Chapter 4 - Environmental Considerations During Transportation Planning

What Does This Topic Include?

This topic provides a brief overview of the Transportation Planning and Project Initiation processes that occur prior to the Project Approval and Environmental Document phase.

Laws, Regulations, and Guidance


  • Title 23 United States Code Section 135: This section of the United States Code requires states to develop transportation plans and programs. Establishes project funding procedures for metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas.
  • California Government Code Section 65080: This section of California Government Code requires (regional) transportation planning agencies to prepare a regional transportation plan with specified elements.
  • California Government Code Section 65086: This section of California Government Code requires the Department of Transportation to carry out long-term State Highway System planning to identify future highway improvements.

Policy Memos

  • Deputy Directive 64-R2 (DD-64-R2): Complete Streets - Integrating the Transportation System
  • Deputy Directive 83 (DD-83): Project Purpose and Need
  • Context Sensitive Solutions Implementation Plan, Rick Knapp (October 3, 2002)
  • Caltrans Director's Policy (DP-22): Context Sensitive Solutions


Overview of Planning

Under federal law, states must carry out a continuing, comprehensive, cooperative and intermodal statewide transportation planning process. The state, in cooperation with participating organizations including Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and other Regional Transportation Planning Agencies (RTPAs), Native American tribal governments, environmental resource and permit agencies, and public transit operators, provides for a fully coordinated process. Regional and System Planning begins this process.

Considerable planning is done prior to project development. This results in the development of a planning concept and scope identifying the type or mode of the facility as well as other features relating to the location and length of the project, including the number of lanes and general interchange and intersection spacing. The planning concept defines the type or mode of a facility; e.g., highway, transit, rail or combination which is proposed to meet a transportation need. For highway facilities, this is refined to freeway, expressway, or conventional highway. The Planning Scope for highway facilities addresses such issues as number of lanes, location and length of project, high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, general interchange and intersection spacing. For transit or rail modes, it relates to the person-carrying capacity of the facility. This planning work focuses on identifying and clarifying the 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.

Prior to the Project Approval and Environmental Document phase, regional planning takes place and the Project Initiation Document (PID) is prepared. During Regional Planning, the transportation needs of the regional transportation system are defined. A need is identified, either as a structural or operating deficiency of the existing transportation system, or as a response to planned land use changes such as a new residential subdivision, shopping center, or manufacturing center. Travel forecasting and analysis are also performed. In the PID, the Department further defines the needs for transportation improvements, and identifies the cost, scope and schedule for specific transportation improvements so that funding may be programmed.

Regional Planning: Identify Regional and System Transportation Needs

Regional and system planning and the various management systems and master plans identify the need for projects. If a major project such as a freeway or expressway is needed, studies are performed to compare potential transportation investments before deciding what to build. At the state level, these studies are conducted by the Department; at the regional level, they are conducted by the Regional Transportation Planning Agencies (RTPAs) and the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). There are 43 RTPAs designated by the state. Of these, 16 are MPOs, which are responsible for transportation planning and programming in urbanized areas with a population over 50,000. MPOs are federally recognized and federally funded. MPOs respond to federal requirements, while RTPAs respond to state requirements. Where both are required, a single organization is normally both an RTPA and an MPO. The 29 non-urban RTPAs are funded primarily with state funds.

In the regions, cities and counties nominate projects for inclusion in Regional Transportation Improvement Programs (RTIPs). The Department identifies projects for inclusion in the Interregional Transportation Improvement Program (ITIP) and the State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP).

Projects compete with one another for funding. A project must satisfy a clearly defined need and purpose. It must meet state, regional and local goals and objectives and, for capacity-increasing projects, air quality goals. A project’s purpose is initially formulated at the system planning stage, and is elaborated upon during project development stages. At this point, a project is little more than a planning concept that identifies location, length, number of lanes and general interchange and intersection spacing. During project development, the project’s purpose and need will become more detailed but should not change the fundamental aspects that are determined during the Regional Planning phase.

Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs)

Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs) are state-mandated documents developed and cyclically updated by the RTPAs and MPOs. They consist of policy, action, and financial elements and they lead to identification of projects. RTPs also include a map showing the recommended short-range and long-range improvements and additions to the regional highway system. In regions designated as MPOs under federal law, the RTPs are also federally mandated. For an MPO, the RTPs also include long and short-range transportation system management activities.

