Environmental Communication and Collaboration Tools for Transportation Projects during Design, Construction, and Beyond

Patrick Tennant, Environmental Science Associates
Erich Fischer, Biological Resources Practice Leader, Environmental Science Associates, Sacramento, CA, USA
Mike Leech, Director of Geospatial Technologies, Environmental Science Associates, Seattle, WA, USA
Jon Waggoner, Environmental Compliance Program Manager, Environmental Science Associates, Sacramento, CA, USA
Topic Area
Planning for Transportation Ecology

In today's increasingly complex regulatory environment, it is vital to accurately track and communicate environmental commitments, mitigation measures, and agreements across a wide array of technical disciplines. Particularly, for alternative delivery and design-build projects, collaboration and accurate communication with owners, engineers, construction contractors, and resource agencies is critical to avoid schedule delays or compliance issues. Transportation projects add layers of complexity due to multiple state and federal agency requirements, jurisdictions, and habitat types. Real-time field data collection and sharing is critical for transportation agencies to ensure proper implementation of mitigation measures with construction contractors. Managing and overseeing construction is also challenging; the timely requirement to collect, analyze, and report compliance data to regulatory agencies places additional burden on the permittee. Several organizations have attempted to automate this process with various levels of success.
We examined and evaluated several digital and organizational communication and collaboration tools used on large infrastructure projects, including tools that enable effective communication/collaboration during design, construction, and long-term monitoring. We examined systems that collect form-based and map-based field data, which track and report on compliance with mitigation measures, and how they may be accessed by multiple parties from the field. Finally, we assessed how information was summarized at the project and program levels, using interactive maps and dashboards to inform decision-making. We evaluated issues like data integrity, confidentiality, on-and off-line access, and synchronizations and accessibility across multiple factors.
We categorized these tools and system components to develop an environmental communication and compliance tracking 'toolbox' for projects as they progress. We discuss our observations on implementation approaches, and the pros and cons of each tool. Our assessment provides environmental professionals with a set of options when developing programs during the permitting and construction phases of transportation projects, and will enhance communication, collaboration, and compliance for today's increasingly complex regulatory environment.

Abstract Keywords
digital communication tracking tools mitigation regulatory compliance data collection field data