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Develop Preliminary Alternatives

a map of kentucky

Project Flowchart for this Article

develop alternatives flowchart

1. Develop Preliminary Alternatives

Once a project is initiated, the PM is responsible for moving it through the design process. Preliminary design is the first step in this process (i.e., Phase 1 of project development). The main work product of preliminary design is the recording of the transportation decision and rationale in the environmental document. This is reflected in the preliminary line and grade plans. Design is only one component of preliminary design. Therefore, the PM must work with other disciplines (e.g., environmental analysis) to complete this phase. At the end of the highway project development process, the PDT will select a preferred alternative based on environmental, economic, engineering issues, anticipated performance, and public input.

During preliminary design, the PDT should develop a range of alternatives that fulfills the project’s Purpose and Need. Identifying potential constraints, issues, and solutions as early in the process as practical facilitates determination of the best solution. Alternatives and corridors previously evaluated should serve as the starting point. Alternatives and corridors eliminated during the development studies should not require further investigation — as long as each alternative was developed adequately with sufficient documentation and a rationale for its elimination was provided.
Please note that the process followed during the development of alternatives can change significantly from project to project. It is scalable based on the project context and scope. On smaller projects the opportunity may exist to combine multiple steps of the process and more quickly evaluate alternatives and the scope of impacts. Projects that have generated controversy may require more alternatives and call for input from additional personnel inside KYTC, the public (e.g., during public meetings), advisory committees, or focus groups.

Project requirements and environmental documentation vary based on how significantly a project will impact the environment. On projects which receive a CE designation, project actions do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment. On CE projects a number of meetings may be combined to expedite the process. A public hearing may not be required for a CE project. On larger or controversial projects, a FONSI or an EIS may be required. Project size and complexity significantly affect the steps taken during the preliminary design process.
See Highway Design Guidance Manual (HD-203.2) for more details.

    2. Define Template Alternatives & Locate Roadway
    Horizontal & Vertical Alignments

    To fulfill the project’s Purpose and Need and provide a reasonable and competitive alternative, roadway concepts should be developed with attention paid to engineering, environmental (the natural and human environments), and fiscal constraints. In addition, roadway designers should ensure that alternatives meet operational, safety, and other performance goals described in the Purpose and Need statement. The template, horizontal alignment, and vertical alignment are key factors that influence a roadway’s operation, safety, and performance.

    Template alternatives reflect the roadway’s cross-sectional elements (e.g., number and width of lanes, shoulders, medians, auxiliary lanes, cut/fill slopes). Horizontal and vertical alignments indicate the proposed roadway’s precise geospatial placement and should be developed in accordance with geometric design guidelines outlined in the Highway Design Guidance Manual (HD-700).

    When evaluating alternatives, it is important to factor in constructability issues and how traffic will be maintained during road construction.

    Remaining flexible when making decisions is always important. Project context and identified performance issues must be considered. The PM and PDT are responsible for reviewing the specifics of a project and making design decisions accordingly. Design criteria found in AASHTO’s A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets (Green Book) serve as a guide, however, they are not binding — viewing these criteria as guidance encourages the use of independent design philosophies and engineering judgement. Taken alone, noncompliance with geometric design criteria on an existing road does not necessarily constitute a performance issue that must be remedied through a project. If some aspects of a road or street’s geometric design do not comply with the Green Book’s geometric design criteria, but the road is performing satisfactorily, there may be no need to change those elements of the existing geometric design.

    3. Air Quality Analysis (If Required)

    An air quality impact analysis is conducted during the early stages of project development to address transportation‐related air quality concerns in the project area. Both the Clean Air Act (CAA) and NEPA require the consideration of air quality for federal transportation investments. Transportation projects must be included in the Kentucky Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and, if located in a metropolitan planning organization (MPO), must also be in that MPO’s transportation improvement program (TIP). The CAA also mandates that all programs, plans, and projects conform to the Kentucky State Implementation Plan (SIP) and that priority be given to implementing those portions of the plan that are to achieve and maintain National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

    Under regional conformity rules, KYTC does a high‐level study of proposed projects in a region to understand how the overall program will potentially impact air quality. The Division of Planning, along with the Division of Program Management, oversees regional transportation conformity.

    Project‐level air quality impact analysis is performed to identify instances when a KYTC project may negatively impact air quality conformity. It can also guide alternative selection during project development. Project-level air quality impact analysis is conducted on federally funded projects that are documented using CE Level 3, EA/FONSI, or an EIS. For these project types, detailed analyses are carried out to assess specific air quality impacts that may result from the project. The level of detail in air quality analysis is contingent on project size, the existing air quality in the area, and the degree of controversy (i.e., controversy among the public).

