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Apr 17 -- The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Department of Transportation (DOT), seeks public input on the implementation of Inflation Reduction Act section 60505: Environmental Review Implementation Funds, of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Comments must be received on or before June 1, 2023.

The IRA provides over $1 billion over the next 10 years to several Federal agencies to facilitate efficient and effective reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act and other Federal processes. This could include identifying new strategies that would mitigate environmental impacts and thereby reduce timeframes for environmental reviews.

To make the most of the IRA's historic investment and new opportunities, FHWA is seeking input on section 60505, Environmental Review Implementation Funds. This provision amends title 23, United States Code (U.S.C.) by adding 23 U.S.C. 178, and provides $100 million, available until September 30, 2026, to the Federal Highway Administrator. Funds under this program may be made available to eligible entities to support environmental reviews of surface transportation projects. Eligible entities for this purpose are: a State; a unit of local government; a political subdivision of a State; a Territory of the United States; an entity described in 23 U.S.C. 207(m)(1)(E); a recipient of funds under 23 U.S.C. 203; and a metropolitan planning organization (as defined in 23 U.S.C. 134(b)(2)). The funds may also be used by FHWA to develop guidance, technical assistance, templates, training, or other tools to facilitate an efficient and effective environmental review process for surface transportation projects.

The overwhelming majority of transportation projects can generally be processed with limited environmental documentation as categorical exclusions (CE). Project delay issues are more likely to occur on projects with the potential to cause significant environmental effects. However, even for that subset of projects, environmental review and permitting is often not the primary source of project delay. Previous efforts to assess challenges to project delivery have identified multiple factors that are greater contributors to project delays than issues with environmental review and permitting. These factors include inadequate project funding, increased capital costs, lack of consensus on multi-jurisdictional projects, low project prioritization, project complexity, local controversy, and changes in project scope. While improvements to the environmental review and permitting process may not directly address these challenges, FHWA is seeking evidence-based solutions that can both increase the efficiency of environmental reviews and potentially mitigate the primary sources of delay.

Through this RFI, FHWA is soliciting information and suggestions from the public and stakeholders across the public and private sectors on how best to facilitate FHWA's implementation of this provision. While the public will have further opportunities to provide input as the implementation process unfolds, this notice provides an early way for stakeholders to submit information that can help inform FHWA's implementation of this provision.

This RFI is intended to solicit information on potential opportunities and challenges for implementing section 60505 of the IRA, including: (i) suggestions as to how FHWA might implement this section; (ii) necessity for additional guidance, tools, training, templates, or program changes; (iii) program areas requiring new and continued research. While Congress has specified that these funds will be administered by FHWA, the purpose of the funds is broadly to support environmental reviews of surface transportation projects, which may include rail projects funded by the Federal Railroad Administration and public transportation projects funded by the Federal Transit Administration. FHWA specifically requests comments on how these funds may be used to support this broader group of projects, including those that do not have FHWA involvement. . . .

FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-08012

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