The goal of this seminar is to support the efficient and effective management of environmental processes in the development and construction of transit projects by providing current information on federal requirements, identifying best practices, and facilitating the sharing of information and insight among practitioners. The seminar will focus on proactive management of environmental considerations with special emphasis on the roles, responsibilities and partnerships necessary to successfully address technical, procedural and documentation issues. FTA expectations regarding how project sponsors should engage with FTA to address MAP-21 provisions will be reviewed. Special attention will be given throughout the seminar to the importance of identifying and managing potential risks to project planning and implementation, including schedule and budget considerations.
This course is intended for transportation professionals from transit agencies and metropolitan planning organizations with a minimum of two-year’s experience in the environmental process relative to project development.
Seminar topics include:
FTA Expectations in Environmental Review
FTA has undertaken a number of initiatives to go "back to basics" and to streamline environmental review process and expedite project delivery. This session will review progress implementing MAP-21 provisions and how new regulations, policies and guidance are affecting management of the environmental review process. Topics to be covered will include a high-level overview of MAP-21 requirements to explain the basis for the modifications to “business as usual” and to set the stage for subsequent sessions. Areas to be addressed will include a renewed focus on statutory requirements, the relationship of the scoping process to streamlining, availability of categorical exclusions and other recent changes in regulatory requirements and guidance.
Assessing and Managing Risks during Project Start-up
This session will discuss how real and perceived risks can affect project development and implementation, and how these risks can influence project decisions during the environmental review process. The session will identify sources of potential risks, and the impact of these risks on major NEPA process milestones, including project scoping, project definition, identification and selection of alternatives and the level of detail required for technical analysis to support environmental review.
Scoping for Success
Through an interactive panel discussion, this session will explore lessons learned from real projects, covering the importance of project scoping and its critical role in managing level of detail, identifying risks, and streamlining environmental review. The impact of MAP-21 on project set-up and coordination and how the environmental review process is evolving will be discussed. Tips and techniques related to project management during environmental review, including developing realistic scopes of work and appropriate project teams, schedules, and budgets will also be addressed. Special attention will be given to setting up the environmental review process to incorporate appropriate decision-makers and leadership to facilitate project decision-making.
Understanding Project Definition, Class of Action and Using FTA’s New List of Categorical Exclusions
The relationship between clear project definition and determining class of action will be summarized. How FTA assesses what class of action is right to support project decision-making will also be reviewed, with special emphasis on deciding between using categorical exclusions or environmental assessments. A focus of the session will be reviewing FTA’s expanded categorical exclusions and MAP-21 provisions concerning categorical exclusions. Coordination and documentation appropriate to categorical exclusions will be addressed. The use of re-evaluations and supplemental documents will also be discussed, including the basis for decision-making. As a follow up to the lecture, a class exercise will be used to illustrate determination of class of action, including use of categorical exclusions.
Effective Purpose and Need and Alternatives Development
Drawing on scenarios and project examples, this session will review the essential ingredients and critical elements necessary to develop a clear and concise statement of purpose and need. The role of purpose and need in streamlining what constitutes a "reasonable" range of alternatives will also be discussed. The session will help participants to understand the federal perspective on what works, and what does not when it comes to defining these foundations of the NEPA review process. Linking planning and NEPA and how MAP-21 provisions including the incorporation of prior planning documents will be covered.
Streamlined Environmental Documents
This session will focus on improving the quality of environmental documentation and streamlining environmental documentation. The “dos” and “don’ts” of documentation will also be addressed, including the importance of developing annotated outlines as a foundation for success.
Addressing Community and Natural Resources Impacts
During this session, a wide array of typical impacts to communities and natural resources and how to manage these considerations will be addressed. Topics will include impacts associated with the visual context, community character, environmental justice, traffic, noise, air quality, contaminated sites, wetlands and biological resources. Through a panel discussion, these areas will be explored in terms of applicable regulations and guidance, key issues, technical approaches to assessing impacts, mitigating identified impacts, and the appropriate documentation to aid decision-making. In addition, the associated agency coordination and public involvement will also be discussed. The session will include project examples and scenarios to illustrate managing potential risks to the project and the level of detail needed to address both short-term construction and longer term impacts.
Coordinating, But Not Confusing, Section 106 and Section 4(f)
This session will review the differences and similarities between Section 4(f) and Section 106, the relationships between the two processes and related content, and how to avoid duplication of effort while making sure all requirements are met. The different statutory basis for Section 4(f) and Section 106, the types of resources regulated, commonalities and differences in the analyses required to comply with both regulations, and public involvement and agency coordination requirements will be discussed.
What’s Next at FTA?
This session will summarize ongoing initiatives at FTA, including additional efforts to provide increased flexibility and streamlining.