U.S. Department of Transportation
(Original signed by)
James M. Shrouds
Director of Natural Environment, FHWA
(Original signed by)
Robert W. Stout
Director, Office of Planning Operations, FTA
Federal Lands Highway Division Engineers
FTA Regional Administrators
Date: Date: April 25, 2000
Reply to: Attn. of: HEPN-1/TPL-10
Attached is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between DOT and EPA, the purpose of which is to improve coordination and consultation on conformity issues and the key transportation provisions in State Implementation Plans (SIPs). The intent of this MOU is to provide for timely review and comment on transportation and air quality planning documents and to establish a framework for trying to resolve outstanding issues before final decisions are made. This MOU does not alter DOT's statutory responsibility for making conformity determinations, nor does it alter EPA's important consultative role in the process. We want to highlight two subjects covered by the MOU:
Process for resolving disputes -- The MOU recognizes the FHWA Divisions'/FTA Regions' authority for making conformity determinations. We expect in the great majority of cases that disagreements on conformity issues will be settled by the DOT and EPA field offices. However, in the event that disagreements cannot be settled by the senior managers of the field offices, there is a provision for escalating the outstanding issues to the agencies' headquarters offices. The purpose is to provide a full airing of the issues, within a 30-day time period, before DOT makes its decision. The decision to escalate a specific case to Headquarters should be a joint decision of the DOT and EPA field offices. We expect that relevant background information on the issues will be provided to FHWA and FTA Headquarters offices at the same time. The EPA regional office will be responsible for coordination with the Office of Transportation and Air Quality (Ann Arbor).
Advancing TCMs during a conformity lapse -- The process for advancing TCMs during a lapse is covered in a three-page appendix to this MOU. This is a relatively recent addition to the MOU, although we have been discussing this subject with EPA for a long time. The wording in the appendix states as clearly as possible that we expect TCMs in the SIP to have documented emission reductions. Note that TCMs cannot advance during a conformity lapse unless they have already been approved into the SIP by EPA. When dealing with new TCMs, the combined transportation planning/SIP approval process will take a minimum of 6 months to complete, and likely much longer. Thus, this guidance states that if the lapse is estimated to last less than 6 months, the MPO should focus on reestablishing plan/TIP conformity while advancing the TCMs which have already been approved in the SIP.
cc: Resource Center Directors