    The air quality impact analysis is the appropriate base study to document environmental conditions for alternative analysis in NEPA documents. This analysis compares impacts across multiple alternatives, allowing for a consideration of relative impacts.

    Where impacts cannot be avoided, strategies for minimizing an air quality impact include altering the project’s horizontal alignment — to move the project away from receptors — or modifying traffic signal timing to reduce congestion.

    See Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual (EA-600) for more details.

    Red Flag

    Conformity to the purpose of the SIP means that transportation activities shall not cause new air quality violations, worsen existing violations, or delay timely attainment of NAAQS. Because the CAA requires transportation conformity, air quality analysis has a high level of importance and urgency. Regardless of whether air quality analysis is completed by the Division of Environmental Analysis subject-matter experts (SME) or consultants, schedules for deliverables must be clearly established among the parties involved; monitored by the DEC, Environmental Project Manager, and SME; and routinely tracked in the Environmental Analysis Tracking System database. The Division of Environmental Analysis SME establishes the schedule for document review and comment. The DEC manages review of the document with the PM and other appropriate District personnel and shall submit review comments to the Division of Environmental Analysis SME for inclusion with the Division’s comments. The Division of Environmental Analysis is responsible for the overall review of the air quality impact analysis and preparing and compiling comments, questions, or required modifications.

    For certain pollutants, project‐level analysis focuses on intersections along the proposed project corridor, where delay and vehicle idling may create hot spots with poor air quality. Project‐level analysis requires general input parameters, such as roadway geometrics and traffic volumes; this information must be available before air quality analysis can begin. Traffic data must include ADT, design hourly volume (DHV), truck percentages, fractions of light‐duty and heavy‐duty trucks, and, if needed, special trip generation conditions (e.g., heavy traffic generators, existing and future development plans, special events). These data are required for the existing, no‐build, and all-design alternatives for the design year and the year that the project opens to traffic.

    If local public agencies lack the specialized environmental staff to complete this level of evaluation, they must retain a prequalified environmental consultant. The schedule for completing documentation shall be determined through consultation among the project team members.

    Altering the project and scope may require a SIP/STIP amendment, which may add time to the project development and delivery schedule.

     Side Note

    State‐funded projects do not require detailed air quality analysis unless the project is anticipated to have some level of federal funding applied to it at a later stage.

    highway construction

    4. Identify Historic Section 106 Resources

    If a project receives Federal Funds, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires that federal agencies consider a project’s effects on historic resources. KYTC, acting as an agent of FHWA, carries out Section 106 implementation on federally funded highway projects. Section 106 does not mandate a specific outcome, nor does it prohibit impacts to historic properties. It requires adherence to an established process for addressing historic properties. A historic property is defined as any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure, or object that is listed on or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Analyzing a project’s impacts on historic resources entails working with consulting parties and appropriate resource agencies. Historic resources include archaeological sites, cemeteries, artifacts, and properties of cultural importance. The consulting parties must include local government and the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). Local historical groups, preservation groups, recognized Native American tribe(s), or others with a demonstrated interest in the resource may be included in the consultation process as well. KYTC must make a reasonable and good faith effort to identify and evaluate historic properties within the area of potential effect (APE). The APE is the geographic area or areas within which project activities may directly or indirectly alter the character or use of historic properties, if such properties exist. See the Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual (EA-903) for more details.

    Red Flag

    The schedule for completing an assessment may vary based upon anticipated project impacts, which are contingent upon context, magnitude, and intensity. Some projects may have minimal impacts or are located in areas where there is no demonstrable potential to impact historic properties. Other projects may be in areas that require extensive investigations. Early in the project development process, records research is conducted and, if necessary, followed by field reconnaissance. More detailed studies may be needed to further define areas of concern, quantify potential impacts, and develop plans to mitigate unavoidable impacts. Consultation with the SHPO, and possibly other consulting parties, is mandatory at key points throughout the process.

     Side Note

    Section 106 can also apply to non-FHWA projects (i.e., state-funded projects with USACE permits or U.S. Forest Service [USFS] involvement.)

    Project Article 5 Historic Home

    5. Noise Base Study

    Noise impact analysis is used to identify locations where noise from highway traffic or construction may impact Kentucky’s residents. Because KYTC recognizes the adverse effects of traffic noise, it evaluates reasonable measures to minimize these effects. Additionally, NEPA requires assessments of noise impacts for federal projects. The level of detail in a noise analysis is contingent on project size, the existing level of traffic noise in the area, future potential for noise resulting from the project, and the degree of project controversy (i.e., controversy among the public). The presence and type of noise receptors are also a major consideration when determining if a noise analysis is necessary. It is generally considered the appropriate baseline study to address noise impacts for incorporation into NEPA documents such as an EA, FONSI, or EIS.

