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US president Obama picks out 14 infrastructure projects to be pushed through planning process

President Obama has selected 14 infrastructure projects across the US that will be rushed through permitting and environmental review processes in a bid to help job-creating projects move as quickly as possible from the drawing board to completion.

Schemes were chosen on the grounds that they have necessary funding in place, the significant steps remaining before construction are within the control and jurisdiction of the federal government, and that they can be completed within 18 months.

The list includes six transport projects, a water supply scheme and two wind farms.

The announcement is the latest in a series of steps the Obama Administration has taken to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of federal permitting and review. The steps are intended to speed job-creation in the short term while increasing strengthening the economy in the longer term.

 

The 14 projects selected for expedited review

Tappan Zee Bridge, New York

The Tappan Zee Bridge project will replace a deficient bridge that is a critical link in the regional transportation network.  While the project is an ambitious one and construction will not begin for several years, improved coordination amongst multiple federal agencies will reduce the time needed to proceed from a Draft Environmental Impact Statement to a Record of Decision, potentially reducing the project timeline by multiple years. 

Crenshaw/LAX, California

The Crenshaw/LAX project will extend the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (LA Metro) existing Green Line light rail nearer to the Los Angeles International Airport and connect it to the Expo Line light rail.  The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is providing additional targeted technical assistance to shorten the approval time for this project by several months. In addition FTA and LA Metro will pilot FTA’s new streamlined risk assessment approach for major transit projects to ensure risks and associated mitigation measures are identified and addressed promptly. 

Whittier Bridge, Massachusetts

The Whittier Bridge project on I-95 in Massachusetts will replace an existing bridge over the Merrimack River with a new, multi-modal bridge that will add lanes as well as bicycle and pedestrian lanes.  The lead agency, resource agency and project sponsor will facilitate better coordination to accelerate permit review and approval within six months, including an agreed upon schedule for document reviews and establishing a process for dispute elevation and resolution. 

Provo Westside Connector, Utah

The Provo Westside Connector highway project in Utah will build a new arterial roadway between Provo Airport and Interstate 15 to improve roadway system linkage in southwest Provo, UT.  By increasing coordination among federal and state agencies, permit review and approval can be expedited, saving six or more months.  This time savings will be achieved through an agreed upon schedule for document reviews and establishing a process for dispute elevation and resolution. 

Baltimore Red Line, Maryland

The Baltimore Red Line is a 20km rail transit line connecting the suburban areas west of Baltimore to downtown, the Inner Harbor and Fells Point areas, and the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Campus. This project has many outstanding permitting issues that will require substantial cooperation between a number of resource and other federal agencies.  By engaging in early negotiations with all necessary federal agencies and optimizing coordination amongst the agencies this project will begin construction earlier than currently planned, potentially reducing the project timeline by two years.

Next Generation Air Transportation System Infrastructure Project, Texas

This Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot project will create Next Generation (NextGen) aviation procedures, including the implementation of new, more efficient routes, for the two airports in Houston, Texas. These performance based navigation procedures must comply with internal FAA approvals as well as reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act.  Integrating these reviews will expedite this project and studying the impacts of the new procedures will serve as a demonstration project for future NextGen procedural improvements. 

Navajo Gallup Water Supply Project, New Mexico

This project will build two water treatment plants and deliver water through approximately 450km of pipeline, 24 pumping plants, and numerous water regulation and storage facilities bringing a clean and sustainable water supply to the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation will work to improve coordination between Federal and non-federal entities and to expedite land acquisition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Land Management.

Denver Mariposa Housing Project, Colorado

In connection with a HOPE VI grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, this project will revitalise a distressed housing project located in South Denver.  Portions of the project are underway and HUD will expedite its Part 58 review and review of the Revitalization Plan for the next phases.

City Market at “O” Street, District of Columbia

Located in Washington, DC, City Market at “O” Street is a mixed-use property consisting of 400 market-rate residential units, retail space and a supermarket with financing under the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Section 220 insured mortgage program. In conjunction with this project and others, FHA has embarked on an effort to streamline the approval process for loans, including review of related federal permits and is working with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to expedite the National Historic Trust approval, subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Arroyo Sequit Watershed and Qwuloolt Estuary Coastal Habitat Restoration Project, California

This habitat restoration project is composed of two activities.  The first activity is the Arroyo Sequit Creek Steelhead Barrier Removal in California, which will involve construction activities to remove existing physical barriers, including two dry weather crossings and one check dam, along the Arroyo Sequit watershed in northern Los Angeles County, CA.  The second activity is the Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration in Washington State and will involve restoration construction activities to restore 350 acres of currently isolated floodplain.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will work with the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite construction permits by up to one year, with the goal of beginning construction as early as 2012.

West Coast Coastal Habitat Restoration Project, California and Washington

This project is composed of four habitat restoration activities including Sears Point Tidal Restoration in California; Napa River Salt Marsh Restoration in California; Riverside Ranch Restoration in California; and the Salt Creek Estuary Reconnection in Washington State.  The scope of these project activities will involve construction elements that will contribute to habitat restoration in these regions. This project will be expedited by up to one year by the facilitation of interagency resource coordination between the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Cleghorn Ridge Wind Project, California

This wind generation project by Cleghorn Ridge Wind LLC would consist of up to 52 wind turbine generators aligned in a general east-west direction along the ridgeline at Cleghorn Ridge, in the San Bernardino National Forest. USDA Forest Service, U.S. Air Force, and Federal Aviation Administration will cooperate to complete the review of this project by federal agencies in as little as 18 months, rather than the three years originally estimated.

Deerfield Wind Power Project, Vermont

This wind generation facility by Deerfield Wind LLC in the towns of Searsburg and Readsboro in the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont would consist of 15 two-megawatt turbines.  USDA Forest Service is working to expedite a Final Environmental Impact Statement before December 2011.

Dakota Prairie and Little Missouri National Grasslands, North Dakota and South Dakota

USDA Forest Service is working with an expedited process for reviewing oil and gas applications for wells and ancillary facilities such as pipelines and power lines in the Dakota Prairie and Little Missouri National Grasslands.  There are approximately 80 applications currently in file.  The expedited process involves early coordination with the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management and use of the 390 Categorical Exclusion provided under the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

    * Earlier this summer, the President signed an Executive Order to promote the safe, responsible, and efficient energy resources in Alaska. The EO established a working group to facilitate coordinated and efficient energy development and permitting in Alaska while also ensuring that all proper environmental and safety standards are met.

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