American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President and CEO Pete Ruane met with Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) during a Capitol Hill news conference Tuesday to discuss how the federal government shutdown is impacting transportation projects.
The shutdown, which began a week ago, resulted in 18,481 U.S. Department of Transportation furloughs and the suspension of most DOT operations not safety-related.
During the conference, Ruane said a major impact will largely impact the streamlining process outlined in Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), the latest transportation funding bill.
In fact, Ruane said the shutdown has already begun to affect streamlining, particularly approval processes.
“Due to furloughs in the environmental and resource agencies, however, the approval process for transportation projects is encountering more obstacles,” Ruane said. “This outcome is the exact opposite of the goals of MAP-21’s streamlining provisions.”
Ruane noted that the the review process for transportation projects involves the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency and the Fish and Wildlife Service, and that 129 projects were undergoing the Environmental Impact Statement process on August 22.
Ruane also pointed out that major highway and bridge projects take are often completed in nine to 19 years, adding that the completion time is “largely due to inefficiencies in the review process that delay needed mobility and safety improvements.”
Funding and project approvals — which are slowed with the shutdown — are needed to develop and maintain a reliable transportation network.
“The fact remains that if environmental regulators can’t do their job, we can’t do ours,” Ruane said.