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Vulnerabilities Exist in Implementing Initiatives Under MAP-21 Subtitle C To Accelerate Project Delivery

Required by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012
Project ID: 
ST2017029

Summary

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012 (MAP-21) was the first long-term surface transportation authorization enacted since 2005. The act’s Subtitle C requires DOT to implement initiatives to accelerate delivery of projects funded by FHWA and FTA, and to report to Congress on the initiatives’ progress. In 2015, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) reauthorized and changed some of the MAP-21 initiatives. MAP-21 also requires us to assess the Department’s implementation of these initiatives and submit an initial and final report to Congress. This final report presents the results of our latest audit to assess DOT’s progress. DOT developed a plan with 42 actions to meet Subtitle C requirements (Sections 1301-1321 and 1323). Our audit objectives were to (1) provide the status of DOT’s actions to carry out MAP-21 Subtitle C provisions and (2) identify possible vulnerabilities in DOT’s implementation of these actions.
 
DOT has completed 27 of its 42 planned actions for implementation of Subtitle C, including issuance of rulemakings, guidance, and reports. However, the Department has had to delay full implementation because it must revise a large number of these actions to comply with the FAST Act. These delays could impact the Department’s ability to achieve MAP-21’s intended benefits, such as accelerating project delivery, reducing costs, and more efficient and effective planning, design, engineering, construction, and financing of transportation projects. DOT also has not established target completion dates for 7 of the remaining 38 planned actions.
 
Vulnerabilities exist in FHWA’s implementation of planned actions for certain Subtitle C initiatives. FHWA does not require sufficient documentation as part of its implementation of Section 1304—Innovative Project Delivery Methods. The Agency also does not assess the effectiveness of the Surface Transportation Project Delivery program, and has not established a process to implement required reporting on categorical exclusions to Congress in 2017. Lastly, low State participation may affect implementation of certain initiatives, such as States’ assumption of the Federal role under the NEPA process and use of innovative projects. Several factors affecting participation rates are States’ frequent use of categorical exclusions instead of environmental reviews, lack of financial incentives, reluctance to assume Federal roles, and use of existing processes. These vulnerabilities in the implementation of Subtitle C could inhibit achievement of the benefits of accelerated project delivery initiative. DOT concurred with our five recommendations.

Recommendations

Open

Closed

No. 1 to FHWA

Require Division Offices to have documentation substantiating how each innovative technology and practice meets eligibility requirements for the projects under Section 1304 at the time of approval.

No. 2 to FHWA

Develop and implement an oversight mechanism to periodically evaluate the effectiveness of State environmental review performances that assume DOT's environmental review responsibilities under Section 1313.

Closed on 03.20.2017
No. 3 to FHWA

Finalize a plan for collecting and tracking data on CEs to meet mandatory reporting requirements for Section 1323.

No. 4 to FHWA

Establish target completion dates for the remaining planned actions for MAP-21 Subtitle C provisions that are in progress.

No. 5 to FHWA

Update the policy and FHWA Website to clearly reflect and convey the most current requirements for the use of Project and Program Action Information System (PAPAI).