The National Academies

NCHRP 25-25/Task 099 [Final]

Lessons Learned from State DOT NEPA Assumption
[ NCHRP 25-25 (Research for the AASHTO Committee on Environment and Sustainability) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $125,000
Research Agency: Louis Berger
Principal Investigator: Kelly Dunlap
Effective Date: 7/21/2015
Completion Date: 7/21/2016

STATUS:  A final report summarizing the Peer Exchange is available HERE

Research Objective:
The objective of this research was to share lessons learned from State DOTs who have applied or are in the process of applying for NEPA assumption with other states who are considering assumption. Information will be shared in at least the following 3 ways: (1) a peer exchange, (2) a white paper, and (3) a webinar. The webinar and white paper will explain the process of obtaining delegation, primary considerations, and an evaluation of what responsibilities can be delegated, existing flexibilities, challenges, risks and benefits. 

FHWA and state departments of transportation (DOTs) are looking for opportunities to streamline transportation projects during the NEPA process. To increase opportunities, Section 6004 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users Act (SAFETEA-LU), codified as 23 USC 326, allowed FHWA to assign authorities related to Categorical Exclusions (CE).To gain this authority, state DOTs enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with FHWA, which delineates the responsibilities to be delegated to the state. Section 6005 of SAFETEA-LU, now 23 USC 327, assigned Federal NEPA responsibilities for one or more highway projects to five states under a delegation pilot program: Alaska, California, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas.  Currently, Alaska, California, Utah and Texas have received this assigned authority.  Since the provision was enacted, California applied for and received authority to participate in both delegation programs. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) began operating on this assigned authority in July 2007 and this authority has been extended to January 2017. The delegation of authority allows Caltrans to assume FHWA responsibilities under NEPA and other Federal environmental laws for CE transportation projects as well as for those requiring Environmental Assessments (EA) or Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). The program has successfully reduced the time required to prepare EAs and EISs.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) amended this program to make it permanent and allow all state DOTs to assume federal DOT responsibilities under NEPA. Texas is finalizing its MOU with FHWA for NEPA assignment and several other states are interested in pursuing NEPA assignment.
Because NEPA delegation is a technique that can help streamline the NEPA process, a number of state DOTs have expressed interest in understanding the risks and benefits of NEPA delegation as well as the process required to obtain NEPA responsibility from FHWA. Disseminating lessons learned would be beneficial to state DOTs that are considering NEPA assumption.

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