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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.

«View Recent Developments Archive

FHWA 'Successes in Stewardship' 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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FTA Announces Expedited Project Delivery Pilot Program

The Federal Transit Administration is receiving expressions of interest in participating in a pilot program for expedited project delivery. The eight projects will be for new fixed guideway capital projects, small starts projects, or core capacity improvement projects. Project sponsors that demonstrate successful past performance will receive, if selected, expedited technical capacity review. The projects must use public-private partnerships, have a federal share not exceeding 25 percent, and be operated and maintained by employees of an existing transit provider. Letters of interest are due Nov. 13. For more information, link to the announcement and the Federal Register notice. (9-12-18)

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FHWA Issues Updated Guide to Early Acquisition Projects

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a revised question-and-answer guide regarding federally funded early acquisition projects. The guide addresses the acquisition of real property—including a specific parcel, a portion of a transportation corridor, or an entire corridor—in advance of the completion of the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act. The guide includes answers to frequently asked questions and citations to the relevant federal highway regulations. For more information, link to the FAQ guide. (8-16-18)

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GAO Says Better Data Needed on Environmental Reviews

Statutory provisions have helped speed environmental reviews for transportation projects, but better data is needed to document those improvements, the Government Accountability Office said in a report. For instance, transportation statutes allow liaison positions at resource agencies that focus solely on applications for state DOT projects, which has helped avoid delays in permit and consultation reviews, but federal resource agencies could not provide enough reliable data on the durations of such consultations and reviews. GAO recommended that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service improve their tracking systems and develop internal controls to improve data reliability. For more information, link to the report.

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FTA Opens Dialogue, Announces Changes to Streamline Efforts

The Federal Transit Administration is seeking input on ways in which the agency and state transportation agencies could speed up project delivery. The FTA is holding a nationwide “online dialog” to reassess the current definition of “federal project” with regard to whether a project or project element qualifies as federally funded, and how that may impact the timely delivery of transit projects. In addition, the agency has announced changes to its reporting requirements and oversight process for transit agencies. These changes were announced in a Federal Register notice. FTA is seeking input from state departments of transportation, transit agencies, transit operators, and other stakeholders. For more information, link to the FTA’s online dialog page. (7-17-18)

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Arizona DOT Pursues NEPA Assignment Authority

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has announced its draft application to assume Federal Highway Administration authority to conduct environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act. The agency requests authority over projects that require environmental assessments or environmental impact statements. ADOT currently has responsibility over categorical exclusions through a separate agreement with the FHWA. Alaska, California, Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Utah have already assumed federal authority under the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program. For more information, link to the announcement and the draft NEPA application. (6-29-18)

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Nebraska DOT Pursues NEPA Assignment Authority

The Nebraska Department of Transportation has announced its intention to pursue assignment of Federal Highway Administration authority to conduct environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act. NDOT is pursuing assignment categorical exclusion authority first, followed by full NEPA assignment. NDOT expects NEPA assignment will help expedite project delivery and provide more flexibility in project decision-making, while preserving environmental quality. NDOT expects to receive CE assignment in 2018 and full NEPA assignment in 2019. More information is available on NDOT’s NEPA assignment web page. (7-6-18)

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EPA Video Illustrates Streamlined Environmental Permitting Process

A video released by the Environmental Protection Agency’ Smart Sectors Program highlights best practices in environmental permitting. The video addresses Boeing’s work with the Army Corps of Engineers and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to gain air and wetlands permits for acquiring additional land for an aircraft facility. South Carolina reduced the average time it takes to obtain a permit by 40 percent, which allowed Boeing to obtain permits in a little over six months. EPA plans to reach permitting-related decisions within six months by Sept. 30, 2022. For more information, link to the announcement and video. (6-26-18)

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FHWA Recaps Performance-Based Planning, Programming Peer Exchange

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a report summarizing a peer exchange held in August 2017 in Cincinnati regarding best practices for integrating performance-based planning and programming (PBPP) into existing transportation planning processes, as required under federal transportation laws. Participants found that the integration of PBPP with multiple state and regional plans may be easier if an agency has an overall strategy, vision, and goals to guide the development. Also, a team to lead the integration and a workgroup to coordinate the use of performance measures could help. Additionally, participants recommended the creation of a governance document to identify roles and responsibilities. The report indicates that participating agencies are facing similar challenges and that knowledge sharing and training would be helpful. Presentations were provided by the Ohio Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Texas DOT. For more information, link to the report. (5-22-18)

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CEQ Report Discusses Environmental Conflict Resolution Benefits, Improvements

