New DOT Rule Aims to Streamline Road, Bridge Building

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said yesterday that a new Federal Highway Administration final rule would amend the regulation to allow states more flexibility to build roads and bridges faster, with design work and environmental reviews to occur concurrently.

The change would also allow states to use various contracting methods ranging from basic design-build contracts to long-term concession agreements while simultaneously pursuing federal environmental approvals. The rule also eliminates a required dollar amount for projects which, it is hoped, will increase the opportunity for smaller projects to use design-build contracts. "This new flexibility will help states build needed roads and bridges faster, while at the same time protecting the environment," Peters said.

Under the rule, certain design work could begin while the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process is under way, still ensuring that the full range of alternatives is considered. "Innovative contracting leads to speedier project delivery," said J. Richard Capka, federal highway administrator. "The new rule will help to mainstream the approach and reduce the costs for states wishing to enter into public-private partnerships."

Capka added that a quicker process will save taxpayers time and money. The rule, which was open for full public comment before publication, can be viewed at www.fhwa.dot.gov/new.html.

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