Project planning is the first development stage of a project when the Project Sponsor identifies capital project concepts to address transportation needs and opportunities. Project planning aims to identify and compare the costs, benefits, and impacts of project options to provide private and government decision-makers with information to achieve transportation solutions. For railroad projects that may be used by multiple operators (i.e., "shared infrastructure"), the Project Sponsor should consider and coordinate the needs of the various operators during project planning. FRA encourages Project Sponsors to identify potentially impacted environmental resources and engage with interested parties, six agencies, and the public to link project planning to the subsequent environmental review process early on.
Project Planning Objectives: A primary goal of project planning is to develop concepts that establish the type and scope of capital improvements that best meet the goals and objectives identified in systems planning. Project planning elements may include railroad transportation market forecasting, operations analysis, fleet planning, station and facility planning, cost analysis, environmental resource consideration, resilience planning, and financial and economic analysis. Public disclosure of potentially impacted environmental resources and engagement of potentially affected communities, Indian Tribes, and the public, as part of project planning, can allow for linking project planning to the subsequent environmental review in project development. In successful project planning, the Project Sponsor identifies one or more design concepts to advance during the project development stage. Key elements of project planning include:
- a description of the transportation needs and opportunities for the project;
- the goals and objectives, including environmental factors, that the Project Sponsor used to assess the performance of design concepts;
- conceptual engineering and other design that defines project concepts;
- consideration of avoidance, minimization, and mitigation of potential environmental effects on the natural and human environment resources; and
- an evaluation of how the design concepts meet the goals and objectives, considering capital and operating cost implications, and whether they have stakeholder support and a rationale for implementation.
Project planning involves identifying a project’s purpose and need, conceptual engineering, considering alternatives, and stakeholder engagement.