(a) The lead agencies, in cooperation with the applicant (if not a lead agency), will perform the work necessary to complete a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) or a record of decision (ROD) and comply with other related environmental laws and regulations to the maximum extent possible during the NEPA process. This work includes environmental studies, related engineering studies, agency coordination and public involvement. However, final design activities, property acquisition, purchase of construction materials or rolling stock, or project construction shall not proceed until the following have been completed, except as otherwise provided in law or in paragraph (d) of this section:
(1) (i) The action has been classified as a categorical exclusion (CE), or
(ii) A FONSI has been approved, or
(iii) A final EIS has been approved and available for the prescribed period of time and a record of decision has been signed;
(2) For actions proposed for FHWA funding, the Administration has received and accepted the certifications and any required public hearing transcripts required by 23 U.S.C. 128 ;
(3) For activities proposed for FHWA funding, the programming requirements of 23 CFR part 450, subpart B, and 23 CFR part 630, subpart A, have been met.
(b) Completion of the requirements set forth in paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) of this section is considered acceptance of the general project location and concepts described in the environmental review documents unless otherwise specified by the approving official.
(c) Letters of Intent issued under the authority of 49 U.S.C. 5309(g) are used by FTA to indicate an intention to obligate future funds for multi-year capital transit projects. Letters of Intent will not be issued by FTA until the NEPA process is completed.
(d) The prohibition in paragraph (a)(1) of this section is limited by the following exceptions:
(1) Exceptions for hardship and protective acquisitions of real property are addressed in paragraph (d)(12) of § 771.117.
(2) Paragraph (d)(13) of § 771.117 contains an exception for the acquisition of pre-existing railroad right-of-way for future transit use in accordance with 49 U.S.C. 5324(c).
(3) FHWA regulations at 23 CFR 710.503 establish conditions for FHWA approval of Federal-aid highway funding for hardship and protective acquisitions.
(4) FHWA regulations at 23 CFR 710.501 address early acquisition of right-of-way by a State prior to the execution of a project agreement with the FHWA or completion of NEPA. In paragraphs (b) and (c) of § 710.501, the regulation establishes conditions governing subsequent requests for Federal- aid credit or reimbursement for the acquisition. Any State-funded early acquisition for a Federal-aid highway project where there will not be Federal-aid highway credit or reimbursement for the early acquisition is subject to the limitations described in the CEQ regulations at 40 CFR 1506.1 and other applicable Federal requirements.