    Identifying noise‐sensitive sites or areas is done early in the planning phase of the project. During project development, base studies are performed to assess specific traffic noise impacts and abatement measures at locations that may experience increased traffic noise levels from a project. Base studies can assist in determining if mitigating adverse noise impacts is warranted by evaluating the community benefits against the negative social, economic, and environmental effects and the costs of noise abatement measures. Noise abatement measures judged to be feasible and reasonable should be considered for such projects.

    Attention should be paid to noise impacts throughout the construction phase; an emphasis should be placed on minimizing disruption from construction noise. Designers should also keep in mind that alternative construction impacts may be used to mitigate noise impacts. These practices should be included — when it is practical to do so — in notes on the plans or the proposal.

    See the Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual (EA-500) for more details. Traffic noise analysis follows the most current KYTC Noise Analysis and Abatement Policy.

    Red Flag

    If project construction has been delayed, traffic volume forecasts may require updates. If the new forecasts project different traffic volumes, the noise impact analysis must be revised as well.

    If local public agencies lack the specialized environmental staff to complete this level of evaluation, they shall retain the services of a prequalified environmental consultant. The schedule for completing documentation shall be determined through consultation among the project team members.

     Side Note

    The KYTC Noise Analysis and Abatement Policy contains noise abatement criteria which represent the upper limit of acceptable highway traffic noise for different types of land uses and human activities. The policy does not require that abatement criteria be met in every instance. Rather, it requires that a reasonable and feasible effort be made to mitigate noise when criteria are approached or exceeded. Designers should investigate ways of minimizing noise intrusion into highway surroundings (e.g., use of noise barriers, earthen berms, vegetation, manipulating geometrics, and other context-sensitive methods).

    State‐funded projects do not require detailed analysis unless the project is anticipated to receive some level of federal funding at a later stage. If noise impacts are a concern, state‐funded projects may be processed via a memorandum to document the conditions relating to traffic noise.

    6. Evaluate Water Resource Impacts

    The project team, including the Division of Environmental Analysis Permit Coordinator if needed, should evaluate each viable alternative for any impacts to Waters of the U.S. Impacts to these waters should be quantified for each viable alternative as best as possible at this stage of project development. Additionally, a rough estimate of mitigation fees is helpful when considering and comparing the costs of alternatives. See the Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual (EA-1104) for more details.

    Environmental studies are used to determine special water quality requirements that may be needed for the drainage design. When drainage items requiring special attention (e.g., stream impacts, existing FEMA flood studies) are identified, the PM should coordinate with the Drainage Branch to determine the Drainage Branch’s level of involvement as preliminary alternatives are developed. See the Drainage Manual (DR 202-18) for more details.

    Red Flag

    Adjacent streams or wetlands should be avoided if they are not within the construction disturb limits. Identifying potential water-related impacts early in the project development process and refining the design as necessary to avoid water-related impacts can keep permitting off the critical path.

    7. Estimate Mitigation Costs

    KYTC has developed several strategies to mitigate environmental impacts, including mitigation resource-banks, in-lieu fees, and on-site mitigation. Proposed mitigation can result in significant costs and should be factored into decision making when selecting a preferred alternative. As preliminary alternatives are developed, mitigation measures associated with each alternative should be identified and their costs estimated.

    Water-related permitting fees are commonly the most expensive mitigation fees assessed on a highway project. Any KYTC project that has more than minimal impact to Waters of the U.S. or Commonwealth is likely to require compensatory mitigation per USACE or Kentucky Division of Water. When considering environmental issues during the design process, avoid impacts to water resources where possible. If impacts are unavoidable, minimize them. Once unavoidable impacts have been determined, in some cases mitigation may be required.

    How alternatives will impact jurisdictional waters must be studied when seeking out a preferred alternative. In addition to scheduling impacts that may result from securing permits, the financial expense of adverse environmental effects and mitigation can be significant.

    Early in the project development process, the PM is responsible for contacting the Division of Environmental Analysis for a determination of permitting requirements. They should notify Division of Environmental Analysis during the range of alternative analysis and must present an estimate of each stream/wetland impact with a description of the anticipated construction activity. The Division of Environmental Analysis will provide comments or recommendations as required, including a rough estimate of mitigation fees, to consider when comparing the costs of alternatives. See the Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual (EA-1110) for more details.

