FAST Act Implementation
The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act or "FAST Act"
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act (P.L. 114-94), was the first long-term Federal transportation bill in more than 10 years. The FAST Act authorized $305 billion over fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for the Department of Transportation’s rail, highway, motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, research, technology and statistics programs. The FAST Act also marked the first time intercity passenger rail programs have been included in a comprehensive, multi-modal surface transportation authorization bill, authorizing more than $10 billion for intercity passenger and freight rail grants.
The FAST Act includes a number of provisions to further expedite the permitting processes while still protecting environmental and historic treasures and also codifying the online system to track projects and interagency coordination processes. Some of these requirements are directed to FRA’s program delivery efforts.
- Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM): On Friday, September 29, 2017, the Federal Register (FR) published a joint SNPRM entitled “Environmental Impacts and Related Procedures” from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Transit Administration (FRA), and FRA (referred to as ‘the Agencies”). In this SNPRM, the Agencies propose to add FRA to regulations governing environmental impact and related procedures and the Parks, Recreation Areas, Wildlife and Waterfowl Refuges, and Historic Site, making those regulations FRA's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing procedures and FRA's Section 4(f) implementing regulations, respectively. In addition, the SNPRM contains proposed edits and additions to FRA’s list of Categorical Exclusions (CEs). The SNPRM also provides interested parties the opportunity to comment on proposed revisions to the FHWA and FTA joint regulations implementing NEPA and Section 4(f) requirements and it proposes FAST Act revisions which requires a rulemaking to address programmatic approaches and other issues in environmental reviews. This SNPRM proposes to modify the FHWA/FTA Environmental Impact and Related Procedures due to changes to the environmental review process made by the FAST Act and to modify the Parks, Recreation Areas, Wildlife and Waterfowl Refuges, and Historic Sites regulations due to new exceptions created by the FAST Act. Lastly, the Agencies request comments regarding the current FHWA and FTA definition of “existing operational right-of-way” in their respective CE sections. The Agencies seek comments on the proposals in this document until November 28, 2017. The link to the notice at the FR is https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/09/29/2017-20565/environmental-impacts-and-related-procedures
- Proposed Section 106 Exemption for Rail Rights-of-Way (ROW): Section 11504 of the FAST Act directs the Secretary of Transportation to develop a proposed exemption of rail ROW from review under the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106). The proposed Section 106 exemption for rail ROW would be approved by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), and be consistent with the Section 106 exemption for the Interstate Highway System approved by the ACHP in 2005. FRA, in coordination with the FTA, the USDOT Office of the Secretary, and the FHWA, is leading the development of the proposed Section 106 exemption for rail ROW.
- New Questions and Answers regarding FAST Act changes to FHWA, FRA and FTA’s environmental review process statute (6/2/17). FRA, in coordination with the FHWA and the FTA, developed 20 Qs & As that highlight amendments to 23 U.S.C. 139, Efficient Environmental Reviews for Project Decision making, made by Section 1304 of the FAST Act. These amendments became applicable on December 4, 2015. This new set of detailed Qs & As provide stakeholders and practitioners with a more thorough discussion of Section 1304’s specific changes, such as changes to the definitions, programmatic reviews, lead agency and participating agency roles and responsibilities, project initiation process, alternative analysis, coordination plans, issue resolution, and project/process transparency.