California Department of Transportation


Last Updated: Thursday, January 5, 2012 11:54 AM

Purpose and Need - Why, Who, When, What, How: a compilation of practical information

 

  • Why: Why a well-defined Purpose and Need statement is important
  • Who: Who develops the Purpose and Need, who participates, and who reviews
  • When: When a Project's Purpose and Need is developed (ongoing, increasingly detailed)
  • What: Elements of a Project's Purpose and Need
  • How: Assorted Suggestions and Lessons Learned

WHY: Why a well-defined Purpose and Need statement is important

  • Avoids developing an ill-conceived project
  • Develops a shared understanding of the transportation problems, objectives and possible solutions
  • Defines a project's scope, guiding development of alternatives, and evaluating alternatives
  • Achieves environmental streamlining
  • Helps to identify potential context sensitive solutions
  • Allows transportation decisions to be legally defensible
  • Justifies impacts and spending of funds
  • Helps justify projects for programming

WHO: Who develops the Purpose and Need, who participates, and who reviews

See the notes for the definitions of the acronyms used.

  RTP TCR/RCR PID PA&ED
Develops Purpose and Need MPO or RTPA CT System Planning PDT (CT/Local Agency) PDT
CT Environmental Planning
Contributes to
Development
CT
Local Agencies
Community
FHWA
FTA
Air Districts
Other Resource Agencies
Other CT functional units Other CT functional units
Other External Stakeholders
Other CT functional untis
Other External Stakeholders
FHWA
Regulatory agencies
Resource Agencies
Reviews
draft
CT
Local Agencies
Community
FHWA
FTA
Air Districts
Other Resources Agencies
Native American Tribal Governments
Adjoining CT
District(s)
state(s)
county
(counties)
country
MPO or RTPA
Local Agencies
Community
FHWA
FTA
Air Districts
Other Resources Agencies
Native American Tribal Governments
Adjoining CT
District(s)
state(s)

county (counties)
country

MPO or RTPA
Local Agencies
Comunity
Resource Agencies
Native AMerican Tribal Governments
Adjoining CT
District(s)
state(s)
county (counties)
country

MPO or RTPA
Local Agencies
Community
FHWA
FTA
Resource Agencies
Regulatory Agencies
Native American Tribal Goverments
Adjoining CT
District(s)
state(s)

county
counties
country

WHEN: When a Project’s Purpose and Need is developed (ongoing, increasingly detailed)

See the notes for the definitions of the acronyms used.

  RTP TCR/RCR PID PA&ED
When Developed Developed when the RTP is drafted: continuous process Updated as needed At initiation of PID, refined throughout PID process At initiation of environmental document, refined throughout environmental process
How Developed Identifies existing future system deficiencies [through modeling, traffic surveys, counts, trends, demographics, accident rates, land use, etc.]
Deficiencies are turned into basic statements of intent that may encompass groups of projects
Public and stakeholder participation
Identifies existing future corridor deficiencies [through modeling, traffic surveys, counts, trends, demographics, accident rates, land use, etc.]
Public and stakeholder participation
Looks at project background, current data PDT meetings Public and stakeholder participation Looks at project background, current data PDT meetings Consultation with regulatory and resource agencies and FHWA, FTA
Public and stakeholder participation

WHAT: Elements of a Project’s Purpose and Need

A project’s purpose and need is a package comprised of:

  • Purpose and Need statement itself. A quality purpose and need statement must briefly and precisely state the transportation problem and the intended project objective.
  • Supporting information and data. This must be detailed enough to substantiate the problem and justify the objective expressed in the purpose and need statement. It may include narrative text (e.g., a description of Level of Service), tables and graphs (e.g., changing accident rates over time), or visuals (e.g., photographs of roadway storm damage). In engineering reports and environmental documents, it can be several paragraphs or pages long.

Elements of a Project’s Need:

  • Establishes evidence of current or future transportation problem or deficiency
  • Is factual and quantifiable
  • Justifies commitment of resources and impacts to the environment
  • Identifies a problem that is fixable/solvable
  • Establishes and justifies logical termini (23 CFR 771 .I 11 (f))

Elements of a Project’s Purpose:

  • Presents objectives to address the need
  • Can be used to develop and evaluate potential solutions
  • Is achievable
  • Is unbiased
  • Is comprehensive enough to allow for a reasonable range of alternatives, and specific enough to limit the range of feasible alternatives
  • Allows for a range of alternatives that are in context with the setting
  • Focuses on multi-modal transportation system

HOW: Assorted Suggestions and Lessons Learned

Participate actively as a member of a Project Development Team (PDT). Start attending early in the process. Stay involved. Use them as a means of communicating a functional unit‘s concerns to the project team. Use them as a forum to work through project issues. Use them to help retain and transfer project information. This will help the PDT identify the needs, the objectives that must be achieved to meet those needs, and the solutions that will fulfill the objectives.

Avoid stating a specific transportation solution as a project’s purpose. For instance, do not state that a project‘s purpose is to “build a four-lane highway.” Worded this way, the purpose specifies a solution to the need, rather than an objective. There may be many other possible solutions, but this wording would preclude consideration of those other options. Instead, try to state the purpose as an objective that must be met; this will make it possible to capture various possible solutions. In this example, the actual objective may be to “relieve congestion” or “improve safety.” This wording allows the project team to consider a range of appropriate solutions to the problem without dictating a specific outcome.

Verify that the Purpose and Need is consistent with strategies as defined in state, regional and local plans, goals and objectives.

When defining a project purpose, be sure that all of the objectives are actually achievable. If certain objectives are not achievable, this can create project delays. In particular, do consider air quality requirements during project development, but do not state that a project purpose is to “improve air quality.” This may not be achievable.

At the Project Approval & Environmental Document stage (PA&ED), identify any project changes since the Project Initiation Document (PID) was prepared. This will help to clarify what the transportation problem is.

Make every effort to keep project files current and accessible. Be aware that others at subsequent phases may need the information in those files so they won’t have to start from scratch to do their work. Each functional unit is part of a much larger process to plan, program and deliver projects and then maintain and operate the facilities. Retaining and transferring project information to others creates continuity, consistency and streamlining.

Advocacy groups can influence the way a project’s purpose and need are defined and can also affect which solutions are considered to meet the stated objectives. Where such input is anticipated, be sure to incorporate resources in project workplans for the interactions.

Acronyms: