Last week, the Federal Highway Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation made history. Specifically, we jointly executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the FHWA and the Florida DOT concerning the State of Florida’s participation in the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program Pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 327. More simply, we formalized a new relationship that embodies the principles of Every Day Counts initiatives. By assigning FHWA’s responsibilities for federally funded highway projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to the Florida DOT, the Environmental Review Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that I signed with Florida DOT Secretary Jim Boxold will save time and money on highway projects throughout the Sunshine State and save taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
At our latest Every Day Counts summit, held last Wednesday in Orlando, Fla., we extended the era of better, more cost-effective government. The MOU we signed is a symbol of the innovative partnership we are building with the Florida DOT, and serves as an important tool to give states more responsibility without sacrificing federal oversight responsibilities for the environment. In this arrangement, Florida DOT will be legally responsible for ensuring that all federally funded highway projects comply with all aspects of NEPA prior to approving any environmental documents.
As is too often the case, the environmental review process for federally funded highway projects takes much longer to complete than for state-funded highway projects. Florida DOT estimates it will save about one-fourth the time needed to process NEPA documents by FHWA, which translates into savings of about $22 million per year. Better still, we know this will work. We have learned of similar savings in California, Texas and Ohio, who also are in this program. I’m proud to say the state DOTs in Utah and Alaska are also working to enter into the NEPA Assignment Program.
The Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program, known as the “NEPA Assignment Program,” is only one of the many innovative efforts consistent with our EDC program. Through EDC, we focus on innovative ways to accelerate project delivery while enhancing roadway safety, reducing congestion and improving environmental sustainability. The NEPA Assignment Program reduces duplication, saves time and resources, and avoids compromising our high standards for protecting the human and natural environment.
Empowering states in this way saves time and money, making it good government AND good business.
This major accomplishment couldn’t have happened without the hard work of staff from FHWA’s headquarters and the Florida Division Office, and the FDOT Office of Environmental Management who started working together on this just over a year ago. They literally made every day count and – as their efforts clearly show – hard work plus creativity and enthusiasm is a winning combination.