2 provisions that will maintain substantive environment and public health protections whilestreamlining the creation and use of documents and environmental reviews, enhancing efficiencyand accountability in the project delivery process.The conference report adopts and modifies provisions from the House bill directing the Secretaryto designate, through rulemaking, certain activities as categorical exclusions under the NationalEnvironmental Policy Act. The Secretary is directed to designate the repair or reconstruction of a road, highway, or bridge damaged by a declared emergency or disaster as a categoricalexclusion, if the repair or reconstruction project is in the same location and with the samespecifications as the original project and is commenced within two years of the declaration of emergency or disaster. The Secretary is also directed to designate any project within the existingoperational right-of-way as a categorical exclusion and defines the term “operational right-of-way”. Additionally, the Secretary is directed to designate projects receiving limited Federalassistance as a categorical exclusion. The categorical exclusion applies to any project thatreceives less than $5,000,000 in Federal funds and any project with a total estimated cost of notmore than $30,000,000 receiving Federal funds comprising less than 15 percent of the totalestimated project costs
The nation’s surface transportation programs have not provided sufficient accountability for howtax dollars are being spent on transportation projects and would benefit from a greater focus onkey national priorities. The conference report focuses the highway program on key outcomes,such as reducing fatalities, improving road and bridge conditions, reducing congestion,increasing system reliability, and improving freight movement and economic vitality.
Focus on the National Highway System
The conference report combines the old interstate maintenance program into a new programcalled the National Highway Performance Program to address both the interstate system as wellas an extended National Highway System. It is these roads that are most critical to our economicvitality, and the conference report ensures the roads and bridges that make up this system will be better maintained.
A top priority of the nation’s transportation system should be the safe and efficient movement of goods. The nation’s economic health is reliant upon a transportation system that provides for reliable and timely goods movement.This conference report establishes policies to improve freight movement. It calls for thedevelopment of a National Freight Strategic Plan, encourages state freight plans and advisorycommittees, and provides incentives for states that fund projects to improve freight movement.