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Federal-Aid Highways: Trends, Effect on State Spending, and Options for Future Program Design

GAO-04-802 Published: Aug 31, 2004. Publicly Released: Aug 31, 2004.
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In 2004, both houses of Congress approved separate legislation to reauthorize the federal-aid highway program to help meet the Nation's surface transportation needs, enhance mobility, and promote economic growth. Both bills also recognized that the Nation faces significant transportation challenges in the future, and each established a National Commission to assess future revenue sources for the Highway Trust Fund and to consider the roles of the various levels of government and the private sector in meeting future surface transportation financing needs. This report (1) updates information on trends in federal, state, and local capital investment in highways; (2) assesses the influence that federal-aid highway grants have had on state and local highway spending; (3) discusses the implications of these trends for the federal-aid highway program; and (4) discusses options for the federal-aid highway program.


Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
In light of the issues raised in this report and the fiscal challenges the Nation faces in the 21st Century, Congress may wish to consider expanding the proposed mandate of the National Commission to assess possible changes to the federal-aid highway program to maximize the effectiveness of federal funding and promote national goals and strategies. Consideration could be given to the program's design, structure, and funding formulas; the roles of the various levels of government; and the inclusion of greater performance and outcome-oriented features.
Closed – Not Implemented
The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act-A Legacy For Users (SAFETEA-LU) was signed into law on August 12, 2005 establishing the National Commission cited in the recommendation. The expansion of the Commission's mandate referenced in the matter for consideration was not adopted.

Full Report

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Federal aid for highwaysFederal aid highwaysFederal fundsFederal grantsFunds managementGrant monitoringHighway researchIntergovernmental relationsPavement performancePublic roads or highwaysState highways