AASHTO Journal

USDOT’s Chao Joins President, Other Cabinet Chiefs in Memo to Speed Project Permitting

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao joined President Trump and a group of other Cabinet officers at the White House April 9 in signing a formal "memorandum of understanding" committing their departments to follow the president's "one federal decision" framework on environmental reviews and permits for major infrastructure projects.

The event was the latest effort by the Trump administration to try to maintain momentum on infrastructure issues, and to promote a goal of sharply speeding up the permitting process.

whouselogo.jpgUnder the framework, one lead federal agency will have overall responsibility for shepherding each major infrastructure project through the federal process. That agency will set the permitting timetable and other agencies will follow that schedule "with a goal of completing the process within two years," the White House said.

Chao said the Department of Transportation has already been following the plan.

"The department has been vigorously implementing the president's 'one federal decision' policy since last August to reduce costs and unnecessary burdens that have long delayed infrastructure projects," she said in a press release. "It is essential for all federal resource agencies to work together to cut red tape and deliver infrastructure and safety improvements more rapidly and spurring economic growth."

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee that oversees highway program legislation, praised the administration policy in a statement. "Roads, bridges, dams and water systems that take months to build shouldn't take a decade to permit," he said. "This is a commonsense idea that will help get projects done faster, better, cheaper and smarter."

In the House, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said: "Time is money. Reviewing and approving infrastructure projects in the most efficient way possible is critical to our nation's efforts in building a 21st century infrastructure and keeping project costs from escalating. I am pleased that the Administration is exercising the authority provided by Congress to streamline the review process for infrastructure projects."

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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