[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 125 (Thursday, June 29, 2006)]
[Notices]
[Pages 37156-37158]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E6-10217]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Transit Administration

Federal Highway Administration

[Docket Number: FTA-2006-24905]


Notice of Availability of Proposed Guidance on Section 6002 of 
the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A 
Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) and Request for Comments

AGENCIES: Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Federal Highway 
Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: This notice announces the availability of proposed guidance on 
the application of section 6002 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and 
Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) 
(Pub. L. 109-59, 119 Stat. 1144) to projects funded by the Federal 
Transit Administration (FTA), the Federal Highway Administration 
(FHWA), or both. Section 6002 of SAFETEA-LU adds requirements and 
refinements to the environmental review process for highway and public 
transportation capital projects. The proposed guidance describes how 
FTA and FHWA propose to implement the new requirements within the 
environmental review process required by the National Environmental 
Policy Act (NEPA) and other Federal laws. The FTA and FHWA request 
public comments on this proposed guidance.

DATES: Comments must be received by July 31, 2006. Late filed comments 
will be considered to the extent practicable.

ADDRESSES: The proposed guidance is available on the FTA Web site at 
http://www.fta.dot.gov/Section6002.doc, in the DOT docket at http://
dms.dot.gov in docket number FTA-2006-24905, or in hardcopy by 
contacting the individuals listed below under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 
CONTACT.
    Comments, which must be identified by the docket number FTA-2006-
24905, may be submitted by any of the following methods:
    Web site: Link to http://dms.dot.gov and follow the instructions 
for submitting comments on the DOT electronic docket site.
    Fax: Telefax comments to (202) 493-2251.
    U.S. Mail: Mail comments to Docket Management Facility; U.S. 
Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street, SW., PL-401, 
Washington, DC 20590.
    Hand Delivery: Deliver to Room PL-401 on the plaza level of the 
Nassif

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Building at 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590, between 9 
a.m. and 5 p.m. e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
    For access to the docket to view a complete copy of the proposed 
guidance, or to read any comments received, go to http://dms.dot.gov at 
any time or to Room PL-401 on the plaza level of the Nassif Building, 
400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. 
e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
    Instructions: You must include the agency name (Federal Transit 
Administration) and the docket number (FTA-2006-24905) with the 
comments. You should submit two copies of your comments if you submit 
them by mail. If you wish to receive confirmation that the docket 
received your comments, you must include a self-addressed stamped 
postcard. All comments received will be posted without change to the 
Department's Docket Management System (DMS) Web site located at http://
dms.dot.gov, so that any interested party can view the comments of 
others. As a result, any personal identifying information included in 
your comments will be publicly available to any user of DMS. Anyone is 
able to search the electronic form of all comments received into any of 
our dockets by the name of the individual submitting the comment (or 
signing the comment, if submitted on behalf of an association, 
business, labor union, etc.). You may view DOT's complete Privacy Act 
Statement in the Federal Register published on April 11, 2000 (Volume 
65, Number 70, pages 19477-78) or you may visit http://dms.dot.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For FTA: Joseph Ossi, Office of 
Planning and Environment (TPE), (202) 366-1613, or Christopher Van Wyk, 
Office of Chief Counsel (TCC), (202) 366-1733, Federal Transit 
Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street, 
SW., Washington, DC 20590.
    For FHWA: Pamela Stephenson, Office of Project Development (HEPE), 
(202) 366-2062, or Janet Myers, Office of Chief Counsel (HCC), (202) 
366-2019, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, 400 Seventh Street SW., Washington, DC 20590.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Access

    An electronic copy of this notice may be downloaded using a 
computer, modem and suitable communications software from the 
Government Printing Office's Electronic Bulletin Board Service at (202) 
512-1661. Internet users may reach the Office of the Federal Register's 
home page at http://www.archives.gov and the Government Printing 
Office's Web site at http://www.access.gpo.gov. An electronic version 
of the proposed guidance may be downloaded by accessing the DOT DMS 
docket, as described above, at http://dms.dot.gov.

