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Highway Information Quarterly Newsletter

March 2001

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Office of Highway Policy Information

YOUR STATE'S SHARE: Attributing Federal Highway Revenues to Each State


Each year, highway users pay billions of dollars in highway excise taxes, which end up in the federal Highway Trust Fund. While motorists pay these taxes as they purchase the various taxed items, the US Department of Treasury actually collects most of these taxes from large corporations located in a handful of States and deposits the receipts into the Highway Trust Fund. Federal legislation generally requires that funds paid into the Highway Trust Fund be returned to the States for various highway program areas in accordance with legislatively established formulas. Each State is guaranteed that at least 90.5 percent of its highway user percentage attributions to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund will be returned to the State. Since contributions by the highway users in each state cannot be directly measured, procedures have been developed to attribute funds to the States.

The Highway Trust Fund includes a Highway Account and a Mass Transit Account. The Highway account is the primary source of revenues for Federal-aid funding returned to the States for carrying out various highway programs. Formulas for distributing Federal-aid highway funds for the Surface Transportation Program, the National Highway System, and for Interstate Maintenance use motor fuel and other excises attributed to each state as distribution factors. Given the large amounts of funds involved in these programs, the accuracy of the attribution process is critical.

What Steps Are Needed to Attribute Receipts?

Motor Fuel Attribution graph The U.S. Department of the Treasury provides to FHWA documentation of the actual revenues received, by type of highway fee, into the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund. The states provide reports to FHWA on the gallonage of motor fuel recorded and taxed in each state, by type of fuel. FHWA, in cooperation with the states, has developed procedures to attribute revenues. The FHWA analyzes the State generated data and develops the final attribution estimates for the states based on the state data.

Net Highway Account Revenues for 1999 have been estimated as follows by source:

Fee Category
Amount ($Millions)
Diesel and Special Fuel
Truck and Trailer Sales
Truck Tires
Heavy Vehicle Use
Fines and Other

How Are Federal Highway Taxes and Fees Collected?

The Treasury Department collects federal excise taxes. Most federal highway user taxes are not collected directly from the highway users in each state, since most collections are from large corporations. The only fee collected directly from users is the federal heavy vehicle use tax. However, this is paid by the vehicle owner, and the address of the vehicle owner is not equivalent to where the vehicle is used. The Treasury Department estimates all of the Highway Account receipts by type, and provides this information to the FHWA. There is a time lag in this reporting, and the Treasury Department may revise its estimates of the fees collected before announcing a final certified amount.

How Are Highway Account Revenues Attributed to the States?

The Treasury Department lacks information which allows the attribution of the taxes to highway users in each state. The FHWA and the states have developed a set of procedures for allocating Highway Account revenues to the highway users in each state. The attribution relies on state reports of the consumption of each type of motor fuel: gasoline, gasohol, special fuels (mostly diesel), and other alternative fuels. States report on fully taxed fuels, exempt sales, partially exempt sales, full and partial refunds, and fuels taxed at reduced rates. Attributions are made separately for gasoline and gasohol, based predominantly on the state reports. FHWA includes government use of gasoline in gasoline attributions, but excludes government use of diesel fuel in diesel attributions.

There are federal fees assessed on heavy vehicles which are not fuel taxes. These include a tax of 12 percent on the retail prices of truck sales for vehicles with over 33,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, and for truck trailer sales of over 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight; a graduated tax on heavy tires of 15 cents per pound over 40 pounds, plus 30 cents per pound over 70 pounds, plus 50 cents per pound over 90 pounds. A heavy vehicle use tax is applied to trucks of 55,000 pounds and over gross vehicle weight, at $100 plus $22 dollars per 1,000 pounds in excess of 55,000 pounds, with a maximum of $550 per truck. These non-fuel based fees are attributed to the states in the same proportions as special fuels are attributed to the individual states.

What Steps Does FHWA Currently Take to Treat State Data Consistently?

Because of differences in State legislation and administrative procedures, the data collected and submitted to FHWA by states differ. FHWA must make adjustments to the state motor fuel data to account for public use of gasoline, gasoline losses, and special fuels used off highway and for public uses. FHWA has developed a series of models to account for these factors as equitably as possible among the states.

What Plans Exist to Assure that Attribution Is Accurate and Equitable?

