A new federal initiative designed to speed permitting of transmission lines may not expedite their construction, according to two utilities that have transmission projects included in a new Obama administration initiative, the Rapid Response Team for Transmission.

The initiative, announced on Oct. 5, brings together nine federal agencies to streamline the process for new lines. The group focused its efforts on seven projects in various stages of development.

The group will oversee and coordinate various federal agencies' actions—environmental impact statements, for example—and update the status of projects every week or two on a public website.

Construction on the first line could begin next year, Dept. of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a conference call. Overall construction would last for several years. While the government touted the initiative's ability to speed up the projects, the utilities say they simply hope their projects can now be built on time.

“We are hoping that it provides more certainty to our schedule,” says John Sullivan, project director for Portland General Electric's proposed Cascade Crossing transmission line. The utility is expecting to receive a final federal record of decision in 2014, when construction would begin.

Lynette Berrichoa, an Idaho Power transmission specialist, says the initiative has not led to timeline changes for two transmission projects: Gateway West, slated to begin construction in 2014, and Boardman-to-Heminingway, scheduled to begin construction in 2013.

One transmission permitting delay, called “typical” by Berrichoa, was Gateway West's draft environmental impact statement. The Bureau of Land Management's issued the EIS in July—two years behind schedule.