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Project Management and NEPA

Project Management and NEPA Transportation Project Classification
Capital Improvement Projects Safety Projects Asset Management Projects Maintenance Projects
1.0 Introduction x x x x
2.0 The Role of Integrated Decision Making in Project Development and Delivery x x x x
3.0 Environmental Clearance and NEPA Document Types x x x x
4.0 Purpose and Need x x x x
5.0 Selecting the Appropriate Environmental Document x x x x
5.1 No Significant Impacts — Categorical Exclusion x x x x
5.2 Uncertain Impacts — Environmental Assessment x
5.3 Significant Impacts — Environmental Impact Statement x
6.0 Uses, Responsibilities, and Time to Complete x x x x
7.0 The Public and NEPA x x x x
8.0 Tools for the Project Manager x x x x
9.0 Risk Mitigation x x x x
9.1 Importance of Documentation x x x x
9.2 Time for Permits x x x x
9.3 Change in Scope x x x x
9.4 Other Considerations for Project Risk x x x x
x = Information from the topic may be applicable for the project classification.

Terms

The full definition for terms included in this article (listed below) can be found in the HKP Glossary.

    • Significant Impacts 
    • Notice of Intent
    • Base Studies 
    •  Communicating All Promises (CAP) 
    • Record of Decision (ROD) 
    • Environmental Overview (EO) 
    • Categorical Exclusion (CE) 
    • Environmental Assessment (EA)
    • Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

1. Introduction

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to perform environmental reviews and assess the potential environmental impacts of proposed actions (e.g., road projects, issuing permits). To maintain compliance with NEPA, when the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approves transportation projects the agency must identify, evaluate, and — if possible — avoid impacts to the social and natural environment. Analysis of potential impacts requires interagency and interdisciplinary coordination. Once analyses are complete, findings must be documented and made available to the public so individuals can submit comments. FHWA and KYTC work to balance environmental considerations and the public interest to arrive at the best possible transportation decision.

KYTC’s Division of Environmental Analysis (DEA) assists project managers (PMs) on all issues related to NEPA and the environmental process. DEA helps PMs ensure applicable state and federal laws are followed during planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance projects that require environmental review. Throughout every project, PMs must work closely with DEA and District Environmental Coordinator (DECs) in each highway district to keep the environmental process moving forward and make sure that KYTC fulfills all environmental commitments made throughout project development. Drawing on partnerships with and the expertise of DEA, DECs, and subject-matter experts (SMEs) helps PMs understand the environmental implications of alternatives; avoid, minimize, or mitigate project impacts; and implement sound, cost-effective, and defensible decision making.

When a project begins KYTC evaluates whether it will have significant environmental impactsAccording to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), the term “significant” requires consideration of both context and intensity, in relation to short- and long-term potential impacts from project actions. Project context includes impacts to the local area, the affected region, the stakeholders, and potentially, society. Project intensity relates to the severity of the project action, which could include both beneficial and adverse impacts., looking at a number of factors to make this determination:

  • Public health and safety
  • Unique geographical characteristics
  • Human environment
  • Historic and cultural resources
  • Endangered or threatened species
  • Cumulative impacts or setting a precedent for additional future actions

The NEPA process can sometimes be long and winding — especially for complex projects — but it provides critical protections for fragile ecosystems and gives community stakeholders a voice in transportation decision making. No one wants to return to the pre-1970 status quo, prior to the passage of key environmental and social legislation, when rivers teeming with pollution caught fire and interstate construction uprooted communities of color. Through the environmental process, KYTC can develop projects equitably and practice good environmental stewardship.

2. The Role of Integrated Decision Making in Project Development and Delivery

NEPA impacts the design and implementation of projects in many ways. As such, PMs must put integrated decision making into practice from a project’s outset. This means design and environmental work should occur alongside and inform one another. Integrated decision making has six key components:

  • Develop a reasonable number of alternatives, including a no-build alternative. The Project Development Team (PDT) evaluates alternatives based on the purpose and need (see Section 4). Alternatives failing to address the purpose and need are eliminated from consideration.
  • Use FHWA-approved procedures to share project information with the public and solicit feedback (see Section 5)
  • Evaluate impacts to local ecology, wetlands, streams, communities, and historic and cultural resources.
  • Coordinate with agencies and partners that participate in the environmental and public involvement processes (e.g., tribal governments, transportation and environmental interest groups, MPOs, resource and regulatory agencies, underserved communities).
  • Implement FHWA’s five-step mitigation sequence: avoid impacts, minimize impacts, repair or restore impacted areas, reduce or eliminate impacts across the project life cycle, compensate for impacts (e.g., purchase wetland and stream mitigation credits).
  • Thoroughly and clearly document the transportation decision making process. Document every step KYTC takes to avoid, minimize, or mitigate negative environmental impacts.

Through integrated decision making, the PDT can develop alternative implementation strategies during a project’s early stages. And with multiple alternatives in hand, the Cabinet can avoid costly, time-consuming efforts to re-engineer a project. From a project’s outset, the PM should engage in and document the decision-making process and strive to balance public impacts, environmental directives and regulations issued by external agencies, cost, safety, and mitigation techniques.

3. Environmental Clearance and NEPA Document Types

A critical step in the NEPA process is obtaining environmental clearance. This entails completing an environmental document and receiving state/federal approval for a proposed project. Environmental documents record the project decision-making process and evaluate project alternatives. When evaluating alternatives, the PDT must consider engineering, environmental, and socioeconomic factors. Analysis contained in environmental documents must state who evaluated alternatives, criteria used to eliminate alternatives, when alternatives were eliminated, and measures that were employed to assess the effectiveness of alternatives.  The goal is to make informed decisions that balance project objectives with environmental considerations.

