Department of Transportation

I-80 Rockfall Mitigation Photo

Project Overview

This Interstate 80 (I-80) segment, between mileposts 1.04 and 1.45, has been continually characterized as having the highest rockfall hazard rating scores (i.e., highest risk) in the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) Rockfall Hazard Management System (RHMS), which is based on the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Rockfall Hazard Rating System. The purpose of the I-80 Rockfall Mitigation Project is to increase safety and improve the mobility of the traveling public by reducing the frequency and severity of rockfall events. The proposed project is located in Hardwick and Knowlton Townships, Warren County, New Jersey.

I-80 serves as a regional connection between New Jersey and Pennsylvania and as a local access corridor to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA). Both functions are critical to the recreation and economic viability of residents, commuters, tourists, and the general public. This segment of highway carries approximately 51,000 vehicles per day (which is about 18.5 million vehicles per year).

The existing rock cut areas along the westbound lanes of I-80 within the project limits exhibit physical and geological safety hazards. The primary modes of rock instability identified during the data collection and site characterization of the area include planar sliding, wedge sliding, toppling, rock mass failure, and discrete rockfall as evidenced by the large overhangs, steep vertical faces, loose boulders, and rock blocks, which have resulted in rocks toppling down and landing on the shoulder and roadway lanes and washouts along the I-80 roadway. A series of large open fissures exists in the area near the steep vertical rock wall, and if not stabilized, there is the potential for a major rockfall event to occur. This high rockfall risk, combined with the high volume of motorists traveling on I-80 through the DWGNRA, results in an important concern for the safety and mobility of the traveling public and is the primary basis for the Project’s purpose and need.

Project Delivery Process Overview

The Project Delivery Process is how the NJDOT evaluates, plans, designs, and constructs capital projects. This process provides consistency and is how NJDOT works to ensure a quality product is created on time and at the lowest possible cost. This standard process serves as a foundation for all of NJDOT's service areas and guidance to project management staff. The FHWA requires the use of a formal project delivery process to obtain approval and access to federal funding. The NJDOT's Project Delivery Process aligns with FHWA's regulations. It controls and simplifies the process by which federal approval and funding are obtained. The Project Delivery Process consists of the Problem Screening Phase, Concept Development Phase, Preliminary Engineering Phase, Final Design Phase, and Construction Phase.

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NEPA Process Overview

As the recipient of federal transportation funds, the NJDOT must comply with the FHWA's implementation of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) regulations (codified at 23 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] Part 771 Environmental Impact and Related Procedures). NEPA provides a planning and decision-making framework for selecting the most feasible and prudent project alternative that avoids or reduces negative social, economic, and environmental impacts.

In practical application during NJDOT's Project Delivery Process, the principle "avoid, minimize, and mitigate" steers a project toward selecting the most feasible and prudent alternative that results in the least environmental harm, in balance with other engineering and transportation considerations (e.g., design standards, costs, right-of-way, utilities), to best address the Purpose and Need for the project. The NJDOT's rockfall mitigation projects comply with permitting for publicly owned lands, historic and cultural resources, and threatened and endangered (T&E) species, among others.

An Environmental Assessment (EA) is prepared when it is unclear if a project will cause significant adverse environmental impacts. Intensive studies are only performed for those social, economic, and environmental resources that might experience significant adverse impacts. In May 2018, after conferring with FHWA, the National Park Service (NPS), and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), NJDOT determined that preparation of an EA would be appropriate for the I-80 Rockfall Mitigation Project due to its unique location and to allow for additional public involvement.

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Click here for the “Environmental Overview of Regulations and Permits” Manual.

Last updated date: January 8, 2021 1:16 PM