Texas streamlines project approval process

New rules specify deadlines for TxDOT to review a draft environmental document

Editorial/Commentary News AASHTO Journal March 08, 2012
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The Texas Transportation Commission approved final rules last week that will streamline the environmental review process for transportation projects.


In addition to increasing the efficiency of the environmental review process, the new rules implement statutory requirements passed by the Texas legislature. These require the department to complete the technical review of a draft environmental review document by specified deadlines and authorize a local government to sponsor certain projects rather than the state.


TxDOT worked closely with a number of partners to draft the new rules governing the environmental review process.


"Environmental reviews are an important part of the transportation planning process, and these rules will help ensure that the department takes appropriate measures to protect Texas communities and the environment while ensuring projects steer clear of unnecessary red tape," Carlos Swonke, TxDOT's environmental affairs director, said in a statement. "Finding a balance between infrastructure development in growing communities and impacts on the environment is a challenging task and we're grateful for our partners' input."


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision-making processes by considering the environmental impacts of actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions.


Under NEPA, TxDOT prepares and completes an environmental analysis on federally funded projects and then submits it to the Federal Highway Administration for approval. The process involves a number of steps that involve work required of multiple federal, state and local agencies in evaluating environmental impacts of the proposed project. State-funded projects have similar review requirements as outlined in the new rules.

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