AASHTO Comments on CEQ’s Proposed NEPA Revisions

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently submitted a six-page comment letter to the Council on Environmental Quality or CEQ regarding proposed revisions to the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA.

[Above photo by AASHTO]

The CEQ issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in July in which the agency seeks to create a more “effective environmental review process” that promotes better decision making; ensures full and fair public involvement; provides for an efficient process and regulatory certainty; and provides for sound decision making grounded in science, including consideration of relevant environmental, climate change, and environmental justice effects.

AASHTO noted in its comment letter that it “shares CEQ’s goals” of providing for efficient and effective environmental reviews, ensuring full and fair public involvement, providing regulatory certainty, promoting better decision-making grounded in science, and protecting the environment.

To that end, AASHTO offered a slate of comments regarding CEQ’s proposed rule:

  • The group supports provisions in the 2020 regulations that modernized the NEPA process, improved efficiency, enhanced accountability, and encouraged interagency coordination on compliance with NEPA and the requirements of other environmental laws and supports their retention in CEQ’s proposed rule.
  • AASHTO said CEQ’s NEPA regulations should be legally sound, grounded in the statute – as recently amended by the Fiscal Responsibility Act and recent case law – and build upon well-established principles developed through decades of agencies’ experience implementing NEPA. “The significant regulatory changes over the past few years have caused uncertainty, additional work, delays in project delivery, and litigation risks for projects,” the group said in its letter. “Another significant upheaval to the NEPA process and regulatory requirements will only compound these problems.” 
  • AASHTO noted that there should be no “one-size-fits-all” way to comply with NEPA. “Each transportation project is unique,” the group pointed out in its letter. “Flexibility [is needed] to tailor the NEPA process based on a particular project’s circumstances [so] agencies should be able to meet NEPA’s requirements in a way that minimizes the financial and administrative burdens, informs public decisions, protects the environment, and avoids unintended consequences such as public or agency uncertainty and increased litigation risk.” 
  • AASHTO said CEQ’s NEPA regulations should provide clear direction to agencies, project sponsors and applicants, and the public. “To improve agency and public understanding of the regulatory framework, CEQ should be clear about which aspects of the regulations are statutorily required,” the group emphasized. “AASHTO is concerned that CEQ’s proposed regulations introduce new undefined terms and create new vague requirements, which will lead to delays in project delivery and increase litigation risk for projects. For example, in various areas throughout the regulations, CEQ proposes to replace the term ‘significant’ with the ambiguous and undefined terms ‘important’ or ‘substantial.’”

New York Offers $165 Million for Community-Based Projects

Governor Kathy Hochul (D) recently announced $165 million in new funding is available to support community-based investments designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic, and environmental aspects of local and regional transportation systems while promoting safety and mobility.

[Above photo by NYSDOT]

Those funds come from the Federal Highway Administration and will be administered by the New York State Department of Transportation through its Transportation Alternatives Program or TAP, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program or CMAQ, and the Carbon Reduction Program or CRP.

Gov. Hochul said in a statement that funding will support projects that create new and enhance existing bicycle and pedestrian facilities, improve access to public transportation, create safe routes to schools, convert abandoned railway corridors to pedestrian trails, and help reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

In addition, these funds may be used by municipalities to support activities that meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the governor’s office noted.

“These community-based projects reaffirm New York’s nation-leading commitment to the environment while facilitating local economic development and improving public health,” Gov. Hochul said. “It’s imperative that we continue to make investments in clean, environmentally-friendly transportation alternatives.”

“[These] smart transportation policies afford all New Yorkers safe and environmentally sound opportunities for work, recreation, and social connectivity,” added NYSDOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez. “These critical community-based investments will provide positive impacts for regions all across New York, enhancing the overall safety and quality of life for residents and visitors, while continuing the fight against global climate change.”

NYSDOT will accept project applications for that funding through January 9, 2024; noting that projects applying for funding must be related to the surface transportation system and provide full access to the public. They’ll also be rated based on established criteria that include public benefit, air quality improvements, cost-effectiveness, and partnerships, the agency noted.

NYSDOT added that TAP-CMAQ-CRP project awards will amount to no less than $500,000 and no more than $5 million for any single project, with the agency providing up to 80 percent of the total eligible project costs with a minimum 20 percent match provided by the project sponsor.

FHWA Seeks 2024 EEA Program Entries

Now through November 3, the Federal Highway Administration will be accepting nominations for its 2024 Environmental Excellence Awards or EEA program.

[Above image via FHWA]

Since the program started in 1995, the biennial EEA program has recognized outstanding transportation projects, processes, and organizations that incorporate environmental stewardship into the planning and project development processes using FHWA funding sources.

[Editor’s note: The FHWA pointed to the 2022 EEA program winners to show how such projects exemplify the agency’s priorities of climate change and sustainability, equity and environmental justice, complete streets, economic strength, and safety for all road users.]

The EEA program is coordinated with FHWA’s Offices of Human Environment, Natural Environment, plus Project Development and Environmental Review to reflect the notion that “environment” means a connection to both human and natural environmental systems.

FHWA noted that it accepts nominations for any project, process, group, or individuals involved in a project or process that has used agency funding to make an “outstanding contribution” to both transportation and the environment.

All nominations must be submitted electronically using the online submission form available via the award’s web portal, FHWA said, but if for any reason the electronic submittal of entries is not possible, faxed and mailed copies are acceptable. For more information about the submission of entries, please contact EEAwardsNomination@dot.gov.

