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RL32032 - Streamlining Environmental Reviews of Highway and Transit Projects: Analysis of SAFETEA and Recent Legislative Activities (pdf)
7-Dec-2004; Linda G. Luther; 17 p.
Update: April 13, 2005
Abstract: Before final design activities, property acquisition, or construction for a
federally funded surface transportation project can proceed, the Department of
Transportation (DOT) is required by law to comply with environmental review
provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 42 U.S.C. 4321, et
seq.). In addition, any surface transportation project will potentially require
compliance with a variety of federal, state, and local environmental laws, rules, and
regulations, in turn requiring the cooperation of federal, state, and local agencies.
Some Members of Congress have expressed concerns that the interagency
coordination required to complete the environmental review process for large,
complex transportation projects can lead to project delays. To address this concern,
"Environmental Streamlining" provisions were included in legislation that
reauthorized federal surface transportation programs for FY1998-2003 in the
Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21; P.L. 105-178).
During the 108th Congress, debate on the streamlining issue continued. Both
House- and Senate- passed legislation to reauthorize surface transportation programs
for FY2004-FY2009 (H.R. 3550 and S. 1072) included streamlining provisions.
Conferees failed to reach an agreement on reauthorization before Congress
adjourned. The 109th Congress is expected to revisit the streamlining issue when the
reauthorization legislation is reintroduced in early 2005.
Streamlining provisions from bills passed during the 108th Congress included
the designation of DOT as the lead agency in the environmental review process;
the designation of authority to the lead agency to define a project's purpose and need,
and to determine the range of alternatives to be considered; the creation of a dispute
resolution process to address issues of concern between agencies; amendments to
current statutory requirements to potentially allow for the use of certain public lands
or historic sites for transportation projects; delegation of certain authority to state
agencies; and the establishment of a statute of limitations on final agency actions or
comment deadlines applicable to agencies and the public.
This report provides background and detail on streamlining
provisions proposed during the 108th Congress that may be expected
to be revisited in legislation proposed during the 109th Congress.
This report will not be updated. For more information on issues
regarding the environmental review process, see CRS Report RL32024,
Background on NEPA Implementation for Highway Projects: Streamlining
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