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Environmental Justics: What You Should Know

Federal Highway Administration – Washington Division Office


This document provides a brief overview of the history of environmental justice and its relation to transportation decision-making. It has been prepared in an effort to assist FHWA Division staff (working with project teams) in developing an appropriate approach for Title VI Environmental Justice analysis and an effective public involvement strategy.

The material contained herein also provides a framework from which to review our environmental documents.

It does not create any rights, benefits, or trust obligations, either substantive or procedural, enforceable by any person, or entity in any court against the United States, its agencies, its officers, or any other person.




Some transportation practitioners are concerned that Environmental Justice (EJ) is a new requirement thrust upon State and local agencies. The fact is, however, that recipients of Federal financial assistance have long been required to certify, and the USDOT (i.e., FHWA) ensure, nondiscrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as well as under many other laws, regulations, and policies). For example, the type of documentation (outreach, data collection, impact assessment, et al) requested in support of Environmental Justice analyses is also identified in FHWA’s Technical Advisory 6640.8A, which was issued October 30, 1987 – nearly seven years prior to issuance of the Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice.

Former President Clinton issued Executive Order 12898 on February 11, 1994, which essentially reinforces the importance of fundamental rights and legal requirements contained in Title VI and the National Environmental Policy Act. One difference is that the Executive Order introduces low-income populations as an emphasis area (when addressing socio-economic concerns).

The Executive Order directs that "each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations". Other documents which have been issued to further clarify the Executive Order are: US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Order on Environmental Justice, dated April, 1997; the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) “Environmental Justice Guidance Under the National Environmental Policy Act”, dated December, 1997; and the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Order on Environmental Justice, dated December, 1998.

A key aspect of an EJ analysis is to ensure the involvement of affected communities/populations in our transportation decision-making processes (from Planning through Project Development). Early and continuous public involvement is critical to identifying needs and developing solutions to our transportation problems. The efforts to engage minority and low-income populations/communities must be sincere in order to develop trusting relationships with these communities. They need to know that their input is valued and given serious consideration in project decisions. These guidelines (combined with WSDOT’s Environmental Procedures Manual (EPM) guidance on EJ) are meant to provide a consistent framework for both preparing an EJ analysis and developing effective public involvement strategies. They contain only principles and general procedures, which means that the specific approach must be tailored to the unique circumstances of each project and those communities/populations affected by it. The FHWA and WSDOT have spent a considerable amount of time preparing our respective guidance documents in an effort to ensure that they are closely aligned and usable by FHWA, WSDOT, local agencies, and consultants.

These guidelines apply to all types of NEPA documentation (Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements, Environmental Reevaluations, etc.). Categorical Exclusions should be prepared in accordance with the FHWA-WSDOT Programmatic Agreement, to the extent that they do not conflict with Title VI-EJ principles.

Ideally, the identification of minority or low-income populations begins during systems planning by the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and Local Development Districts (LDDs) (23 CFR 450). This information, gathered during the initial stages of project development, can be used and supplemented during the environmental inventory and alternatives development phases as additional data, analysis, and public input are refined. Decision-makers can be better informed about the important issues and concerns of low-income and minority populations to be considered along with other factors in determining project location, design and mitigation. The EJ analysis during project development can be conducted concurrently with other technical environmental analyses during the Detailed Alternatives stage.

Once you have determined, using demographic analyses, that you have an EJ population, you must complete an analysis for each build alternative. Additionally, the No-Build alternative must be carefully considered as well. For example, it is possible that not building transportation improvements could impact minority or low-income populations (i.e., increased noise or air pollution, limited access to employment, etc.). A clearly written description of all EJ findings must be included in the environmental document. The information gleaned from the alternatives analyses should be considered (along with all other potential impacts/benefits) when identifying a preferred alternative.


The EJ Executive Order supplements the existing requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Each Federal agency is required to ensure that no person on grounds of race, color, or national origin is excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or in any other way subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal assistance. Accordingly, Title VI prohibits recipients of Federal funds from actions that reflect "intentional discrimination" or that exhibit "adverse disparate impact discrimination" on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin. Supplemental legislation provides these same protections from discrimination based on sex, age, disability or religion.

