California Department of Transportation

Environmental Planning Process

Environmental Impact Report / Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS)

The EIR/EIS is a detailed informational document analyzing the project’s potential significant effects and identifying measures to mitigate the effects of the project, including reasonable alternatives to avoid or minimize significant effects. The primary purposes of an EIR/EIS are to inform decision makers and the public about a project’s significant environmental effects and ways to reduce them, and to demonstrate to the public that the environment is being protected.

The environmental document discusses the affected environment and compares and evaluates the possible impacts of each alternative. This document is used by the decision makers in deciding which alternative would best satisfy the need and purpose of the project with the least environmental impacts.

The environmental document must outline the need and purpose and the reasons why some alternatives were set aside. All significant adverse effects for each reasonable alternative must be identified and for each impact, mitigation measures proposed.

Issues that must be considered include impacts on the natural environment, architectural and cultural issues, social issues, hazardous materials, visual, noise and air quality impacts. At this time, Caltrans consults with State and Federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, California Dept. of Fish and Game and other agencies which may have concerns in the area.

Projects must comply with all applicable environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, Clean Air and Water Acts, Wetlands Executive Order, the National Historic Preservation Act, and Section 4(f) regarding taking of parklands, historic sites and other sensitive lands. Compliance with these acts and other State and Federal regulations is usually established in the environmental document after review by agencies with responsibilities in those areas.

The following is a schedule of the documentation process:

  • Notice of Preparation.
  • Prepare Draft Environmental Document.
  • Public Review and Comment Period.
  • Select a Preferred Alternative.
  • Prepare Final Environmental Document

Environmental Document Approval by FHWA Types of Studies to be Conducted:

  • Biological Studies - The study of endangered species, habitats, trees, and wetlands.
  • Cultural Studies - The Archaeological, historical or prehistoric sites or bridges.
  • Community Impact Study - The study of economic, school, emergency services, community cohesion.
  • Cumulative Impact Analysis - The study environmental impacts caused by successive projects.
  • Farmland Analysis studies: prime agricultural lands.
  • Hazardous waste issues: contaminated soils, underground storage tanks.
  • Noise studies: impacts during and after construction.
  • Section 4f: impacts to public lands (parks, recreation areas, schools).
  • Visual Impacts: aesthetic setting within project area.
  • Traffic simulation studies.
  • Traffic safety analysis.