The type of environmental document generated for a project is determined by considering the project’s scope, scale of impacts, complexity, and potential for controversy. Table 1 describes the three types of environmental documents: Categorical Exclusion (CE), Environmental Assessment (EA), Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and Record of Decision (ROD)A concise public document summarizing the findings in the EIS and the basis for the decision. The ROD must identify mitigations which were important in supporting decisions, such as those mitigations which reduce otherwise significant impacts, and ensure that appropriate monitoring procedures are implemented (32 CFR 651.26).. The amount of time and resources that are needed to prepare environmental documents varies greatly (see Table 4). The environmental assessment (EA)Environmental assessment means a concise public document for which a Federal agency is responsible that serves to (40 CFR 1508.9):
a) Briefly provide sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) or a finding of no significant impact (FONSI).
b) Aid an agency’s compliance with the Act when no environmental impact statement is necessary.
c) Facilitate preparation of a statement when one is necessary.
and environmental impact statement (EIS)An EIS is a full disclosure document for major Federal actions that significantly affect the quality of the human environment. They detail the process through which a transportation project was developed, include consideration of a range of reasonable alternatives, analyze the potential impacts resulting from the alternatives, and demonstrate compliance with other applicable environmental laws and executive orders. The EIS process is completed in the following ordered steps: Notice of Intent (NOI), draft EIS, final EIS, and record of decision (ROD).
are usually reserved for complex capital projects with significant impacts. Very few projects require an EA or an EIS. If a PM is managing a project with an EA environmental document, they must understand all relevant requirements and timeframes.

Table 1 Environmental Documents
Document Type Description
Categorical Exclusion (CE)

A category of actions which do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and for which therefore neither an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement is required (40 CFR 1508.4).

Environmental Assessment (EA)

A concise public document for which a federal agency is responsible that serves to (40 CFR 1508.9):

a) Briefly provide sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) or a finding of no significant impact (FONSI).

b) Aid an agency's compliance with the Act when no environmental impact statement is necessary.

c) Facilitate preparation of a statement when one is necessary.

An EA briefly discusses the need for the project, the alternatives, environmental impacts of the proposed action and alternatives, and a listing of agencies and persons consulted.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Federal agencies must prepare environmental impact statements (EISs) for major federal actions that significantly affect the quality of the human environment. An EIS is a full disclosure document that:
  • Details the process through which a transportation project was developed,
  • Considers a range of reasonable alternatives
  • Analyzes the potential impacts of alternatives
  • Demonstrates compliance with other applicable environmental laws and executive orders
The EIS process is completed in the following ordered steps: Notice of Intent (NOI), draft EIS, final EIS, and record of decision (ROD).

Red Flag

Approved environmental documents are valid for a specified time period. If an approval expires, the project must be reevaluated to verify the decision reflects the current project and that effects and impacts previously identified have not significantly changed.

 Side Note

FHWA approval of a NEPA document is not required for state‐funded projects. Environmental resources on these projects are typically documented in an Environmental Overview (EO).

4. Purpose and Need

Purpose and need statements explain and justify why KYTC is proposing a project and consist of purpose and need elements (Table 2). Not all Cabinet projects require individual purpose and need statements. Programmatic purpose and need statements cover projects and activities conducted under the following programs:

  • FE01 — Routine Maintenance Program
  • FE05 — State Resurfacing Program
  • FE02 — Bridge Maintenance Program
  • FE06 — New Guardrail Program
  • FE07 — Welcome Center/Rest Area Maintenance and Operation Program
  • FE04 — Traffic Operations Program

A good purpose and need statement is straightforward and can be understood by different stakeholders, including the general public. Purpose and need statements justify (a) why public funds should be used to finance a project and (b) any environmental impacts that a project may generate. It should not suggest specific roadway solutions but rather focus on outlining the issues.

Table 2 Purpose and Need Components
Element Description
Need
  • Answers the question: What problem(s) needs to be fixed?
  • Uses data and factual statements to demonstrate the problem(s) or deficiencies that exist or which are projected to materialize
  • Common examples of needs include excess congestion, safety issues, deterioration of physical infrastructure
Purpose
  • Answers the question: How will a project fix the problem(s)?
  • Provides a clear, concise definition of project objectives
  • Project definition should be broad enough to support the development and analysis of a range of reasonable and competitive alternatives

During project development, the PDT uses the purpose and need statement as the basis to establish a project scope, including the project footprint and project deliverables. Developing a comprehensive, highly specific purpose and need statement is critical for identifying which alternative is best positioned to address operational, safety, and performance goals in a reasonable, prudent, and practicable manner. The purpose and need statement is not static. It is updated throughout project development as the PDT gains knowledge of the project context and receives feedback from the public. All updates to the purpose and need statement should be complete by the end of Preliminary Design.

FHWA has catalogued items that purpose and need statements often tackle (Table 3). This list is non-exhaustive, and it is important to keep in mind that purpose and need statements must be tailored to individual projects.

The PMGB article Project Scoping provides an in-depth treatment of purpose and need statements.

