New U.S. rule to accelerate rail delivery projects

The U.S. Department of Transport announced a final rule today to amend Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that will accelerate project delivery. The new rule will take effect on November 28, 2018, 30 days after being published in the Federal Register.
To date, the new rule is one of the department’s most expansive regulatory realignments of federal environmental transport policy.
“As directed by Congress, this much-needed rule will accelerate the delivery of new rail, transit and highway projects by rationalizing and streamlining the environmental review process across all three modes,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.
By modifying 23 CFR 771 and 774 to specifically include the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the new rule allows the FRA to follow the same flexible environmental procedures as FHWA and FTA, which will eliminate confusion and increase efficiency.
The rule also helps FHWA and FTA further implement the statutory changes in 23 USC 139 and formalizes all three agencies’ roles by maintaining consistency in America’s surface transport policy across multiple federal agencies.
The new rule also reiterates states’ ability to produce a single environmental document and combine the Final Environmental Impact Statement with the Record of Decision document. The rule further provides for greater flexibility on projects that take place entirely within the operational right-of-way.

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