The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) implements federal environmental laws and policies related to the nation's railroads. FRA participates in domestic forums covering a wide range of environmental issues including hazardous materials safety, noise, invasive species, climate change, and community livability. FRA strives to provide information and resources for environmentally sound planning and development of the nation’s railroad system, and also conducts environmental impact assessments of pending actions and projects. FRA also maintains working relationships with rail transportation carriers, non-governmental organizations, and other rail-related organizations.
DOT Publishes Final Rule Continuing Efforts to Streamline the Environmental Process
On October 29, 2018, FRA, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) published a Final Rule in the Federal Register amending 23 CFR part 771, Environmental Impact and Related Procedures and 23 CFR part 774, Parks, Recreation Areas, Wildlife and Waterfowl Refuges, and Historic Sites (Section 4(f)). The regulation becomes effective on November 28, 2018.
Why the new rule?
The Final Rule adds FRA to 23 CFR parts 771 and 774. It also includes updates responding to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. This allows FRA to follow the same flexible environmental procedures as FHWA and FTA.
What does this mean for FRA’s project sponsors and stakeholders?
This regulation increases efficiency for the preparation of environmental documents and accelerates project delivery by providing new tools for FRA and project sponsors to use, including:
- Applying the same environmental regulations (and Section 4(f) requirements) for rail projects that FHWA and FTA already use.
- Updating and expanding the number of categorical exclusions for rail projects.
- Allowing FRA to use FHWA and FTA categorical exclusions as appropriate.
When will these regulations apply to FRA railroad projects?
The Final Rule is effective as of November 28, 2018. For projects initiated before the effective date, FRA will follow its existing 1999 FRA Environmental Procedures. After the effective date, FRA will follow 23 CFR part 771.
Will there be other notices or training on the Final Rule?
FRA is in the process of scheduling a webinar and updating its website to provide additional details on the Final Rule.
You can receive updates or more information by emailing FRARailProgramDelivery@dot.gov.
Updated: October 29, 2018