Task 1: Conduct Interviews
Conduct interviews with selected state DOT officials to understand the extent to which the practice of delegation of federal permits has been undertaken by state DOTs. Consult with legal authorities in the field to determine the extent to which project proponents may delegate their responsibilities on federal permits. If impediments to such delegation, determine by what is needed (e.g., interagency agreement) to convey responsibility—at least on a one-time basis for potential pilot projects. Work with state DOT and resource agency officials to understand the expected benefits, challenges and concerns that may arise from the delegation of federal permit responsibilities.
Task 2: Assess Regional Acceptance of Delegation
From Task 1, determine which state DOTs and associated federal resource agencies express acceptance to further exploring the full delegation of federal permit responsibility. Assess the projects proffered by the state DOTs. Determine the type of federal permits and the responsibilities that the permits may entail for each project. Form legal agreements or waivers where necessary with resource agencies to remove barriers to the delegation of authority for the pilot projects. The selected projects should each have at least three federally issued permits and be over $5 million dollars in construction value. Projects may be either design-bid-build or design-build. The projects should reside, to the extent possible, in different regions of the country. Select five (5) projects (if available) for pilots. Altogether, projects should offer the widest possible array of federal permits, resources impacted and type of construction activity.
Task 3: Conduct Pilot Projects
From Task 2, work with state DOTs to track selected values of the project which are needed to verify research outcomes. As a minimum, these should include:
· Holistic cost comparison of subject projects with traditional design-bid-build or design-build projects from design through physical completion;
· Comparison of frequency of potential violations through quarterly reviews by the state DOT and resource agencies and reported permit violations for these and traditional projects (this should exclude administrative violations);
· Documentation of changes in construction sequencing and work approach between control and delegated project types (especially those that lead to the differential effect on the environment); and
· An estimate of the amount of impact (both positive and negative) to the environment from both the control and delegated project types.
Task 4: Report Evaluating the Pilot Projects
From Task 3, assess the positive and negative consequences of the delegation of federal permit responsibilities to the contractor. While the information and comparisons may not be statistically robust, conclusions should indicate an accepted outcome and the rationale for that outcome. Document the subjective level of confidence indicted by stakeholders along with the reason for their considered opinion. Put this information into a report. Provide all stakeholders an opportunity to review and comment on the report. Submit the completed report with an executive summary that includes conclusions, further research needs, potential hurdles to implementation and what laws may need to be changed to allow full and complete delegation of federal authority on environmentally related permits.