Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

Program Overview

2015 Red Book
The Red Book is a "how to" for Federal, State, and local agencies on synchronizing the NEPA and other regulatory reviews. Learn More >>

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Environmental Streamlining and NEPA: A History

The national commitment to the environment was formalized through the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. NEPA establishes a national environmental policy and provides a framework for environmental planning and decisionmaking by Federal agencies. NEPA directs Federal agencies, when planning projects or issuing permits, to conduct environmental reviews to consider the potential impacts on the environment by their proposed actions. NEPA also established the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which is charged with the administration of NEPA. The NEPA process consists of a set of fundamental objectives that include interagency coordination and cooperation and public participation in planning and project development decisionmaking.

Environmental reviews involve an interdisciplinary and interagency process. The lead Federal agency works cooperatively with other Federal and state agencies during the environmental review process. This coordinated review process includes input from the public, as well as from other agencies, to guarantee that all environmental protections, as well as all other issues are addressed.

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Executive Orders

On March 22, 2012, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13604, titled Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects. This Executive Order reinforces that Federal permitting and review processes be conducted with maximum efficiency and effectiveness, ensuring the health, safety, and security of communities and the environment while supporting vital economic growth. The Executive Order also directs that these processes must be transparent, consistent, and predictable, and that agencies should set and adhere to timelines and schedules for completing reviews, as well as set and track progress against performance goals.

On September 18, 2002, President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13274, titled Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Reviews, which emphasizes the importance of expedited transportation project delivery while being good stewards of the environment. The executive order complements and reinforces the strategic direction that FHWA established in its Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining Vital Few Goal (see below). FHWA is setting expectations, measures, and methods for advancing an improved and efficient environmental review process and for demonstrating environmental stewardship (see Administrator's Memorandum on Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining).

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President Obama signed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) (P.L. 112-141) into law on July 6, 2012, with an effective date of October 1, 2012. MAP-21, a two-year funding bill, is the first long-term highway authorization enacted since 2005.

MAP-21 creates a streamlined and performance-based surface transportation program and builds on many of the highway, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian programs and policies established in 1991. MAP-21 promotes accelerating project delivery and encourages innovation through the increased use of Categorical Exclusions, programmatic approaches, and planning and environmental linkages. For more information on MAP-21, visit the FHWA MAP-21 website or the U.S. DOT MAP-21 website.

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On August 10, 2005, President George W. Bush signed into law the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The two landmark bills that brought surface transportation into the 21st century-the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21)-shaped the highway program to meet the Nation's changing transportation needs. SAFETEA-LU builds on this firm foundation, supplying the funds and refining the programmatic framework for investments needed to maintain and grow our vital transportation infrastructure.

SAFETEA-LU addresses the many challenges facing our transportation system today such as improving safety, reducing traffic congestion, improving efficiency in freight movement, increasing intermodal connectivity, and protecting the environment as well as laying the groundwork for addressing future challenges. SAFETEA-LU promotes more efficient and effective Federal surface transportation programs by focusing on transportation issues of national significance, while giving State and local transportation decision makers more flexibility for solving transportation problems in their communities.

A number of SAFETEA-LU provisions are aimed at improving efficiency in highway program and project delivery. From better planning and coordination to improved materials, contracting and construction, these provisions will support efforts to more efficiently advance a safer and more effective highway program, and strengthen stewardship and oversight.

Visit the Environmental Provisions and Related Information page to learn more.

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Section 1309 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) mandated Environmental Streamlining as the timely delivery of transportation projects while protecting and enhancing the environment. Environmental Streamlining requires transportation and natural, cultural, and historic resource agencies to establish realistic timeframes for transportation and environmental resource agencies to develop projects, and then to work cooperatively to adhere to those timeframes. A key element of Environmental Streamlining is communication with and the gathering of input from the public and stakeholders.

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Interagency Funding Guidance

The purpose of Interagency Funding Guidance is to provide the USDOT, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Division offices, State DOTs, local transit operators, Federal resource agencies, and Federally recognized Indian tribes with the tools needed to develop mutually beneficial agreements to meet the goals of SAFETEA-LU. For more information on Interagency Funding Guidance, please visit http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/strmlng/igdocs/index.asp.

State Transportation Liaison Funded Positions Study - The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) contracted with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to conduct a study on funded positions programs. The purpose of the study was to assess trends in the use of funded positions and provide recommendations to State DOTs and resource agencies to support more effective utilization of these programs. The study revealed common benefits, challenges, and decisionmaking steps that are involved in developing and managing funded positions programs.  View the report.  View PDF.

State Transportation Liaison Funded Positions Study

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which was signed into law in August 2005, contained several provisions focused on streamlining the environmental review process. One of these provisions, Section 6002, allowed for State Department of Transportation (State DOT) funding of staff, at both Federal and State resource agencies, who are dedicated to working on State DOT projects on environmental streamlining and related planning activities.

This report assesses trends in the use of these “funded positions” and provides recommendations to State DOTs and resource agencies to support more effective uses of funded positions. The report is based on a study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Project Development and Environmental Review with assistance from the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe Center). The study consisted of two parts: (1) a literature review to assess the state of the knowledge about State DOT-funded positions and agreements, and (2) a series of interviews with participants in funded positions programs, including program managers at State DOTs and Federal and State resource agencies and individuals in those positions.  View the report.  View PDF.

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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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