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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 23, 2003
Contact: Bill Outlaw
Tel: 202-366-0660
FHWA 1-03

USDOT Clarifies Rural Local Officials' Role in Transportation Planning

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today addressed the role of rural local officials in the statewide transportation planning process. Their final rule amends the 1993 joint planning regulations and requires that states create and document a process, separate from the public involvement process, to consult with non-metropolitan local officials and provide for their participation in statewide transportation planning and programming.

"Consultation and cooperation in transportation decision-making are critical components of the planning process," FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters said. "In issuing this final rule, we clarify the role of rural local officials in the statewide transportation planning process.

"I am happy to be able to reflect the NACO, NADO, AASHTO compromise in the final rule. The joint work of those organizations helps the new rule resolve concerns that have been raised and left unclear for several years," Peters said.

FTA Administrator Jennifer L. Dorn agreed that clarifying the role of non-metropolitan local officials was a key element of the planning process. "By ensuring the role of rural officials in transportation planning, we will all benefit from the expertise of local officials who will be assured the opportunity to participate in transportation decision-making," she said.

In addition to the consultation requirement, states are also required to review and solicit comments about this process and make appropriate modifications, to ensure that it is effective. Each state has one year and 30 days to document and implement its own consultation process.

While states are ultimately responsible for statewide transportation planning, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) specified a role for rural officials in the statewide transportation planning process. Under the final rule, states are required to consult with non-metropolitan local officials as they develop their statewide transportation plan and the statewide transportation improvement program. In consulting with non-metropolitan local officials, states are to confer with them in accordance with a process that will be established and put in place by each state.

The final rule reflects a compromise jointly agreed to, and submitted to, the docket by the National Association of Counties, the National Association of Development Organizations, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials - whose members are most directly affected by the new ruling.

The final rule is in today's Federal Register.

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