Session B10.1

Caltrans Regional Advance Mitigation Needs Assessment (RAMNA); A New Approach to Planning for Transportation Project Mitigation

Michael Carbiener

2:00 – 2:30 PM (PT) | 5:00 – 5:30 PM (ET)

About the Presentation

Caltrans' Advance Mitigation Program was established through the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. The intent is for Caltrans, through advance mitigation planning and advance mitigation project delivery, to realize advance mitigation's potential to accelerate transportation project delivery and to protect endangered species and other natural resources through transportation project mitigation. Establishing compensatory mitigation credits prior to impacts is risky. For example, a specific credit's application to a specific transportation project won't be determined until a regulatory agency conditions the specific project. Also, if credits are to be available in time to benefit transportation projects, regional advance mitigation planning must be performed without final transportation project-specific environmental information.

To help manage these risks, during advance mitigation planning Caltrans writes "Regional Advance Mitigation Needs Assessments" that are reviewed by permitting agencies. Each planning-level document focuses on an area defined by HUC-8 sub-basin or Ecoregion Section boundaries, where transportation project impacts are anticipated during a 10-year period. Using readily available information, resources analyzed for their potential compensatory mitigation needs include wildlife, wetlands, and waters for which Caltrans seeks permits. Agencies review the desk-top analysis prior to Caltrans' proposing or making financial commitments, improving the probability that an advance mitigation project undertaken will establish usable credits.

Transportation Track, 0.5 AICP Credits

About the Speaker

Michael Carbiener
Senior Biologist
HDR Engineering, Inc.

Michael Carbiener is a senior biologist at HDR Engineering, Inc. He has over 20 years of experience leading and conducting aquatic and herpetological studies for a variety of sensitive species throughout California. He is currently leading the production of the Regional Advance Mitigation Needs Assessments for 12 Caltrans Districts.

Session B10.2

Section 4(f) Compliance for Non-Historic Resources and the I-270 Corridor Project

Veronica McCall

2:30 – 3:00 PM (PT) | 5:30 – 6:00 PM (ET)

About the Presentation

Section 4(f) of the US Department of Transportation Act protects parks, trails, and recreational resources, and applies to federally funded transportation projects. This regulation is one of many that CDOT evaluates during the project NEPA phase. Designated recreational resources in a study area are identified using spatial databases, Google Maps, and master plan documents. For any temporary and permanent impacts determine to be a "use" as defined under Section 4(f), a specific evaluation and approval process is followed. There are multiple Section 4(f) clearance avenues that can be taken depending on the magnitude of use by the project. Some clearance avenues can take several months to years, and have onerous requirements for documentation and agency review. Working at CDOT, I have had the opportunity to lead the Section 4(f) evaluation for the I-270 Corridor Improvements project and Environmental Assessment, which is proposing to modernize the 6.5-mile-long highway between I-25 and I-70 in the Denver Metro Area. It should be noted that this project will still be in the NEPA and preliminary design phases through 2021. My major tasks have included early scoping and resource mapping, coordinating with project engineers to determine impacts, coordinating with local agencies, and producing a technical memo as an attachment to the EA document.

The focus of the Section 4(f) analysis has been on necessary closures of major trail segments in the project study area, requiring temporary trails to be constructed for daytime use, and complete closures to occur after-hours under bridge replacement locations. CDOT and the consultant team have made an effort to solicit input from the local agencies that manage or have a stake in the affected trails, as well as from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to verify Section 4(f) compliance. Through incorporating all input received during agency coordination, the team has developed a creative mitigation approach aimed at minimizing impacts to users of the impacted trails. This has resulted in a minor Section 4(f) level of clearance being applicable which is in line with the current schedule and budget.

Transportation Track, 0.5 AICP Credits

About the Speaker

Veronica McCall
Environmental Project Manager & Section 4(f)/Section 6(f) Specialist
Colorado Department of Transportation

My name is Veronica McCall. I am a NEPA project manager and the Section 4(f) and Section 6(f) Specialist at the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in Region 1. I've been in my current position for over two years. I was previously a GIS intern at CDOT after graduating from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a Bachelors in Environmental Science. I was born in Ogden, Utah and I've lived in the Denver area since 2012.

