Transportation Infrastructure:

Highway Program Consolidation

RCED-91-198: Published: Aug 16, 1991. Publicly Released: Aug 16, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO: (1) provided a final evaluation of the Federal Highway Administration's (FHwA) Combined Road Plan (CRP) Demonstration Program; and (2) reviewed the administration's reauthorization proposal for the Federal-Aid Highway Program.

GAO found that: (1) all five states participating in the CRP demonstration considered the ability to use pooled funds toward their urban and rural highways and bridges and the assumption of additional responsibility for managing federal-aid highway projects as beneficial; (2) two states used the funding flexibility to redirect pooled funds for use on their urban and secondary highway systems, and the remaining three states elected to spend their funds on the programs to which the funds were originally directed; (3) the delegation of administrative responsibilities to all five states resulted in time and paperwork savings; (4) the delegation of responsibility to states did not compromise safety; (5) the FHwA fiscal year (FY) 1990 mapping exercise designating a 150,000-mile national highway system disclosed that many of the 50 states found the system's size too limited, and inappropriate given that specific criteria for defining the system had not yet been established; (6) proposed highway authorizations for the federal-aid program allocated two-thirds of highway funding, $43.5 billion, to the National Highway Program (NHP) and the remaining one-third, $22.2 billion, to the Urban/Rural Program; and (7) during FY 1987 and FY 1990, 35 states spent a higher percentage of highway funds on major roads than the percentage these states would receive under the administration's proposal for NHP in FY 1992 to FY 1996.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Both the Senate and House reauthorization bills for surface transportation programs provide for the establishment of a national highway system. Congress reauthorized a national highway system in December 1991 and provided that it should consist of 155,000 miles, plus or minus 15 percent. Thus, system designation will be governed largely through a predetermined mileage limitation.

    Matter: If Congress provides for a national highway system, it may wish to consider requiring that such a system be defined on the basis of the objectives the system is intended to achieve.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In authorizing a national highway system, Congress provided that this system be based on an updated functional classification of highways.

    Matter: Should Congress also establish a mileage cap for the national highway system based on principal arterials, it may wish to provide that the cap be determined through an updated functional classification of such highways.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The 1991 reauthorization of surface transportation programs provided states with greater responsibility for highways not on the national highway system. As part of this transfer of responsibility, states are granted the option of only having federal reviews, which the state requests, for highways under their jurisdiction.

    Recommendation: If additional federal-aid highway responsibilities are transferred to the states, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FHwA, to sample the decisions made by states in order to validate the adequacy of state procedures in handling the new responsibilities and to ensure that highway safety is not impaired.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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