Table 3 Purpose and Need Content
Item Description
Project Status
  • Discuss project history, measures taken to date, other participating government agencies, action spending, schedules.
Capacity
  • Review the facility’s capacity and ability to meet current and projected traffic demands. Discuss capacity and performance goals and factors that limit the facility’s capacity or negatively impact travel time reliability.
System Linkage
  • Describe physical or operational linkages between the facility and broader transportation network.
Transportation Demand
  • Highlight where the project fits in with statewide or regional transportation demand management plans or programs. Consider fluctuations in transportation demand and describe traffic forecasts that differ significantly from the estimates developed for Section 134 planning processes
Legislation
  • Address if the project is mandated by the federal, state, or local government.
Social Demands/Economic Development
  • Explain how the project will benefit employment, schools, land use plans, and recreational facilities. Review projected changes in development or land use that require expanding the roadway capacity.
Modal Interrelationships
  • Describe the project’s multimodal implications (e.g., connections to airports, railroads, ports, mass transit services).
Safety
  • If the project’s goal is to improve safety, use crash data to illustrate a safety hazard exists. Describe how the project will eliminate or mitigate safety issues.
Roadway Deficiences
  • If the project’s goal is to correct roadway deficiencies, identify and explain what problems exist (e.g., poor condition, substandard geometrics, inadequate cross sections, load limits on structures, high maintenance costs). Describe how the project will correct deficiencies.

5. Selecting the Appropriate Environmental Document

The environmental document records the project decision-making process and presents an evaluation of alternatives — including the chosen alternative — based on engineering, environmental, and economic factors.

Once a project is authorized, the environmental process kicks off with the PM and Project Development Branch Manager (PDM) working with the District Environmental Coordinator (DEC) to gauge potential project impacts and determine the most appropriate environmental document type.

If the expected environmental document is a Categorical Exclusion (CE) Level 3 or above, the PM must work with DEA Environmental Project Managers (EPMs) and Division of Highway Design’s Location Engineers to schedule a scope verification meeting. Required attendees include the PM, PDT members, and the FHWA representative. The meeting should be held before the pre-design conference and focuses on potential environmental impacts, including those related to:

  • Air quality
  • Aesthetics
  • Cemeteries
  • Cultural resources
  • Endangered species
  • Federal lands
  • Floodplains
  • Groundwater resources
  • Hazardous materials and underground storage tanks
  • Section 4(f) resources
  • Section 6(f) resources
  • Socioeconomic concerns and environmental justice
  • Streams
  • Wetlands

If KYTC knows a project will have significant environmental impacts, it can issue a notice of intent (NOI)A formal announcement of intent to prepare an EIS as defined in Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) NEPA regulations (40 CFR 1508.22). and begin the scoping process, after which an environmental impact statement (EIS) is drafted (see Section 3). But if there is uncertainty over whether a project will generate significant impacts, KYTC conducts an Environmental Assessment (EA) (see Section 3).

5.1 No Significant Impacts — Categorical Exclusions

The most common type of environmental document is a CE — over 90 percent of KYTC projects qualify for a CE.

Under an agreement with FHWA, the Cabinet is authorized on the agency’s behalf to determine whether a project counts as a CE action. Appendix A and Appendix B of this agreement list many project types eligible for a CE. DECs help PMs determine if their project qualifies for a CE. But some common actions covered by the agreement include:

  • Projects that will take place entirely within the existing operational right of way, including:
    • Highway modernization through resurfacing, restoration, rehabilitation, reconstruction, and the addition of shoulders or auxiliary lanes
    • Highway safety improvement projects (i.e., those included in Kentucky’s highway safety plan) or traffic operations improvement projects
    • Bridge rehabilitation, reconstruction, or the replacement or construction of grade separation to replace existing at-grade railroad crossings
    • Bridge scour and debris removal
  • Installation of fencing, signs, pavement markings, traffic signals, railroad warning devices and small passenger shelters if no significant land acquisition or traffic disruptions will occur
  • Emergency repairs following a disaster declaration by Kentucky’s governor or the president. This encompasses the repair, reconstruction, restoration, retrofitting, or replacement of any road, highway, tunnel, or transit facility that was under construction or operational when a disaster struck.
  • Facility alterations designed to improve accessibility for the elderly and people with disabilities
  • Federal-aid projects that (a) receive less than $5 million in federal funds or (b) have a total cost of < $30 million and < 15 percent of costs are paid for with federal funds.

 The agreement also establishes four CE levels (Table 4) as well as criteria for determining the appropriate CE level.

Cells in the Class of Action column link to checklists that are used to evaluate whether a project meets the criteria for different types of CE. When deciding on the appropriate CE level, the first step is to look at the CEMP checklist to determine if a project fulfills relevant criteria. If it does not, evaluate the project against CE Level 1 criteria. This process continues until the correct CE level is identified.

Table 4 Types of Categorical Exclusion Defined in the FHWA-KYTC Agreement
Class of Action Approval Signatures Required Level of Complexity and Scale of Impacts
CE for Minor Projects (CEMP)
  • DEC or EPM or Director of DEA
  • PM
Minor
CE Level 1
  • DEC or EPM or Director of DEA
  • PM
Minor
CE Level 2
  • DEC or EPM or Director of DEA
  • PM
Moderate
CE Level 3
  • DEC or EPM or Director of DEA
  • PM
  • FHWA
Moderate
EPM = Environmental Project Manager

*To view the checklists click on the appropriate CE Level: CEMP, CE Level 1, CE Level 2, CE Level 3

Form TC 58-48 (CE Determination) must be completed for all CEs. This form, usually completed by the DEC, includes a project summary, description of alternatives evaluated, environmental determinations for each functional area, environmental commitments and/ or mitigation, review of public involvement, a discussion of social, economic, and cultural historic resource impacts, and other information. PMs must review commitments and input relevant information into the Communicating All Promises (CAP) document in KYTC’s Project Delivery Platform (PDP).

 For CE Level 1 – 3 projects, a CE Environmental Review must also be completed and attached to Form TC 58-48 (CE Determination)

A CE document remains valid for two years after its approval. If more than two years pass, FHWA will not authorize funding until the CE document is reevaluated. Reevaluations are also needed prior to a federal funding authorization of a project phase (i.e. right-of-way, utilities, construction) if more than 3 months have elapsed since the original approval.  Reevaluations may be needed if there are changes in the project scope, conditions in the project area, or regulations.

