National Highway System:

Refinements Would Strengthen the System

T-RCED-94-136: Published: Mar 1, 1994. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 1994.

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GAO discussed the development of the proposed National Highway System (NHS), a network of 150,000 miles of premier highways with links established to major travel destinations, including ports, airports, rail terminals, and public transportation facilities. GAO noted that: (1) although the Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) has articulated many goals for NHS, FHwA has not clearly defined those goals or linked them to system preservation, maintenance, and performance expectations that should be recognized as the foundation of NHS; (2) only 46 percent of the pavement in NHS is considered to be in good condition; (3) FHwA does not currently tie NHS funds allocation to states according to their mileage allocation, and most states increased their mileage targets, assuming that they would receive more funding; (4) the Department of Transportation (DOT) may not finish establishing NHS connections with other transportation modes until 1997; and (5) DOT needs some flexibility to allow for adjustments to NHS that could arise due to population shifts, changes in defense logistics, and increased or decreased transportation demands, but it should better define its framework and rationale for adjustments.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FHwA has included in its 1998 Strategic Plan measurable goals for the NHS that address pavement and bridge condition and the extent of congestion. The plan also includes criteria for selecting additional roads for the NHS.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FHwA, to develop performance expectations and measures in conjunction with the major goals of NHS to ensure that progress can be assessed, particularly in critical areas such as pavement condition and the extent of congestion.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On February 6, 1996, FHwA issued interim guidance on modifications to the National Highway System that will provide the framework for NHS system modifications prior to the issuance of changes to 23 C.F.R. 470.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FHwA, to develop a procedural framework within which changes to NHS can be considered. Such a framework could include, among other things, how any additional miles would be allocated, what rationale will be required to support size adjustments, and how frequently the adjustments could be made.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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