As a result of its own reassessment of motor fuel reporting, FHWA has developed an action plan to improve the accuracy of the motor fuel data. This action plan will be implemented over the years 2001 and 2002, and includes improved documentation, improved data tools, stronger process oversight, and possible use of the Treasury Department's new fuel tracking system, the Excise Files Information Retrieval System (EXFIRS) as a verification tool.

For further information about the attribution of revenues, please contact the FHWA Division Office in your state, or Ralph Erickson of the Office of Highway Policy Information at (202) 366-0170.

Highway Taxes and Fees - Update

The Office of Highway Policy Information is in the process of updating the publication, Highway Taxes and Fees: How They Are Collected and Distributed. The revised tables were returned to the Highway Funding and Motor Fuel Division, HPPI-10, in February, 2001. Our intent is to publish the State's information as provided by the State's Transportation Agency. Since the information is published on the Internet, the various States were asked to provide updates to the information as legislation changes. All state files included the "Shared" feature in order to track changes.

This information reflects changes in State Laws since the passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). Copies of State FY 2001 budgets were also requested. The budgets are used to verify appropriated amounts for States where Legislatures provide highway funding through appropriation.

Highway Taxes and Fees: How They Are Collected and Distributed includes information regarding the taxes and fees paid by highway users and the laws that provide for the distribution of these taxes and fees. Also included is information on other non-highway user State taxes that are allocated for highway purposes, and on the Federal funds and Federal agencies that provide funding for highway activities. This publication is extensively used by FHWA, other agencies within the U.S. Department of Transportation, State Legislatures, State highway agencies and other outside groups. The current web address for the latest issue of Highway Taxes and Fees is: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/hwytaxes/taxpage.htm

If you have any questions,please contact Carla Mauney at (202) 366-5045.

Public Road Miles in the Rocky Mountain States Decline

The total public road centerline miles reported in the Rocky Mountain States over the last two decades has declined. The States of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming reported 594,000 miles of public roads by the end of 1949 rising to 885,000 miles by 1979. However, in the 1980's and 1990's these States reported significant decreases in the total public road miles despite active State economies. By 1989, total miles fell back to 791,000 miles and by 1999, to only 733,000 miles (Table 1).

Table 1 - Public Road Miles

Year Rocky Mountain Sales Non-RM States All States
Total Federal Total Federal Total Federal
1949 593,581 58,936 2,728,161 11,234 3,321,742 70,170
1954 633,402 78,659 2,761,159 13,004 3,394,561 91,663
1959 697,724 96,133 2,812,936 9,999 3,510,660 106,132
1964 760,004 114,331 2,884,064 12,749 3,644,068 127,080
1969 783,350 162,451 2,926,949 20;226 3,710,299 182,677
1974 826,275 198,414 2,989,532 25,734 3,815,807 224,148
1979 885,479 216,646 3,032,018 27,725 3,917,497 244,371
1984 864,798 248,725 3,026,666 18,588 3,891,464 267,313
1989 791,120 158,498 3,085,745 20,742 3,876,865 179,240
1994 785,428 149,426 3,121,167 25,673 3,906,595 175,099
1999 733,197 90,784 3,184,084 27,565 3,917,245 118,349
RM=Rocky Mountain
Source: Highway Statistics, FHWA

Many new public roads were constructed during the last half of the 20th century to connect active economic areas and provide better access to natural resources. In most areas, road rehabilitation, straightening alignments, lane additions, bridge widening, etc., were common; however, in other areas public roads were victims of deferred maintenance, were reclassified to non-public roads status, or were removed. Nearly 97 percent of these former public roads reclassified as administrative roads were rural local functional system roads. States outside of the Rocky Mountain area reported steady increases in the total public roads rising from 2.7 million miles in 1949 to 3.2 million miles in 1999. Taken together, all States have reported an estimated 3.3 million centerline miles of public roads by the end of 1949 rising to 3.9 million miles by 1979, with little change during the period 1979 to 1999.