     Side Note

    Mitigation costs can include more than water-related permitting fees. For example, KYTC makes contributions to the Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund to offset impacts to summer roosting habitat for bats. While these ancillary mitigation costs usually are not as large as USACE in-lieu fees, on a large project they can be significant and should be factored in when estimating the costs of alternatives. The PM should work with environmental SMEs to estimate all mitigation costs for each alternative and present those estimates in an appropriate manner.

    Red Flag

    Avoid adjacent streams or wetlands if they are not within the construction disturb limits. Identifying potential water-related impacts early in the project development process and adjusting the design as necessary to avoid water-related impacts can keep permitting off the critical path.

    8. Archaeology Overview

    Archaeological overviews are conducted in the early stages of project planning and development. They are often used to support Project‐Level Planning Studies and Corridor And Alignment Comparisons; they may also be incorporated into studies for state‐funded projects. The purpose of an overview is to determine if there are known sensitive archaeological resources along the project corridor, or the probability that archaeological resources could exist there. They identify where archaeological resources may be impacted by project construction. The archaeological overview helps guide project decision making.

    Some project types, such as those addressed with a CE, have a low potential to encounter archaeological resources and do not require an archaeological overview. An archaeological overview is prompted by any of the following:

    1) Preparation of a planning study environmental overview,
    2) Preparation of an environmental overview for a state‐funded project, or
    3) Comparison of multiple alignments or corridors in the NEPA process.

    See the Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual (EA-904) for more details.

    Red Flag

    Archaeology and historic architectural evaluations are separate disciplines of cultural resource analysis. Although these are subject to many of the same laws and regulations, they are investigated by discipline‐specific SMEs and have unique fieldwork, reporting, and review requirements.

    If local public agencies lack the specialized environmental staff to complete this level of evaluation, they shall retain the services of a prequalified environmental consultant. The schedule for completing the documentation shall be determined through consultation among the project team members.

     Side Note

    Archaeological overviews are planning documents. They are not meant to address Section 106 decision making. As such, they are not coordinated with the SHPO.

    9. Identify Underground Storage Tanks/Hazmat

    Underground storage tank (UST) and hazardous materials (Hazmat) impact assessments are conducted to identify where USTs and Hazmat may be encountered during project construction and to develop a plan to address potential impacts. Cabinet SMEs or prequalified consultants are responsible for this specialized assessment process.

    KYTC may assume liability and responsibility for cleanup if it is necessary to acquire contaminated property. Acquiring contaminated property may increase costs or result in project delays. The PDT must take adequate measures to identify and avoid, when possible, Hazmat and UST sites before initiating final design and plan preparation. Regulated materials, wastes, or contaminants commonly found during transportation projects include soil and water that have been polluted by petroleum products, commercial and industrial solvents, heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and pesticides. Sources of environmental contaminants include USTs, aboveground storage tanks, waste storage areas, and certain commercial and industrial process locations. See the Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual (EA-1002) for more details.

    Red Flag

    If these materials are encountered they must be addressed, regardless of a project’s funding source. See the Environmental Analysis Manual (EA‐1006).

    10. Socioeconomic Base Study

    A Socioeconomic Impact Analysis evaluates and addresses potential direct or indirect impacts to the human environment. The Socioeconomic Assessment (i.e., Base Study) is normally completed during the early stages of project development. It analyzes potential impacts to the human environment, including the relocation of households or businesses; quality of life issues, such as access to community services, parks, and recreation; and economic considerations, such as businesses and employment impacts. It explores broad issues such as the project’s effect on local land use planning or aesthetics. A Socioeconomic Assessment requires a clear understanding of the local context and local values; therefore, much of the assessment is devoted to documenting the existing conditions in the project area.

    The Socioeconomic Assessment documents existing social and economic conditions in the project area and evaluates how alternative project scenarios will potentially impact those conditions. If project impacts are identified, the assessment documents how the project can avoid, minimize, or mitigate those impacts. These findings must be considered in the project’s overall alternative analysis and selection.

    A Socioeconomic Assessment is performed when it is anticipated a federally funded project will potentially result in significant positive or negative social or economic impacts. A standalone Socioeconomic Assessment is not usually required for state‐funded projects or for projects that only call for lower‐level NEPA studies (CE for Minor Projects, CE Level 1, or CE Level 2). It should, however, be considered for more complex projects (CE Level 3) and is usually required for projects processed using an EA/FONSI or EIS/Record of Decision (ROD).

    See the Environmental Analysis Manual (EA-700) for more details.

    Red Flag

    If local public agencies lack the specialized environmental staff to complete this level of evaluation, they shall retain the services of a prequalified environmental consultant. The schedule for completing documentation shall be determined through consultation among the project team members.

