Transportation Infrastructure:

A Comparison of Federal and State Highway Laws

RCED-90-157: Published: Jun 27, 1990. Publicly Released: Jun 27, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO compared federal and state wage, environmental protection, disadvantaged business, and highway design laws to determine whether five states' laws offered protections in areas equal to protections afforded by federal laws.

GAO found that: (1) all five states have laws that parallel the Davis-Bacon Act, with minor variations; (2) three of the five states have laws that parallel the Environmental Policy Act; (3) all five states established disadvantaged business contracting programs intended to encourage disadvantaged business participation in public works contracts; and (4) neither federal nor state statutes contain substantive operative standards for highway design.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In 1991, Congress transferred greater responsibility to the states for administering federal highway funds.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider maintaining the status quo, not exempting states from any of the federal compliance requirements that are currently a precondition for obtaining federal funding.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress provided that projects not on the National Highway System should be designed, constructed, operated, and maintained in accordance with state laws, regulations, directives, safety standards, design standards, and construction standards.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider excusing states completely from compliance requirements, entrusting each state with the freedom to administer the federal funds according to whatever rules and laws that state deems appropriate.

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress delegated greater responsibility to the states for highways, but the states are not required to demonstrate the acceptability level provided through their requirements.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider waiving some or all of the requirements for compliance with the laws but requiring states to demonstrate that they are providing an acceptable level of protection to such concerns as labor, the environment, minority businesses, and highway safety.

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress delegated greater responsibility to the states, but did not impose a requirement that their laws and programs satisfy a particular standard.

    Matter: Congress may wish to determine what level of protection it is comfortable with and what safeguards would be necessary to ensure that states continue to enforce laws and programs that satisfy this standard.

 

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