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Practitioner's Handbooks

01 Maintaining a Project File and Preparing an Administrative Record for a NEPA Study

Preparing the administrative record for a complex project can be a major challenge. This handbook provides a starting point for undertaking this important task. It includes key issues for project managers to consider during NEPA and when litigation is imminent or under way.

Practical tips for project managers include what documents to prepare; the process for compiling the record for the court; advice for building a strong record; judgment calls about what documents to include; and submitting the record to the court.

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02 Responding to Comments on an Environmental Impact Statement

This guidance provides information for developing responses to comments on both a Draft EIS and Final EIS, and covers the issues associated with responding to comments on an Environmental Assessment (EA). Key issues to consider during the comment-response process include inviting comments, receiving and sorting comments, reviewing and responding to comments, and responding to FEIS comments. 

Practical tips address developing responses to comments, ensuring accuracy and consistency, and formats for presenting DEIS comments and responses in the FEIS.

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03 Managing the NEPA Process for Toll Lanes and Toll Roads

Conducting National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) studies for projects involving toll lanes and toll roads involves many sensitive issues and complex considerations. This handbook covers issues associated with the NEPA process and related issues. Key issues to consider when conducting studies include transportation plans and policies; proposed tolling concept; scope of NEPA analysis; relationship of NEPA process to project financing and procurement; and legal issues.

Practical tips address include laying the policy foundation; building the project team; developing toll alternatives; framing the issues for decision in the NEPA process; modeling the performance of tolled alternatives; valuating impacts of tolled alternatives; synchronizing NEPA reviews with procurement process; and considering tolling after NEPA is under way or completed.

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04 Tracking Compliance with Environmental Commitments/Use of Environmental Monitors

This handbook provides recommendations for tracking compliance with environmental commitments from the environmental review phase through design, construction, operations, and maintenance phases of a transportation project.

Practical tips address making environmental commitments, creating a commitments tracking database and its use during design and construction, organizing the environmental monitoring team and procedures, special considerations for design-build projects, and tracking compliance with environmental commitments.

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05 Utilizing Community Advisory Committees for NEPA Studies

A Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is a public participation technique that can be employed to gain stakeholder feedback, identify and resolve local concerns, and build community support during the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) decision-making process. Although not required, a CAC can be an effective means of addressing specific issues and hearing a variety of stakeholder views. A CAC can also be used in pre-NEPA planning studies.

Practical tips include deciding whether to establish a CAC, defining the role of the CAC, selecting CAC members and organizing the CAC, preparing for and facilitating CAC meetings, and providing for public access to CAC meetings.

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06 Consulting Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act

The Handbook clarifies and provides information to project managers on the successful integration of Section 106 and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with a specific focus on Section 106 as it applies to transportation projects for which the project applicant is a state department of transportation (DOT).  The Handbook is not a beginner introduction to the Section 106 process, nor is it an exhaustive technical guide for Section 106 practitioners.

Practical tips include preparing for Section 106 consultation, defining an area of potential effects (APE), inviting consulting parties and public involvement; evaluating eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places;, determining and resolving adverse effects, developing memoranda of agreement (MOAs) and programmatic agreements (PAs), and using alternative procedures to satisfy Section 106 requirements.

View the online Programmatic Agreement Library (PAL) for Section 106

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07 Defining the Purpose and Need and Determining the Range of Alternatives for Transportation Projects

One of the most important tasks in any National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study is the definition of the project’s purpose and need. This handbook provides recommendations for defining the purpose and need and determining the range of alternatives in environmental impact statements and environmental assessments for transportation projects, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Issues covered include understanding the legislative and planning context; determining the needs; defining the project purpose; screening alternatives; and involving agencies and the public.

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08 Developing and Implementing an Environmental Management System in a State Department of Transportation (DOT)

DOTs face ever-mounting pressure to enhance environmental and business performance and to demonstrate their commitment to environmental stewardship. This Handbook provides recommendations for developing and implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS) to help meet these goals and expectations.

Issues covered include: understanding what constitutes an EMS, using Plan–Do–Check–Act, providing environmental and business value to your organization, using AASHTO’s EMS roadmap, applying an EMS to any activity or facility, deciding upon a focus for initial efforts, identifying expectations and objectives, building upon existing successes, measuring performance, and continually improving performance.

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09 Using the SAFETEA-LU Environmental Review Process (23 U.S.C. 139)

Section 6002 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) established an environmental review process for highway and transit projects that involve preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS). This Handbook provides assistance to practitioners in complying with the Section 6002 requirements, while also using this process to achieve better, faster, and more efficient environmental reviews.

Issues covered in this Handbook include: initiating the environmental review process, inviting participating agencies, establishing the coordination plan, including project schedules, setting comment deadlines providing agency and public involvement for determining purposing and need, defining purpose and need, determining methodologies for alternatives analysis, resolving issues of concern, developing detailed preferred alternatives, and reporting permit decision delays.

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10 Using the Transportation Planning Process to Support the NEPA Process

Thoughtful consideration of environmental needs during the planning process can shorten the environmental review process. This Handbook is intended to help transportation planners and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) practitioners improve linkages between the planning and NEPA processes, while also complying with recent legislative changes that require increased consideration of environmental issues in the planning process.

