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.
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 is underway. The interim report has been completed. A White Paper on the history of federal funding uncertainty, prepared during the first phase of the research is available here.