The concept of environmental justice is intended to ensure that procedures are in place to further protect groups, which have been traditionally underserved. The fundamental principles of environmental justice are:

The major similarities and differences between the EJ Executive Order and Title VI are described below:



  • Both address non-discrimination.
  • Both identify minority populations.
  • Both are rooted in the constitutional guarantee (14 th Amendment) that all citizens are created equal and are entitled to equal protection.
  • Both address involvement of impacted citizens in the decision-making process through meaningful involvement and participation.
  • EJ covers minority and low-income, while Title VI and supplemental legislation cover race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability.
  • EJ is an executive order (an order of the President of the United States), while Title VI is a law (an act of Congress).
  • EJ mandates a process, while Title VI prohibits discrimination.

A listing of existing laws and regulations addressing environmental justice and Title VI is included at the end of these guidelines.


Definitions have been taken directly from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Order on Environmental Justice:


A person whose median household income is at or below the Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines (see detailed discussion on page 10).


A person who is:

(a) Black (a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa);

(b) Hispanic (a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race);

(c) Asian American (a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands); or

(d) American Indian and Alaskan Native (a person having origins in any of the original people of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition)

Low-Income Population

Any readily identifiable group of low-income persons who live in geographic proximity and, if circumstances warrant, geographically dispersed/transient persons (such as migrant workers) who will be similarly affected by a proposed DOT program, policy or activity.

Minority Population

Any readily identifiable groups of minority persons who live in geographic proximity and, if circumstances warrant, geographically dispersed/transient persons (such as migrant workers) who will be similarly affected by a proposed DOT program, policy or activity.

Adverse Effects

The totality of significant individual or cumulative human health or environmental effects, including interrelated social and economic effects, which may include, but are not limited to:

Disproportionately High and Adverse Effects on Minority and Low-Income Populations

An adverse effect that:

(a) is predominately borne by a minority population and/or a low-income population, or

(b) will be suffered by the minority population and/or low-income population and is appreciably more severe or greater in magnitude than the adverse effect that will be suffered by the non-minority population and/or non-low-income population


As mentioned above, public participation is critical to effectively integrating environmental justice concerns into transportation decision-making. It is not a separate task, but must be fully integrated within the full range of State DOTs, local agencies and their planning partner "(MPOs/RTPOs) processes. Outreach to the public is already a critical component of State DOT's project development processes; environmental justice simply requires assurances that there is meaningful involvement of minority and low-income populations in public outreach activities. Efforts to engage these populations early (including prior to the environmental documentation phase) can benefit from the greater degree of flexibility available to agencies with respect to decisions on project mode, location and enhancements. Their participation can provide valuable input and assist in validating information obtained from secondary sources such as U.S. Census Bureau data. They can play an integral role in identifying issues and concerns of their communities, cataloging community resources and past actions affecting their quality of life, suggesting project alternatives, and negotiating avoidance, minimization, mitigation, and enhancements.

Recognizing that a primary goal of environmental justice is to engage those groups who have traditionally been underrepresented in the project development process, the project team should proactively reach out to the minority or low-income populations/communities identified during systems planning and the environmental inventory and alternatives development stages. It does not matter whether the study area is predominantly minority or low-income, or if there is only a small EJ community. Outreach is still required to get them involved in the project development process. This outreach effort begins early in the project (i.e., in the same time frame as focus group formation) and continues throughout the process. In order to be effective, the public involvement strategy should be tailored to use adaptive or innovative approaches that overcome linguistic, institutional, cultural, economic, historical, or other potential barriers to effective participation in the decision-making process.

All meetings should be held at sites that are accessible to the disabled and allow for transit access. Announcements of meetings should note that with advance notice appropriate needs and services will be furnished to ensure effective communication. Public agency staff should determine the most effective communication channels for reaching different groups. Options for public information media are numerous. Note that in developing a diverse strategy for conveying public information, agencies should recognize that not everyone has access to email or Internet sites nor do they necessarily subscribe to the local newspaper. Public outreach materials must be provided in the language(s) spoken by the populations/communities being addressed. This may mean translation of meeting announcements/materials. Specific requirements for communicating with populations with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) can be found at http://www.lep.gov/guidance/guidance_index.html. USDOT guidance on LEP is forthcoming and is expected to mirror that of the Department of Justice (www.usdoj.gov/crt/cor/13166.htm).

Each project team will need to develop its own outreach strategy thoughtfully, based upon the characteristics of the particular study area. There is no "cookie-cutter" approach, so each project may need to be treated somewhat differently.

The goal should be to identify minority and low-income populations, bring them into the project development process, and ensure that reasonable efforts are made to address their concerns and provide them meaningful opportunities to influence transportation decisions. This does not mean that public outreach is directed only toward EJ communities to the exclusion of other communities. The outreach strategies listed below should be applied to all populations, not strictly to EJ populations.


