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Task 3 Report: The Business Case for Advance Mitigation in California


Research Report

Urban Land Use and Transportation Center

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Suggested Citation:
Sciara, Gian-Claudia, Elizabeth Stryjewski, Jacquelyn Bjorkman, James H. Thorne, Melanie Schlotterbeck (2015) Task 3 Report: The Business Case for Advance Mitigation in California. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-15-03

When developing or improving transportation infrastructure in ways that impact ecosystems, habitats, and species, transportation agencies are obliged through compensatory mitigation to offset these impacts with the conservation and restoration of natural resources.  Traditionally, transportation agencies plan and implement such mitigation project-by-project and late in the project development cycle.  In contrast, the practice of advance mitigation aims much earlier in project development to estimate impacts from one or multiple projects, assess the mitigation required, and undertake mitigation to satisfy those requirements.  

There is wide acknowledgment that early, more comprehensive mitigation promises potential benefits, including reduced project delays and costs and improved mitigation quality.  Yet, shifting from conventional, project-by-project mitigation will require new ways of planning and funding transportation mitigation activities.  The Statewide Advance Mitigation Funding and Finance Study (SAMFFS), funded by the California Department of Transportation, informs current understanding of advance mitigation with three pieces of research:
     1. a background report contextualizing experiences with the advance mitigation of transportation projects (Task 2, UCD-ITS-RR-15-02);

     2. a business case examining the potential costs and benefits of advance mitigation (Task 3, UCD-ITS-RR-15-03); and

     3. an analysis of how mitigation could be funded (and planned and implemented) far ahead of the typical project delivery time-line (Task 4, UCD-ITS-RR-15-04).

This Task 3 report, “The Business Case for Advance Mitigation in California,” outlines the potential benefits and costs associated with this approach.  It finds that available evidence provides optimism that advance mitigation could lead to financial and staff time savings to Caltrans, via mitigation costs avoided, economies of scale in necessary mitigation expenditures, and avoided procedural costs and project delays.    

The study includes:
     1. discussion of available evidence on advance mitigation’s financial benefits.

     2. estimates of Caltrans project delays that could be attenuated with advance mitigation, and examination of the agency’s own current mitigation costs;

     3. empirical and hypothetical scenarios examining potential cost savings and risk associated with advance acquisition of mitigation land; and  

     4. case studies of advance mitigation in action, including the SR-76 Middle project completed under SANDAG’s Environmental Mitigation Program, and OCTA’s Measure M2 Environmental Mitigation Program.