State and federal transportation officials insist environmental reviews will remain rigorous, though their method will change.
Nebraska officials expect highway and bridge maintenance funded in part by the federal government will be completed sooner and cheaper under a new agreement reached with the Federal Highway Administration.
But, will environmental review of those projects suffer?
Federal Deputy Highway Administrator Brandye Hendrickson says even with the new arrangement, her department won’t be hands off.
“We do still maintain oversight responsibilities and auditing responsibilities and have check-in points periodically to make sure that they continue to be good stewards of this responsibility,” Hendrickson tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Hendrickson has taken part in the signing of a memo of understanding between the Nebraska Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.
Legislative Bill 271, approved this past session, authorized the state to enter into an agreement with federal officials allowing the state to take over the environmental review of most federally-funded Nebraska highway projects. Major highway and bridge construction will remain under federal environmental review.
Nebraska Transportation Director Kyle Schneweis says the environmental reviews will remain the same, only now under NDOT environmentalists.
“They’re more than equipped to handle this responsibility and, in fact, that’s why it’s taken so long,” Schneweis tells Nebraska Radio Network. “It’s taken us nine months to a year to get here, because the federal Highway Administration wants to ensure that we can accomplish these goals.”
Prior to the signing of the memo, Nebraska had to pass federal review to assure the federal government it was capable to taking over the responsibility.
Nebraska is the 8th state to reach such an agreement with the Federal Highway Administration.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]