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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis March 23, 2012
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LaHood Proposes Streamlined NEPA Process

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), have announced proposed changes that “would significantly cut red tape for certain public transportation projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and dramatically speed some  of them toward completion.”

“The president has asked us to find new ways to make our government work smarter on behalf of the American people by cutting waste and inefficiency wherever we find it,” said LaHood. “The changes we’re proposing will allow us to still carefully assess the impact of transit development on the environment while reducing the time and energy needed to green-light good projects that clearly do not have a significant impact on the environment.”

FTA anticipates that the streamlined NEPA review process would be five times faster than the current procedure for certain public transit projects—the most efficient it has been in 20 years. The time savings would be due, in part, to allowing certain types of projects that clearly have no significant impact on the local environment—such as those  to be built within an existing right-of-way where public transit or other transportation already exists—to potentially undergo a less intensive NEPA evaluation while still providing for a more thorough review of projects that do have the potential for significant environmental impacts.

Qualified projects would require less documentation than they do now,  and project sponsors and state and regional transportation authorities would be encouraged to take environmental impacts into consideration sooner, as part of the planning process.

The proposed changes also would boost transparency of the NEPA process by encouraging the posting of all environmental impact statements and  records of decision on a grant applicant’s project website, then maintaining that information until a project is constructed and operating.

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on “Environmental Impact and Related Procedures” appeared in the March 15, 2012, Federal Register. A 60-day public comment period follows.

This is the second effort to cut red tape undertaken by FTA this year. In January, reflecting an April 2011 Executive Order–Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service, the agency announced a proposed rulemaking to streamline the way major public transit projects compete for federal funds.

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