This chapter provides background information on the federal laws, regulations, and procedures that govern the environmental evaluation process that TDOT must follow for transportation projects that have federal funding and/or require a major federal action such as a Section 404 permit. The basis of the environmental evaluation of these transportation projects is the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA. While the basic tenants of NEPA remain unchanged since it was signed in January 1970, numerous environmental laws, Executive Orders, and agency policies and guidelines have been put into place to aid in interpreting the mandates of NEPA. As recently as August 2005, the federal transportation act, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act - Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), included several provisions intended to enhance the consideration of environmental issues and impacts within the transportation planning process, and it established a new environmental review process for highways, transit and multi-modal projects.
This chapter identifies the role of the TDOT Environmental Division in the environmental evaluation process, and provides an overview of the flow of work for each category or level of environmental evaluation. This chapter also introduces TDOT's policy on addressing the environmental effects of state-funded projects that do not constitute a major federal action, which is described in more detail in Chapter 10, Environmental Evaluation of State Funded Projects, of this manual.