The changes, the first in more than 25 years, were implemented to eliminate some of the "red tape" that projects have had to go through as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), USDOT officials said in a prepared statement.
"These improvements expedite our environmental review process to move projects through the pipeline more quickly, while preserving critical community input on how planned transit projects affect the local environment," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Greater efficiencies will be achieved by allowing communities developing rail, streetcar, bus and ferry projects to spend less time and effort on document preparation for environmental assessments, while continuing to ensure the protection of the environment and public health.
One impact of the new provisions is that it will make it possible to expedite the release of $2 billion in emergency relief funds for Hurricane Sandy recovery areas in New York, New Jersey and other affected states, LaHood stated in his daily "Fast Lane" blog.
The changes resulted from the "most comprehensive review" of FTA's environmental procedures since 1987, and are in line with the new Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) law, USDOT officials said.
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