In an effort to shorten the amount of time between project conceptualization and construction, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) added two instances in which a project can use the least burdensome environmental review:

  • Those within existing rights-of-way that use less than $5 million in federal funds

  • Total estimated cost of less than $30 million where federal funds comprise less than 15% of total estimated cost.
  • After gathering feedback from 30 stakeholders including state DOTs and public interest organizations, U.S. DOT added seven new categorical exclusions (CEs) for Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) projects and five for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) projects. Experts put the number of possible permutations of the following, which go into effect on Nov. 5, at 266.


    Geotechnical investigations such as drilling test bores for soil sampling, archeological investigations, and wetland surveys


    FHWA: rehabilitation, reconstruction, or replacement or grade separation to replace existing at-grade railroad crossings

  • FTA: removal and related activities such as in-channel work, debris disposal, and facility realignment
  • Safety

    FHWA: Traffic operations improvement projects including the installation of ramp metering control devices and lighting

  • FTA: Preventative maintenance, including safety treatments, to culverts and channels within and adjacent to right-of-way to prevent damage to the facility and adjoining property, plus any necessary channel work, such as restoring, replacing, reconstructing, and rehabilitating culverts and drainage pipes; and expanding existing culverts and drainage pipe

    Environmental restoration and pollution abatement to minimize or mitigate the impacts of any existing facility (including retrofitting and building stormwater treatment systems to meet requirements under sections 401 and 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1341; 1342)

  • Modernization via resurfacing, restoration, rehabilitation, reconstruction, adding shoulders, or adding auxiliary lanes (including parking, weaving, turning, and climbing lanes)
  • Purchase, construction, replacement, or rehabilitation of ferry vessels (including improvements to ferry vessel safety, navigation, and security systems) that wouldn’t require a change in
  • the function of terminals and can be accommodated by existing facilities or by new facilities which themselves are within a CE
  • Rehabilitation or reconstruction of existing ferry facilities that occupy substantially the same geographic footprint, don’t change their function, and don’t substantially increase capacity; for example, pedestrian and vehicle transfer structures and associated utilities, buildings, and terminals.

    Minor facility realignment to improve safety, such as improving vertical and horizontal alignment and/or sight distance at railroad crossings.

  • Modernization or minor expansions of transit structures and facilities outside existing right-of-way, such as bridges, stations, or rail yards.

If you're having trouble sleeping, you can read the public comments and updated rulemaking here.