part of localities as well as states in the delivery of transportation infrastructure. The NEPA process also requires meetings with individual stakeholders and pro-forma public hearings instead of organized, structured and facilitated community meetings to plan and design communities with the goal of maximizing social and economic sustainable development and environmental protection.

While a member of the Indiana STD described the merging of the NEPA and planning processes as one of the most successful points of the agency's transportation solution development process, staff members from several other agencies view the combination of the two less favorably. An Alabama STD respondent who identified the agency as having a non-integrated process, stated that NEPA is an engineering and environmental process, not a planning and environmental process. The respondent explains, "Planners need to establish needs, not solutions. The engineers and environmentalist need to develop the best solution to the need. Don't put NEPA into the planning process. The planners need to conduct inventories and studies that identify where the transportation needs are (i.e. traffic studies to determine where added capacity is needed, bridge inventory and inspections to determine which bridges need to be replaced). It is the engineer's and environmentalist's job to determine how best to provide the added capacity or replace the bridge in a way that provides safe and efficient transportation that is compatible with the environment."

Another survey respondent indicated some conflict between the NEPA and planning process. Staff from the Arizona STD explained, "The planning, preservation and development of transportation corridors is not supported by the NEPA process. The purpose and need for future facilities can not always be justified at the level of detail that exists for projects currently programmed for construction. Environmental impacts and mitigations being required by resource agencies is different for current raw land as compared to the future developed land that is going to occur."

While some STD staff members have concerns about the idea of integrating planning with the NEPA process, others who are making the transition note the difficulties, as well as potential solutions, to such a process. A member of the Louisiana STD Environmental Section stated that, "while we may be moving to a 'one overall cradle-to-grave manager' concept, there is not a clear understanding of the NEPA process by others outside of my Section to allow this. The Environmental Section has not received additional personnel to handle this change in approach, and this has caused a few problems in making a smooth transition. We are trying to develop a manual of practice to assist others in our Department in what is required in the planning and environmental phases of the project development process."

5.4.2 Priority of Completing Project Quickly

Although an integrated approach is ostensibly intended to shorten the overall length of project delivery, the approach does require more involvement and time commitment in the initial stages. A member of the Colorado STD stated, while the "Department understands integration may be desirable, the highest priority is on building projects quickly. Recently authority and accountability over project implementation was decentralized with increased authority provided to project engineers. As a result, each project is implemented differently with different approaches to issues that reflect the values of the individual engineer as opposed to any overriding department philosophy. This decentralization of responsibility and authority does respond to the primary goal of implementing projects quickly." A survey respondent from the Illinois STD expressed interest in a multi-disciplinary approach, but requested additional research and case studies indicating the success of such an approach since its implementation is "extremely staff intensive."

5.4.3 Difficulty obtaining Public Involvement

Two survey respondents expressed frustration with the difficulty of successfully involving certain members of the community in the process and gathering public input in a time-efficient manner. A member of the Kentucky STD explained that limited utility company participation prevents the development of solutions that minimize impacts. A member of the Iowa STD described one of its larger stumbling blocks as developing projects within budget and schedule while coordinating with external entities. These entities include "multiple federal agencies all of whom feel their federal action is the most important," as well as other agencies involved in the decision-making process. A member of the South Dakota STD also stated that the "Department needs to extend the preliminary investigation and scope out 6 to 10 years prior to proposed lettings depending on the type of project. In urban settings we need more time. This would allow more public information meetings and information gathering from them and local agencies to integrate into the solution to the highway improvement."

5.4.4 Land use issues

While Oregon has an integrated land use and transportation planning process, a staff member from the Nevada STD described frustration in merging the two as an "idealistic" multi-disciplinary approach. The respondent stated, "In Nevada, land use decisions are controlled completely by local government. We do consider land use and the environment in our approaches to solutions but it is not what I would call revolutionary." The respondent explained the possibility of negative backlash from local and regional governments who feel land use decisions are not appropriately the responsibility of federal or state officials.

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5.5 What is Needed to Improve the Integration of Disciplines within Each State?

Of the respondents who indicated they faced impediments when implementing a more integrated approach, one of the most frequent impediments selected (67 percent) was the need for training and new skills. Similarly, the second most frequent response (19 percent) from respondents with an opinion as to why their agency did not adopt a more integrated process was the need for information and training. A review of qualitative responses supports these findings, which are discussed in greater detail in Sections 4.3.10 and 4.4.3. Agency staff highlight education and research as key elements in the successful development and implementation of an integrated approach to developing transportation solutions. With the pressure of building a road "as soon as possible" and "in-budget," it is important to have transportation practitioners and the public understand the inter-related aspects of the multiple disciplines as they work to reach a transportation solution.

An Oregon STD staff stated, "Environmental practitioners have to be coached to develop course data that is meaningful to the broader decisions at hand during planning stages. The public and local government needs to be educated as the project develops concerning the importance and relevance of environmental decision making in the transportation development process."

Survey respondents also requested additional research to conduct an assessment of the integrated process in order to better assess the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches. A member of the Illinois STD stated, "This [integrated] approach, while allowing for the widest amount of input and the least chance for problems, is extremely staff intensive. We will need to see some real success stories from our process in order to justify all of the time spent."

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5.6 Documents Used to Guide Integration

Some agencies have developed, or are in the process of developing, guidelines and manuals that clearly explain the amount and type of integration between disciplines throughout different stages of the project. Well-defined roles and processes are integral in a process in which activities are conducted concurrently, with more collaboration between different agency divisions or sections. A New York STD staff member stated that, "On paper we have a single point project manager, but the assignment is to get something built fast. They don't have the authority or the training to do real planning and design in a context sensitive manner. An Illinois STD member expressed difficulty in determining "where that fine line falls between planning and project development."

A list of process-related STD guidelines, charts and manuals currently available or in-production is provided below. This section is based on input from respondents to the FHWA Integration Solutions Survey, so it is not intended to represent a comprehensive list of all process-related materials produced by STDs. Descriptions of materials were also provided by survey respondents.

The Iowa STD has a "Can-Do" process institutionalized via a process manual. The agency expects the 2nd revision/edition of the manual to be completed in 2 or 3 months. (Survey response received July 31, 2002.)

Kentucky STD

The agency's acquisitions and utility relocation process described by Statewide Policies and Procedures

Louisiana STD

Louisiana's processes are governed by the Secretary's policy and procedures manual, as well as the Engineering Design System (EDSM).

Maryland STD

The department recently developed a linear chart plotting the flow of a project. The chart identifies relationships between the various disciplines; explains what is required of each discipline to accomplish its mission; defines who you rely on for information and who relies on you for information; and provides understanding about who is impacted by a delay in their completion of their part of the process.

New York STD

Individual projects are guided by the Department's Scoping and Design Procedure Manual.

Ohio STD

The Ohio STD is currently in the process of developing a 14-step process. The process covers early planning through post construction. The process begins with an assessment of who needs to be involved; then moves to what technical analysis needs to be done; then looks at alternatives including all different modal alternatives; then moves on to environmental assessments which can be simple or move on to more complex environmental assessments, etc. Preliminary information on the process on Ohio STD's planning website.

Oregon STD

Transportation development in Oregon is guided by the Oregon Transportation Plan, and the Oregon Transportation Planning Rule, an Administrative Rule that guides the transportation element of the Oregon Land Use Planning Goals and Guidelines.

Vermont STD

A detailed Project Development Process manual can be accessed at the following webpage:

Washington STD

The agency is now documenting its planning to project delivery process in a manual, which will lead directly into the design manual.

Updated: 10/20/2015
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