The most significant changes have occurred within the Federally-owned public roads. States have reported that the total Federally-owned public roads inventory grew rapidly from 70,000 miles by the end of 1949, to 106,000 miles by 1959, 183,000 miles by 1969, 244,000 miles by 1979 and to a peak of 267,000 miles by 1984. However, by 1989 the total reported fell to 179,000 miles and by 1999 to 118,000 miles. Federal-owned public roads as a percentage of all public roads (3.9 million miles) reached a peak of nearly 7 percent (267,000 miles) by 1984; this share, however, rapidly dropped to about 3 percent (118,000 miles) by the end of 1999. The bulk of the Federal-owned public roads exists in the Rocky Mountain States, totaling nearly 10 percent (59,000 miles) out of the total public roads (594,000 miles) by 1949 and 29 percent (249,000 miles) out of the total public roads (866,000 miles) by 1984. However, the Federally-owned share fell rapidly to about 12 percent (118,000 miles out of the 733,000 miles) by 1999. Over 46 percent of the land in these States belongs to the Federal Government; this share varies considerably by State as does the share of Federal-owned public roads (Table 2).

Table 2 - Percent of Land and Public Roads Federally Owned

% of Land Area
% Public Road Length
All States
RM States
Non-RM States
8.1 %
New Mexico
RM - Rocky Mountain
Sources: Highway Statistics, FHWA
Statistical Abstract of the US 1999, Bureau of the Census

Currently about 1,050 counties in the United States have 1 or more miles of public roads owned by the Federal Government. The highest percentage of Federal ownership is found in Apache County, Arizona, at nearly 80 percent of all public roads, followed by Siskiyou County in California and Lincoln County in Montana with nearly 70 percent. For more information, contact Paul Svercl at 202-366-5036 or E-mail paul.svercl@fhwa.dot.gov.

nths logo National Household Travel Survey

The National Household Travel Survey is the nation's household travel survey-it obtains information on the full continuum of personal travel, from across the street to across the country. The Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey (NPTS) of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), began in 1969, followed by surveys in 1977, 1983, 1990, and 1995. The longer-distance travel section of the NPTS is similar to that collected in the American Travel Survey (ATS) conducted by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), which collected long distance trips in the 1995 ATS.

The FHWA and the BTS have coordinated to combine these two surveys in a ONE DOT effort. The combined surveys provide better data, at a lower cost, with less burden hours to the American public.

For the joint survey 25,000 households across the country will be surveyed. Information about all travel, such as purpose, mode, and distance, will be collected for daily, mid-range, and longer trips. Demographic information about the travelers, such as sex, race, worker status, and household income, will be analyzed with the trip information to help inform decision-makers on how well the transportation system is working, and plan for the future.

The survey commences in March 2001 and data is collected for every day of the week, holidays included, over a one year time period. After edit checks and acceptance testing, the data should be available for public use at the end of 2002. For more information on the upcoming survey, go to: http://www.bts.gov/programs/national_household_travel_survey/

Data on the most recent NPTS (1995) as well as information on earlier surveys, can be found at: http://www-cta.ornl.gov/npts

Data on the most recent ATS (1995) can be found at: http://www.bts.gov/publications/1995_american_travel_survey/index.html

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Bryant Gross or Susan Liss the NPTS project manager at (202) 366-0160, or email your question to Bryant.Gross@fhwa.dot.gov.

OHPI Introduces New 500-series Forms

In a significant step in improving data quality, FHWA's Office of Highway Policy Information recently introduced new Microsoft Excel versions of its "500" State series forms (fuels, vehicles, licenses, and finance) i.e. the FHWA-532, FHWA-536, etc. In addition to the improved Excel format, the forms contain a number of revisions and improvements. These forms which should be used in submitting State highway data for Highway Statistics 2000 forms are now available on OHPI web site https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/formlist.html.

The "classic" look to the "500" State series forms has been retained while moving the forms to Microsoft Excel format. The new Excel forms now feature better consistency of cell format and worksheet protections to avoid some common data input problems. Various "business rules" were incorporated into each form that will notify the user when an error or inappropriate data is entered (i.e. alphabetical character instead of numerical). As a result of the changes, reporting forms are now more user friendly and should help reduce reporting time burden on States.

These improvements are the first in the step in a series of major software improvements, which are expected to streamline State reporting and enhance data analyses.

A Guide to Reporting Highway Statistics including due dates and reporting instructions is available at: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohpi/guide.htm.

Please contact Mr. Long Nguyen (202) 366-9213 of the Office of Highway Policy Information if there are any questions.

Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) News Briefs

The Office of Highway Policy Information (OHPI) will be conducting a hands-on Software Training Workshop in Denver, CO. on April 10 and 11, 2001 for users of the HPMS software package. At this time, the Denver workshop is fully subscribed; however, if there is enough interest, an additional workshop will be held in Washington, DC later in 2001. Please contact   beverly.harrison@fhwa.dot.gov as soon as possible if you are interested in attending a second session of the Software Training Workshop later this year. Preference for slots will be given to new users.