An RTP is considered a project under CEQA and thus is subject to the requirements contained within CEQA. Environmental considerations are an important factor during preparation of the RTP and its associated environmental document. Developing the RTP with an eye toward avoiding, minimizing, and, if needed, mitigating environmental impacts will help not only with the approval of the RTP and its associated environmental document, but also with the subsequent approval of projects contained within the plan. RTPs are not only subject to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) but also the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and 23 USC 134-135.

RTPAs and MPOs select projects for funding based on regional priorities as defined in their RTPs. These projects are then submitted to the California Transportation Commission (CTC) for approval (see “The California Transportation Commission and Project Programming,” below).

23 USC 134-135

23 USC 134-135 covers expanded environmental considerations in metropolitan and statewide transportation planning and includes, both resource agency consultation, and discussion of potential mitigation for the plans. During development of long-range transportation MPOs and states must consult "as appropriate" with state and local agencies responsible for: land-use management, natural resources, environmental protection, conservation, and historic preservation. Long-range transportation plans must include a discussion of potential environmental mitigation activities and potential locations to carry them out. They must be developed in consultation with federal, state and tribal wildlife, land management, and regulatory agencies.

MPOs are also encouraged to consult or coordinate with planning officials responsible for other types of planning activities affected by transportation, including planned growth, economic development, environmental protection, airport operations, and freight movement. MPOs must develop a participation plan in consultation with interested parties that provides reasonable opportunities for all parties to comment on the plan. To carry out the participation plan, public meetings are to be: conducted at convenient and accessible locations at convenient times; employ visualization techniques to describe plans; and make public information available in an electronically accessible format, such as on the Web. The overall plan is to be published and made available electronically.

For more information on Regional Transportation Plans see RTP Guidelines.

System Planning

System Planning is the Department's long-range planning process that identifies deficiencies on the State Highway System, prioritizes improvements for programming funds for implementation, and manages each district's overall state highway network. Each stage of the process corresponds to a system planning document. The deficiency and improvement identification stage is through the Transportation Concept Report (TCR) (also known as the Route Concept Report, or RCR); prioritization of funding and implementation strategies occurs through the Transportation System Development Program; communication of the Department's priorities and strategies for route and system development occur through the District System Management Plan. System planning strives for interregional and statewide continuity and compatibility of route concepts and the connectivity of the state's transportation system. System planning processes are described in more detail in Chapter 1, Section 4, of the Project Development Procedures Manual.

System planning uses a broad context in terms of both time and space. It addresses long-term transportation planning, and it also addresses statewide mobility and intermodal connectivity. Coordination with RTPAs and MPOs and consideration of local land use and environmental planning efforts occur throughout the system planning process. The objective is local, regional, and state consensus on route or corridor concepts, improvement priorities, and strategies. Joint planning efforts lead to agreement on priorities and optimized use of constrained resources.

Federal Funding and Air Quality Conformity

For a project to be eligible for federal funding, it must first be approved by the Federal Highway Administration, and it must be consistent with the State Implementation Plan (SIP) for air quality conformity with the federal Clean Air Act. The linkage between transportation planning and air quality improvement was significantly strengthened with the passage of the federal Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) in 1990 and ISTEA in 1991. Transportation plans and programs are required to fully consider air quality impacts of transportation investments. Regional plans and programs are required to demonstrate air quality conformity in order for projects to proceed. A project's design concept and scope must be specifically outlined in an MPO's long-range transportation plan.

In air quality non-attainment areas, projects must be described in a conforming RTP before they can be programmed for federal funds. An Air Quality Conformity Assessment statement is required. This statement is a finding of conformity to the State Implementation Plan (SIP). In nonattainment areas for federal clean air standards, the RTP is cyclically reviewed for conformity with the SIP to assure that emissions reduction requirements are being met. Projects are prioritized and defined with sufficient detail to facilitate a finding of system conformity with the SIP. Federal air quality conformity rules require that projects included in a conforming RTP be limited to those with identified reasonably available funding sources.

Transportation Concept Reports

The Department prepares Transportation Concept Reports (TCRs) (also known as Route Concept Reports, or RCRs). These reports identify current operating conditions; future deficiencies; route concept; concept Level of Service (LOS) (see a more detailed definition of LOS later in this chapter); and improvements for a route or corridor. The TCR provides an initial planning approach for identifying candidate improvements and determining their estimated costs. Decisions relating to mode choice are determined in conjunction with the regional planning process. All information in the TCR is subject to change in response to new information or conditions. The nature and size of identified improvements may be altered by subsequent system planning and project development.