    11. Identify Section 4(f)/ 6(f) Resources

    All Federal-aid projects or projects requiring FHWA approval must be closely examined early in the project development process for potential Section 4(f) and Section 6(f) impacts. The former refers to Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act of 1966, the latter to Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (LWCFA). All reasonable measures should be taken to avoid such resources regardless of funding source.

    Section 4(f) regulations govern the use of property in publicly owned parks, recreation areas, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and public or private historic sites for federally funded projects. See the Environmental Analysis Manual (EA-706 and EA-912) for more details.

    Section 6(f) must be addressed when projects result in the permanent conversion of outdoor recreation property that was acquired or improved using LWCFA grant assistance. Conversion of LWCFA property is defined as a change in use to one other than outdoor recreation. Section 6(f) directs the National Park Service (NPS) to ensure that replacement lands of equal value, location, and usefulness are provided as conditions to approve the land conversion. Whenever the conversion of Section 6(f) property is proposed for a highway project, replacement land will be necessary, and the NPS concurrence on the land transfer shall be documented. (In Kentucky LWCFA coordination is administered by the Department for Local Government (DLG)). See the Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual (EA-707) for more details.

    Section 4(f) typically applies to the Section 6(f) resources.

    Red Flag

    Many environmental laws — including NEPA — are procedural. This means they establish procedures that must be followed before a decision is made. Section 4(f) is different. It prohibits making certain types of decisions. This type of law imposes a substantive requirement and can block an agency from taking action, regardless of how thoroughly the action has been studied. Under Section 4(f), a federally funded highway project that uses Section 4(f) property can be approved only after it has been determined that no prudent and feasible alternative to use the property exists and that project planning minimizes harm to Section 4(f) sites (49 USC 303).

    The coordination requirements of Section 6(f) compliance are complex and time consuming. The agency with jurisdiction over the recreational property may need to be educated on the requirements of the conversion. A KYTC‐qualified appraiser is required for the appraisal of Section 6(f) land that is subject to conversion and any selected replacement land. Complying with Section 6(f) also requires close coordination with the DLG and, ultimately, NPS approval.

     Side Note

    Section 6(f) requirements are applicable to conversion of Section 6(f) land regardless of whether federal funding or approvals are involved.

    Mother duck and ducklings

    12. Ecological Base Study/Habitat Assessment

    Ecological impact assessment is used to identify where unique or critical habitat, endangered species, or water quality may be impacted by project construction and to develop a plan to address potential impacts. The level of effort for assessment must be commensurate with the context and magnitude of anticipated project impacts. Some projects may be located in areas, such as urban landscapes, that do not harbor sensitive terrestrial or aquatic resources. Other projects may occur in areas that require extensive investigations of multiple resources. Early in the process, records research is conducted and, if necessary, followed by field reconnaissance. More detailed studies may be needed to further define areas of concern, quantify potential impacts, and develop plans to mitigate unavoidable impacts.

    In the early stages of project development, an Ecological Overview or an Ecological Base Study is conducted depending on project size. For smaller-scale projects (e.g., CE Level 1, CE Level 2, and some CE Level 3), an Ecological Overview is typically sufficient to provide a general assessment of the terrestrial, aquatic, and water quality concerns. Larger projects (e.g., some CE Level 3 and EA/FONSI) will typically require completion of an Ecological Base Study. See the Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual (EA‐802, EA-803, and EA-805) for details.

    The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) to ensure actions do not jeopardize threatened or endangered species or their critical habitats. Decisions about alternative locations, construction activities, and letting schedules may be influenced if these species are present. Discussions about these matters should commence as soon as possible after threatened or endangered species or their critical habitats are discovered. After conducting a Habitat Assessment (see EA-804), threatened and endangered species or their critical habitats are documented in a No Effect Finding (see EA-804) or Biological Assessment (see EA-806). These documents are used to meet Section 7 ESA compliance requirements. A Habitat Assessment must be completed as part of the CE documentation.

    Red Flag

    The season of ecological fieldwork may be an important consideration for investigating certain resources, especially streams, wetlands, and threatened or endangered species. These seasonal requirements should be considered when developing project schedules.

    Ecological impact assessment often provides important data needed to complete regulatory processes, such as obtaining water quality permits (see EA‐1101) and carrying out Section 7 consultation (see EA‐804, EA‐805, and EA‐806). Schedules for these processes should be considered when developing overall project schedules.

    An Ecological Overview or Ecological Base Study provides general information about habitat types, species, or water quality impacts that could result from project activities. However, these studies are not sufficient to achieve compliance with Section 7 of the ESA.

