What is it?
These tools allow transportation decision makers to identify the impacts of a potential transportation project in an area. This then gives them the ability to prioritize potential project locations and alternatives and also identify levels of environmental concern. Since these tools are used early in the planning and environmental review processes, viable transportation projects can happen sooner.
GIS Screening Tools bring together different datasets into a geospatial environment. In the past, these tools were developed to support a specific project in a specific area. As transportation agencies work with their resource agency partners more closely to meet environmental streamlining objectives, these tools have moved from an area-specific view to a region or statewide perspective. Increasingly, effective examples of GIS Screening Tools are relying on the ability to use different datasets from a data library and a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities, as defined in an operating agreement, of each of the users and contributors.
Some examples include the following:
- Arizona DOT's (ADOT) Biology Portal
ADOT developed its Biology Portal in 2010. The Portal is a document repository that allows users to enter biological reports, surveys, and consultation letters along with project-level documents such as plan sheets, project specifications, and technical documentation to determine the ecological impacts that a proposed project may have. For example, ADOT's biology team and consultants use the Portal to view and verify land jurisdiction within a transportation project's area and to identify landowners who should be included in consultation or coordination regarding potential project effects. ADOT is in the process of updating both the Portal and information found in the Portal.
- Florida DOT's (FDOT) Environmental Screening Tool (EST)
The EST is a collaborative, web-based mapping tool that allows FDOT internal staff, partnering agencies and the public to electronically share data and comment on transportation projects and alternatives throughout transportation planning and the environmental review process. The EST is designed to be used in conjunction with FDOT's Efficient Transportation Decision-Making Process, which links transportation, land use, and environmental resource planning to support more effective incorporation of environmental considerations into transportation project development and delivery.
- Geographic Information System Screening Tool (GISST)
EPA Region 6 developed the GISST, which is a GIS-driven environmental assessment and data management tool for environmental streamlining that is shared with Texas DOT (TxDOT). GISST uses ArcGIS to identify and map environmental concerns and to screen potential projects. It uses over 100 different types of environmental resource criteria. Activities are underway to expand the GISST to better support NEPA transportation needs—from planning and scoping phases to Final EIS and Record of Decision. EPA Region 6 has found the GISST to be an excellent tool for decreasing NEPA review time, while compensating for staffing limitations. For example, by using GISST, TxDOT was able to reduce their fieldwork on the Interstate 69 project, which saved time and costs associated with fieldwork.
- Georgia's Natural, Archaeological, and Historic Resources Geographic Information System (GNAHRGIS)
GNAHRGIS is a web-based, interactive data catalog and GIS tool that provides access to geospatial information about Georgia's natural, archaeological, and historic resources. The system is the product of collaboration among a number of State agencies, including Georgia DOT, and the University of Georgia. Currently, archeologists and historians use it to conduct background research on of resources in a particular area before going out into the field. Georgia DOT is currently working to update the tool and make sure the data included are as comprehensive as possible.
- Missouri's Natural Heritage Review (NHR) Website and Missouri Natural Heritage Database (MONHD)
Missouri DOT (MoDOT) is working with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to improve MDC's NHR website and the associated MONHD. MONHD is a GIS-based tool built using NatureServe's Biotics platform, and includes a range of biological and ecological data. Both the NHR website and MONHD are resources for counties, municipalities, developers, and private contractors to review upcoming projects for impacts to threatened and endangered species, as well as species of conservation concern. Stakeholders can request MDC's assistance to conduct a “heritage review” to identify any potential impacts in the vicinity of their project areas. MoDOT expects that once the improvements to the NHR website are complete, the agency will use this website and MONHD more frequently as part of MoDOT's project development, screening, and review processes.
- Nevada DOT's (NDOT) Planning and Needs System (PLANS) Takes a Comprehensive View of Transportation that Will Support Interagency Collaboration
NDOT's PLANS will be a centralized portal for collecting, maintaining, and tracking geospatial information and other data related to transportation projects at all stages of development. PLANS will also allow users to visualize where projects are located and how they interact with environmental or other features. PLANS is still in the early stages of development and has not yet been implemented; however, it is expected to provide a more comprehensive view of transportation projects to streamline project development, improve communications and information-sharing with partner agencies and the public, and make transportation decision-making more transparent.
- New Hampshire Audubon's (NHA) Wildlife Connectivity Model
NHA and the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (NHDFG) developed the “Wildlife Connectivity Model” in response to data gaps in natural resource conservation. Many of the State's municipalities have limited access to natural resource data and GIS tools and limited GIS expertise. The model, which includes landscape features and data on 16 representative species that illustrate four key wildlife populations, allows municipalities to assess the potential impacts of land use planning and transportation projects on the natural environment. The model has encouraged information-sharing and collaboration between the organization and its State and local partners, leading to more effective conservation planning. For example, in 2009 NHA worked with its colleagues at Maine Audubon to collaborate on an ecosystem-based approach to land use planning, including a GIS-based framework similar to the NHA wildlife-connectivity model.
- Pennsylvania DOT (PennDOT) Linking Planning and NEPA Environmental Screening
PennDOT and its planning partners use GIS to execute environmental screening against identified transportation problems. The environmental screening occurs at the earliest stages of planning and is completed in an automated environment. PennDOT uses Oracles Spatial Tools to screen locations against over forty (40) environmental datasets, answering most of the fourteen (14) NEPA questions. The screening process provides scores from 0-10 based on proximity of the resource to the problem location. Upon completion, which usually takes less than one minute, a planner or engineer receives the highest score for each question and a detail report outlining scores and distances for all datasets. The screening scores are stored with engineering and planning information in online forms to help the region select and prioritize projects.
- South Carolina DOT's Project Screening Tool (PST)
The PST is a web-based geospatial tool used to support South Carolina DOT's Advanced Project Planning Reports process, which is a preliminary evaluation conducted within a study area to identify a proposed project's potential benefits, impacts, and areas of environmental concern. The PST allows users to view geospatial data associated with transportation projects, identify projects' potential environmental impacts, provide input, and share documents electronically.
- Utah DOT's (UDOT) UPlan
UPlan is collaborative, web-based tool that supports decision-making, mapping, information analysis, and planning and project development. The tool serves as a “one-stop shop” for UDOT staff, partner agencies, and the public to upload, manage, share, and analyze a wide variety of geospatial data.
GDC Focus Areas
Geospatial Data Collaboration is concerned with three specific areas that are the essence of the initiative. Each of the areas is interrelated, and there is no order to their implementation.
The map above shows where states are with Geospatial Data Collaboration (GDC) GIS Screening Tools and their interest in participating in the Every Day Counts Initiative.
Clicking on the word “Legend” above will identify the colors on the map.
Pre-Demonstration: Learning more about the innovation, actively gathering best practices, building support with partners and stakeholders.
Demonstration: Testing/piloting the innovation.
Post-Demonstration: Making adjustments to prepare for full deployment, adopting the innovation as a tool in the toolbox, process in place to include innovation as standard practice.