Road Scholar Dictionary
Troubled Bridges Over Water: fix existing roads
Federal Highway Laws
Presidents Johnson & Nixon
National Forest Roads
Peak Oil &
The J. Edgar Hoover highway:
"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity."
Transportation Bureaucracy Acronyms
4(f) - Section 4(f) of the 1966 Transportation Act
brownfield: an area slated for “development” that has previously been used for other purposes, usually applied to abandoned industrial areas with contamination problems. The euphemism for building commercial or residential development in natural areas not previously paved over is “greenfield.”
Categorical Exclusion: a waiver granted to federal projects with de minimus (too small to be of importance) environmental and social impacts.
cooperating agency: A government agency that uses another agency’s Environmental Impact Statement as the basis for their own decision. The National Environmental Policy Act requires that cooperating agencies participate in the full process of scoping of alternatives, followed by draft EIS, public comments and final EIS before a Record of Decision can be issued.
cumulative impact: the impact on the environment which results from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non Federal) or person undertakes such other actions. Cumulative impacts can result from individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time. (40 CFR 1508.7) Neither the 1990 Final EIS nor the 1997 SDEIS examined cumulative impacts on natural ecosystems, highway budgets, or traffic patterns.
customer - a euphemism used by some government agencies to describe citizens
Environmental Assessment: a smaller study than an EIS, it is used to determine whether a proposed project would have significant impacts that must be analyzed in an EIS, or if not, the impacts can be dismissed in a “Finding of No Significant Impact.”
Environmental Impact Statement: a report mandated by the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act to examine the consequences of federal actions upon the natural and built environments. The sequence of an EIS starts with developing a Purpose and Need (to identify a problem), Scoping of Alternatives, a Draft EIS, a public hearing and comment period, review of public input, and finally a Final EIS and a Record of Decision by the agency. If major problems are identified during the Draft phase, new circumstances arise that were not identified, or a major change to the project is made, the agency can be required to issue a Supplemental EIS (which needs to follow the same process as an EIS, except a new P&N and Scoping are not required).
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA): Part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the FHWA is the government agency that makes the "Record of Decision" for a federally funded road project and what efforts must be made to "mitigate" the imapcts. FHWA is the main agency that is sued to block road approvals if federal funds are used and/or if a Federal Highway decision must be made (for example, a new interchange on an interstate highway). Local referendums and City Council decisions do not determine federal transportation policies.
geoslavery: the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to keep track of everyone, all the time. GPS, RFID chip enabled drivers licenses (national IDs), and other electronic surveillance systems (finances, communication, internet, etc) combined together could create a totalitarian state more intrusive than any previous dictatorship.
greenwash (noun, verb): The false claim of environmental protection, usually made by serious polluters with an image problem. Also, campaigns made to further such false claims. synonym: Smart Growth.
highwaymen: 1. persons who rob travelers on a road
(from Webster’s dictionary)
impact: A euphemism for “destroy” (“the Modified Project will impact 6.4 hectares of high value wetlands”)
improvements: A euphemism employed by highway promoters. Synonyms: road widening, highway construction.
independent utility: a FHWA requirement that highway projects be a reasonable expenditure even if no additional transportation improvements in the area are made. FHWA states that “as long as a project will serve a significant function by itself (i.e., it has independent utility), there is no requirement to include separate but related projects in the same analysis.” See “segmentation.”
indirect effects: caused by the action and are later in time or farther removed in distance, but are still reasonably foreseeable. Indirect effects may include growth inducing effects and other effects related to induced changes in the pattern of land use, population density or growth rate, and related effects on air and water and other natural systems, including ecosystems.
interchange: A grade-separation of two or more highways that allows more traffic at greater speeds than a traffic light controlled intersection.
intersection: An at-grade junction of two or more roads.
Land and Water Conservation Fund: a federal program for purchasing significant natural habitats for preservation, lands bought with LWCF money cannot be used for other purposes (such as highway construction).
logical terminus: FHWA requirement that highway projects are of sufficient length to have independent utility. FHWA defines logical termini as "(1) rational end points for a transportation improvement, and (2) rational end points for a review of the environmental impacts. The environmental impact review frequently covers a broader geographic area than the strict limits of the transportation improvements. ... the most common termini have been points of major traffic generation, especially intersecting roadways." (The Development of Logical Project Termini, FHWA report)
LUTRAQ: Land Use, Transportation and Air Quality. A study conducted in Portland, Oregon that found that an expanded light rail system, modest work to existing roads and land-use shifts to make communities more public transit oriented would reduce traffic congestion and pollution compared to the Western Bypass (now canceled). Parsons, Brinkerhoff, one of the LUTRAQ contractors, is a major highway construction consultant.
