What USDOT Wants In – and Out of – a Final Transportation Bill

Posted by Larry Ehl on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Transportation Issues Daily

USDOT has officially expressed what it wants in and out of a final federal transportation bill.

Instead of beginning with what the Administration supports, the letter begins with what it dislikes.  First up is the threat to veto the transportation bill if it includes the Keystone XL language. Next up is opposition to many of the House’s project delivery and environmental streamlining provisions:

“[T]he Administration has previously stated that it cannot support a large number of project delivery and environmental streamlining measures in the House-passed bill that would radically change the application of environmental laws.  Many of these provisions would add substantial administrative burden and complexity and would risk undermining the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Administration has a substantial effort underway to maximize permitting efficiencies while ensuring that public health, safety, and the environment are protected. Setting arbitrary deadlines and project funding thresholds that seek to circumvent the NEPA process will lead to additional delays, suppress public comment and community involvement, and increase the likelihood of costly litigation.  Additionally, language that provides for exemptions from several environmental statutes in emergency situations is unnecessary because existing law already allows for expedited action in emergencies. Combined, these changes significantly weaken environmental protections, including threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

The Administration supports some of the Senate’s transit safety language as well as reforms to consolidate programs and a ban on earmarks.  Also supported are the continuation of the TIGER program, high-speed rail programs, and expansion of TIFIA.  Here’s the letter:

USDOT Letter Re Conference Committee

Larry Ehl is the founder and publisher of Transportation Issues Daily. In the public sector, Larry was Federal Relations Manager for Washington State DOT; Chief of Staff to US Senator Slade Gorton; and was twice elected to the Edmonds School Board.

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