Issues covered include: establishing organizational linkages; establishing a vision for the state or region’s transportation system; defining corridor-level goals and/or the purpose and need; eliminating alternatives identifying the affected environment and potential; environmental impacts; and considering environmental mitigation activities.

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11 Complying with Section 4(f) of the U.S. DOT Act

Section 4(f) was enacted in 1966 as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) Act, which established the U.S. DOT. It is now codified in 49 U.S.C. § 303(c); essentially identical language also appears in 23 C.F.R. § 138. Section 4(f) applies to all agencies within U.S. DOT. Section 4(f) protects significant publicly owned public parks, recreation areas, and wildlife and waterfowl refuges, as well as significant historic sites, whether they are publicly or privately owned. Recent legislative and regulatory changes present new opportunities to streamline the Section 4(f) decision-making process. But they also contain new definitions and new legal standards that must be carefully considered when preparing Section 4(f) documentation. This handbook is intended to help practitioners take advantage of the flexibility afforded by the recent changes to Section 4(f) while ensuring that all requirements are met. It addresses the full range of Section 4(f) compliance options, including individual Section 4(f) evaluations, de minimis impact determinations, and programmatic Section 4(f) evaluations.

Issues covered in this handbook include: considering Section 4(f) before the NEPA process begins; scoping potential Section 4(f) issues; identifying and evaluating Section 4(f) properties; making determinations of de minimis impact; determining whether there is a "use" of Section 4(f) properties; developing and evaluating avoidance alternatives under the "feasible and prudent" standard; choosing among alternatives that use Section 4(f) properties; incorporating "all possible planning" to minimize harm to Section 4(f) properties; using Section 4(f) programmatic evaluations; coordinating with other agencies and stakeholders; and documenting Section 4(f) analysis and conclusions.

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12 Assessing Indirect Effects and Cumulative Impacts under NEPA

The requirement to assess indirect and cumulative impacts of proposed federal actions was established in the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Indirect effects are caused by the project or plan, but are separated from direct effects by time and/or distance. Indirect effects include induced growth and related environmental impacts. Cumulative impacts are the aggregate result of the incremental direct and indirect effects of a project or plan, the effects of past and present actions, and effects of reasonably foreseeable future actions by others on resources of concern.

This Handbook focuses primarily on the assessment of indirect effects and cumulative impacts for individual transportation projects. This Handbook also briefly describes a range of approaches for using the statewide or metropolitan transportation planning process to address indirect effects and cumulative impacts for a region or corridor. A consistent theme throughout this Handbook is the importance of maintaining a clear distinction between an indirect effects analysis and a cumulative impacts analysis. For that reason, those analyses are addressed separately in the Practical Tips section of the Handbook. Issues covered in this Handbook include:

  • Understanding the definitions of direct effects, indirect effects, and cumulative impacts
  • Gathering the information needed for the analysis
  • Deciding the appropriate scope and level of detail
  • Carrying out the analysis
  • Identifying mitigation opportunities
  • Documenting the analysis
  • Using the transportation planning process to support NEPA-level studies of indirect effects and cumulative impacts.

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13 Developing and Implementing a Stormwater Management Program in a Transportation Agency

The purpose of this handbook is to assist transportation agencies in developing and/or implementing a storm water management program that satisfies the requirements of the Clean Water Act (CWA). For agencies that already have a functioning storm water management program, this handbook provides useful tips and transportation specific references to assist program implementation.

Issues covered in this handbook include: development and implementation of a stormwater management program; Clean Water Act (CWA) and the NPDES program; state and local stormwater regulations; conducting a Program Effectiveness Assessment (PEA); developing a stormwater management plan (SWMP); public education and outreach; construction site stormwater compliance; integrating Best Management Practices (BMPs) into transportation project delivery; roadway maintenance stormwater practices and NPDES compliance; Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and other special requirements; and important stormwater management terms.

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14 Applying the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines in Transportation Project Decision-Making

The purpose of this Handbook is to assist practitioners in applying the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines (Guidelines) in the environmental review process for surface transportation projects. The Handbook focuses on highway and transit projects that require an individual Section 404 permit under the Clean Water Act and involve preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) or environmental assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

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15 Preparing High-Quality NEPA Documents for Transportation Projects

The purpose of the handbook on Preparing High-Quality NEPA Documents for Transportation Projects is to help practitioners bridge the gap between the theory and practice of producing high-quality NEPA documents. The handbook focuses on the preparation of environmental impact statements and environmental assessments, but many of the tips in the handbook also apply to documented categorical exclusions. Included in this handbook are four main sections:

  • Key issues to consider, which includes questions about expectations for the NEPA document, organization and format, writing quality and style, graphics, data, NEPA compliance, regulatory issues, and permitting processes.
  • A summary of the regulations, guidance, and other materials that provide direction regarding the organization, content, and readability of NEPA documents.
  • Practical tips for achieving quality NEPA documents, including tips about how to prepare for the NEPA process, improve overall document quality, and comply with NEPA and related requirements.
  • A list of reference materials.

Refer also to a companion report prepared to help practitioners bridge the gap between the theory and practice of producing high-quality NEPA documents by providing examples that illustrate specific techniques: Examples of Effective Techniques for Preparing High Quality NEPA Documents (2014).

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