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Project Delivery/Streamlining

Recent Developments

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This section describes recent developments related to project delivery/streamlining from the last six months. If you would like to suggest a recent development on this topic, please submit a short description to AASHTO (including any pertinent links) on the Share Info with AASHTO form.

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FHWA 'Successes in Stewardship' Monthly Newsletter

View the most recent issues of FHWA's Successes in Stewardship Newsletter highlighting current environmental streamlining practices from around the country:

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Pennsylvania Transportation Innovation Council Awarded for Innovation

The Pennsylvania Transportation Innovation Council has received an award for excellence in innovation by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Innovation Initiative and the Federal Highway Administration's Center of Accelerating Innovation. The council has been recognized for its efforts in advancing adaptive signal control technology, high-friction surface treatment, and accelerated bridge construction methods. The council also conducted demonstrations concerning new road technologies and products and launched a campaign to understand the most pressing transportation issues for local governments. For more information link to the announcement. (11-13-17)

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Memo Provides ‘Refresher’ on Accommodation of Utilities, Other ROW Uses

A Federal Highway Administration memo offers a “refresher” on existing regulations that govern utility accommodation and uses of highway right-of-way (ROW). The memo addresses the recent increase in demand for use of highway ROW, including accommodation of wireless infrastructure and communication technology. The memo states that FHWA has determined use of highway ROW to be in the public interest, and it describes requirements agencies must meet to preserve operational safety and aesthetic quality of highway facilities. Any non-highway use of ROW requires a ROW use agreement and approval by FHWA. For more information, link to the memo. (10-26-17)

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Endangered Species Consultation Process Highlighted in FHWA Newsletter

The consultation process established under the Endangered Species Act is addressed in the October issue of Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The process is used to ensure that any projects carried out will not jeopardize species or impact critical habitat by requiring collaboration between various agencies. The newsletter highlights the importance of communication and timing for ensuring that all relevant parties are involved and that projects are not delayed. The newsletter also addresses each step of the process which includes identifying the action area and requesting a species list; assessing whether the action will affect resources from the species list; understanding potential adverse effects of the project; and formal consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. For more information, link to the newsletter. (October 2017)

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U.S. DOT Proposal Would Allow Use of State Laws Instead of NEPA

Federal highway, transit and rail agencies have proposed a pilot program that would allow up to five states to conduct environmental reviews and make project approval decisions under their own state environmental laws instead of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Proposed jointly by the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and Federal Railroad Administration, the program would only apply to states that already have been assigned federal environmental review authority for highway projects. States also must have environmental review laws that are comparable to or more stringent than NEPA. For more information, link to the proposal. (9-28-17)

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Agencies Update Proposal on Environmental Review Procedures

Federal highway, transit, and rail agencies have issued a supplemental proposed rule that would revise the joint FHWA/FTA procedures that implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act. The original proposal would revise an exception for park road parkway projects to apply to federal lands transportation facilities, address advance acquisition of real property interests, and expand the emergency actions covered by categorical exclusions. The supplement would add the Federal Railroad Administration to Section 4(f) regulations. The supplement also would update the FHWA/FTA's regulations due to new exceptions created by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. The agencies also are seeking comments regarding the current FHWA and FTA definition of “existing operational right-of-way” in their respective categorical exclusion sections. Comments are due Nov. 28. For more information, link to the notice. (9-29-17)

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TRB Webinar Addresses Ways to Expedite the NEPA Process

The Transportation Research Board has announced a webinar to discuss ways to navigate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The webinar will address how to expedite projects through the NEPA process and whether a project will end up in a lawsuit. The webinar also will address whether a NEPA document will hold up in court and include presentations on what contributes to a project’s inability to obtain expedited NEPA decisions. The webinar is scheduled for Oct. 31, 2017. For more information and to register, link to the announcement.

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CEQ Lists Actions to Modernize Reviews for Infrastructure Projects

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has issued a list of actions aimed at revamping the federal environmental review process for infrastructure projects. The CEQ notice is in response to Executive Order 13807 that calls for reducing the infrastructure permitting timeline to two years and calls for the CEQ to present a list of actions to improve the review process. The CEQ will develop a framework for implementation of “one federal decision” under the National Environmental Policy Act and will review and potentially revise its procedural NEPA regulations. CEQ also will refer high priority projects to the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, Department of Transportation, or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. For more information, link to the federal register notice. (9-14-17)

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FHWA Announces Proposed MOU with Alaska for NEPA Assignment

The Federal Highway Administration has announced an application and proposed memorandum of agreement with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) to assign federal environmental review responsibilities to the state. The draft MOU outlines how the state would implement the program to assume federal authority under the National Environmental Policy Act. The MOU, when approved, would assign to the state decisions related to highway projects that require an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment, except for specified projects. Comments on the draft are due Sept. 25. For more information, link to the notice. (8-25-17)

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Order Calls for Improved Environmental Reviews, Scoring of Agencies’ Implementation

President Trump has issued an executive order aimed at establishing “discipline and accountability” in the environmental review process for infrastructure projects. The order includes a “one federal decision” policy under which the lead federal agency for projects will work with other agencies to complete environmental review and permitting decisions. The order calls for each federal agency to sign a joint record of decision, with all required federal permits to be issued within 90 days following the ROD. The order also requires the Council on Environmental Quality to develop an action plan to improve environmental reviews. CEQ is directed to establish a performance accountability system that will score federal agencies on implementation of the order, with potential for financial penalties for poor performance. For more information, link to the order and related fact sheet. (8-16-17)