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA): Federal law that governs the approval of major Federal actions, including federal-aid highway construction, BLM land exchanges and Army Corps of Engineers wetland destruction permits. NEPA prohibits segmenting a large project into smaller pieces to avoid disclosing impacts. NEPA is the law that mandates Environmental Assessments (for projects that lack “significant impact”) or Environmental Impact Statements (for large projects).
no-build alternative: a NEPA requirement that all proposed actions must be compared with. On June 19, 2001, ODOT, FHWA and local governments agreed to select "No Build" to close out the WEP EIS.
parkway: Traditionally, a roadway of two or four lanes with increased forest buffer to reduce visual and noise impacts on nearby neighborhoods. Parkways do not allow truck traffic and may or may not be completely limited access (ie., some parkways have traffic lights and at-grade intersections). In recent years, this word has lost most of its meaning since numerous superhighway projects are now called Parkways even though trucks are permitted. This word is central to campaigns to persuading uncertain citizens that highways are compatible with natural ecosystems.
Peak Oil: the all time maximum rate of extraction of petroleum, as charted on a curve. All oil fields have a roughly bell curve shaped rate of production – the initial extraction is of oil that is under pressure and is easiest to extract, but once half of the oil is removed, retrieving the remaining supplies becomes much more difficult. The only debate among petroleum geologists about the precise timing of the global peak of petroleum production is exactly when it will occur, and how fast extract rates will decline – the reality of Peak Oil is not seriously disputed by experts in the field. Most of the debate is between geologists who think we are currently near, or at, the global peak, and those who think it is later in this decade or slightly into the next decade (the official US Geological Survey position is that the global peak is still about three decades away, still in most of our lifetimes but close enough to be an immediate crisis). The peak of oil discoveries worldwide was four decades ago, around 1962. The peak of oil discoveries in the United States was in the 1930s, about four decades before the peak of production in 1970. Much of the theoretical basis for analyzing Peak Oil was performed by the geologist M. King Hubbert in the mid-1950s, who accurately predicted the US would peak around 1970 and that the global peak would come around 2000. President Bush and Vice President Cheney are privately very aware of Peak Oil, and it is likely that 9/11 was allowed to happen (if not arranged) to provide the pretext to invade the Middle East oil fields as the world reaches peak production, since control of the world’s remaining supplies will determine who will control the global economy in the coming decades.
purpose and need: a statement that provides justification for a federal action that will be analyzed by an EIS or EA (the first stage of the NEPA process). Any alternative from a citizens' group that seeks to invalidate an agency's preferred option must demonstrate that it meets the project's purpose and need.
record of decision: the final part of an EIS process, whereby a Federal agency approves its preferred alternative. A federally funded highway cannot be litigated in Federal court until the ROD has been signed, since before that point in the decision making process the proposed road is merely a consideration, no decision has formally been made.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID): radio-frequency identification, a new technique for massive tracking of nearly everything on Earth. An RFID chip is about the size of a grain of rice, and contains a small transmitter that emits an 18 digit identification number when a particular wavelength of radio energy is aimed at it (it is a totally passive system, no battery or other internal power source is needed). RFID chips are sought by large grocery stores to replace bar codes, which would enable tracking of individual objects to a much greater degree of precision (RFID chips would keep track of each individual bottle of shampoo, bar codes merely identify that shampoo bottle as a particular brand). RFID chips are planned for credit cards, paper currency, drivers licenses, car tires, grocery store products, and are even being implanted under the skin of people in experimental trial runs. A global surveillance society based on RFID chips would be far more intrusive than any previous dictatorships, far outstripping the police states of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia or Apartheid South Africa.
scope: the NEPA process where the range of alternatives are developed for detailed study in an EIS or EA
Section 4(f): A section of the 1966 Transportation Act that prohibits Federal highways through parks, wildlife refuges and historic properties unless there are no “prudent and feasible” alternatives. Section 4(f) requires that agencies consider avoidance before mitigation of impacts. These alternatives may include shifting a highway alignment or adopting a different land use and transportation policy instead of a new highway, as was done in Portland, Oregon.
segmentation: the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 prohibits “segmentation” of a large Federal project into segments to avoid full disclosure of adverse environmental and/or social impacts. see independent utility.
stakeholder: “a person entrusted with the stakes
of bettors” (Webster’s Dictionary)