Following up on a recent executive order from President Bush, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation has selected seven major projects that will get expedited environmental reviews from federal agencies.

The seven projects, announced Oct. 31, are:

--Philadelphia International Airport, new runway
--Riverside County, Calif., transportation acceptability process. Integraged land use, transportation and conservation planning for two multimodal transport corridors.
--New Hampshire, Interstate 93, covering improvements to a 19-mile segment between Salem and Manchester.
--Vermont, Chittenden County circumferential highway, construction of a 16.7-mile, four-lan, limited-access road.
--Louisville, Ky.-southern Indiana, Ohio River bridges. One or two new crossings are possible.
--Minnesota-Wisconsin, Stillwater bridge across the St. Croix RIver
--Texas, Interstate 69 corridor, where the Federal Highway Administration has split the project into 13 segments, each with its own environmental impact statement.

Norman Y. Mineta
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Transportation)

An interagency task force will try to speed environmental reviews for those projects. The task force is chaired by DOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, and also includes the secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and Defense, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency administrator and the chairs of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the White House's Council on Environmental Quality.

Mineta said Bush's executive order, issued Sept. 18, aims "to help states cut through federal bureaucratic inertia to help them complete sound transportation projects more quickly and at less cost." He added, "We will not, however, sacrifice environmental standards in this effort.

Industry and state transportation officials have complained that DOT has not effectively carried out environmental "streamlining" provisions in the 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.

DOT says it will add other projects to the list from the many nominees it has received from governors and local officials. The deadline for nominations is Nov. 12.

The department also is hosting a workship on the "environmental stewardship" process on Nov. 1 at its headquarters in Washington, D.C.