    All projects must comply with the ESA regardless of funding source. See the Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual (EA‐801) for details.

    13. Preliminary Geotechnical Recommendations

    Existing geotechnical information is obtained at the beginning of a project, during the period when the PM collects as much existing data as possible in anticipation of the design phase. The Geotechnical Branch’s online database contains results from completed KYTC geotechnical investigations.

    Depending on the project context, geotechnical mapping and information beyond what is currently available may be needed. In these cases, preliminary geotechnical overviews are assembled for the project areas or corridors of proposed roadway projects. In this preliminary stage of project development, site conditions are evaluated by doing field reconnaissance of surface conditions and reviewing available surface and geologic mapping. Other information, such as previous geotechnical studies or investigations, may also be used to supplement the available data.

    Geotechnical overviews should address issues that may affect transportation decisions within the project area. They should describe the project area’s topography, including its regional and structural geology. Geotechnical overviews should also discuss the impacts of various features and potential mitigation actions — including cost — if the feature is encountered during project work. This information will be used during roadway alternative studies to help determine if a feature should be impacted, particularly in a situation when there are competing issues (e.g., historic, environmental, cultural. Issues that may require discussion include:

    • Geologic formations that could complicate or hinder project work
    • Presence of springs, landslides, mines, karst, faulted strata, acidic shale, mineral deposits, or other topographic or subsurface features that could affect construction and maintenance of a roadway
    • Foundation types for structures
    • Possible issues with cut and fill slopes resulting from known soil and rock conditions (That is, how they broadly affect a project area, e.g., flatter or steeper slopes than normal so that the cost impacts of needing more earthwork or right of way can be considered.)
    • Possible issues with pavement subgrade and the need for modifying the subgrade
    • Seismic zones for earthquake design and possible mitigation actions
    • Availability of suitable materials from excavation (i.e., rock from excavation) for use in the subgrade and embankments

    Maps of the project areas should include as many of the features noted above as possible. Areas of concern should be clearly noted on the maps. When possible, this information should be provided in GIS (Geographic Information System) layers so they can be incorporated with other features for visual display as well as to aid in determining the recommended corridors. If alternatives are available, an evaluation of each alternative discussing the geologic conditions — both beneficial and adverse — should be included.

    Red Flag

    Geotechnical investigations furnish information that can be used to identify an optimal design that may generate cost savings while advancing the project to keep it on schedule. They can eliminate the need to be over-conservative (an uneconomical practice used to compensate for lack of knowledge of subsurface conditions) and minimize cases of under-design (and the resulting failures attributed to so-called unforeseen soil conditions). However, bear in mind that any subsurface investigation leaves certain areas unexplored, especially during the early stage geotechnical overview.

     Side Note

    Whenever possible the geotechnical overview report should be presented in non-specialized language that can be interpreted by a wide audience, as the overview will be included in the reports or other displays made available to the public.

    14. Identify Utility Impacts and
    Preliminary Joint Utilities Meeting 

    Locations of existing utility facilities should be identified early in the design process (see Article 4, Section 4 and 5, Locate Utilities). During this process KYTC notifies public and private utility companies of proposed roadway projects and their potential impacts to utility facilities. Once identified, utility companies and the PDT can work to identify conflicts with existing facilities, avoid the facilities or plan for the relocation or adjustment of facilities to a new location on the highway ROW or private easements.

    On more complex road projects or projects with a complex network of multiple facilities, during the development of preliminary alternatives more careful attention to detail is needed for utility planning. For example, on the average small bridge rehabilitation or replacement the District Utility Supervisor and Project Engineer should not invest much time planning utilities. For smaller projects, the recommended utility planning effort most often entails merely identifying existing facilities and conflicts with those facilities. On a major road widening in an urbanized setting with numerous existing facilities, a detailed utility plan should be established. Detailed utility plans show facility locations, SUE notations, identified conflicts, and proposed relocation placements. For more information on utility plan development, see the Utilities and Rails Guidance Manual (UR-1002).

    For more complex projects, Preliminary Joint Utilities Meetings may be held early in Phase 1 project development to foster the requisite early and frequent communication between utility owners and the PDT.

    15. Identify Right-Of-Way Issues

    To help the PM understand a project’s ROW requirements, potential ROW issues and challenges should be identified. These requirements should be assessed when preliminary alternatives are developed. Establishing the ROW needed for a project is a design process, but one that requires close coordination with other functions which have input into project development and design. Project development must be advanced to a sufficient stage of preliminary engineering design to generally describe a project’s ROW need. Once ROW needs have been identified, preliminary ROW cost estimates are calculated. The PM is responsible for preparing cost estimates and must ensure that representatives from the appropriate functional areas are involved in the preclusive ROW determination process. Coordination between staff designing the road and ROW personnel occurs throughout project development to ensure they appropriately address all property concerns.

