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One DOT Listening Session: Planning and Environment
November 6, 1998
Providence, Rhode Island

Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Mortimer Downey moderated the session with opening remarks by:

State of Rhode Island,
U.S. Senator, John Chafee, Chair, Committee on Environment and Public Works
U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Member, Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

Senator Chafee:

Tea-21 Goals for Reauthorization have been met in five areas:

1) Budget- TEA-21 reestablishes the link between the Highway Trust Fund and annual spending levels for transportation. TEA-21 is deficit neutral legislation.

2) Innovative Financing- "TIFIA will stretch limited transportation funds for large, nationally significant transportation infrastructure projects ($100 million plus)"; the $500 million in the bill will leverage $10.5 billion in assistance.

3) Anticipating transportation needs for the future- ITS will allow us to take advantage of the latest in commuter and communications technology.

4) Safety- TEA-21 provides $6.5 billion for highway safety programs and Incentives to increase seatbelt usage.

5) Environment- Enhancements, CMAQ, planning, NEPA were all under siege. TEA-21 includes a 60% increase in CMAQ. And, the $620 million per year in Enhancements equals 38% increase over ISTEA. TEA-21 encourages timely consideration of environmental impacts of projects while protecting the environment. Private sector wetland mitigation is a also a new addition-- wetland mitigation banking. The CMAQ authorizes public private partnerships to allow public sector to leverage private sector funds. The new TCSP pilot program–which provides $120 million over 6 years for comprehensive initiatives including planning, research and implementation.

Senator Jack Reed, U.S. Senator Rhode Island

"The ISTEA fundamental policies and principles were sound-planning, environment, Intermodalism, and transit principles were maintained and extended in TEA-21." TEA-21 retains a strong local role in planning process, and keeps focus on intermodal solutions to transportation problems. Formulas are more targeted, which is appropriate and will encourage more innovation and imagination in implementation of TEA-21.


TEA-21 incorporates many of the key provisions States wanted. It maximizes, safety, mobility and environmental protection. The challenge now for states and MPOs is to implement TEA-21 and ensure that Congressional intent is followed.

Environmental streamlining:
Environmental streamlining does not mean weakening environmental provisions. We need to refine the environmental and planning process. Evaluation of projects should reduce overlapping regulations, and we States look to one-stop shopping for federal environmental reviews, including cost benefit analysis. This enhanced process will enable us to consult with environmental and planning partners more effectively.

The elimination of MIS holds potential for a seamless planning and environmental review process. All stakeholders need to get involved early in the process. Define purpose and need early in process. Review full range of alternatives to avoid late raising of alternatives later on. Rulemaking needs to occur promptly, and be an open process. Reduce duplication and streamline to enhance environmental protection.

Performance Measures: There were mixed opinions about national standards and performance measures. Some felt that states should have accountability to U.S. DOT and others felt that the use of national measures couldn’t be responsive to all states needs. One speaker noted that TEA-21 provides flexibility in the use of funds but that their should also be accountability.

Environment: Wetlands mitigation banking is very good step. Banks will provide viable and sustainable ways of protecting wetlands.

Clean Water and Storm Water Act need more attention. The expense and addressing these problems is considerable. One speaker noted that we have to go after polluters who dump pollutants in our storm water system and then cause the States to be responsible for clean up and mitigation efforts.

Another speaker noted that cumulative, secondary impacts ofdecisions, planning and policies need to be considered.

MIS: MIS concerns included-- What do we get in place of the MIS? Financial and environmental impacts of projects must be understood, and we must integrate processes with NEPA but not at expense of key provisions that had been incorporated into MIS. The new MIS language concerns some speakers because they believe that MIS brought rationality to decision making. They don’t want to see retrenchment in the participation, collaboration that MIS has brought to the process. MIS integration into planning and NEPA process provides opportunities to consider alternatives. It was suggested that we might better satisfy purpose and need with less new pavement.

Research Funding: The TEA-21 cuts in this area are substantial and we need to be able to finance research. We need to be able to understand how to apply new technologies in our transportation system. This speaker noted that States and MPOs need to reexamine this issue at US DOT and join others to get this issue reconsidered by the Congress.

Planning/Decision Making Process-Partnerships: There was support for the TEA-21 emphasis on improved transportation decision making, land use, environmental issues, and quality of life goals. Planning factors have been simplified and several speakers thought they would be more meaningful than in ISTEA. The structure and substance of planning remains the same. How to strengthen role of MPOs in governing process? How can locals be more involved?

Planning process requires public outreach. One speaker noted that regional planning work is set aside once it moves to the environmental analysis arena. Issues are reopened as if previous work has never occurred. MIS attempted to bridge the gap between planning and project development. Wherever possible, U.S. DOT should develop new guidance and regulations from the perspective of the what? not the how? i.e. what should the planning process accomplish? Fold MIS into planning regulations. Guidance not regulation could provide adequate flexibility with adequate accountability. EIS should start after planning process but take information from it. Early and active involvement of all agencies is required. Not late in the process.

Mobility, Safety and Economic Development are key roles of transportation system. Management and operations of the system is a critical issue in serving nation’s mobility needs. Create tools to manage and operate the system (one of seven planning factors). Shift focus from building to operating. Operators of pieces of the system don’t have the overview that planners do. We must integrateoperations and management into the planning process.