Listed below is a menu of possible tools and strategies, which may be useful in identifying, contacting, and engaging the public in the project development process.

For public meetings and brochures:

Possible innovative/unique ideas for atypical projects:


Adapting Meetings

The advertising and location selected should set the tone for the meeting. Attendees should enter the meeting with the feeling that it is worth their time and effort to attend. They should feel that they are a part of a discussion or a decision that will directly impact them. They should feel their ideas will be listened to and valued.

When attendees arrive, it is important to provide a comfortable, inviting atmosphere. For purposes of documenting attendance, it is important to have a staff person at the door to greet attendees and record names and addresses. By having a staff person record this information, an attendee who may be illiterate will not view this as a barrier to their participation. Similarly, it would be helpful to have a staff person available to record comments rather than solely asking for written comments. Recognizing that illiteracy is an issue all across this country, regardless of race, color or national origin, this practice should be applied throughout our public involvement activities - not just those aimed at minority and/or low-income. This is also a good time to document race and gender, being mindful of the sensitivity of this information. If feasible, the State DOT, the MPO or local government agency should use representatives at their meetings who are culturally, racially, and ethnically compatible with the target populations.

Holding meetings at a variety of times during the day and providing child care and food or refreshments may also make attendance more inviting. For example, target populations may include senior citizens who may prefer to meet in the daytime, particularly those who have concerns about being out after dark. Hold meetings in locations that are comfortable to the audience, such as non-government buildings/facilities located in their neighborhood. Holding meetings next to transit facilities is also important for many participants.

Some of the attendees may have some apprehension about talking in a large group setting. This potential problem can be overcome by the use of small breakout sessions, facilitated by local community people.

Finally, most people look favorably upon brief meetings. It is better to hold several short meetings than to turn people off with long sessions.

There are many good reference tools available on effective public involvement. One example is the September 1996 FHWA/FTA publication entitled, “Public Involvement Techniques for Transportation Decision-Making”.

Availability of Public Documents

Documents relative to the transportation plan or project being addressed should be placed in locations convenient and frequented by low-income and minority target populations. The local library may not be the sole or ideal location. Community center, county courthouses, the bureau of motor vehicles, recreation centers and churches should also be considered. Locations should be open after 5:00 p.m. The costs for documents, if any, should be reasonable, considering the income of the target populations. It is also important to ensure that documents and/or critical parts thereof are available in languages appropriate to the particular population(s) being impacted.



It is important that the identification of minority or low-income populations begin during systems planning by the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Local Development Districts (LDDs) and independent counties. This information gathered during initial stages of project development can be used and supplemented during the project development process as additional data, analysis and public input are refined to be included in the NEPA document. As more information becomes available and the alternatives are developed, the locations of populations will continue to be refined.

Environmental Inventory

For environmental inventory purposes, the main sources of information regarding locations of minority or low-income populations are:

1. U.S. Census Bureau Data

Because census data is readily available and easy to use, it is typically the first information gathered when trying to determine if there are minority or low-income populations in the project study area. However, census data is just the starting point used to “flag” census areas that potentially contain minority or low-income populations. Project developers should keep in mind that even areas with a small minority or low-income percentage may contain a protected population in the study area – in some cases, a group of a few homes could be considered a population. "Disproportionately high and adverse effects", not size, are the basis for environmental justice. Having only a few minority and/or low income individuals in the project area does not eliminate the possibility of a disproportionately high and adverse effect on that population. That is why it is critical to continue gathering additional information from various sources in order to successfully locate and refine the geographic locations of the populations.

A. Determine whether census "tracts" or "blocks" will be used. Generally, data based on census tracts should be used for larger project areas. For smaller project areas, data based on the smaller census blocks would be more appropriate.

B. Once the project study area is determined, identify all census tracts/blocks that overlap with it.

Project developers need to be sensitive to the fact that both minority and low-income populations need to be identified. Also, remember that there are many wealthy minority communities and many poor non-minoritycommunities. It is also important to realize that in some cases minority and low-income populations may not want to be identified.Special considerations need to be developed to address their concerns.

C. Determine the minority or low-income percentage for each census tract/block.


1) Minority Percentage

If there is more than one minority group in your study area, the minority percentage should be based on the aggregate of all minority people. For example, if the percentage of Black persons in the identified census tract/block is 20% and the percentage of Hispanic persons is 20%, then the total of 40% should be used for the minority percentage.