Project Initiation

Project initiation follows system planning. It represents the first phase of project development, obtaining approval to fund projects. All proposed transportation project candidates require a Project Initiation Document (PID) that provides the information necessary to program funds for project development activities, acquisition of rights of way, and construction.

For the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), the project initiation process builds on the Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs), Regional Transportation Improvement Programs (RTIPs), air quality conformity and other regional planning information. The outcome of the project initiation process is adequate information about the proposed project to justify its inclusion in the STIP. The project should have a well-defined purpose and need, a well-defined scope, and a reliable cost estimate and schedule, suitable for funding and for proceeding to the environmental evaluation and project alternative selection phase.

For projects in the State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP), the PID builds on the 10-year SHOPP. The outcome of the PID process is a well-defined purpose and need statement, scope, cost and schedule.

Project Development and Project Management Terms and Issues Related to Planning

The California Transportation Commission and Project Programming

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) was established in 1978 out of a growing concern that there should be a single, unified California transportation policy. The Commission consists of nine members appointed by the Governor and two non-voting ex-officio members, one from the State Senate and one from the State Assembly. The Commission is responsible for programming and allocating funds for the construction of highway, passenger rail and transit improvements throughout California. The CTC allocates state and federal funds to projects and oversees delivery of both the Department's and local agencies' projects.

Level of Service

Level of Service (LOS) is a qualitative measure used to describe the operational conditions in a stream of traffic and the perception of conditions by users. It is a measure of factors such as speed and travel time, freedom to maneuver, traffic interruptions, comfort and convenience, and safety. Six levels of service are defined for each type of facility for which analysis procedures are available. They are given letter designations from A to F, with LOS A representing the best operating conditions and LOS F representing the worst. Each LOS represents a range of operating conditions.

Project Initiation Phase

Key components of the project initiation phase include designation of a Project Manager; establishment of a project expenditure authorization and workplan; formation of the Project Development Team (PDT); and preparation of the Project Initiation Document (PID). A PID is required for all major projects prior to their being programmed in a state or local programming document. There are three broad categories of PIDs: the Project Study Report (PSR) or PSR equivalent; the Project Study Report – Project Development Support (PSR-PDS); and the Project Scope Summary Report (PSSR). They are discussed in more detail later in this chapter.

Functional support units prepare supporting documentation to assist in the preparation of the PID. The role of Environmental staff in this process is discussed later in this chapter.

Project Manager

The Project Manager (PM) is responsible for all project development steps from project initiation to close out of the construction contract. With project responsibility clearly assigned to a single PM, the project can be planned, managed, and delivered more successfully. A PM will normally be assigned before the project initiation process begins.

Expenditure Authorization

The PM begins the project development process by securing an expenditure authorization (EA), preparing a project workplan for the proposed project and coordinating the designation of a PDT.

The PID phase is sometimes called the “K phase.” This refers to the project’s Expenditure Authorization (EA). The sixth character of a project’s EA is used to identify the phase of a project. The letter “K” in this position in the EA corresponds with “Begin Work through Project Initiation Document Approval,” which is the PID phase.

Project Workplan

A Project Workplan is a management tool that identifies the activities, resources, duration and logic required to deliver a given project. It is developed by the PM with input from functional units in the PDT. The Project Workplan should capture the projected resource and schedule needs for the project. Resources are then assigned to a project based on the workplan. The PM uses the workplan to help deliver a quality product on schedule and within budget.

The initial Project Workplan will usually cover only the project initiation process in any detail. Following approval of the project initiation document, further development of the workplan will take place.

Project Development Team (PDT)

An internal project team is formed with project staff from many different disciplines to help the PM in directing the course of studies, make recommendations and works to carry out the project workplan. They participate in major meetings, public hearings and community involvement. They also serve as the nucleus for value analysis and are responsible for conducting studies and accumulating data throughout project development to PS&E.

A more extended team, called a Project Development Team (PDT), is formed for a larger project. The PDT serves a similar function as the internal project team, but it draws from a broader membership. The Project Manager determines the composition of the PDT by determining which internal functional disciplines and external representatives are required to plan and carry out the development of the project. At a minimum, a PDT is composed of the Project Manager, a representative of the regional transportation planning agency (if involved), and representatives from District Design, Environmental, Traffic, Safety, Surveys, Construction, and Maintenance Units, and the Right of Way Branch. An Environmental representative is a required member. Representatives from Safety, Construction, Surveys, Traffic and Maintenance are also included. The selection of additional team members depends on the scope and complexity of the proposed project. The interdisciplinary skills of the district, Headquarters, FHWA, local and regional agencies, and other sources are requested as needed, to ensure that engineering, social, economic, and environmental aspects are adequately assessed, and reasonable evaluations and decisions are made. Representatives of resource and regulatory agencies are encouraged to participate. The PDT may include individuals from local or regional agencies and/or representatives of community groups.

