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25 The Atlanta Regional Commission has subsequently devel- work based on real world experience. For each of the factors oped a refined project evaluation process to accommodate these established by this effort, research team staff: prescriptive recommendations which was used to develop the latest Regional Transportation Plan. · Gathered all relevant research or descriptions of performance measure programs; · Interviewed agencies with experience developing perfor- Increasing Priority to Projects That Are mance measures or data-driven decision making; and "Deliverable" Early Environmental Screening · Synthesized the information gathered from these efforts Several states and MPOs interviewed are conducting more around four key themes: robust environmental screening of projects early in the plan- A description of the relevance of individual factors to ning process. This supports two larger goals one, the need to highway capacity decision making across the stages of streamline environmental review and reduce the time it takes the project development process; to implement a project and, two, to help prioritize investment Detailed lists and descriptions of performance mea- on projects that are deliverable in a reasonable amount of time. sures and how they might be used in the process; Florida has developed the Efficient Transportation Decision- Detailed descriptions of data sources and tools that are Making Process (ETDM), led by its Central Environmental used to support the evaluation of a particular factor; and Management Office, to streamline environmental review and Summary of resources for the factor broadly (e.g., web involve resource agencies early on in the planning process. sites and reports to find out more information about the Many other states (Montana, Arizona, Ohio, and Texas) and factor), as well as specific cases of application of per- regions (Atlanta, Denver) also are conducting high-level envi- formance measures (e.g., case studies). ronmental screening processes as part of plan and program development to "red flag" projects that may take significantly A total of 54 case studies were developed as part of this effort. more time to implement due to environmental issues. A complete list of case studies, including several detailed write- ups is available in Appendix A. Increasing Implementation of Nontraditional Performance Measures Common Themes, Trends, Successes, and Challenges A number of areas interviewed are actively looking to refine project evaluation processes to include nontraditional per- This stage of the research process focused on specific pro- formance metrics. For example, Florida and Atlanta are both grams and not broad initiatives. The objective was to identify looking to improve travel-time reliability measures, the Ore- measures and processes that could be built into the perfor- gon DOT has established a Sustainability Program and CS3 mance measures framework described in chapters 3 through 8. framework (context-sensitive and sustainable solutions) to As such, most of the research generated does not lend itself to incorporate sustainability goals into the highway project deliv- broad themes, but is instead more narrowly focused. How- ery process, and New York now requires a greenhouse gas ever, several key themes were identified from this phase of the inventory to be completed by MPOs as part of transportation research. plan/program development. Though the trend is to expand One of the keys to successful performance-based decision the type of metrics included as part of project-level evaluation, making common to many of the factor areas was the establish- transportation agencies are largely limited by data and tools ment of early warning/clearance mechanisms. Such systems needed to perform meaningful analyses. seek to identify "red flags" that might derail or complicate a project before significant resources are invested into planning the project, and before it is programmed. The presence of Targeted Case Studies factors such as significant wetlands, endangered habitats, or Following the in-depth interviews of state and regional trans- archaeological sites can be determined even before formal portation agencies described in the previous section, the feasibility studies are conducted, and the discovery of such research team conducted targeted case studies of programs factors may impact a decision on whether or not to proceed employing or contributing to a performance-based decision- with project planning. Conversely, if a candidate project is making process across a wide range of agency types and levels found to be unaffected by such factors, its odds of reaching of government. completion without significant unforeseen complications are The purpose of this second phase outreach was to observe improved. One of the more innovative examples of this is performance-based decision making in action, with the goal Minnesota's Mn/Model, a predictive model that uses a variety of filling out and refining the performance measures frame- of available data sources to predict the presence of buried
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26 artifacts. The Washington DOT Transportation Project Miti- making. For example, much of the research on environmental gation Cost Screening Matrix is another program specifically quality is in its infancy, but as it develops it has the poten- designed to provide early clearance or red flagging of the tial to produce significant evaluation criteria in the trans- potential mitigation requirements of a proposed project, portation sector. This will require a process to translate in the form of a "Mitigation Risk Index" (MRI). Florida's scientific research into readily used and understood perfor- recently implemented Efficient Transportation Decision mance metrics. Making (ETDM) environmental review process also makes A common goal of many programs has been to accumulate significant strides toward identifying and addressing con- more advanced, statewide datasets, rather than relying more flicts earlier in the process. heavily on project-specific inquiries, and this process has often Another encouraging trend found primarily in the environ- been combined with more user-friendly reporting methods, mental area is a shift in emphasis from quantity of resources often in the form of scoring systems. Such efforts were incor- to quality of resources. This shift has been particularly notice- porated into programs studied in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, able in wetlands research, where some of the most advanced Washington, and Florida, among others. practices now focus on the performance of mitigated wet- Finally, it is clear from the research that the complexity lands, rather than simply the volume. In New Jersey, for of the issues identified in the SHRP 2 C02 research requires example, the Department of Environmental Projection has significant translation work to make this information use- developed the Wetland Mitigation Rapid Assessment Tool, ful to decision makers, especially at early stages of the proj- which seeks to assess whether a mitigated wetland natural ect development process. During planning and early project or created will perform "wetland functions" in the future. development, it is necessary to develop a broad under- Similarly, programs in Pennsylvania and Florida use point standing of all of the types of impacts to be considered. Per- systems to evaluate the current status of environmental fea- formance measures should help address questions such as: tures throughout the state (Pennsylvania's program focuses Does a project meet the goals of the transportation agency? on level of wetland degradation, while Florida's measures habi- Does the project have significant potential environmental tat conservation priority), in order to provide ready informa- or community impacts? These broad questions can be tion before a corridor-specific study is undertaken. informed by different types of data, but for the information A related theme that has arisen is the potential for tech- to be useful to decision makers, the basic answers need to nology to improve the tools and data that support decision be kept simple.