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Can segments of the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways (Interstate System) be removed from the system?
Yes. The Federal Highway Administrator can approve the withdrawal of segments from the Interstate System. The Office of Environment, Planning, and Realty (HEP) is the office within the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that has the lead in evaluating the request and guiding it through the approval process. HEP coordinates the review with FHWA's Office of Infrastructure and Office of Chief Counsel prior to forwarding it to the FHWA Administrator for approval.
Who can request the withdrawal of an Interstate segment?
Only the transportation agency in the State in which the highway is located can request Interstate withdrawal.
How does a State request the withdrawal of an Interstate segment?
The State transportation agency would submit the withdrawal request to the Federal Highway Administrator through its FHWA Division Office. The State transportation agency should consult with affected responsible local officials and have agreement from transportation agencies in neighboring States where the routes involve State-line connections. All requests must comply with relevant statewide and metropolitan plans and processes.
What information should the State include in its withdrawal request?
A description of the proposed revision (e.g., limits and location); an assessment and explanation of how the Interstate System will function without the segment in question; a justification for the revision; an explanation of the intended use of the segment after withdrawal; documentation of coordination with affected MPOs and local entities; documentation of compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements for the withdrawal; and, a proposed numbering plan, if necessary. In addition, the deletion of a segment of the Interstate System will likely lead to the deletion of the segment from the National Network. The State must provide the request and justification for withdrawing the segment from the National Network as detailed in 23 CFR 658.11(d).
Maps, data, and other relevant information on how the current and planned highways will affect safety, mobility, and access should be provided with the request.
Are States required to coordinate with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on Interstate route numbering issues?
Yes. States are required to coordinate proposed numbering with AASHTO's Special Committee on Route Numbering (see 23 CFR 470.111(d)). In some cases, a change in the numbering of remaining Interstate System routes may be advisable in order to avoid driver confusion.
Would highway segments withdrawn from the Interstate System remain on the National Highway System (NHS) if they continue to be used as public roads?
Yes, they will remain on the NHS, unless the State requests their removal from the NHS or they are no longer functionally classified as principal arterials. General procedures for submitting updates to the NHS, including removal of segments can be found here: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/national_highway_system/review/nhsproc.cfm.
Can a State take a segment off the Interstate Highway System in order to operate it as a toll facility, maintain the highway to less than Interstate standards, or avoid some other Federal requirement?
No. States cannot remove highways from the Interstate System solely to operate them as Interstate-type facilities without the requirements the State agreed to when it accepted Federal funding to construct the highway. States also cannot repay the Federal share of a project in order to circumvent Federal requirements.
What are some reasons a State would want to withdraw/remove an Interstate segment?
The following list, while not comprehensive, identifies examples of why States may consider withdrawal of a segment from the Interstate System. For example, urban Interstate spurs that terminate in downtown areas might better meet local transportation and livability needs if they were downgraded to urban boulevards. In one case, an Interstate segment that was to connect to a future Interstate route became impractical due to community opposition and environmental concerns, and so the segment would never function as part of the Interstate System. Land use adjacent to the segment may have changed substantially over the years. As a result, the segment no longer serves the intent of the Interstate System.
Would the State have to repay the Federal funds that participated in the project?
Generally, there is no obligation to repay Federal funds. However, there is a requirement to use the Federal share of the proceeds for projects eligible for funding under title 23. If the State "disposes" of the right of way for a non-highway use, it must follow applicable procedures in 23 CFR Part 710 and use the Federal share of the proceeds from the sale of the property for other projects within the State eligible for funding under Title 23 of the U.S. Code. (See 23 CFR 710.403(e)). The State can also "relinquish" the facility for continued use as a public roadway to a Federal, State or local government in accordance with applicable procedures in 23 CFR 620.203. A relinquishment does not have to involve a charge to the receiving agency. If there is a charge, the State must use the retained Federal share for projects eligible under title 23. (See 23 CFR 620.203(j)). Also, under the circumstances specified in 23 CFR 710.403(d)(1), the State, with FHWA's approval, may dispose of or transfer the right of way for less than fair market value.
What is a disposal action?
Disposal means the sale, transfer, conveyance, or abandonment of real property or rights therein, including access or air rights, when no longer needed for highway right-of-way or other uses eligible for funding under title 23 of the United States Code. (See 23 CFR 710.105).
What is a relinquishment?
The FHWA has defined relinquishment as "the conveyance of a portion of a highway right-of-way or facility by a State transportation agency to another government agency for continued transportation use." (See 23 CFR 710.105 and 620, subpart B.)
How does the disposal process work?
Each State DOT is responsible for developing a disposal process that complies with 23 CFR 710.409 and must have that process thoroughly documented in the DOT's Right of Way Manual approved by FHWA. The FHWA NEPA regulations in 23 CFR Part 710 apply to disposals. Those evaluations should be carried out in accordance with the applicable FHWA-State DOT agreement for handling NEPA reviews. All proposed disposals of Interstate right-of-way or real property interest must be reviewed and approved by the FHWA Division Office.
Does withdrawal of a segment of highway from the Interstate System constitute an FHWA Administration Action?
Yes. The withdrawal of a segment from the Interstate Highway System is an FHWA Administration Action (as specified in 23 CFR 771.107(c)). Moreover, it is considered an FHWA Administration Action regardless of the source of funding originally used to construct the facility (e.g., State, local, private, Federal-aid apportionments).
Does withdrawal of a segment of highway from the Interstate System meet the NEPA criteria to be classified as a Categorical Exclusion (CE)?
The impacts of the action determine the type of NEPA documentation required. Interstate System modifications, by themselves, normally do not result in significant environmental impacts. Any action which normally would be classified as a CE but could involve unusual circumstances will require the FHWA, in cooperation with the applicant, to conduct appropriate environmental studies to determine if the CE classification is proper (see 23 CFR 771.117(b)). The applicant should provide an evaluation and explanation of how the Interstate System will function without the segment in question, and note in the classification determination any anticipated human and natural environmental impacts of the change.
Additional information and resources to support the environmental review, documentation and approval that may be required on a withdrawal are available in FHWA's Environmental Review Toolkit.