New Framework Aims to Accelerate Project Delivery
A coordinated and timely process for environmental reviews of major infrastructure projects is essential to advancing and delivering these projects to the traveling public. Executive Order 13807, Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects, sets forth a new framework--known as One Federal Decision--for Federal agency cooperation on environmental review and permitting for major infrastructure projects.
The One Federal Decision approach aims to expedite Federal environmental reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Federal agencies will use a single, coordinated process to develop and issue an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and a Record of Decision (ROD).
The goal is for Federal agencies to complete the environmental review process for major infrastructure projects in an average of 2 years--from publication of the Notice of Intent to issuance of the ROD and all other Federal authorizations within 90 days of the ROD.
The Federal Highway Administration supports accelerated project delivery and will continue to do so through the One Federal Decision framework. In the spirit of interagency coordination, FHWA worked with several of its partner Federal resource agencies to develop a working agreement that outlines a general coordination process for FHWA's major infrastructure projects.
In April 2018, the U.S. Department of Transportation joined 11 other Federal agencies in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that sets the process for implementing the One Federal Decision framework. Under the MOU, Federal agencies conduct their review processes at the same time, rather than sequentially. The agencies collaborate throughout the process and resolve any issues in a timely manner. One Federal Decision also implements the requirements for a single EIS, a single ROD, and a single administrative record.
FHWA's working agreement with partner agencies includes a coordination process chart, which synchronizes various agency activities with the goal to complete the environmental review process in 2 years. The chart identifies activities that should happen prior to the publication of the Notice of Intent and identifies the timing of the three agency concurrence points: 1) purpose and need, 2) range of alternatives to be carried forward for analysis, and 3) preferred alternative. Lead agencies will obtain written concurrence for these three points from all cooperating agencies whose authorizations are required for the project.
For more information on One Federal Decision, visit www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/nepa/oneFederal_decision.aspx.
Currently, FHWA is processing three projects under the One Federal Decision framework.
Emily Biondi is the director of FHWA's Office of Project Development and Environmental Review (HEPE).
Anne Rowe is the environmental protection specialist in HEPE.
Damaris Santiago is the team leader for Project Mitigation in HEPE.
U.S. Route 58/220 Bypass to North Carolina State Line Limited-Access Study (Virginia). The Virginia Department of Transportation is evaluating potential transportation improvements along the U.S. Route 220 corridor between the U.S. Route 58/220 Bypass and the North Carolina State line, also referred to as the Martinsville Connector Study. FHWA issued the Notice of Intent in February 2018. For more information on this project, visit www.virginiadot.org/projects/salem/martinsville_southern_connector_study.asp.
I–495/I–270 Managed Lanes Study (Maryland). The Maryland State Highway Administration is evaluating alternatives to accommodate existing and future traffic, improve trip reliability, expand travel options, accommodate homeland security, and improve the movement of goods and services within the study limits. FHWA issued the Notice of Intent in March 2018. For more information on this project, visit https://495-270-p3.com.
Tri-County Access Study (Illinois). The Illinois Department of Transportation, in collaboration with the Illinois Tollway, is conducting a comprehensive regional study to identify environmentally and fiscally responsible solutions to regional traffic congestion in Lake, northern Cook, and eastern McHenry counties. FHWA issued the Notice of Intent in July 2018. More information on this project is available at http://tricountyaccess.org.