May 24, 2013
NSPE TODAY: POLICY PERSPECTIVES
BY SARAH OGDEN
Without a strong infrastructure, our national economic position, including our workforce, production, health, safety, and overall welfare is at risk. Professional engineers play a key role in the planning, design, implementation, construction, operation, and maintenance of this infrastructure. So when the Department of Transportation became one of the first agencies to initiate a regulatory review in response to President Obama's January Executive Order 13563, NSPE sprang into action. The order requires every federal agency to review its existing regulations and determine whether regulations are effectively promoting economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness without being unduly burdensome.
NSPE surveyed 10,000 members to pinpoint the regulations of greatest concern to the engineering profession, then filed comments with the DOT on a range of topics, including the Federal Highway Administration's and Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) inconsistent application of qualifications-based selection, the environmental clearance process, FHWA's conflict of interest policy, inconsistent models of quality assurance across the DOT, and outdated pipeline safety standards. NSPE then spoke at a DOT meeting led by DOT General Counsel Robert Rivkin and attended by a panel of the DOT components' general counsels and senior staff.
NSPE member Dan Tanksley, P.E., F.NSPE, a Texas-based civil engineer who serves as the general counsel of Halff Associates, represented NSPE at the meeting. He commended the DOT for its history of leadership, recognized its integral role in the American economy, and emphasized that NSPE would be pleased to assist the DOT as the agency continues to streamline its regulations. Tanksley then highlighted two issues of concern to NSPE:
Currently, FHWA and FTA Use QBS Only on Construction-Related Contracts.
The Environmental Clearance Process is Excessively Long.
NSPE recommended the following: streamlining the environmental clearance process by transferring environmental review responsibilities entirely to the state DOT unless an environmental impact statement is required; replacing sequential reviews with a single joint review or charrette; emphasizing substantive environmental issues rather than superficial issues, such as document formatting and subjective language modifications, which have no bearing on decision-making; eliminating the requirement for indirect and cumulative impacts analyses in all categorical exclusion documents, regardless of whether the project is adding capacity; and accepting electronic submissions of documents.
NSPE believes that resolving these and the issues addressed in the written comments will improve the nation's transportation system, benefiting the public's health, safety, and welfare.
Read NSPE's comments in their entirety at http://1.usa.gov/hPGYh5.
For NSPE's position statement on infrastructure, visit http://www.nspe.org/IssuesandAdvocacy/TakeAction/PositionStatements/ps_inf.html.
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