Linking Planning and NEPA: Towards Streamlining Decisionmaking

Number C-11-03
9/24/2003

Dear Colleague:

As you are aware, on September 18, 2002, President Bush issued Executive Order 13274 on Environmental Stewardship and Transportation Infrastructure Project Reviews. The Order is intended to support Federal efforts to streamline the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) review of transportation capital investment projects while at the same time continuing to protect our nation’s environmental resources. In January 2003, an Interagency Transportation Infrastructure Streamlining Task Force, consisting of a number of Federal transportation and resource agencies met for the first time to begin implementation of the Executive Order. We are excited about the potential of the Task Force to effect positive change in our collective environmental review procedures, and look forward to working with your agencies in this important effort.

Of course, environmental streamlining goes far beyond the Federal review and coordination necessary to ensure NEPA compliance. Key to the success of streamlining is the capacity of state and local participants to share the vision for improved NEPA decisionmaking, and the willingness to re-examine and, in some cases, re-invent the planning and project development processes to provide for a more “seamless” decisionmaking environment. Such introspection can only come from a committed and coordinated effort to bring together key local, state, and Federal executives, managers, and technical staff to review their planning and NEPA processes, understand the opportunities available to improve them, and reach a shared vision for how planning and project development can “fit” together to enhance environmental stewardship and accelerate project delivery.

Therefore, we want to encourage your participation in an exciting and unique training opportunity on improving the critical linkage between planning and NEPA-level decisionmaking. Linking Planning and NEPA: Towards Streamlined Decisionmaking is a two-course training curriculum being developed by the National Transit Institute (NTI), in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The first program is a ten-hour executive seminar for senior managers, directors, and other transportation and resource agency executives who determine the way that the planning and NEPA processes are used to make decisions in their states. The goal of the seminar is to provide participants with a forum to identify issues and problems with these processes, and to generate the motivation, ideas, and tools to effectively bring about their change. The ultimate outcome of the seminar is an action plan for participants to take back to their agencies to improve their decisionmaking processes for implementing transportation projects.

NTI is also developing a companion technical course on Linking Planning and NEPA. This course is being developed for local, State, and Federal mid-level managers (including project managers), planners, and NEPA practitioners, and will focus on the technical methods and procedures for effectively managing and carrying out the planning and project development process for transportation capital investment projects. Both the technical course and the executive seminar are free of charge to participants.

Linking Planning and NEPA: Towards Streamlined Decisionmaking is a key element of FHWA/FTA’s expansive efforts to implement the President’s “stewardship/streamlining” Order. We are committed to the success of both the executive seminar and the technical course, and we urge your participation in them. FHWA Division Administrators and FTA Regional Administrators will be in contact with you should either course be offered in your area.

A description of both the executive seminar and the technical course is attached to this letter. Additional information on Linking Planning and NEPA: Towards Streamlined Decisionmaking is available from Susan Winter at the National Transit Institute (732/932-1700); Sean Libberton at FTA (202/366-5112); and John Humeston at FHWA (404/562-3667).

We believe that the effective integration of planning and environmental decisionmaking is one of the biggest challenges faced by transportation agencies today, but one with no bigger pay-off. We further believe that this training will provide participants with the tools to establish the key partnerships necessary to meet this challenge. Thank you in advance for consideration of this important training initiative.

Sincerely,

Cynthia J. Burbank
Associate Administrator for
Environment and Planning
Federal Highway Administration
Charlotte M. Adams
Associate Administrator for
Planning and Environment
Federal Transit Administration