Incentive-Based Approaches for Environmental Stewardship

For decades, state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) have wrestled with different ways to respond to community and resource agency needs and to go about deciding what environmental benefits or mitigation to include in transportation projects and how that should be decided. All too often, the process and the negotiations have been very contentious. Many DOT professionals have felt other parties have taken advantage, that DOTs are always or regularly treated as the “deep pockets” or as a more easily regulated party, and that DOTs end up mitigating “more than their fair share,” whether out of their stewardship commitments or due to external pressure. Other stakeholders have their own versions of this refrain. Regardless of the reasonability of the feelings, the perceptions are real. Furthermore, relevant research describes and predicts the process that DOTs have experienced; in repeatable dispute resolution experiments, it has been shown that when parties play or game for their own or their exclusive gain, the results for both parties come out worse. Incentives involve exchange of benefits between agencies. Thus incentives have much to do with harmonizing interests. Incentive based approaches have the following attributes: (1) “Win-win” - generating benefits for the DOT as well as other parties, in a “win-win” approach. (2) Proactive – surprise requirements did not appear at the end of the process and “bite” the DOT or the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). (3) Straightforward. The approach understood, pursued, and accomplished the interests of the parties involved. Regulatory processes were not misused, such that one regulatory process was employed as an indirect method to get something completely unrelated to that regulatory process. (4) Cooperative and Low Conflict – a “stick” was not used to force the DOT to produce the benefit achieved; in fact, sometimes approaches were voluntary, building partnerships and good will by benefiting resources or accomplishing objectives that might be reached through no regulatory channel. The parties each contributed what they could, from data to expertise to resources, and the parties felt good about the ability of the approach to meet mutual interests. The panel envisioned that projects or plans following this approach “could be supported by multiple constituencies—while allowing for consistent, cost-effective delivery.” (5) Addressing “broader goals and needs.” Broader spaces in which to consider needs and opportunities allow parties more room to look for creative partnerships and incentive-based resolutions to issues and needs. The Request for Proposal (RFP) talks about “including broader…goals and needs.” (6) Creative and innovative. Incentive based approaches are also often characterized by creative and innovative solutions that incorporate unusual and efficient ways to meet needs and interests that would otherwise be difficult to meet. Both internally at DOTs and between agencies, environmental staff routinely use a variety of subtle carrot and stick approaches in negotiating with each other and garnering internal cooperation of design, construction, maintenance, and administration leaders to “do the right thing.” This project focused on finding the carrot instead of the stick, as a method to improve environmental stewardship, tilting the balance toward what can be accomplished voluntarily and cooperatively. The research examines incentive based approaches both on the regulatory end of the spectrum, for environmental compliance and emerging wholly voluntary areas of agency response.

  • Record URL:
  • Summary URL:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This study was requested by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and conducted as part of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 25-25. Project 25-25 is intended to fund quick response studies on behalf of the AASHTO Standing Committee on the Environment.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Venner Consulting

    Lakewood, CO  United States  80232

    ICF International

    Corporate Headquarters, 9300 Lee Highway
    Fairfax, VA  United States  22031
  • Authors:
    • Venner, Marie
    • Paulsen, Chris
    • Gallivan, Frank
  • Publication Date: 2009-5


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; References;
  • Pagination: 95p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01497415
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: NCHRP Project 25-25, Task 50
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Nov 1 2013 8:56AM