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Environmental Programs

What's New

  • FTA, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), published a final rule updating their environmental regulations that implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (23 CFR part 771) and Section 4(f) (23 CFR part 774) requirements to reflect MAP-21 and FAST Act changes. The rule was published in the Federal Register on October 29, 2018, and went into effect on November 28, 2018. Highlights include: 1) Addition of Cross-Agency Categorical Exclusion (CE)—FTA may now apply an FHWA or FRA CE to an FTA project or action should FHWA or FRA have a CE that better matches the project activity (see 23 CFR 771.118(e)); 2) Broadening of the Operational Right-of-Way (ROW) CE—The “existing operational ROW” definition at 23 CFR 771.188(c)(12) has been broadened in this revision to the rule; 3) Inclusion of a Combined Final Environmental Impact Statement/Record of Decision section (see 23 CFR 771.124); 4) Inclusion of a Coordination Plan and Schedule requirement—FTA and the project sponsor must establish the coordination plan, including schedule, within 90 days of publishing the notice of intent (see 23 CFR 771.123(b)(2)); 5) Addition of three new Section 4(f) Exemptions (see 23 CFR 774.13(a)). Please review the rule for the complete list of revisions.
  • ACHP issued a “Program Comment to Exempt Consideration of Effects to Rail Properties within Rail Rights-of-Way” to accelerate certain Section 106 reviews on August 24, 2018. Link to the FR notice. Federal agencies can satisfy their Section 106 responsibilities with regard to the effects of undertakings on rail properties located in railroad and rail transit rights-of-way (“rail ROW”) by following the program comment and the steps set forth therein. The Program Comment offers two approaches: 1) use of a list of activities exempted from Section 106 Reviews, with immediate applicability, found in Appendix A. and 2) a “property-based approach” that will provide a broader exemption for undertakings that involve activities not listed in Appendix A. The property-based approach will be available following USDOT publication of a guidance on how to apply the property-based approach.
  • FTA recently released its Historic Context Report for Transit Rail System Development. This report was prepared in support of the development of a Section 106 exemption for rail rights-of-way as mandated in Section 11504 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The report identifies a broad national overview of rail transit development based upon a literature search as well as localized historic contexts in the following metropolitan areas: Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington.
  • FTA recently released its Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transit Projects: Programmatic Assessment. The programmatic assessment serves to report on whether certain types of proposed transit projects merit detailed analysis of their GHG emissions at the project level and to provide a source of data and analysis for FTA and its grantees to reference in future environmental documents for projects in which detailed, project-level GHG analysis would provide only limited information beyond what is collected and considered in this programmatic analysis. A GHG emissions estimator tool and accompanying user guide are also available.

Overview

The Office of Environmental Programs, within FTA's Office of Planning and Environment, develops and promotes approaches to enhance and integrate environmental decision-making in transportation planning, programming and projects. It serves as FTA's principal advocate for the improvement of the human environment and for minimizing the adverse impact of transportation on the natural environment. In addition, the Office of Environmental Programs:

  • Develops technical guidance, training, and other planning assistance for FTA Regional Offices and grantees, including site planning, land use and environmental impacts; environmental justice reviews; and public involvement and coordination of transportation and air quality planning;
  • Develops and provides guidance and training on the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and related legislation;
  • Evaluates human, natural environment programs and processes, and FTA's management of the NEPA process, and uses results in planning program administration;
  • Provides guidance and assistance to FTA Regional Offices in support of community and public involvement. Develops training courses, publications, and other approaches to promote public involvement. Works with FTA Regional Offices to identify and avoid potential concerns or complaints;
  • Represents FTA in federal interagency work groups developing legislative proposals relating to the environment and transportation.
  • Provides technical assistance on the transportation impacts of environmental legislation being considered by Congress.  
  • Develops FTA policies, regulations, procedures and guidelines in the following areas: air quality, global climate change, water quality and Clean Water Act issues wetlands, threatened and endangered species, fish and wildlife, hazardous waste and brownfields, coastal zones and coastal barrier protection rights-of-way acquisition; and
  • Performs interagency environmental coordination with Federal agencies including the Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, and the Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, on specific transit projects to resolve conflicts and/or expedite development and decision-making and on policy, regulatory and/or operational issues to unify and integrate Federal coordination and decision-making relating to funding, permits, land transfers and other federal actions or approvals.

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