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FOREWORD Highway administrators, engineers, and researchers often face problems for which information already exists, either in documented form or as undocumented experience and practice. This information may be fragmented, scattered, and unevaluated. As a consequence, full knowledge of what has been learned about a problem may not be brought to bear on its solution. Costly research findings may go unused, valuable experience may be overlooked, and due consider- ation may not be given to recommended practices for solving or alleviating the problem. There is information on nearly every subject of concern to highway administrators and engineers. Much of it derives from research or from the work of practitioners faced with problems in their day-to-day work. To provide a systematic means for assembling and evaluating such useful information and to make it available to the entire highway commu- nity, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials--through the mechanism of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program--authorized the Transportation Research Board to undertake a continuing study. This study, NCHRP Proj- ect 20-5, "Synthesis of Information Related to Highway Problems," searches out and syn- thesizes useful knowledge from all available sources and prepares concise, documented reports on specific topics. Reports from this endeavor constitute an NCHRP report series, Synthesis of Highway Practice. This synthesis series reports on current knowledge and practice, in a compact format, without the detailed directions usually found in handbooks or design manuals. Each report in the series provides a compendium of the best knowledge available on those measures found to be the most successful in resolving specific problems. PREFACE During all phases of the transportation planning, development, and operations process envi- By Gail Staba ronmental data are needed to prepare environmental documents, obtain permits, design and construct road improvements, mitigate or avoid impacts, monitor mitigation, and conduct Senior Program Officer maintenance activities. The objectives of this synthesis were to survey transportation and nat- Transportation ural resource professionals familiar with transportation systems to identify ecological survey Research Board needs related to transportation activities and to identify technologies, techniques, and innova- tive methods to fulfill those needs. These technologies, techniques, and methods, collectively called new approaches, include data collection, its analysis and delivery, how it can be used in planning and operations, and cooperative working relations. The audience for this synthesis includes transportation professionals responsible for planning, designing, constructing, oper- ating, and maintaining transportation projects and the road corridor in an environmentally and fiscally responsible manner, as well as professionals in natural resource agencies and other organizations who work with departments of transportation (DOTs) on these issues. The synthesis is based on an electronic survey conducted in early 2008 that was sent to all state departments of transportation and state fish and wildlife agencies, and concurrent literature and new initiatives searches. There were 103 respondents representing 49 states, 46 state DOTs (92% of all state DOTs), 37 state fish and wildlife agencies (74% of all states), 3 state Natural Heritage Programs, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The major themes of this synthesis, as developed from those responses and concurrent literature and new initiatives searches, are: 1. Transportation planners and their colleagues are moving beyond the traditional frame- work in the consideration of ecological resources. The 2005 Transportation Act (SAFTEA-LU) encourages and expects this. Long-range transportation planning will consider ecological resources to a greater degree than past actions. 2. The innovations that assist with the developing broad scale approach to transportation planning involve new ways of thinking; a paradigm is developing that encompasses broad biological and landscape scales of viewing the natural world and longer time frames to detect potential impacts and to create solutions.
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3. These large spatial scale and long-time frame plans and potential solutions require increas- ingly higher resolution data. These data need to be increasingly in similar formats and easily accessible. In summary, the future holds many promising new ways of gathering data, bringing them into common geographic information system formats, and improving working relations among agencies. The expanded scope of how far away from the roadway and how early in the planning process environmental concerns are considered is evidence of a new paradigm change for transportation agencies. This change began happening in the past decade as state and federal transportation departments became more responsible for the world outside of the road right-of-way. Patricia Cramer, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Wildland Resources at Utah State University, Logan, Utah, collected and synthesized the information and wrote the report. The members of the topic panel are acknowledged on the preceding page. This synthesis is an immediately useful document that records the practices that were acceptable within the limitations of the knowledge available at the time of its preparation. As progress in research and practice continues, new knowledge will be added to that now at hand.