Background

    The FTA and FHWA are proposing the issuance of joint guidance on 
the environmental review process required by section 6002 of SAFETEA-LU 
(Section 6002), which has been codified at 23 U.S.C. 139. Section 6002 
adds requirements and refinements to the process by which FHWA and FTA 
comply with NEPA, which process is set forth in the regulations of the 
Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), 40 CFR parts 1500 through 1508, 
and in the FHWA-FTA environmental impact regulation, 23 CFR part 771. 
Section 6002 addresses the roles of the project sponsor and the lead, 
participating, and cooperating agencies; sets new requirements for 
coordinating and scheduling agency reviews; broadens the authority of 
States to use Federal aid to ensure timely environmental reviews; 
specifies a process for resolving interagency disagreements; and 
establishes a statute of limitations on claims against transportation 
projects.
    The purpose of this proposed guidance is to provide explanations of 
new and changed aspects of the environmental review process for FHWA 
and FTA. The guidance would inform transportation practitioners and 
others about what and how things need to be done differently as a 
result of SAFETEA-LU. Although this proposed guidance outlines new 
requirements affecting the environmental review process, it does not 
supersede any regulations promulgated under NEPA or any other Federal 
environmental statute. In particular, this proposed guidance would 
supplement the previously mentioned CEQ regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-
1508) and FHWA-FTA environmental impact regulation (23 CFR part 771) 
which remain in effect. The intent of this proposed guidance is to 
provide project sponsors with as much flexibility as possible in 
administering the environmental review process, while providing a 
framework to facilitate efficient project management and decision-
making in accordance with the law.
    Section 3032 of SAFETEA-LU requires that FTA provide an opportunity 
for public review and comment on any guidance issued by FTA that 
imposes new binding obligations or that effects a significant change in 
policy, before it becomes effective. The FTA has determined that 
section 3032 applies to this joint FHWA-FTA guidance on section 6002. 
The purpose of this notice and the comment period that follows is to 
comply with section 3032. Section 3032 requirements do not apply to 
FHWA, but FHWA is nevertheless joining FTA in the publication of this 
notice and request for comment.
    The FTA and FHWA request comment on the proposed guidance in 
general, which is available as described above under ADDRESSES. The FTA 
also specifically seeks comment on two issues:
    1. Schedules for FTA Projects. Should FTA require the development 
of a schedule for all FTA projects requiring an environmental impact 
statement (EIS)? Section 6002 makes the inclusion of a project schedule 
in the ``coordination plan'' for the project optional, but FHWA already 
requires the development of a project schedule for EISs. Under Section 
6002, the schedule, when developed, becomes part of the mandatory 
coordination plan for the EIS. The FTA is considering whether to 
require, in the interest of good project management, the development of 
a project schedule and its inclusion in the coordination plan for any 
transit project requiring an EIS.
    2. New Starts Alternatives Analysis. Should FTA continue to allow a 
New Starts Alternatives Analysis, as defined in 49 U.S.C. 5309(a)(1), 
to be developed as a non-Federal planning document not subject to NEPA 
regulatory requirements, or should FTA require that New Starts 
Alternatives Analysis be merged into the NEPA document (normally an EIS 
for New Starts projects), be subject to NEPA regulatory requirements, 
and be signed by the FTA Regional Administrator? Until 1993, all New 
Starts projects requiring EISs were developed using the latter 
approach, i.e., the combined Alternatives Analysis/Draft EIS. The 
planning regulations issued in 1993, at 23 CFR part 450, provided the 
option of a planning study, called a Major Investment Study (MIS), to 
serve as the required New Starts Alternatives Analysis. Notwithstanding 
statutory changes to the MIS requirement in 1998, FTA continued to 
allow the still-required New Starts Alternatives Analysis to be either 
a planning study or a NEPA document. Some have suggested that a change 
may again be in order as a result of two specific SAFETEA-LU 
provisions: (a) The definition of the New Starts Alternatives

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Analysis in Section 3011 of SAFETEA-LU, codified at 49 U.S.C. 
5309(a)(1), aligns it more closely with the MPO planning process; and 
(b) section 6002 requires that the ``type of work'' be identified by 
the project sponsor at the initiation of the environmental review 
process. The FTA seeks comment on any implications of these provisions 
for the New Starts Alternatives Analysis and the NEPA review of the New 
Starts project.
    The FHWA specifically seeks comment on the following questions and 
issues:
    1. Flexibility. Are there specific areas where the guidance could 
and should provide greater flexibility, while still complying with the 
relevant section 6002 requirement? Within the limits of section 6002, 
would flexibility in a particular area allow for customization by the 
State departments of transportation, transit agencies, and FHWA and FTA 
field offices in response to issues of greater regional concern?
    2. Adequacy of guidance. Are there areas that need additional 
guidance or instruction on how best to implement the new requirement?
    3. Lead agency responsibilities. Some responsibilities of the lead 
agency have been retained by FHWA and FTA, some have been essentially 
assigned to the State or local lead agency, and some have been left for 
the Federal and non-Federal lead agencies to allocate between 
themselves, project by project as they see fit. Does the description of 
the roles of the various lead agencies adequately communicate their 
respective responsibilities, authorities, and limitations? Is the 
division of labor, responsibility, and authority appropriate?
    4. Methodologies for project analyses. Is the process for involving 
participating agencies in the development of methodologies adequate? 
Will it serve to minimize late-in-the-process methodological debates 
between transportation agencies and resource agencies?
    5. Coordination with participating agencies. Does the proposed 
guidance present the required coordination with participating agencies, 
including the development of a schedule and its resulting implications, 
in sufficient detail? Should changes in the schedule require 
coordination with all participating agencies or just with the 
cooperating agencies, as stated in SAFETEA-LU?
    The FTA and FHWA will respond to comments on the guidance generated 
by this Notice in a second Federal Register notice to be published 
after the close of the comment period. That second notice will also 
announce the availability of the revised Section 6002 guidance that 
reflects the changes implemented as a result of comments received. In 
the meantime, the proposed guidance provides the current FHWA and FTA 
interpretation of Section 6002, the requirements of which became 
effective on August 10, 2005, the date of SAFETEA-LU's enactment.

    Authority: 23 U.S.C. 315; Pub. L. 109-59, 119 Stat. 1144; 49 
U.S.C. 5334; 23 U.S.C. 139; 49 CFR 1.48; 49 CFR 1.51.

    Issued on: June 23, 2006.
Sandra K. Bushue,
Deputy Administrator, Federal Transit Administration.
J. Richard Capka,
Administrator, Federal Highway Administration.
[FR Doc. E6-10217 Filed 6-28-06; 8:45 am]
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