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Planning for SAFETEA-LU: MPO Listening Session

Questions During the SAFETEA-LU Listening Session, November 29, 2005

Below, you will find additional responses to questions that MPOs asked related to SAFETEA-LU.

Questions and Responses:

1. Can FHWA/FTA please explain how earmarks will work now and how it is different from TEA-21? In particular, the High Priority Projects seem to be "earmarks" that are now a formula funded program through the DOT. Is the DOT obligated to ensure that each of the earmarks gets its earmarked amount by the end of SAFETEA-LU (2009)? Assume obligation limitation applies to these projects, so it might not be the full amount?

The High Priority Projects Program is not a formula funded program. It is a codified program under Section 117 of Title-23 just as it was under TEA-21. [Note that High Priority Projects under Section 117 of Title-23 are not the same as the projects earmarked under Section 117 of the FY 2005 DOT Appropriations Act. To prevent confusion, the High Priority Projects will be referred to as HPPs rather than by section number.] The HPPs are considered statutory earmarks. These projects are also subject to the obligation limitation and will receive less obligation authority than the contract authority authorized for these projects. Like all non-formula programs, the High Priority Projects Program has its own "piece" of obligation limitation separate from the States' formula limitation. The obligation limitation provided to a State for its HPPs may be used only for those projects. Exception: Under Section 1935 of SAFETEA-LU there is some ability to lend some High Priority Project limitation received by a State to the projects under several other allocated programs in the State, including Projects of National and Regional Significance, the Corridors Program, etc.

2. Were the DOTs allocated enough additional formula funds in SAFETEA-LU to cover the two new formula programs -- Safety and High Priority Projects?

Yes, DOTs were allocated formula funding to cover the current fiscal year for the identified programs. The balance of apportionments/allocations will be made over the life of SAFETEA-LU. For the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), the funds will be apportioned each fiscal year as identified in the below yearly breakdown. Similarly, for HPP funding, a portion of the funds will be allocated to each of the High Priority Projects identified in SAFETEA-LU each fiscal year. In addition to the HSIP and HPP funds, States may supplement and use other funds (i.e., NHS and STP) for Safety and High Priority Projects. States are not limited to only HSIP and HPP funds for these projects.

Year - Authorization (Note: The HSIP apportionments to the States will be $220 million less than the authorized amounts shown below because $220 million per year is taken for the Railway-Highway Crossings program under Section 130 of Title-23, USC, prior to apportionment of the HSIP funds.)

2005 - $0
2006 - $1,236 M
2007 - $1,256 M
2008 - $1,276 M
2009 - $1,296 M

3. Do the appropriations given to earmarks (some are "Section 117" projects that are also High Priority Projects) "count" against the total allocation for SAFETEA-LU? I.e., a project was authorized $2 million in the 2005 Appropriations Act and $10 million in SAFETEA-LU, do the project receive $8 million for the remainder of SAFETEA-LU or is the $10 million in addition to the $2 million 2005 appropriation?

The earmarks under Section 117 of the 2005 DOT Appropriations Act are additive to those in SAFETEA-LU. It is not unusual for projects to receive earmarks from multiple Acts and under more than one program category. These earmarks will not offset against each other. As a result, per your example, the grantee is expected to receive $12 million for the project by the end of SAFETEA-LU, but will not be able to obligate all the funds because of the obligation limitation.

4. Are other earmarks, i.e. projects of regional significance, national corridor/border, etc. treated "as usual"? I.e., off the top before formula allocations are made to the DOTs?

Each of the earmarked programs mentioned is an allocated program and has its own separate authorization of contract authority. The only earmarked program that has any effect on the State’s core programs apportionments is the HPP. Funds received under the HPP are included in the calculations for the Equity Bonus under SAFETEA-LU in a similar (but not identical) manner as HPPs were treated under TEA-21’s Minimum Guarantee. A State may receive a lower Equity Bonus apportionment as a result of the allocation of HPP funds to that state.

5. With an increased percentage from the core programs, why does it seem that MPOs will receive less Metropolitan Planning funding?

Metropolitan Planning funding for FY 2006 is lower than for FY 2005, but overall, the increase in the percentage takedown and the growth in the programs to which the takedown applies means more PL funding over the life of SAFETEA-LU compared to TEA-21. The annual average PL funds under the 6 years of TEA-21 (FYs 1998-2003) was $186,826,841 and the annual average for the 5 years under SAFETEA-LU (FYs 2005-2009) is estimated to be $296,274,313. This is an approximate 58.58% average annual increase.

Updated: 4/6/2012
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