Gov. Ricketts Celebrates Department of Transportation-Federal Highway Administration Partnership to Deliver Infrastructure Projects More Efficiently
Governor Pete Ricketts, back left, and Deputy Administrator Brandye Hendrickson of the FHWA, back right, look on as Director Kyle Schneweis of the NDOT, front left, and Division Administrator Joseph Werning of the FHWA, front right, sign the MOU on Wednesday.
LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts celebrated a partnership between state and federal agencies, which will help deliver infrastructure projects more efficiently in Nebraska. At the State Capitol, Governor Ricketts hosted a signing ceremony highlighting a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This MOU is the next step in a series of steps by Governor Ricketts and NDOT to modernize Nebraska’s transportation system through streamlining environmental review processes and increasing efficiency.
“The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding underscores our commitment to expedite project delivery in our state. It is part of a plan made possible by the passage of LB271, introduced by Senator Mike Hilgers and Senator Suzanne Geist,” said Governor Ricketts. “This allows the DOT to assume certain NEPA responsibilities, which will create significant time savings. With this measure in place, our NDOT will have another tool to help accelerate infrastructure construction in Nebraska.”
The MOU authorizes the DOT to assume FHWA’s environmental review responsibilities for federally-funded transportation projects classified as Categorical Exclusions (CE) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. CEs are the most common level of review under NEPA for infrastructure projects in Nebraska.
The NDOT has focused on increasing project reliability and streamlining project delivery processes to improve efficiency over the course of Governor Ricketts’ administration. CE Assignment builds off of the Department’s 2015 Programmatic Agreement with FHWA and puts it on the path to seek full NEPA Assignment in 2019. NDOT Director Kyle Schneweis and FHWA Nebraska Division Administrator Joe Werning signed the MOU authorizing assumption of CE responsibilities after offering brief remarks.
“The NDOT team has worked hand-in-hand with FHWA to streamline the project delivery process to improve reliability while upholding our commitment to the environment and the citizens of Nebraska,” said Director Schneweis. “It’s an honor to have Deputy Administrator Hendrickson with us to highlight the strong partnership that enables us to take ownership of the review authority for approximately 95 percent of the state’s transportation projects.”
Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Brandye Hendrickson, FHWA’s senior official, was on hand to celebrate Nebraska becoming the eighth state to join the program created by Congress in the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users” (SAFETEA-LU) and, later, modified in the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act. Under this program, state DOT’s assume federal responsibilities for NEPA-related environmental reviews and approvals.
“This is part of our ongoing effort to reduce the federal burden on states,” said Deputy Administrator Hendrickson. “Giving states a greater say in environmental reviews is a step in the right direction.”
“I have long been familiar with the challenges and roadblocks states face when planning for and building infrastructure,” said U.S. Senator Deb Fischer. “The signing of this memorandum today officially gives the state of Nebraska greater control of the infrastructure permitting process. This agreement is going to help ensure our state speeds up project development while maintaining environmental standards.”
GOV RICKETTS’ COMMITMENT TO TRANSPORTATION IS GROWING NEBRASKA
Over the past few years, Governor Ricketts has worked with the Nebraska Legislature and transportation stakeholders to focus on ways to modernize Nebraska’s transportation system through innovation and efficiency. Previous initiatives include:
- Streamlining Processes (LB271): The NDOT’s undertaking of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Assumption streamlines the environmental review process and accelerates project delivery.
- Merging Agencies (LB339): Merging the Department of Roads and the Department of Aeronautics to create the Nebraska Department of Transportation, driving efficiencies that allow savings to be reinvested into roads and runways.
- New Standards: Updates to the state’s roads standards in partnership with the Nebraska Board of Public Roads Classifications and Standards (NBCS) to modernize requirements for new construction and preservation of state highways, county roads, and municipal streets.
- Public Input: Updated and expanded the prioritization process for projects constructed and funded by the Build Nebraska Act and the Transportation Innovation Act that took into account economic impact and stakeholder input, while continuing to consider engineering performance.
- Record Investment for 2019: Announced a record-setting $600 million in projects slated for construction across the state. The announcement came with the release of the DOT’s Program Book for Fiscal Years 2019-2024, which details transportation projects scheduled for funding in the next one and five-year programs.
- Improving Speed Limit Consistency (LB1009): Right-sized and improved consistency of speed limits for Nebraskans across the state.
- Transportation Innovation Act (LB960): The Transportation Innovation Act provided NDOT with new revenue, programs, and tools to increase mobility, freight, economic growth, and safety in Nebraska.