The National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 (P.L. 104-59) was signed by President Clinton on November 28, 1995. Summarized below are the major provisions of the legislation.


System Designation

Designates the National Highway System (NHS) developed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in cooperation with the States, local officials and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). The DOT proposed the system to Congress on December 9, 1993, as required by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991. The system approved by Congress reflects modifications agreed upon by the DOT and Congress as of November 13, 1995. The total mileage is 160,955 miles and includes the Interstate System as well as other roads important to the Nation's economy, defense and mobility.

The ISTEA called for Congress to establish the system by law and set a deadline of September 30, 1995. Until the system was designated, the law prevented future NHS and Interstate Maintenance (IM) funds from being released to the States. With the enactment of the NHS legislation, the $5.4 billion of FY 1996 funds that have been withheld since October 1 can be distributed to the States.

Future Modifications

The NHS is a dynamic system that can change in response to future travel and trade demands. The NHS legislation permits the Secretary to approve most of the modifications to the system (except connections to major intermodal terminals, see below), without congressional approval. The State must cooperate with local and regional officials in proposing the modifications. In metropolitan areas the local and regional officials shall act through the metropolitan planning organization.

Connections to Major Intermodal Terminals

Within 180 days of enactment, the Secretary must send to Congress proposed NHS connections to major intermodal facilities, e.g., ports, airports, rail terminals, etc. There will be a one-time congressional approval of the intermodal connections. In the future, the Secretary may modify the connections proposed by the States in cooperation with MPOs and local and regional officials. Until approved by Congress, the Secretary may approve projects using NHS funds on connections to intermodal terminals that meet the Secretary's criteria.


National Maximum Speed Limit

Repeals the law which required that the States, as a condition of receiving Federal-aid highway assistance, adhere to a national maximum speed limit. The provision will take effect 10 days after enactment. An exception to the 10-day period is provided if the legislature of a State is not in session on the date of the bill's enactment and the Governor declares, before the end of the 10-day period, that the legislature is not in session and the State prefers an applicability date for the repeal of the national maximum speed limit law that is after the date on which the legislature will convene. If this occurs, then the Federal repeal is applicable to the State on the 60th day following the date on which the legislature next convenes.

The Secretary must submit a report to Congress by September 30, 1997, of the record of each State that raised its speed limit above the current maximums. The human and economic costs, as well as any benefits, should be included in the study.

Motorcycle Helmets

Repeals the law which penalized States that did not enact motorcycle helmet requirements. The penalty was a forced transfer of funds from Federal-aid highway construction programs to safety programs.

Zero-tolerance for Blood Alcohol Content in Minors

Requires that the States enact and enforce a law that considers an individual under the age of 21 who has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent or greater while operating a motor vehicle to be driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol. States failing to meet this requirement will have 5% of their highway construction funds withheld beginning October 1, 1998. The penalty is increased to 10% on October 1, 1999, and on October 1 of each fiscal year thereafter.

National Driver Register

Extends the $2.55 million authorization of this NHTSA safety program for another year.


Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Pilot Program

Establishes a pilot program to exempt vehicles and drivers of vehicles between 10,000 and 26,000 pounds from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The program will begin within 270 days after enactment.

Applicants must meet specific requirements to participate, i.e., have a satisfactory safety rating or meet criteria established by the Secretary. Vehicles transporting more than 15 passengers or hazardous materials are not eligible for the program. Through monitoring and reporting of safety related data, the Secretary shall determine continued participation in the program.

Within 3 years of enactment, the Secretary must conduct a zero-based review to determine the need, costs and benefits of the regulations to determine whether they should apply to this group of vehicles and their drivers. After the review is completed the Secretary shall grant such exemptions or modify or repeal existing regulations as appropriate.

Exemptions from Hours-of-Service Regulations and Commercial Driver's License (CDL) Regulations

Provides exemptions from the hours-of-service regulations for specific industry groups including: transporters of agricultural commodities and farm supplies; ground water well drilling rigs; utility service vehicles; and construction equipment and materials.

Exempts replacement drivers of snow plows from CDL requirements when the normal operator is unable to operate the snow plow or if a snow emergency requires additional operators. The Secretary is required to conduct a regulatory review of these exemptions to determine the impact of such exemptions on public safety.

