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Environmental planning in Florida: Florida’s environmental screening tool: laying the technology foundation for efficient transportation decision making

Abstract

Florida has recently developed a new, more efficient process for conducting environmental reviews of transportation projects. The Environmental Screening Tool, an interactive database and mapping application available on the Internet, is fundamental to the success of the new process. The Environmental Screening Tool integrates resource and project data from multiple sources into one standard format, provides quick and standardized analysis of the effects of the proposed projects on the human and natural environment, and supports effective communication of results among all stakeholders, including the public. Because an innovative technology solution was fundamental to the success of the new process, application development occurred in conjunction with process refinements. This created a very flexible environment in which the process could be refined to take advantage of technology, and the technology could be easily adjusted, as process details were defined. As the ETDM process was refined, the Environmental Screening Tool was developed using the following general steps: 1. Determine general system requirements for the conceptual process 2. Lay the database foundation 3. Design and develop the user interface in modules 4. Update and add tools within the modules as the process details are refined Version 1.0 of the Environmental Screening Tool has been tested and statewide training completed in the summer of 2003. Participant feedback on the utility of the application has been very positive. Additional enhancements will most likely continue through the first year of implementation, as the new process is refined. Requests for enhancements have been compiled and will be incorporated into version 2 of the Environmental Screening Tool in the fall of 2003. The tool integrates Internet mapping technology, relational database management system and GIS. This integration was implemented using industry-standard platform-independent development tools such as Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), Java Script, Java Server Pages (JSP) and Extensible Markup Language (XML). The Environmental Screening Tool was deployed at the University of Florida in conjunction with the Florida Geographic Data Library (FGDL), a repository of Geographic Information System data gathered from federal, state, and local governments. Users access the application from their desktop computer by connecting to a secure website using Internet Explorer. The application was jointly developed by URS and the University of Florida under contract with the Florida Department of Transportation, Environmental Management Office, with funding from the State of Florida and the Federal Highway Administration. The cost of developing the Environmental Screening Tool, Version 1, was approximately $1,255,000. This paper describes the Environmental Screening Tool with an emphasis on the functionality, development methodology, and implementation strategy.

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