Metropolitan Planning Organizations and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) are required under Federal regulation 23 CFR 450 to make air quality conformity determinations on the newly adopted or amended Transportation improvement Program (TIP). Air Quality Conformity is a process that ensures Federal funding and approval goes to transportation activities that are consistent with our air quality goals. This process applies to both the Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and the TIP. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) cannot fund, authorize, or approve Federal actions to support projects that do not conform to Clean Air Act requirements. Hampton Roads is currently in attainment of the 2018 eight-hour ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
The Hampton Roads region was in “maintenance” for the 1997 NAAQS for ozone and so was subject to transportation conformity rule requirements before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revoked that standard effective April 6, 2015 (Federal Register, Volume 80, Number 44, March 6, 2015.) With that revocation, transportation conformity requirements were no longer applicable for the Hampton Roads region.
On February 16, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its decision in South Coast Air Quality Mgmt. District v. EPA (“South Coast II,” 882 F.3d 1138) and held that transportation conformity determinations must be made in all so called “orphan” areas nation-wide that were either nonattainment or maintenance for the 1997 ozone NAAQS and attainment for the 2008 ozone NAAQS when the 1997 ozone NAAQS was revoked. The Hampton Roads region met both conditions, and therefore, conformity requirements for the 1997 ozone NAAQS were once again applicable for Hampton Roads.
During the development of the FY 2024-2027 TIP, it will be assessed to ensure that the program of projects meet applicable Federal, State, and Local requirements relating to transportation conformity, based on the November 2018 EPA Guidance.
The Regional Conformity Assessment (RCA) for the FY 2024-2027 TIP and the Amended 2045 LRTP is coordinated through the HRTPO and VDOT. The HRTPO Board approved both the FY 2024-2027 TIP and the RCA report on May 18, 2023. The RCA report will then be transmitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FTA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Within 45 days, the FHWA and FTA will provide a conformity finding as prescribed by the EPA’s Transportation Conformity Rule (40 CFR Part 93) and subsequent amendments and guidance.