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ARTBA Comments Supporting FHWA and FTA Proposed Streamlining Rule


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ARTBA supports FHWA and FTA’s further implementation of MAP-21’s project delivery reforms

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ARTBA Comments Supporting FHWA and FTA Proposed Streamlining Rule

  1. 1. January 19, 2016 Docket Management Facility U.S. Department of Transportation 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE West Building, Ground Floor Room W12-140 Washington, DC 20590-0001 Re: Docket No. FHWA-2015-0011, Environmental Impact and Related Procedures On behalf of the more than 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) proposed rulemaking on Environmental Impact and Related Procedures. 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. The FHWA/FTA proposed rule would implement a number of changes to the project delivery process required by the bipartisan “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” (MAP-21) 2012 surface transportation reauthorization law, including:  Allowing the secretary of transportation to designate a lead agency for projects involving more than one Department of Transportation (DOT) modal administration;  Allowing the use of errata sheets when preparing a final environmental impact statement (FEIS);  Allowing the combination of the FEIS and the record of decision (ROD) into a single document; and  Eliminating the requirement for a written statement in situations where a project is going to have no adverse impacts on the environment or no reasonable and prudent alternative exists; ARTBA is supportive of all of the changes to the environmental review process contained in the proposed rule. They are the product of a bipartisan recognition that the current project delivery review and approval process takes too much time.
  2. 2. 2 According to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 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, and more. These procedures often 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 proposed rule will have a positive impact on the project review and approval process. Specifically, being able to combine an ROD with an FEIS and use an errata sheet to note any differences will cut down on unnecessary paperwork as both documents can be particularly voluminous. Further, if there are no significant differences between the ROD and FEIS, combination of the two does not result in any less information being conveyed. Additionally, providing for the selection of a single modal agency to serve as “lead agency” on a multi- modal project will improve also reduce delay in the delivery process. The sooner a “lead agency” is chosen, the sooner schedules can be set and deadlines can be established for the entire project. It is also important to recognize the types of projects likely to be impacted by the proposed rule’s reforms (multi-modal projects and projects requiring an EIS) are complex, multi-year projects. Without the assurance of long-term federal funding, states are often reluctant to proceed with such projects. The recent enactment of the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act is a positive sign federal surface transportation investment will be temporarily stabilized. As such, states will hopefully undertake more long-term transportation construction projects and we will have a better opportunity to witness more of MAP-21’s (and soon, the FAST Act’s) reforms in practice. ARTBA applauds FHWA and FTA for continuing to implement the project delivery reforms mandated by MAP-21. We urge you to not only to focus on further implementation of MAP-21, but also to look ahead to the additional reforms contained in the FAST Act. Although it is unusual to be implementing two reauthorization laws at the same time, ARTBA stands ready to assist in this important task. Accelerating the project review and approval process for our nation’s infrastructure is also essential in delivering needed transportation projects and assuring the public the government is making every dollar spent of transportation go as far as possible without sacrificing necessary regulatory safeguards. NEPA was never meant to be a statute enabling delay, but rather a vehicle to promote balance. Further project delivery reforms will help to achieve this balance and ARTBA looks forward to additional discussions with FHWA and FTA on these important issues. Sincerely, T. Peter Ruane President & C.E.O