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Bridge, Wind, Rail Work Fast-Tracked

Thursday, October 13, 2011

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New York bridge replacement, California wind power, Maryland rail, New Mexico water and other major infrastructure projects will ramp up soon, under fast-track approval granted this week by the Obama administration.

The White House announced Tuesday (Oct. 11) that it had selected 14 infrastructure projects nationwide for expedited permitting and environmental review, in an effort to speed construction and boost jobs.

 Tappan Zee Bridge, New York

 Patrice78500 / Wikimedia Commons

The Obama Administration will fast-track approvals for a $16 billion replacement for New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge.

The announcement follows a Presidential Memorandum issued in late August that directed agencies to accelerate  environmental reviews and permit decisions for certain high-priority infrastructure projects within federal jurisdiction that will create a significant number of jobs, have already identified necessary funding, and can be completed within 18 months. 

Shovel Ready … or Not

The White House described the fast tracking as “an important next step in the administration’s efforts to improve the efficiency of federal reviews needed to help job-creating infrastructure projects move as quickly as possible.”

In June, Obama “conceded that even public works projects financed by his 2009 economic stimulus faced permitting delays,” the Associated Press reported.

“‘Shovel ready’ was not as shovel ready as we expected,” Obama said.

‘Shot in the Arm’ for Tappan Zee

Probably the best-known project on the fast-track list is replacement of New York’s crumbling Tappan Zee Bridge, which connects Westchester and Rockland counties.

The accelerated review process could allow construction on the $16 billion project to start by next year, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo called the White House’s action “a shot in the arm for the project and a major step forward to restoring this key piece of infrastructure and putting tens of thousands of New Yorkers back to work.”

The White House said the project’s construction could be reduced by “multiple years,” with better coordination among federal agencies to move from a draft environmental impact statement to final approval.

A Range of Projects

The projects that were chosen range from upgrading transportation and building wind-power facilities to restoring coastal habitats. By the end of November, the public will be able to track the progress of projects being reviewed through a central Web page.

Following are the other 13 projects slated for fast-track approval.

• The Crenshaw/LAX Project will extend the LA Metro Green Line light rail nearer to Los Angeles International Airport and connect it to the Expo Line light rail. 

• 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 vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian lanes.

• The Provo (UT) Westside Connector Highway Project will build a new arterial roadway between Provo Airport and Interstate 15.

• The Baltimore (MD) Red Line is a 14-mile 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.

• The Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Air Transportation System Infrastructure Project will create new aviation procedures, including the implementation of more efficient routes, for the two airports in Houston, TX.

• The Navajo Gallup Water Supply Project will build two water-treatment plants and deliver water through about 280 miles of pipeline, 24 pumping plants, and numerous water regulation and storage facilities in northwestern New Mexico.

• The Denver Mariposa Housing Project will revitalize a distressed housing project in South Denver, CO. 

• The City Market at O Street, in Washington DC, is a mixed-use residential and retail property financed under the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Section 220 insured mortgage program.

• The Arroyo Sequit Watershed and Qwuloolt Estuary Coastal Habitat Restoration Project is comprised of two activities in California.

• The West Coast Coastal Habitat Restoration Project involves four habitat restoration activities in California and Washington State.

• The Cleghorn Ridge Wind Project will consist of up to 52 wind turbine generators aligned in a general east-west direction along Cleghorn Ridge, in the San Bernardino (CA) National Forest.

• The Deerfield Wind Power Project is a wind generation facility in the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont.

• The Dakota Prairie and Little Missouri National Grasslands Project involves about 80 oil and gas applications for wells and ancillary facilities such as pipelines and power lines in the Dakota Prairie and Little Missouri National Grasslands. 

In addition to the fast-tracking of individual projects, the administration said it would order federal agencies to gather “comprehensive information regarding their reviews of infrastructure projects, and the best practices they have developed.”

That information will be used to develop recommendations “to further improve the efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability of federal permitting and environmental review,” the White House said.


Tagged categories: Construction; Government; Infrastructure; Regulations; Roads/Highways

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/14/2011, 8:33 AM)

Texas had ~$12B in shovel-ready transportation projects apply for the ~$2B available to the state in transportation funding. Plenty of shovel-ready projects waiting on funding here.

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