Obama Accelerates Permits for Infrastructure Projects

Barack Obama spoke at the Key Bridge in Washington to promote infrastructure programs in 2011. Barack Obama spoke at the Key Bridge in Washington to promote infrastructure programs in 2011. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP file photo

President Obama on Friday signed a memo aimed at speeding up the federal permitting process for construction of infrastructure projects designed to boost local economies and create jobs.

The development coincided with release of a new Office of Management and Budget annual progress report and online dashboard for tracking projects. The report stresses improved use of information technology tools to facilitate interagency cooperation and environmental protection.

The directive “will shave months, and even years, off the time it takes to review and approve major infrastructure projects,” wrote Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a White House blog. “This means that states, local governments, and private developers will be able to start construction sooner, create jobs earlier, and fix our nation’s infrastructure faster.”

Following up on a March executive order to boost infrastructure, the memo sets up an interagency steering committee and tasks OMB’s chief performance officer with coordinating agency modernization through the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and the Council on Environmental Quality .

Examples LaHood gave included federal approval for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project in New York and a revamped rail corridor in Baltimore, a site Obama visited on Friday.

As of the date of the report, the federal permitting and review processes were complete for more than 40 percent of planned projects. Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget seeks $50 billion for priority infrastructure.

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