Federal Funding Flexibility: Use of Federal Aid Highway Fund Transfers by State DOTs

Federal aid highway funding to departments of transportation (DOTs) changed substantially in 2012 with the transition from the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) to Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). Ninety federal transportation programs funded under SAFETEA-LU were consolidated into 30 new and existing programs under MAP-21. The majority of the funding was consolidated into five formula programs [National Highway Performance Program (NHPP), Surface Transportation Program (STP), Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), and Metro Planning]. While many small focused programs were eliminated as separate programs (e.g., Safe Routes to School), the activities they funded remain eligible for funding under other programs. To give states the ability to address their priorities, MAP-21 gave states the flexibility to transfer up to 50% of a program’s annual apportionment among the four largest programs. This change built upon the existing authority of states to transfer federal aid highway funds across modes and share funds with local and regional partners. In 2016, the passage of Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST Act) extended this flexibility to additional programs including the National Highway Freight Program (NHFP) and Transportation Alternatives (TA), however some programs still have restrictions on transferring funds. State DOTs employ a range of strategies to transfer federal aid highway funds across modes, among federal aid highway programs, and from state DOTs to local and regional governments. Limited research has been done on the extent that state DOTs use this flexibility or the effectiveness of their strategies. Research is needed to (1) analyze the extent that states agencies use their transfer authority, (2) determine the impacts of federal aid highway funding transferability, and (3) identify opportunities for state agencies to better use their authority to transfer funds. The objective of this research is to examine how states have used the funding flexibility provided in MAP-21 to advance federal and state priorities while efficiently and effectively utilizing available resources. The research should: (1) Provide an overview of current options to transfer federal aid highway funds across modes, among federal aid highway programs, and from state DOTs to local and regional partners. (2) Analyze the extent that states use their transfer authority and the patterns of transfers since the implementation of MAP-21 and identify programs where significant amounts of funds remained unobligated. (3) Examine transfer strategies for federal aid highway funds used by state agencies and present the range of strategies, strategies that are commonly used, and best practices under various scenarios. (4) Identify existing constraints, including potential penalties and restrictions, on funding transferability that impact the efficient and effective utilization of federal aid highway funds. (5) Identify how federal funding flexibility has provided opportunities and challenges in meeting transportation needs and advance state and national goals.


  • English


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

    Project 19-17

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

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

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol 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: 20200415
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01707632
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 19-17
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Jun 3 2019 3:17PM