PDT meetings are held as necessary. More meetings are probably necessary during initial studies, with need decreasing during field studies, and increasing again as technical reports and preliminary design are completed. The PDT meets more frequently prior to making specific recommendations for the Draft Environmental Document and the Draft Project Report. PDTs fulfill many critical duties throughout the life of a project, including:

  • Ensure quality project design
  • Reevaluate systems planning recommendations
  • Determine logical project limits
  • Determine the need for external members and advisory committees
  • Recommend studies, timetables, alternatives, type of environmental document, and the feasibility of mitigation measures
  • Ensure thorough analysis of social, economic, environmental and engineering issues
  • Plan and initiate public outreach
  • Ensure that state and federal requirements are met
  • Recommend a preferred alternative
  • Ensure timely right-of-way acquisition
  • Provide advice during construction
  • Ensure that project history is preserved

Project Initiation Document (PID)

PID: Identification of Project Cost, Scope and Schedule

The objective of a PID is to clearly define the design concept and design scope of the most likely project alternatives, and to tie them to realistic cost estimates and schedules so that an alternative selected for programming or local commitment has a high probability of standing up throughout the project development process as a commitment in terms of cost, scope and schedule. Realistic preliminary information is obtained for the PID so that management can be confident of the design concept and design scope before including the project in the programming documents. This is critical for programming realistic project budgets and schedules, so that projects can be implemented on time and within budget.

The PID translates broad improvement planning concepts and planning scopes developed in the system planning process into project level detail. Projects are identified in local and regional planning documents, in particular the RTP, and the Route Concept Report (RCR) or Transportation Concept Report (TCR) (see above). The PID should include information from these products as appropriate. At the PID stage, the design concept for a highway project is an update of the planning concept developed in the system planning stage. It identifies the type of highway project; e.g., freeway, expressway, conventional highway or mixed highway rail and transit facility. The design scope includes such items as number of lanes, location and length of project, and high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, as well as right of way requirements, modernization of features, pavement rehabilitation, landscaping requirements, ramp meters, seismic retrofit, etc. Basic design features include such items as interchange locations, signalization, design standards, etc. It is essential that all work incidental to the project also be included in the scope and cost estimates, such as safety elements and upgrades, mitigation, rehabilitation of existing facilities, etc.

While PIDs assume a certain design concept for each project, it is understood that a project's scope may change as environmental or other studies are made. The PID should fully document the basis of the costs and schedules used for programming or for local commitment. Where alternatives with different costs and schedules are still under study, recommendations for programming or for local commitment should generally be based on what appears to be the highest cost likely alternative and should never be based on unlikely low cost alternatives. Likewise, schedules should be based on likely assumptions, not on optimistic or unrealistic assumptions. Alternatives that are studied in detail must comply with legal and administrative requirements and be technically and economically feasible. The depth of studies should be consistent with the scale of the project and its impacts. Studies should reflect the need for permits and consultation with other agencies and affected interests.

There are a number of different types of PID formats to accommodate the nature of the project and the type of work being programmed for funding. The three broad categories of PIDs are the Project Study Report (PSR) or PSR equivalent, the Project Study Report – Project Development Support (PSR-PDS) and the Project Scope Summary Report (PSSR).

Project Study Report (PSR) and PSR Equivalent

A Project Study Report (PSR) (or a PSR equivalent for projects off the State Highway System) is required for any project included in the Interregional Transportation Improvement Program (ITIP) and the Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP) (Govt. Code Sections 14526(b) and 14527(f)). A PSR is a substantial document that contains a report of preliminary engineering efforts, a detailed alternatives analysis, and cost, schedule and scope information, including estimated schedule and costs for environmental mitigation and permit compliance. A PSR also must include an inventory of known environmental resources, identification of potential environmental issues and constraints, a description of potential hazardous materials or waste in the project area, the type of environmental document anticipated for NEPA and/or CEQA compliance, and potential mitigation measures and their estimated costs. See Guidelines for the Preparation of Project Study Reports, dated December 8, 1999.

