Environmental Review Toolkit
NEPA and Project Development

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MEMORANDUM

Subject: INFORMATION: Additional Flexibilities In Categorical Exclusions Date: May 22, 2017
From: Hari Kalla
Acting Associate Administrator For Planning, Environment, and Realty
In Reply Refer To: HEP-1
To: Director of Field Services
Division Administrators
Federal Lands Highway
Division Engineers

To identify additional flexibilities for accelerating project delivery without negatively impacting the human and natural environment, FHWA has compiled a list of activities that may be undergoing more detailed NEPA processing than required by law. The FHWA wishes to ensure its division offices and grantees are aware that the actions described below normally should qualify as categorical exclusions (CE) under 23 CFR 771.117(c) (known as (c)-list CEs), resulting in less extensive processing than are presently performed.

Transportation agencies proposed the following list as a part of the Survey of CE Use,1 compiled pursuant to Section 1318 of MAP-21. Division office staff should share the information below with their State DOT partners and promote this flexibility related to CE actions that routinely can be processed as (c)-list CEs without further NEPA review or the approval of the FHWA division office.

The following activities normally can be processed as CEs under 23 CFR 771.117(c):

  1. Bridge removal. Removal may be a component of a bridge replacement project under 771.117(c)(28). If the bridge is not replaced, it could be considered a CE under 771.117(c)(22).
  2. Construction of new roundabouts or traffic circles are considered traffic operations improvement projects under 771.117(c)(27).
  3. Any highway project action, regardless of location within or outside a highway right-of-way, so long as the project receives less than $5,000,000 (adjusted annually by the Secretary to reflect any increases in the Consumer Price Index) of Federal funds (771.117(c)(23)).2
  4. Widening and improving existing transportation facilities by adding through lanes that add capacity within the existing operational ROW under 771.117(c)(22).
  5. Restoration, rehabilitation, or replacement of retaining walls within the existing operational ROW under 771.117(c)(22).
  6. Bank repairs to protect against stream erosion are considered environmental restoration and pollution abatement actions under 771.117(c)(25).
  7. Restoration, rehabilitation, or replacement of culverts, inlets, drainage pipes, and systems can be CEs under 771.117(c)(22) when done within an existing operational right-of-way or as highway modernization under 771.117(c)(26).
  8. Replacement of existing utility powerline poles for overhead utilities and installation of new poles are considered approval of utility installation projects under 771.117(c)(2).

The FHWA may designate additional (c)-list CEs in the future through rulemaking or the individual State programmatic categorical exclusion agreements.

Any questions or requests for assistance should be directed to Dr. Owen Lindauer, HEPE, at (202) 366-2655 or owen.lindauer@dot.gov.

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1 https://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/strmlng/reports/secl3l8report.pdf.
2 For the latest value, see:
https://www.environment.thwa.dot.gov/projdev/FAST_ACT_Section1314_Implementation_Guide.asp.

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