In 2015, funding for U.S. Transportation projects through the end of the decade was assured with the passing of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, also known as the Surface Transportation Bill. Goals of the FAST Act are to improve mobility on America’s highways, create jobs and support economic growth, accelerate project delivery and promote innovation.
The FAST Act authorized $305 billion in spending for the improvement of federal highways, highway safety, and transit and rail programs, which is being allocated between states each year from 2016 through 2020. It also provides $225.2 billion in Highway Trust Fund (PDF, 1.31 MB) (HTF) contract authority for the Federal-aid Highway Program, 92 percent of which is for contract distribution to state departments of transportation (DOTs) through formula programs. That includes $10.7 billion for two highway freight initiatives: the National Highway Freight Program and the new Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program, also known as FASTLANE grants. In addition, $11.6 billion is allocated to grow and focus the Highway Safety Improvement Program.
Overwhelming passage of the FAST Act signals a renewed emphasis on improving safety on our nation’s highways, and it gives state and local governments' assurance that they have federal funding for long-term critical surface and rail transportation-safety projects.
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Freight and traffic safety-related funding through the FAST Act is available for dozens of projects, from new construction to improved traffic management. Three of those programs are listed below.
The National Highway Freight Program (PDF, 318.79 KB) (NHFP) provisions of the previous transportation bill, “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21),” were revised, creating new program funding for freight-related highway improvements over five years, apportioned among qualifying states. States qualify by establishing a freight advisory committee and developing a state freight investment plan.
The goal is for states, working with the Secretary of Transportation, to improve mobility on America’s highways by designating a national freight network – including interstate highways and urban and rural roads critical to safe and efficient freight shipment – to be updated every five years.
In its effort to establish a national freight network, NHFP-approved projects may include:
The Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects (NSFHP) was created to help make moving people and freight safer, more efficient and more reliable by reducing highway congestion and bottlenecks, improving connectivity between transportation modes, making critical highway infrastructure more resilient and addressing ways in which population growth affects the movement of people and freight. By improving roadways, including those vital to national energy security, the project also aims to improve national or regional economies and increase U.S. global economic competitiveness.
NSFHP awards an average of $900 million in Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grants annually. Of that, a variety of applicants can compete for at least $25 million each year for highway, bridge, rail-grade crossing, intermodal and freight rail projects costing more than $100 million. The Secretary of Transportation awards projects based on large and small NSFHP criteria.
Eligible NSFHP applicants include states or groups of states, metropolitan planning organizations, special purpose districts and multistate or multijurisdictional groups of entities, among others.
Projects designed to improve freight-movement safety, efficiency and reliability may include:
The Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) places a priority on reducing traffic fatalities and injuries on our nation’s roads, awarding funds to “correct or improve a hazardous road location or feature or address a highway safety problem.” Workforce development, training, and education activities also qualify.
To be eligible for HSIP funding, states must develop a strategic highway safety plan (SHSP), identify projects and strategies to improve safety, implement the plan and evaluate/update the plan regularly. States also must have a safety data system in place to identify problems and analyze countermeasures on all public roads and adopt strategic, performance-based goals for correction of those problems. HSIP funds may not be used on projects unless data is collected.
States may opt out of collecting fundamental data elements for the model inventory of roadway elements for gravel or other unpaved roads (serious injury and fatality data must still be collected).
In prioritizing traffic safety, HSIP awards funding for physical infrastructure projects such as:
Increased funding for highway restoration, an emphasis on highway safety and support of local control make the FAST Act a major win for states, regional jurisdictions and municipalities alike. It’s important that governments understand funding eligibility and how their communities may benefit from the FHWA’s efforts to make safe, reliable transportation a reality across the U.S.
1 U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, retrieved Aug 31, 2017
2 American Association of State highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (PDF, 1.31 MB), retrieved Aug 31, 2017.
3 American Association of State highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), ‘FAST’ Start to 2016 Season, retrieved Aug 31, 2017
4 U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, FAST Act Section 1116 National Highway Freight Program Questions and Answers (PDF, 318.79 KB), retrieved Aug 31, 2017
5 U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or “FAST Act”, A Summary of Highway Provisions, retrieved Aug 31, 2017
6 U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or “FAST Act”, Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) Grants, retrieved Aug 31, 2017
7 U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or “FAST Act”, Highway Safety Improvement Program, retrieved Aug 31, 2017