AASHTO Journal, 5 August 2016
A fast-approaching set of regulatory deadlines in the next few weeks will give state departments of transportation and other industry stakeholders a chance to weigh in on new federal policies that agencies will develop under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.
Joung Lee, policy director for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said association staff and committees made up of officials from state DOTs are evaluating three separate federal policy proposals by the U.S. DOT and preparing formal comments for them ahead of deadlines on Aug. 20, Aug. 26 and Sept. 6.
Those include a far-reaching set of proposed performance measures by the Federal Highway Administration for the national highway system, for freight movement on interstate highways and for the FHWA’s program to fund projects that aim to reduce congestion and improve air quality. Comments for that rulemaking are due Aug. 20.
Separately, comment deadlines loom Aug. 26 on a joint FHWA-Federal Transit Administration proposal on how to promote more effective regional project planning by metropolitan planning organizations and states. And the U.S. DOT wants responses by Sept. 6 on its plans to formally establish a national multimodal freight network, a designation of priority freight corridors that can guide funding of future highway, rail and port projects.
The comment periods give stakeholders a vital but sometimes brief period to help shape future federal policies before agencies produce final regulations.
Lee said that besides working to finalize comments this month to reflect the views and needs of state DOT members on those specific regulatory actions, AASHTO staff has also released a “rulemaking tracker” document to help viewers easily keep tabs on the many rulemakings and deadlines stemming from that five-year bill and the MAP-21 law from 2012.
Staff posted that tracker this week, along with an Aug. 1 update of AASHTO’s own FAST Act and MAP-21 implementation recommendations, on the association’s FAST Act web portal.
“The FAST Act drew much attention for authorizing five years of funding for the Highway Trust Fund and other surface transportation programs. But it also required federal agencies to quickly interpret enacted law and implement a number of significant policies that can impact the way state DOTs and other agencies perform,” Lee told the AASHTO Journal.
“These documents on AASHTO’s FAST Act portal help provide our members a simple way to keep track of the various federal rulemakings and how state DOTs’ concerns are being addressed,” he added.
That site also provides documents detailing each year of FAST Act funding levels, with state-by-state apportionments. And it contains important recent policy communications to Congress from AASHTO President Paul Trombino and from AASHTO along with other industry associations.
One letter addresses state needs in the annual appropriations process, while another warns lawmakers that rescission of billions of highway program dollars that Congress has written into law could threaten states’ ability to fund their federally supported projects by fiscal 2020.