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Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU)

Fact Sheets on Highway Provisions


Program Purpose

Various provisions of SAFETEA-LU will improve efficiency in the administration of Federal-aid highway programs. A brief description of each of these provisions follows.

Excess Funds for Inactive Projects

[1603, 1102(b)(11)]

Under this provision funds earmarked prior to 1991 for projects can be used by a State for any STP-eligible purpose if the funds are "excess" or "inactive".

Excess funds include funds obligated for a specific project or activity that remain available after the project or activity has been completed or cancelled, and any unobligated balance of funds allocated for a project or activity that the State certifies are no longer needed for the project or activity.

Funds are determined to be inactive if they are obligated but have no expenditures during any 1-year period or are available to carry out a project but unlikely to be obligated within 1 year, as certified by the State. If a State certifies that funds, which would otherwise be identified as inactive, are still needed for their original purpose, the Secretary may determine that the funds will remain available for that original purpose. Such certification by a State must be accompanied by a report that includes the status of, and estimated completion date for, the project.

Section 1603 does not apply to Emergency Relief funds or discretionary funds allocated by the Secretary for which the Secretary has the authority to withdraw the funds for use on other projects.

Funds obligated under this section must be used for projects and activities in the same State as the original earmark, and it is the sense of the Congress that the funds should be used for projects in the same geographic region within the State as the earmarked projects. Funds made available under this section are available for obligation through fiscal year 2008.

Funds obligated under section 1603 are exempt from the limitation on obligations if they were originally exempt from the limitation. [1102(b)(11)]

Within 1 year of enactment and annually thereafter, the Secretary must report to Congress on actions taken under this section.



The definition of "qualified project" is broadened allowing a State transportation department or local transportation agency to award a design-build contract without regard to the project cost.

The Secretary is to issue revised design-build regulations within 90 days of enactment of SAFETEA-LU. The revised regulations must not preclude a State transportation department or local transportation agency, prior to NEPA compliance, from:

  • issuing requests for proposals;
  • proceeding with awards of design-build contracts; or
  • issuing notices to proceed with preliminary design work under design-build contracts.

The State or local transportation agency must receive concurrence from the Secretary before carrying out any of the preceding activities.

The design-build contractor may not proceed with final design or construction of any permanent improvement prior to completion of the NEPA process.

Transfer of Highway Funds


The transfer provisions of 23 USC 104(k) continue. These allow highway funds that may be used for transit projects to be transferred to the Federal Transit Administration and administered under Chapter 53 of 49 USC. These also allow transit funds that may be used for highway projects to be transferred to FHWA and administered under 23 USC. Clarification is made that highway funds may be transferred for any transit use eligible under 23 USC and transportation planning funds provided under both 23 USC and 49 USC may be transferred for administration under either title.

Added is the ability, at the request of a State, for the Secretary to transfer funds allocated to that State, to another State or to the FHWA to fund 1 or more eligible projects. This will allow States to undertake jointly funded projects or conduct planning or research activities of mutual benefit to the States.

The transfer will have no effect on any apportionment of funds to a State. To transfer funds suballocated under the Surface Transportation Program for an urbanized area with a population of over 200,000, the affected metropolitan planning organization must concur in the transfer.

Obligation authority will be transferred in the same manner and amount as the funds that are transferred.

The ability for States to transfer funds among title 23 programs remains unchanged. [23 USC 126]

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