Posts Tagged ‘planning’

Can Blazing Saddles Demostrate the NEPA Process

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

When discussing transportation, there is always the issue of community involvement.  (FHWA has several good resources here on transportation capacity building and working with the public sector.)  However, it is often difficult to explain why the community should care about transportation investments within their area, including environmental issues.  The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) calls for Federal Agencies to address environmental concerns during the decision making process.  While many resources explaining the NEPA process, I think the Council on Environmental Quality, Executive Office of the President, “A Citizen’s Guide to the NEPA” ranks among the best.

However, when explaining the need for communities to be engaged in transportation, I fall back to one of the great comedies. This week celebrates the 40th anniversary of Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles”.   I often mention “Blazing Saddles” could be used to demonstrate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process at a local level.   You have to stay with me on this one and no, don’t take this too seriously…

We have a proposed project:  Building a Railroad through Rock Ridge

The railroad wants to align its tracks through the town Rock Ridge to avoid the quicksand.   Initially, Hedley Lamarr wants the population to move but the community protests the recent acts of terrorism.  In a town hall (community meeting), they appeal to the Governor for assistance.  (Yes, I know there was no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in the movie.)


So, to drive the people to support the project (i.e., move) an outsider is sent into influence the situation. 

Hedley Lamarr hopes that Sheriff Bart will drive the people away, but instead the Sheriff rallies the people together in opposing the project.  An alternative is considered and built, although the original project supporters are not necessary away of this…

There is a huge fight over the project, but at the end, there was no resolution to the proposed project.

Once I explained this to someone, they said.  “Cool, but you forgot that at the end the consultant drove away in a Cadillac.”

In sum, Blazing Saddles matched against the NEPA process outlined in the Citizen’s Guide…




nepa and blazing saddles

Well, there you have it… Blazing Saddles and the NEPA process.  I am a big Mel Brooks’ fan so its always nice to revisit the “old” classics.  I hope you enjoyed my little editorial on the challenges of making freight transportation improvements!

Freight Advisory Council and State DOT’s

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

The current MAP-21 calls for freight plans to consider outreach to private sector freight interests.  (Sec 1117).   One of the challenges is oftentimes the time scale for public and private decision making is fairly off.  For example, the planning cycle for a private sector project may be five years, while a public sector project may be much longer…

There is a talking freight seminar on freight advisory councils  (If you have any questions, please contact Jennifer Symoun, SAIC, 703-318-4267 or

Some other resources on working between public and private sector groups are:

(NCFRP) Report 8: Freight-Demand Modeling to Support Public-Sector Decision Making
I also did a presentation for the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce where I discussed the difference between public and private sector investment.