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Federal Transit Administration Provided Guidance on Protecting Civil Rights and Addressing Environmental Impacts on Transit Riders and Communities.  The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has issued new guidance aimed at ensuring that the civil rights and environmental justice concerns of minority communities and others are protected in transportation planning and decision-making, including proposed changes to transit services, such as laying new tracks, planning a neighborhood bus route, or adjusting fares.  FTA has issued new and revised guidance to assist grant recipients in complying with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin, as well as guidance on incorporating environmental justice principles into transportation planning and decision-making. 

The first guidance document updates and revises FTA’s Title VI Circular, to clarify what recipients must do to comply with DOT’s Title VI regulations, including careful evaluation of the impact of proposed service and fare changes on minority riders and ensuring that people with limited English proficiency have access to information they can understand.  The second guidance document is a new Environmental Justice Circular intended to ensure that FTA’s grantees avoid, minimize or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse health and environmental effects on minority and low-income populations. The Circular states that it is critically important to involve these communities early in the planning and environmental review processes that determine which transit services and projects will ultimately serve them. 

Together, these documents go a long way to provide greater guidance, accountability and transparency in how existing and future transit service is evaluated and communicated to the public, and implemented on the ground.  The new guidance is the result of an unprecedented level of FTA outreach that included public engagement sessions in Kansas City, Boston, Atlanta, Detroit and the San Francisco Bay area, as well as numerous webinars.  Both the Title VI requirements and guidelines and environmental justice policy guidance are available on FTA’s website at http://www.fta.dot.gov/T6EJ. Contact:  Amy Bernstein at 202-366-0706.

FHWA Proposes to Update Regulations for Engineering and Design-Related Services.  The Federal Highway Administration recently proposed an update to its regulations for using engineering consultants on highway construction projects.  The updates would enhance public accountability, ensure compliance with state and federal laws and regulations, and help ensure more open competition and the selection of consultants based on best qualification and experience.  The updates also clarify certain flexibilities, such as the use of on-call contracts, to improve the effectiveness of using consultants.  The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published on September 4, 2012, in the Federal Register.  For more information, please contact Nancy Singer at 202-366-4650.

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Proposes to Require Railroads to Develop System Safety Programs.  The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would require commuter and intercity passenger railroads to develop and implement system safety programs (SSP) to further improve the safety of their operations.  SSPs would be designed to help the railroad proactively identify and mitigate or eliminate hazards and the resulting risks on each railroad’s system. Railroads would have considerable flexibility in tailoring an SSP to specific operations. The FRA would review and approve a railroad’s proposed SSP and audit compliance. Interested parties are invited to submit comments on the proposed rule by November 6, 2012.  Contact: Kevin Thompson (202) 493-6024.

Friday, September 7, 2012