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Agreement gives ADOT environmental review authority for certain projects

Federal Highway Administration assignment maintains rigorous standards
January 04, 2018

PHOENIX – When the Arizona Department of Transportation installs a digital message board, rehabilitates a bridge, renovates a rest area or takes on similar work that makes up nearly all of its projects requiring compliance with federal environmental regulations, the speed of completion can depend in part on coordination with and review by multiple federal agencies.

Recognizing that states can comply with federal environmental requirements on their own while streamlining processes, a new agreement assigns ADOT environmental review authority and responsibility for many projects found to not have significant environmental impacts. A Memorandum of Understanding signed Wednesday by ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration applies to projects commonly referred to as Categorical Exclusions.

“Governor Ducey has challenged state agencies to eliminate red tape and work at the speed of business, and this agreement allows ADOT to accomplish both,” said Dallas Hammit, ADOT state engineer and deputy director for transportation. “We can manage projects more efficiently while continuing to meet strict environmental requirements.”

Congress recognized the benefits of such agreements with legislation creating a program known as CE Assignment to expedite environmental review. This allows a state to assume decision-making and legal responsibility for meeting requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other federal environmental laws otherwise administered by the Federal Highway Administration for projects qualifying as Categorical Exclusions.

Alaska, California, Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, Texas and Utah have taken or are pursuing similar action.

To qualify as Categorical Exclusions projects must not significantly affect air, noise or water quality, natural, cultural, recreational, historic or other resources, planned growth or land use, or travel patterns. They also must not require the relocation of significant numbers of people. Categorical Exclusions may require additional environmental analysis and coordination to confirm whether the designation is appropriate.

Other examples of projects that can qualify as Categorical Exclusions include rehabilitating highways, installing ramp meters, adding landscaping, installing utilities along and across highways, and installing fencing, pavement markings, traffic signals and railroad warnings.

ADOT is developing a second Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Highway Administration under what’s known as the NEPA Assignment Program for highway projects that require either an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement. That agreement is expected to be in place later this year.

The Arizona Ombudsman – Citizens Aide helps you resolve ongoing issues with State Agencies.

Civil Rights

Pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ADOT does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability. Persons that require a reasonable accommodation based on language or disability should contact ADOT’s Civil Rights Office at civilrightsoffice@azdot.gov. Requests should be made as early as possible to ensure the State has an opportunity to address the accommodation.

De acuerdo con el título VI de la Ley de Derechos Civiles de 1964 y la Ley de Estadounidenses con Discapacidades (ADA por sus siglas en inglés), el Departamento de Transporte de Arizona (ADOT por sus siglas en inglés) no discrimina por raza, color, nacionalidad, edad, género o discapacidad. Personas que requieren asistencia (dentro de lo razonable) ya sea por el idioma o por discapacidad deben ponerse en contacto con la Oficina de Derechos Civiles en civilrightsoffice@azdot.gov. Las solicitudes deben hacerse lo más pronto posible para asegurar que el equipo encargado del proyecto tenga la oportunidad de hacer los arreglos necesarios.