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Home arrowNews arrowCongress Passes Transportation Reauthorization Bill
Congress Passes Transportation Reauthorization Bill

On August 10, 2005, President Bush signed the $285 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill, known as SAFETEA-LU. The law includes about $3.25 billion in funding for transportation enhancements over the next five years, and allocates $10 million per year for four years for the rehabilitation, repair, and preservation of historic covered bridges.

Full text of SAFETEA-LU
(in PDF; may take a moment to download)

Other provisions related to historic preservation and Section 106 compliance include:

  • Substitution of Section 106 for 4(f): The law includes a compromise that allows an exemption from Section 4(f) procedures for projects with minor, or "de minimis" impacts on historic resources where there is no adverse effect on an historic property with written concurrence from the SHPO and involvement by consulting parties.

    A provision in some earlier versions of the bill that would have authorized use of transportation funding to support the expedited review of transportation projects by State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs), Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, and the ACHP did not survive.

  • Standards for determining "prudent and feasible:" The 4(f) measure also includes a requirement that the Department of Transportation (DOT) issue a regulation to establish standards for determining "prudent and feasible alternatives" under Section 4(f).

    The regulation must be developed in consultation with affected agencies and interested parties and completed within one year after the date of enactment of the transportation bill.

  • Implementation study: The bill requires that DOT conduct a study on the implementation of the above two changes to Section 4(f) and prepare a report within three years on the results of the study. The report is to be submitted to the appropriate committees of Congress, the Secretary of the Interior, and the ACHP for review.

  • Interstate highway exemption: The law exempts the Interstate Highway System from consideration as a historic resource under Section 4(f) while allowing individual elements with historic significance to remain subject to the provision.

    The language was revised from early drafts so that the Section 4(f) exemption will match the process established in the ACHP's administrative exemption from Section 106 review for the interstate system.

  • Nationwide Programmatic Agreement (PA) regarding intelligent transportation systems: The law directs DOT to develop a nationwide PA governing the review of activities that support the deployment of intelligent transportation infrastructure and systems (ITS) in accordance with Section 106 and the ACHP's regulations.

    The term "intelligent transportation system" is defined to mean electronics, communications, or information processing to improve the efficiency or safety of a surface transportation system. Development of the PA will require consultation with the ACHP, National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), and other interested parties.

  • Metropolitan transportation planning: The bill includes a section on Metropolitan Transportation Planning that calls for greater coordination with resource agencies, including SHPOs.

  • State assumption of responsibility for categorial exclusions: The law also authorizes DOT to assign to any State the responsibility for making categorical exclusion determinations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and for "environmental review, consultation, or other related actions required under any Federal law applicable to activities that are classified by the Secretary as categorial exclusions, with the exception of government-to-government consultation with Indian tribes."

    The ACHP will work with DOT and NCSHPO to evaluate the implications for the Section 106 process of the legislative delegation of authority to States, which appears to be similar to the delegation of certain HUD programs to local governments.

  • Pilot programs for State delegation: The law includes a surface transportation pilot program, to run six years, under which five States may assume responsiblity for compliance with NEPA and other environmental laws for one or more highway projects within a State.

    The States selected for this pilot include Alaska, California, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas. Another three year pilot program included in the law authorizes DOT to authorize five States, yet unidentified, to assume responsibility for environmental review (with the exception of tribal consultation) for undertakings carried out under the transportation enhancements and recreational trails programs.

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Posted August 29, 2005

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