Adopt a broad or regional approach to mitigation planning


States should recognize the regional impact of transportation projects and support the use of a regional approach to mitigate the impacts of highway investments. The environmental impacts of transportation projects are typically addressed at a project level. This approach leads to several significant problems. Many environmental impacts are cumulative and large scale. Project level mitigation either fails to identify such impacts or leaves few alternatives for addressing them. Additionally, many mitigation measures, such as preservation of lands that contain critical habitats, stream buffers, and wetlands, are more easily implemented and cost effective at broader regional scales. State departments of transportation can fundamentally shift toward a more comprehensive approach either by ensuring that a broad range of indirect impacts is considered or by conducting an impact analyses at a programmatic level.


A regional approach to a transportation system, and mitigating transportation impacts, requires investments in research, planning capacity, and implementation mechanisms. For example, making natural resource inventories available speeds evaluation of mitigation opportunities. Regional scale mitigation also requires working with a larger set of local stakeholders. In addition, the cost-effectiveness benefits of regional mitigation are easier to achieve when entities such as land trusts or mechanisms such as transfer or purchase of development rights programs, state land conservation initiatives, and so forth are already in place.

States should create a system for coordinating the assessment of natural habitats with respect to transportation projects. Once a State – through an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment -- recognizes and articulates the goals of the transportation project, all appropriate state agencies (transportation, planning, natural resources, health, etc.) that can help with an assessment of the project should be convened for a series of discussions concerning potential environmental impacts.

One approach is to bring appropriate federal, state, and local agencies together as signatories to a "streamlining agreement" that can support joint policy making, habitat preservation, and the use of techniques such as Context Sensitive Design (See Action #3, Adopt a context-sensitive approach for all state transportation projects, in this section).


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