The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has notified Congress that it fully supports legislation to repeal a controversial regulation on metropolitan planning organizations, saying that rule would add "significant additional legal and administrative requirements" to a system that already works well.
The Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration jointly unveiled the regulation last year, with no advance warning before they published a formal notice of proposed rulemaking.
Despite objections from AASHTO, from some state departments of transportation directly and from MPOs themselves, the agencies pushed ahead with the rule on a timetable that allowed the final version to take effect Jan. 19, a day before President Trump took office and imposed a moratorium on regulations that were pending but not yet in effect.
State DOTs work with their local-area MPOs when developing infrastructure project plans, and so the state agencies would also be affected by anything that adds complexity or changes the territorial boundaries of the MPOs as the new regulation would.
The Senate passed a repeal measure March 8 by unanimous consent, and a group of House members has introduced matching legislation in the House that could action later this month.
In March 10 letters to the Senate and House, AASHTO expressed its "full support" of each chamber's repeal measure.
And while the association said it and member state DOTs "are supportive of voluntary opportunities to strengthen regional transportation planning by states and MPOs," AASHTO also said that "we do not see a basis for making substantial changes to the planning process as required in the rule."
AASHTO said the regulation's new mandates "would serve as barriers to constructive and flexible approaches to planning and programming" that the state and local agencies use today. "The rule also epitomizes the one-size-fits-all approach that does not allow flexibility to tailor processes and solutions to the diverse needs, opportunities and constraints faced by states and MPOs across the nation," it added.
In addition, the association said, "imposing these new requirements goes against the congressional intent" of the five-year Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act that Congress passed in 2015, with provisions to streamline projects to move them through the planning and construction phases more quickly.