A report that describes the benefits of and provides recommendations regarding the federal Environmental Collaboration and Conflict Resolution (ECCR) program has been issued by the Federal Forum on ECCR and the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The report recounts more than a decade of ECCR efforts using neutral, third-party facilitators to work with agencies and stakeholders by using collaboration, negotiation, structured dialogue, mediation, and other processes to prevent, manage, and resolve environmental conflicts. The report says the ECCR program saves time and money, improves relationships between government agencies and stakeholders, and improves outcomes, including within the context of federal infrastructure permitting. The report recommends the continued support and increased use of ECCR for interagency disputes, better stakeholder engagement, and improved rulemaking as well as institutionalization of ECCR funding. For more information, link to the report. (5-2-18)

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BUILD Transportation Grants to Replace TIGER Grants

The Department of Transportation has announced the availability of $1.5 billion in funding under the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program. BUILD grants will support surface transportation infrastructure and replace the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. BUILD projects will be evaluated based on safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental protection, state of good repair, innovation, partnership, and amount of non-federal revenue. The program requires at least 30 percent of the funding go to development in rural areas. A series of webinars are scheduled, beginning May 24. Applications for fiscal year 2018 are due July 19, 2018. For more information, link to the announcement and the Federal Register notice. (4-27-18)

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FHWA Posts Agency Agreements to Streamline Environmental Reviews

The Federal Highway Administration has posted several documents aimed at expediting project delivery and permitting for major infrastructure projects. In addition to links to Executive Order 13807 and links to the “One Federal Decision” memorandum of understanding (MOU) and cover memo, the agency posted an additional working agreement under which FHWA and five agencies -- the U.S. Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Services -- commit to work together to achieve the goals of the executive order. FHWA also posted a chart that outlines the agencies’ processes, both with and without using the Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) approach. For more information, link to the One Federal Decision page on FHWA’s Environmental Review Toolkit website. (4-25-18)

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Federal Agencies Agree to Expedite Permit Review Process

Eleven federal agencies have signed a memorandum of understanding to streamline environmental reviews for major infrastructure projects. Under the One Federal Decision MOU, a single federal agency will be responsible for navigating projects through the environmental review and permitting process, with written concurrence from other agencies at designated points, as well as timetables and dispute resolution procedures. Under the agreement, which implements Executive Order 13807, agencies agreed to a goal of completing each project’s permitting and review process within two years. For more information, link to the announcement and to the memorandum. (4-9-18)

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AASHTO Issues Overview of President’s Infrastructure Proposal

AASHTO has issued a “first take” on the federal infrastructure plan and budget request proposed by the Trump Administration Feb. 12. The assessment highlights the President’s permitting improvement proposals in order to speed project delivery, many of which are consistent with a set of recommendations AASHTO issued in July 2017. The President’s proposal includes establishing a “one agency, one decision” environmental review structure, reducing inefficiencies in environmental reviews, requiring a single environmental review document and record of decision, and specifying that alternatives outside an agency’s authority are not feasible alternatives. The proposal also includes ways to reduce redundancy and duplication, add more flexibility in the environmental review process, and further integrate transportation planning and environmental review. In addition, AASHTO summarizes the budget proposal and proposed transportation policy changes. For more information, link to AASHTO’s assessment. (2-13-18)

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Newsletter Highlights Use of FHWA Legal Staff for Project Delivery

Ways the Federal Highway Administration’s legal staff can help support project development and delivery are highlighted in the January 2018 issue of the agency’s Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The issue highlights how the agency’s legal services division assists with legal sufficiency reviews and preparation of environmental documents, in addition to working alongside the Department of Justice in defense of legal challenges. For more information and details on working with FHWA’s legal staff, link to the newsletter. (2-12-18)

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Newsletter Provides Look-Back at Best Practices in Project Delivery from 2017

Key takeaways from 2017 on accelerating transportation project delivery and improving environmental outcomes are included in the December 2017 issue of the Federal Highway Administration’s Successes in Stewardship newsletter. The issue pulls together examples reported in each issues of the monthly newsletter in 2017, including quarterly “Back to Basics” issues focused on environmental review process efficiencies. In 2017 those issues focused on Section 106, improving the quality of environmental documentation, bridge permitting, and ESA Section 7 consultations. The December issue also highlights various tools and mechanisms to increase project delivery efficiencies, including integrating NEPA and permitting, using programmatic approaches, and emphasizing resiliency. The issue also highlights projects that were honored with FHWA’s 2017 Environmental Excellence Awards. For more information, link to the newsletter. (12-18-17)

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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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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

View All Case Studies for this Topic >

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AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials)
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