Artba comments re docket no fhwa 2014-0017
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Artba comments re docket no fhwa 2014-0017

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6/27/14—MOU between FHWA and Utah on delegation of CEs

6/27/14—MOU between FHWA and Utah on delegation of CEs

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  • 1. June 27, 2014 Docket Management Facility U.S. Department of Transportation Room W12-140 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE Washington, DC 20590-0001 Re: Docket No. FHWA-2014-0017; Proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Assigning Environmental Responsibilities to the State of Utah On behalf of the 6,000 members of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), I respectfully offer comments on the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) MOU assigning environmental responsibilities to the state of Utah. ARTBA’s membership includes private and public sector members that are involved in the planning, designing, construction and maintenance of the nation’s roadways, waterways, bridges, ports, airports, rail and transit systems. Our industry generates more than $380 billion annually in U.S. economic activity and sustains more than 3.3 million American jobs. ARTBA members undertake a variety of activities that are subject to the environmental review and approval process in the normal course of their business operations. ARTBA’s public sector members adopt, approve, or fund transportation plans, programs, or projects. ARTBA’s private sector members plan, design, construct and provide supplies for these federal transportation improvement projects. This document represents the collective views of our 6,000 member companies and organizations. ARTBA commented in support of FHWA’s MOU delegating certain responsibilities pertaining to categorical exclusions (CEs) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to Utah when it was first proposed in 2008. We continue to support the MOU as well as the overall concept of delegating environmental review and approval processes to the states. Allowing Utah and other states to assume responsibility for CEs rather than provide information to federal agencies on a case-by-case basis will reduce the amount of time involved in the environmental review and approval process by lessening the burden on federal agencies. ARTBA is supportive not only of Utah’s decision to take advantage of the opportunities for CE delegation which have been developed over the past two reauthorizations of the surface transportation program, but also of efforts to make CE delegation as accessible and appealing as possible to other states. The more states chose to take advantage of delegation, the faster needed transportation improvements will be delivered to the American public.
  • 2. 2 In implementing the delegation of CEs, a focus should be placed on flexibility. States should be given maximum flexibility to use their specialized knowledge in different areas to determine when an activity should qualify for CE status. It is more important to establish a flexible process for determining when CEs should be used than to establish a potentially constricting list of eligible activities. Thus, while ARTBA is supportive of the list of activities in the Federal Register notice that would be covered under Utah’s assumption of CE responsibility, the list should be viewed as a starting point. In addition to the list, there needs to be flexibility for Utah (and any other state that chooses to participate in CE delegation) to add new CE classifications as time goes on. In order for FHWA’s proposal to have the greatest impact, once a project is determined by Utah to qualify for CE status, this decision should be treated as permanent and not subject to subsequent reconsideration. The overall purpose of expanding the use of CEs is to allow those projects which have demonstrated minimal impacts to proceed quickly. Allowing additional after-the-fact reviews for CE projects only serves to undermine the goal of advancing necessary repairs as soon as possible. Finally, as part of the delegation process, the U.S. Department of Transportation should focus on facilitating uniformity by establishing centralized training for all federal staff and state departments of transportation emphasizing swift CE determination and adherence to a centralized set of regulations regarding the processing of CEs. Further, a centralized database of all CEs should be developed to promote information sharing. The database should contain guidance and frequently asked questions in order to help all parties implement MAP-21 in a consistent, expedient manner. NEPA was never meant to be a statute enabling delay, but rather a vehicle to promote balance. While the centerpiece of this balancing is the environmental impacts of a project, other factors must be considered as well, such as the economic, safety, and mobility needs of the affected area and how a transportation project or any identified alternative will address those needs. Allowing delegation of the CE process to interested states like Utah will help NEPA to achieve this balance. As such, ARTBA appreciates the chance to offer these comments on CE delegation and looks forward to working with FHWA to continue to improve the NEPA process. Sincerely, T. Peter Ruane President & C.E.O