PHOENIX – All highway projects require some level of environmental analysis to assess potential impacts. From installation of a new set of roadside signs to construction of a new urban freeway, different levels of environmental review are required under the National Environmental Policy Act, which the Arizona Department of Transportation is required to follow when using federal funds.
In order to further streamline environmental review for federal-aid projects, Congress created the Surface Transportation Project Delivery Program, or “NEPA Assignment.” This program allows a state to apply for and assume decision-making and legal responsibility for meeting requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal environmental laws otherwise administered by the Federal Highway Administration for projects.
The requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act apply to all projects that use federal funds, including local roadway projects that may be administered by ADOT.
Recognizing that states are able to comply with federal environmental requirements on their own while streamlining processes and have waived their sovereign immunity in relation to federal court jurisdiction, ADOT is seeking environmental review authority and responsibility under NEPA Assignment for projects that require environmental assessments or the more rigorous environmental impact statements.
An application for NEPA Assignment is a required first step toward entering the program. ADOT has posted its application for public review and comment at azdot.gov/business/environmental-planning/ce-assignment-and-nepa-assignment.
Alaska, California, Florida, Ohio, Texas and Utah have already implemented NEPA Assignment.
ADOT already has responsibility for certain NEPA decisions known as categorical exclusions, involving projects found to not have significant environmental impacts. ADOT entered into a separate agreement with the Federal Highway Administration on Jan. 3 to assume that responsibility.
For more information on ADOT and NEPA Assignment, visit azdot.gov/business/environmental-planning/ce-assignment-and-nepa-assignment.