By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs & assistant general counsel, ARTBA

The Obama Administration Sept. 22 unveiled details of a plan to speed up the environmental review and approval for transportation and other infrastructure projects. The initiative dates to a 2011 executive order to streamline such project reviews.

The plan calls for concurrent agency reviews, which allow multiple parts of the approval process to take place at the same time, as well as increased interagency coordination of review schedules.  Currently, agencies conduct separate reviews done one after the other – meaning one agency’s review cannot start until another’s is complete.

ARTBA has supported the idea of concurrent agency reviews on multiple occasions in both regulatory comments and legislative testimony, noting that federal agencies working together during the review process can reduce delay without impacting environmental safeguards.

The Administration’s plan also focuses on increasing publicly available information on the status of permitting decisions for individual transportation projects through a new “Online Permitting Dashboard.”

The initiative applies to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and seven other agencies regularly involved in federal permitting.

ARTBA supports the President’s plan and will actively follow its implementation, providing input as part of our continuing efforts to reduce delay in the transportation project review and approval process.