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Integrating NEPA, Permitting Reviews Highlighted by FHWA

The integration of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and permitting processes is the Federal Highway Administration’s Every Day Counts (EDC) innovation of the month for August. EDC is the agency’s initiative aimed at shortening project delivery and speeding the deployment of underutilized technologies. Under round four of EDC, the FHWA is supporting 14 state departments of the transportation and the Federal Lands Highway as they demonstrate and assess tools for integrating NEPA and permitting. This synchronization of environmental and permitting reviews significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of project delivery. The FHWA promotes EDC technologies through technical assistance and targeted training, including webinars, case studies, regional peer exchanges, and coordination. For more information, link to EDC-4: Integrating NEPA and Permitting and the Aug. 3 EDC Newsletter. (8-3-17)

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Advisory Council on Infrastructure Established by President

The President has issued an Executive Order to establish a Presidential Advisory Council on Infrastructure. The council is tasked with studying the effectiveness of federal funding, support, and delivery of surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resources, renewable energy generation, electricity transmission, broadband, and pipelines. The council will include of members from real estate, finance, construction, labor and environmental policy sectors. To achieve its mission, the council will provide recommendations concerning the acceleration of pre-construction approval processes, promoting advanced manufacturing and infrastructure-related technological innovation, and the identification of methods to increase public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects. For more information, link to the Executive Order. (7-19-17)

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U.S. DOT Launches Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grants

The Department of Transportation has announced $1.5 billion in funding under a new Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program. The goals of the grant program are to encourage state, local and private sector investment in infrastructure through cost sharing that will stimulate economic expansion. The program also is intended to promote innovation in the project delivery and permitting processes, including public-private partnerships, and have measureable performance and accountability standards. Minimum project sizes are $5 million for small projects and $25 million for large projects, with special consideration given to rural projects. The program is a rebranding of the FASTLANE grant program and will be handled through the USDOT’s Build America Bureau. For more information, including the notice of funding opportunity, link to the INFRA web page. (6-29-17)

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U.S. DOT Issues Q and A on Agencies’ Adoption of NEPA Documents

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a questions and answers document on authority for DOT operating administrations to adopt National Environmental Policy Act documents of other operating administrations as specified under Section 1311 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. The document specifies that the operating administrations may not apply environmental impact statement or environmental assessment adoption procedures to proposed actions that are not projects, defines which EISs and EAs are eligible for adoption, and discusses how the adoption should be documented in the project file. It also discusses timing of administrations’ adoption of NEPA documents. For more information, link to the Q&A. (6-26-17)

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U.S. DOT Seeks Identification of Unnecessary Regulations

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has issued a notice requesting the identification of nonstatutory requirements that should be removed or revised from agency regulations. The USDOT is requesting comments on requirements in regulations, policy statements or guidance documents that unnecessarily delay or prevent completion of surface, maritime, and aviation transportation infrastructure projects. The public may also submit legislative solutions if nonstatutory changes are insufficient. The notice is issued in response to Executive Order 13777, instructing agencies to create a Regulatory Reform Task Force to alleviate regulatory burdens. For more information, link to the announcement. (6-9-17)

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AASHTO Policy Resolution Calls for Robust Infrastructure Package

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has released a policy resolution supporting a robust infrastructure package for transportation. The resolution highlights the importance of federal funding for transportation infrastructure and the need for statutory commitments to long-term and sustainable revenues for highways, airports, marine ports and rail. The resolution also calls on the Trump administration to honor its commitment to infrastructure as a part of its policy agenda. In addition, the resolution states AASHTO’s support for the current system of funding transportation programs. For more information, link to resolution PR-1-17. (5-25-17)

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BATIC Institute and NCSL to Host P3 Training Sessions

The Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) Institute and the National Conference of State Legislatures are hosting training sessions to highlight public-private partnerships (P3) procurement and policies for transportation infrastructure projects. The two day training session will address primary components of state P3 programs such as implementing policy and organizational capacity, and include an overview of typical project risks and project financing examples. The session also will address how value is created through P3 projects and provide an introduction to contract management and oversight. The training is scheduled for Aug. 5-6, 2017, in Boston. For more information, link here

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FHWA Newsletter Addresses Quality Environmental Documentation

Producing high quality environmental documentation is the subject of the Federal Highway Administration’s April issue of Successes in Stewardship newsletter. Environmental documents are used to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act to evaluate impacts of agency decisions. This issue includes best practices for creating high quality documentation to reduce time during project review processes. The newsletter addresses the EDC-2 and EDC-3 products under the Every Day Counts initiative, which support quality documentation by improving collaborative processes and providing tools to appropriately document environmental impacts. Resources concerning trainings, workshops and technical assistance are also provided. For more information, link to the newsletter. (April 2017)

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USDOT Report Addresses Steps Taken to Accelerate Project Delivery

The Department of Transportation has released a report to Congress concerning Section 1317 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which addresses the acceleration of project delivery while improving environmental outcomes under the National Environmental Policy Act. The report addresses the use of technology in environmental reviews, prioritization of programmatic environmental impact statements, methods to encourage agencies to present analysis in a clear manner, and improvements to modernize process implementation. For more information, link to the report. (1-19-17)

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Featured Case Study

  • Case Study Photo

    The Maine DOT adopts a programmatic approach to ensure vital protections for the endangered Atlantic salmon, while cutting project-approval times.

    Read Case Study >Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials)
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