State DOTs Tout SHRP2 Product’s Ability to Forge Mutually Beneficial Relationship of Departments and Environment

AASHTO Journal, 25 October 2013

State transportation departments discussed streamlining project delivery, methods to integrate environmental considerations into transportation planning, and building meaningful relationships with resource and regulatory agencies at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in Denver on Sunday.

The session, “Accelerating Project Delivery: The Next Generation of Environmental Streamlining,” demonstrated how Implementing Eco-Logical, a SHRP2 (second Strategic Highway Research Program) Solution, enables transportation agencies to minimize the time and cost associated with planning and regulatory decision making while allowing for mutually beneficial solutions for transportation and the environment.

Laura Mester, chief administrator officer for the Michigan Department of Transportation, discussed how, as a lead adopter for the SHRP2 Implementation Assistance Program, MDOT (in association with resource and regulatory agencies) is working collaboratively to improve the health of the western Lake Erie coastal zone during reconstruction of 20 miles of I-75.

“Implementing Eco-Logical provides us with the opportunity to conduct advanced outreach with our partners that can minimize the risk of conflict and delay,” Mester said.

Karla Sutliff, deputy director for project delivery and chief engineer for the California Department of Transportation, discussed successes in partnership and planning along three highway corridors in California.

“Implementing the Eco-Logical approach in the transportation planning process allows for early coordination with stakeholders when there is more flexibility in project development,” Sutliff said.

Doug Simmons, deputy administrator and chief engineer for planning, real estate and environment for the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), highlighted streamlining project development through the Water Resources Registry (WRR). Simmons demonstrated how the integrated planning process established by Eco-Logical was the guide for development of the WRR.

“The WRR has saved SHA time in development of environmental inventories, screening pre-planning projects, and in identifying potential mitigation and stewardship opportunities early in the transportation project planning process,” Simmons said.

AASHTO and the Federal Highway Administration are jointly leading an effort to develop tools and resources for state departments of transportation that are interested in Implementing Eco-Logical. This effort is being kicked off with a survey this winter to identify the needs of agencies interested in Implementing Eco-Logical. DOT survey responses will help to guide the development of the resources and tools planed in 2014 and 2015.

Additional information on the “Accelerating Project Delivery: The Next Generation of Environmental Streamlining” session is available here.

Additional information on Implementing Eco-Logical, the case studies described above, and the case studies “Colorado Department of Transportation: An Eco-Logical Field Test along the I-70 Mountain Corridor” and “North Central Texas Council of Governments Connecting People, Places and Programs in North Central Texas” are available here.

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