Session B10.3

Corridor K of the Appalachian Development Highway System: Fresh Perspectives on Environmental Stewardship and Project Delivery

Amy Sackaroff & Wanda Austin, PE CPM

3:00 – 3:30 PM (PT) | 6:00 – 6:30 PM (ET)

About the Presentation

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) are completing studies on roadway improvements needed to provide safe, reliable transportation infrastructure for Graham County, North Carolina. The project would complete a portion of Corridor K of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS). Corridor K has been in various stages of project development over the past fifty years. It presents a multitude of challenges: mountainous terrain, the Appalachian Trail (AT), Cherokee homesteads and other archeological resources, the Trail of Tears, the Nantahala National Forest, jurisdictional waters, high quality mountain streams, acid-producing (pyritic) rock, and federally-protected species.

Given these challenges, it is among the last ADHS corridors to be completed; however, the project is very much needed in the economically distressed county where the project is located. The roadway network in Graham County is limited to four two-lane roads with steep grades, sharp curves, and inadequate shoulders. In 2010, the project was included in the FHWA Every Day Counts initiative and was evaluated by the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution. Recommendations from the Institute's 2011 report were incorporated into the process, notably, to create "an atmosphere of exploration" where "preliminary ideas can be expressed freely...". Planning efforts were resumed in 2015 under an iterative planning process that allows for the exploration and refinement of the project scope prior to the NEPA process.

In addition, the Corridor K planning process reflects elements of the FHWA Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) approach, where concerns and constraints are identified early in the planning process and used to inform project development and review. This integrated planning process also facilitates implementation of Executive Order 13807 regarding environmental review and permitting timelines. This new, integrated approach was developed to focus on local engagement and meaningful collaboration with the public, environmental stakeholders, and agency staff, while still aligning with NEPA and other regulations. Through the new process, the project team developed a project that: improves existing roadways through a "right-size" approach that avoids and minimizes impacts to natural and cultural resources; provides a process for tribal/agency oversight regarding cultural resources throughout the construction phase, and includes innovative mitigation for project impacts.

The integrated, coordinated planning approach allowed the team to reach identification of a Preferred Alternative within fifteen months after initiating formal NEPA studies. Interagency coordination and the entire NEPA documentation process (including an Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact) will be completed within a two year timeframe.

Transportation Track, 0.5 AICP Credits

About the Speaker

Amy Sackaroff
Senior Transportation Planner
Stantec Consulting Services, Inc.

Amy Sackaroff is a senior transportation planner with 20 years of experience in developing sustainable solutions for complex transportation projects across the Carolinas. Amy received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from NC State University and is an APA Certified Planner. Amy manages the development of Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and other analyses pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and guides associated interagency coordination and public involvement. Her experience also includes natural resource inventories, stormwater management, land use forecasting, and permitting.

Wanda Austin, PE CPM
Division 14 Engineer
North Carolina Department of Transportation

Wanda began her career with NCDOT in 1995 and has diversified her experience while with NCDOT as she has worked in Traffic Engineering (Division 2 Traffic and Traffic Engineering Branch).  In Division 14, Wanda has been the Assistant District Engineer, County Maintenance Engineer, Assistant Division Design Construct Engineer, Contract Officer, Project Team Lead,  the Division Project Development Engineer and most recently was promoted to Division 14 Engineer.  Mrs. Austin earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Clemson University and a Master’s in Business Administration from East Carolina University.  Wanda holds a NC Professional Engineer license, Project Management Certificate and graduated from the North Carolina Certified Public Manager Program in 2014.  Wanda currently serving a two-year term on the Central Piedmont ASPA board.  Wanda Austin lives in Sylva, North Carolina with her husband, Edwin, and sons, Hunter and Andrew.  She has three other children and four grandchildren.