Transportation Infrastructure:

Supplemental Information on the Federal Highway Administration's Project Selection Process for Five Discretionary Programs

RCED-98-179R: Published: May 19, 1998. Publicly Released: May 27, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO addressed congressional concerns regarding whether or not the Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) awarded a disproportionate number of projects or funds to democratic or republican congressional districts for fiscal years 1995-97.

GAO noted that: (1) in four of the five programs that GAO reviewed, which accounted for $560.3 million, or 79 percent of the $709.7 million provided, FHwA did not award a disproportionate amount of projects or funds to democratic or republican districts; (2) for example, during fiscal years 1995-97, FHwA awarded 54 percent of the Ferry Boats and Facilities Program funds to projects in democratic districts, 21 percent to projects in republican districts, and 25 percent to projects that crossed democratic and republican districts; (3) this distribution was consistent with the states' requesting 46 percent of the funds for projects in democratic districts, 23 percent for projects in republican districts, and 31 percent for projects that crossed democratic and republican districts; (4) in the Public Lands Highways Program, which accounted for $149.4 million, or 21 percent of the $709.7 million provided, FHwA awarded more projects and funding to projects in democratic districts even though states requested more funds for projets in republican districts; (5) the fiscal year (FY) 1997 selection process affected these results considerably because in that year, the Office of the Administrator awarded nearly all of the projects and most of the funds to projects in democratic districts; (6) for example, while 38 percent of the funds states requested were for projects in democratic districts, FHwA awarded 91 percent of the funds to projects in democratic districts; (7) GAO presented its analyses of all five discretionary programs to FHwA and asked the agency to comment on the results, particularly the results for the Public Lands Highway Program in FY 1997; (8) FHwA acknowledged that in four of the five discretionary programs, there was no difference between the shares of selected versus submitted projects that were in the district of a republican or democratic Member of Congress; (9) in regards to the Public Land Highways Program, FHwA did not provide a detailed explanation as to why the Office of the Administrator awarded a disproportionate amount of the projects and funding to democratic districts; (10) FHwA noted that the criteria that staff use in the Public Lands Highways Program are more subjective than the criteria used in the other four programs, thereby providing the Office of the Administrator with more discretion in selecting projects; and (11) in addition, FHwA noted that the amount of congressional interest supporting discretionary projects is greater in the Public Lands Highways Program than the four other programs.

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