ARTBA Comments on FHWA/FTA Environmental Review Process Guidance
May 12, 2015
Docket Management Facility
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
West Building, Ground Floor
Washington, DC 20590-0001
Re: Docket No. FHWA-2015-0001, Notice of Availability of Revised Guidance on the
Environmental Review Process
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) and Federal
Transit Administration’s (FTA) Notice of Availability of Revised Guidance on the Environmental
ARTBA’s membership includes private and public sector representatives 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 transportation project
environmental review and approval process in the normal course of their daily 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-aid improvement
projects. This document represents the collective views of our 6,000 member companies and
The FHWA/FTA Revised Guidance implements a number of changes to the project delivery process
required by the bipartisan “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st
Century” (MAP-21) surface
transportation reauthorization law, including:
Establishing a framework for setting deadlines for decision making in the environmental review
Establishing an alternative dispute resolution process;
Establishing penalties for federal agencies that do not make timely decisions;
Providing an option for completion of stalled environmental impact statements (EIS) within four
Combination of the final EIS and record of decision (ROD) into a single document.
ARTBA is supportive of all of the changes to the environmental review process contained in the Revised
Guidance. They are the product of a bipartisan recognition that the current project delivery review and
approval process takes too much time.
According to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), as many as 200 major steps
are involved in developing a transportation project from the identification of the project need to the start
of construction. According to the same report, it typically takes between
nine and 19 years to plan, gain approval of, and construct a new major federally funded highway
project. This process involves dozens of overlapping state and federal laws, including the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), state NEPA equivalents, wetland permits, endangered species
implementation, clean air conformity, etc. Often times these procedures mask disparate agendas or, at a
minimum, demonstrate an institutional lack of interagency coordination that results in unnecessary delays.
All of the revisions outlined in the guidance will have a positive impact on the project review and
approval process. Specifically, the option to limit EISs to a total of four years will reduce project delivery
time, as EISs can currently run over a decade. Further, implementation of an alternative dispute
resolution process will give parties an avenue to avoid litigation. This is a significant reform, as fear of
litigation often leads to lengthy and burdensome EISs in an effort to “bulletproof” documents in
anticipation of future lawsuits.
In terms of further improving the EIS process, we ask FHWA and FTA to look to reforms made to
categorical exclusions (CEs). MAP-21’s improvements to the categorical exclusion (CE) process are one
of the highlights of the reauthorization law’s numerous reforms. As the CE process becomes more
streamlined and efficient, ARTBA recommends that FHWA and FTA use resources previously dedicated
to CE review on EISs. Channeling resources towards the most complicated project reviews will help to
ensure resources are used efficiently.
Another reform encapsulated in the guidance which has long been an ARTBA priority is the placing of
deadlines on federal permitting decisions. MAP-21 established both time limits for permitting decisions
and the imposition of fines on agencies for missing newly created deadlines. In implementing the
guidance, ARTBA urges the focus of these provisions not be placed on the actual collection of fines, but
rather on the use of fines as a mechanism to identify and correct deficiencies and facilitate training in the
If a disproportionate amount of fines are coming from a particular office or agency, or by a particular type
of project or permit, the revenue collected should be channeled into an effort to either retrain the
personnel responsible for the delays or examine and correct the procedures causing the delay.
NEPA was never meant to be a statute enabling delay, but rather a vehicle to promote balance. MAP-21’s
reforms will help to achieve this balance and ARTBA looks forward to continued discussion with FHWA
and FTA on these important issues.
T. Peter Ruane
President & C.E.O