Project Study Report-Project Development Support (PSR-PDS)

A Project Study Report-Project Development Support (PSR-PDS) is a project initiation document that is used to program the project development support for State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) candidate projects. The PSR-PDS describes the transportation problem, identifies the scope of the viable alternatives, and provides an estimate of the project development support resources required. Support resources may be programmed in the following sequential components: 1) Project Approval and Environmental Document (PA&ED); 2) Plans, Specifications and Estimate (PS&E); 3) Acquisition of Right of Way; and 4) Construction Management and Engineering. Any STIP candidate project on the State Highway System that will require an environmental document (non-CEs), must have a PSR-PDS as its project initiation document. See memo on Implementation of Change Control, dated July 28, 2000.

Project Scope Summary Report (PSSR)

A Project Scope and Summary Report (PSSR) is a PID that is used for projects in the State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP). PSSRs are tailored to meet specific needs of the SHOPP. PSSRs are prepared for five types of projects, including Pavement Rehabilitation projects; Capital Outlay Preventive Maintenance projects; Structure Rehabilitation projects; Seismic Retrofit projects; and Urban Freeway Access projects.

When a Categorical Exemption/Exclusion is prepared for a SHOPP project, the PSSR can serve as both the project initiation document and the project approval report. Those SHOPP projects that qualify for exclusion/exemption do not require the preparation of a Preliminary Environmental Analysis Report (PEAR) (see below). However, it is advisable to prepare a PEAR for large-scale SHOPP projects that require an environmental document (non-CE) to adequately estimate the schedule and resources to complete the environmental process. Refer to the Project Development Procedures Manual Appendices A-Q for discussions on the environmental compliance requirements for the various types of PSSRs.

Formulation of Purpose & Need and Project Alternatives During Project Initiation

Purpose and Need

The statement of a project’s purpose and need will drive the project development and environmental processes and ultimate approval of the project, and it is essential in getting public consent. A good statement of the proposed project's purpose and need should flow out of system planning, as discussed earlier in this chapter. System planning documents should identify a transportation mode or modes to meet the identified transportation need. For capacity-increasing projects, this includes air quality goals. While system planning considered regional and system transportation needs, the PID begins to focus on specific transportation needs, leading toward the more specific purpose and need of individual projects.


During the development of all projects, alternatives are considered to the extent necessary to minimize costs and adverse environmental impacts, and to maximize public benefits. Generally, the concept and scope of project alternatives can include location, geometric features, mode, or mix of modes. However, mode or mix of modes should have been determined at an earlier stage, during the system planning process, and only review and documentation of that determination is needed during formal project studies.

Discussing project alternatives with community groups is an effective way to gain an improved understanding of the goals and objectives of various community interests. It can assist in determining which alternatives have the greatest potential for successful implementation.

Alternatives must be formally considered within the environmental review process under any of the following circumstances:

  • When an Environmental Assessment (EA) is prepared (at a minimum, an EA must consider a no-build and a build alternative)
  • When an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is prepared
  • When a hazardous waste site is expected to be impacted
  • When an adverse impact is expected on any of the following protected resources:
    • Endangered species
    • Public parks, recreation areas, or wildlife and waterfowl refuges
    • Historic sites
    • Aquatic ecosystems, including wetlands
    • Farmlands or Agricultural Preserves
    • Floodplains

For more information on alternatives, please see the Alternatives Analysis Frequently Asked Questions.

The Project Development Team (PDT) may find it most expedient to propose a project alternative that would avoid these circumstances. Conversely, there are situations where due to the public controversy surrounding a project, or due to a project's high public profile, the PDT may appropriately elect to address project alternatives in a formal manner, even when it is not required.

For information about the role of the NEPA/404 MOU signatory agencies in developing and refining project alternatives, refer to the SER, Volume 1, Chapter 32 – Environmental Impact Statement.

Traffic Forecasts

Traffic forecasts are essential for all project studies that propose to increase the capacity or improve the operations of a facility to carry traffic. The following information is included in traffic forecasting: traffic volumes; current traffic; and traffic forecasted for 20 years beyond the last stage of construction. Current traffic includes average annual daily traffic (AADT); peak hour and directional split for each alternative; and level of service for existing conditions. Forecasted traffic includes AADT for each alternative; peak hour and directional split for each alternative; turning movements at proposed interchanges or intersections; and level of service for each alternative.

The Role of Environmental Planning During Project Initiation

Social, environmental, and economic impacts may influence the scope of a project. Furthermore, project delivery frequently depends on skillful compliance with environmental laws. It is important that the PM and the PDT be provided information about applicable environmental issues and constraints. Complex projects require extensive involvement of Environmental staff. Environmental representatives must become involved in projects as early as possible in the project development process. Their early involvement will help to avoid potential delays in project delivery and minimize potential changes in project scope that may result in project cost increases.

