Methodology for analyzing noise and vibration impacts on different terrestrial species

Focus Area



Community & Cultural Concerns, Environmental Process






2-3 years

Research Idea Scope

The objective is to develop a consistent methodology for analyzing noise and vibration impacts on different terrestrial species. Develop standard metrics and procedures for the DOTs to conduct noise analyses of our highway projects on wildlife, terrestrial and aquatic, based on science and good practice. Tasks and Deliverables Task 1: Conduct Interviews of DOTs and of Oil and Gas Companies Conduct interviews of DOTs in representative ecoregions for information on species consultations or for developed guidance. See what species DOTs are most concerned about and which species would benefit from developed noise and vibration assessment guidance, to narrow the species, or even guilds, focus of this study going forward to those that would benefit the DOTs the most. Among the choices of DOTs, include CA because of their available protocol for addressing noise impacts to birds and bats. Other states that have expressed an interest in noise analyses include MT, CO, UT, NV, AZ, ND, OK, IL, KY, OH, WY, WV, ME, and NH and may be possible states to reach out to during this process. Task 2: Literature Review Conduct a literature review focusing on those species of concern and ecoregions as identified in Task 1 regarding noise and vibration effects on wildlife in the transportation and energy industry with a focus on noise and vibration assessments of differing environments and species and the mitigation criteria being used to permit various projects (including restrictions, attenuation, monitoring). Identify data gaps in existing literature and practice. Be sure to reach out to the USFWS and state Game and Fish organizations to collect any direction or requirements that they have included during their consultations with stakeholders and find out if they are consistent among the various states. Evaluate findings from the interviews and literature review to determine (at a minimum) the different and similar methodologies required for noise and vibration analysis by species, if there are any unsupported restrictions or conservations measures required, what are existing mitigation strategies, what works and what doesn’t, what is the best available science used by the regulatory agencies, and what are the newest mitigation technologies being used relative to species and reducing noise. Develop a draft report, disseminate draft for review, incorporate comments, and prepare a final literature review report. Task 3: Develop Guidance for Methodologies Used for Analyzing Noise and Vibration Impacts on Various Wildlife Species Develop standard metrics and procedures for the DOTs to conduct noise and vibration analyses of our highway projects on terrestrial wildlife identified in Task 1 and 2, based on science and good practice. Bring stakeholders together from State Highway Agencies (SHAs), FHWA and Regional/State USFWS offices to create these strategies and standards. Task 4: Develop Guidance for Mitigation for Use on State Highway Agency Projects Under the Agreement of Governing Regulatory Agencies. Develop options for mitigation with and without monitoring that will be acceptable to regulatory agencies, such as a list of tested and viable construction methods to reduce impacts in a variety of environments. Bring stakeholders together from State Highway Agencies (SHAs), FHWA and Regional/State USFWS offices to create these strategies and standards. Make recommendations on where further research is needed. Task 5: Document Acceptance of Developed Guidance and Methodologies by Governing Regulatory Agencies. Develop guidance and document in an agreement, understanding, or other method that documents the acceptance by these stakeholders of the methodologies developed in Task 3 and 4, with support from Tasks 1 and 2. Get signatures of these Governing Regulatory Agencies, and FHWA on the final agreement, understanding, or other document as determined appropriate by these stakeholders.

Urgency and Payoff

Currently, state and federal wildlife regulatory agencies are implementing requirements for meeting certain noise thresholds for highway transportation projects. Yet, DOTs have little to no guidance from federal agencies on how to conduct noise analyses and estimate noise impacts on wildlife from federal agencies. This lack of guidance results in noise studies/analyses that may be inaccurate, non-comparative from state to state (or study to study), or completely unnecessary. New guidance would allow DOTs to expedite noise impact analyses; saving substantial time and money by addressing this issue in the impact assessment phase. It could also prevent or lower mitigation costs while increasing effective protections for sensitive species. There is also a benefit from consistency among methodologies so that studies can be comparable and so that the level of effort needed for this analysis can be predicted during project planning.

Suggested By


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