California Department of Transportation District 1
 

Project Planning Process

Project Development Process

The project development process spans that period of time that begins with feasibility studies and ends with the completion of construction. The development process is tied to the legal requirements of environmental laws and regulations; it melds engineering requirements and Caltrans' management approval steps with the environmental process.

PLANNING
The planning work focuses on identifying and clarifying a specific transportation system problem, and then looking for practical solutions. Project goals, objectives, and preliminary scoping are established so that preliminary feasibility studies can begin. A Feasibility Planning Estimate may be prepared to validate the proposed project's objectives.

The determination of the appropriate transportation mode or modes should occur as part of the planning process for major urban improvements. This results from a Corridor Study and a Major Investment Study.

Project development follows system and regional planning or follows the various management systems and master plans that identify the need for a particular project. The planning concept and scope are reviewed, and updated if appropriate, to define the design concept and scope, including basic design features.

PURPOSE AND NEED
A good statement of the proposed project's purpose & need should flow out of system planning. A project must satisfy a clearly defined need and purpose. It must meet State, regional, and local goals and objectives. For capacity-increasing projects, this includes air quality goals. Alternative solutions are evaluated that avoid or reduce significant adverse environmental impacts. The alternative selected is the one that causes the least environmental damage while still serving the essential transportation need.

Environmental Process

All projects initiated by Caltrans are subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Projects that require federal approval, change access control on an access-controlled highway, or use federal funding are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Most documents are prepared in such a manner to fulfill the requirements of both laws. CEQA was modeled after NEPA and the laws are very similar. Some differences do exist. Subtle differences in the requirements for document preparation, some terminology differences and differences in the reviewing/permitting agencies are some examples. Both processes are done simultaneously to streamline the time it takes to obtain project approval. The process for most projects is lengthy; however, and Caltrans appreciates the patience of the public during the project development phase (which includes the environmental process) and the construction phase. Caltrans also appreciates the public and agency input and encourages you to become informed about the environmental process, projects in your area, and to take an active role in the review of Caltrans projects.

SCOPING
Scoping helps to focus the difficult task that goes into documenting the environmental resources and impacts of a proposed project. Major scoping tasks include:

  • Preliminary studies to define project alternatives.
  • Preliminary studies to assess potential environmental impacts.
  • Notifying regulating agencies of a proposed.
  • At times, conducting a public open house.
  • Preliminary engineering design.

ALTERNATIVE ANALYSIS
This is the second step in the environmental review process. Alternative analysis consists of developing a reasonable range of alternatives that satisfy the purpose of and need for the proposed project. Milestones in this phase of the environmental process include the following:

  • Review scoping documents.
  • Develop and define new alternatives.
  • Engineering and environmental analysis begins.
  • Prepare draft project report.
  • Prepare draft environmental document.
  • Preliminary results of impact assessment.
  • Develop and obtain concurrence on mitigation.

PUBLIC AND AGENCY REVIEW, COMMENT AND AGENCY APPROVAL
This is the stage of the environmental process where the draft environmental document is released to the reviewing agencies and the public. At this point the lead agency requests comments on the environmental document and proposed project. Milestones in the phase of the environmental process include the following:

  • Circulate Draft Environmental Document.
  • Public/Agency Review and Comment.
  • Public Hearing.
  • Formal Response to Comments.
  • Identify Preferred Alternative.
  • Present Findings.
  • Final Environmental Document.
  • Decision Document.
  • Public Comment.

The project development process spans that period of time that begins with feasibility studies and ends with the completion of construction. The development process is tied to the legal requirements of environmental laws and regulations; it melds engineering requirements and Caltrans' management approval steps with the environmental process.

The link below provides a generic outline of the process for developing transportation improvement projects on the state highway system. It is intended for those people not directly involved in developing projects. For a thorough and complete description of the project development process read: How Caltrans Builds Projects