Enough waiting

News AASHTO Journal May 31, 2001
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Citing streamlining as a means to ease congestion, American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials President E


Citing streamlining as a means to ease congestion, American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials President E. Dean Carlson provided a House subcommittee five actions Congress could take to help expedite transportation project approvals. Carlson was joined by Utah Department of Transportation Executive Director Thomas Warne and Elwyn Tinklenberg, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.


Carlson said that the increasing rate of congestion can be attributed to trends in population growth, vehicle miles traveled and roadbuilding over the past 50 years. As an example, he noted that from 1956 to 1979 total highway system lane miles increased by 1.1 million, while from 1980 to 1999 the increase was less than one-third that amount.


"There is a crisis of capacity--on the highways, on buses, in the air, on trains," Carlson said. "What we need now is a vision of how to enhance and then sustain our mobility for the next 40 years. And that vision must recognize that we need new capacity, not just preservation and maintenance."


Carlson's five reforms Congress could take this year to help streamline the process are:


* Reforming duplicative federal regulations regarding historic properties and parks by eliminating the overlap between Section 4(f) and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and restoring balance and proportionality to Section 4(f) to better base decisions on the type of resource being affected and the extent of a project's impact;


* Delegating states the authority to conduct National Environmental Protection Act reviews for smaller projects with little environmental impact;


* Making streamlining project reviews a part of all federal agencies' missions; and


* Establishing pilot projects to encourage innovation.


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