Federal Funding Uncertainty in State, Local and Regional Departments of Transportation: Impacts, Responses, and Adaptation

Historically, federal legislation authorization of the federal aid highway program covered a 6-year period, and transportation funding was more certain. When funding levels are predictable, state DOTs and other transportation agencies can devise optimal long-term capital investment plans, more accurately forecast future asset conditions, set realistic performance targets, and better meet stated commitments to communities and stakeholders. Uncertain federal funding adversely impacts the transportation system and decision-making in many ways, resulting in wide-ranging impacts on the U.S. economy and quality of life. It can slow transportation program and project delivery, lead to degraded pavement and bridge conditions, reduce system performance, and worsen transportation service. Further, while recent federal regulations and acts have increased emphasis on performance-based outcomes, the timeframe needed to achieve these outcomes exceeds the current timeframe of funding certainty. An additional potential consequence of funding uncertainty is erosion of public trust, given that commitments to maintain or improve the transportation system may not be kept. Agencies employ a range of strategies to make decisions and manage transportation systems in the context of funding uncertainty. The strategies vary and may include (but are not limited to) adopting conservative investment strategies, developing short-term planning horizons for long-term assets, focusing largely on a preservation program, and using risk-based methods to incorporate uncertainty into financial analyses. Often these strategies have negative unintended consequences on the transportation systems and on the ability of agencies to meet performance-based outcomes. Research is needed to identify and respond to the effects of uncertain federal transportation funding. The objectives of this research are to (1) identify and document the consequences and significant impacts of federal funding uncertainty on state DOTs, other transportation agencies, and stakeholders and (2) present how these agencies have responded and adapted to these uncertainties. The research should address: (1) The recent history of federal funding, summarizing how federal funding certainty has changed, including the number of continuing resolutions, the resolution timeframes, and the relationship between funding apportionment and obligation levels. (2) The nature and extent of impacts on the current and future transportation system that can be attributed to funding uncertainty. (3) The immediate and long-term consequences for state DOTs, other transportation agencies, and decisionmakers of federally funded, multimodal transportation (e.g., financial planning, asset management, performance management, fund distribution, and planning and programming). (4) The nature and extent of impacts of federal transportation funding uncertainty on other sectors of the economy and stakeholders, including the general public. (5) Responses to funding uncertainties, including risk management, deferred investments, alternative non-federal funding sources, and other strategies.

Language

  • English

Project

  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $400000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 19-16

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20190319
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01672555
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 19-16
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Jun 18 2018 3:03PM