Carlos Barria / Reuters

Permitting and environmental review will be expedited, pushing for final approval within 18 months

Today, the Obama administration released a list of 14 infrastructure projects around the country that will be given a fast-track through permitting, environmental reviews and other bureaucratic steps toward final approval within the next year and a half. The move focuses on projects that have already identified funding, and which will create a significant number of jobs. The administration is projecting tens of thousand of jobs to be created by these projects.

Included in the list is the Tappan Zee Bridge project in New York, which would renovate and overhaul a bridge that officials have been trying to replace or repair for more than 20 years. This project won’t be able to begin construction until next year at the soonest, but the fast-tracking is expected to greatly reduce its timeline. Also included is a project to extend a rail line closer to Los Angeles International Airport, and connect it to the new Expo line light rail project currently under construction.

The administration called for this list to be created in a memo back in August, seeking project nominations from the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, and Transportation. In addition to requiring that the elected projects be at a stage where any major steps towards completion are within the jurisdiction of the federal government, the memo called for various ways of rethinking the permitting and environmental review processes, including:

[…S]uch strategies as integrating planning and environmental reviews; coordinating multi-agency or multi-governmental reviews and approvals to run concurrently; setting clear schedules for completing steps in the environmental review and permitting process; and utilizing information technologies to inform the public about the progress of environmental reviews as well as the progress of Federal permitting and review processes.

Other projects include the revitalization of the Mariposa Housing Project in Denver; a water supply project in the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico; the Deerfield Wind Power Project in Vermont (which will consist of 15 two-megawatt turbines); the seemingly perpetually stalled City Market at O redevelopment project in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore's proposed Red-Line light rail corridor; the Provo Westside Connector highway project in Utah; the Whittier Bridge project on I-95 in Massachusetts; and several more.

The move is largely a bureaucratic shakeup, but one intended to rewrite the way large projects move through the circuitous and time-intensive process of federal approval. The changes, depending on their efficacy, could be applied to more projects in the future.

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