Overview of the 6-Step Process

The 6-Step Process is the starting point for all projects on the I-70 Mountain Corridor, and it is used to ensure collaboration. The 6-Step Process is consistent with Decision Science principles and can be followed on all projects from corridor-wide planning to construction change orders. Established plans, such as emergency plans, do not require that implementation decisions use the 6-Step Process. These steps are intended to provide a clear and repeatable process that is fair and understandable. The order of the steps is as important as the activities within each step.

6 step process

Using the Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) Guidance and other relevant materials, this step establishes the project goals and actions. It also defines the teams to be used and decisions to be made. Relevant material may include the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), previously developed plans or commitments, environmental documents, and current program documents. These provide the initial input into establishing the goals for the project. If the project is in the Project Design phase, for example, the desired outcomes should reflect those documented in the Project Development phase and the CSS Guidance.

During Step 1 in Life Cycle Phase 1: I-70 Mountain Corridor Planning, a Project Leadership Team (PLT) is established and should be carried through all subsequent phases of a project. By using the 6-Step Process framework, the PLT will develop the specific process to be used during decision making, including teams, team roles and responsibilities, and interactions during the project.

Sample tasks and documentation matrices have been developed for each of the Life Cycle Phases to guide the 6-Step Process in each phase.

Step 2 establishes participants, roles, and responsibilities for each team. The process is endorsed by discussing, possibly modifying, and then finalizing with all teams the desired outcomes and actions to be taken. Endorsing the process includes clarifying teams and expectations for use in the process, developing a schedule, and confirming the project-specific decision process.

During Step 2 of a project in the Project Development phase, for example, the Project Leadership Team (PLT) and the Project Staff may form a Technical Team to support the project. The PLT leads the effort to gain the endorsement of the process.

 Step 3: Establish Criteria

Step 3 establishes criteria, which provides the basis for making decisions consistent with desired outcomes and project goals. The criteria support the Core Values and previously developed agreements and commitments, as well as design standards and other state and federal requirements.

The Project Staff will review the Context Statement, Core Values, Issues by Core Value,  and CSS Evaluation Guidance for every project or study to identify criteria and guidance relevant to the decisions that will be made on the project. The Project Staff will work with the Project Leadership Team (PLT), county representatives, and the public to establish project-specific vision, goals, and criteria. This activity is initiated with Scoping on National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) projects. On smaller, less complex projects, the development of a project vision and project-specific goals and criteria can be accomplished in focused working sessions with the PLT, Project Staff, county representatives, and the public.

The purpose of establishing criteria is to support a structured decision-making process and ensure that decisions made and alternatives selected support the desired outcomes and actions, as well as the Core Values. In order to establish a fair process that reflects the stated outcomes and project goals, it is important to determine the criteria prior to developing potential alternatives.

Step 3 tracks how concerns and issues are used in the formation of criteria, allowing stakeholders and affected parties to see how their interests will be considered and permitting them to monitor the outcome in a meaningful way.

It is important to represent the needs of all stakeholders in the criteria -- including local, state, and federal priorities and requirements, as well as previous comments and concerns identified through earlier efforts in the corridor. Criteria should reflect the range of stakeholder interests, including community, interest group, and local needs and priorities. It is critical that the full range of interests and requirements be incorporated into criteria to support an evaluation process that meets requirements and interests in a clear and transparent manner.

Applicable legal and policy requirements must also be incorporated into the criteria to ensure their inclusion in alternative evaluation and selection. Such requirements may include American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) design standards and NEPA criteria.

A good criterion is measurable and relevant to the project decision, and it distinguishes between alternatives or options.

In Step 4, the Project Staff works with the Project Leadership Team (PLT), stakeholders, and the public to identify alternatives or options relevant to the desired outcomes, project-specific vision, and goals. This work includes the review of commitments previously made for improvements, options outlined in the Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) Guidance, and brainstorming options to meet the desired outcome, vision, and goals for the project.

Engaging the public and other interested parties in this step provides an opportunity to identify and consider a wide range of alternatives and ideas in a structured approach. Ideas introduced at this step can be evaluated and documented in a way that all interested parties can track and understand. This minimizes new ideas brought forward in later steps and creates a streamlined and transparent process. Strategies developed in past corridor efforts have been captured in Strategies by Core Value and will supplement the brainstorming effort.

Alternatives or options may include complete alternatives that address the desired outcomes and project goals. They may also be smaller parts of a solution that can be combined into a package of options to form an alternative or elements of an alternative. The important aspect of the brainstorming exercise is to allow all ideas to be captured.  They will all be considered and documented in Step 5: Evaluate, Select, and Refine Alternative or Option.

The process of analyzing and evaluating alternatives applies evaluation criteria to alternatives or options in a way that facilitates decision making. This may be a one-step or multi-step process, depending on the complexity of the alternatives and the decision. The evaluation process may include refining alternatives to develop the final alternative or option. A critical element in this step is the evaluation of all ideas using all previously established criteria.

Effective use of criteria in the evaluation and selection of alternatives applies the criteria at appropriate levels of the decision-making process. If the decision or the criteria are complex, the process may be iterative, applying a series of criteria at differing levels of detail. For example, a three-level process may use broad criteria to screen out unrealistic or unfeasible alternatives and apply more detailed evaluation criteria in subsequent evaluation steps. This helps to streamline the evaluation by focusing on data collection and analysis on viable alternatives. The multi-level evaluation also provides an opportunity to refine options or alternatives to meet the desired goals or outcomes more effectively with a greater understanding of the alternative’s strengths and weaknesses in each criterion.

The Project Staff must clearly document how evaluation criteria are applied to all ideas to provide an easily accessible record of how each idea generated through brainstorming was evaluated and possibly modified.

Continuous documentation should take place throughout the 6-Step Process. Step 6 compiles, summarizes and references the documentation from the previous steps. It also debriefs and evaluates the process, compiling lessons learned and best practices. Final documentation will include the outcome from each of the previous steps, final recommendations, and the process evaluation. Documentation will provide strategies, exercises, and successes for use in future studies.