RIDOT Helps Support ‘Gotham Greens’ Path Project

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is helping support – in concert with various federal, state, and local agencies – the new “Gotham Greens” off-road multi-use path along the Woonasquatucket River Greenway via stormwater mitigation efforts.

[Above photo by RIDOT]

This new path, located behind the Gotham Greens building in Olneyville, offers new access to the Woonasquatucket River and will serve as a connector between the Greenway and the Washington Secondary Bike Path – helping “knit together” a “patchwork of pathways” in the City of Providence to promote active transportation use while protecting the local environment from stormwater flooding.

The nonprofit Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, the City of Providence, and Gotham Greens jointly built the new path, while RIDOT – in concert with the Environmental Protection Agency, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program – will work to mitigate the potential for future flooding along the pathway.

“Urban flooding and resilience are complex issues that demand collaborative, innovative, and targeted responses,” explained Governor Dan McKee (D) in a statement.

This second phase of improvements to the pathway – currently under RIDOT’s supervision and supported in part by the National Coastal Resilience Fund – focuses on streambank restoration and “green infrastructure,” which is the installation of plants, soil, and other natural materials to manage stormwater and prevent flooding and pollution.

Environmental News Highlights – October 4, 2023


Buttigieg Reiterates USDOT Support for EVs at Hearing -AASHTO Journal


Several State DOTs Salute National Roundabouts Week -AASHTO Journal

Reconnecting Communities Summit Slated for October -AASHTO Journal

Gabe Klein, Executive Director, US Joint Office of Energy and Transportation: Moving Transportation Electrification Forward in the US -ITE Talks Transportation (podcast)

MapLab: The Secret History of GPS –Bloomberg

Environmental groups push to clamp down on coal dust from trains -Yahoo Finance



SEPTA CEO Leslie Richards on public transit, safety and how the pandemic altered travel -WPVI-TV’s Inside Story (video)

Not Just a Fad: Biking Activity Remains Strong Post-Pandemic -Government Technology



City of Phoenix has temporarily stopped installing Cool Pavement, here’s why -KTVK/KPHO-TV

New Minnesota task force to focus on infrastructure resiliency in face of more severe weather -WCCO-TV

MORPC wants to hear from public on sustainability and the environment –WSYX-TV

Streetlights Are Mysteriously Turning Purple. Here’s Why -Scientific American

New Mexico plans to expand electric vehicle infrastructure -KOB-TV

Sensor And Drone Technologies Help Maintain Minnesota’s Aging Bridge InfrastructureUniversity of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies

EV chargers will return to the Mass. Pike after months with no juice -Telegram & Gazette

EV Charging Is Coming to Truck Stops and Curbsides -Government Technology



FAA Announces Nearly $300 Million for Projects to Reduce Carbon Pollution from Aviation as Part of Investing in America Agenda -FAA (media release)



Environmental justice’ rules may hurt Wyoming’s bid for federal support -Wyofile.com

USDOT Announces that United Airlines Will Implement Industry-Leading Improvements for Passengers Using Wheelchairs -USDOT (media release)

EPA and U.S. Senator Tom Carper Announce Historic Investments Advancing Environmental Justice for Underserved Communities -EPA (media release)



Native Florida plants could be part of the solution to state’s flooding and water quality problems –WMFE

BLM welcomes public input on draft management plan for northwest California public lands -Ukiah Daily Journal


Welcome to Route 20: America’s longest road stretches from Boston to Oregon –WBUR

Truck Stops Upgrade to Recharge Electric Vehicles (and Their Drivers) -New York Times


TxDOT launches pedestrian safety campaign for month of October -Fort Bend Herald

Bikeshare Pittsburgh To Add New, Adaptive Bicycles Around City -KDKA-TV

US Bike Trips Have Soared Since 2019CityLab

Pedesting app aims to open Calgary to people with mobility challenges -LiveWire Calgary

City of Rochester, NY on new ‘Active Transportation Plan’ -WROC-TV

UNLV to Launch Tourist Safety Institute Within Greenspun College of Urban Affairs -UNLV (media release)


TRB Webinar: Pop-Up Power – Research and Practice on Quick-Build Bike Facilities –TRB

TRB Webinar: Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety in BRT and High-Priority Bus Corridors –TRB

TRB Minority Student Fellows Program Strengthens the Transportation Community –TRB



Proposed Second Renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Assigning Certain Federal Environmental Responsibilities to the State of Arizona, Including National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Authority for Certain Categorical Exclusions (CEs) -FHWA (Notice of proposed MOU, request for comments)

Designation of Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary; Delay of Effectiveness -NOAA (Final rule; delay of effectiveness)

Petroleum-Equivalent Fuel Economy Calculation -DOE (Notification of ex parte communication; request for comment)

Air Plan Approval; Washington; Southwest Clean Air Agency; Emission Standards and Controls for Sources Emitting Gasoline Vapors -EPA (Final rule)

Air Plan Approval; Washington; Southwest Clean Air Agency, General Air Quality Regulations -EPA (Final rule)

Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Review Document for Amended Arrival Routes at Los Angeles International Airport -FAA (Public comment period for the FAA’s draft environmental review document)

Restoring Healthy and Abundant Salmon, Steelhead, and Other Native Fish Populations in the Columbia River Basin -White House (Administrative Order)

Public Meeting of the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Advisory Council -Bureau of Reclamation (Notice of public meeting)