2) Low-Income Percentage

Census data provides the percentage of people below the poverty level (but does not actually provide the dollar amount of that poverty level).The dollar amount is defined by the Department of Health and Human Services. The data is revised annually and can be accessed at www.aspe.hhs.gov/poverty or www.census.gov. In order to be sensitive to low-income communities, do not include the poverty level dollar amount in the environmental document; rather simply keep the information in the project files. Be sure to identify the poverty level associated with the year of the census data being used (e.g., if you are using 2000 census data, use the corresponding 2000 poverty level).

d. Determine which census tracts/blocks should be "flagged" because they could contain minority or low-income populations from which you may need to provide information in other languages, as appropriate.

e. Once a census tract/block is "flagged" it should then be investigated more in depth using other programs (see websites listed under Additional Sources of Information) that are reevaluated on a more frequent basis, have smaller boundaries than census designations and use the threshold of eligibility as their definition of low-income. After further researching the communities and neighborhoods in the tract/block the determination can be made as to whether or not there is an EJ population.

2. Other Sources

Keep in mind that local jurisdictions may define their own ‘poverty level’; however, use the poverty level defined by the Department of Health and Human Services in order to maintain consistency between various

Theproject team should use a common sense approach when determining what further level of effort is appropriate for identifying EJ populations. However, as noted below census data alone cannot be relied upon to identify population due to how quickly it becomes outdated and our State’s ever-changing demographics. With regards to identifying low income, further analysis is also necessary beyond just the census since census data is only available at the block group level.

Field surveys of the affected project area can provide numerous indicators of community characteristics (e.g., businesses and public facilities catering to particular cultural groups or non-English signage). A considerable amount of data/information is available through resource agency websites, some of which are provided in Section IX below. At a minimum, contact should be made via phone conversations, meetings (including project team meetings) or correspondence with such resources as:

  • Local government planning and transportation staff, including MPOs / LDDs
  • State Department of Transportation

a. Office of Equal Opportunity

  • District Right-of-Way Office
  • US Dept. of Housing & Urban Development (Section 8 housing information by county)
  • US Dept. of Agriculture (the location of grocery stores that take food stamps by county)
  • Free and Reduced Price Meals Program (school students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch and enrollment by race and ethnicity)
  • State Dept. of Social & Health Services

a. State or indigent health care services

The reason why information is being collected should be stated in any conversations or letters. Information regarding the locations of EJ communities may raise sensitive issues; therefore an explanation should accompany any request for locations of EJ communities.

Alternatives Development

After the environmental inventory stage, as preliminary/conceptual alternatives are developed, other sources of information must be used to confirm and further refine the locations of minority and low-income populations. As


Even if a census tract/block has a small percentage of minority or low-income persons - it is possible that a population(s) may still be located in that census tract/block. For example, a 5% Asian American population may be entirely located in one particular community, thus qualifying as a minority population. "Population" is defined in the above section on Definitions.


Things to Remember When Conducting an Interview

  • Provide the purpose/background of environmental justice (reference the Executive Order)
  • Emphasize that you are looking for information on both minority and low-income populations – and that they are not the same thing
  • Explain what the 4 minority groups are and what the poverty level is
  • Request information on the location of minority or low-income populations, based on their knowledge of the project study area.


described earlier, public involvement is a critical component to this effort. The project team will need to determine, based on each particular project, which sources are appropriate to contact.

This contact can be made via formal written correspondence (letters, flyers, etc.), meetings/presentations, phone calls and/or e-mails – the team needs to determine which method is most appropriate for a particular source. Some sources, such as religious groups and schools, in addition to providing race and national origin information about the people attending their services or classes, may also be able to provide information about any low-income communities they may assist. Keep in mind that it is very important to maintain a record of all sources, as well as the input each source provides.

Possible additional information sources include, but are not limited to:

  • homeowner/community associations
  • community action agencies
  • religious organizations (churches)
  • civil rights organizations
  • state and local tax and financing agencies
  • minority business associations
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • business and trade organizations
  • environmental and environmental justice organizations
  • rural/agricultural organizations
  • economic and job development agencies (Welfare to Work)
  • ethnic stores/shops
  • school districts (or by elementary schools)
  • senior citizen groups (senior centers, county Office of Aging)
  • community/recreational centers
  • local housing authority


It is extremely important that sufficient documentation be provided in support of the conclusion. Lack of supporting data/documentation has been one of the weaknesses identified during our legal sufficiency reviews.

