The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved legislation that aims to speed environmental and planning reviews for runway projects at major U.S. airports. The measure was cleared by voice vote on April 24.

Don Young
(Photo by Office of Rep. Don Young)

"Streamlining" regulatory approvals gained substantial attention early last year, with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta endorsing the idea of concurrent, rather than sequential, reviews by multiple federal agencies. But after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, streamlining became less of a priority as security became the major airport issue. In addition, a decline in airline traffic caused many airports to postpone capital projects.

Nevertheless, transportation committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) says he is "confident that air traffic will pick up again. And when it does, congestion and delays will return with a vengeance unless we do something about it now."

The bill mandates that the Dept. of Transportation coordinate regulatory reviews by various agencies, with environmental studies done concurrently where possible. It also provides that DOT should inform Congress within 30 days when an agency hasn't met a DOT-set deadline for its review. In addition, it limits any legal challenges to federal actions taken under the legislation to suits filed at the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Projects covered by the bill include runways and taxiways and other work that DOT determines would reduce air traffic congestion.