January 23, 2020
  • 2:34 pm Committee Leadership Comes into Focus for 116th Congress
  • 2:22 pm Interstate System Report Calls for More Funding, Tolling, VMT Fees, and Cybersecurity
  • 2:15 pm In Memoriam: President George H. W. Bush, ISTEA, and Transportation
  • 1:56 pm Growth Projected for Transportation Projects, but Costs a Challenge
  • 1:35 pm FAA Reshuffles Executives, Plans Drone Identification Rulemaking in Spring 2019
  • 1:28 pm Predictive Technology Helps Reduce Crashes on I-15 Corridor in Las Vegas
  • 1:14 pm Video Report: MoDOT Produces Multi-Lingual Safety Message
  • 1:11 pm PennDOT Nears Completion of Rapid Bridge Replacement Project
  • 1:08 pm Infrastructure Grants Awarded to “Smaller” South Dakota Communities
  • 7:09 am House T&I Committee Criticizes FCC Effort to Open Up 5.9 GHz Spectrum
  • 12:29 pm USDOT Stresses Need to Reserve 5.9 GHz Channel at TRB
  • 12:27 pm USDOT’s Chao Highlights New Vehicle Safety Initiatives at TRB
  • 12:19 pm State DOTs Renew Focus on Ways to Reduce Traffic Fatalities
  • 12:13 pm State DOT Roundtable Highlights Asset Management Needs

A memorandum of understanding signed between the Federal Highway Administration and the Arizona Department of Transportation on April 16 allows the state to assume decision-making and legal responsibilities for meeting National Environmental Policy Act requirements for federal highway projects.

[Above photo by the Arizona DOT. At left: FHWA Deputy Administrator Brandye Hendrickson. At right: Arizona DOT Director John Halikowski.]

The Arizona DOT noted it already has responsibility for NEPA decisions known as categorical exclusions involving projects found to not have significant environmental impacts under a separate agreement finalized with the FHWA in early 2018.

The expanded NEPA authorization that FHWA is now providing to Arizona – valid for five years, with the option to renew, while reviewing compliance through audits and monitoring – makes it the seventh state to achieve full NEPA assignment approval.

Brandye Hendrickson. Photo by Arizona DOT.

“In keeping with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s ongoing mission to help expedite project delivery for our state partners, this memorandum of understanding will enable Arizona to assume the most complex federal highway environmental responsibilities,” said FHWA Deputy Administrator Brandye Hendrickson in a statement.

The Arizona DOT noted that attaining full NEPA assignment responsibilities will help it complete required environmental studies more efficiently while maintaining the same degree of rigor required for projects receiving federal funding, including local projects administered by the agency.

Congress originally authorized NEPA assignments – formally called the “Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program” – as pilot projects under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users or SAFETEA-LU passed in 2005 and then allowed such assignments to be used more broadly on a permanent basis with the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or MAP-21 signed into law in 2012.

Photo by Arizona DOT

NEPA assignments recognize that states are able to comply with federal environmental requirements on their own, allowing them to streamline processes – saving time and money – while waiving their sovereign immunity in relation to federal court jurisdiction.

For example, the California Department of Transportation reported a 30 percent time savings in project delivery after receiving NEPA assignment authority, while the Texas Department of Transportation estimated that it gained time savings of 25 percent

The U.S. Department of Transportation also issued a final rule last year to “rationalize and streamline” the environmental review process across railroad, transit, and highway projects alike.

“We anticipate increased project efficiency and the elimination of confusion for multimodal projects. The rule also updates some of our environmental rule policies and ensures greater consistency, reducing duplicative efforts, and reiterating the ability to produce a single environmental document,” noted FHWA’s Hendrickson during an October conference call regarding the benefits of the new rule.

The rule also provides for greater flexibility on projects that take place entirely within the operational right-of-way though the use of categorical exclusions, she added. “This an opportunity to move forward with transportation projects in a more consistent and streamlined fashion,” Hendrickson said.



%d bloggers like this: