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Introduction

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are issuing this joint guidance on the environmental review process required by Section 6002 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which has been codified as 23 USC §139. This section of SAFETEA-LU prescribes changes to existing FHWA and FTA procedures for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, and for implementing the regulations of the Council on Environmental Quali ty (CEQ), 40 CFR parts 1500 through 1508. These changes are the result of efforts to make the environmental review process more efficient and timely, and to protect environmental and community resources. This should result in expedited approvals of urgently needed transportation improvements such as those identified by USDOT's congestion initiative. Section 6002 of SAFETEA-LU describes the roles of the project sponsor and the lead, participating, and cooperating agencies; sets new requirements for coordinating and scheduling agency reviews; broadens the authority for States to use Federal funds to ensure timely environmental reviews; and specifies a process for resolving interagency disagreements.

The purpose of this guidance is to provide explanations of new and changed aspects of the environmental review process for FHWA and FTA NEPA practitioners. The guidance informs the reader about what, and how, things need to be done differently as a result of SAFETEA-LU. Although this guidance outlines a new environmental review process, it does not supersede any previous guidance or regulations promulgated under NEPA. In particular, the previously mentioned CEQ regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508) and the FHWA-FTA NEPA regulation (23 CFR part 771) are supplemented by this guidance and remain in effect. A question and answer format is used throughout the guidance, and the table of contents provides a list of all of the questions. Hyperlinks to specific sections of the law or cited documents are provided for each section and throughout the guidance for further reference, as appropriate. For example, terms used throughout the guidance (e.g., "project sponsor", "participating agency", etc.) are hyperlinked to corresponding definitions in SAFETEA-LU or other regulations.

This guidance is divided into three sections:

This guidance also includes several appendices: Appendix A contains the full text of 23 USC §139, and Appendix B contains sample invitation letters to a participating agency. Appendix C features the resource document, Interagency Guidance: Transportation Funding for Federal Agency Coordination Associated with Environmental Streamlining Activities. Appendix D links to the FHWA/FTA guidance, Linking the Transportation Planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Processes. Finally, Appendix E provides the updated FHWA guidance, including attachments, for FHWA implementation of the 180-day statute of limitations established by SAFETEA-LU in 23 U.S.C. §139(l). Appendix E does not apply to FTA and does not apply to projects for which FTA is the Federal lead agency.

The intent of this guidance is to provide project sponsors with as much flexibility as possible in administering the environmental review process, while providing a framework to facilitate efficient project management and decisionmaking in accordance with the law. In addition, this guidance is intended to assist agencies involved specifically in the development of environmental impact statements (EISs). Because the size and scope of EISs can vary, adjustments to the recommended approaches included in this guidance may be appropriate, but the minimum statutory requirement is always noted. While Section 6002 does create new requirements for the environmental review process, the FTA and FHWA believe that project sponsors that use proactive participation, communication, and coordination practices will succeed in expediting project reviews.

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