Research Program Design---Administration of Highway and Transportation Agencies. Expediting NEPA Decisions and Other Practitioner Strategies for Addressing High Risk Issues in Project Delivery

Long timeframes and uncertainties at intermediate stages in the transportation project delivery process account for significant direct costs to transportation agencies and the public. Long timeframes and uncertainties may be associated with myriad factors, including completeness of documentation, concerns about a project's environmental consequences, design changes, public controversy, changes in political priorities, lack of financial resources, and others. Cost inflation during an extended processing timeframe can add significantly to these direct administrative costs as well as to the construction and other expenditures that are part of the project's ultimate price tag. Sometimes, cumulative delays and cost growth may motivate responsible officials to cancel or indefinitely defer the project. In such cases there is little to show for the public's investment and, in hindsight, there may be concern that the agencies should have "pulled the plug" sooner and allocated their efforts elsewhere. Furthermore, the cancellation of a project entailing expenditures of federal funds may necessitate that the state agency reimburse FHWA. (Note: "Project delivery process" here can refer to all stages of project development, from initial planning to final commissioning. The primary focus of this research, however, will be on NEPA processing and other activities occurring prior to construction. Procedures associated with meeting requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental regulations are frequently cited as a source of long timeframes in project delivery. For example, the median time for completion of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for transportation projects stood at 60 months in 2000. Confronting this statistic, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has proposed a goal of reducing the number to 36 months. Nevertheless, the median time to complete the NEPA process increased to 80 months in 2002, and stood at 63.5 months as of 2008. These timeframes, not necessarily associated only with environmental concerns, are emblematic of the broad problem. Some state departments of transportation (DOTs) have begun to apply principles and practices of risk management to identify and assess the potential consequences of environmental and other concerns that may slow or disrupt the development process for a particular project. These agencies then use the information to allocate their limited resources to mitigating or avoiding risk and reducing delays and uncertainties, for example by pre-screening project concepts for environmental and community issues prior to programming; engaging key stakeholders earlier in a project's development; and explicitly highlighting the potential timeframes, costs, and outcomes potentially associated with a particular project's processing. These DOTs have found risk management to be an effective tool. Research is needed to develop guidance to assist DOT practitioners to apply risk management practices more widely. The objective of this project is to develop a clear and user-friendly guide for practitioners on the use of risk management to support (1) early identification of key issues that may significantly slow or block successful project delivery, (2) effective application of management action and other resources to avoid or mitigate the delays these issues represent, and (3) better decision making in project planning and programming. Procedures associated with requirements of NEPA and other environmental regulations are a primary focus in this research and are likely to be a principal source of examples and experience to be considered, but the resulting guide should be applicable to the range of risks to timely project delivery.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 20-24(71)

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials

    444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 225
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Lemer, Andrew

  • Performing Organizations:

    Parsons Brinckerhoff

    2545 Farmers Drive, Suite 350
    Columbus, OH  United States  43235
  • Principal Investigators:

    Wood, Howard

  • Start Date: 20100622
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20110621
  • Source Data: RiP Project 23361

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01549586
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Cooperative Highway Research Program
  • Contract Numbers: Project 20-24(71)
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2015 1:01AM