The role of Environmental staff during project initiation includes participation in the Project Development Team (PDT); contributing to the Project Workplan that the Project Manager develops; attending a multi-disciplinary team field review; and preparing a Preliminary Environmental Analysis Report (PEAR) for state highway projects (preparing a Preliminary Environmental Study (PES) for local projects). For further information about processing local projects, refer to the Local Assistance Procedures Manual, Chapter 6.

All transportation projects in California must comply with all state environmental laws, regulations, executive orders, and federal laws as applicable. As a result, the project development process requires close coordination between the Environmental representative, the Transportation Planner (TP), the Project Engineer (PE), and the Project Manager (PM) to determine project schedules and to identify potential project issues, criteria, constraints, and impact mitigation.

Project Development Team (PDT)

Environmental planners are key members of the PDT; they attend PDT meetings to provide expertise. The PDT participates in the development of the purpose and need statement; advises and assists the Project Manager (PM) in directing the course of studies; makes recommendations to the PM and district management about the project; and works to carry out the project workplan. Members of the PDT participate in major meetings, public hearings, and community involvement. The PDT is responsible for the conduct of studies and the accumulation of data throughout project development to PS&E.

The Department uses a formal PDT meeting approach for projects in some project development categories, and an informal approach, without requiring attendance at meetings, for projects in other categories. The Environmental representative participates in the determination of project category along with District Project Management and Design.

For more about the Project Development Team, see the discussion earlier in this chapter.

Project Workplan

As stated earlier in this chapter, the PM prepares the Project Workplan with input from the functional units on the PDT. Environmental planners provide input to the Project Workplan by participating in the PDT meetings, coordinating with the PM, and preparing the Preliminary Environmental Analysis Report (PEAR).

For more about the PEAR (and the corresponding document prepared by local agencies, the Preliminary Environmental Study, or PES), refer to the discussion below.

Field Review

Field reviews are held to reach consensus on proposed project scope. As key members of the PDT, Environmental planners attend field reviews to provide expertise. The physical characteristics of a highway and its general location often determine what improvements are necessary, desirable, possible, practical, and cost effective. The scope of the transportation need dictates to a large extent what transportation solutions are feasible, prudent, or practical.

All project field reviews should be documented since the project development process usually takes a period of years to complete and project personnel change. Decisions and agreements made during the early phases of the process need to be documented and retained in the project files for future reference and for updating when the final design is determined. Field reviews are needed so that reliable cost estimates can be developed early in the project development process.

Preliminary Environmental Analysis Report (PEAR) and Preliminary Environmental Study (PES)

Upon request, Environmental staff prepare a Preliminary Environmental Analysis Report (PEAR) for state highway projects (a Preliminary Environmental Study, or PES, is prepared for local assistance projects). The PEAR (or PES) provides input to the PID. It provides the initial environmental evaluation of a project and all feasible alternatives before the project is programmed. Studies are commensurate with the magnitude of potential project impacts and the environmental sensitivity of the project area. Since formal environmental studies are not undertaken during the project initiation phase, there may not be public input beyond that provided by local agencies, regional agencies, or resource and regulatory agencies.

Because the environmental process can substantially affect the project alternatives, design, cost, schedule and delivery, the PEAR or PES must clearly identify potential environmental constraints that may affect design. It also estimates the scope, schedule and costs of environmental compliance. The information contained in the PEAR or PES serves as the foundation for the studies by the environmental team during the Project Report phase.

Preparation of a PEAR involves a multi-disciplinary team of environmental generalists and specialists. A general environmental planner (Generalist) is the team leader, coordinating the activities of the other team members and accurately summarizing the information they generate. The Generalist prepares the PEAR, circulates it for appropriate review, and finalizes it. The Generalist also provides environmental expertise at the PDT meetings and reports to the PDT on the status of environmental studies and environmental issues. The environmental specialists (Specialists) conduct literature reviews and project area surveys (windshield, photo log or on the ground), and provide a report to the Generalist. A Specialist’s report notes any factors that might affect the alternatives, cost, or viability of the project, as well as a cost estimate for mitigation and an estimate of the resources needed for the project by Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) code. Refer to SER Chapter 5 for guidance on preparing a PEAR.

For information on preparing a PES, refer to the Preliminary Environmental Survey (PES) Form. For further information about processing local projects, refer to the Local Assistance Procedures Manual, Chapter 6.