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Environmental POlicy and Development

Through environmental analysis our objective is to ensure the accurate application of federal and state laws and regulations associated with the human, natural, and physical environment to our transportation improvements. This is accomplished through the development and implementation of policy statements, guidance documents, and quality control of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Documents.

PennDOT provides technical assistance and training in the areas of human, natural, and physical environments via collaboration with our central office divisions, 11 engineering districts, federal and state resource agencies, and the general public.

 

Air Quality

Compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in relation to transportation projects is an issue for which the Environmental Analysis Section is accountable. Typically, only ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter are of concern when analyzing air quality impacts of a new highway or a highway improvement project.

The Environmental Analysis Section ensures the requirements mandated under the Clean Air Act are complied with as well as proper NEPA documentation. This includes proper application of EPA's Mobile Model and Dispersion Models to ensure projects are in conformance with the Clean Air Act. We also ensure projects come from a conforming Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), and that the project has not changed significantly from the way it was analyzed in the planning stages.

More information on the attainment status of a given county or other air quality-related information can be found on the state Department of Environmental Protection website.

 

Agricultural Lands

PennDOT integrates the agricultural resource evaluations established under NEPA into its transportation project development process. This includes data collection, impact assessments, avoidance and minimization measures, documentation of findings, and land condemnation.

 

Community Impact Assessment

Transportation facilities and services make an important contribution to a community's quality of life and economy. Proposed improvements can have a variety of effects — both positive and negative — on people and their surrounding natural, cultural, and human resources. Community Impact Assessment (CIA) is a process used to evaluate the effects on a community and its quality of life. It is PennDOT's policy to work proactively in collaboration with communities in implementing the principles of CIA throughout the transportation project planning, development, and delivery process.

 

Highway Traffic Noise

Highway traffic noise is a growing concern for adjoining landowners. Depending on the type of project, varying levels of analysis can be done to assess the potential for future highway traffic noise impacts on sensitive receptors as a result of a proposed transportation improvement project. The Federal Highway Administration provides information on compatible growth and development; federal rules, policies, and technical advisories; as well as a wide variety of reference material. On the state level, PennDOT has its Project Level Highway Traffic Noise Handbook (Pub 24) (PDF).

 

Invasive Plants

Executive Order 13112 of Feb. 3, 1999, defines invasive plants as "alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health." Invasive plants have been defined by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as a species that have become a weed pest, a plant which grows aggressively, spreads, and displaces other plants.

PennDOT is represented on both the Invasive and Noxious Plant Committee and the Interagency Invasive Species Work Group to address invasive species issues. Research is being conducted by the Pennsylvania State University to investigate various combinations of treatments to control invasive species infestations.

 

Native Plants

Native seed mixes have been developed for use in various types of terrains along Pennsylvania's roadsides. These are in an experimental phase to determine the most successful mixes that can be taken statewide.

 

Species of Special Concern

Species of Special Concern is an umbrella term that includes all plants and animals classified by state and federal agencies into protection categories, such as endangered, threatened, rare, etc., and those species recommended for classification by the Pennsylvania Biological Survey (PBS).

In Pennsylvania, the species jurisdictional responsibilities are divided among three state resource agencies. The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has responsibility for native plants, the Pennsylvania Game Commission covers native birds and mammals, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has responsibility for fish, amphibians, reptiles, and other aquatic organisms. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5, Pennsylvania state field office oversees the federally listed species that occur in the Commonwealth. Data to describe these species and associated natural plant communities is stored in the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program information system.

Financial support for the majority of species of special concern research and publications originates from the Wild Resource Conservation Fund, one of Pennsylvania's state income tax checkoffs. Specific procedures and agreements have been developed between PennDOT and the resource agencies for certain species such as the Bog Turtle and the freshwater mussels. Field studies are being conducted by the Western PA Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy to locate plant species of special concern in PennDOT rights-of-way to avoid maintenance impacts and to enhance the populations.

Species of Special Concern are reviewed within all PennDOT project areas through coordination with the state and federal resource agencies. All efforts are taken to avoid impacts to these imperiled plants and animals. Minimization and mitigation procedures follow if a population is impacted by a transportation activity. A Species of Special Concern Handbook has been developed to guide species reviews through the transportation project development process.

 

Terrestrial Mitigation

A policy has been developed to provide guidance related to which terrestrial resources merit compensation during the transportation development process. The policy also establishes procedures related to terrestrial mitigation and the authority to approve terrestrial mitigation plans.

 

Wetlands

PennDOT works through the environmental processes to avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands. The state Department of Environmental Protection has responsibility for protecting wetlands through PA Code Tiltle 25, Chapter 105, Dam Safety and Waterway Management. PennDOT is represented on DEP's Wetlands Protection Advisory Committee.

We have developed a Wetland Banking Memorandum of Agreement with the state and federal resource and permitting agencies to establish wetlands with increased ecological value and expedite the mitigation process.