Since implementing the Tennessee Environmental Streamlining Agreement (TESA) process for several years, TDOT identified the need to update the TESA Overall Agreement based on experience with projects that have gone through the process, potential changes resulting from the passage of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), and a need for other administrative changes. As part of this process, TDOT gathered input from the various Resource and Regulatory Agencies involved in the process.
One outcome of the update process was the development of the TESA Companion Guide which serves as an introduction to and overview of the TESA process. The guide establishes Standard Operating Procedures for concurrence points, and outlines protocols for meetings, field reviews, issue resolution, and ongoing coordination among agencies for the purpose of streamlining the transportation development process and achieving regulatory and environmental compliance.
Agencies reached agreement on the TESA update in January 2014 and it became effective in April 2014 with all participating agency signatures.
The purpose of this Agreement has not changed. It is to establish a coordinated planning and project development process for transportation projects in Tennessee in order to ensure significant agency, Metropolitan Planning Organization, and Rural Planning Organization participation and involvement early and throughout the project development process. Although the agencies that participate in the process to develop and implement transportation projects operate under different and varied regulations, the common responsibility of all agencies is service and accountability to the public.
The TESA outlines a streamlined environmental process that is intended to achieve the timely and efficient identification, evaluation and resolution of environmental and regulatory issues, in order to:
This Agreement establishes “one decision-making process” to identify and address agency jurisdictional interests at four key points, termed concurrence points, during the planning and NEPA process for transportation projects. Concurrence points occur at project milestone activities.
The Agreement establishes four concurrence points in the environmental review and project development process:
The Agreement also establishes two new coordination points in the environmental document review and project development process:
These coordination points provide opportunities for additional communication between concurrence points. A comparison of how the previous and the new concurrence points are applied in the project development process is shown in a flowchart found in the library.
The streamlined environmental review process is based on joint interagency decision-making in regular meetings, with the ultimate goal of gaining concurrence from participating agencies that the information presented is adequate and that the project should be advanced to the next stage of project development. All participating agencies are allowed the opportunity to explain their jurisdiction and interests and to seek an understanding of the interests of others. The decision on whether or not to concur at a certain point should be based on a full understanding of the issues and relative tradeoffs associated with the final decision. Ultimately, though, each individual participating agency must make a decision on whether or not to concur at each concurrence point.
The intent of the concurrence points is to achieve general agreement among agencies before a project moves forward and to preclude the routine revisiting of decisions that have been agreed to earlier in the process.
The process outlined in this Agreement applies to all transportation projects in the State of Tennessee, regardless of project funding source, administered by TDOT that require an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under NEPA, or all major transportation projects requiring a Tennessee Environmental Evaluation Report (TEER). In addition, in keeping with the goals of MAP-21 to expedite project delivery, TDOT, in consultation with FHWA (for Federally funded projects) and other signatories, may determine that certain projects requiring a Categorical Exclusion (CE) or Minor TEER may benefit from inclusion in the TESA process.
In addition to TDOT, the following parties are signatories to the Agreement:
Conditional signatory agencies include:
Conditional signatory agencies are those who have requested that they not receive TESA materials if they have determined they have no jurisdictional interest in a specific project after TDOT's initial agency coordination.
As of April 2014, the updated Tennessee Environmental Streamlining Agreement has been signed by all signatory parties.
To view the updated Agreement and the Companion Guide see the TESA Library.