In the “Affected Environment” section of the environmental document, findings regarding minority and low-income populations should be carefully discussed. While the project files should include all details of the efforts taken to identify minority or low-income populations in the study area (letters written to agencies/organizations, phone memos, responses or non-responses, etc.), the environmental document should only provide a summary.

  • Describe the methods used and conclude whether or not there are minority or low-income populations in the project study area. That is:
  • describe the results of the census data assessment
  • list all of the agencies, organizations and/or other groups which were contacted and describe how they were contacted (letter, phone call, meeting, etc.),
  • summarize the responses received and/or issues identified

(The most effective way to display this information may be in a matrix format.)

  • Provide demographic information on the general population in the project study area. If minority or low-income populations are identified, characterize them by describing their composition, size, general location, age, etc. Study area mapping showing all locations of EJ populations should not be included in the environmental document but rather contained in a separate supporting document.
  • When there are no groups of minority or low-income populations in the project study area, or it has been determined that there will be no impact on these populations by the proposed project, the following statement may be used (well supported by data/documentation – show your work):

“No minority or low-income populations have been identified that would be adversely impacted by this project as determined above. Therefore, this project has met the provisions of Executive Order 12898, as it is supported by Title VI.”


The definition of adverse effects (see Section II) encompasses a wide variety of potential impacts, including those to human health, the natural and social environment, the economy, community function, etc. It also includes the denial, reduction or delay in receiving benefits, which should be addressed like any other impact. For an EJ analysis, all of these need to be considered.

There is no magic formula for determining if a minority or low-income population will experience disproportionately high and adverse impacts due to the proposed project. Since each project – and each minority or low-income population – is different, the team will have to carefully consider many factors in making its determination. An approach that combines a qualitative and sometimes
Keep in mind that the EJ analysis must be done for each alternative, including the No-Build. The No-Build alternative is defined as no other improvements being done except maintenance to the existing road. Even under the No-Build, minority or low-income populations may be affected. Impacts such as increased noise, air pollution, congestion, travel times, etc. must be considered & documented appropriately.

quantitative analysis to support your conclusion will be necessary.

One of the most important factors to consider is whether and how the community itself believes it will be impacted. What one population perceives as an impact, another may perceive as a benefit. It is also possible that, within the same population, the same action may be perceived by various segments as both an impact and a benefit. Therefore, it is imperative that project teams work closely with the EJ population to see how they feel about the project.

Analysis of Disproportionately High and Adverse Effects

Since a one-size-fits-all approach will not work, the team will need to address a variety of questions and considerations in order to conclude if the project will have disproportionately high and adverse impacts(including denial, reduction or delay in receiving benefits) on an EJ population. In essence, the context and intensity of effects on EJ populations as compared to non-EJ populations needs to be assessed.

Since no single method will lead to a supportable conclusion, the following should be given careful consideration:

1. Is the adverse effect predominantly borne by the EJ population? For example, are more minority or low-income people impacted than non- minority or non-low-income people?

2. Will the adverse effect on the EJ population be appreciably more severe or greater in magnitude than the adverse effect on the non-minority or non-low-income population? In other words, will the EJ population carry an unfair share of the impact? For example, if ten EJ residences and ten non-EJ residences will each experience noise levels above the federal standard, but noise at the EJ residences will increase by 20 decibels and noise at the non-EJ residences will increase by 10 decibels, there may be a disproportionate impact.

3. Does the project impact a resource that is especially important to an EJ population? Does it impact Tribal treaty rights (usual and accustomed fishing/hunting grounds)? Does it serve an especially important social, religious or cultural function for the EJ community?

4. Are there mitigation, enhancement measures or offsetting project benefits to the affected EJ population? These should be taken into account when assessing if there are disproportionately high and adverse effects.

5. Has the type and severity of adverse effects on non-EJ populations been assessed? In order to determine if there are disproportionately high and adverse effects on EJ populations, there must have been a comparison with non-EJ population.

Keep in mind that, while the identification of a disproportionately high and adverse effect on a low-income or minority population does not necessarily preclude the project from going forward, it should heighten the attention to alternatives (including alternative sites), mitigation strategies, monitoring needs and preferences expressed by the affected community or population.


Conclusions regarding impacts on minority or low-income populations must be thoroughly explained in the “Environmental Consequences” section of theenvironmental document.

