Highway planning and development is an intricate, highly involved process during which must take a number of factors into consideration during the creation of a plan for new roadways. One of the most important aspects to be considered is the impact that any new development will have on the environment. This must be studied and assessed prior to any action being taken. The effects of a project on the environment can prevent its development completely if it is determined that the environment would be harmed or meet with detrimental consequences should it move forward as is. This is especially true if the proposed development includes poorly planned and improperly designed outlines for highways. This would include any type of development which would potentially cause damage (immediate, short-term or long-term) to the local natural habitat, or the social or economic environment. Noise, air, and water pollution, damage to a community’s cultural or social structure, etc., must be avoided when a highway development plan is being created.
A three-step process has been set in place to outline and oversee all environmental considerations when planning a roadway system.
As continuous assessment and maintenance will be required with any roadway system, the process by which these potentially damaging factors can be identified and eliminated must be ongoing and updated whenever necessary. As areas expand, grow, or change in other ways, these factors can change as well. Some things that may not have caused an issue in the past may now be a problem, and some may no longer require attention. Should an area experience a huge population growth, expansion of roadways may become necessary. Such a situation would essentially require a complete reassessment of the area(s) which would benefit the most from new avenues of travel, and the process of environmental assessment impact determination would start all over again.
While such detailed evaluation and planning may be seen by some as unnecessary and a hindrance to an area’s growth, the consequences of disregarding such an assessment would soon be devastating to the area as a whole. All environments which will play a part in the new structure of an area must be studied and taken into full consideration in order to prevent total breakdown and potentially irreparable damage to the systems which are already in place, whether natural or man-made. While some developers or other “big business” moguls think that the progression of society supersedes the natural environment and ecosystems, history has shown that disregarding that which the earth has set in place to any great degree has extremely harmful results. Respect for all facets of the environment is an absolute necessity in order to create an infrastructure that works like a well-oiled machine and which everyone will benefit from.