Environmental Review Toolkit
Accelerating Project Delivery

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.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has extensively promoted PAs through initiatives, such as Every Day Counts (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
plus sign Every Day Counts (EDC)
minus sign Every Day Counts (EDC)

In 2009, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) launched EDC in cooperation with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to speed up the delivery of highway projects and to address the challenges presented by limited budgets. Four rounds of projects have been initiated since the program launched, and PAs were featured in EDC-1 (2011-2012) and EDC-2 (2013-2014).

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 continue to build on the success of EDC-1 by increasing the awareness of the benefits and by creating 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).

  • EDC-2 Final Report - This report summarizes successes from EDC-2 initiatives, including programmatic agreements (PAs). Thirteen PA project examples are highlighted in the report.
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minus sign National and Regional Programmatic Approaches
  • 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 & 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.
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FHWA Guidance

Benefits and Costs Resources

  • Benefits and Costs of Programmatic Agreements [Webinar] - This webinar focused on the framework, methodology, and results of case studies on PAs; the experiences of States that have successfully implemented PAs; and key implementation strategies and benefits of using PAs.
  • Benefits and Costs of Programmatic Agreements - This benefit cost analysis report consisted of a case study approach that evaluated three agreement types within seven States to determine how cost-beneficial various PA types are for agencies. The analysis confirmed that PA and approaches are cost-beneficial tools that lead to time and cost savings and multiple forms of qualitative and non-quantifiable benefits. The report also discusses challenges and limitations that need to be addressed when implementing PAs.

SHRP-2 Resources

MAP-21 Section 1305 Resources

  • National Online Dialogue for MAP-21 Section 1305 - Programmatic Approaches - This webpage provides information on the MAP-21 Section 1305 requirement that FHWA and FTA initiate a rulemaking to allow for the use of programmatic approaches that are consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other applicable laws to conduct environmental reviews.  FHWA and FTA conducted outreach to stakeholders through a national online dialogue and targeted listening sessions. Following completion of the outreach process, the Agencies initiated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that provided interested parties with the opportunity to comment on proposed new and/or modified Agency regulations.

Related Resources

  • The 2015 Red Book - The 2015 Red Book is a "how to" for Federal, State, and local agencies on synchronizing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other regulatory reviews such as U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Regulatory review, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) bridge permit reviews, and Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation.
  • Statewide Section 106 Programmatic Agreements: A Streamlining Initiative - This report outlines several of the statewide Section 106 PAs that have been executed through 2002, and explains the history and status (at the time) of each agreement. It also indicates under what circumstances these agreement documents could be used as models for other State DOTs seeking to enact similar types of PAs.
  • State Practices Database - The State Practices Database is a searchable, categorized online database that contains examples of streamlining and stewardship practices used by States to efficiently and effectively fulfill their NEPA obligations.
plus sign AASHTO Resources
minus sign AASHTO Resources
  • 2016 Roadmap and Tracking Tool for Developing and Implementing Programmatic Agreements [Webinar] - This interactive webinar explores the Roadmap for Developing and Implementing Programmatic Agreements (Roadmap) and the Programmatic Agreement Tracking Tool (Tracking Tool). Representatives from FHWA, state DOTs, and resource and regulatory agencies share their experiences in developing and implementing PAs.
  • Roadmap for Developing and Implementing Programmatic Agreements - This report provides a roadmap of sequential steps for determining whether or not a PA is needed, how to develop a PA, supporting materials that may be useful for a PA, and ultimately how to implement a PA.
  • Programmatic Agreements Tracking - This member-based tool is intended for State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and FHWA to use to estimate, track, and report the associated costs and benefits of developing and implementing PAs, including quantitative and qualitative metrics. Users must register to gain access.
  • Programmatic Agreements Library (PAL) Database - PAL is the Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO library of programmatic agreements.
  • Standing Committee on the Environment Framework

Questions and feedback should be directed to Damaris Santiago at 202-366-2034.

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