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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure

Monday, January 5, 2015

Volpe’s environmental and planning experts led a group of eight federal agencies and several states to develop an unprecedented guide for creating infrastructure development in a way that considers regional natural resource priorities.

The Challenge

Transportation infrastructure and services can have negative effects on wildlife habitats and ecosystems. Efforts to address negative impacts on a project-by-project basis are not always sufficient to protect the environment.

The Solution

Facilitated by Volpe experts, a group of eight U.S. federal agencies signed and published Eco-Logical: An Ecosystem Approach to Developing Infrastructure Projects in 2006. This publication highlights a method known as the “Eco-Logical approach,” which is a strategy for integrating planning across agency boundaries and achieving cost-effective infrastructure development that considers regional ecosystem priorities.

Cover image of the "Eco-Logical" publication showing images of wildlife and nature.

Eco-Logical calls for transportation and resource agencies to develop a regional ecosystem framework, which identifies ecologically significant areas, potentially impacted resources, areas to avoid, and mitigation opportunities, prior to the initiation of an infrastructure project.

Stakeholder involvement plays a key role in Eco-Logical’s holistic and integrated approach. Volpe currently works with FHWA to administer a dynamic and growing program comprised of activities that include grant programs, strategic outreach and communications, cutting-edge research, training, and technical assistance.

The Impact

The publication proposed that the Eco-Logical approachwould yield improved environmental outcomes and reduced project delivery timelines. Through tracking pilot projects across the U.S. and activities of the eight federal agencies, Volpe and the Federal Highway Administration team have found that the approach has already resulted in valuable relationships, broad agency support, and improved data coordination and analysis tools.

Since the publication of Eco-Logical, national programs, policies, and initiatives have been introduced. Some of the initiatives include the following:

  • U.S. Federal Highway Administration Eco-Logical Grant Program
  • Eco-Logical Signatory Agency Meetings
  • Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) Implementation Activities


Paved road winding through a forest.

Federal Highway Administration