The Georgia DOT requires full oversight with any Federally-funded projects. They must go through the Federal Highway Administration to receive approval before starting projects. The process follows the National Environmental Policy Act aka “NEPA”. For these two projects (400 Collector/Distributor & 285/400 Interchange), two separate Environmental Assessments (EAs) are being submitted to the Feds.
Information & Knowledge is Power. Please educate yourself, understand the process and be an active voice in this campaign to have GDOT build sustainable, safe, human-powered transportation choices in this $1 + Billion dollar projects.
FAQ / Responses from Georgia DOT about the EA / NEPA Process
On 2/10, we received the following information from GDOT
Q: Post on-line for downloading in PDF format the EAs (FONSI) for both projects at the consolidated GDOT website: http://www.dot.ga.gov/Projects/activeprojects/StateRoute/Pages/I285SR400.aspx
A: The approved Draft EA and Appendices for PI 0000784 (I-285 at SR 400 Interchange Reconstruction) can be downloaded at the following FTP link until March 6, 2015: http://we.tl/EoRU6rfo2T (Editor’s Note: These files have been uploaded to Google Drive for longevity. Links are below this FAQ section)
The Final EA/Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for PI 0000784 is not yet available.
The approved 1998 Draft EA for the SR 400 CD Lanes Project (PI 721850-) is currently undergoing an environmental re-evaluation, which is not complete. Once completed, the re-evaluation document can be requested from GDOT’s Office of Environmental Services. (Editor’s Note: This will be another critical time where we need to get this document, review & provide feedback and input)
Q: On the GDOT website, please post the background, steps and process of the EA.
A: An EA is typically prepared when it is uncertain whether there will be significant impacts resulting from the project. The purpose of an EA is to document the analysis of the project and its effects in order to determine if there will be significant impacts resulting from the proposed project. The EA process is carried out in two separate phases that result in the preparation of a Draft EA and a Final EA/FONSI (if it is determined that significant impacts would not result from the project).
The Draft EA summarizes the results of technical studies (described below), resource agency inputs, and public outreach/involvement. If the Draft EA appears to support a finding of no significant impact, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will approve the Draft Document, which allows the project to advance to a Public Hearing. After the public availability period and receipt and review of all Public Hearing comments, the significance of impacts is reassessed by GDOT. If it is determined that the project would have no significant impacts, the Department prepares a Final EA/FONSI and submits it to FHWA. If FHWA approves the Final EA/FONSI, the environmental process is complete. If FHWA is uncertain of the severity of environmental impacts and does not approve the FONSI, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be prepared if the project is to advance.
Additional information regarding GDOT’s environmental process, including the EA/FONSI and EIS processes, can be found in the Office of Environmental Services’ Environmental Procedures Manual which is located here: http://www.dot.ga.gov/doingbusiness/PoliciesManuals/roads/Pages/EnvironmentalProceduresManual.aspx
Q: Can you please answer the following and also include this information on the consolidated GDOT website? Who are the authors?
A: The EA is written by GDOT or by environmental consultants under contract with GDOT.
Q: Who approves the content?
A: GDOT and ultimately FHWA approve the content of the EA/FONSI. However most of the technical studies that go into the EA/FONSI are reviewed by resource agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Historic Preservation Officer, whose primary mission is to ensure that impacts to particular resources are avoided and minimized to the extent prudent and feasible. Formal concurrences are frequently required from these agencies before the FONSI can be approved
Q: What are the sources of the information?
A: A variety of information goes into the development of an EA. Early coordination with resource agencies at the local, state, and federal levels is always completed to identify specific resource concerns within the project area. Technical studies are prepared to document Ecological, Cultural (Historic and Archaeological), Air, Noise, and Hazardous Materials/Waste resources and impacts in the project area, as well as potential displacements that would result from the project. Meetings and correspondence with resource agencies take place during project development, and resource agency concurrences are critical inputs to an EA document. As discussed below, comments and feedback received at Public Information Open Houses (PIOHs) and the Public Hearing Open House (PHOH) are an important parts of the EA document. Meetings with communities, stakeholder groups, and local governments are often held on a project, and these meetings are documented in an EA. Other sources of information may include published studies, research articles, resource agency publications (e.g., Georgia Environmental Protection Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, etc.), and U.S. Census Bureau data. Note: for the 285/SR 400 EA, a complete reference list of sources is included in the EA.
Q: How can the public have direct input? By what means? What is the process for general public input? Who approves its inclusion into the EA?
A: The public can most directly influence a project by attending public outreach meetings and offering comments. Projects that undergo an Environmental Assessment are required by law to have a Public Hearing Open House, which is held after the Draft Document is approved. In addition, Public Information Open House are usually held before a Draft EA is prepared in order to gain public input early in project development. Both PIOHs and PHOHs are advertised and followed by a 10-day public comment period. People have the option of writing or emailing comments, or leaving comments verbally with the court reporter present at each of the meetings. All comments received are reviewed carefully by GDOT designers, Right-of-Way officials, and environmental staff. The design of the project is revisited and changes may be made if they would address public concerns without undermining the need and purpose of the project. The Department responds by letter to all comments, and all comments and responses are included in the EA document and in the project file.
In the case of the 285/400 project, a series of Public Information Open Houses (PIOHs) were held in August 2014, and the project was also shown at the November 2014 PIOH for the adjacent SR 400 CD Lanes project. The Public Hearing Open House (PHOH) was held on February 5, 2015
Q: What is the deadline for public input?
A: The PHOH 10-day comment period ends on February 15, 2015, however GDOT accepts comments on projects through all stages of development.
Q: What is the GDOT business process for the EA? Who is the final person (or persons) that approve it?
A: The EA is reviewed internally at GDOT by several people. Ms. Hiral Patel, the State Environmental Administrator, has the final approval within GDOT on the EA.
Q: Where does the EA go after it has been finalized by GDOT?
A: Once the EA is finalized by GDOT, it is transmitted to FHWA’s Georgia Division for review and approval.
Q: What is the planned date that GDOT will forward the EAs for further approval?
A: The Draft EA received FHWA approval on December 16, 2014. The Final EA/FONSI will be transmitted to FHWA after all comments received from the PHOH comment period are reviewed and processed, and after it is determined that the project would have no significant impact.
Q: What is the final process for getting the EA approved (EPA? FHWHA?, etc.?) Which specific agencies need to sign off?
A: The FHWA will need to approve the Final EA/FONSI. No other resource agencies are required to approve the EA but, as noted earlier, these agencies have reviewed and concurred with the technical studies that go into the EA/FONSI.
Additional information regarding GDOT’s environmental process can be found in the Office of Environmental Services’ Environmental Procedures Manual which is located here: http://www.dot.ga.gov/doingbusiness/PoliciesManuals/roads/Pages/EnvironmentalProceduresManual.aspx
Thank you and should you have further questions, comments or concerns, please call the project manager, Marlo Clowers, at 404-631-1713 or the environmental analyst, Carla Benton-Hooks, at 404-631-1415.
Download the actual EA for the 285/400 interchange
EA (6 MB) Click HERE
Appendices (124MB – Ignore Google Message about can’t scan. Just download): Click HERE
Think about weaving into the conversation these items
Social Demands or Economic Development
2011 FHWA Guidance on Bike & Ped Accommodation. Click HERE.
References & details can be found at this LINK
Go BACK to our GDOT “Asks” Main Page by clicking HERE.