Consideration of Transportation Related Health Effects Under NEPA at the North Carolina Department of Transportation
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This paper will address the evolving state-of-the-practice of the consideration of project related health effects under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) at the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). Though various regulations, guidances, and policies provide for, and in some cases require, project level consideration of the health effects of transportation projects, the state of the practice (while evolving) at the North Carolina Department of Transportation falls short of robust health impact assessment as envisioned by the federal Centers for Diseases Control and other practitioners. There is a correlation between physical activity, the built environment, and mobility and lifestyle related health effects, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. This paper will particularly focus on the underlying regulations, policies, programs, and methods related to the assessment of transportation project related environmental effects, especially as regards health effects. It will pay particular attention to the identification and assessment of these effects to all communities, and particularly to vulnerable and underserved persons, including Title VI and Environmental Justice populations. Some health effects are regulated by law, such as air quality. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides specific guidelines for others such as noise abatement using noise barriers. Others are evaluated under the broad NEPA umbrella of laws, regulations, and guidances. This report will summarize the most NEPA and health relevant regulations, orders, polices, plans, guidances, and project level assessment methodologies. Many different laws and regulations fall under the “NEPA umbrella”, several of which are not included here. This report will explore the identification of existing conditions, including affected populations, as well as existing built environment transportation infrastructure that especially impacts or limits physical activity by multi-modal users -- especially bicycle, pedestrian and transit users. It will also include evaluating accessibility to healthy foods, physical activity related community resources, and improved access to infrastructure by proposed projects that facilitates physical activity and active transportation. It will also identify current NCDOT NEPA related activities that may result in improving such access in the future. This will include the status of health considerations in department policy, long range transportation planning, project development, and other policy and design guidelines that will better avoid, minimize, mitigate, or enhance for physical activity related effects inside or outside of NEPA. It will cite four case study projects, and conclude with a discussion of barriers to change, and opportunities for change.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Rights for Collection: National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Education and Certificate Program Capstone Papers