The final environmental document should clearly conclude whether or not a disproportionately high and adverse impact on any minority or low-income population is likely to result. This conclusion must be reached for each alternative, including the No-Build. Remember to take into account mitigation, enhancement measures or offsetting project benefits (see Section VII) to the affected EJ population.

Whether or not an alternative results in disproportionately high and adverse impact on minority or low-income populations, you need to supply supporting information to document how you reached that conclusion for each alternative – you have to “make your case”.

Present the completed analysis and the issues you considered in order to reach conclusions as concisely as possible. Include a description of impacts (type and severity), any offsetting benefits and mitigation/enhancements, comparison of impacts on EJ and non-EJ populations, etc.

Document the efforts made to interact with the affected communities, the identified issues/concerns, results of the interaction, etc. Examples of interaction could include meetings to determine whether a community considers a project's effects to be impacts or benefits, correspondence discussing potential mitigation or enhancement measures, etc. A helpful way to present this information would be in a matrix format, which should be included in the appendix of the environmental document. The information in the matrix could include meeting dates, correspondence dates, responses received, issues/concerns identified by the community, etc. Copies of important minutes could also be included in the appendix.

When mapping is necessary in order to clearly illustrate the effect of a project on an EJ population, mapping may be included in the environmental document, in addition to documenting the impacts textually. Remember to be sensitive to the concerns of the affected communities when determining what type of mapping will be provided.


If the project appears to have a disproportionately high and adverse impact on a minority or low-income population, then the document must reflect how the impacts of the alternative could not be avoided or minimized, how the impacted populations were involved in the decision process and what practicable mitigation commitments have been made. Furthermore, it must be demonstrated how other alternatives which would have a less adverse effect on minority and/or low-income populations are not practicable because they would either not satisfy the project needs, have more severe adverse impacts, or that the social, economic, environmental or human health impacts of the other alternatives reach costs of extraordinary magnitudes. The approach is first to avoid impacts, if possible; then minimize impacts; then mitigate unavoidable impacts. Enhancements should also be considered. The definitions of these terms and examples (from the Federal Highway Administration’s “Community Impact Assessment” booklet) are provided below:

Avoid – to alter a project so an impact does not occur (i.e., shift an alignment to avoid displacements, redesign a road segment as an underpass to avoid cutting off access to a community facility, etc.)

Minimize – to modify the project to reduce the severity of an impact (i.e., shift an alignment to reduce displacements, alter an alignment to increase the distance between the facility and residences to decrease noise impacts, phase the project to minimize impedance to business access during peak shopping periods, limit interchanges to minimize incompatible land use development, etc.)

Mitigate – to take an action to alleviate or offset an impact or to replace an appropriated resource (i.e., set aside land for a park or add to public recreation areas to replace lost facilities, erect sound barriers to mitigate noise impacts (consistent with FHWA/State approved noise policies), provide a bicycle/pedestrian overpass or underpass to provide access to public facilities, etc.)

Enhance – to add a desirable or attractive feature to the project to make it fit more harmoniously into the community; this will not replace lost resources or alleviate project impacts (i.e., construct pedestrian overpass/underpass, install or improve street lighting, rehabilitation of railroad/bus depots, signing to recognize specific cultural or historic resources, develop bicycle trails or pathways adjacent to roadways, plant trees and add park benches, add public artwork (designed by community members) or a façade to a transportation facility to match the aesthetic design goals of the community, etc.)

Considerations in Determining Appropriate Avoidance, Minimization, Mitigation and Enhancement Measures

1. Remember to take mitigation, enhancements and project benefits into account when assessing if there will ultimately be a disproportionately high and adverse impact on an EJ population.

2. Another important consideration is the fairness in distribution of avoidance, minimization, mitigation and enhancement measures between EJ and non-EJ communities. When considering these measures for an EJ community vs. the entire project area, keep in

Throughout this effort, keep in mind that you may be able to eliminate, reduce or mitigate the initial disproportionate impacts to such a degree that the impacts to the EJ population are now proportional.

mind that the measures should be proportional to the level of impact on each.

A disproportionately high and adverse effect on an EJ population can only be carried out if further avoidance, minimization, mitigation and enhancement measures are not practicable. In determining whether a measure is ‘practicable’, the social, economic (including costs) and environmental effects of avoiding, minimizing, or mitigating the adverse effects can be taken into account.

When determining what is practicable, the nature & severity of the disproportionate impacts should be taken into account. It may be appropriate to go beyond ‘the norm’ depending upon the level of disparity of the impacts.