In response to recommendations from participants attending the HPMS reassessment implementation workshops, the OHPI is also making plans to conduct an HPMS Issues Workshop in 2001. The workshop will provide an opportunity for HPMS data providers to discuss problems and shared solutions to some of the HPMS reporting issues they are facing. Based on input from an earlier solicitation of interest, the workshop will be held toward the end of the summer (late August or September) in an as yet undetermined field location. Contact   beverly.harrison@fhwa.dot.gov   with suggested topics for discussion and your attendance plans. Interested in hosting the 2001 HPMS Issues Workshop? Please let Beverly know as soon possible.

The HPMS Field Manual has been republished on the FHWA Internet site at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohpi/. The republished Manual includes minor changes in content and some clarifying material; it has been reformatted into Word 2000 with improved layout and graphics and a reduced file size. A description of changes from the 1999 version of the Manual is included; the republished Manual carries a December 2000 date. States are particularly advised to download the revised version of Chapter 4 for use in preparing the 2000 HPMS submittal.

State HPMS Training

The States of Pennsylvania and Texas recently conducted training sessions for staff with HPMS and related responsibilities to bring them up to date on revisions to HPMS reporting requirements, changes to State inventory and reporting procedures, and the linkages of State data systems to the HPMS. Pennsylvania's HPMS responsibilities are widely vested in State Districts as well as with MPO's; the training session brought together both HPMS staff and traffic counting staff from around the State. In Texas, HPMS responsibilities are primarily vested with the District Offices; the training session included representatives from all of the Districts, as well as TXDOT headquarters staff responsible for HPMS, Texas road inventory, GIS and mapping, and information management. These training events were well received by the participants, and facilitated HPMS knowledge sharing and communication among those with varied HPMS responsibilities. FHWA participated in these training sessions at State invitation; if you are planning any HPMS training sessions and would like our participation, please contact jim.getzewich@fhwa.dot.gov.

Pennsylvania HPMS Pilot Program

In Pennsylvania, the MPOs and District Offices are responsible for the collection and coding of specific HPMS data items. In an effort to improve the ability of State Districts and MPO's to more easily meet their data provider responsibilities, and to make the HPMS data base a more useful tool for planning purposes, Pennsylvania recently initiated a pilot project to install the HPMS submittal software at the District and MPO levels.

The MPOs and District Offices are responsible for the collection and coding of specific HPMS data items. PennDOT provided the HPMS submittal software to 9 of 16 MPOs and 1 of 11 District Offices; software installation was done by the State central HPMS staff. Each MPO or District was given a file with the HPMS sections for which they have update responsibilities; they are to code data updates, run calculations, perform validations, and correct errors prior to returning the updated data to the State central office. The security features of the software were set by the State central HPMS staff allowing the MPO or District staff to be able to update only the selected data items for which they are responsible.

A separate statewide 1999 HPMS MS Access file was provided to permit the Districts and MPO's to run queries against the existing data base.

For further information on the PA HPMS pilot project, please contact Laine Heltebridle, at lhelteb@dot.state.pa.us, or you may call (717) 787-2277.

HPMS Computer Based Training

The HPMS Computer Based Training (CBT) pooled fund project is in its final stages of development with beta testing of the software to begin in late January 2001. The final product will be a series of interactive computer based training modules that explain proper coding procedures for each data item contained in the Highway Performance Monitoring System and proper HPMS sample management techniques. Beta testing will be conducted by FHWA Headquarters, contractors, and select members of the review panel which consists of State DOT personnel. Beta testing of the software is expected to be completed by the end of March with final product delivery in May 2001.

Weight-in-Motion Conference

The North Dakota Department of Transportation is sponsoring a Weigh-in-Motion conference in Bismarck, North Dakota May 21-23, 2001. The conference will focus on five subject areas: new technologies; research and academic activities; planning and data collection and usage; and enforcement. The objective of the conference is to bring together state-of-the-art practioners to share techniques, operations, and success stories for local and State applications.

For additional information contact:

Robert Olzweski
Transportation Project Manger
Planning and Programming Division
North Dakota Department of Transportation
608 East Boulevard Dakota 58505-0700
Phone: (701)-328-3479
FAX: (701) 328-1404
e-mail: rolzwesk@state.nd.us

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