Congress passed a much-ballyhooed “infrastructure” bill. “Roads and bridges.”
Well, not much of it went to roads and bridges in the first place, only $110 billion out of $1.2 Trillion went to roads, bridges “and investments in other major transportation programs.”
But the The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) decides where to spend the money. The The Wall Street Journal reports …Deputy Administrator Stephanie Pollack advised staff on the types of projects they should give the red light.
According to the memo, proposals should be sent to the bottom of the pile if they “add new general purpose travel lanes serving single occupancy vehicles.” She means cars.
That includes construction of new roads and highways, or expansions of existing ones. In short, how many roads and bridges do you get in the $1.2 trillion dollar bill? Zero.
The infrastructure bill also included provisions to limit the endless environmental review that is used to block projects. The FHWA undercut that neatly, The policy imposes a 90-day limit on approval for projects reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
But the FHWA is doubling down on other green restrictions. Its memo declares that any project requiring a new right of way is ineligible for a fast-tracked NEPA review. States planning to widen clogged highways using federal funds could face months or years of scrutiny.
The WSJ continues on how this memo undermines the clear intent of Congress, an interesting political story. I found the original memo here. (WSJ, why do you not link to sources?)
FHWA will implement policies and undertake actions to encourage – and where permitted by law, require – recipients of Federal highway funding to select projects that improve the condition and safety of existing transportation infrastructure within the right-of-way before advancing projects that add new general purpose travel lanes serving single occupancy vehicles.
That sentence says all highway funding, not just additional funding under the infrastructure bill! So much for my dream of a desperately needed third lane on I-5! (Maybe they could call it a truck lane?)
It also does not specify internal combustion. If we move to the green economy of electric cars..they’re all going to be stuck in the same traffic.
As the journal reports, though fast environmental review will be allowed for bicycle and pedestrian lanes, paths and facilities..resurfacing, rehabilitation or reconstruction, construction of grade separation.
It will not be allowed for highway capacity expansion projects that involve “acquisition of more than a minor amount of right-of-way or that would result in any residential or non-residential displacements. …” or …if the proposed project would
- induce significant impacts to planned growth or land use for the area
- have a significant impact on any natural cultural, recreational, historic or other resource, or
- have significant impacts to travel patterns.
So, highways must not have a significant impact on travel patterns! This is probably the most hilarious and revealing sentence of the whole document.
Why build or repair highways?