    Red Flag

    The most economical means of constructing a project should always be the goal. In some cases, ROW costs are significant. A complex ROW acquisition process can take a long time, delaying construction and increasing project costs. Early identification of potential ROW requirements, approximate costs, and the work effort to complete ROW activities will greatly improve project cost estimates and schedules. Having ROW staff and appraisers participate in the process assists in the development of better project alternatives.

    ROW requirements identified during the development of preliminary alternatives should not be considered firmly set. ROW staff cannot perform exhaustive ROW or appraisal activities without significant effort and time.

    Highway ROW is often used to provide public utility services and serve conventional road needs. Therefore, utility relocations prompted by a roadway project may require the acquisition of property. For projects that will relocate existing facilities, layout of the proposed ROW should factor into proposed utility designs and provide the ROW needed for construction. Early coordination may be appropriate and aid in the acquisition of parcels critical to utility locations.

    Often during highway construction, existing traffic operations are maintained using a temporary diversion on site or by temporarily widening the existing road. Temporary easements are normally required for diversions and road widening. When identifying a project’s ROW, the need for temporary easements should be considered.

    16. Identify Rail Involvement

    Any time a highway project can potentially impact a railroad, KYTC must coordinate with the railroad company. This includes projects that are at‐grade, over, or under railroad tracks as well as projects impacting railroad-owned property.

    Rail coordination is an integral component of project development when a railroad is present. Undertaking railroad coordination activities early in project development fosters effective communication between KYTC and railroad companies and sets the stage for effective project collaboration. The PM may expect the railroad’s engineering review/approval of project details and ROW review/approval to occur separately. But individual railroads vary in their approaches. While delays and additional expenses are normal on projects that have railroad involvement, early coordination helps minimize and manage the effects to KYTC’s schedule and budget. For example, time-consuming and costly redesign work can be avoided if railroad expansions are planned and the PDT initiates an engineering review in time to adjust a preliminary structure layout. The PM should contact the Railroad Coordinator in the Division of Right of Way, Utilities, and Rail as soon as possible, but no later than selection of the preferred alternative.

    When there is early recognition during project development that early rail coordination will be needed, the Railroad Coordinator may be notified. Even while preliminary alternatives are under development and discussion, the Railroad Coordinator can give valuable information to assist in the decision-making process. The Railroad Coordinator can attend the Preliminary Line and Grade Meeting whenever needed and share the following details with designers: railroad requirements, type and number of trains per day, train speeds, railroad company contact information, and an estimate of rail involvement costs for each alternative.

    Early involvement of the Railroad Coordinator initiates a field assessment of the project location and enables a comprehensive review of the potential work. How a railroad will be affected by project alternatives — both during and after construction — is considered and may influence which alternative is selected. Railroad factors examined during early rail coordination include but are not limited to track signalization, communications services, track geometry, sight distance issues, and drainage considerations (railroad property). Knowledge of these factors provides the PM and PDT information and feedback concerning potential impacts of alternatives on existing railroads. Proactive coordination will also help the Railroad Coordinator obtain future approvals from the railroad company.

    Red Flag

    As soon as it is known a project will have railroad involvement the PM should document it in the project database system by adding Railroad Involvement to the Project Concerns area. This notifies the Railroad Coordinator of railroad involvement on the project.

    Data on railroad’s location and topography can normally be obtained from regular roadway project mapping. When the railroad’s location is critical, additional survey data may be needed (e.g., if drainage is diverted toward the railroad ROW, supplemental data may be needed through the impacted area). To index the railroad to roadway project mapping, the distance to the nearest railroad milepost on each side of the highway centerline must be measured and the information on mileposts recorded. Be aware that railroad companies may require special permits to enter their property for ground surveying. In some cases, railroad personnel may need to escort KYTC surveyors while on railroad property.

    Railroad companies have clearance requirements for the construction of permanent or temporary facilities that encroach on or cross the railroad ROW (e.g., road facilities to maintain traffic flow during construction). A standard vertical clearance of 23 feet must be provided. Vertical clearance is measured from the top of the high rail to the lowest point of the structure in the horizontal clearance area of the railroad. Horizontal clearance requirements are established by the railroad company; they are measured from the centerline of track to the face of a pier, abutment, or other obstacle. Contact the Division of Structural Design for clearance requirement information, which can be factored into the study of preliminary alternatives.

