Finding the Carrot Instead of the Stick - Incentive-based Approaches for Environmental Compliance

Focus Area

NEPA Process


Environmental Process







Research Idea Scope

TERI Database Administrator Notes: Funded as “Finding the Carrot Instead of the Stick – Incentive-based Approaches for Environmental Compliance” (NCHRP 25-25: Task 50).

Planning, construction, and operations of transportation projects frequently ignore environmental goals, including community desires and needs, until there is an adverse reaction. Someone brings out the “stick,” and the project is reformulated or retrofitted to address the deficiency at a significant cost and/or time delay. If there were a scoping framework to redefining the purpose transportation project at the outset and identifying comprehensively all relevant needs/purposes/benefits, then the project could be supported and empowered by multiple constituencies. The incentive for the owner using the framework would be to limit surprises and to control cost and duration. Other incentives could be offered the owner such as tax reductions or write-offs, right-a-way easements, etc. The downside to providing environmental/community benefits for transportation projects is that they become visibly more expensive at the outset (instead having a cost overrun at the their completion) or their operating expense increased. Other forms of incentives may affect local tax revenue or future land-use decisions.

There are many more questions than answers in this area. How can an incentive-based framework be used to achieve environmental goals during the development of transportation projects including infrastructure construction and project operations and maintenance? How can existing national, state, and local bureaucratic processes be used to promote a new incentive based framework while de-emphasizing current adversarial tensions? Are there models from other sectors that use incentive-based methods to influence behavior and decision making? Are there sufficient demonstrated benefits for applying an incentives-based framework in transportation project formulation, development, or operations to risk not have the project funded? Does this approach enable environmental goals to be identified simultaneously with the transportation goals? How should a framework be structured that enables a project management to know that all potential project purposes have been identified? If at the beginning of a project (during a Tier I environmental impact statement stage) a project manager used a public scoping meeting to identify economic development, community improvements, or habitat restoration, would a greater number of other agencies become cooperating agencies in the process? Are there mechanisms for funding transportation projects that have crosscutting benefits at the federal, state, and local level?

Suggested By

Transportation Research Board 2002 Environmental Research Needs Conference Notes

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