Coordination with the Impacted EJ Community

The most important consideration in developing avoidance, minimization, mitigation and enhancement measures is how the impacted EJ community feels about them. Throughout the process, it is necessary to consult with and elicit the views of the affected populations. Otherwise, the project team might unknowingly propose a mitigation measure that impacts the community in a different way. Also, if the same community is composed of various minority groups or income levels, each component may have separate (and possibly conflicting) issues or concerns to be considered by the project team.

The project team should encourage the members of the EJ communities that may suffer a disproportionately high and adverse impact to help develop and comment on possible avoidance/minimization alternatives as early as possible in the process.

In addition to community meetings and correspondence, the project team should consider using community questionnaires to solicit input on proposed mitigation and enhancement strategies and to suggest their own strategies, based on the EJ community’s perception of impacts. Any questionnaire would have to be developed and distributed early, so that ample time would be available to compile, analyze and use the data.

Once you have worked with the affected EJ populations to determine the appropriate avoidance, minimization, mitigation & enhancement measures, you should keep them informed about the project status & progress throughout the design & construction phases.

Possible Mitigation Strategies (to be coordinated with the affected community):


  • Keep the impacted minority or low-income population informed (status, progress, design changes, etc.) during final design and construction of the project; this could be accomplished by posting/mailing notices, meeting with the community, having a community representative serve a liaison role and attend construction partnering meetings, etc.
  • Provide noise walls (appropriateness to be consistent with Noise policies)
  • Provide landscaping/visual screening
  • Provide lighting
  • Provide sidewalk improvements
  • Provide multi-modal improvements (i.e., bus shelters, bicycle/pedestrian facilities)
  • Build or rehabilitate community parks or recreation centers
  • If relocations are required, attempt to relocate to the same area if possible to preserve community cohesiveness


For each alternative, a clear explanation should be provided for any avoidance, minimization, mitigation and enhancement measures that have been adopted.

Document the strategies taken to reduce, avoid, or mitigate impacts to EJ communities. The discussion of these strategies should be clearly ‘linked’ to the associated community impacts. If appropriate, include a discussion of how these strategies helped turn a disproportionate adverse impact into a proportionate adverse impact.

Include a summary of the public interaction used to develop and/or review the various strategies.

Once the mitigation commitments have been made in the final environmental document, they should be recorded in the Environmental Summary report.

If necessary in order to clearly illustrate the strategies and results, mapping may be included in the environmental document; otherwise, document the information textually.




WSDOT “Environmental Procedures Manual, Sections 457 and 458"

"Assistance for Reviewing the Application of Title VI and Environmental Justice in the Transportation Planning Process" (FHWA, 2001)

"Community Impact Assessment: A Quick Reference for Transportation" (FHWA, 9/96)

"Community Impact Mitigation Case Studies" (FHWA, 5/98)

"Environmental Justice Guidance Under the National Environmental Policy Act" (CEQ, 12/97)

"Environmental Policy Statement" (FHWA, 1994)

"EPA Guidance for Consideration of Environmental Justice in Clean Air Act Section 309 Review" (EPA, 4/98)

"Transportation & Environmental Justice Case Studies" (FHWA/FTA, 12/2000)

"Transportation & Environmental Justice Effective Practices" (FHWA/FTA 1/2002)

OMB Bulletin 00-02, "Guidance on Aggregation and Allocation of Data on Race for Use in Civil Rights Monitoring and Enforcement" (OMB, 3/2000)

Technical Advisory 6640.8A "Guidance for Preparing and Processing Environmental and 4(f) Documents" (FHWA, 10/87)

“Public Involvement Techniques for Transportation Decision-Making" (FHWA/FTA, 9/96)

“Transportation & Environmental Justice Effective Practices" (FHWA/FTA, 1/02)

Web Sites

FHWA/FTA Environmental Justice Website

U.S. Census Burea
Total census information

1990 and 2000 Census
Basic facts and data sets by county, census tract, block groups, etc.

Administration on Aging
State agencies on aging and housing for the elderly by county

African American Yearbook

Washington State Commission on African American Affairs

Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs

Hispanic Yearbook

Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs

Governor's Office of Indian Affairs, WA State

FHWA Environmental Justice web site

National Center for Educational Statistics
Free and reduced price meals program information by county and school

TIGER files
Census maps

US Department of Agriculture
The location of grocery stores that take food stamps by county

US Department of Housing and Urban Development
Section 8 housing information by county

US Geological Survey


Questions to Consider for EJ Analysis

Analysis Questions:


How will the traffic speed (or speed limit) within the target area change?

