"This Administration is committed to clearing the way for communities to invest in transit options that revitalize neighborhoods and improve access to jobs and critical destinations," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "These improvements expedite our environmental review process to move projects through the pipeline more quickly, while preserving critical community input on how planned transit projects affect the local environment."
One impact of FTA's new environmental review provisions is that the changes will make it possible to expedite the release of Hurricane Sandy emergency relief funds to aid in the restoration, rehabilitation and replacement of damaged transit assets in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other regions.
Communities developing rail, bus, streetcar and ferry transit projects will spend less time preparing documentation, such as environmental assessments, while continuing to ensure the protection of the environment and people's health. For example, a transit project slated for development in an existing transportation right-of-way would qualify for a shorter environmental review process than one breaking all new ground. To help expedite the process overall, transportation authorities are also encouraged to take environmental impacts into consideration sooner, as part of the planning process, rather than later in the process, which may cause delays.
The changes are the result of a review of FTA's environmental procedures and are in line with the provisions in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) designed to expedite project delivery. The changes are said to boost transparency of the NEPA process by encouraging environmental impact statements and other environmental review documents to be posted online, keeping local residents and other interested groups informed.
These changes will be effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register, within the next few days.