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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Office of the Secretary, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, DC 20590

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, December 1, 2000
Contact: Lori Irving, (202) 366-0660
FHWA 127-00

Midwestern States, Federal Agencies Celebrate Agreement Safeguarding Environment, Streamlining Transportation Projects

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials in Chicago today celebrated the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) among 10 federal agencies and agencies of six states to streamline the development of highway projects in the Midwestern states while preserving environmental protections.

The purpose of the MOU is to reduce the time needed for environmental evaluation of federal-aid highway projects in the Midwestern region, while also assuring that the environment is protected and all environmental laws and regulations are fully satisfied.

It also will help meet requirements of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which calls for a streamlined transportation planning process that promotes environmentally sound transportation investment choices.

"The ultimate outcome of this MOU is to improve mobility and safety and enhance the environment by working together with all our partners to improve coordination," said FHWA Administrator Kenneth R. Wykle. "This partnership will help make our communities more livable and improve the quality of life for all."

The MOU is a broad regional agreement under which individual state streamlining agreements are planned. Developed jointly by the FHWA's Wisconsin Division and Midwestern Resource Center in partnership with the EPA's Region 5, the agreement establishes shared commitments among six midwestern states and 10 federal agencies to work cooperatively, resolve conflicts constructively and to apply performance measures, benchmarks and goals to make the highway project development process more efficient.

"This MOU on streamlining is an important first step," said Francis X. Lyons, Regional Administrator of EPA Region 5. "We anticipate that this agreement will lead to state agreements that, when implemented, will lead to process improvements and on-the-ground environmental results."

Senior officials from all 10 federal partnering agencies and six states signed the agreement. The federal agencies are the midwestern offices of the FHWA, EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and National Park Service. The state partners signing this MOU are the state departments of transportation and state environmental protection agencies of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

The MOU contains several strategies to assist the streamlining process. Examples include expansion of successful existing streamlining practices; better coordination of land use, growth, and transportation issues; alternative strategies to mitigate the environmental impacts of highways, and closer coordination of transportation planning with the environment.

The MOU will be on the Internet at the FHWA Midwestern Resource Center website, http://mrc.fhwa.dot.gov.

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