5.2 Uncertain Impacts — Environmental Assessment

Environmental assessments (EAs) are reserved for projects that may have larger impacts but when it is unclear if they are significant enough to warrant an environmental impact statement (EIS). Regulations issued by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) mandate that EAs contain the following information:

  • Description of the proposed action and the purpose and need
  • Description of alternatives
  • Evaluations of impacts associated with each alternative
  • Review of proposed mitigation
  • A list of agencies and people consulted during early coordination
  • Discussion of the preferred alternative (if selected)

 EAs must also describe the findings of environmental base studies, which are detailed investigations of how different environmental features (e.g., air quality, ecology, noise) will be impacted by project activities.

EAs are performed almost exclusively by consultants. But the PM, PDT, DEC, other DEA subject-matter experts, and FHWA collaborate to establish a schedule for completing documentation and the levels of effort needed to identify the range of alternatives and conduct relevant investigations (e.g., base studies). Table 5 lists the possible outcomes of EAs. Once DEA approves an EA, it submits the EA to FHWA.

Table 5 Potential Environmental Assessment Outcomes
EA Finding Outcome
Project will generate significant environmental impacts. KYTC prepares an environmental impact statement (EIS).
Project will generate minor environmental impacts that do not exceed CE thresholds. KYTC prepares the appropriate level CE.
Project will generate environmental impacts that exceed CE thresholds but are not deemed significant. KYTC finalizes the EA, solicits public input, and prepares a finding of no significant impact (FONSI).

A FONSI documents the final transportation decision and summarizes information on the project’s environmental, economic, and engineering impacts as well as mitigation that will be carried out as part of the selected alternative and responses to issues raised during the public hearing and comment period. Specifically, a FONSI must:

  • Address the impacts of the selected alternative
  • Include an explicit finding that the project will not significantly impact the environment
  • Describe steps to comply with relevant environmental laws and regulations
  • Include a final Section 4(f) determination
  • Identify mitigation measures that will be implemented to minimize the project’s environmental impacts

FHWA must approve a FONSI if Federal-aid dollars will be used to fund the project.

5.3 Significant Impacts — Environmental Impact Statement

If an EA concludes a project will produce significant environmental impacts or KYTC knows the project will result in significant impacts, the Cabinet moves forward with the EIS process — typically lead by a consultant. This process begins with KYTC preparing and publishing a notice of intent (NOI) in the Federal Register. Next, a Draft EIS (DEIS) is developed. This document:

  • Summarizes the findings of environmental base studies
  • Reviews environmental, engineering, and economic data or reports undertaken in accordance with the approved scope of work
  • Discusses a reasonable range of alternatives for the proposed action (including eliminated alternatives)
  • Summarizes studies, reviews, consultations, and coordination mandated by environmental laws and executive orders

DEA submits the completed DEIS to FHWA. Following FHWA approval, the Cabinet has 30 days to publish a notice for a public hearing in a local newspaper; the PM can also decide to publish the notice in publications that have regional or statewide circulation.

Following public hearings, the PDT evaluates the comments received, prepares responses, and identifies a preferred alternative. In some cases, comments submitted by the public or information comes to light that motivates the study of new alternatives. Once these are taken under consideration, the environmental process culminates in preparation of the Final EIS (FEIS). This document:

  • Identifies the preferred alternatives
  • Summarizes investigations and activities that occurred following publication of the DEIS
  • Discusses comments received on the DEIS
  • Documents the final Section 4(f) determination (if applicable)
  • Catalogues environmental mitigation measures
  • Documents compliance with all relevant environmental laws and executive orders

Once the FEIS is drafted, undergoes internal review and is finalized, the document is submitted to FHWA along with Form TC 58-52 (Final Environmental Impact Statement — Guidance and Accountability Form). The process ends with KYTC preparing a record of decision (ROD). This document undergoes internal reviews before DEA submits it to FHWA for approval. An approved ROD cannot be published until at least 45 days pass following approval of the FEIS.

For additional information on step-by-step procedures for the environmental process, see the Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual.

6. Uses, Responsibilities, and Time to Complete

Table 6 summarizes the features of different NEPA documents. It specifies when each type of document should be used, the party responsible for its preparation, approval authority, time required for completion, and the amount of time a document is valid before it needs to be reevaluated. The Document Type column links to sections in the Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual that talk about each kind of environmental document.

Table 6 Summary of Environmental Document Features
Document Type When to Use Who Prepares Who Approves Time to Complete Valid For

Environmental Overview
(EA-403)

Planning phase of state-funded project KYTC Planning or Environmental Staff or Consultant N/A 2-12 months N/A

Categorical Exclusion
(EA-404)

No significant impacts (See CE Manual)

KYTC District or CO Environmental Staff or Consultant See Table 4
  • CEMPs usually require a few days to 2 months. CE I typically requires 2-6 months.
  • CE IIs typical require 2-6 months.
  • CE IIIs typically require 6-24 months.
  • 2 years

    Environmental Assessment
    (EA-405)

    Uncertainty if impacts will be significant Typically Consultant FHWA 6-18 months Until environmental document is complete

    Finding of No Significant Impact (EA-406)

    An EA finds the project will not result in significant impacts Typically Consultant FHWA 6-12 months after EA 2 years

    Environmental Impact Statement (EA-407, EA-408)

    Impacts are expected to be significant Typically Consultant FHWA 24-36 months Until ROD is signed

    Record of Decision (EA-409)

    Impacts are expected to be significant Typically Consultant FHWA 6-12 months after final EIS (FEIS) 3 years

    Reevaluation (EA-410)

    Expired document, plan changes, phase changes, or changes in regulation Manager or Original Document (EPM or DEC) Same as original document 1 week - several months Same as original document

    PMs are responsible for initiating reevaluation of approved NEPA documents. Typically, reevaluations are done when a document is no longer valid due to the passage of time, if it will expire before a major project phase is authorized, or if the project has undergone significant changes following the approval (e.g., in scope, regulation, or project area). PMs must work with the DEC to initiate reevaluations promptly, well in advance of scheduled major phase authorizations to ensure there is enough time to complete additional studies, coordinate with resource agencies, and finish other activities.

