Because the Decision Guide identifies specifically what information should be transferred between phases and for what purpose at individual key decisions, practitioners interested in collaboration as a means to link MPO planning and NEPA will find the support needed. Supporting information includes:
- The roles and interests of decision makers and key participants
- Information that should be transferred at individual key decisions
- Supporting data, tools, and technology for collaboration between the phase
Federal support for the concept
Federal law and guidance clearly supports linking planning and NEPA. SAFETEA-LU supports the integration of planning and NEPA through implementing guidance and regulations for planning (see AASHTO CEE - Environmental Considerations in Planning) The National Environmental Policy Act and the Council on Environmental Quality regulations encourage linking planning and NEPA (see 40 CFR Chapter V Section 1501.2 Apply NEPA early in the process). In addition, existing case law upholding the use of planning products in the NEPA process, support linking of planning and NEPA. Legislation and guidance encourage collaboration between planners and NEPA practitioners in order to achieve several benefits including:
- Increased consultation among partners
- Identification of potential broad scale mitigation opportunities
- A clear authority to use planning level analyses and decisions during NEPA
For additional guidance see FHWA Planning and Environment Linkages Website.
Decision Making Partner Interests in Long Range Planning and Environmental Review
The Decision Guide data is based on considering all partner interests in transportation decision making: in other words, the specific perspective or values that a decision making partner brings into the process. For example, FHWA has an "interest" in ensuring that the requirements of the federal regulations are met. The Decision Guide considers the identified interests of the four partners and of the stakeholders in each phase of transportation decision making. The table below allows you to compare the interests of each partnering agency in both long range planning and environmental review. An understanding of interests may provide additional understanding for efforts to integrate these two phases.
|Agency||Partner Interests in Long Range Planning||Partner Interests in Environmental Review|
|FHWA|| || |
|DOTs|| || |
|MPOs|| || |
|Resource Agencies|| || |
RISKS AND RISK MANAGEMENT
TCAPP provides several resources to assist in risk management of efforts to link MPO planning and NEPA. The table below can help guide you to the appropriate area of the site.
|Risks||Risk Management Strategies|
Overcoming The Different Scale of Information in Planning and NEPA
Use Sub-area and Corridor Studies: For some projects, one way to minimize the scale issues of linking planning and NEPA is to conduct additional planning studies, such as sub-area and corridor studies. These studies allow planners to gather additional details on the project, including potential environmental impacts. This additional level of detail allows a tiering down of decision making. See Corridor Studies application.
Use Supporting Tools and Technology: Although the tools most often used for a systems-level analysis are not sufficient for analysis at the project level, there are supporting technologies that reduce the need for duplicative efforts. Capacity analysis and the use of simulation modeling are two areas where the scale difference may be bridged. For additional potential supporting technologies, visit the Tools and Technologies section of the site.
Increased Demand on Staff and Agency Resources
Develop Cooperative Agreements: In some cases, cooperative agreements between planning partners may aid in the availability of staff and resources. MOU/MOA represent formal ways to establishing decision making relationships and sharing of resources, but there are many other less formal ways to collaborate. Some state DOTs fund positions at resource agencies to support transportation needs. This strategy can support planning activities as well as project involvement during NEPA. See Collaboration Assessment for strategies related to cooperative agreements. (Organizational Support, Decision Making Authority, Shared Goals.
Increase Collaboration between Planners, NEPA Practitioners, and Resource Agencies: Linking planning and NEPA requires that NEPA practitioners and resource agency representatives understand and accept the analyses and decisions made during planning. One way to accomplish this is for partners to know, understand, and accept each other's interests. The Decision Guide identifies where individual partners' interests are integral to the decisions being made so they can be engaged so their participation can be focused. In this way increased collaboration, communication, and coordination between partners establishes a process that is efficient and effective.