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New transportation plan heeds environment.

Environmental programs and provisions are a key priority in moving America into the 21st Century.

The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), signed last December 18 by President Bush, linked the growing recognition between national mobility and international competitiveness with an emphasis on the environmental aspects of transportation decisions. The President stated that transportation programs must "enhance lives by contributing to a healthier and more attractive environment."

Within the new structure, state and local governments will have the flexibility to ensure that transportation and the environment are both improved. Major changes in the Federal-aid highway and transit programs will help State and local governments meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act, restore and preserve wetlands, and finance transportation enhancements.

Although each of the seventeen programs bear significant influence on State and local officials, some of ISTEA's more visible categories include:

[sub-section] Program Flexibility - This feature is extremely important to State and local officials by providing help to them in choosing the best mix of projects to address air quality, congestion, mobility, or other problems related to rigid Federal funded categories from past legislation;

[sub-section] Statewide and Metropolitan Planning - ISTEA gives more emphasis to intermodal planning, coordination with land-use planning and development, and consideration of economic, energy, environmental, and social effects;

[sub-section] Funds for Air Quality Plannin - The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 significantly expanded State and local transportation air quality planning requirements;

[sub-section] Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program - A new program was created by ISTEA to deal with congestion and transportation-related air pollution with $6 billion authorized over 6 years to help States reduce or eliminate these problems;

[sub-section] Congestion Pricing and Tolls - To reduce congestion and air pollution, ISTEA provides projects that would make transportation alternatives more attractive by increasing the cost of driving a single-occupant vehicle (SOV) at congested hours;

[sub-section] Surface Transportation Program (STP) Eligibility - Of the $24 billion authorized for the STP, the ISTEA set aside 10 percent of STP for safety. The remaining STP funds can be used by State and local officials for highway/transit activities, including those beneficial to the environment;

[sub-section] Early Acquisitions - The cost of right-of-way acquired in advance of Federal approvals may be reimbursed if the properties are later incorporated into projects that are eligible for STP funding.

[sub-section] Control of Outdoor Advertising - In the case of Interstate or primary routes designated as a scenic byway under a State scenic byways program, the ISTEA prohibits the erection of signs except for those that are exempt under the Highway Beautification Act of 1965.

Although prior to enactment of ISTEA, programs were subject to a number of environmental requirements, the new transportation provisions will ensure that improved transportation will also improve the environment.
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Author:Barker, Linnea
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Mar 30, 1992
Words:455
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