Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Project development

Environmental process | Environmental review

Section 4(f)


Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 is a federal law intended to prevent conversion of certain parks, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, recreation areas or historic properties to transportation use, unless the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) determines there is no feasible and prudent alternative, and all possible planning has been done to minimize harm to the Section 4(f) properties .

This law applies to highway projects where the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is the U.S. DOT agency involved. Section 4(f) could also apply, with a somewhat different process, to projects where the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), or other U.S. DOT agency is involved.

When to use this subject

FHWA has the final determination regarding Section 4(f) impacts and applicability. Since Section 4(f) issues can be complex, if in doubt about Section 4(f) applicability consult with the MnDOT Office of Environmental Stewardship (OES) and see the Section 4(f) Process and other guidance pages.

Section 4(f) applies if the answer is “yes” to all of the following questions:

  • Is there U.S. DOT involvement?
  • Are there Section 4(f) properties in, or nearby, the project area?
  • Are there potential impacts to Section 4(f) properties?

If there is no U.S. DOT involvement, then Section 4(f) does not apply. Any action by FHWA (or any other U.S. DOT agency) constitutes U.S. DOT involvement. Such actions include:

  • Using federal transportation funds on the project, or
  • Needing a permit or approval from a U.S. DOT agency (including any that the U.S. DOT agency has delegated to MnDOT)

How this subject fits into the overall project development process

Start looking at possible Section 4(f) impacts early in the project planning or scoping phase. Efforts must be made to avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts to Section 4(f) properties. Should impacts be unavoidable, you must complete a Section 4(f) analysis before the NEPA document can be approved. OES and the FHWA must be involved with the development and approval of any impact involving a Section 4(f) use. This means any Section 4(f) impact other than a Temporary Occupancy, which are only reviewed by OES.

Organizations involved