Project planning and regulation
Medium- and long-term planning for transportation investments begins at the federal level. The SCT and SEDATU follow the National Development Plan and the National Infrastructure Program, whose combined goals are to foster sustainability across sectors and create a transportation-specific agenda to meet those goals. The Inter-ministerial Commission for Public Expenditure, Financing, and Disincorporation decides which projects to include in the annual federal budget, prioritizing them based on profitability, effects on poverty reduction, regional development, and synergies with other development.
As part of the planning process, the finance minister conducts cost-benefit analyses, including an evaluation of different alternatives, for all projects involving public investment. Following the federal long-range planning process, states (or, less often, municipalities) prepare pre-investment feasibility analyses funded in part by the National Infrastructure Fund (FONADIN), part of the national infrastructure bank. Sometimes this process is conducted by third-party consultants, as was the case with the Guadalajara Line 3 light rail, where the pre-investment studies were conducted by the same firm that performed project management during the construction phase.
Project sponsors initiate environmental review and related assessments and present them to the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) for review. Similar to the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act process, there are different categories of review depending on the potential harms attributed to the project, with some reviews requiring more in-depth review by SEMARNAT. Railway projects are required to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS). The EIS must contain information like development plans, ties to planning and zoning laws, and a description of the regional environment composition.
SEMARNAT rules on whether the project can proceed within 60 days of receiving the EIS. This period can be extended for an additional 60 days if needed. Within SEMARNAT, the Federal Attorney General for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) oversees compliance with the EIS through public input, notification from SEMARNAT of infringements, and internal audits. According to interviewees and published sources, the public usually does not participate in the outreach process in a meaningful way, although there has been increased public demand for government agencies to incorporate more community participation into their planning efforts.
Project permits must be obtained from all levels of government, depending on the permit type. For example, federal authorities issue permits for large-scale projects and projects in protected areas; state authorities issue licenses for noise, waste management, and atmospheric emissions; and local authorities issue permits for urban waste and drainage.
In November 2021, the national government issued new guidelines stating that certain major infrastructure projects that “promote public interest and national security” will be fast-tracked by the administration, which selects these specific projects. The only rail transit project designated under these guidelines has been an intercity tourist rail line called the Mayan Train. Many have disputed this authorization, including indigenous groups. It is unclear whether this authority will be extended to other rail transit projects.