Before any road construction can begin, the project must be fully explored and developed for feasibility and environmental impacts. For NCDOT, the Project Development and Environmental Analysis Branch (PDEA) is responsible for the development and preparation of planning and environmental documents for all highway projects in the STIP. At the local level, the Town is required to go through this exact same step if any federal funding is to be applied to the project.
PDEA staff evaluates proposed highway projects according to established engineering practices and guidelines set forth by federal and
state laws and regulations. The process includes specialized environmental studies and coordination with the environmental regulatory agencies to ensure appropriate consideration is given to environmental matters. Specialists in such fields as noise and air quality, archaeology, architectural history, biology, land-use planning and sociology provide evaluations regarding the environmental impacts of proposed highway projects. The process also involves design and traffic engineering studies, which provide an analysis of highway alternatives to safely, efficiently and economically meet future travel demands.
Citizens are encouraged to participate in this process by attending informational workshops and hearings held to obtain public comment and input on proposed highway projects. Public input is evaluated and addressed during the development of highway improvements.
If the Town decides to fund a project totally out of its own pockets, this step is simplified some, but still involves a great deal of analysis and permitting with the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the North Carolina Division of Water Quality to acquire the necessary Environmental permits to comply with existing Federal and State rules.