The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) Sept. 28 that will "harmonize" the environmental review process between the three highway, transit and railroad agencies.
USDOT explains that the proposed regulatory change, affecting the Federal Transit Administration, Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Highway Administration, would allow multimodal projects to follow a single process rather than multiple agency processes. This would be done by establishing a pilot program where states would conduct environmental reviews and issue approvals for projects under state regulations instead of the National Environmental Policy Act.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, speaking at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., said, “The Department of Transportation is committed to identifying ways to eliminate unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy that will save states time, money and reduce burdensome compliance costs.”
USDOT has also issued updated guidance regarding the application of categorical exclusions for multimodal projects. One USDOT agency can now use the categorical exclusions of another USDOT agency for certain multimodal projects. USDOT says this change will expedite the environmental review process for these projects so infrastructure can be delivered more quickly.
Secretary Chao said, “Important new regulatory and policy changes are underway at the Department to help deliver infrastructure projects faster, and in a more cost effective manner.”