An authorization act is a statutory provision that establishes or continues a Federal agency, activity, or program for a fixed or indefinite period of time. An authorization act is essential to the foundation of the Federal-aid Highway Program (FAHP) since it provides funding for and the requirements associated with the FAHP. It also may set forth the duties and functions of an agency or program, its organizational structure, and the responsibilities of agency or program officials including transforming the policy and programmatic framework for investments to guide the growth and development of the country's vital transportation infrastructure. Most authorization acts are multi-year acts that contain provisions for not only the FAHP, but for other surface transportation modes, such as transit.
While the first authorizing legislation establishing the FAHP was passed by Congress nearly 100 years ago, below is a summary of more recent acts and their respective provisions advancing public involvement:
On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or "FAST Act." Overall, the FAST Act largely maintains current program structures and funding shares between highways and transit.1
MAP-21, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (P.L. 112-141), was signed by President Obama on July 6, 2012, although the law was not effective until October 1, 2012. Public involvement remains a hallmark of the transportation planning process.2
The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (Public Law 109-59; SAFETEA-LU) was signed into law by President George W. Bush on August 10, 2005. The Act required a MPO to develop a participation plan in consultation with interested parties that provides reasonable opportunities for all parties to comment. To carry out the participation plan, public meetings are to be: conducted at convenient and accessible locations at convenient times; employ visualization techniques to describe plans; and make public information available in an electronically accessible format, such as on the Web. The Plan is to be published and made available electronically, such as on the Web. Representatives of users of pedestrian walkways, bicycle transportation facilities, the disabled are specifically added as parties to be provided with the opportunity to participate in the planning process.3
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century was enacted June 9, 1998 as Public Law 105-178. TEA-21 authorizes the Federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety, and transit for the 6-year period 1998-2003. The Act specifically identified freight shippers and users of public transit on a list of stakeholders that were given the opportunity to comment on plans and TIPs. added the requirement for public involvement during the certification review.4
The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, signed into law by President Bush in December 1991, established a new vision for surface transportation in America. It provided an intermodal approach to highway and transit funding with increased public involvement and collaborative planning requirements, giving additional powers to metropolitan planning organizations.5