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Building a 21st Century Infrastructure: Better Outcomes, Faster Timelines, and Less Red Tape


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By Secretary Ray LaHood and Sylvia Burwell

President Obama today signed a Presidential Memorandum that will shave months, and even years, off the time it takes to review and approve major infrastructure projects. This means that states, local governments, and private developers will be able to start construction sooner, create jobs earlier, and fix our nation's infrastructure faster.

On March 22, 2012, the President issued an Executive Order launching a government-wide initiative to improve the efficiency of federal review and permitting of infrastructure projects. Since then, agencies have expedited the review and permitting of 50 major projects, including bridges, transit , railways, waterways, roads, and renewable energy projects.

Federal agencies have also identified a set of best practices for efficient review and permitting. Those range from expanding information technology (IT) tools to strategies - like simultaneous review - for improving collaboration. Today's Presidential Memorandum directs all relevant agencies to put these best practices into effect.

Cutting red tape and streamlining the process for making permitting decisions will help us meet the President's goal of cutting in half the timelines for major infrastructure projects, while creating better outcomes for our communities and for the environment.

The President's initiative is already showing real results. For example, this afternoon, President Obama and Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari will visit Baltimore, where we sped up the approval process for the city's Red Line rail transit corridor by six months.

We also recently expedited Federal approval for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project in New York. By speeding up the approval process, Federal agencies trimmed up to three years off the timeline for this multi-billion dollar project that will help put Americans back to work.

To learn more about the Administration's reform effort, you can read the President's 2012 Executive Order, the Federal Action Plan describing what we are doing in more detail, and our first annual Report to the President on our progress so far. You can also track the results of specific projects on the Administration's Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard, a new tool that provides an unprecedented level of transparency into the Federal permitting and review process.

Going forward, the Administration will make even more extensive use of performance tools like the Dashboard as we work to make the exceptional time savings achieved on the first 50 projects the norm. We are also working to expand innovative mitigation tools to improve environmental outcomes; develop more targeted and relevant environmental reviews; provide more opportunities for public input; and build on our first five regional pilot teams to improve collaboration with State, local, and Tribal governments.

This permitting modernization effort is an important component of the President's larger effort to grow the economy, accelerate job creation, and improve U.S. competitiveness by building a 21st Century infrastructure. Notably, the President's 2014 Budget calls for immediately investing $50 billion in our Nation's transportation infrastructure, with $40 billion devoted to "fix-it-first" projects that target areas in the most urgent need of repair. The President also proposed a "Rebuild America Partnership," creating tools to encourage partnerships between the private sector and Federal, State, and local governments to enhance the role of private capital in U.S. infrastructure investment and ensure America has the best transportation, electric, water, and communications networks in the world.

Ray LaHood is Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Sylvia Burwell is Director of the Office of Management and Budget

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