    In most cases, the office that developed the original document performs the reevaluation. For CEMP and CE Level I documents prepared in a District Office, the DEC coordinates and/or completes the reevaluation. For other types of documents developed by DEA or consultants, the Division coordinates and/or completes the reevaluation. In some cases, environmental consultants may help prepare documents as part of reevaluations.

    The following HKP articles provide insights into subject-area assessments and mitigation strategies: 

    Further description of the level of effort and information to be included in each document type is included in the DEA’s Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual, and the Categorical Exclusion Guidance Manual.

    7. The Public and NEPA

    FHWA requires that states develop a public involvement program pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 128 and 40 CFR 1500 – 1508. A project’s size, potential impacts, and NEPA document type (CE, EA or EIS) influence decisions about the type and scale of public involvement opportunities. KYTC must: 

    • Offer planning and coordination of public involvement opportunities from the outset of the NEPA process.
    • Give opportunities for the public to help identify potential impacts (e.g., social, economic, and environmental impacts as well as relocations).
    • Hold at least one or more public hearings for any Federal-aid project determined to have significant impacts in the public interest (typically only EIS projects).
    • Advertise or provide other reasonable notice of public input opportunities.

    The HKP article Public Involvement with Customers and Stakeholders and the Highway Design Guidance Manual (HD-600 — Public Involvement) provide additional information on KYTC’s public involvement procedures.

    8. Tools for the Project Manager

    Several tools help PMs track findings, decisions, and commitments made during the environmental process. Because the NEPA process can be complex, stretch across multiple years, and involve numerous agencies and people (some of whom move to other positions), PMs must track project decisions so project commitments and project statuses are readily available. Key tools are described below.

    • ProjectWise®: KYTC uses Bentley ProjectWise® to store and manage project reports, files, and data. It is available only to Cabinet staff and provides immediate access to users across KYTC. The system uses a standard file structure that includes locations of environmental documents and data. PMs need to ensure the completed environmental documents are in the appropriate project folder locations.
    • CE Matrix and Checklists:
    • Communicating All Promises (CAP): KYTC must fulfill promises made to project participants and stakeholders. CAP tracks the following information:
      • Description of the promise made
      • The person/entity to whom the promise was made
      • Source of the promise
      • Date the promise was made
      • Location of the work or activities to fulfill the promise

    All promises and related data are stored and tracked in the project database system. Users cannot delete entries from the system once they have been entered. The CAP report follows the project through the construction bid package and project completion. See HD-203.4 for more information. 

    • Environmental Assessment Tracking System database (EATS): EPMs and other KYTC staff can use the web-based EATS to enter, maintain, and access detailed information for environmental reviews. EATS’ interface provides access to information such as status and comment data related to environmental milestones, meetings, review dates, and documents received. It should be regularly updated. 

    EATS can capture commitments that will be addressed prior to the construction phase, and therefore may not need to be entered into CAP. For example, if KYTC identifies archaeological sites that need further investigation, that can be noted in the project commitments function of EATS. Any commitment that needs to be carried through to project construction should be coordinated with the PM so they can include it in CAP. EATS can generate customized reports and is available through KYTC’s intranet site. 

    • Project Impact Profile (PIP): The PIP form (TC 58‐28) summarizes findings from the development of an EA/FONSI or EIS/ROD, including potential environmental impacts. It provides a consistent format to capture potential issues for each resource subject area and is submitted along with the environmental document. 

    More information on tools KYTC uses to monitor environmental assessments and commitments is included in the Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual. For additional information on PM tools see the HKP article PM Tools and Technology (coming soon).

    9. Risk Mitigation

    Throughout a project, PMs need to identify and manage environmental risks that may affect the project’s timeline, cost, and legal status. Risk assessment begins with project scoping. A good starting point is reviewing all previous studies and documents related to the proposed action to identify information relevant to the NEPA process as well as to locate potential risks, special considerations, and possible solutions previously identified.

    9.1 Importance of Documentation

    PMs and DEA personnel must carefully document the NEPA process. While the Cabinet may have taken appropriate actions and adhered to the NEPA process, the effectiveness of these efforts relies heavily on thorough documentation. Without proper documentation, it is as if these actions didn’t occur or are not evident, highlighting the importance of well-documented processes.  All environmental documentation should use clear, concise language. Because NEPA litigation can focus on project termini, the PM and PDT must pay close attention to segmentation on highway projects. NEPA documents should include evidence- and data-rich narratives of the project decision-making process that can be placed in a project’s administrative record. PDTs must document how and when alternatives are eliminated. Reevaluating alternatives whose elimination was justified but not properly documented increases time and costs.

    9.2 Time for Permits

    If KYTC needs to obtain permits or approvals from other agencies (e.g., United States Coast Guard), or a project is especially complex, PM and PDTs should allocate more time during project development for the environmental process. Routinely coordinating with regulatory agencies from the earliest stages of a project can help PDTs locate sources of risk and mitigate delays. Findings from base studies help PMs identify potential risks from the project’s outset. PM and PDTs must identify potential water-related impacts early in project development and refine the design, if feasible, to avoid these impacts. This helps keep permitting off the critical path.