Fiscal Constraint: One speaker noted support for fiscal constraint and that it forces collaborative decision making by elected-officials.

Communications/Outreach: Communication and outreach from the USDOT were commended and supported by speakers. They noted the need for information, education and training cannot be overemphasized. Inclusion of transit users is needed in the process especially in commenting on plans and TIPs. Need to disseminate best practices. DOT should establish clearinghouse to disseminate this information.

CMAQ: TEA-21 is important environmental legislation. Three principles U.S.DOT should follow in administering the CMAQ program: 1) Retain the flexibility and focus on results. 2) Sustain new initiatives and partnership that are working 3) Refrain from reinventing the program, tweak don’t toss the CMAQ program.

This speaker suggested that we look at CMAQ as rapid response toward emissions reductions and longer term contribution to attainment. Retain flexibility in CMAQ-- expand range and scope of projects through pilot projects, allow agencies to work with new partners. Current guidance requires project specific emission reductions, this has the result of some projects not making the cut.

Air quality benefits should be assessed in conforming regional air quality plans and not as specific projects....Look at cumulative results of these strategies. CMAQ should rely on conformity analysis for emissions impacts. Not specific air quality quantification.

The Interim Guidance doesn’t require MPOs to be consulted or concur with transfer of CMAQ funds from MPO areas. MPOs should have to approve of such actions before such transfers occur.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues: Integrate bicycle and pedestrian activity into everything DOTs do at every level of government. Cite good examples of how this can be done. National walking and bicycling goals should be incorporated into statewide and metropolitan plans. This speaker suggested a national campaign for kids to walk or bike to school if they live within 2 km. to school and an annual Secretary’s award to states, towns, etc that are bicycling friendly.

Cites/Rural Areas/Counties: Some speakers asked for U.S. DOT help to ensure that counties and cities get fair share of TEA-21 funds.Local governments want broader role in the allocation of funds. Try to improve process in rural areas (about 2/3 of 3,000 counties). These counties own roads and bridges (approx. 40%). Process for allocating funds must include local officials. STIP changes include consultation with local officials. Non-metropolitan planning process must include consultation with rural local officials. NACO thinks U.S.DOT regulations should emphasize structure for this process and provide guidance or examples of what works where-Oregon, Minnesota, Washington. USDOT should put these processes on the website. The October 10 notice in Fed Reg calls for enhanced consultation and this speaker urged that this occur.

Transportation investment in rural west is needed. Planning and environment can deliver programs that meet needs of our citizens or they can entangle projects in never ending process. Suggestions included:

1) USDOT should simplify project delivery process....don’t complicate it. 2) USDOT should not write or continue regulations unless required by statute. Provide states with maximum flexibility possible. this will enable best strategies to be implemented. 3) Maintain balance between states and political subdivisions. 4) Where regulation is required, write permissive rather than mandatory regulations. This is more productive than heavy regulatory hand. Attempts to complicate the process should be rejected.

Importance of environmental review process says we should adopt the following:

1) don’t prescribe how planning elements are considered; 2) current balance between states and local govt. should be maintained, 3) MIS process should not be broadened or expanded or new criteria to govern STIP and TIP approvals 4)Acknowledge performance goals and objectives only makes sense at state and local levels. Not at federal level.

National League of Cities supports TEA-21. Three areas of importance for local governments 1) Equity for local govt. Local govt. do not have the funds they deserve under the law. A transportation equity campaign is being undertaken by National League of Cities. Want gas tax returned to locals for local transportation needs. TEA-21 gives no guarantee of funds to local government. If equity matters on federal level, it should matter on local level as well. Urban areas provide the economic backbone of the country. They drive our economy. Comments included: 1) Planning is good on local level; without funds it is meaningless. 2) Continued Partnership of locals govt. To those close to the issues should be able to implement the legislation. Local land usedecisions go hand in hand with transportation decisions. Small local govt. should also be allowed to make decisions. MPOs don’t always represent local cities fairly likewise with smaller cities.

Selected Quotes:

Mindy Lubber, EPA Deputy Regional Administrator, Region 1

"EPA has a legitimate role but conflicting viewpoints. EPA needs to be involved early on. Get the environmental people involved early on. Where are the environmental folks? At the very front of the project, we need the right people at the table. EPA has the challenge to do this."

David Winstead: ""Efficiency in government is what we are talking about, including getting more return on taxpayer investment".

Bill Ankner: "Transportation is not an end in itself, it is part of a community."

Bill Ankner-- "State DOTS are managers of transportation system, not only builders. We need to be looking at integration with land use decisions early on. Land use is driven by property taxes."

Beverly Scott-- " It all goes back to the right people,... broad based participation is needed from the front end of the process. It Should not be possible to have major investments with big surprises two or three years into the process. Bring up issues on the front end."

Michael Cassidy-- "Transportation planning as part of statewide comprehensive planning structure has benefits although not always easy to recognize."

Fogel-- "FHWA needs to communicate clearly that this is a federal, state, local program and states don’t own all the money". Rulemaking needs to allow local governments to participate in decision making on how to spend federal money in the areas where locals have flexibility i.e. STP, CMAQ, Enhancements, TCSP, etc.

Michael Replogle, Environmental Defense Fund--"Need to work to streamline, but do so in a way that seeks to better incorporate choices, alternatives, and secondary impacts of projects."

This page last modified on December 10, 1998
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