In July 1999, Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which included Streamlining provisions relating to environmental permitting and review of transportation projects. That legislation prompted the State of Florida to implement a more efficient transportation planning and environmental review process – named the Efficient Transportation Decision Making (ETDM). The overall intent of ETDM is to improve transportation decision-making in a way that protects the human and the natural environments. The ETDM process defines the procedures for planning transportation projects, conducting environmental reviews, and developing and permitting projects. The approach includes active participation of federal, state, and local agencies, and the public.
ETDM is partially facilitated through an innovative technology application, the Environmental Screening Tool (EST). The EST is an Internet-accessible application that provides tools to input and update information about transportation projects, perform standardized analyses, gather and report comments about potential project effects, and provide information to the public. The EST brings together information about a project and provides analytical and visualization tools that help synthesize and communicate that information. The EST user community includes staff from 7 FDOT district offices, 26 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), approximately 26 resource agencies, and the general public.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) developed the EST and ETDM tools with in-house staff, consultants, and the University of Florida GeoPlan Center. The application is deployed at the University of Florida in conjunction with the Florida Geographic Data Library (FGDL), a repository of GIS data gathered from federal, state, and local governments. The GeoPlan Center houses the digital databases of environmental and community resource information used in the project and the data is accessible to all users with high-speed Internet access.