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​Environmental Documentation

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance requires the documentation of environmental resources, and the avoidance, minimization, and/or mitigation of these resources. There are three types of environmental documentation for federally funded projects:

  • Environmental Impact Statements: Actions that would significantly affect the natural, cultural, and/or human environment require preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). EIS projects tend to be complex projects with substantial impacts to a variety of environmental resources. An example of such an action would be a new limited access highway.
  • Environmental Assessments: An Environmental Assessment (EA) is prepared for those projects for which the significance of impacts is not clearly established. More analysis is necessary to determine whether impacts are significant and an EIS will need to be prepared.
  • Categorical Exclusions: Actions that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant environmental effect are categorically excluded from the requirement to prepare an EIS or EA. The majority of proposals will likely be determined to be Categorical Exclusions (CEs). Examples of such proposals include small bridge replacements, intersection improvements, resurfacing activities, minor widenings, construction of bicycle and pedestrian paths, traffic signal installation, and alteration of facilities to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additional project types that may qualify as a CE can be found in 23 CFR §771.117(c) and (d), as well as those listed in Chapter 3.

PennDOT and the Federal Highway Administration have a programmatic agreement (PA) — the Bridge and Roadway Programmatic Agreement (BRPA) — that addresses NEPA approval for a majority of the bridge, roadway, and non-complex projects that PennDOT undertakes. The BRPA is a formal NEPA approval document that pre-approves projects meeting the outlined stipulations and criteria in the PA.

For those projects for which the BRPA does not apply, PennDOT and FHWA have agreed to two levels of review and approval for CEs. The appropriate level of CE for a project is determined based on the type of action and conditions of a project and is based on the implementing regulations in 23 CFR §771.117(c) and (d), which provides two lists of actions that are classified as CEs.

For projects that are 100 percent state funded, a state Environmental Document (ED) would be prepared for projects that would be considered CEs under NEPA, and an Environmental Evaluation Report (EER) would be prepared for projects that would be EAs or EISs under NEPA. Projects completed as EDs and EERs must still comply with PA Act 120 and other applicable state laws.