- Briefing Room
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
The FHWA administers the Federal-aid highway program of financial assistance to the States for transportation construction and improvements. This program provides for construction and preservation of the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, financed generally on a 90-percent Federal, 10-percent State basis, and the improvement of other Federal-aid roads, with financing generally on a 80-percent Federal to 20-percent State basis. As existing sections of the Federal-aid highways deteriorate, certain repair, reconstruction, and rehabilitation projects become eligible for Federal-aid. Certain Transportation Enhancement projects are also eligible for Federal-aid. The full text of some of our enabling legislation and regulations can be downloaded from the FHWA web site. You can get current Federal Register notices from the Government Printing Office.
FHWA's engineering staff is responsible for key areas involved in the development and construction of Federal-aid projects. Activities include participation in the design, construction, and maintenance of complex bridge and highway projects on the Interstate and on other National Highway System (NHS) roads. Under the general direction of the Division Administrator and the Assistant Division Administrator, the Division staff consists of several engineers with different areas of expertise, such as bridge, construction, traffic control, environment, and support personnel.
The engineering staff makes reviews and field inspections of preliminary and final designs, and evaluates individual projects in terms of structural and geometric design standards and applications, economic factors, construction and maintenance costs, funding, traffic analysis and service, esthetics, and appropriateness for the NHS system. They negotiate changes with State and local officials and consultants.
FHWA engineers visit major Interstate projects during construction to observe progress, check project records, verify compliance with regulations and specifications, provide technical assistance, and assure construction schedules are met. They determine acceptability of construction procedures and materials and documentation of construction items. They also evaluate and approve actions on construction problems, extra work and change orders. They make final inspections to assure that projects have been completed as planned and that the quality and quantity of material and other construction items are properly documented.
The Federal-Aid Highway Program is a reimbursable program; that is, the Federal Government only reimburses States for costs actually incurred. The authorized amounts distributed to the States represent lines of credit upon which States may draw as they advance Federally-assisted projects. This is in contrast to a grant program where the Federal Government issues a check up front for the entire estimated amount of a project. Funding for highway projects are drawn from the Highway Trust Fund which was created in 1956. Revenue for the Trust Fund is derived from dedicated highway user fees such as taxes on fuel, tires, and truck sales. Trust fund monies are distributed or "apportioned" to the States according to formulas written into "authorizing" legislation by Congress. These formulas are based on various factors including cost to complete the Interstate System, lane miles, vehicle miles of travel, population, historic levels of funding, and the States' share of receipts into the Highway Trust Fund.
The Division provides reimbursement to the State of Pennsylvania for authorized transportation projects in accordance with the legislative requirements of financial assistance programs. We administer these programs through a set of flexible regulations, policies, and guidelines to ensure that Federal funds are being used efficiently and to achieve the safety, economic development, and other goals of the Federal-aid Highway Program. In providing these Federal funds, we apply the most flexible and innovative financing techniques permissible under the law, and the most efficient administrative processes such as electronic signature. We provide the State with technical assistance on accounting and financial management systems, and through our Financial Management Improvement Program, are working closely with PennDOT to streamline and improve the funding of Federal-aid highway projects.
The Inter-modal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 strengthened the requirement for a metropolitan planning process and established a new requirement for a statewide planning process. It also strengthened the planning process by giving more emphasis to inter-modal planning, coordination with land-use planning and development, and consideration of economic, energy, environmental, and social effects. The integration of the transportation and air quality planning processes was also strengthened. One of the primary functions of the Division's planning program is to work closely with the PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Metropolitan Planning Organizations in the development of financially-constrained long range transportation plans and the shorter-term Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.
A goal of the Federal Highway Administration is to continually decrease the number and severity of highway crashes. This is accomplished through oversight and technical assistance in the development and construction of Federal-aid highway projects and the administration of several highway safety programs. Such programs provide funding for projects to eliminate or reduce hazards associated with identified hazardous locations, sections, and elements including roadside obstacles and poorly marked roads, as well as, hazards at railroad crossings. Funds are also provided to support problem identification, planning, and implementation of highway related safety activities. In addition, the agency has the responsibility to promulgate, administer, and provide technical support for highway related safety guidelines and standards including the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The Division staff works closely with the Pennsylvania DOT , and the local agencies to provide a safer environment for the motoring public, the pedestrian, the bicyclist, and the highway worker.
All federal actions, including Federal-aid highway projects, potentially affecting the human environment must comply with the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). All projects impacting wetlands and other special aquatic resources are also subject to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Projects impacting historic or archaeological resources must also comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. These and several other related statutes require Federal agencies to take a hard look at the potential consequences of their decisions, and to incorporate into their actions measures to, as appropriate and to the maximum extent possible or practicable, avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse environmental impacts resulting from such actions.
The vast majority of highway projects in Pennsylvania, as well as in the rest of the Country, can be determined at their inception to have no substantial impact on environmental or cultural resources. Projects such as pavement resurfacing or reconstruction and the installation of traffic signals fall under this group and are normally "categorically excluded" from the NEPA requirement to prepare a comprehensive environmental evaluation. Projects not categorically excluded must undergo the environmental evaluation. The scope of the environmental evaluation depends on the magnitude and context of the anticipated environmental impacts.
Projects that are expected to result in significant environmental impacts require the preparation of a formal document following strictly prescribed format and procedures (an environmental impact statement). Projects that do not fit the definition of "categorical exclusions" and whose anticipated impacts have not been established to be significant require the preparation of a less formal, simpler, document (an environmental assessment).
The environmental documents explain the purpose and need for a project, present project alternatives, analyze reasonably foreseeable impacts of each alternative, explain the choice of a preferred alternative, and discuss measures to be taken in order to mitigate adverse impacts of the project. The environmental assessment (EA) would be followed by a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) or by the preparation of a formal environmental impact statement (EIS), depending on the significance of the impacts identified in the assessment.
The EIS would be followed by a record of decision (ROD) detailing the alternative chosen and the mitigation measures that will be implemented as part of the project.
EA's and EIS's are made available for public review and comments following approved public involvement procedures. Public hearings are often part of these procedures. The FHWA considers appropriate public involvement an integral, necessary part of an effective, responsive, environmental process.