FHWA Seeks to Improve Project Environmental Reviewseditor@aashto.org April 14, 2023 0 COMMENTS
As part of an ongoing effort to help deliver surface transportation projects faster, the Federal Highway Administration has issued a Request for Information or RFP to finds ways to improve environmental review processes.
[Above image by the FHWA]
The agency said this effort is being spurred by the Inflation Reduction Act or IRA signed into law in August 2022, which includes Environmental Review Implementation Program funds to be administered by FHWA to support environmental reviews of surface transportation projects, including intercity rail projects funded by the Federal Railroad Administration and public transportation projects funded by the Federal Transit Administration.
The IRA’s funds may also be used by FHWA to develop guidance, technical assistance, templates, training, or other tools to facilitate an efficient and effective environmental review process for surface transportation projects, the agency said.
As a result, FHWA is seeking information through this RFI on what the agency should consider while implementing the funds so it can “facilitate” more “efficient and effective” reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act and other related regulations to shorten timelines for major infrastructure projects.
That includes a variety of actions, including consulting with other federal agencies on program-level actions; considering benefits and impacts to the environment during the transportation planning process; providing transportation liaisons in resource and regulatory agencies, such the US Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and more integration of NEPA rules and environmental permitting processes.
“The Inflation Reduction Act is providing the nation with historic investments and new opportunities to build an economy that works for working families,” said FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt in a statement. “Our goal with this request for information is to identify new strategies and evidence-based solutions that can both increase the efficiency of environmental reviews and reduce delays when it comes to delivering projects.”
Information the FHWA is seeking on this topic includes:
- What types of assistance that would be most beneficial to recipients of direct funding and facilitate an efficient and effective environmental review process for surface transportation projects;
- What program areas would most benefit from new or continued research; and,
- The ways in which FHWA can make resources available to the eligible entities while promoting equity and maximizing the opportunity to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the environmental review process.
FHWA added that it also hopes to learn of additional opportunities to make improvements or accelerate the environmental review process for existing surface transportation programs, in addition to other state, local, and tribal programs.