    9.3 Changes in Scope

    As preliminary design advances on complex projects, scopes typically evolve. Modifying the project scope could change the type of environmental document needed. To address these challenges, the PM communicates issues to the PDT, including the SMEs and DEC, so team members can discuss the probable environmental impacts associated with scope modifications and determine if a different environmental document type is warranted. Scope changes can negatively impact the project schedule.

    If a project is modified after an environmental document is approved the PM must communicate the nature of the changes to all PDT members and oversee efforts to update environmental documents. Examples of changes that require reworking environmental documents include minor revisions to the project footprint resulting from detailed design at intersections, definition of approaches, changes in slopes, or other refinements that minimally expand the area impacted by a project.

    If the PDT identifies significant additional impacts or the project area is greatly expanded after completion of the environmental document (e.g., incorporation of excess excavation sites), the PM and PDT may need to reevaluate the environmental document and prepare a supplement or addendum, regardless of scheduled project development phases.

     9.4 Other Considerations for Project Risk

    The amount of research conducted and the scope of field studies vary based on the level of NEPA documentation. For all environmental document types, project decision making must consider direct and indirect impacts as well as short-term and long-term effects. Strategies to reduce risk associated with the environmental process are outlined below.

    • Some ecological fieldwork can only occur during particular seasons. This is an important consideration for investigating certain resources, especially streams, wetlands, and threatened or endangered species. PMs need to consider seasonal fieldwork requirements when developing project schedules.
    • When geotechnical field investigations are needed, analyze the environmental setting to verify geotechnical work (e.g., drilling) will not adversely impact sensitive features (e.g., archaeology, forested habitat, special use stream, wetland). The PM must determine if an environmental overview should be conducted prior to geotechnical field investigations.
    • The schedule for completing historic resource assessments may vary based upon anticipated project impacts. These impacts are contingent upon context, magnitude, and intensity. Consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office, and possibly other consulting parties, is mandatory at key points throughout the process.
    • Evaluations of archaeology and historic architecture are separate disciplines of cultural resource analysis. Although 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 the Biological Assessment finding is may affect, likely to adversely affect for any federally endangered species, DEA must coordinate with the lead federal agency to begin a formal Section 7 consultation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), unless there is an applicable programmatic agreement (e.g., Indiana Bats) in place.
    • A federally funded highway project that uses Section 4(f) property can be approved only after it has been determined no prudent and feasible alternative to use the property exists and that project planning minimizes harm to Section 4(f) sites (49 USC 303). Consult with the DEC to determine any applicable programmatic agreements or flexibilities afforded by de minimis impacts.
    • Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Act requires that the conversion of lands or facilities acquired with Land and Water Conservation Act funds under the State Assistance program be coordinated with the National Park Service (NPS). Coordination requirements of Section 6(f) compliance are complex and can be time consuming. Section 6(f) applies to state and federally funded projects if a resource is impacted.
    • Conforming with the purpose of the State Implementation Plan (SIP) requires that transportation activities must not cause new air quality violations, worsen existing violations, or delay timely attainment of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Because the Clean Air Act requires transportation conformity, air quality analysis has a high level of importance and urgency. Transportation plans and projects demonstrate conformity through planning level documents. These conformity documents are typically the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) for areas outside of a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) area. Projects within the boundaries of an MPO demonstrate conformity in the MPO’s Transportation Implementation Plan (TIP). Ensure needed project-related modifications to these documents are addressed early to avoid funding authorization delays.
    • KYTC may require property owners to perform required cleanup procedures before purchasing a property. Potential sources of pollutants include underground storage tanks (USTs), aboveground storage tanks, waste storage areas, and commercial and industrial process locations. The Environmental Analysis Guidance Manual contains a list of applicable codes, regulations, statutes, and guidance documents.
    • Consider potential environmental mitigation fees during alternatives analysis and include forecast expenses in the project cost estimate.

     Additional information on red flag scenarios is available in the HKP article Environmental Approval.

    Appendix

     

    List of Projects Approved for CE Under Appendix A of the KYTC – FHWA Agreement: Click here to download Appendix A

     

    List of Projects Approved for CE Under Appendix A of the KYTC - FHWA Agreement
    Activities which do not involve or lead directly to construction, such as planning and research activities; grants for training; engineering to define the elements of a proposed action or alternatives so that social, economic, and environmental effects can be assessed; and Federal-aid system revisions that establish classes of highways on the Federal-aid highway system.
    Approval of utility installations along or across a transportation facility.
    Construction of bicycle and pedestrian lanes, paths, and facilities.
    Activities included in the State's highway safety plan under 23 U.S.C. 402.
    Transfer of Federal lands pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 107(d) and/or 23 U.S.C. 317 when the land transfer is in support of an action that is not otherwise subject to FHWA review under NEPA.
    The installation of noise barriers or alterations to existing publicly owned buildings to provide for noise reduction.
    Landscaping.
    Installation of fencing, signs, pavement markings, small passenger shelters, traffic signals, and railroad warning devices where no substantial land acquisition or traffic disruption will occur.
    The following actions for transportation facilities damaged by an incident resulting in an emergency declared by the Governor of the State and concurred in by the Secretary, or a disaster or emergency declared by the President pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Act (42 U.S.C. 5121):
  • (i) Emergency repairs under 23 U.S.C. 125; and
  • (ii) The repair, reconstruction, restoration, retrofitting, or replacement of any road, highway, bridge, tunnel, or transit facility (such as a ferry dock or bus transfer station), including ancillary transportation facilities (such as pedestrian/bicycle paths and bike lanes), that is in operation or under construction when damaged and the action:
  • (A) Occurs within the existing right-of-way and in a manner that substantially conforms to the preexisting design, function, and location as the original (which may include upgrades to meet existing codes and standards as well as upgrades warranted to address conditions that have changed since the original construction); and
  • (B) Is commenced within a 2-year period beginning on the date of the declaration
  • Acquisition of scenic easements.
    Determination of payback under 23 U.S.C. 156 for property previously acquired with Federal-aid participation.
    Improvements to existing rest areas and truck weigh stations.
    Ridesharing activities.
    Bus and rail car rehabilitation.
    Alterations to facilities or vehicles in order to make them accessible for elderly and handicapped persons.
    Program administration, technical assistance activities, and operating assistance to transit authorities to continue existing service or increase service to meet routine changes in demand.
    The purchase of vehicles by the applicant where the use of these vehicles can be accommodated by existing facilities or by new facilities which themselves are within a CE.
    Track and railbed maintenance and improvements when carried out within the existing right-of-way.
    Purchase and installation of operating or maintenance equipment to be located within the transit facility and with no significant impacts off the site.
    Promulgation of rules, regulations, and directives.
    Deployment of electronics, photonics, communications, or information processing used singly or in combination, or as components of a fully integrated system, to improve the efficiency or safety of a surface transportation system or to enhance security or passenger convenience. Examples include, but are not limited to, traffic control and detector devices, lane management systems, electronic payment equipment, automatic vehicle locaters, automated passenger counters, computer-aided dispatching systems, radio communications systems, dynamic message signs, and security equipment including surveillance and detection cameras on roadways and in transit facilities and on buses.
    Projects, as defined in 23 U .S.C. 101, that would take place entirely within the existing operational right-of-way. Existing operational right-of-way means all real property interests acquired for the construction, operation, or mitigation of a project. This area includes the features associated with the physical footprint of the transportation facility including but not limited to the roadway, bridges, interchanges, culverts, drainage, clear zone, traffic control signage, landscaping, and any rest areas with direct access to a controlled access highway., This also includes fixed guideways, mitigation areas, areas maintained for safety and security of a transportation facility, parking facilities with direct access to an existing transportation facility, transit power substations, transportation venting structures, and transportation maintenance facilities.

    Federally-funded projects:

    A. That receive less than $5,000,000 (as adjusted annually by the Secretary to reflect any increases in the Consumer Price Index prepared by the Department of Labor, see www.fhwa.dot.gov or ww.fta.dot.gov) of Federal funds; or

    B. With a total estimated cost of not more than $30,000,000 (as adjusted annually by the Secretary to reflect any increases in the Consumer Price Index prepared by the Department of Labor, see www.fhwa.dot.gov or ww.fta.dot.gov) and Federal funds comprising less than 15 percent of the total estimated project cost.

    Localized geotechnical and other investigation to provide information for preliminary design and for environmental analyses and permitting purposes, such as drilling test bores for soil sampling; archeological investigations for archeology resources assessment or similar survey; and wetland surveys.
    Environmental restoration and pollution abatement actions to minimize or mitigate the impacts of any existing transportation facility (including retrofitting and construction of stormwater treatment systems to meet Federal and State requirements under sections 401 and 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1341; 1342)) carried out to address water pollution or environmental degradation.
    Modernization of a highway by resurfacing, restoration, rehabilitation, reconstruction, adding shoulders, or adding auxiliary lanes (including parking, weaving, turning, and climbing lanes), if the action meets the constraints in Note 1*.
    Highway safety or traffic operations improvement projects, including the installation of ramp metering control devices and lighting, if the project meets the constraints in Note 1*.
    Bridge rehabilitation, reconstruction, or replacement or the construction of grade separation to replace existing at-grade railroad crossings, if the actions meet the constraints in Note 1*.
    Purchase, construction, replacement, or rehabilitation of ferry vessels (including improvements to ferry vessel safety, navigation, and security systems) that would not require a change in the function of the ferry terminals and can be accommodated by existing facilities or by new facilities which themselves are within a CE.
    Rehabilitation or reconstruction of existing ferry facilities that occupy substantially the same geographic footprint, do not result in a change in their functional use, and do not result in a substantial increase in the existing facility's capacity. Example actions include work on pedestrian and vehicle transfer structures and associated utilities, buildings, and terminals.
    *Note 1: Actions required to meet Note 1 constraints may not be processed as CEs if they involve:
  • An acquisition of more than a minor amount of right-of-way or that would result in any residential or non-residential displacements.
  • An action that needs a bridge permit form the S.S. Coast Guard, or an action that does not meet the terms and conditions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nationwide or general permit under section 404 of the Clean Water Act and/or section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.
  • A finding of “adverse effect” to historic properties under the National Historic Preservation Act, the use of resource protected und 23 U.S.C. 138 or 49 U.S.C. 303 (section 4(f) except for actions resulting in de minimis impacts, or a finding of “may affect, likely to adversely affect” threatened or endangered species or critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Construction of temporary access or the closure of existing road, bridge, or ramps that would result in major traffic disruptions.
  • Changes in access control.
  • A floodplain encroachment other than functionally dependent uses (e.g., bridges, wetlands) or actions that facilitate open space use (e.g., recreational trails, bicycle and pedestrian paths); or construction activities in, across or adjacent to a river component designated or proposed for inclusion in the National System of Wild and Scenic Rivers.
  •  

     

