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Congress: Cut red tape in highway, transit project process

Posted on February 16, 2011

During a Congressional hearing Tuesday, Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman John J. Duncan Jr. (R-TN) called for cutting the red tape in the cumbersome highways and transit project approval process. The hearing focused on the need for improvements to the laws and regulations governing project delivery to accelerate the process and save taxpayers' money.

The Subcommittee is working to develop a reauthorization of surface transportation programs, and speeding up the project approval process will be one of the goals of the bill. Subcommittee and Full Committee Members have already begun conducting a series of public hearings and forums around the country seeking ideas for a streamlined, innovative and fiscally responsible bill.

The following is Chairman Duncan's statement from the hearing:

"We are meeting this morning to receive federal, state and local input for streamlining the surface transportation project delivery process. There has never been a greater need for your professional advice and expertise. We have to get this right, and we need your help to do it.

"As the reauthorization of the federal surface transportation programs moves forward, the Committee will be looking at potential reforms to the project delivery process.

"Funding for infrastructure is harder to come by with each passing day, so we must find ways to do more with less.

"According to the 'Highway Planning and Project Development Process' timeline put together by the Federal Highway Administration, the project delivery process can take up to 15 years from planning through construction.

"Limited financial resources for transportation infrastructure can be more effectively utilized by speeding up the process for project approval. SAFETEA-LU made small, focused changes to the existing project delivery process and we have seen some improvement in delivery times as our witnesses will testify.

"For example, the State of California participated in the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Pilot Program, which allows FHWA to delegate its responsibilities for NEPA to the State. Through this delegation pilot program, California has been able to shave approximately 17 months off of the approval process for a standard transportation project.

"While these improvements are a good start, we must do more.

"With the Highway Trust Fund unable to keep up with infrastructure demands and with states facing dire financial situations, the time is right to take a hard look at the existing process. There is no silver bullet for speeding up the delivery of transportation projects, but we simply must do better."

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