Panel Paper: A Dime’s Worth of Difference: Analyzing the Impact of a NEPA Streamlining Initiative on State Transportation Project Durations.

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Jackson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Evan Mistur1, Gordon Kingsley1, Daniel Matisoff1 and Yehyun An2, (1)Georgia Institute of Technology, (2)Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements

The environmental review process is often pointed out as an area of risk for the timely completion of public infrastructure projects. As such, numerous streamlining initiatives have been implemented at both the federal and state level to reduce delays in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and facilitate production of on-time, high quality reviews. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has created a process by which state departments of transportation take greater responsibility for managing projects eligible for environmental reviews qualifying for Programmatic Categorical Exclusions (PCE). Infrastructure projects qualifying for this status do not to have a significant effect on the human environment. While PCE projects account for a large percentage of the portfolio of work pursued by the states few studies investigate the benefits these initiatives provide empirically, or investigate performance and time savings at the project level.

In this research, we examine the implementation of a 2013 PCE agreement between Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and FHWA designed to make the NEPA process more efficient. This MOU both shortens the review process by eliminating a number of tasks necessary for completion and simplifies the process by reducing the number of actors required to be involved in the process. We study the impacts of these changes quantitatively with a pre-post quasi-experimental design by analyzing performance data on 560 GDOT transportation projects completed between 2011 and 2015 using Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) multivariate regression.

We examine the benefits of (A) shortening the review process by estimating the time savings directly attributable to the reduction of component complexity through the elimination of tasks, and (B) simplifying the process by investigating the effects of reducing coordinative complexity between project actors. The results of this policy analysis may be useful for both practitioners, by increasing project-level knowledge about the impacts of a common type of streamlining initiative, and for policy researchers, by providing evidence on the impact component and coordinative complexity can have on project durations.

Full Paper: