National Environmental Streamlining Initiatives
Highway and Transit Environmental Streamlining Progress Summary
Report to Congress
Section 1309 of the
Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) directs the
U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop and implement a coordinated
environmental review process for highway and transit construction projects. In the DOT's Appropriations Act conference
report 107-308 to accompany H.R. 2299, the conferees directed the Federal
Highway Administration (FHWA) to provide the House and Senate Committees on
Appropriations a report no later than January 2, 2002, summarizing FHWA's
streamlining efforts. This report is DOT's summary of the FHWA's and the
Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) progress on environmental
In the simplest terms, environmental streamlining
consists of completing environmental reviews and permitting in a timely way,
while ensuring environmentally sound projects.
This entails establishing realistic project development timeframes among
transportation and environmental agencies, and then working cooperatively to
adhere to those timeframes. The
coordination of multiple and overlapping environmental reviews, analyses, and
permitting actions is essential to meeting the environmental streamlining
mandate for highway and transit projects under TEA-21. Although certain processes overlap, the
procedural requirements for meeting these mandates are distinct and defined by
each Federal agency charged with statutory oversight of a specific
environmental resource or concern.
Also, most states and some local jurisdictions have their own
environmental statutes and requirements that must be addressed. The complexity of the processes, multiple
actions, and requirements do not easily lead to clear-cut solutions for
establishing national timeframes.
Instead, Federal agencies, as stated in the National Streamlining
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), agreed to pursue timeframes and other
solutions with the project sponsor at the regional, state, local, or project
level where their specific processes come into play and where the most effective
DOT recognizes that achieving our bottom line-the
efficient and effective delivery of a sound and environmentally responsible
transportation program-requires adopting a new mindset that embraces
environmental stewardship and builds coalitions through partnerships of
interest groups and Federal, state, and local officials.
The DOT approach has:
- Carried out process reinvention through interagency training, national
programmatic agreements and guidance that encourages flexible mitigation
- Defined a system for dispute resolution that includes
draft national procedures, guidance for managing conflict during the
project development process, and assistance by qualified dispute
resolution specialists to states and project sponsors.
including both objective data on the timeliness of reviews and subjective
data on the quality of environmental impact statements (EISs).
research to evaluate project
timeframes, identify reasons for project delays, and assess the
effectiveness of implementation efforts.
- Assisted and supported numerous best practices and pilot projects that
catalyzed change and led to even better streamlining outcomes.
Streamlining successes at the national, regional, state,
local, and project levels are inextricably linked and form an iterative process. National
leadership, direction, policy, guidance, and support provide a framework to
facilitate regional, state, local, and project results. These results in turn drive innovations that
demonstrate what does and does not work.
Best practices are used to inform, shape, and influence national
guidance and policies. Using this
iterative, participatory approach, DOT and its Federal and state environmental
and transportation partners have collectively and cooperatively achieved these
1999 to 2001, the average length of time to process environmental
documents for major projects has decreased approximately eight months
(from five years 10 months to five years two months); the median
time decreased by one year (from five and a half years to four and a half
years). Because one or two
projects that take exceedingly long to process can disproportionately skew
the average timeframe, it is important to look at the data for median
times to get a more representative number.
states (100 percent) have adopted or initiated process/procedural related
agreements or initiatives for streamlining that clarify, amend, or
re-invent the project development process. At least 24 states (48 percent) have focused their process
redesign efforts on integrating planning and National Environment Policy
Act (NEPA) activities.
states (68 percent) have agreements that provide state and Federal
environmental agency personnel for expediting reviews.
states (58 percent) have adopted agreements to merge the FHWA NEPA process
and the Clean Water Act permitting process administered by the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers. This
eliminates what can be a duplicative process.
states (82 percent) have some level of delegated authority for historic
resources that allows many projects to be processed quickly, freeing up
Federal and state resources to focus on complex issues.
states (44 percent) have initiated tribal consultation MOUs that address new
Historic Preservation Act consultation requirements in a streamlined
states (52 percent) have context sensitive design initiatives.
streamlining web site is the key medium for communication (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/strmlng/index.asp). It includes an inventory of best
practices and a catalogue of state efforts and national activities and
features a new "Success Story" each month. The site receives up to 1,600 visitors a month, and the
circulation of the electronic newsletter letter has seen a 150 percent
increase since its initial issue in August 2001.
- Increasing the emphasis and focus
on national programmatic approaches.
- Instituting agreements between
agencies to delegate environmental authority on low-risk activities.
- Allowing states and Federal
agencies to maximize and leverage resources through administrative and
- Developing interagency guidance,
cross training, enhanced communication, and information-sharing to
overcome inconsistent interpretation of requirements.
- Establishing a shared
responsibility for achieving streamlining at the Federal and state levels,
including the development and evaluation of timeframes for project
- Fostering distinct Federal agency
roles and responsibilities in environmental streamlining by developing
strong executive leadership throughout all of the Federal agencies.
For questions or feedback on this subject, please contact Ruth Rentch at 202-366-2034. For general questions or web problems, please send feedback to the web administrator.