National Academies Press: OpenBook

Expedited Planning and Environmental Review of Highway Projects (2012)

Chapter: Chapter 5 - Conclusions

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Page 118
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2012. Expedited Planning and Environmental Review of Highway Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22888.
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Page 118
Page 119
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2012. Expedited Planning and Environmental Review of Highway Projects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22888.
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Page 119

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119 C h a p t e r 5 Transportation agencies are seeking to do more with less. Funding for new capacity and even maintenance and preserva- tion projects has not kept pace with growing needs. As trans- portation agencies seek to find efficiencies and to expedite how they address these needs, public scrutiny is becoming more intense, decisions are becoming more difficult, and regulatory compliance is becoming more involved. These conditions pose significant challenges for a transportation sector attempting to deliver projects with greater efficiency and speed. Research into the causes of project delay and methods of expediting project delivery began in earnest in the 1990s and has continued to the present, particularly in the transporta- tion sector. The number of transportation-related directives, studies, and other publications devoted to this topic is a testa- ment to this sector’s concern about the effects of project delay and high interest in delivering projects more efficiently. This interest is especially telling when compared with other infra- structure sectors, such as energy or water supply, that appear to have devoted considerably less attention to this topic. Research on expediting transportation projects has devel- oped and matured rapidly, and in a relatively short time has transitioned from exploring broad principles of good prac- tices to identifying specific types and causes of delay and techniques for addressing them. The research in this report reflects a growing interest in the specific tools and techniques—or strategies, as they are generally referred to in this report—for addressing con- straints to expedited project delivery. Much has already been written about the causes of project delay, the general prin- ciples of and approaches for expediting project delivery, and major landmark projects and programs that have success- fully avoided delay and/or expedited delivery. This study sought to provide more information and evaluation of the specific strategies used to overcome the constraints associ- ated with specific delivery tasks. It was evident from the lit- erature search that this was an area of project expediting that was not well covered in the existing research. There were detailed case studies of several major landmark projects, and lists and short descriptions of expediting strategies, but detailed information on specific strategies has been limited. This study aimed to make substantial progress toward filling that gap. Another objective of this study was to present the informa- tion so that it will be accessible and useful to practitioners. This objective drove the focus of the research and at least part of the documentation of the findings in this report. However, this report only partially accomplishes this objective. There is too much information in this report for it to be considered highly accessible. Accessibility and utility to practitioners will be accomplished largely through the subsequent task of uploading key information (in a form that prioritizes ease of access and use) about the strategies and the constraints to the TRB’s Transportation for Communities: Advancing Projects through Partnerships (TCAPP) website, created to enhance collaboration in transportation decision making (1). This website is being continually expanded to include relevant information generated by the Capacity program research conducted through SHRP 2. Information from this study will be added in late 2010 or early 2011. While this research has highlighted some clear themes for what the tools and strategies can accomplish and has identi- fied specific strategies that have helped to expedite project delivery, it has also emphasized that the transferability of dif- ferent strategies can depend on context, and that some strate- gies are more transferable than others. Each strategy also carries its own potential costs (as well as cost savings), risks, potential for time savings, and other benefits. These factors, including potential transferability and applicability issues, are included in the analysis of each strategy. While projects may share many traits and appear to face similar challenges, there are variables that can be important in determining the poten- tial success of a given strategy. Accordingly, before choosing to apply a particular strategy, it is important to consider the spe- cific constraints that need to be addressed, the context of the Conclusions

120 project (organizational, institutional, and political, and so forth), and other factors that made that strategy effective in previous projects. This report provides that information to help project and program managers make these determina- tions and adapt the appropriate expediting strategies to their own projects. recommendations for Further research Through the course of conducting the interviews, literature search, and other tasks in this study, several recommenda- tions for further research have emerged. Some are directly related to the topic of this research project, while others are generally related to expediting. Recommendations include • Evaluate the reasons that the mean and median durations for completing transportation EISs are consistently and notably longer, and in some cases substantially longer, than the durations in any other sector. This difference is evident from analyses of the EIS databases from multiple federal agencies including FHWA, but explanations of this differ- ence are only speculative (2). Increased understanding of why there is such a substantial difference could help to identify the particular types of expediting strategies that would provide the greatest reduction in delivery time for transportation projects and programs. • Identify and evaluate additional expediting strategies not included in this report. This study was not intended to compile or evaluate an exhaustive list of expediting strate- gies. Other potential strategies were identified but were not included in this study due to a lack of information, inability to locate parties that implemented the strategy, or the timing limitations of the study. For example, pre- dictive modeling for natural resource issues has shown some potential, but it was not included in the report due to a lack of examples in which it had clearly helped to expedite delivery. • Further evaluate why certain strategies have been successful in some situations and have failed in others. This could include programmatic permits and decision councils, both of which have provided significant expediting benefits in some situations and have failed in others. This study evalu- ated transferability and applicability, but more in-depth analysis of some of the strategies that have had an especially wide range of results could provide further understanding of how to reduce their risks and improve success. • Further evaluate why some strategies with proven success are not widely used. Through this study, strategies have been identified that implementing agencies reported to be highly successful, but these strategies have not been broadly implemented. • Regularly update and maintain the list of successful expedit- ing strategies and case studies, including descriptions and analyses of the strategies. As new projects and programs suc- cessfully expedite delivery, the lessons learned could be used to add to the information provided in this report and be made available to practitioners through the TCAPP website. In addition to research, there would be benefit from selec- tively making other existing information on expediting project delivery (contained in other reports, papers, agency guidelines, and so forth) more available and usable to prac- titioners. Much of it is embedded in reports that are not readily usable or accessible. The utility of this information would be increased if it were made available on the web and presented in more user-friendly formats. references 1. Transportation for Communities: Advancing Projects Through Part- nerships. Strategic Highway Research Program 2, Transportation Research Board, Washington, D.C. www.transportationforcommu nities.com/. Accessed Feb. 27, 2012. 2. deWitt, P., and C. deWitt. How Long Does It Take to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. Environmental Practice: Journal of the National Association of Environmental Professionals, Vol. 10, 2008, pp. 164–174.

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TRB’s second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) Report S2-C19-RR-1: Expedited Planning and Environmental Review of Highway Projects identifies strategies that have been successfully used to expedite the planning and environmental review of transportation and some nontransportation projects within the context of existing laws and regulations.

The report also identifies 16 common constraints on project delivery and 24 strategies for addressing or avoiding the constraints.

While the strategies and constraints are associated with planning and environmental review, many of the strategies are also applicable to design and construction.

Results of SHRP 2 Report S2-C19-RR-1 have been incorporated into the Transportation for Communities—Advancing Projects through Partnerships (TCAPP) website. TCAPP is now known as PlanWorks.

An e-book version of this report is available for purchase at Google, iTunes, and Amazon.

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