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Section 2: Federal-Aid Highway Programs

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Overview

The federal-aid program is administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) according to Title 23, U.S. Code. Title 23 is updated when the U.S. Congress enacts new surface-transportation legislation. The current law is the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which was enacted in 1998.

This section contains subsections covering the following topics:

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Frequently Used Funding Terms

The following definitions of terms and descriptions of federal-aid programs are based mainly on information provided on the web by FHWA. For more information refer to TEA-21 fact sheets accessible from a link on the TxDOT Internet at http://www.dot.state.tx.us/insdtdot/orgchart/tpp/links.htm.

The following terms will be used in this chapter to explain the federal-aid requirements:

  • Authorization Act - Federal legislation that empowers FHWA to implement the Federal-aid Highway Program.
  • apportionment - A term that refers to the distribution of funds to a particular category among the states. An apportionment is based on prescribed formulas in the law.
  • Appropriation Act - Legislative action that makes funds available for expenditure. In this case it refers to federal reimbursements to the states for federal-aid highway programs.
  • obligation - Federal government’s legal commitment to reimburse the state for the federal share of a project’s eligible costs.
  • obligation limitation (or obligation authority) - The amount of federal assistance that may be obligated during a specified time period. Obligation limitation does not affect the scheduled apportionment or allocation of funds; it just controls the rate at which these funds may be used.
  • minimum guarantee - An apportionment of federal funds that ensures each state receives a specific share of the aggregate funding for major highway programs, with every state guaranteed at least a 90.5 percent return on its percentage share of contributions to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Funds.
  • match - State or local funds used to match federal-aid funds for federal-aid program projects. The majority of federal-aid programs require a 20 percent state/local match. Safety projects or those on the Interstate system may have a 10 percent match requirement.
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TEA-21 Programs

TEA-21 and preceding federal legislation established numerous federal-aid programs. The following are the major programs that are reflected in the UTP categories:

  • High-Priority Interstate Corridors - This program provides funding for the construction and expansion of highways located on high-priority interstate corridors established by TEA-21.
  • Interstate Maintenance Program (IM) - The Interstate Maintenance program provides funding for all work on Interstate Highway (IH) system main lanes and frontage roads, except for construction of new single occupancy vehicle (SOV) lanes. The funds may not be used to add capacity.
  • National Highway System Program (NHS) - This program provides funding for improvements to rural and urban roads that are part of the NHS, including the Interstate System and designated connections to major intermodal terminals. Under certain circumstances NHS funds also may be used to fund transit improvements in NHS corridors.
  • Surface Transportation Program (STP) - The STP provides flexible funding that may be used by states and localities for projects on any federal-aid highway, including the NHS, bridge projects on any public road, transit capital projects, and intracity and intercity bus terminals and facilities. A portion of funds reserved for rural areas may be spent on rural minor collectors. A suballocation of funds is specified for safety improvements, including railroad crossings, transportation enhancements, urbanized areas with populations over 200,000, and rural areas with populations smaller than 5,000.
  • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) - The primary purpose of the CMAQ is to fund projects and programs in air quality nonattainment and maintenance areas for ozone, carbon monoxide and small particulate matter (PM-10) which reduce transportation related emissions.
  • Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program (HBRRP) - The HBRRP provides funds to assist the states in their programs to replace or rehabilitate deficient highway bridges and to seismic retrofit bridges located on any public road.
  • High Priority (Demonstration) Program - The High Priority Projects Program provides designated funding for specific projects (commonly referred to as demonstration projects) identified by Congress. Several demonstration projects are currently authorized in Texas.
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Other Federally Funded Projects

There are several programs that have a smaller funding impact and may be incorporated in some of the UTP categories. These include the following: National Scenic Byways Program, Bicycle Transportation and Pedestrian Walkways, Emergency Relief Program, National Corridor Planning and Development Program, Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program, Intelligent Transportation Systems Program, and Ferry Boat Program.

Although the federal-aid programs are predominantly highway-oriented, many of the programs can be used for other modes of transportation.

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