(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Single Audit Information Service.) The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in response to a recent DOT Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit, plans to fully implement certain reforms by the end of April that encourage the pace of awards under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) (Pub. L. 112-141). Some of these reforms aim to free federal officials from conducting environmental reviews and to allow for categorical exclusions.
Subtitle C of MAP-21, which as enacted in 2012, requires DOT to implement initiatives to accelerate the delivery of projects funded by FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). These initiatives may include advancing the use of best practices, expanding early acquisition of property prior to completion, using the construction manager/general contractor method of contracting, and establishing a relocation streamlining demonstration program. DOT developed a plan with 42 actions to meet these Subtitle C requirements.
In 2015, Congress enacted the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) (Pub. L. 114-357), which reauthorized and altered some of the MAP-21 initiatives, and includes project deliverables for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
Subtitle C of MAP-21 requires the OIG to assess DOT’s implementation of these initiatives by issuing an initial and final report to Congress. It sent the initial report in May 2013 discussing DOT’s 42 planned actions, and now the OIG has submitted a final report providing the status of these actions.
The OIG determined that DOT has completed 27 of its 42 planned actions under Subtitle C, which included the issuance of rulemakings, guidance and reports. However, DOT had to delay full implementation of these actions as many had to be revised to comply with the FAST Act. DOT is altering 19 of the planned actions, including 10 of the 27 actions it already completed under MAP-21. The FAST Act affects four of the nine mandated rules it planned under MAP-21.
“These delays could impact [DOT’s] ability to achieve the intended benefits under MAP-21 initiatives, such as accelerating project delivery and reducing the costs of transportation projects,” the OIG explained, adding that DOT “faces vulnerabilities in its implementation of certain planned actions for Subtitle C.”
Among these vulnerabilities includes FHWA’s lack of: (1) an application for project applicants to show that their projects are eligible for an increased share of federal funds; (2) a performance assessment of states that assume environmental review responsibilities; and (3) a defined documentation process for reports to Congress on the use of categorical exclusions.
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