    List of Projects Approved for CE Under Appendix B of the KYTC - FHWA Agreement
    Transportation corridor fringe parking facilities.
    Construction of new truck weigh stations or rest areas.
    Approvals for disposal of excess right-of-way or for joint or limited use of right-of-way, where the proposed use does not have significant adverse impacts.
    Approvals for changes in access control.
    Construction of new bus storage and maintenance facilities in areas used predominantly for industrial or transportation purposes where such construction is not inconsistent with existing zoning and located on or near a street with adequate capacity to handle anticipated bus and support vehicle traffic.
    Rehabilitation or reconstruction of existing rail and bus buildings and ancillary facilities where only minor amounts of additional land are required and there is not a substantial increase in the number of users.
    Construction of bus transfer facilities (an open area consisting of passenger shelters, boarding areas, kiosks and related street improvements) when located in a commercial area or other high activity center in which there is adequate street capacity for projected bus traffic.
    Construction of rail storage and maintenance facilities in areas used predominantly for industrial or transportation purposes where such construction is not inconsistent with existing zoning and where there is no significant noise impact on the surrounding community.
    Acquisition of land for hardship or protective purposes. Hardship and protective buying will be permitted only for a particular parcel or a limited number of parcels. These types of land acquisition qualify for a CE only where the acquisition will not limit the evaluation of alternatives, including shifts in alignment for planned construction projects, which may be required in the NEPA process. No project development on such land may proceed until the NEPA process has been completed. A. Hardship acquisition is early acquisition of property by the applicant at the property owner's request to alleviate particular hardship to the owner, in contrast to others, because of an inability to sell his property. This is justified when the property owner can document on the basis of health, safety or financial reasons that remaining in the property poses an undue hardship compared to others. B. Protective acquisition is done to prevent imminent development of a parcel which may be needed for a proposed transportation corridor or site. Documentation must clearly demonstrate that development of the land would preclude future transportation use and that such development is imminent. Advance acquisition is not permitted for the sole purpose of reducing the cost of property for a proposed project.
    CEMP Criteria
    An acquisition of no more than a minor amount of right-of-way.
    No residential or non-residential displacements
    No bridge permit required from the U.S. Coast Guard, under Section 9 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899.
    Wetland and stream impacts that meet the terms and conditions of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nationwide or general permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
    A finding of either no historic properties affected or no adverse effect to historic properties under the National Historic Preservation Act.
    An impact no greater than a de minimis use of a resource protected under 23 U.S.C. 138 or 49 U.S.C. 303 (Section 4(f));
    No impacts to federally-listed threatened or endangered species determined May Affect, Likely to Adversely Affect unless addressed through the Kentucky Programmatic Conservation Memorandum of Agreement for Forest Dwelling Bats (CMOA).
    Construction of temporary access, or the closure of existing road, bridge, or ramps, that would result in major traffic disruptions.
    No change in access control
    A floodplain encroachment other than functionally dependent uses (e.g., bridges, wetlands) or actions that facilitate open space use (e.g., recreational trails, bicycle and pedestrian paths);
    No construction activities in, across or adjacent to a river component designated or proposed for inclusion in the National System of Wild and Scenic Rivers
    No impacts to Section 6(f) properties

    Actions listed in Appendix B or actions listed in Appendix A of the FHWA – KYTC agreement that do not meet the criteria for a CEMP, but which satisfy the criteria below.

    CE Level 1
    A finding under "Section 106" of the National Historic Preservation Act of either: a) "No historic properties affected" or "no adverse effect" to historic properties; or, b) For bridge replacement or rehabilitation projects meeting criterion 2 of this section, a finding of adverse effect to historic properties.
    No Section 4(f) use, unless such use can be addressed with a de minimis determination or, with FHWA approval, through a programmatic evaluation
    No impacts to Section 6(f) properties that require a conversion
    No more than 5 relocations
    No more than 10 acres of fee simple ROW
    No disproportionate and highly adverse impacts to an environmental justice community
    No more than 0.5 acres of wetland impacts
    No impacts to federally-listed threatened or endangered species determined May Affect, Likely to Adversely Affect unless addressed through the Kentucky Programmatic Conservation Memorandum of Agreement for Forest Dwelling Bats (CMOA).

    Actions listed in Appendix B or Appendix A of the FHWA – KYTC agreement that do not meet the criteria for a CE Level 1, but which satisfy the criteria below.

    CE Level 2
    A finding under "Section 106" of the National Historic Preservation Act of either: a) "No historic properties affected" or "no adverse effect" to historic properties; or, b) For bridge replacement or rehabilitation projects meeting criterion 2 of this section, a finding of adverse effect to historic properties.
    No Section 4(f) use, unless such use can be addressed with a de minimis determination or, with FHWA approval, through a programmatic evaluation
    No impacts to Section 6(f) properties that require a conversion
    No more than 10 relocations
    No more than 25 acres of fee simple ROW
    No disproportionate and highly adverse impacts to an environmental justice community
    No more than 5 acres of wetland impacts
    No impacts to federally-listed threatened or endangered species determined May Affect, Likely to Adversely Affect unless addressed through the Kentucky Programmatic Conservation Memorandum of Agreement for Forest Dwelling Bats (CMOA).

    Actions that do not satisfy the criteria for CEMP or CE Levels 1 – 2. Projects that meet any of the criteria below can only be processed as a CE Level 3 with written approval of FHWA.

    CE Level 3
    Any disproportionately high and adverse impacts relative to environmental justice
    Unresolved or substantial public and/or resource agency opposition. CE documentation must demonstrate that the public or agency concerns have been addressed and is attached.
    Impacts to areas of cultural or religious significance to Native American tribes
    Project resulting in nonconformity with air quality standards.
    Federal or proposed federal wild and scenic river corridor impacts that result in an Individual 4(f) Impact/Use.
    With the exception of species addressed under the CMOA, impacts that result in a "May Affect, Likely to Adversely Affect" federally listed threatened or endangered species.
    Individual Section 4(f) Impacts/Use.
    Section 6(f) Impacts that require a conversion.
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