|FHWA > Engineering > Construction > Management and Coordination > Stewardship and Federal Highway Programs > Stewardship and Oversight of the FHWA Construction Programs|
On June 22, 2001, FHWA issued the Policy on the Stewardship and Oversight of the Federal Highway Programs (Stewardship Policy). The Stewardship Policy reaffirmed that, regardless of the project responsibilities delegated to the States (or other Federal Agencies), FHWA is ultimately responsible for the Federal highway programs. The Stewardship Policy applies to all FHWA programs. The purpose of this memorandum is to re-affirm FHWA's policy position to ensure that each FHWA division office stewardship program provides assurances that highway improvements are constructed to a desired quality and that Federal-aid construction funds are expended in a manner consistent with applicable Federal laws and regulations.
Quality construction is fundamental to meeting the mission of the Agency. Achievement of the Agency's national objectives is dependent on highway improvements being constructed to a desired level of quality in order to ensure that they perform as intended. Quality construction improves system performance, resulting in reduced impacts on traffic, congestion, and the environment. Safety is improved through minimizing work zone frequency, duration, and disruption of the normal traffic flow. Quality construction results in improved economic efficiency of our highway investments.
Since the passage of the ISTEA of 1991, changes in Federal legislation have significantly altered the environment through which the FHWA delivers the Federal-aid program. These legislative changes have provided the State departments of transportation with expanded authority to act on behalf of the FHWA in ensuring that projects constructed using the Federal-aid highway funds result in long-lasting, economical and high-quality transportation improvements. However, this expanded authority has not diminished the FHWA's responsibility and accountability to Congress and the public.
FHWA Responsibility for Construction Oversight
The basis for our authority can be found in 23 United States Code, (U.S.C.). Representing the Secretary of Transportation we are charged with certain responsibilities. For example, in 23 U.S.C. 114, it states:
"The construction of any highways or portions of highways located on the Federal-aid system shall be undertaken by the respective State transportation departments or under their direct supervision. ... such construction shall be subject to the inspection and approval of the Secretary."
In addition, in accordance with 23 U.S.C. 302 (a), it is the responsibility of FHWA to insure that:
"Any State desiring to avail itself of the provisions of this Title shall have a State transportation department which shall have adequate powers, and be suitably equipped and organized to discharge to the satisfaction of the Secretary the duties required by this Title."
Subsection (a) of 23 U.S.C. 109 further requires that:
"...the Secretary shall ensure that the plans and specifications for each proposed highway project under this chapter provide for a facility that will (1) adequately serve the existing and planned future traffic of the highway in a manner that is conducive to safety, durability, and economy of maintenance; and (2) be designed and constructed in accordance with criteria best suited to accomplish the objectives described in paragraph (1)..."
Subsection (c) of 23 U.S.C. 106, Project approval and oversight, provides for the States to assume some responsibilities of the Secretary for certain projects. However, subsection (d), Responsibilities of the Secretary, further states that:
"...nothing in this section, section 133 [Surface transportation program], or section 149 [Congestion mitigation and air quality improvement program] shall affect or discharge any responsibilities or obligations of the Secretary under (1) section 113 [Prevailing rate of wage] or 114 [Construction], or (2) any Federal law..."
In order to carry out these responsibilities, division office stewardship programs should provide for program-level and project-level construction oversight, problem solving, technical assistance, quality improvement, and deployment of state-of-the-art technology. The stewardship programs should include elements that address full-oversight projects, State administered projects, and major projects, as appropriate. As a minimum, the stewardship program should:
Because of the large amount of public funds involved, construction programs are inherently high-risk areas. The division office risk assessments should include an assessment of the risk associated with the State and local transportation agencies' Federal-aid construction programs for the purpose of determining oversight priorities. Consistent with the Stewardship Policy, the primary focus should be the identification and prioritization of high-risk construction areas such that the appropriate level of division office resources can be allocated to manage the associated risk.
Guidance and Implementation Tools
An effort is currently underway to review and update the existing technical guidance related to the FHWA construction programs. The specific statutory requirements pertaining to construction will be identified and implementing directives will be reviewed for relevancy and updated, as appropriate. Tools to assist in the implementation of construction oversight, such as inspection guides and training opportunities, are also being developed. Specific tools include the following:
Updated information concerning these tools will be transmitted as it becomes available.