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Environmental Review Toolkit

Programmatic Agreements

A programmatic agreement (PA) establishes a streamlined process for handling routine environmental requirements for commonly encountered project types. PAs usually set procedures for consultation, review, and compliance with one or more federal laws, but they can also address tribal, state, and local laws. PAs are part of a larger collection of programmatic approaches that include regional permits, programmatic consultations and other alternative arrangements with resource and regulatory agencies regarding environmental process reviews, data collection, and regulatory compliance. Efficiency is increased by considering repetitive actions at a program level rather than by individual projects, and appropriate consideration for the environment is maintained. PAs may be developed on a watershed, ecosystem, state, regional, or national scale.

FHWA has extensively promoted PAs through initiatives, such as EDC, and regular environmental program implementation. Programmatic approaches have been in transportation legislation including Section 1305 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and the Fixing America’s Transportation Act (FAST Act) Section 1304(k), which promotes the implementation of programmatic approaches.

two photos of a bat and a turtle

Through EDC-1, FHWA promoted the expanded use of PAs by identifying best practices and promoting the benefits of PAs and developing new PAs and/or improving existing PAs through agreed upon revisions, where there was interest by state and partner agencies. The first phase of EDC successfully developed scores of new agreements.

The objective of the EDC-2 PA initiative was to increase the awareness of the benefits and create additional PAs through expansion of existing agreements and the creation of new agreements. An important emphasis under EDC-2 was to focus on state and regional agreements, in particular with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE), the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

  • Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO) Programmatic Consultation - FHWA and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) finalized ESA section 7 and Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) programmatic consultations for transportation projects along the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Virginia.  The programmatic ESA and EFH consultations will streamline reviews for a subset of transportation projects that are not likely to adversely affect (NLAA) ESA-listed species or critical habitat and have small impacts on EFH.  NMFS anticipates that issues and questions will arise as State DOTs begin to implement the consultations and have agreed to a one year implementation phase where they will review and revise the documents as necessary to insure they are meeting the needs of all parties.  We encourage state DOTs to track when they were able to use the programmatic consultations, the exceptions allowed, the number of actions that were not able to use the programmatic consultations, and identify prospective changes to make the consultations more useful
  • NMFS Southeast Regional Office Programmatic Consultation - FHWA and NMFS finalized ESA section 7 and EFH programmatic consultations for regularly undertaken transportation projects along the Atlantic Coast in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The programmatic ESA and EFH consultations will streamline reviews for a subset of transportation projects that are not likely to adversely affect (NLAA) ESA-listed species or critical habitat and have small impacts on EFH.
  • Nationwide Section 4(f) Programmatic Evaluations - Programmatic Section 4(f) evaluations can be used in place of individual evaluations for highway projects where uses are considered minor. To date, there are five programmatic evaluations that have been approved for use nationwide: Independent Walkway and Bikeways Construction Projects; Historic Bridges; Minor Involvements with Historic Sites; Minor Involvements with Parks, Recreation Areas and Waterfowl and Wildlife Refuges; Net Benefits to a Section 4(f) Property.
  • Program Comment - At the request of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) has issued a Program Comment that will eliminate individual historic review requirements under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act for common post-1945 concrete and steel bridges and culverts. The intent of Program Comment is to ensure that more unique historic bridges receive the attention they deserve while the process is substantially streamlined for common, “cookie-cutter” bridges that are unlikely to be significant for preservation in place.
  • MOU between USCG/FHWA/FTA/FRA and MOA between USCG and FHWA - The Department of Transportation has developed a multimodal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and FHWA, FTA, and FRA to improve coordination and collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard.   Additionally, as a companion piece, FHWA developed an agency specific Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the USCG.  The purpose of these documents is to integrate efforts to expedite and inform NEPA and USCG permit decisions.   These memoranda will enhance the efficiency and transparency of NEPA reviews and bridge permitting decisions by providing the means to expedite and coordinate the planning, environmental review, and decision-making for projects involving bridge permits.
  • Range-wide Programmatic Biological Opinion/Informal Concurrence for Indiana Bat and Northern Long-eared Bat (NLEB) - On May 20, 2016, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and Federal Transit Administration received a programmatic biological opinion and revised concurrence from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on a range-wide programmatic formal/informal consultation for the Indiana bat and Northern Long-eared Bat. On June 9, 2016, the FHWA Administrator and USFWS Director signed a joint letter transmitting the programmatic consultation to our respective field offices. The programmatic biological opinion/concurrence covers 38 states and the District of Columbia and encompasses parts or all of USFWS Regions 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. The programmatic consultation expands upon the April 2015 programmatic consultation. It includes select types of actions that are likely to adversely affect the bats with appropriate mitigation, along with minor revisions to the April 2015 concurrence for actions that are not likely to adversely affect the bats or their critical habitat.
Subject/Title Resource URL Agency
Programmatic Agreement for Processing Interstate Access Requests - Revised Memorandum FHWA