Winter Home Heating Oil Delivery State Flexibility Pilot Program

Directs the Secretary to implement a one-season pilot program of up to five States to permit the States to exempt the hours-of-service regulations for drivers of intrastate home heating oil deliveries that occur within 100 air miles of a central terminal or distribution point. The pilot program is limited to the winter heating season following November 1, 1996.

The program requires the States to meet several safety and enforcement criteria. The Secretary may suspend a State's participation if a State has not complied with the criteria. After the program is completed, the Secretary is to review the results to determine whether to amend the regulations to provide flexibility to motor carriers delivering home heating oil during winter periods.


Section 1003(c) of ISTEA required that, in accord with the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990, authorizations from the highway account of the Trust Fund for FY 1992-96 be held to $98.6 billion. Authorizations in that period exceeded the limit by $2.55 billion. This meant that FY 1996 authorizations had to be cut 12.54% across-the-board to hold total funding to the $98.6 billion maximum allowed. The NHS legislation contains two provisions to partially mitigate the effects of this cut.

Funding Restoration

Provides $291.5 million ($266.5 million authorized from specified rescissions and reductions plus $25 million transferred from Congestion Pricing funds) in FY 1996 and $180 million ($155 million authorized from specified rescissions and reductions plus $25 million transferred from Congestion Pricing funds) in FY 1997 to be distributed to the States by percentages specified in the NHS legislation.

The above amounts are derived from various rescissions, reductions and transfers, including:

- selected demonstration project funds,

- a portion of the FHWA Administrative funds,

- Magnetic Levitation prototype development funds for FYs 96 and 97

- high-speed ground transportation technology demo funds for FY 97,

- part of the FHWA Section 402 safety funds,

- part of the FY 97 NHTSA highway safety program funds, and

- unobligated Congestion Pricing Pilot Program funds and FY 96 and 97 authorizations for the program.

The funding restoration amounts may be used for any project eligible under Chapter 1 of Title 23. They are available for 4 fiscal years and are subject to the obligation limitation. They are not subject to administrative takedowns.

Urbanized areas over 200,000 population are guaranteed a certain share of the funding restoration amounts received by a State.

States may spend up to 1/2 percent of the funding restoration amounts on metropolitan planning and up to 1-1/2 percent for State planning and research.

State Unobligated Balance Flexibility

Allows States to designate part of their unobligated balances that existed on September 30, 1995 for use on projects of their choice that are eligible under Chapter 1 of Title 23.

First, the Secretary will determine, as soon as possible, the amount of unobligated balance that each State may designate for flexible use. That amount will equal --

the amount of the reduction of each State's FY 1996 funds as a result of Section 1003(c) minus restoration funding the State receives under the NHS legislation.

Second, the States will notify the Secretary, within 30 days of enactment (or as soon as possible), which unobligated program funds it will use flexibly. Within 45 days of enactment (or as soon as possible), the Secretary must make the funds available for flexible use.

The funds under this section are available for projects under Chapter 1 of Title 23, will be available for the same period for which such amounts were originally made available, and will be subject to the obligation limitation.

Restrictions --

-Unobligated balances of STP funds attributed for areas over 200,000 may be used flexibly only if the MPO for a particular area concurs in writing.

-Transportation Enhancement and CMAQ funds may not be used flexibly unless the State has exhausted all flexibility and transferability providedunder Title 23 and this section and still does not have sufficient funds available for a project.

-No more than 1/3 of Interstate Construction unobligated balances may be used flexibly.


State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) Pilot Program

Allows up to 10 States or multi-State entities to establish transportation infrastructure banks; the DOT will establish procedures for choosing the participants in the program. The infrastructure banks may be used to make project loans, enhance credit, subsidize interest rates, and provide other assistance for eligible highway and transit capital projects. The funds from the bank may not be used as a grant. The recipients of the assistance can be public and private entities.

No new Federal-aid funds are provided to capitalize the banks. States entering into cooperative agreements with the Secretary to establish infrastructure banks could contribute up to 10% of several categories of their Federal-aid highway and Federal transit funds to capitalize the bank. Funds attributable to urbanized areas over 200,000 could only be used with permission of the MPO for the area. States must match 25% (lower for sliding scale States) of the Federal contribution with funds from non-Federal sources. Federal-aid funds are considered obligated when contributed to the bank.

By March 1, 1997 the Secretary must have reviewed the financial condition of each transportation infrastructure bank and report to Congress with an evaluation of the pilot program.

