Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives H.R. 673, "The Safe Roads and Highways Act," legislation designed to restore a sensible approach to the transportation and air quality planning process.
The transportation conformity provisions of the Clean Air Act link transportation and clean air planning. Under the current regulations, transportation construction projects that have received all required environmental clearances and are ready to be built can be stopped if a metropolitan area falls out of compliance with national air quality standards. The Brady bill "grandfathers" such projects and allows them to move forward while the city creates an acceptable air quality plan.
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) supports H.R. 673 and is developing position papers to urge the introduction of similar legislation in the Senate.
"Stopping transportation improvement projects that have already received approval to be built undermines safety and congestion relief and can have a negative impact on air quality," said AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr. "Congress should reconsider whether the costs associated with the transportation conformity process result in equal benefits to the environment."
During a conformity lapse, which occurs when a conformity determination for a transportation plan has expired and is no longer valid, virtually all federally funded and regionally significant non-federally funded projects are potentially at risk. H.R. 673 would allow these transportation projects to proceed through construction--even during conformity lapses--so long as the projects themselves have not been materially changed. This would permit needed surface transportation projects to move forward without undue delays. Reforming the transportation conformity process is one of many crucial changes that AGC would like to see included in TEA-21 reauthorization.