Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

Environmental Provisions and Related Information

FAST Act Guidance and Information

On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, or “FAST Act” - the first Federal law in over ten years to provide long-term funding certainty for surface transportation. The FAST Act authorizes $305 billion over fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for the Department's highway, highway and motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, rail, and research, technology and statistics programs. With its enactment, States and local governments may now move forward with critical transportation projects, like new highways and transit lines, with the confidence that they will have a Federal partner over the long term.

Accelerating Project Delivery

The FAST Act builds on the authorities and requirements in SAFETEA-LU, MAP-21 and efforts under FHWA's Every Day Counts in an effort to accelerate the environmental review process for surface transportation projects by institutionalizing best practices and expediting complex infrastructure projects without undermining critical environmental laws or opportunities for public engagement.

Statutory Citations
FAST Act §§ 1301-1318, 1415, 1432, 1439, 11502; 23 U.S.C. 138, 139, 168, 169, 330; 49 U.S.C. 304

Provisions Guidance

Highlights of Environmental Provisions

Below is a brief summary of several environmental provisions that have helped to shape the current environmental review process. MAP-21 amended some environmental provisions. Further information on MAP-21 environmental provision implementation is on the FHWA's MAP-21 website.

Efficient Environmental Reviews for Project Decision Making highlights the updates to the environmental review process to include a new category of "participating agencies" for Federal, State, and local agencies and tribal nations that have an interest in the project. The lead agency must establish a coordination plan for agency and public participation and comment. Also under the provision, the participating agencies and the public will have the opportunity to comment on both the Purpose and Need and Range of Alternatives for a project. In addition, a 150-day statute of limitations for lawsuits challenging Federal agency approvals is provided, but it will require a new step of publishing a notice of environmental decisions in the Federal Register.

Statewide Transportation Planning; Metropolitan Transportation Planning requires transportation agencies to consult with resource agencies in statewide and metropolitan planning. Agencies must discuss potential environmental mitigation activities during the transportation planning process.

State Assumption of Responsibility for Categorical Exclusions (CE) declares that Division Offices may assign responsibilities and liabilities for making project specific CE determinations to State Departments of Transportation (DOT). An MOU template is available to help Division Offices and State DOTs begin the process of assigning responsibilities and liabilities for making project specific CE determinations to the State.

Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program describes the assumption of U.S. DOT environmental responsibilities under NEPA and other environmental laws. The program—for which all States are eligible—allows the Secretary of Transportation to assign, and the State to assume, the Secretary's responsibilities under NEPA for one or more highway projects, as well as one or more railroad, public transportation, and/or multimodal project. This program replaces the SAFETEA-LU Surface Transportation Project Delivery Pilot Program.

The Final Rule establishes the requirements relating the information that must be contained in the State application to participate in the program.

Exemption of Interstate System exempts most of the Interstate Highway System from consideration as a historic property under existing Section 4(f) legislation. A final list of Nationally and Exceptionally Significant Features of the Federal Interstate Highway System and Listing of State Archival Materials Pertaining to the Interstate Highway System is now available at http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/histpres/highways.asp.

Parks, Recreation Areas, Wildlife and Waterfowl Refuges, and Historic Sites amended existing Section 4(f) legislation to simplify the processing and approval of projects that have only de minimis impacts on lands protected by Section 4(f). Once the U.S. DOT determines that a transportation use of Section 4(f) property, after consideration of any impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation or enhancement measures, results in a de minimis impact on that property, an analysis of avoidance alternatives is not required and the Section 4(f) evaluation process is complete.

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MAP-21 Guidance and Information

  • Subtitle C – Accelerated Project Delivery

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U.S. Department of Transportation National Environmental Policy Act Categorical Exclusion Survey Review

In 2012, FHWA and FTA conducted a survey review of categorical exclusion (CE) usage and CE requests by grantees and other stakeholders, as required by MAP-21. To comply with this requirement, FHWA and FTA reviewed the CEs proposed in the FHWA and/or FTA CE rulemakings since 2005 and in the Department's review of regulations in 2011. The MAP-21 survey asked State Departments of Transportation (DOT), transit authorities, metropolitan planning organizations, and federally-recognized Tribes to provide information on:

  • CEs processed as a part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for transportation projects since 2005;
  • Types of actions categorically excluded;
  • Requests previously received by the Secretary of Transportation for new CEs that are not currently in regulation; and
  • Requests for new CEs.

U.S. Department of Transportation National Environmental Policy Act Categorical Exclusion Survey Review HTML   PDF (395 kB)

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SAFETEA-LU Guidance and Information

Use the Toolkit to learn about implementation and updates to the environmental review process.

Environmental Review Process Toolkit
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Environmental Review Process Checklist — Use this tool to ensure that the essential aspects of the SAFETEA-LU environmental review process have been completed.
Examples of Implementation — See a sample of what's being done, including:
  • Project Initiation Letters
  • Participating and/or Cooperating Agency Letters
  • Coordination Plans
  • Public Involvement Plans
  • Statute of Limitations (SOL) Notices
  • Agency Response Declining to be a Participating Agency
Title, Guidance, and Information
Use of Debris from Demolished Bridges and Overpasses, March 7, 2006
Guidance on the Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program, February 1, 2006
Major Projects
Surface Transportation Environment and Planning (STEP) Cooperative Research Program
Transportation Planning
Efficient Environmental Reviews for Project Decision Making
Environmental Restoration and Pollution Abatement; Control of Noxious Weeds and Aquatic Noxious Weeds and Establishment of Native Species
Exemption for the Interstate System
Parks, Recreation Areas, Wildlife and Waterfowl Refuges, and Historic Sites

For questions or feedback on this subject, please contact Damaris Santiago at 202-366-2034. For general questions or web problems, please send feedback to the web administrator.

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