OCTA CEO: New federal bill a win for America

Posted on July 27, 2012 by Will Kempton

Three years and 10 extensions later, America has a new federal transportation reauthorization bill.

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), along with transit agencies throughout the nation, applauds congressional leaders and the President for investing in America’s transportation future by passing this much-anticipated piece of legislation.

The bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, was signed by President Obama on July 6 and outlines $120 billion in funding for highway and transit programs over 27 months.

While many would prefer to see a bill spanning longer than two years, MAP-21 gives agencies confidence that there will be a dedicated and reliable stream of federal funding — at least for the next two years.

Having a guarantee from the federal government that they will continue to support transit operations and highway improvements over the long haul is essential to effectively plan for, deliver and maintain critical transportation infrastructure projects.

Perhaps the most important aspects of the bill are the changes to existing law that break down some of the bureaucratic barriers to project delivery allowing for expedited project implementation.

The changes are based in part on OCTA’s "Breaking Down Barriers" initiative, which was launched nearly three years ago, bringing together local and national leaders to identify ways to accelerate project delivery without sacrificing environmental protections.

Some key provisions from the initiative that are outlined in MAP-21 include:

•  Allowing states, under certain conditions, to purchase right-of-way before completing the federal environmental review process.

•  Allowing states to be reimbursed for pre-construction and design contracts before the federal environmental review process is completed.

•  Setting deadlines for decisions by agencies responsible for environmental review, including financial penalties for agencies that do not complete the reviews by set deadlines.

•  Allowing states or Metropolitan Planning Organizations to develop plans that address the potential impact of future transportation projects.

•  Making permanent a current pilot program that allows the U.S. Department of Transportation to delegate NEPA review authority to states and expanding the program to include rail, public transit and multimodal projects.

These changes have been embraced with bipartisan support and ensure we preserve the environment while moving critical projects to construction earlier.

The result will be completing projects faster, creating jobs quicker and saving taxpayer dollars.

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "Public transportation on solid footing, will lawmakers face the music," here.

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