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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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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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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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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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Newsletter Highlights Use of Federal Permitting Dashboard

Use of the federal permitting dashboard to help accelerate environmental reviews for proposed infrastructure projects under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is described in te latest issue of the Federal Highway Administration’s Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The dashboard is an online tool managed by the Department of Transportation and Office of Management and Budget that consists of data for more than 150 surface transportation projects under development nationwide. The tool also includes a separate list for legacy projects, which were part of the original dashboard tool, to create a more transparent environmental process. For more information, link to the newsletter. (3-27-17)

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DOT Inspector General Report Cites Barriers to Accelerated Project Delivery

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General has issued a report on efforts to accelerate project delivery under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), Subtitle C. The report finds that many initiatives had to be postponed due to revisions enacted by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. The IG report also indicates the Federal Highway Administration is lacking sufficient documentation on innovative project delivery methods, a performance assessment of states that assume environmental review responsibilities, and a clearly established a process for required reporting on categorical exclusions. It urges the FHWA to update policies, establish completion dates and finalize plans. For more information, link to the report. (3-6-17)

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March 23 Webinar Addressed DOT Actions to Expedite Project Delivery

A webinar held March 23 addressed activities agencies can consider to streamline decision making and expedite project delivery. The event was sponsored by AASHTO in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration under the Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2 Solutions). Presenters included officials from Ohio DOT; Maricopa Association of Governments, Arizona; AASHTO; and FHWA. For more information, link to the Webinar and presentaton slides. (3-23-17)

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FHWA Newsletter Highlights Integrated NEPA/Permit Streamlining Approach

An integrated approach to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review and environmental permitting is highlighted in the latest issue of the Federal Highway Administration’s Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The approach provides transportation agencies with integration tools and strategies, such as assistance in developing cooperative agreements with resource agencies that have permitting roles. The approach also addresses the creation of informal and formal agreements, establishing liaisons, and using the online collaboration tool, eNEPA. It also highlights the use of the Red Book: Synchronizing Environmental Reviews for Transportation and Other Infrastructure Projects. That document encourages widespread adoption of concurrent review processes and supports more effective coordination among transportation, resource, and regulatory agencies. The approach is part of the fourth round of FHWA’s Every Day Counts initiative, a state-based effort to shorten the project delivery process. For more information, link to the February 2017 issue of the Successes in Stewardship newsletter. (2-14-17)

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President Issues Executive Order on High Priority Infrastructure Projects

The President has issued Executive Order 13766 to expedite environmental reviews and approvals for high priority infrastructure projects. The order identifies as high priority projects those intended to improve the electric grid and telecommunication systems and those that repair and upgrade critical port facilities, airports, pipelines, bridges and highways. The order allows governors and any executive department or agency to request high priority status and requires the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to decide whether an infrastructure project qualifies as a high priority within 30 days of such requests. The order also allows the CEQ to make determinations on its own initiative, and the council must coordinate with the heads of the relevant agencies to establish expedited procedures and deadlines. For more information link to the executive order. (1-30-17)

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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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ARTBA Issues Project Delivery Recommendations for New Administration

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association has released recommendations for the incoming Trump administration concerning transportation project delivery. The group has identified federal regulatory programs under the Transportation Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies that in its view impede project delivery. These include the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation projects, the consideration of greenhouse gases in environmental reviews, the Waters of the United States rule, the Social Cost of Carbon rule, the Buy America law, the Disadvantage Business Enterprise Program, geographic-based hiring preferences, project labor agreements, hours of service for motor carrier operators, corporate average fuel economy standards, and critical habitat designations for endangered species. For more information, link to the report. (1-13-17)

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FDOT Receives National Environmental Policy Act Responsibilities

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has announced a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Highway Administration to allow the state to assume responsibilities for environmental review of infrastructure projects. The assignment of responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act is expected to save an estimated 25 percent of the processing time and $22 million per year. Florida joins California, Ohio and Texas in assuming NEPA authority. For more information, link to the press release. (12-14-16)

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Final Rule Authorizes Construction Manager/General Contractor Method

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a final rule authorizing use of the construction manager/general contractor (CM/GC) contracting method. The rule, issued pursuant to Section1303 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP–21), allows a contracting agency to use a single procurement to hire a construction contractor early in a project’s design phase to obtain the contractor’s input on constructability issues that may be affected by the project design. It is intended to accelerate project delivery and reduce costs while protecting the integrity of the National Environmental Policy Act review process. For more information, link to the final rule. (12-2-16)

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Caltrans Requests Renewed Participation in NEPA Assignment Program

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the receipt of a renewal package from the California Department of Transportation requesting renewed participation in the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program and an associated proposed memorandum of understanding for assignment of National Environmental Policy Act review authority. The FHWA has determined that the renewal package is complete and has developed a draft renewal memorandum of understanding with Caltrans outlining how the state will implement the program with FHWA oversight. For more information, link to the Federal Register notice. (11-16-16)

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Utah DOT Seeks to Assume FHWA NEPA Review Authority

The Federal Highway Administration has announced the receipt of an application from the Utah Department of Transportation requesting participation in the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program and an associated proposed memorandum of understanding that outlines how the state will implement the program with oversight from the FHWA. The FHWA specifies that if approved, the state will assume environmental review responsibilities, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, for federally funded highway projects in the state. For more information, link to the Federal Register notice. (11-16-16)

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Florida DOT Applies for NEPA Assignment from FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is accepting public comment on an application and proposed memorandum of understanding from the Florida Department of Transportation requesting participation in the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program. The MOU outlines how the state will implement the program to assume environmental review responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act for federally funded highway projects in the state. For more information, link to the Federal Register notice. (11-1-16)

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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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