    All land parcels within the railroad ROW needed for highway construction shall be taken as either permanent or temporary easements. Descriptions must be tied to both highway and railroad stationing.

    Highway projects with railroad involvement carry additional costs. To ensure these costs are accounted for in and covered by highway project funding, the PM should request a cost estimate from the Railroad Coordinator. The estimate will cover the provision of railroad-related activities and coordination, including preliminary engineering, final engineering, administration, construction management, and flagging.

    17. Early Evaluation Of Proposed Roadway Alternatives And Their Impacts On The Environment, Right Of Way, Utilities, And Budget

    When preliminary alternatives are developed, there are key points at which project decisions must be made. These decision points reflect the process required by NEPA. The Purpose and Need statement focuses decision making and is the basis for evaluating and comparing reasonable alternatives. A preliminary Purpose and Need statement is drafted during the initial portion of a project’s early scoping stages. It is continually evaluated throughout project development and modified as needed based on information collected during Phase 1 – the Preliminary Engineering and Environmental Project Phase.

    The PDT develops a range of alternatives within the study area that will fulfill the Purpose and Need of a project. Alternatives and corridors evaluated previously should be the beginning point. Those eliminated by development studies do not require further investigation if each alternative was developed adequately with sufficient documentation and a rationale was provided to justify its elimination. When evaluating alternatives, take into consideration preliminary information about constructability, performance measures, and total project costs. Each alternative should be buildable, fit the project context, and have predicted performance that is satisfactory.

    Key existing features within a corridor should be identified and mapped before alternative studies begin. These features may be related to environmental considerations, ROW, or utilities in the area. If it becomes apparent that roadway construction would excessively disturb a key existing feature(s), alternatives may be dropped from consideration with adequate supporting documentation. While a preferred alternative may stand out, the PDT should not make a recommendation until members understand and evaluate all relevant impacts and issues in the study area. As alternatives are removed from consideration, SMEs continue to study and evaluate the remaining alternatives.

    SMEs need to adopt a corridor approach, rather than focusing on a given alignment, so that adjustments can be made to avoid or minimize impacts. They also need to remain involved in the decision-making process to ensure impacts are considered and offer suggestions for minimizing or mitigating impacts when necessary. If a detailed SME study of a corridor is cost prohibitive (e.g., archaeology) during the early stages of roadway evaluation, an overview is normally completed to guide the corridor and alignment study. As the alignment development progresses, detailed study may become necessary.

    PDT members come from various functional areas in the Department of Highways. Input from these members should be solicited throughout project development. The output from the early evaluation of proposed alternatives and their impacts on the environment, ROW, utilities, and budget is a list of possible, practical, and feasible alternatives that fulfill the Purpose and Need. This list of alternatives is further developed and evaluated. As alternatives are developed, they go through a screening process. Alternatives with impacts on the environment, ROW, or utilities deemed too significant, or which have too great a financial expense, are eliminated.

    Red Flag

    Properly documenting how and when alternatives are eliminated is an important step in the decision-making process. A roadway’s development process may take years and often the people involved in it change. Re-evaluating alternatives that were justifiably eliminated, but did not receive proper documentation, adds unnecessary costs and time.

    18. Initiate Writing Of Draft Environmental Assessment

    After reviewing and screening alternatives, SMEs continue to evaluate alternatives still under consideration. Their assessments are guided by the documentation and information produced through base studies and EA activities. A draft EA is begun when preliminary alternatives are being developed.

    The primary purpose of an EA is to help KYTC and FHWA decide if an EIS is needed. Baseline environmental studies are typically developed to assess the potential environmental impact of proposed alternatives. The decision-making process is documented by including results from the baseline studies as well as engineering and economic considerations. At the conclusion of this process, KYTC and FHWA determine whether the final documentation should be a CE, FONSI, or EIS. The document oftentimes — but not always — identifies the preferred alternative.

    The PDT, in consultation with the Division of Environmental Analysis and FHWA, establishes the level of effort needed to determine the range of alternatives as well as the studies necessary to complete an adequate assessment. The Environmental Project Manager, DEC, or a prequalified environmental consultant documents the decision‐making process. The EA discusses a reasonable range of alternatives for the proposed action, including the no‐build option and alternatives that were considered but eliminated.

    If impacts exceed CE thresholds but are not deemed significant, the process may advance by finalizing the EA, soliciting public input at a public hearing, and preparing a finding of no significant impact (FONSI).

    Red Flag

    KYTC and FHWA use the EA to determine if an EIS is needed. The scale of the project impacts and other factors (e.g., project controversy) are considered. If the Division of Environmental establishes that impacts are significant, it prepares an EIS.

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