How will the traffic volumes change?

Is there a change in the volume or pattern of thru-traffic on local (target area) streets?


Will there be a change in the relative safety in the target area for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists?

Will the safe and easy access to community or regional resources (shopping, bus stops, schools, etc.) be changed?

Analysis Questions:

Quantitative (and/or qualitative):

Will traffic noise levels change?

Will traffic induced air pollution change?

Will local water and soil contamination levels change?


Will overall air, water, and noise quality of the target area change?

Analysis Questions:


Will the number of trees and other plants change?

Will waterways such as streams and brooks change?

Will the number or size of parks, parkland, or outdoor recreational opportunities change?

Will historic/cultural properties be impacted?


Will the changes provide overall improvements or harm to the natural and man-made resources?

4. Impact: Destruction or Diminution of Aesthetic Values

Analysis Questions:


Will any public art or statues be added, moved or removed?

What % of project costs is being spent on enhancements?

Will the amount of open space change?


Is the improvement attractive?

Will the view or vista change?

5. Impact: Destruction or Disruption of Community Cohesion

Analysis Questions:


Will man-made dividers, (such as an overpass, bridge, 4(f) land or wider highway or rail tracks) be constructed through a portion of an existing community and cause it to be segmented?

Will elimination of current access roads isolate one part of the community from another?


Is the proposed project or plan perceived to significantly benefit one portion of the existing neighborhood and significantly harm another portion of the same neighborhood?

6. Impact: Destruction or Disruption of a Community’s Economic Vitality

Analysis Questions:


Will the number of locally owned businesses in the target area change?

Will the total number of businesses in the target area change?


Will the financial investment benefit the target area’s population?

Will property owners land value change (reduction/increase)?

Will the number of jobs available in the target area change?

Analysis Questions:


Will the time to travel to public and private facilities and services (such as schools, medical facilities, shopping, community centers, libraries, etc.) change?

Will there be a change in response time for emergency vehicles?

Will there be a change in the number and type of impediments to access public and private facilities (such as wider roadway crossing, additional bus transfers, increased walking distance to bus stops, etc.)?

Will the number/location of public or private facilities be changed?


Will changes to the perceived distance to or difficulty of getting to public and private facilities from the target area result in target population “giving up” interest in using them?

Analysis Questions:


Will vibration levels caused by increased traffic or transit improvements change?


Will vibration levels caused by increased traffic or transit improvements change?

Analysis Questions:


Will time to travel to jobs throughout the county change?

Will time to travel to jobs within the target area change?

Will the number of jobs change (How many jobs within the target area vs. county area or state will be lost/gained?)


Will the type of jobs available within the target area change?

Will the target area become a more attractive place for employers to locate their facilities?

Analysis Questions:


How many target vs. non-target population persons will be displaced?

How many target vs. non-target population businesses will be displaced? How does this impact traveling distance for target employees vs. non-target employees?

How many target vs. non-target farms/orchards will be displaced? How does this impact target vs. non-target employees?

How many target vs. non-target population non-profit corporations will be displaced?


Will an alternate project location or project approach (which meets the project or plan’s purpose and need) displace fewer target vs. non-target populations persons, businesses, farms, or non-profit corporations?

Analysis Question:


Will traffic congestion levels change?


Will traffic circulation and community traffic patterns adversely affect community, in their view?

Analysis Questions:


Will access roadways into and out of the target area become dead ends or be cut-off?


Will roadways, bridges and other traffic improvements be constructed to surround the target area and create the feeling of an isolated “island”?

Analysis Questions:


Will the transportation changes result in increased travel time for the target vs. non-target population (to and from jobs, schools, churches, shopping, medical facilities, recreational facilities, etc.)?


Will the transportation improvements increase the feeling of exclusion or alienation between the target populations and the rest of the region?

Analysis Questions:


Will access to or use of the transportation improvement be denied to any low-income or minority population or groups (for reasons such as cost to use (i.e., Hot Lanes, tolls roads), ability to access, etc.)?

Will access to or use of the transportation improvement be denied or more difficult to access based on its location?


Will the overall benefits and improvements being proposed by the plan or project be available to the same level and within the same basic time frame to the target population as it will to the broader community, region, or state?

Page last modified on April 1, 2013.
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