May 17, 2022Navigating the Environmental Impact of Infrastructure Development
E.L. Robinson Goes Deep on Environmental Services for Transportation Planning
Whether it’s a road, a bridge, a culvert, a water system, or any of the many other kinds of infrastructure projects we undertake, navigating the environmental impact of infrastructure development is complex and critical.
Transportation planning involves multiple stages of impact studies, evaluation of alternatives, public input, and regulatory requirements. Getting the environmental component of transportation planning right has such a great impact on both the process and the outcomes that we’ve invested in an enviable, eminent, and growing team of nationally recognized transportation planners and environmental scientists. They bring an unparalleled level of expertise to the process of navigating the environmental impact of infrastructure development.
While that puts us ahead of the curve relative to the regulatory requirements, the benefits are many and far-reaching beyond that. They include:
- Better outcomes for the community and the environment
- Facilitated decision-making to avoid spending time or money on the wrong alternatives
- Efficient or even accelerated project delivery
- Relationship building across regulatory agencies and the public
The essential connection between transportation planning and environmental impact is featured in two primary regulatory phases:
- Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) Study
- National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) Compliance
Environmental Impact of Infrastructure Development Influences Planning Process in Harvey Road Connector PEL Study
One of our recent projects, the Harvey Road Connector PEL Study in West Virginia, is a perfect example of how determining the environmental impact of infrastructure development influences and improves the transportation planning process.
We completed the PEL study for the Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia Interstate Planning Commission (KYOVA), which is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Tri-State area of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. Wayne County staff and Commissioners as well as the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) provided technical oversight.
The goal of the Harvey Road Connector project is to improve connectivity between Harvey Road and highway WV-152 (5th Street Road) in support of providing better east-west access for the benefit of enhanced public services (police, fire, ambulance, transit), improved roadway geometrics as well as support for tourism development along the WV 152 corridor. It took place over the course of about a year during 2020-2021.
With so much at stake, the PEL study provided essential details and due diligence necessary to validate the project goal and objectives. As part of the study, we developed an initial set of potential plan alternatives, narrowed those down to prioritize viable alternatives for further study, and eventually identified which of the alternatives should move forward to the NEPA compliance stage of evaluation. The evaluation consists of a complex combination of cultural resources screening, field reconnaissance, resource agency consultation, and public engagement.
The PEL Study process linking environmental impact and infrastructure development enabled KYOVA to avoid public controversy, higher costs, and higher potential environmental impact, and instead concentrate the NEPA phase on the alternatives that demonstrate:
- High public support
- Low public controversy
- Shorter length
- Lower costs
- Lower potential environmental impacts
- Low potential for utility conflicts
All of that means a strong foundation to advance the Harvey Road Connector project efficiently and effectively towards implementation.
It takes a special combination of expertise and experience to complete projects like this one. Our Planning and Environmental Services team makes it possible for us to dig deep and optimize the benefits of focusing on the environmental impact of infrastructure development.
Assembling the Planning & Environmental Services Dream Team
Over the past several years, we’ve sought out and invested in the top transportation planners and environmental scientists in the field. We’re proud to have them on our team working on behalf of our clients, and we’d like you to meet them.
THE DELIVERY TEAM: PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES PROFESSIONALS
- Leigh Blackmon Lane, National Director of Transportation
- Douglas S. Parker, CEP, Environmental Manager
- Chris Inscore, AWB, Environmental Planner, Wildlife Biologist, & GIS Specialist
THE THINK TANK: PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES THOUGHT LEADERS
- Marella Buncick, Senior Environmental Planner
- Paul Graham, Cultural Resources Manager
- Julie Hunkins, PE, Senior Transportation Policy and Program Advisor
- Dane R. Ismart, Principal Transportation Planner
- Libby Smith, Senior Policy and Program Advisor
So Much Talent, So Little Time
We can’t say enough about our Planning and Environmental Services team. Literally, there’s so much more to say that we will keep coming back again and again. Take a look at their bios here for more on each of these thought leaders or click on their names to visit their LinkedIn profiles where available. Be on the lookout for an upcoming article on the power of conducting Phase l Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) in advance of major commercial real estate transactions.