Eligibility of Bond and Other Debt Instrument Financing for Reimbursement as Construction Expenses

Allows States to use Federal-aid funds for bond principal, interest costs, issuance costs, and insurance on Title 23-eligible projects. Although these costs are eligible for Federal participation, such eligibility does not constitute a Federal commitment or guarantee on the part of the United States to provide for payments of principal and interest.

Limitation on Advance Construction

Permits the States to advance construct projects provided the project is on the State's transportation improvement program (STIP). This eliminates the requirements that 1) future year authorizations had to be in place in order to advance construct, and 2) the total of advance construct projects could not exceed a cumulative dollar limit.

Toll Roads -- Federal Share for Highways, Bridges, and Tunnels

Sets the Federal share for toll projects at a maximum 80 percent of eligible costs.Before this change, the Federal share for toll projects varied from 50 percent to 80 percent based on activity and system designation.

Toll Roads -- Loan Program

Allows Federal-aid loans to non-tolled projects with dedicated revenue streams and permits interest rates at or below market rates, as needed to make the project feasible. Repaid funds can now be used to credit enhance similar projects.

Donations of Funds, Materials, or Services for Federally Assisted Projects

Allows private funds, materials, or services to be donated to a specific Federal-aid project and permits the State to apply the value to the State's matching share. Before this change, States could receive credit only for donations of private property incorporated into a Federal project, or for State and local funds.


In addition to the safety mandates discussed above, the NHS legislation removes and adds other mandates to the program.

Removal of Mandates

Suspension of Management Systems

The States may choose not to implement in whole or in part any of the management systems required under ISTEA. The Secretary may not impose the 10% penalty on funds if the State elects this option.

The Comptroller General, in cooperation with the States, is required to report to Congress by October 1, 1996 recommending to what extent the management systems should be implemented.

Asphalt Pavement Containing Recycled Rubber

Eliminates the penalty and requirements related to the State use of crumb rubber.

Metric System

Establishes that no State be required to erect or modify any highway signs to the metric system. Also, until September 30, 2000, any metric activity by the States related to Federal-aid highway projects is optional.

Additional Mandates

Quality Improvement

Requires States to conduct an analysis of the life-cycle costs of each usable segment of the NHS costing $25 million or more.

Value Engineering

Requires States to carry out value engineering analysis for any projects on the NHS costing $25 million or more.


Scenic Byways

A State may exclude from a State-designated scenic byway any segment of highway that is determined not to possess the scenic criteria for which the byway is designated. This is a codification of the DOT's interpretation of current law.

Motorist Call Boxes

Signs identifying free motorist aid call boxes and their sponsorship by corporations or other organizations are allowed on call boxes and call box posts in highway right-of-way. Signs are limited in size, limited to one per every 5 miles, and 20% must be in areas outside of urbanized areas.

Transportation Enhancements

Streamlining measures -- As an alternative to waiting for reimbursement of funds, States now have the flexibility to obtain a Federal advance of funds for transportation enhancement activities, provided that the State has a project selection process that involves other public agencies and citizens who have expertise related to transportation enhancements.

Environmental compliance -- Directs the Secretary to develop, to the extent appropriate, categorical exclusions for transportation enhancements. Directs the Secretary to work with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers to develop a nationwide programmatic agreement for the process for reviewing the effects that transportation enhancement activities have on historic properties.

Applicability of the Uniform Act to Conservation Organizations -- Provides rules for how to treat land acquisitions made by non-profit conservation organizations where the land is subsequently incorporated into a transportation enhancement activity. In general, the conservation organization would be treated as a private property owner, except when acting as an agent of a State government or when acquisition has prior Federal approval.

Transportation Conformity

Clarifies that the transportation conformity requirements of Title 23 and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) apply only to areas designated as "nonattainment," and to areas that are redesignated to attainment and must submit a maintenance plan under the CAAA. A conformity analysis only needs to be done for specific transportation related pollutants for which an area is designatednonattainment.

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program

Freezes the amount of CMAQ funds apportioned to each State to FY 1994 levels. Funds may be used in areas designated as nonattainment, or in maintenance areas that were formerly nonattainment areas under the Clean Air Act. In addition, States now have the ability to receive credit against their share of project costs through donations.


Legislation and Regulations